Saturday, January 28, 2012

How To Plan For A Happy 2012

Most people I know would like the New Year to be better - in one way or another - than the year that’s gone. Some just hope fervently that fate might make it so. Others cross its threshold filled with a whole heap of New Year’s resolutions that, in most cases, are forgotten or discarded by mid-January. Yet others invest some time in thinking and planning as to how they would like things to be different in the year/s to come.

Having taken myself through this process throughout many years in the past, I have discovered that it’s a great tool that helps me feel more in control of my life and a sure-fire way to create the changes I want.

At the end of each year I ask myself three simple questions:

1.  Where am I headed?
2.  What do I want to achieve?
3.  What do I need to do in order to achieve what I want?

In the hope that you might use this simple tool to make your stepfamily journey a more joyful and satisfying one - or for whatever other changes you may wish to make in your life - I’ll give you some basic examples.

I.   The first question you need to ask yourself is - where am I headed?

My guess is that your answer would be something like:

*  Into a first (or second) marriage or live-in relationship with a partner who has children from a former marriage or relationship.
*  Into the role of second wife with (or without) children of my own.
*  Into the role of part-time or full-time step-parent.

II.  Your second question needs to be - what do I want to achieve?

Your answers to this question may be many and varied. My guess is that some of them would be:

(a)   A better relationship with my step children
(b)   Greater support from my partner
(c )  Less antagonism with my partner’s ex

III.  Your third question needs to be – what do I need to do to achieve this, or in other words: What does this require of me?

This is a tough question as it places the responsibility for change squarely on YOUR shoulders. Does this mean that you let everyone else off the hook? No way! It does mean, however, that you recognise and accept that the only thing over which you have complete control in your life is your own attitude and behaviour.

To give you an idea of how this can work for you, I’ve chosen a few possible answers relating to question II.

( a) A better relationship with my stepchildren may require:

*  Showing greater acceptance, understanding and compassion.
*  Giving the children more time to adjust to their new circumstances.
*  Letting go of my pre-conceived ideas and expectations.

I imagine that right now you are thinking: Doing that will require that my stepchildren show greater acceptance and better behaviour towards me. Yes, I agree that this would help a great deal but I also know that you have no power to ‘make’ this happen and therefore need to focus on what YOU CAN DO, rather than on what THEY MIGHT DO.

(b) To obtain greater support from my partner requires that I:

*  Have a clear idea of exactly what kind of support I am looking for. This may involve:
Writing a list of my needs and deciding which of these needs can be met by me, by other relatives or friends and which of them realistically can (and ideally should) be met by my partner.

*  Tell my partner clearly what I need from him.  This involves: 
  • Getting my timing right.
  • Choosing words that don’t put my partner on the defense.
  • No judgments, recriminations or threats.
  • No emotional outbursts. 

*  Ask my partner what type of support s/he needs from me. This involves:
  • Being willing to hear his truth and being open to his needs.
  • Exploring with my partner which of his needs can realistically be met by me.
  • Making a commitment to meeting my partner’s needs

(c) What does having less antagonism with my partner’s ex require of me?

*  Could it require that I express more goodwill?
*  Could it require that I try to meet her halfway?
*  Might I need to let go of judgments, anger or feelings of hatred towards her?

Again, I can hear you moan: But she is impossible. It doesn’t matter what I do, she’s long ago decided that I am ‘the enemy’ and nothing seems to make any difference. It's her who needs to change, not me!!!

True, true….I agree!...but I also know that, more often than not, this is not likely to happen…well, certainly not in a hurry. So, in the meantime, in order to make your own life more satisfying, YOU need to do what YOU can, to make the best out of a difficult situation.  If you’ve already done all you can, perhaps the answer to your question needs to be:

*  I need to let go of the expectation that she will ever accept, appreciate or like me.
*  I need to accept the way things are even though they are far from the way I’d like them to be.

I also know that this is much easier said than done! Remember, I’ve been in these situation myself and I can tell you that, although not easy, it is possible.

I hope that this process will give you some food for thought and that it might encourage you to take a little time to ask questions of yourself that only you can answer, that you will have the courage to answer them honestly and that you will work on putting your answers into practice. 

Good luck!

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