To the invalidators -I’m still here.

I had to learn the hard way what it meant to be on the receiving end of invalidation. Experts agree that experiencing invalidation is one of the most traumatic parts of any abusive relationship. Those who invalidate are experiencing a big black hole in themselves. They are often personality disordered individuals – though invalidation can happen on a spectrum. This is not just someone dismissing your feelings in an inadvertent way. It’s not just disagreements about facts or happenings.

It’s calculated. It’s cold. It’s incessantly undermining your thoughts, cares and feelings. And in some extreme cases, it’s attempting to wipe you from memory, or live as though you don’t exist.

I experienced this frequently in my marriage, and then it became all that I knew of my once-husband after our divorce. He has done everything in his power to pretend as though I don’t exist. He lives in a reality he created where the only ones who believe him are equally as sick – or are strangers, who simply don’t know any better. There are literally hundreds of people who know the truth about our relationship, but to him, they don’t exist either. He hides from and alienates those who know the truth. He runs from himself every single day. Last I heard he was scrambling to keep the truth away from his new soon-to-be wife.

Running from the truth is a prison. One day I hope he is free from it, but I digress.

This has been very hard for me to heal from. I have literally had to start from the ground up and fill all those holes that were created from the acid that was poured on me. Not only have I experienced devastating parental alienation, but he has added to that acting like I don’t even exist anymore to my son. He tells him I don’t love him. He tells him I am nowhere to be found. A person who once gave everything I had to them both – now to he and a few others – I am worth no more than a stranger off the street. In fact, a stranger would receive more respect.

This is devastating to a person’s mental health but it has taught me some valuable lessons about people, relationships and myself.

I survived, and I am still here.

The truth, it is still the truth.

The people who live in the light, they are not afraid to stay there.

I share with you this very personal story because you may have experienced some level of invalidation in your own relationship, or within your blended family. There are many things that have been a blow to me in my life, but having someone systematically dismantle my character, my needs, my thoughts, etc., has been one of the hardest.

So to those who attempted to invalidate me – I am still here.

You didn’t ruin me. In fact all you did was make me stronger.

Ignoring or rewriting my existence didn’t work.

Assassinating my character only made yours weaker.

While you were busy lying about me, I grew into a warrior that you can never defeat.

I don’t have to create a new life every time I fail, like you do.

I don’t have to try to mitigate contact with others because I’m afraid the truth will catch up to me, like you do.

While you were busy guarding your house of shifting sand, I was building mine on the rock.

Therefore, you shudder every time a storm comes, while I welcome it.

While you pretend your version of life is the truth, others fly past you in reality, experiencing wholeness and joy. And all you ever experience is anxiety, ignorance and confusion.

I will pray for those who tried to wipe me from memory. Who have bought this BS story and who act like ripping my soul out was no big deal. However, I want to mention that my prayers have turned from “show them this pain” to “show them this light”. One day you will have to face it, and my hope is that when you do, it will be because you finally opened your heart to wisdom and truth instead of whatever this is. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll be free from this prison you created for yourself. Growth is painful – it is SO painful. But I only ever wanted you to experience the beauty on the other side of that pain. To grow out of that sick repeated pattern into your best version. One who doesn’t have to run or hide or fear or lie. One who gets to know true peace.

And it will forever be my wish for you.

Until then, just a reminder, the truth is still the truth. I still love that boy and I will always bring my humble heart to meet yours on the day that you’re ready to bring truth to the table.

And I’m still here, doing one hell of a job of living free.

 

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Some People Won’t Get It

Along your journey you will find many well-meaning (and some not-so-well-meaning) individuals who have an opinion about your situation.

Try as we might, often times their opinions affect us, but they don’t help us. They don’t help us because they don’t get it. You’ll encounter PLENTY of people who, quite simply, don’t get it.

One of the most common things I hear from people is how many people don’t get it. They can’t relate and their ‘advice’ sends them backwards or at the very least frustrates them.

I’d like to share with you my rule, which is easier said than implemented : if they don’t know my heart I don’t take it to heart.

I still feel like I’ve been punched in the gut when someone waves their negative opinion around in front of me, especially if its misguided or unhealthy. It’s HARD to silence that. I’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable to thousands of strangers here and in doing so opened myself up to a great deal of criticism over the years. I stay at this because there are far more people who I believe I’m helping than are just here because they need a punching bag.

How do I maintain a thick skin? How do I keep moving forward? I do this because I keep a close group of warriors in my life who are always infusing me with truth, so everything must first pass through that truth filter. This is how we protect our hearts and remember our self worth. I am challenged as much as I’m encouraged, but I’m never fed lies. Nor does my circle allow me to sit in lies. We do this for each other because we get it. You want to surround yourself with people who get it, so you have the strength to keep climbing.

Some people don’t know how invalidating it is to hear, “you knew what you were getting into.”

But I do.

Some people don’t know what it’s like to be a stepmom, or a mom who’s been replaced.

But I do.

Some people don’t know that being an alienated parent means your soul is fighting through hell and you don’t want to get out of bed because half your heart is missing.

But I do.

Some people don’t understand that custody battles and parenting time schedules and simple communication is so freaking exhausting sometimes you just want to quit.

But I do.

Some people don’t understand domestic violence, emotional abuse, and fighting to stay afloat.

But I do.

Some people don’t understand how defeating it is to pour into your marriage and receive what feels like only mocking for your efforts.

But I do.

Some people don’t understand what it’s like to want a child so bad but be denied over and over.

But I do.

You see, there’s still a part of me that hurts when people don’t get it, but I stay tightly bonded to the ones that do, and set appropriate boundaries with the ones that don’t.

So the next time you’re feeling down because someone else just doesn’t get it – pour that energy into finding people who do. They will serve as a foundation of truth, self care and wisdom. You need this to be in relationship with others.

Don’t let people tatter your heart who don’t know your heart. They’re fighting their own battles and if they aren’t lifting you up, they shouldn’t be close anyway. There’s only so many seats at your table. Save them for those who are wise counselors and truth soldiers only.

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I Threw My Wedding Dress Away

I filed for divorce a year ago. I moved out shortly thereafter. I took my wedding dress with me, along with family photos. I can’t describe entirely why I did this. While I’ve never once regretted my decision to divorce, at the time I was still spinning.

You know what it looks like when  you dip your finger in water and spin it around? You take your finger out, but the water is still spinning? That was my life for the past year. He was gone, but my life was still spinning.

Such is the case with victims of emotional abuse. I’m now learning that I have suffered PTSD from that relationship and it actually changed my brain chemistry. In short, I needed time to stop spinning. My recovery from this divorce has had several parts, one of which was to simply do things alone. Attend dinner alone. Attend a movie alone, etc.

I chose to attend War Room alone last August. I was still suffering the effects of invalidation, and although I had peace about leaving that prison I once called home, some part of me still prayed feverishly for reconciliation. I prayed to have my boy back. I prayed, if it was God’s will, to restore my marriage. After all, according to Christian and secular counselors alike, the purpose of not jumping into a new relationship right away is so you can restore your heart, become healthy and whole, and if possible, attempt reconciliation. So that is where my mind was. That is why the wedding dress and family pictures came with me. What if his heart softened and he gained valuable wisdom from our split? What if he realized all he had done and wanted to put the swords away? Like any normal person would, once the dust had settled, I had to come to grips with some of my ugly behavior during the marriage. Surely he would too at some point? I spent this time praying, and adamantly, not dating.

He spent that time sleeping with a stranger. He spent that time ignoring my attempts at any contact with his son. I was nothing. No one. Not only had I been replaced, I had been replaced by a boldface lie. Borderlines create their own reality, and this was exactly that. He very comfortably lived in the lie he told himself and others about the end of our relationship.

The months that followed have been up and down. Healing from a divorce is much like grieving a death. Losing a child to parental alienation is like someone ripping your heart out every single morning. By nightfall, you may be able to sew some spots back up, but in the morning, it’s gone again. Repeat.

Though, there is a light and great hope in the truth.

I recently had a week from hell. God shook up my whole life like a snow globe and, in my obedience, I didn’t fight it. Sure, I thought “oh of course, take everything away AGAIN!” but I knew He was doing something big.

And in a week’s time He has created for me the most beautiful forward path. I am amazed at how things can just fall right into place sometimes. My ex husband has moved this new woman in. A stranger, that he met merely months ago. She is in my home. She is raising my son. And they are ignorantly blissful while the ones who know the truth are rolling their eyes. I do not get satisfaction out of that, I see it for what it is now; sad. But it helped me to put a hard stop on a place of healing. I wish them well, and I hope for all I can hope for – that she is good to my son.

I will grieve the loss of that child for a lifetime, until he and I are reconciled. I am working through the triggers that still plague me from such a tumultuous relationship. But as I move on, I had one new step to take.

Getting rid of that wedding dress.

It was not very expensive. I did not feel it was appropriate to “trash the dress” with my girlfriends and some wine. Now, surely I could have donated it. But the truth is, I have made it my life’s mission to speak truth and empower others to seek and live out truly healthy relationships. That dress is a reminder of many painful years and life lessons. I would not wish it on my worst enemy. As such, I wouldn’t want someone else to wear it.

So I threw it away. Like he threw me away. 

I didn’t even give it a second thought. Like he didn’t give me a second thought.

I held onto it for 6 years, we had a 6 year bond. And in a moment it was useless. Like to him, I was useless.

And it was cathartic.

I will never repay evil for evil and that man is sitting in the mess he made with his own hands.

But for me, it was time to toss that symbol in a dumpster, and move on.

I am so glad I took this time to truly heal. To not take shortcuts. To be WHOLE. I’m a work in progress but I’m a hell of a lot farther than the ones running from themselves.

I will be full of grace, humility and love for my boy whenever life returns us together.

Until then, onward.

 

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Integrity Requires Courage

Living with integrity simply means that what you say and what you do are the same. That you walk in truth. That you are a safe, trustworthy, whole individual. That you have a moral compass and are not afraid to use it. And that you choose what is right over what is popular.

It doesn’t mean stretching the truth.
It doesn’t mean taking advantage of others.
It doesn’t mean hiding your own truth for the comfort of others.
It doesn’t mean manipulating others.
It doesn’t mean pretending.
It doesn’t mean being a chameleon because you don’t really know who you are.
And it definitely doesn’t mean crushing others in an attempt to hide your own flaws.

It takes courage to say no, when you mean no.
It takes courage to stand up for truth and justice.
It takes courage to care about others; to realize you are not the center of the universe.
It takes courage to be faithful in relationships.
It takes courage to understand and exercise delayed gratification.

Integrity literally requires relationships with others who challenge you. With others who can call you out. With others who don’t passively comply. If you don’t have this, I promise you, you don’t have integrity. A lone man, wise in his own eyes, can never be his best.

The weak are indicted by integrity. They hide from it. They slander it. They mock it.

But they don’t possess it.  

People who do possess integrity often expel a great deal of their precious energy trying to reconcile the behavior of those who don’t. There is nothing to reconcile here. Not everyone has courage, and therefore, not everyone has integrity.

That precious energy instead should be placed into 2 areas:

  1. Learning about safe vs. unsafe people. Becoming safe ourselves and setting appropriate boundaries with those who are not.
  2.  Investing in safe people. Living in community with safe people. Growing with and refining other safe people.

The fact is that weak people are not safe and not everyone deserves your best. Learning to implement grace and truth in your life and with everyone you meet is the greatest work  you’ll ever do.

Not everyone will get it, but plenty of people think they’ve got it. They keep a circle of “yes men” and cut out anyone who challenges them. They live in secret. They are small. They are ignorant. This is the opposite of integrity.

You may stop reading right at the moment that I add Scripture, but let me tell you, not only does the Lord hate the following, but so do ALL people who are truly of integrity…

There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him:

haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil, 
a false witness who pours out lies,
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.
-Proverbs 6:16-19

I could go on all flipping day about that but, just like how integrity is black and white, so is that list. You either get it or you don’t. You either practice it or you don’t.

Every single day we can choose courage or we can choose weakness. Choose wisely.

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A Year Without Shortcuts

One year ago today, my life fell apart.

My ex husband filed for divorce from me on this date, last year. He, being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), had decided to escalate our issues to their highest level. He would file for divorce to “get back at me and prove me wrong.” I felt a sigh of relief. Finally, I could end this horrific battle. Finally, I could escape the cage I’d been living in for years. I was actually RELIEVED that he wanted to divorce and I could get out freely.

The very next day, he engaged in a typical “split” (those with BPD often split from all or nothing thinking – “I love you entirely”, or “I hate you entirely” – there is no in between). After filing for divorce on a Monday, by Tuesday he was begging me to stop it. He “didn’t know what he was doing.” He was “so horribly sorry.” He would “kill himself if I made him go through with the divorce.”

By Wednesday of that week, 2 days after receiving my divorce papers, I got the call that my mother had been life-flighted to a major hospital near me. She had suffered a heart attack. I had no idea if she was still alive, but I knew I needed to get there. My ex, per usual, had made it about him. “Well what are you going to do with the divorce?!” he pressed. Shocked and numb I couldn’t believe I was married to this person. I thought, ‘YOU filed for divorce out of spite, my mother is fighting for her life, but you’re worried about what YOU need?’ After a few hours in surgery, my mother had survived her heart attack, though the fight was far from over.

By Thursday of that week, my father, 10 years sober, had relapsed. The stress of my mother’s heart attack had hit him too hard and he was unprepared to handle the emotional trauma.

In one week’s time everything changed. And my life had never been in worse shambles.

I had been fighting through an emotionally abusive marriage for years. My ex husband had gotten to the point of such inconceivable delusions, and his BPD had taken over his entire reality – taking the whole family with him. He threatened me incessantly, and he began alienating me and coaching my stepson against me.

Over the next few weeks while trying to tend to my very broken parents, my ex husband marched down to the courthouse and stopped the divorce behind my back. I hadn’t had time to answer the filing and so he took matters into his own hands. I will never forget the darkness in his eyes when he told me in one of our many therapy sessions, how “I don’t want a divorce. I was just trying to show you how awful you are. If you want to leave, you’ll have to do it yourself and (my child) will forever know you left him and this is all your fault.”

The weeks to follow were pure hell. I received such disgusting correspondence from him, it would make you sick. Emails titled, “you’re an a$$hole”, texts threatening how he would ruin my life, bankrupt me, and the like. I have never been called more horrible names. He went as far as to threaten me that he would record me in my own home if he ‘caught me slipping up’ and “use his child’s testimony against me with CPS and the authorities”, though by this time I had myself and my safety protected imperviously. He had been doing this for years whenever he didn’t get his way.

I gathered myself and every ounce of strength I had, I gathered my support system,  I spoke with numerous counselors and I spoke with my attorney. While shaking, pouring over Scripture and having never been more terrified (or ironically sure of anything) in my life, I walked into the courthouse and I filed for divorce. There was no stopping this. I knew I had married a monster and I would not endure another moment of this traumatic existence.

I had to live with him while he alienated me openly. He would tell our child that I never loved him. A child. To his face. I raised that child as my own, he called me mom for SIX years. And that man told him I never loved him. He did HORRIBLE things. He would tell the neighbors he needed help because I was leaving him – every single one basically stopped all contact with him, because they knew he was lying. They had watched him force me out of my own home. They heard the threats. They knew I was in an unsafe situation and that his story didn’t match up. So he did what he always does; he blamed someone else. He said it was because they were judging him or didn’t like him. When anyone in his family did try to speak up, he cut them all out too.

As the months progressed, I found out he had been unfaithful. On top of years of abuse, accusing ME of cheating and ruining my relationship with my child, he was also unfaithful. It didn’t take long for him to cut me out my child’s life completely. He couldn’t stand the thought of the truth being anywhere near him, and I reminded him of the truth. One day I found out he had tried to pick up one of my best friends on a dating site. Within months, he was engaged to his next victim. As far as I know, not one person has stood up to tell her the truth of her new mate’s past relationships. How every woman has left him due to the exact same circumstances.

I could write novels upon novels about the things I put up with in that marriage, but today I have decided instead of staying hooked in the past, I will acknowledge that I am a survivor. This is the last time that I will “dwell” upon what happened this past year. I am using this blog to reflect on what I’ve learned. Now, one year later,  my parents just celebrated their 43rd anniversary, both are healthy, and sober. I am healing well. My circle has thinned considerably to include only those who fight for the truth, and I’m no longer a slave to fear. What a difference a year makes. By the grace of God, a strength I didn’t know I had, and a LOT of very good friends and family, I survived.

I have learned an INCREDIBLE amount about myself, about healthy relationships, about personality disorders, and about what it takes to TRULY thrive in your life. And today, I want to share it with you.

Here are 10 things I learned after the worst year of my life: 

  1. Time doesn’t heal all wounds – work does. Lean into your pain, gain skills to process your grief. Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. I’ve seen people still trying to process trauma from years earlier because they never did the work, they just hoped enough time would pass to undo the pain. It doesn’t.
  2. We aren’t meant to do life alone. If you don’t have a solid group around you to lift you up, you are crippled. Accountability partners kept me from slipping into addiction, sexual promiscuity, speeding into another dysfunctional relationship, or otherwise hiding and engaging in other types of darkness. They forced me to keep my integrity when I had no strength to. Now, my integrity is pretty unshakable.
  3. God is there, things are working together for a purpose, and what goes around comes around. Whatever your belief in “karma” – it’s real. I got to walk out of this with my head held high, my abuser will be forever exposed for what he did here – you cannot outrun the truth. Until he faces it head on, he will never be fully known and fully loved. I don’t have that fear – I don’t have to run from myself every day.
  4. We are not what we claim to be, we are what we hide. I used this year to take hold of every horrible thing I did. Every unhealthy word or behavior. Every time I was unreasonable or hurtful. I journaled it. I prayed through it. I cried and let myself feel the shame and guilt of my own responsibility – and then I released it. I have that luxury because I was strong enough to own my part, instead of glossing over, or hiding it.
  5. I learned to forgive someone who will probably never apologize. My resentment and loathing turned to compassion for someone who would remain so little, so hidden, and never know the beauty of living in truth.
  6. I learned to forgive onlookers who didn’t stick up for justice. The people who said it looked “fine” as far as they could see. The ones who didn’t have the skills or the courage to stand up to such wrong behavior. The ones who just repeated what they had learned instead of breaking the patterns. The ones I felt betrayed me just as much as he did. One day when the truth comes out, every person who sat idly by will have to answer for that, and that is a responsibility placed squarely upon their shoulders. I forgive them, and I don’t envy them. I owned my piece and I will forever fight for justice.
  7. Not everyone deserves a seat at your table. In forgiving, I learned who was “safe” and who was allowed to be close. Some people just want to ‘watch’ and they don’t really care about you. Those people have no place in your circle.
  8. I have avoided shortcuts. I am now strong and whole instead of an imitation of “together”. I didn’t run to the next relationship – I sat uncomfortably alone until alone became so very comfortable. I didn’t run from my fears – I faced them head on. I didn’t turn to substances, or sex, or blame – I turned to my faith, my friendships and accountability. Every time I could have slipped into a shortcut, I knew it was chosen weakness.  Instead, I took the long, hard way when it was easier not to.
  9. I have used my pain for good. I now counsel and train others in their relationships. I speak openly with authority on topics of divorce, parental alienation, choosing life partners, keeping marriages healthy and encouraging others to be their strongest version, and not to settle. Today I am SO strong. I have EXCELLENT boundaries. I am confident in my self worth. I would never let anyone treat me like that ever again. And I can speak into very painful places in the hearts of others who need these things too.
  10. I can survive anything. Everything I knew and loved was taken away from me. Now I take nothing for granted. I keep a tight crew around me who aren’t just a solid “squad” to enjoy laughs with. They make my life worth living. They make me brave. They make me climb. Because of them I will reach incredible heights that I would never have before. Not everyone can claim this, nor do they want to. When you are built upon a foundation of lies, your facade will always crumble. I had to walk through hell, but now, a year later, I see it was worth it. Not only because of my own strength, but because I have people who would never let me fall.

I live boldly and openly and I can see the light of the next year on the horizon, and the next year and so on.

I will NEVER be a cheerleader for divorce, in fact I spend hours of my time volunteering to SAVE marriages and relationships. But I will tell you that the one thing I’d wish to encourage you with is that with anything, taking a shortcut will burn you. Shortcuts are for the weak and you rob yourself of valuable lessons and strength when you shrink back instead of walking through it bravely. As much as we all want to dodge pain, hard work and struggle, avoiding it makes us incomplete. I am proud to say I have survived this year without shortcuts and I promise that if I can, you can too.

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One of my very favorite quotes. I live this daily.

 

My Story

June of 2012 was the first time my former husband threatened my life. Things were out of control and falling apart more rapidly than I could have ever predicted. I was the target of extreme mood swings, name calling, incessant phone calls, emails, texts, emotional instability and accusations. I was being manipulated, lied to, lied about and pitted against in my own home. But I didn’t understand dysfunction, emotional abuse, gas-lighting, personality disorders or the like. At the time I just wondered what was wrong with me. How had I come to deserve this? I believed him when he said it was all my fault. I believed him when he said I was worthless. So what could I do to fix me and save my marriage?

As I scrambled to find my bearings back in June 2012 and understand what was happening, I started this blog and community. Since then The Childless Stepmom has grown to a community of thousands. I tried to document my journey through the years as truthfully as possible, showing how valuable personal growth was. How much my life had changed since getting some serious therapy. How different things were when I was able to forgive and understand my role. How I’d set my heart and mind appropriately regarding marriage, raising children, and dealing with biological mothers who I was then forever attached to.

Years later, we are now divorced. A child I raised as my own for 6 years has been entirely ripped out of my life. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. Every attempt at reasonable conversation, or even the permission to send a birthday card, has been ignored. My former husband was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, though I see plenty of narcissistic traits, among other things. My codependency issues were throwing gasoline on that fire for years. When I started to face the mirror, get myself emotionally stable, and assert appropriate boundaries, my former husband retaliated. And he retaliated with the only weapon he had against me; the child who called me Mom.

My passion about informing others and breaking the cycle of dysfunction has only grown stronger. “The childless stepmom” name has only become more fitting. Once upon a time I was a stepmom, and a hell of a good one. As it stands now, I am childless entirely.

The other day I calculated that I have about $10,000 worth of talk therapy behind me. Whoa. Needless to say, my therapist and I are pretty tight. She taught me more than I could ever put into words and even comes to me from time to time for resources for her other clients because I have become so passionate about growth and I want to help others. There is no greater compliment, truly. After 6 years of relationship and emotional intelligence training, plenty of books, groups, mentors, and wise counselors, you can see why I’m so passionate about living a joyful and healthy life.

When I start to get sour about all that I lost in that marriage, I think of all that I gained. I am a different person now. I attempt to live full of humility and grace, sharing wisdom where it’s requested and love and truth and light. These days I facilitate classes on relationships at my church, and mentor those who come to me looking for guidance. Having spent so much time in a cage, being able to speak freely on these topics is liberating.

I feel it’s valuable to share this with you because you deserve to know the character of the woman behind these posts. This is who I am.

I am someone who now understands the biological mom (“bio-mom” or “BM”) perspective. It may be a difficult pill to swallow, but I now understand far more about BM than I ever did. And truthfully, she wasn’t entirely wrong. Plenty dysfunctional, but not entirely wrong. She warned me that he wouldn’t be faithful. She warned me that he wouldn’t be emotionally stable. She warned me that what had been done to a slew of women before me, would also be done to me. She was right. He was engaged to his next victim within months of our split, a woman who has no idea what she is about to walk into. I have a special place in my heart for the “former woman”, as the person who is now looked at as the “crazy ex” who just wants to spoil things. I assure you, that is not always the case with these women.

On the other hand, I now am a target of extreme alienation and invalidation. I am a survivor. I have loved and falsely believed I was loved by, someone who has been considered an emotional child, devoid of any empathy, unable to truly love at all. Someone who slung false allegations around like he was blowing bubbles. Someone who was described as merely “a kid running with scissors.” But those scissors were strong enough to impale my heart, and trash my relationship with my boy. Someone who seemed to always slip out from under any accountability and leave the innocent looking insane. Yes. I’ve seen that too. So when I hear that someone in your life may exhibit these qualities, and that you truly believe that they are “crazy” – honestly, I do understand.

I have been lied about; my character assassinated.

I had a “partner” who was anything but – parenting with him was like pushing against a freight train.

I had a mother in law who once thought I was the greatest thing on the planet, only to turn on me, all the while knowing I was being hurt unfairly. She soon wrote me off and showered all that old adoration for me onto his new partner.

I have seen blended family marriages thrive, and I have seen them fail. I could tell you the differences in these relationships with ease.

I have been in a marriage with someone who swore to the whole world he was trying his hardest, and I was the reason he was forced to react with such hatred. He was faithful, honest and genuine, he claimed. Later, I caught him in attempts to pick up numerous women while we were still married, using the phone that I paid for. He even tried to pick up one of my very best friends (also a bridesmaid in our wedding) on a dating website. There was no limit to how he played me for a fool and stripped me of everything I had.

Every day that passes, I lose time with my former stepson, who was the light of my entire life. My family and friends feel this surge like an earthquake, tearing all of our hearts. But he must keep his lie alive, so he blocked me from all communication – so he can claim that I don’t try to reach out, yet threatening me if I do. It’s all a mind-game. One that I thankfully unhooked from, but those hooks leave very deep scars.

As a God trusting woman, I have set my faith in Him to provide, and to be just. But no matter your spiritual affiliation, the fact remains that you cannot put evil out into the world and have it never return to you. One day, the truth will surface, as it always does.

I write this today to share with you that I’ve decided to continue with the blog, and with sharing my story. I have been told I have helped many and I believe the bravest thing we can do is to share our story. Too many people are walking this planet without relationship skills, they are tattering marriages, tattering children and are living in complete misery. I will keep exuding light where I believe I can. I just wanted to be sure I was clear about why I post what I post. You may see me posting about personality disorders, about co-parenting, about accountability, faith, and most of all goodness. The world needs more goodness. I am also open to any suggestions about what you’d like me to write about. Any questions you may have, I will do my best to answer them from my own experience.

I am not a licensed therapist. I have no shortage of experience and training, however. I have had several years of relationship centered therapy, DivorceCare Recovery, Codependency Recovery and a slew of other training including conflict resolution and boundary establishment. I spent years of my life and thousands of dollars in court over custody battles. I am a survivor of an extremely emotionally abusive marriage. I am in close community with hundreds of others who have been brave enough to share their stories with me and helped me glean wisdom off of them. I also humbly ask you for your wisdom, the purpose of life is to live it with others and learn from others. That is why I will always keep the group open to all members of a blended family. It’s even open to those who only have experience with a loved one being in a blended family, because all experience is truly valuable.

While some of this may sound like the musings of a bitter ex wife, I have actually never been more hopeful. I genuinely forgive those who wrecked me out of ignorance and I believe with every piece of me truly that we reap what we sow. My heart will remain open to a reconciliation one day should their hearts turn, but for now I send them off in peace. I have done the difficult work and it was well worth it. I intend to keep telling my story. I intend to be as genuine as I can, while also being fair, honest, and respectful of all other parties. But, no more hiding. I lived in a cage for years and if I can help another person avoid that trap, I will. I now enjoy thriving, exceptional, healthy and functional relationships, and my heart is so joyful. I’d like to share it with you.

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Finding Your Power

When I became a part of a blended family that was a hot mess from the beginning, I spent many years searching, learning life lessons, and sometimes being beaten by those life lessons.

No one on the planet was going to tell me how to live my life, and my ignorant thirsty determined heart had every intention of doing it big. Doing it right. MAKING IT WORK.

Today I sit in a very different place, still processing what has gone on, accepting what is, and healing. I’ve shamed myself for being so blind. For not realizing that a man with a wake of failed relationships already behind him BEFORE me meant that I was probably more of a number than a wife. For having a heart so full to give every ounce of myself to a child I didn’t create – and having to learn that I needed to know what my motives were in that because in the end he was taken away.

The lessons are plentiful. But I wouldn’t change a thing. And I no longer shame myself. I am the person I am today because of every single one of those wounds. I care for others, and that is not a crime. I love deeply; I was created that way. Now I just know the value of boundaries, of who deserves my energy and of where to focus my time and attention. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Some of you reading this may be in a season of pain. You’re banging your head against the wall. Some of you may be enjoying the abundant life and love that marriage and family can bring (SHOULD bring). But today I felt compelled to write about a topic that I believe can encourage all of us when applied correctly.

It’s the concept of power. Our power.

We give our power away without even realizing it. It happens quickly. Creeps up on us. People steal our joy and peace and comfort. Yes, some people are simply monsters. Hurt people hurt people and we can’t always stop people from being nasty or messing with us. We can however decide who we let upset us. Who we give that power to.

But there is another part of power that we forget we have. The fact that literally no other human being on the planet is now, nor has been, nor will ever be, us.

YOU. Who are YOU? What do YOU alone bring?

I taught my boy to talk. I potty trained him. I taught him to read. I taught him manners. I taught him to use his own very special and capable brain to make decisions with. I read to him incessantly about everything from dinosaurs to Jesus. We sang Christmas carols and called them “Teense carols” because we called my cat The Teense. I gave him 6 years of birthday parties. I gave him 12 days of Christmas presents leading up to Christmas Day every single year – just he and I, our special tradition. I taught him about accountability – a concept completely lost on most every other adult in his life. I taught him the value of a college education. I taught him to give – to donate to those in need. I baked him chocolate chip cookies and muffins. I prayed over him every single night (and still do – just from afar now). I took him for his haircuts. I packed his lunch. I bought his school clothes. I went to teacher conferences. I listened when he had issues he didn’t feel comfortable discussing with his father. And I kept my promises always – he learned that some people will make a mess, but others will keep their word. He learned about character from me. REAL character.

Never before has competition become so rampant in our society. Social media and the entitlement age are making us weak. We are obsessed with what others are doing. We are obsessed with how we are perceived. We have no concept of delayed gratification. We believe that people running their mouths trump our true actions, because in the short term, sometimes they do. But there is always a day of reckoning and the fact remains that we offer something no one else can. Every single one of us do.

Today I want you to think on this concept and never let it go –

power

Write it down. Memorize it. Pull it out when you start to feel small.

 No one is you, and that is your power.

What a grave injustice to give that power away, or minimize it, or forget it. This is not about being cocky, and it’s not about competition. You were created to offer only that which you can offer. Find that and own it. Search honestly inside yourself for that which is beautiful, which only you can give, and cultivate it. Nothing and no one can ever take that away from you.

Today, wherever you are, remember that you are something that no one else ever can be – You.

Beautiful you.

When You’re Mad at God

A divorce isn’t just an event. It’s a series of events. A roller coaster of ugly, confusing, soul sucking, unstable, painful events.

This has been a very dark time for me. The last time I saw my boy was marked by another outburst of emotion and hatred from his father; something I was so used to.

And then my baby was gone.

I didn’t even get to say goodbye.

There were a solid few weeks that I barely got out of bed. I stared at the ceiling and prayed. I tried to overwrite the enemy’s lies with the Truths of our Father. Every day was a struggle. I would go to work, or any required activities, counting down the moments until I could get back in bed.

Slowly I climbed out of this disgusting pit. People were in awe of my faith; of my hope. They were in awe of how I could stay so graceful in the face of such a mess. The truth is, it takes everything in me not to scream from the mountaintops the things my ex husband has done, and continues to do to me. Every bone in my body wants justice. Every bone in my body is full of equal parts hurt and disgust. In my flesh – I want the world to know what happened and why we are here.

But mudslinging is child’s play, and God knows the facts.

So I sat quietly. And behaved like a good Christian. Good Christians do not have hate pumping throughout their veins. Good Christians forgive. Good Christians pray properly. Good Christians remain joyful throughout trials. Good Christians trust. Good Christians do not lose faith.

Frankly, I am proud of how I’ve conducted myself throughout this walk. And people have noticed and are proud of me too. The amount of support I’ve received has been nothing short of amazing. Beautiful souls from all over poured out their hearts and encouragements. Gifts, prayers, and love in abundance. The people who have guarded me, I lovingly refer to as my #heartarmy. God gave me peace at every turn and the most incredible people to help me in the ugly. But when would the ugly freaking end? Hadn’t I endured my fair share? I was tired. I was beaten down. And I felt shafted.

As thankful as I am for this #heartarmy, I grew impatient with God.

I had had enough. My character was thrashed. My family was gone. My child was stolen. Hit. After hit. After hit.

This time, I hit back. Prayer time this morning was not the usual knit one-purl two in some perfect, legalisitic Biblical order. I was livid. I was so angry at God that I couldn’t hold it in anymore.

“I know you’re the boss, but HOW LONG ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE ME SUFFER?”

“You promised to be just and yet, where is MY justice?”

“Are you watching this? DO YOU SEE THIS?”

“WHY?!”

And last but not least, “I have prayed endlessly. I have an army of people praying too. SHOW ME THE POWER OF THIS PRAYER.”

I told God that my faith was slipping. That I have only read Job 67,000 times, and I get it. He gives and takes away. But I just couldn’t take it anymore.

I went into work, sad that I had shown God my less than pretty side, but muddled through the day as best I could. By the afternoon, I received an unexpected phone call and the peace was instant. A gentle reminder from someone who knows the truth, that the truth cannot be hidden. That no one can take away what I gave to that child. That history speaks for itself and that no matter what is said about me, I live brightly – steadily – genuinely – and that can’t be stained.

If you’re reading this, you know all too well the legal limits that are placed upon me as a former stepparent. Thankfully there are people who are around my sweet Little Bear, who know the truth and can pour out love to counter all the hate. It doesn’t remove my pain, but it does lighten my heart. I want only love around him all the days of his life.

I don’t know what will happen with my boy; I don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. But I do know myself. I do know my heart. And I do know we have a big God who DOES know the future. A big God who HONORS obedience.

As if that wasn’t enough, when I returned home from work there was a package waiting for me.

Anchor

I just ADORE anchors. I keep them everywhere and I collect them. A very special sister in Christ sent it to me. Without any prompting. No warning whatsoever.  A beautiful scarf with an even more beautiful card:

Jesus is the anchor of my soul. -Hebrews 6:19

You are an amazing soul. Keep shining and spreading all the love and joy that God brings! He’s got something special in store for ya!

God Bless

She couldn’t possibly have known how much I needed that. When I reached out to thank her, I was blown away by her words.

She told me that God had put me in her thoughts. That no words for her were needed, and to give God the praise. That it wasn’t her, He just used one of His children to help me.

She closed out:

Love you and you are amazing and your God is in charge, so be patient.

A message straight from Him.

An answered prayer that I didn’t deserve.

Even in my broken, imperfect state, where my faith was slipping, and I was really starting to lose hope, He shows His mercy.

Don’t be afraid to show yourself to God. He already knows. Don’t be afraid to pray REAL prayers. Don’t be afraid of falling short. Don’t be afraid of having weak flesh.

Be obedient when it doesn’t feel good. Be obedient when you don’t want to. Be obedient when they are pounding you and you don’t deserve it. Not because they are worthy, but because God is.

He will show up.

He always does.

Changing, Trusting and Moving On

I am divorced.

Even reading it makes my stomach turn. There is so much to be said about that sentence that it’s literally jumping off the screen at me. I believe the details are inappropriate to share but anyone who has been around since I began this community (over 3 years ago) knows my character.

They know how hard I fought for my marriage.

They know how hard I fought myself.

They know how much I love that child.

But most importantly, they know how much I love Jesus.

I wasn’t very public with this battle, because I didn’t want the show. I opened my soul in my writing often, but we were in a season that was private to the online community, and to a degree, that will always be the case. However, today, being a very hard day for me, I’ve decided to break my silence.

In my neck of the woods, it’s the first day of school. For 6 years, I got to ready a sweet boy who called me “mom” for his first day of school, and be the one to take him. I got to take that first day picture. I got to see him meet up with his friends. I got to meet his teacher. I got to be his mom.

This year my heart is crumbling. Instead of being the one to take him to school, I’m the one enduring parental alienation, seeing the legal system work against me, and learning how to gain strength in what often feels like the most hopeless of situations.

Our divorce was not pretty. The marriage was riddled with disagreements, learned and repeated dysfunction and a polarizing of views. We just never could get on the same page. As a Christian, this is extra excruciating. It took me a long time to own my piece (and only my piece) of the demise. It took me a long time to accept why God would allow a marriage to end. Why all of my prayers, begging, and attempts to change the situation failed. I am still trying to come to grips with how He could let a child to be without a mother – AGAIN. But I’m committed to trusting Him and not myself. I am committed to keeping my heart open and my head wise.

Going forward, I do intend to keep writing. The topics of Biblical marriage, healthy functional families and just plain personal growth have literally lit up my heart. I am SO passionate about these topics that I cannot remain quiet about them. I believe I have a wealth of experience, and now that I have literally been on almost every single end of the blended family spectrum, I will continue to pour into others – and accept anything you can pour into me.

While I get my wits about me again, I ask only for prayer. Pray for me to have a wise mind, discerning speech, and to keep a humble heart – especially on days when I want to do nothing more than curse all the things and remain hidden and angry (sound familiar? you’ve been there too probably). But do not only pray for me. Pray for my Little Bear and my ex husband. And I mean that sincerely. I genuinely wish for nothing but peace and love for them both and while I can’t see my child at this time, I wish to be a light. I want to expose the power of prayer. I want to show others how God’s mighty hand is on that boy and truly on all of us. I want to show how we must relinquish control. How we must speak truth, speak life and be brave and bold.

I intend to keep this community an open, encouraging place for all members of blended families. I considered changing the name, but for now, one step at a time. Today it took everything I have just to write you this. For those of you who know the pain of divorce, the heartache of alienation, the defeat of someone twisting reality to assault your heart and character, and the hope of knowing what once was, and what could be – let’s draw in to each other and encourage each other. There is enough evil and ugly, and I am committed to being a light no matter what my marital status.

courage

Ending the Cycle of Dysfunction

I come from a dysfunctional family. My parents came from dysfunctional families. My grandparents came from dysfunctional families. No doubt their parents came from dysfunctional families too, though I didn’t know them well enough to know the details for certain. Every family has some level of dysfunction, I am now convinced of this. Since we are human beings; flawed, imperfect and all lacking in some areas, certainly a level of dysfunction is implied and expected. But how much is tolerable? How often are we minimizing it or ignoring it all together? Don’t get me wrong, I realize as parents, we have enough to worry about. We already want the best for our children, such that we may be running ourselves into the ground to find what is “best”. And who sets that standard? Man? Society? A moving target in my opinion.

I believe whole heartedly in Christ and the fact that we are free in Him alone. We are safe in Him alone. The Bible addresses dysfunction. God is, after all, the ultimate functional father. And to be in God’s will, we have to know His will and like any good parent, He warns us and shows us the best path for our own protection. It can be extremely hard to live by faith, and to take steps that may be terribly uncomfortable now, in order to have safety, growth and goodness tomorrow. I don’t write this today to be preachy, I write it for realness.

I remember it clearly. I sat in my finished basement, one of my many lonely nights in my big beautiful home. With a husband asleep upstairs, and a child asleep many hours prior. A child who was just coming down off a terrible roller-coaster ride with his biological mother, her unstable visitation schedule, and it seemed as though things were finally looking up. My bank account, and my belly were full. My beloved cat had survived far longer than the vet said she would so she was curled up next to me. All was well on paper.

On paper.

To the outsider, I was in bliss. And I had lived that way for such a long time. Constantly silencing the nagging piece of my soul that was trying to tell me something was amiss.

“People would kill to have what you have, be grateful. Be thankful. Be happy.”

But that night I couldn’t take it anymore. My heart was confused. It was overwhelmed. The silence around me was deafening.

‘Something is wrong.’

I had everything I’d ever wanted, so I thought. All the things were lined up so perfectly and yet, I was empty. I was completely hollow. It was about that time I started being honest with my therapist, but more importantly, with myself. What was happening in my household wasn’t normal. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t healthy. We’d managed to re-create our childhood homes – two wildly different homes – and I could no longer hide the damage it was causing to my soul.

I began this blog, determined to nail this stepmom thing. I told myself that I will be the best wife there ever was. I will be the best mother there ever was. I didn’t understand at the time that I was incapable of doing that alone, and that having such high expectations were not commendable, they were self-destructive. Yet, I didn’t even know where to begin to make changes.

And what’s worse? I didn’t know much about myself at all. It was at this time that I was forced to take a good hard look in the mirror. My marriage was falling apart, and it was about to get worse. It was not only the terribly unhealthy behavior of my husband, it was the fact that I was pretty much clueless about relational health and how to thrive in relationships at all.

Three years ago I started walking on a long journey towards health. We don’t talk about health enough, in my opinion. Yes, we read all about what it takes to have abs, to lose weight, and to look right. But what if everything is beautiful on the outside and a trainwreck within? That is where I was. I had to learn about all of my flaws – and I mean all of them. My own codependency issues. Trouble with anxiety. An incredibly sensitive personality, that was crushed too easily, too worried about what others thought, and a controlling demeanor. I tried so hard to control my environment because I was so terrified of what would happen if I let go. My intentions were always pure. I can say that with all honesty. I was a great success in my twenties by the standards of education and salary -which is wonderful – except I was headed for a hard fall by thirty.

I don’t feel it’s necessary to share the specific areas of dysfunction within my husband but it is real. And it is deep. And the two of us were living a life that took many shapes – but it was never truly healthy. It wasn’t until I spent hours in a therapist’s chair and even more countless hours with my nose in self help books that I started to really change. Instead of being determined to be the picture of what I thought it should look like to others, I became the picture of what awoke and truly satisfied my soul. I learned all about myself, and am still learning. I learned about many different personality types (and disorders). I began to understand mental illness in a way that I never had before – and achieved a laser sharp ability to recognize it, and avoid it. I learned what makes me tick, and to have genuine empathy for others. But more importantly, I learned about the very damaging effects of dysfunction within the family model and how if left unchecked it is doomed to repeat itself – precisely what happened to me.

Your soul knows what it needs. I believe we were all created for a specific purpose, with specific talents and specific deficits. One of the reasons I am still childless myself is not only because the dysfunction was running rampant in my own home and I refused to perpetuate it, but because the idea of screwing up kids and sending them to a therapist’s chair was downright terrifying.

I have stopped letting that fear dictate my future, but only because I believe good parents do 2 things –

1. They strive to be the healthiest versions of themselves possible.

2. They recognize they are never without some deficits and so they connect themselves and their children with other healthy individuals who do life alongside them. Together they can all fill in various gaps. After all, we were made to do life with others.

These days I do not obsess nearly as much as I used to about the disease of dysfunction; I now dance with it. I don’t let it overpower me, because I’ve learned that the best I can do is stay ahead of it, keep learning and remain determined to keep it out of my life.

But the truth is that it wasn’t until I faced it head on and went to war with it that I was able to come out stronger and truly be as victorious as God calls me to be. I searched endlessly for answers. I spent time feverishly in my Bible, with mentors, and anyone whom I trusted to give it to me straight. I was determined to stay in close communication with God, even though I admittedly stumbled and still do. I constantly come back to the fact that God knows better than me, and He is shaping me daily. I became unafraid of the discomfort of growth because the discomfort of stagnation was crippling.

As a society we are obsessed with blaming others for our shortcomings. It leaves every relationship shallow, especially the relationship we have with ourselves. Many of us have wonderful wisdom from our parents, and I am no different. By all means, it wasn’t dysfunction only in my family of origin, but if we are honest, for many of us, dysfunction was a main ingredient. Dysfunction wins because we don’t even recognize it. We settle for the lie that ‘it’s just the way I’m wired’ and it continues to dominate our households and claim our children, and their children, and so on. The day I chose to stop settling was the day I truly began to live.

It has not always been popular in my house. Remember, one person can ignite a change, but change isn’t always welcome. The truth is it’s been an uphill battle trying to bring healthy family dynamics into my home. It’s taken an intense amount of prayer, patience, grace and determination and I can’t honestly say it’s all healthy and ironed out now. But I have put an absolute stop to tolerating it in my life where I’m able, and I have stopped tolerating it in the life of my boy as well, where I am able.

Today I just want to encourage you, not to be afraid of demanding a healthy functional family. Seek your weaknesses like it’s your job – unemotionally. Learn to remove emotion from your honest assessment of yourself – just seek facts. Those facts will help you find other facts and before you know it, you’ll have many new skills and you’ll never settle for the disease of dysfunction either. Many of these kids have enough dysfunction in their lives as it is. You can’t change anyone else, but you can be the light for them where other adults are lacking. Don’t shy away from the job because it seems too big, or will cause too many waves, or you think you can’t make a difference. I believe strongly that the conversation about dysfunctional homes needs to get louder, wiser and more prevalent. We can change our stars. Join me.

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