Stopping in to say Hello and offer some support. It's been awhile!
Hey step-peeps! I've been a member for a number of years, but have been absent for quite some time. I'm not sure what impressed me to sign in today, but reading through some of what sounds so very familiar to me I wanted to take a minute to offer some encouragement and hope.
I have nearly 18 years of step-life under my belt. My story is detailed (perhaps too detailed in some cases) in my past blogs, but the very short version is:
My husband and I were alienated from my steps when they were quite young. We were in & out of court with BM for years until the judge deemed the kids old enough to decide whether they wanted to participate in visititation (at 13 & 15 years old). Neither of them chose to visit, rather the judge gave them an out and they took it. With the exception of once or twice, they wouldn't answer phone calls or respond to messages until SS hit 18. He reached out to my DH at that time, very angry and hurt but in desparate need of a father-figure, and at that point, with open honest conversation healing began.
It's taken some time, but we have since been able to mend our relationships, and while the kids (now SD22 & SS25) are bogged down, trying to take care of their BM and deal with her problems, they are responsible, respectful, pleasant, quite easy-to-get-along-with adults, capable of taking care of themselves and being contributing members of society.
Back when I found Steptalk, never in a million years, could I envision us being where we are as a family now. I never imagined that my anger and hurt would heal, muchless that I would see the day my steps would come to me for a hug and tell me with sincerity that they love and appreciate me. My marriage is strong, and while my steps are still struggling with their decisions on how to handle their relationships with BM & her issues, they know that we are there when they need us.
Looking back through my experience, I believe that the key to us coming through our most difficult years of this was the fact that my DH treated me like an equal partner in our relationship at all times. Having read SO many posts here, I recognize that I'm fortunate. He never did slack on that, even when I wasn't present. He didn't allow BM or the kids to mistreat or disrespect me. If they spoke ill about me, he spoke up for me. We have always presented ourselves as a partnership, and while that may very well have helped BM in her mission to alienate, it's something that the kids have expressed recognition and understanding of, and it's something that they appreciate having to look to as an example in their lives. As it does for most of us, age and experience have helped them understand why DH made the choices he made in dealing with BM and with them as children. I won't say they aren't angry, but their anger isn't with DH anymore. They (more SS than SD) have some work to do, to figure out how to process the years of mental abuse and neglect they experienced for many years. SD has been quicker to build her path than SS. He seems to be stuck in his feelings...the natural want to move forward and live his life, but the devotion, responsibility, and obligation he feels toward BM as well as struggling to forgive her and let go.
While I understand that each of us has our unique situation, I share this to offer hope and maybe some insight. I know that some here are in the very beginning stages of steplife, but I recognize a few of the names here from when Steptalk was my daily vent/therapy group, and know that there are others who have a number of years invested as well. Wherever your are in your journey, know that you deserve to be happy, but also know that no one is responsible for your happiness but you. Don't let people disrespect you, but understand that children learn what they live. If your steps behave like assholes it's because they've been taught to behave that way. That doesn't mean you have to accept it; it means that you need to correct them, but also hold the responsible party accountable for the example they set. Too often kids get shit on when the adults are the ones who fail to parent/teach them. Kids aren't stupid. They're very capable of learning and it's in their best interest for adults to parent them effectively so they can grow up to be decent kind happy individuals. Keep in mind that, like anybody, kids will be more receptive to certain attitudes and methods than others. We learn by example. I know that many partners are weak when it comes to BM. For example, when dad excludes you to appease BM, or allows her to speak ill of you without taking up for you, kids learn that they can treat you that way. Don't accept behavior from your partners that you wouldn't accept from his kids. If the kids are giving you a hard time, it's because they've seen someone else do it and get away with it. If you don't allow it from children, don't allow it from your partner. If your partner isn't willing to parent or be with you 100%, work together to figure that out or find a new partner. If you and your partner are working together and coming out stronger, keep at it! It's worth it! You deserve to be happy! Life is too damn short to settle for less.