Monday, January 9, 2017

How To Make 2017 Your Best Year Yet

Most people want the New Year to be a whole lot better than the year that was. Some just hope fervently that fate might make it so, others cross this threshold filled with a whole heap of New Year’s resolutions that, in most cases, are forgotten or discarded by mid-January. Yet others decide to invest time in thinking and planning just how they would like things to be different in the New Year.

Having taken myself through this exercise at the beginning of each new year  throughout the past decade, I have discovered that it’s a great tool that helps me feel far more in control of my life and is an excellent way to create the changes I want.

So, what are the main questions I ask myself? They are very simple (...and remember:  simple is good!):

§  Where am I headed?
§  What do I want to achieve?
§  What do I need to do in order to achieve what I want?

In the hope that you might use this 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. Here goes:

I. Where am I headed?

Given that you are reading this blog, my guess is that your answer would be something like this:

I plan to be:

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

II.  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 - That could be getting more respect; feeling more wanted; accepted; included; appreciated etc.....

(b)   Greater support from my partner - Feeling that he stands right beside me in my struggles to 'find' my role with his kids; getting rid of that uncomfortable '5th wheel on the car' sensation I have when his kids are around; knowing beyond doubt that 'he has my back' even when my thoughts about a stepfamily matter aren't the same as his, etc......

(c )  Less antagonism with my partner’s ex - Wanting her to understand that I am not the enemy nor am trying to compete with her; feeling less angry and frustrated about the way she seems infiltrate every aspect of our lives; wanting her to know that I am not an evil stepmother etc.....

III.  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. So - I hear you think - does this mean that "I need to let everyone else off the hook?" No, it does mean that at all. What it does mean, however, is that you recognise and accept that the only thing over which you have complete control 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:

§  That I demonstrate greater acceptance, understanding and compassion for them and their plight. 
§  That I recognise that they probably need more time to adjust to their new family circumstances.
§  That I let go of my pre-conceived ideas and expectations of them.

I imagine that right now you are thinking: A better relationship with his kids simply requires that they show greater acceptance of me and better behaviour towards me. And of course I agree that this would help a great deal, but I also know that no matter how much you might want it, 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 or my 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: 
Having courage. 
Getting my timing right.
Choosing words that don’t put my partner on the defense.
No judgments, recriminations or threats and definitely no huge emotional outbursts. 

§  Ask my partner what type of support 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 doing the best I possibly can to meeting his needs.

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

§  Do I have to express more goodwill towards her?
§  Should I make more of an effort to meet her halfway?
§  Might I need to let go of judgments, anger or feelings of resentment?

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

True, true….I totally agree!...but I also know that, short of a miracle, 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 questions needs to be:

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

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

I hope that this process, whilst somewhat simplified for the purpose of this post, 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 and, last but not least, that you will have the courage to answer them honestly. 

....If you need help with this process don't despair. Tune in next week to find out how you can go about moving forward with this without shedding too much blood, sweat and tears.....

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