I can’t believe it is almost JULY. Time goes by so fast as a grownup doesn’t it? Also can you still be a grownup when you call yourself a grownup? Asking for a friend.
But for real, do you know what comes after July? August. And do you know what’s happening in August?
Yep. Uplifted Challenge WOOP WOOP! Which meanssss…. Your Stepmom Story enrolment will be opening for the first time in almost 6 months. How exciting is THAT!
In fact, the Uplifted Challenge is going to be kicking off on, what better day than, my anniversary. (Make sure you’re following me on Instagram so that you don’t miss enrolment!)
Yep that’s right, another trip around the sun married to the man who made me a stepmother. So much has changed since we first met. I’ve changed. He’s changed. Our relationship has changed. I mean, obviously, nearly a decade together will do that. But I’d be lying if I said there haven’t been some pretty huge transformations that have happened both individually and as a couple.
And I’d also be lying if I said those transformations came about from a place of peace and harmony.
In fact, I’ve said this once if I’ve said it a hundred times — people absolutely will not change until the pain of being where they are becomes too great to stay there.
A long time ago, I read a quote by the writer Anais Nin, that has stuck with me for years and years and years. She wrote,
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” -Anaïs Nin
After the Honeymoon
A lot of the time in our relationships, especially in our romantic relationships, and especially after the initial exhilaration of the honeymoon phase has worn off, one reason that you can get into ruts, one reason that you can find yourself living in a really uninspired, disconnected state, is because — and especially in stepfamily relationships — its like, once things calm down, it’s almost like you don’t want to rock the boat.
Usually the first few years of stepfamily life are so chaotic that, once everything starts to become a bit more predictable, you might find yourself settling for treatment or behaviours that don’t feel all that great, but that feel better than arguing or feel better than the perceived threat of the way your spouse will react.
And sometimes in the desire that a lot of us have to make things calm down in the first place, if you’re anything like a lot of my stepmom clients or if you’re anything like me, then it might be true for you that you’ve developed this tendency to put your own needs on the back burner so that everyone else can feel comfortable or safe or taken care of.
For example, my husband used to make plans and arrangements with his ex-wife before he would talk to me. They’d make their plans and arrangements, and then I’d be informed after the fact. And by then, the plans were already solidified. They’d be presented to me as facts.
They’d switch around the days when my stepson would be coming in order to accommodate his mom’s schedule, which is FINE, only I wouldn’t be told until after the deed was done. And sometimes those switches would interfere with plans I had, or be disruptive to my work schedule, and sometimes those switches would make no difference to what I had planned, but I’d still feel ticked right off.
If you found your blood pressure instantly rising, then there’s a good chance this has happened to you too. In fact it happens to a lot of my stepmom clients, where their spouses volunteer them for responsibilities before they even talk to the stepmom. It’s super frustrating. Not because most of us wouldn’t help out if we were asked, but just purely because of the assumption that we would before we were consulted, amirite? Not because most of us actually care about the schedule change, but purely because we weren’t included in a decision that directly affects our lives. It’s like being the eternal passenger. How frustrating.
So anyway, for a long time, my husband would make plans with his ex, then tell me about them after the plans were made, and I would be so angry. I’d be fuming inside. But I would just smile and nod and not say anything.
Why Some Stepmoms Don’t Speak Up
This is what I mean by settling for treatment or behaviours that don’t feel great.
Why didn’t I speak up back then?
Well, primarily, because I was afraid of how my husband would react.
I was afraid that he’d think I didn’t want my stepson there, because my stepson and I already had a complicated relationship. I was afraid he’d say too bad so sad.
I was afraid he’d say, if you don’t like it, then leave.
I was afraid that if I told my husband when he made plans without consulting me it made me feel unimportant, that he would give me a response that confirmed and validated how unimportant I actually was to him.
And at least without saying anything, I didn’t have to have my fears confirmed. At least without saying anything, I got to hang onto my relationship for one more day.
Now, if you’re still reading this, chances are pretty good that you know the alternative — keeping it to yourself — isn’t a better option at all.
It was situations like that, that weren’t happening just to me but that I also notice happening to my clients all the time, that made me realize that so many stepmoms, me included, have been making this really, really, really awful, painful mistake.
Resentment Is Created When…
One of the most devastating, detrimental, awful mistakes you can make in your relationship, is to make your spouse’s needs more important than your own.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand why stepmoms do this.
We’ve been taught that as women it’s our job to take care of our families even at the expense of our own wellness. We’ve been taught that as stepmoms we’re automatically slapped with a title of wicked or irrational or unreasonable, so we make sure to prove that we aren’t any of those things at all. We’ve been socially conditioned to believe that the amount of love people have for you is based on what you can do for others, instead of who you are…
But if making your spouse’s needs more important than your needs REALLY created a safe, intimate, connected relationship, then why on earth do so many stepmoms have SO MUCH resentment?
If you are a stepmom who has resentment toward your spouse, your stepkids, or their other parent, that MEANS that you have needs that aren’t being met.
If you are a stepmom who has resentment toward your spouse, your stepkids, or their other parent, that MEANS you have needs that aren’t being met.
And, you might not wanna hear this but, it’s not their job to meet your needs. It’s yours. And if you are saying yes when you want to say no, and if you are keeping your mouth shut or walking on eggshells just to keep the peace, and if you are avoiding hard conversations with your spouse out of fear of what might happen, then – I love you so much – read on.
It might work in the short term, saying yes when you want to say no, or saying nothing when you want to scream — but as a long-term relationship building strategy, it’s a ticking time bomb. Resentment is a cancer that will eat away at your relationship until there’s nothing left to save.
If you REALLY want to create a connected, intimate relationship where you feel heard, and valued, and loved, and safe, then here are 7 skills you need to develop in order to get your needs met in your relationship, so that you can stop layering on resentment and start building or enhancing your authentic partnership.
7 Skills To Develop So That You Can Stop Layering On Resentment & Start Building Or Enhancing Your Authentic Partnership
- The ability to identify and express your own needs
If you are sitting there saying, I have no idea what my needs even are let alone how to express them, then you’re very much not alone. That’s one reason why I’m hosting the Blended Family Blueprint right away, so that you can hone in on exactly what your needs are and come up with a plan to get them met. (Make sure you’re following me on Instagram to stay notified of when this is coming out)
As simply as I can explain this, what this boils down to is usually something we’ve learned in childhood. Most children, especially us as millennial kids and the generations who came before us, unfortunately grew up with the belief that our needs were unimportant. A lot of parents dismiss their kids’ needs, either by emotionally invalidating them, control with the use of shame, punishment-reward parenting styles, and so on and so forth.
- An understanding of the full anatomy of a boundary, and the skills to execute and uphold the boundaries you require to honour yourself
So, about this one. A common misconception is that boundaries are something you do TO someone else, rather than FOR yourself. Like I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, I smacked them with that boundary, I set that boundary on them, and they didn’t listen.
Boundaries have a very specific anatomy. Most people are not good at boundaries because they don’t understand what a boundary actually is. And what is a boundary? Simply stated, it is the delineation of where you end and where someone else begins. Like the walls of a swimming pool. If they aren’t clearly defined, and clearly communicated, then we can’t expect our partners to respect them. I cannot cannot cannot emphasize enough the importance of ACTUALLY understanding what boundaries are. They will save you.
- The ability to recognize when your partner is making you responsible for their needs, and the capacity to acknowledge if you have the bandwidth to support them in meeting said needs
Ok so what do I mean by this?
This again ties into boundaries, and how most of us suck at boundaries, and that’s okay because boundary setting is a skill which means that anyone can learn it and get good at it.
Unfortunately more often than not in stepfamilies, our partners make us responsible for their shit. Not because they are trying to use us or take advantage of us, but usually simply because people want to get their needs met in the easiest way possible.
When you have clearly defined boundaries, and when you have clearly communicated needs, and when you are able to discuss with your partner when you literally either don’t want to or cannot help them with something, you’ll be able to honour yourself. This gives the power back to you, because now you are in control of when you say yes and when you say no, not because of what’s easiest for them, but because it authentically aligns with YOU.
- The confidence to say no when you want to say no
This ties into all of the above. For a lot of us, learning to say no when we want to say no requires some root-pulling, meaning, it takes some digging to uncover where we learned to people-please. And that’s okay.
For the record, saying NOTHING like I used to do when my husband would make plans on my behalf, for example, was not me saying no.
Imagine how good life would feel if you were able to act, or not act, because of what YOU wanted, and not because of what other people wanted from you?
- The Unconditional Yes
Ok so the unconditional yes is just what it sounds like. This means that, you don’t say YES to your partner when you want to say no, because you hope by saying YES you’ll be able to use this as leverage later.
The unconditional yes means that, you aren’t saying YES because you’re trying to convince your spouse what a selfless, majestic unicorn you are.
If you’re a stepmom who has ever said, I’ve sacrificed so much for YOUR family, or you’re a stepmom who has ever felt taken advantage of, or like nobody appreciates everything that you do, then you need to – well you don’t need to do anything but – becoming aware of the unconditional YES will help you. A lot.
The unconditional yes is authentic. Aligned. Unconditional.
- Emotional maturity
Emotional maturity is one of the most underrated relationship skills. Emotional maturity means that you are able to understand that your emotions are messengers. But here’s the distinction: people with emotional maturity respect and validate and accept their emotions, but know that their emotions are not THEM.
In other words, when you have developed emotional maturity, you don’t become a casualty of the way you feel. Your feelings don’t send you into a tailspin. Your feelings are not good or bad, they just are. Emotional maturity means being able to hold space for your experience and your partner’s experience, without making one of those experiences more or less important than the other.
And last but certainly not least, Empathy. Now empathy is a really beautiful, connecting, wholesome ass skill to develop. Empathy is not feeling sorry for someone. Empathy is not pity. Rather, empathy is the capacity to imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s the ability to imagine what another person’s life experience is like, no matter how different that experience might be from your own.
Empathy doesn’t require you to waver on your needs. It doesn’t require you to loosen your boundaries because your partner is uncomfortable. Empathy is the ability to say, I can see how frustrating this is for you, and connecting with your partner’s experience, without trying to change it. Without trying to make their problem your problem. And vice versa.
You do not need to agree with someone in order to show them empathy. You don’t even need to like someone in order to show them empathy. And that’s the beauty of empathy. It frees you from taking responsibility for other People’s Feelings, because empathy shows you that people are allowed to feel and experience life as they do.
Door Number 1, Or Door Number 2
Now let me ask you this — if you really want to create an intimate and connected relationship with your spouse which path will you take? Path A, where you continue to make your spouse’s needs more important than your own and layer on resentment thick as a Canadian’s winter jacket, or path B, where you develop those 7 skills, so that you can BOTH get your needs met and NEITHER of you have to sacrifice your own well-being to make that happen…
Which path will be free of resentment and full of authenticity?
What is the vision you have for your relationship? For your role as a stepmom? What is the vision of Happily Ever After that you hope to create? If you have no idea yet, that’s okay. The important thing is that you give yourself the space to think about these things.
The only way resentment goes away is when needs get met. So whether you begin this adventure now or later, now or when things get so bad you’re on the verge of splitting up, eventually you will realize how important your needs are. How important your boundaries are. How important you are.
Should you choose Path B, here are those 7 skills again that you need to develop to ditch the resentment and build the connected relationship you crave:
So what’ll it be, stepmom? Door number one, or door number two?
As the incredible Anaïs Nin says,
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.Anaïs Nin
If you are looking to create MORE stepfamily harmony WITHOUT walking on eggshells or biting your tongue just to keep the peace, then head to www.peacelovestepmom.com to get FREE enrolment in this INCREDIBLE virtual training. When you enrol FOR FREE, you’ll get INSTANT ACCESS. Sign up now!