Thursday, March 25, 2010

MARCHing to the STEPfamily TUNE

As many of you know, some years ago I had a very extensive website - The StepStop. In conjunction with this site I also ran Stepmother Support Groups and wrote a Monthly Newsletter. Every so often I'd ask some of my terrific site monitors - all ladies in stepfamily situations themselves - to write an article for this newsletter. What follows is one of the marvellous articles that was produced during that time. As it is rather lengthy I will post it in sections.


When Sonja asked me if I would consider putting some of my personal thoughts and experiences together for the TSS’s Monthly Newsletter I was flattered as it reassured me that what had often seemed like just babble at the time, was in fact worth reading. However, the biggest obstacle to overcome was figuring out what to write about. Without the aid of an existing post to respond to, all out of personal ‘feel good’ stories and everything pretty quiet on the ‘step-ex’ front, I felt that I didn’t have much to offer. Playing around with various ideas I finally had ‘a light-bulb moment’ and realised that the 3 things that had been foremost on my mind were probably the most common issues of concern that are usually raised on TSS.

Ironically, the order in which I had originally noted them down was….

Right and Wron

All I needed was a ‘c’ and ‘h’ for it to read “March”. Might sound corny but I was fairly impressed and decided to use the month itself for my inspiration and the following, which will hopefully be helpful to you, is the outcome:


How much????!!!! If I received a dollar for each time that question is shot back at us with absolute incredulity when we mention the amount of money we pay the ‘ex’ it would definitely solve ALL our maintenance issues. I am convinced that maintenance is one of the really BIG ISSUES in the 2nd marriage problem arena and I am so grateful that the Government is finally beginning to recognise how urgently a fairer system is required. I only hope that they will also have the courage to give this a full overhaul and not just bandaid it in the same way they seem to do with so many other issues.

I cannot count the number of arguments my husband and I have had regarding money, with our biggest ones usually over his extreme financial generosity with the ‘ex’ – which I noticed would happen particularly when he felt guilty about being an ‘absent father’. After my husband’s separation from the ‘ex’ a verbal agreement was made (hmmm, that’s trusting!) for her to receive $1000 a month. This agreement, however, was immediately thrown out the window once she realised that Child Support’s Assessment demanded an additional $200 a month. Astounded by this we immediately requested a review. Amazingly enough, CS confirmed that this was correct. As you’d expect, the ‘ex’ demanded the higher amount.

A few years later, our savings account now drained, my husband received a phone call from CS explaining that an error had been made in his favour. They had miscalculated his payments and in total he had overpaid thousands of dollars to his ex-wife. Nothing could be done to recover the loss other than to cease paying child support for approximately 2 years. We decided against that option and suggested a more appropriate figure to over time recover our loss. Guess what? She wasn’t thrilled! Fortunately for us her greed had brought her undone and her sweet words: “I’ll take what child support offers” are still music to my ears. If she hadn’t been so greedy in the beginning we would have been stitched into an agreement which would have ultimately seen many of our goals slip even further away. I understand that for most step-parents this scenario is a bit of a dream - a miracle you’d all like to see happen. However, the reduced maintenance does come at a price as now we have an even more disgruntled and irate ex-wife who continually asks for money. With many ‘paying years’ still ahead of us I know that in order to survive reasonably unscathed, both of us will have to develop even thicker skins.

However, this situation has taught me many valuable lessons and although they have come at a financial cost, I believe that I have become a stronger and much wiser person as a result. Who can put a price on this type of investment?!

Lessons learnt:

* Resentment about how much money we paid made me ill. I was worrying about everything we COULDN’T have. Once I began re-evaluating the situation I realised just how much we DID have and I began to breathe again – it helps to breathe!!

* Some things are out of my control - maintenance was one - and I had to learn, and did over time, to accept this!

* To have trust and faith that all will work out okay. When I finally accepted the financial arrangement I felt we were rewarded with the reduced rate.

* The ‘ex’ could have taken all that I materially owned yet still she was without the one thing that she truly wanted - the love of my husband.

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