This morning I received a letter from a fan of my Facebook page named Bobbie Ann Phillips and as I read it I knew instantly this needed to be read by all of you. This is her story and its an honest account of how it feels, of what we don’t expect, our fears and our goals. Enjoy!
” I never imagined I would have to co-parent with an ex of mine, much less an ex of my new husband. I did know I would be co-parenting with my own husband. I never imagined my husband would be someone else’s ex husband. I never thought I would have to share some of “my” weekends and “my” holidays, separate, from “my” son. I never thought I would have to long for the chance to do those same things with and for a son whose dad is dead. I also never thought my deepest fear would be that my third son may someday meet the same fate of a broken home. I never thought I would be fearing completely loosing two of my children if my marriage ever did fail. I never thought most of my scheduling would revolve so much around picking up one set of kids at 6p on Friday, meeting to drop off another kid before or after that, and then meeting back on 6p Sunday for drop off of two kids and then meeting before or after that to get another kid back. I never thought I would both look forward to, and dread those weekends at the very same time. I never imagined I would explain to two of my three biological children why daddy can not be here, or does not live here and the reasons be because of such different circumstances. Circumstances that would cause as much hurt for both of “my” boys and myself as both situations do. I never even imagined my children would have different dads. I never thought I would have “other” kids ask me why my husband, their dad, is not with their mom. I never thought I would be making beds, cleaning laundry, preparing meals, buying necessities, and supporting “other” kids. I knew “my” kids may look past all I do for them and it would hurt some. I did not know having “other” kids look past those same things would hurt as much. I never thought I would have “other” kids sometimes resent me for my role in their lives. A role they only want their mom, and their dad, to have. I never thought I would feel so much hurt for them, and for my husband, because they too come from a broken home. I never thought I would love each person in “my” blended family so much that I would wish each child could have their mom, and their dad, in one home. If I had that wish though, several of my biological children would not exist, and I would never have a chance to even meet two of my “other” children. I would have never met my husband. I never thought I would have to accept that because someone I loved died, and because a different relationship failed I would find new love and create a new family. I never thought I would agree that when one life ends another begins. I feel as though I have personally lost two lives and began a new one each time. I feel I am on my third life, and feverishly pray for it to be my last.
I never thought I would be the “other” parent that another parent would resent. I am that parent whose mere presence in a child’s life causes another adult resentment, and pain. Though “her” family ended long before “mine” began, I never imagined my place with my husband would be a stark reminder of another woman’s lost place with her husband. I never imagined That my place with my step children would be a reminder of “her” time she “has” to share, with me. I never thought my loving them could hurt her as much as it would if I did not love them. I do acknowledge that my presence does cause these things, though completely unintentional. I never imagined two children who “are not mine” would have me so wrapped around their little fingers. I did not know I could love a child I did not give birth to so much that it literally hurts. I did not know I would want to fight so fiercely for my time, my bond, and my place with two children who I feel with every bone in my body are mine. I knew I would have children that would fill my life with love, joy, hope, chaos and clutter. I knew I would do everything in my power to protect, love and cherish every moment with “my” kids. I knew I would become a mom by choice to children I gave birth to. I did not know that I would have that same desire to love, protect and cherish children not born to me. I knew there would be times my children would be angry with me. I knew I would make mistakes and cause hurt. I knew I would mend the hurt, calm the anger and explain why I do what I do to “my” kids. I knew I would both reward and punish “my kids” with no remorse because that is my job as their mom. I did not know I would feel so guilty by my own presence that I would overly reward, and seldom punish the children I did not give birth to. I never knew I would feel I don’t have the right to demand and earn respect from “other” children as much as I do from “my” children. I never thought I would always worry my actions and words would favor “my” children over the “other” children so much that I actually show more favor to “other” children over mine at times. I never thought I would say I am an ex, a wife, a mom, and a step mom, All in one. I am all of those things and I am these things at the very same time. I sometimes struggle to decide which hat I am suppose to wear at which time. All of these inner struggles are real, and part of my life. I am exactly where I want to be. I realize I am exactly where God planned me to be. I do have the husband and children I did always long for. I am thankful for all the good and bad that comes with this life and these roles. Yet I have no idea how to navigate my happiness and love without someone else being hurt, or resentful, in some way because of it. I have no idea why I even care that my presence, my role, and my place effects any person other than my husband, and our children. I just know that I do care.
I do not co-parent with my ex’s new wife or serious girlfriend, not yet anyway. I do know that the day will come when I will. At least, I pray it does. I do want “my” son to have another parent love him. I do want him to have someone else he can learn from, respect, love and cherish. I so want him to know I am okay with him loving some “other” parent. I want her to know that while her presence may cause some stinging, I’m happy to share “my” son with her. I want her to know that he’s “our” son, and that “our” will include her. I know that during my time as a step mom I have learned many things to do, and not to do both with “my” son and towards the “other” parent. I hope I will remember to respect her, and to honestly cherish her. I hope I will remember I should view any person my son loves as an extension of himself. I love “my” son, and so I will love those he loves and that love him. I hope I can remember I should love “my kids” mom because they love her and she is an extension of them. For the love of a child even the most difficult situations on all ends I am involved in will be handled with love and care, by me, for them regardless of how the opposing end on either side of these blended families are behaving. That is my goal anyway. I know I pray daily that God shows me the way to do all these things with Grace in each of the roles I am fulfilling.
~ Bobbie Ann Phillips
And he rubbed my back, he really did… Of course this an odd place to start and what might seem like something so insignificant that it shouldn’t be worth mentioning. However, you couldn’t be further off the beaten path. Truth is, before this, before the Love Dare – he hated rubbing my back. Okay he probably does still, but you know what I am saying. Prior he made excuses like ” my fingers hurt” or the wonderful Oscar winning performance where his hand slowly stops because he pretended he had fallen asleep; made me quit asking. It happens at your home too, I bet.
Now, don’t get me wrong, doing the Love Dare isn’t so you can get your spouse to do the dishes, or rub your back, but when things are better – we ALL tend to act and love each other better.
My husband and I both like playing cribbage, and we have the app on our phones. We used to get into bed, and play against each other, best out three all the time. However letting life, kids, fighting, schedules and whatever else get in the way, we stopped playing both the game and with each other. The Love Dare forces you to re-evaluate, to get involved, to remember to interact with your spouse. The night before last, I challenged my husband with a best out of three cribbage battle. He of course, as many men would, accepted the challenge. If we won, we got whatever we asked for – I chose a neck massage. He never verbalized his choice. Which come to think of it now – was odd. I figured it would be something in the unmentionable region – but I just let his silence lead the way.
Game two, I was in the lead, in fact, I almost skunked him even, but by one point, I lost. Game two, neck and neck, and again within a few points, I lost. Oh man, there goes that opportunity – not only did I lose to the “master of cribbage”, but the elusive neck massage would slip through his grasp and my relaxation yet again. However, this time that didn’t bother me like before. None of that really mattered, because we had fun, we laughed, we competed and we spent time one on one. After placing our phones on their chargers, I rolled over and placed my head on his chest, feeling at peace, relaxed, and happy. And then it happened…
He started rubbing my neck, then my back – all on his own, without my saying anything. Within minutes I was sound asleep like a little baby – hopefully minus the drooling! It was by far the best night of sleep I have had in months. To him, it probably wasn’t anything major – to me, it meant the WORLD. He did something he really just flat out doesn’t like, to make me happy. I thought he forgot how to do that, or that we as a couple had forgot the importance of doing things for the ones we love. But, the truth is that when we take care of our spouse, in every way, they do want to, and most often will, return the kind gestures that aren’t an expectation.
I am sure there are many men who do this for their spouses all the time, and it isn’t this monumental accomplishment, however it should be. We need to remember our spouses chose to be with us, and its a choice to keep the romance, the little things we hate to do, the friendship and love alive. We forget to thank them, to acknowledge them – to love them in the ways we did in the beginning.
Little by little – we are falling in love again, reconnecting and recommitting to this life long process of give and take, expectations, sometimes heart break and disappointment – all which are parts of marriage that after the storm, create a closeness that couldn’t have been achieved without the trials and tribulations in the first place. It is a great feeling – to feel great. Its a loving feeling to love and be loved in return. We are all constantly learning and growing, what a great experience it is – to choose to do that together.
When was the last time you truly showed your spouse – they are special, appreciated and loved by you?
The end of day two and beginning of day three started with one of those revelations that leave you motionless in your seat, with your heart beating outside of your chest and the feeling of not knowing if your are going to cry or throw up. The person speaking to you is visible, viable, but your mind is loudly processing all of the information you honestly knew within – yet were unable to come to grips with. In this moment, I knew this Love Dare was something important to me, and that I was determined to take this seriously – or else I know I would have flipped over tables, thrown chairs, made a scene in the restaurant – or Lord knows what else.
Instead, I took it all in, and let it sit there and continued on with the evening. We were out for a family members birthday and there was no need to deal with any of this new information right then and there – so I didn’t. Honestly, part of me felt relieved because I wasn’t crazy, I hadn’t over thought and dreamed all these signs up and I wasn’t an idiot. As hard to hear the truth as it was, it was calming as well in a sense. I’ve never been a fake person in my life, once you hurt me, we are done. I don’t need, nor want people like that in my life- I just don’t. However, tonight I put a smile on my face and faked it and made it until one thirty a.m.
Remembering to not say anything negative, to be kind, and honest I requested to go home. The ride home was unpleasant to say the least, there was a conversation, there was hurt, anger, tears – and there was a goodbye.
This time I did something differently then I have ever done though, I kept my cool, the anger was not on my part, I didn’t over react or take ownership for anything that wasn’t mine, and most importantly I let him walk away. The fear of losing my husband in that moment somehow vanished, and I was okay with the distance which usually scares the hell out of me. When we have fought before there are things said that are hurtful, but not this time. When we have fought before there was yelling and arguing but not this time. This time was different.
Unknowingly to us, we left our home on the evening of day two as divided as a married couple could be still carrying on as happily married. Around four a.m. on day three, a knock on my door would bring not only my husband but HONESTY, LOVE, GROWTH and MARRIAGE back into our home. We shared and gained more ground as a married couple than we had over six months. Things were said that neither of us knew, and that the other missed. When you live with someone day in and day out you forget to SEE them, to LIVE with them, to appreciate them. Watching my husband at that early morning hour, hearing not just his words, but his feelings, his thoughts, his inner most vulnerabilities – I remembered he is human. I am human – we are not perfect.
I get so caught up in being everything I see my husband liking, skinny, brunette, tattoos etc… that I focus on all the things I am not. Then, I lose the things he already loves about me. We as women crave attention, and even when we have it, it doesn’t always feel that way. I’m at the gym busting my butt to lose weight to look good because he likes fit women, and getting upset when he doesn’t notice. He is upset because I’m always wanting to work out. He doesn’t want me to look like “them” he wants “me”.
On the other end, My husband is a very attractive man, so attractive in fact that he gets hits on often. Apparently this is something that I should appreciate, however I don’t. Women these days are not respectful when they flirt and they often take it too far. It also doesn’t help that my husband eats it up, which also irritates me. I grew up in the time of being attractive without knowing it and being thankful – but not cocky. However, in his defense, I didn’t realize that he eats it up from everyone else, because I rarely tell him I feel he is attractive, or sexy – because I think he hears it enough. Or, because he says it so much it turns me off and I lose that attraction all together. The truth is, he is gorgeous and extremely fit. With sandy blond hair, broad shoulders, he has two different colored eyes, one blue, and one green – and a smile that melts hearts of women ages 2-100. He is hilarious and fun, exciting, and by far my fantasy man – there isn’t any other man I am attracted to than my husband – and I need to make sure he knows that. I need to remember that is important.
Day 3, was to invest in something – whatever you put your time and energy into – to make sure it made them know you were thinking of them. It turns out my husband who is a huge ball fan, had never seen the movie Field of Dreams. I called around to the video stores, found it, rented it and we watched it together. Following the movie we communicated some more and watched Fireproof as we cuddled together.
Marriage isn’t easy, ours is far from perfect – but if there is love and communication it is far richer than many.
“Fireproof doesn’t mean a fire will never come, but that when it comes you’ll be able to withstand it.”
Day one, dare one, was easier than I thought – it was almost a calm before the storm in a sense. Staying busy at work, and visiting with friends kept me from the urge of texting, calling, questioning – or controlling. Towards the later part of the day my husband reached out to me, asked how my day was – and for a moment I thought about not responding. Then I remembered what I read about patience and kindness – and responded.
We ended up filling in for some friends in a kickball game, and then went to their home afterwards. The house naturally divided as most do when you have many different couples, with children running throughout the house. The women stayed inside and the men huddled around a bonfire outside. We had a great night, we were together, yet not side by side. With the ladies, I laughed harder than I have laughed in months, mainly because the only thing I have done lately is cry. We laughed so hard, I couldn’t breath, and was reminded how vital girlfriends are, the ones that don’t judge – the ones that let you see them fail – just the same as offer a helping hand when you do. We are all the same. We shared those details no one talks about, the failures we keep hidden and insecurities that define our own personal sense of beauty and what makes us all unique.
That night I went to bed without having said one negative thing to my husband, not one nagging remark, and it felt good. Waking up the next morning, I was eager to see what day two was going to bring. Not only for my dare, but for my marriage.
Day two kept the patience from day one, with the addition of kindness. Sounds pretty basic and easy enough right? Do you know how many people don’t practice either in their marriage at some point, if not many times? Think how you treat a common stranger, we hold the door for the person behind us, we use manners, and most often give more time than we have because they appear to need it. However, those that need it within our home, are last to get it, if at all. An excerpt from the book The Love Dare says this:
Initiative. Kindness thinks ahead, then takes the first step. It doesn’t sit around waiting to be prompted or coerced before getting off the couch. The kind husband or wife will be the one who greets first, smiles first, serves first, and forgives first. They don’t require the other to get his or her act together before showing love. When acting from kindness, you see the need, then make your move. First.
With that, Saturday’s dare was, In addition to saying nothing negative, do at least one unexpected gesture as an act of kindness. While at a break between my daughters softball games at her tournament, I ran to a local sporting store to look at cleats for two of children. While I was standing in line to make my purchase, my eye caught the rack that held the Phiten Titanium braided sporting necklaces that my husband had mentioned he needed, because his had broken. Recently, he had decided to separate our finances, something that I was struggling with, and buying him anything right now honestly seemed unfair – but anyone who knows me also knows that I love spoiling my husband and kids…and in this case it did fall into the category of the dare. Stepping out of line, I grabbed him the necklace and then made my way back to the ball fields.
After getting their cleats, my son extremely excitedly, brought me the necklace with a raised eyebrow, nudging me in a manner to ask if it was his. His birthday is coming, and he expected it was his. I need to make a mental note on that one, because talk about heart break when I said it wasn’t for him – you’d think I took his birthday away! Anyhow, when my husband joined us – I reached into my purse and handed him the necklace as nonchalantly as possible, I didn’t want it to seem as a reward, because I was still hurting and it seemed odd to be giving him a gift. He asked why I had done that, and put it on instantly. I explained I knew he had wanted one. Sitting there as he was messing with it, I waited for a thank you, a kind remark – anything…I’d keep waiting, and I had to be okay with that because the point wasn’t for a response, or to gain recognition. Gifts are to be given without expectation. It made me realize maybe, I expect more than we are supposed to.
Sitting there watching my daughter play ball, my son play at the park, the sun was shining and my husband was sitting beside me. That is where he chose to be that day, at that time, necklace or no necklace – so for me that is success for Day 2.
Have you shown your spouse Kindness today?
It would take awhile to explain how I am to the point of this newest chapter – and as much as I would love to clear the air and set the record straight sort to speak, it is best that I give my marriage the respect it deserves as to the ins and outs of our out. The main objective is that I love my husband and there is nothing I have taken more seriously than my vows this this man.
While I take this journey publicly with you, he is unaware as he doesn’t read my blog, my Facebook or anything for that matter, he hates reading. So, I ask any of you that may know us to keep it this way – allow us this – and allow me the chance to document it. The point of documenting this journey is three-fold. First, I need to stick with it – Second, I want to see if it really will save my marriage and Third – if it does, I want it to help you.
We have been together three years and married just under two, with kids on both sides, care packages full of history on both sides and enough pain to sink under the heaviest anchor. Neither of us are innocent, and neither of us have done anything serious enough to not be forgiven or to have broken the bond of marriage. However, we are struggling and I hope this can help, because I honestly have nowhere and no one else to turn to.
Right now, I am in a place of where there are days I can tell you that I do not feel like my husband loves me, I feel alone, and I feel like my children are my saving grace. There are times I see and read quotes that make me feel a burst of hope that marriages would last more if people realized the happy ever after follows the worse part. Being strong and not giving up are all things I do naturally as a parent, however are not easy to come by as a wife, at least not for me. My husband has wonderful qualities, pumping me up however is not one of them. So…I have to figure this out on my own, well with the help of God and the Love Dare.
Today is day one, Patience. Anyone who knows me knows I am not anything close to resembling patient, unless it involves my children or someone in need. One of my biggest downfalls is that I can be quick tempered especially when I am hurt. It says this on day one “Anger is usually caused when the strong desire for something is mixed with disappointment or grief. You don’t get what you want and you start heating up inside. It is often an emotional reaction that flows out of our own selfishness, foolishness, or evil motives.” and I feel it is extremely accurate. Because this is me.
My mouth can’t hold anything inside, and neither can my heart, it explodes with happiness, hurt and anger all the same. Lately my anger, frustration, feelings of helplessness, things that admittedly could all begin within ME end up snowballing into ultimatums, threats, and everything unhealthy and controlling that has no place in a marriage. Therefore – we start with day one.
Today’s Dare says to not say anything negative to your spouse all day, and that if the only way to not say something negative it to hold your tongue, do so. It’s 12:40 pm my time and I have yet to speak to my spouse since 5 am this morning. That is not normal for me, and it has been hard – but I’m doing my best to give him his space and allow myself to not react to the feelings I struggle with from the yesterdays still hanging on. At this point staying mum – is putting my best foot forward. We will see how the rest of the day goes.
I hope you will follow this journey with me, and that you will will pray for us and join me if you feel the need ❤
Material taken from The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, copyright © 2009 by B&H Publishing Group. Used by permission. Unauthorized reproduction in any format is strictly prohibited by law.
” I’d be packing my bags when I need to stay,I’d be chasing every breeze that blows my way” Toby Mac
For years, I was a strong believer in “If you aren’t happy get out” – so much so in fact that I did just that. If things weren’t the way I had expected, or something else was better, easier, or just less work I could throw that whole relationship in the trash and move on. It used to piss me off to no end, when I would hear girlfriends say, “I can’t leave because of the kids”, or ” when the kids are 18 or move out, I will leave then”. That was always a crock of really stinky crap to me, and I would fight back with advice like ” What about you, you don’t deserve to be happy now?” or “do you think your kids should live a lie thinking your life was great for 18 years than, all of sudden you get divorced?” Or, how about “your kids need to see you happy, they need to see two people who love each other, don’t you think they know you are not happy right now?” And, while those are all still great points, valid points, and should really be considered – I know see where that comes from.
Admitting I was wrong, or possibly, slightly, part way incorrect – maybe is well, the truth. I was wrong. Truth is, if you are scared, not dedicated, maybe didn’t really mean your vows or many variances of lacking in the commitment to the marriage, your spouse and yourself – leaving makes sense and will most likely happen.
My friends used to say I was in love with falling in love. That all relationships go stale and become work, that is normal. For me, I thought when it stopped being fun, all the lovey-dovey stuff went away – and lies and skeletons in the closet came out to play and REAL LIFE came into account – the relationship was over, done, finito – adios – buh-bye! Although in my defense, cheating, abuse and drugs and alcoholism all are valid reasons to end a relationship – but only if you really need to use that excuse. There are many marriages who have made it through that and much worse, my guess is that they were fully committed. My other guess is that the love and the respect for the other person were genuine.
My heart is an odd heart, it backfires, misfires, gets overheated and freezes over faster than that Frozone’s snow boots! When I shouldn’t have loved, I did – and too much. When I should have loved, I didn’t – or not enough. Being thirty-three I can tell you I have been in love only two times – which is odd because there have been four “main” men in my life that I spent years saying the daily I love you’s, the promises of every tomorrow, the I Do’s which turned to I Don’t, I Didn’t or I won’t do that. One relationship which produced my beautiful children – my true loves of my life – but looking back now, wasn’t real – no love.
Then as with any broken or failed relationship you tuck a little piece of “baggage” into a deep dark little hole, and move on to the next. And so on…so that when you settle down with the right person there is just enough unpacking, sorting, and repairing to drive you crazy – but without driving you away.
My husband and I do not have the perfect marriage, we are not that couple that never fights, I am not the perfect wife, and he is not the perfect husband. Our marriage is WORK, literally getting down and dirty, elbow grease and all – WORK. There are days where he can do no right by me, there are days that he irritates me, hurts my feelings, pushes my buttons and my limits making me feel like at any moment I could bust through the barrier of wonderful married-ville, and strangle him. AND, there are days when its reversed and I am all those thing to him. We are not easy to be married to, to live with – but damn it if we don’t find a way to always find a way. We do that, because we finally found the person, the commitment, the relationship that is worth all the WORK.
If someone were to ask us, how come you don’t just give up, or how much more are you gonna take? Our answer would be because of our family, because we love each other, for the kids, the extended family, our life – etc. Before, my kids weren’t a reason to stay in a relationship – now I am not saying that you should stay solely for the kids, but what I am saying is that it makes sense what I heard my girlfriends saying all those failed relationships of mine ago. It makes sense why our grandparents and great-grandparents were married 40, 50 and 60 years to the same person. Dedication and Commitment. My grandfather made some bad choices, and I am sure so did his father, and his father’s father. They may not have been the same bad choice, but you can bet your tush they weren’t perfect – and neither was their marriage.
There are those select few, the elite married couples who just really do have it perfectly figured out, they never fight, no one gets jealous, they are always kind, considerate, thoughtful, selfless – no baggage, no dramatic issues or life altering problems and just are HAPPY. If that is you, you had better go in and find your spouse – lay a big smooch right on them and take a minute to realize that you are lucky. Not everyone has that, and not necessarily because they can’t – but because they won’t.
There is a quote by Marilyn Monroe that was me exactly. It says:
“A wise girl kisses but doesn’t love ;
Listens but doesn’t believe ; and leaves
before she is left”
What it should say is a wise girl is a lonely girl too….
If I truly loved the people in my past, the way I do my husband – I would still be there. If I valued my relationships then as much as I value my marriage now, I’d still be there. It’s the same with cheating – I used to think that you can cheat on someone you love – because to be honest I cheated – and I thought I loved the person I cheated on. Truth is, I didn’t – because if I did, I wouldn’t have stepped over that line. Cheating is a choice, it is a premeditated, thoughtful process that you either decide to follow through with because you don’t care or you don’t love the person you are with. We all could cheat, we all could fall into that bottomless pit of deceit and have great affairs that are pleasing for the moment, that will only be detrimental internally, and externally for those we let down.
The saying “once a cheater, always a cheater” isn’t true. The truth is, when you find something and someone who you could or would never risk the chance of losing, you won’t cheat. When you think to yourself, that would be “fun” but it would ruin my family or its “new and exciting” but how new would it be, if you got stuck with it forever? The new and exciting, the fun, is in having those “trying” moments and not failing – but instead making it through them. It’s seeing your family and knowing that they are not dispensable, that you are valuable to them and to yourself.
This may sound like a bunch of soap box talking – but truth is, it’s just a couple of things I learned from messing up. Before my husband, before this marriage, I was packing my bags when I needed to stay, I was chasing any breeze that blew my way…luckily it led me to where I should be. Now my bags are staying unpacked and the breeze will blow me closer to my family, not away.
“Lately, I have been struggling with others views about my life – marriage – family etc. How far do we let peoples opinions, advice, etc in to our homes and how do we do that, and still find a place within our little family and our spouses families at the same time. Below you will find many scenarios of things I struggle with, and some ways to help that. “
My husband teases me that I need an invite before I will just stop by someone’s home. He often times goes to his mom’s house unannounced, will help himself to food in the fridge and take the most comfy chair. Not only does this make me uncomfortable, but its something I would never do. Seriously, I am an adult – and I wouldn’t want someone just stopping by – what if they are having sex or enjoying time alone – or naked walking around the house? That happens at our house, so it is possible.
Call it being sensitive, which I know I am, or you can call it being a worry-wort which I have been since I was a child – either way I don’t want to intrude. Is it possible they want me there, sure – but it’s also possible that even though the like me, they may not feel like having to entertain company. Some will argue that family is not company, I will argue they are both. Putting this into account with other things – I sometimes feel as if I don’t know my place, I don’t always feel welcome and can grow uncomfortable easily. Not because they did, or said anything – because of me.
There are times when I don’t feel included – and when I choose to let it bother me. There were two months that grandma was in the hospital. My mother and father in law – spent the majority of the time there alone – working full-time and spending nights there. Just showing up there – isn’t something I would do, yet I couldn’t understand why when they needed help no one called us. Getting my feelings hurt, it was explained that we have kids – and that all the other people who were too busy or unavailable to help out – didn’t. I never thought about that – I just figured they didn’t want us there. The same with the service, I simply showed up. There was no helping with setting up, or getting pictures, or anything. When it was time to leave – it was my husband’s brother and sister that helped his mom carry things out, and I stood there – not knowing my place. Everyone is different – and in a blended family – this couldn’t be more true.
Take for example my husbands Grandmother that recently passed. Her hospital room welcomed visitors that were immediate family, I had never met. People that were so important to her, that she loved, and then there is me. Having been in the family for a hot minute – I worried I was taking up room for someone else, or maybe they felt it wasn’t my place to be there. Yes, I wanted to be there, both for myself and my husband. But, I would be lying if I said I didn’t struggle with it.
Today, at the Celebration of Life – the church was full of people I did not know, and very well may never see again. It is also the same church that is led by husbands ex-wife’s family. Her Uncle is the Pastor, and her Grandfather plays guitar in the band. The pastor and I have met, and they are fantastic about staying out of anything about them. The pastor even helps my husband and I as we have problems like every other blended family does. They love my husband, and for that I am thankful. But, did I feel a sense of belonging there? No, it was uncomfortable – however this day wasn’t about me, so I sucked it up. Once seated with my food after the service, I sat next to Grandpa and I never moved. Many people came to speak to him, none of which I knew – but I made my job refilling his coffee cup and that gave me a purpose. Outside of that, I didn’t speak with too many people, and when my husband would leave and visit with others, I stayed put. I didn’t want to follow him around, and literally waited for him to come get me, when he was ready to leave.
Since we had our kids there with us, that meant that my stepson would see his great-grandfather, and as they were talking and he asked him if the kids with him were his brother and sister – I knew he knew, I was the Step-Mom. Had he heard of me? Had he believed what he heard – did he think I was all the things his granddaughter said I was – or was he a genuine christian man – that appreciated the fact I loved his great-grandson? I’m not sure, but I definitely felt on edge, fearful I would say or do the wrong thing – be too friendly or not friendly enough. Should I just leave my stepson with him, and walk away, or do I wait until they are finished and continue on my way as a family, as we had started? Have you caught that I am an over-analyzer yet? Cause I am.
Although my childhood, wasn’t horrible – I do lack the general understanding and feelings of being part of a bigger picture – of being wanted. Being a daughter is foreign to me, being able to go “home” help myself to food, or a comfy seat without notice is something I never had or did. Being a mom, that I know – how I want my children to feel – that I understand but not how to receive it myself. Leaving the church, I don’t even think I said goodbye to my mother in law – I think I just wanted to be home – in my comfort zone. Allowing things to get to me, is something I struggle with. There was an attendee at the service, that always makes a point to make a big deal out of seeing my stepson – but not my two kids. It bothered me. First, he barely knows who she is, and it’s not as if she is actively involved in his life. Yet, the reason it bothers me – is inside me – which I know once I am honest with myself.
Whether it is admitted or not, there is always favoritism in some manner. Whether it be that the bio family is more important, or your spouse’s family feels that your spouse can do no wrong – or maybe even one of the step-kids is liked more. It can go every which way possible. And my favorite – it will all change tomorrow. I have had my brother-in-law and husband both say in the heat of the moment, that I am their mom’s “new” favorite – and there have been times where I swear she doesn’t like me for some reason. There are times when, following arguments – I will feel like we are not family anymore – because that is how my family worked. However, their family doesn’t work like that – they forgive and move forward. This is more than foreign to me, because I am still mad – when they are over it… I simply take things more serious – more final – and have a hard time building that bridge to get over stuff.
There are moments when I feel like no one see’s my point – and no matter how many different ways you try to explain to explain it – it will not help. If you are like me you may get emotional, or feel judged because they seem one-sided. Sometime’s they are one-sided – sometimes they are right. The good thing is that either way, its is your life and you have the right to feel how you feel – even if they don’t agree. In our home, bringing up softball – will always be a lost case for me. If I complain that hubby is playing ball 3 days in a row all day long – I am the bad guy because he played ball so much more when we first got together. Therefore, I have no right to feel as though that’s excessive. To me, if you have chores, or anything that needs attention that comes first. If you are playing in a tournament that is two days and your wife says that she doesn’t want you playing a third day that is unrelated – that you shouldn’t – especially when she is at home with both his kids and hers. When does a mother get 3 days of being able to not have to be a mom? She doesn’t but because it’s a hobby that has been cut back on – we should get over it. I still think I have every right to have been upset – others disagree. The world did not end – therefore life goes on.
It’s not any different from how you parent your children. Chances are there is a good chance you parent differently than your spouse. One major difference in our home is that my husband eats anything – I am a picky eater. When my stepson eats – he eats anything – he will eat it all and whether he likes it or not. My son is picky, he doesn’t like new things and I simply refuse to force him to sit there and choke it all down. I was asked once by a family member on my husband’s side ” So, because when you were raised you were forced to eat things you didn’t like, and your dad was mean to you, you refuse to do that to your kids?” the answer I gave was yes… My answer wasn’t well received – did it bother me? yes, but they are my kids and my kids don’t have to just like my husbands. People can and will disagree with how you parent – but while advice is great – their opinion really doesn’t make a difference unless you want it to.
Discipline is the same way. My husband is far stricter and competitive than I am when it comes to the kids. He has a better follow through rate than I do – yet I remind him that I have pretty great kids – so whatever I am doing must have been working before him. He believes instilling a “general fear” the kind of fear that when you are speeding and see a cop – will make the kids behave better. He also makes it known at times that his son will be better at things, than my children – because of it. My comment is always – I guess we will see. Fear is not something I want my children to every feel when it comes to me, I would rather them worry to disappoint me, let me down or themselves down. I had a home where I couldn’t be honest and talk to a parent about what was going on with me, and when I needed help – I had no one to turn to. I refuse to let that happen to my children – Truth is, we are both good parents – although we don’t always see eye to eye. It doesn’t always mean on of us is wrong and the other is right – it’s just different.
Blended families are hard, when trying to find your place – and trying to assert your independence while showcasing what you have to offer to your spouse and your stepchildren. Many of these people have seen your spouse with the ex, many know that the children are not both of yours – and while at a grocery store or restaurant you can continue in the world of “were a family” – during family events your secret is out. How then, do you manage to be yourself and be comfortable?
First, don’t do the things I did above. Ditch the over-analyzing, don’t be sensitive, and don’t feel watched. Is it possible you are being watched, of course. However, by acting on this, you will most definitely make a mistake.
Second, be kind – initiate a conversation and allow that person to make their own decision on what they think of you. I can’t tell you how many times, I have walked away from a conversation with someone I didn’t think I liked, only to find out that I actually rather enjoyed that person.
Third, Smile, and breath. First because not breathing would lead to passing out and that would only make it worse. 🙂 There is that saying “Smile, because you never know who is falling in love with it.” Its true. Plus, smiling makes you more approachable.
Fourth, identify why you feel the way you do. Is it your head playing into it, or was there really an issue with someone who has caused this? If so, make a plan to talk with the person later, away from the event if it is someone important enough to clear the air with. If its someone who talking to, would make no difference – don’t waste your time or energy.
Fifth, Don’t take it to heart. How many times has someone said to you: “What’s wrong?” for you to say “Nothing, why do you ask?”, finding out that you had a look on your face that looked mad or sad – without even realizing it. Or better yet, how many times have you said or done something that later you realized was probably not the best way to go about it, or maybe was taken the wrong way? We all say things that we may have not meant in that manner, or that we didn’t realize we said. Give the benefit of the doubt.
These work even if you are in a home that doesn’t exactly accept you. The term “Kill them with Kindness” really works – as well as “Fake it until you make it”. Neither of which I am good at. Talking with your spouse or significant other before arriving, can provide you the opportunity to have them be more supportive, and to inform them that you may need a little helping hand here and there.
All in all, you were picked to be in this family – by a key person in the family – your spouse. Find some value in that alone, and realize you have something to add, because there is no one like you. Today, as I was standing outside, my husband was helping his grandfather to and in his truck. I had hugged him goodbye already. Then, I hear my name being called, and my husband was motioning that Grandpa wanted me to come to the truck, he told me he just wanted me to know he appreciated all I had done and that he loved me very much. At that moment, nothing else mattered – I had served a purpose and he appreciated it. He will never know – how much that meant to me either.