Advice from the heart for my dear friend.
Before I ever got involved with a man with kids - I simply had no idea what it entailed. Lately, I see my friend (with no kids of her own), struggling in her (semi new) relationship with a man with a son, and a very young, very in and out of the child's life BM. This blog post is sort of an outline of the things I would love to tell her, but haven't, yet.
I believe in order to remain sane and positive in step life, one needs to have an extremely healthy sense of self. Good self esteem.
There are so many aspects of this life that have drained me. Aged me. Made me cry. Made me scream. Made me physically ill.
But there was something about this life that made me much more self aware, and forced me to take a good look at myself, and my insecurities. Had I not done the "work" on myself (this includes finding Steptalk), I would be in a much different place emotionally. (That is not to say my life currently is rainbows, kittens and sunshine every day, obviously).
I entered my relationship with no self esteem. Perhaps "the challenge" of it all is what allured me. I quickly set out to be DH's dream girl, his angel, his fixer. I villainized BM before I even know anything about her. I was in full competition mode. I analyzed everything about that woman.
Was I less than her because she had his kids? Did he miss her when they talked? Do men always secretly love the BM? Would the kids see the evil in her ways? Would he eventually miss his family and leave me to go back? I kept myself up at night wondering, comparing, over-analyzing it to death.
It goes without saying, I spent the first couple years in a constant state of anxiety and anger. I tried so hard to wedge myself into the life of DH and the skids, his friends, his family, that I abandoned my own identity. Did I even exist? Nope. I only existed as I saw myself through the lens of my in-laws (yuck), BM, the kids. The funny, fierce, smart girl who could always make her friends laugh was long gone. I was a little shell of my former self. All of my friends were off starting families, anyway. And there I was. Just coasting along, clueless.
Throughout that time I was depressed in the truest sense of the word. I did not want to endure another day of DH going to court, drained and broke from fighting BM. I did not want to endure another phone call, hearing her complain on the other end. I was sick of the skid weekends, the messes, the constant feeling like I had to help "entertain" them. When they left on Sunday I would collapse into bed.
In my mind, when the skids were around, DH and I went from being head over heels in love, to enemies living under one roof. THEM vs. me. I would stew in my bedroom with the dog, while he laid on the couch with "his family." Sure, I would cuddle and laugh with the skids sometimes, but the comments about mom would damn near eat me alive (and still occasionally do).
I never felt so completely childless until I had stepkids.
After a couple more years went by I reached a turning point. I knew I couldn't continue to let BM, skids and DH's past be the focal point of my life any longer. I had to come to a place of healing and acceptance or I had to immediately leave. I found Steptalk (and a few others blogs) and realized I was not alone. These websites made me feel human again.
Then there was therapy, blogging, vision boards, meditation, and learning to take little breaks for myself. I started cultivating an entire little "AJ self help world" and trying to understand what I needed out of my life to feel alright. To feel happiness.
I am learning it is OKAY to decide not to make everyone dinner and go have a glass of wine with a friend instead. I learned it is OKAY to tell SD I need an hour to myself before watching her practice cartwheels in the yard. I learned it is OKAY to not hear every detail of DH's conversation with BM.
I am learning DH and the skids are still family to me, even with BM hovering in the peripheral. Her opinions cannot penetrate the walls of my house.
I am learning to view child support as just another bill that has to be paid.
I am learning to let myself love my husband instead of walking around in an angry, protective shell.
I am learning it is okay to feel confused and VULNERABLE.
I am learning being a "cool aunt" type to the skids feels a hell of a lot better than trying to be back up mom.
I want my friend to know all of this. I listen to her trash talk the BM more often now. I see her curiously scrolling BM's social media. I hear about the tears and fights with the boyfriend. I want to tell her to either RUN before merging lives any further, or to take a good, long, hard look at yourself and see where you are making this harder than it needs to be. I suspect she plans to stay with this man and I hope it doesn't take her years to get to a place where she finally feels okay.
But for now I am just trying to be a good listener... because what woman in a new relationship wants to hear ^ that...................?