Friday, June 5, 2009

Part 2 - Guilt, A Common Emotion In Stepfamilies


3. Not being as available to your children as you used to be:

This can be extremely painful for you and induce enormous guilt, especially if the separation was caused or instigated by you. Your guilt is likely to be increased even further if your children are upset when they have to leave to go “home” or if you feel that they aren’t well cared for at your ex-partner's home or if their behaviour towards you (and/or your new partner) indicates that your ex-partner is influencing them against you (and/or your new partner) or simply if they seem to be unhappy.


Remember that you cannot undo what’s already been done. Pouring energy into regrets, into “if only’s” or into attempting to control what goes on in your ex-partner’s household or their mind and emotions is counterproductive. Don’t focus on what you cannot do, instead put your focus and energy into what you can do!

YOU CAN explain the benefits of having two homes to your children – ensure you do this in an age-appropriate way that is meaningful to them.
YOU CAN confront your ‘ex’ if you feel that your children aren’t receiving appropriate care. It’s best if you do this after making every effort to establish whether your feelings have a factual basis. If you confront, be sure to do this in the least threatening way possible. Only pull out the “big guns” if absolutely necessary.
YOU CAN explain to your ex-partner what damaging effects it has on the children whom you both love if either of you malign the other. If he/she is not receptive to YOUR explanations, you may be able to enlist the help of relatives (or a professional) for this purpose.
YOU CAN refrain from playing power games with your ‘ex’ and ensure that you do not malign him or her in retribution.
YOU CAN tell your children at every opportunity how much you love them and care for them.
YOU CAN create healthy boundaries that ensure you don’t allow your children or your ‘ex’ to manipulate you.

4. Feeling as though your new partner isn’t connecting or dealing as well with your children as you would like them to.

Be assured that this is very common amongst re-partnered biological parents and can be caused by:

* A feeling of overprotectiveness. 
* An awareness that your new partner does not share the same feelings of love that you have for your children.
* A sense that your new partner doesn't understand or appreciate your children’s pain.
* A concern that they may impose too many, and perhaps unreasonable, limits on your children. 
* A conviction that your partner is too strict with your kids.
* A nagging fear that your relationship with your new partner may mean that you kids feel left our and/or that they are missing out.


Discuss this issue with your partner. Ensure that you let them know beyond any doubt that you love them just as much as you love your children. Listen to your partner’s grievances and concerns which could be issues such as: “
When your kids are around, you completely ignore me.” “When I exert my authority, I feel like you really resent it”. “When the kids don’t listen to me and you don’t back me up, I feel undermined and invisible” etc……Discuss these issues (and any others) and don’t stop talking until you’ve come to some sensible and workable agreements. Your partner will be much more likely to embrace your children if he/she is assured of your understanding, love and support.

In summary, I’d like to really encourage you to get rid of any and all guilt you may be feeling because guilt leaves you wide open to manipulation. It makes you vulnerable to criticism and to being controlled. As a result of guilt you may fall victim to your ex-partner's emotional blackmail and may be tempted to give in to unreasonable and (sometimes even outrageous) demands. You may become blind to your children’s bad behaviour which will only enrage your partner and put your current relationship at risk. You may feel unable to create healthy and useful boundaries around you and your current family and…ultimately, you may feel so trapped and unhappy that you’re driven to actions that you will invariably regret later.

Shedding guilt can be one of the most difficult tasks you will face throughout your stepfamily journey. However, as it is vital to the success of your second love partnership, it is of critical importance. Once you’ve learned how to effectively deal with your guilt feelings, you will be in a much better position to make healthy choices for yourself, your children and your new family. Your life will seem so much better and all concerned will benefit. As this can be such a difficult task, I would encourage all of you who find this issue too hard to tackle, to seek out professional assistance. Keep your eye on the website for my forthcoming article on the topic of Manipulation.

No comments: