Okay, let’s face it….therapy carries about as much stigma as….oh I don’t know…being a STEP or BIOMOM in the eyes of a blended family member?! Right, exactly. Now, to be fair, there are some childless stepmoms who are THRIVING in their blended family! Biomom and dad are working it out together, and they’re just ‘dad’s friend’ (not a battle of who is the child’s mother) and happy to be it. NO drama, NO name calling, NO alienation, NO PROBLEM! So, I totally know they must exist, I just don’t KNOW of any personally because they certainly aren’t seeking out support pages like MINE 🙂
So here’s to the people like ME who haven’t found it to be all candy corn and hay rides (sorry AUTUMN on the brain folks)! Often times, when someone suggests talk therapy, you would like to remind them of how much THEY might benefit from it themselves lol That’s the beauty of it though. That is what I would love for people to understand about therapy…it is beneficial for ANYONE who is willing to honestly put in the WORK and effort that it takes to get something OUT of it.
“It never worked for me. Therapy was a waste of time”. Perhaps it was. But I would bet you didn’t find it successful for one of three reasons, if not all. First, you didn’t like the therapist. They made you feel stupid. They asked questions you didn’t want to answer. You didn’t trust them. They didn’t seem to know what they were talking about. Okay, no problem, ALL valid points and not all people work well together. HELLO!! ENTER STEPPARENTS IN A BLENDED FAMILY BECAUSE ANOTHER RELATIONSHIP FAILED BEFORE YOURS….okay sorry. But not all therapists are alike. How many did you try? We have found many different therapists who have helped us along the way – all have been wonderful and unique. Though each of us haven’t seen all of them, and as a family, FOUR have touched our lives. FOUR. Each therapist specializes in different things and can bring different viewpoints to the table. If you went a few times and found the therapist sucked for you, okay, but do yourself a favor, TRY ANOTHER.
The second reason therapy may have failed for you is because YOU weren’t honest about why you were there. Too many people are utilizing therapy for an added layer of ‘protection’ for court. They aren’t doing it for the right reasons, they are doing it simply for some BS third party viewpoint in which they have done NO real work and are using it out of spite- OFTEN getting back at the other parent.
If that wasn’t you, but your experience was still so poor, I imagine it was because of the third reason: you didn’t put in an HONEST effort. “OF COURSE I WAS! I TOLD THIS PERSON EVERYTHING” – you protest. Oh really? You told them ALL about your biggest fears, even if you thought you be judged? You told them ALL about what your stepkids said to you or what biomom did and how it HURT you? NOT how she is a ‘dumb bitch’ and you effing hate her and she is ruining your life. No, I want to know if you talked about how it HURT you, and you TRULY examined YOURSELF and your own shortcomings? Because if you didn’t you didn’t try hard enough.
Plain and simple.
Whoa. The Childless Stepmom is rowdy today and shooting everyone straight? Yes. Yes I am. Because I personally believe in talk therapy so much that I don’t believe I’d be where I am today without it. For a while, we sent Little Bear to a beautiful private Christian preschool. It was the best thing that ever happened to our family because it was during his time there that we were a WRECK as a family. Biomom was dancing in and out of our lives as she saw fit, my husband and I were at each other’s throats, I was terrified to really BUCKLE down and form a BOND with Little Bear for fear of where things would go with court, and my own insecurities were eating me alive.
“Have you been to therapy?”
The words seemed like an insult, although coming from the school’s director who took an HONEST interest in our home life, and was an incredible Christian mentor. Of course we had gone to therapy we fired back…Little Bear had been in child therapy for a long time, and it seemed like we were doing ENDLESS work trying to fit the pieces together as a family…..around what he needed. WE even paid for BM to go to the child’s therapist so she could add HER own side to the story and stop saying it was ‘rigged’ and ‘one-sided’. I was filling up with irritation at the idea that WE hadn’t tried!
“No, no”, he persisted. “Have you and your HUSBAND gone to therapy…either marriage counseling, or your own personal sessions?”
Sure we had, a time or two, but mostly still around Little Bear, what he needed and what our responsibilities were with regards to him, parenting, court, his slew of behavioral issues, his BM failing to keep him safe and also failing to keep her promises to him, and how we were expected to address it, etc.
Truth be told, on a marriage level, I’m about to say something that is likely to get you to exit your browser. But because those of you who have been following this journey of mine know I must be completely authentic, I’m going to share. My husband and I are kind of perfect for one another. When you remove the blended family BS from the equation, we’re that couple people hate. We don’t fight about any normal marriage crap – like ever. We NEVER fight about money, sex, housekeeping, etc. The things that tear a normal marriage apart? We don’t have those problems. So WHY in the WORLD would WE need any kind of therapy to work on US together OR individually? The ISSUE was the stepfamily troubles, and BM and the crap most people don’t deal with in a ‘normal’ marriage.
“We get training for our jobs, why wouldn’t we expect to need training for life?”
I will never forget when the director of this amazing preschool spoke those words to me. And it hit me like a ton of bricks. WHAT IF he is suggesting all of our issues can’t be packaged into one box…or onto ONE person or ONE thing?
I fought it for longer than I’d like to admit. He’s wrong, I thought, the problem is ‘x’. The problem is not ME. I WORK MY ASS OFF FOR THIS FAMILY. WHAT MORE AM I EXPECTED TO DO?!
Until one day…I realized what he was trying to say. And I went to work. I decided if I was going to survive in this lifestyle, I had better make an HONEST effort to strenghten myself mentally, spiritually and physically.
I have known too many people who TALK. Oh they talk. Oh they have words. And they talk so damn much THEY even believe the BS that is spewing out of their mouths. I was determined not to be one of them.
Today I’m getting there. I’m not there yet. And I don’t expect to ever be fully mature in this role until perhaps I am an old lady in a rocking chair with great grandchildren bouncing around me, a family who loves me and is now taking care of ME as I did to THEM for so many years. That is my dream and I look forward to that dream.
But before you reach that level of life fulfillment, you need some training. Some AUTHENTIC training. I see my therapist quite often and intend to continue doing it for years to come. (We are blessed with amazing health insurance, if you are not, do not make excuses, there are MANY options available for those that honestly seek them out). I tell her everything. I do not hold back and she helps me HONESTLY assess myself. I have learned to take criticism exceptionally well, for the sake of myself and my family.
Now, many of you are entirely against therapy. To that I use the example of church. We are not ‘pretend’ members of a church just around court time or when it comes up conveniently in conversation. We are members of a church that we attend weekly, serve at, give to and people actually like KNOW us when we go there 🙂 I decided for me, this alone was not enough for me in the spiritual department. Plenty of people GO TO CHURCH ONCE A WEEK! And would you know it by the way they behave?? So I joined a weekly bible study group to connect with other women. MANY of whom are stepparents or have been touched by a blended family in some way…including of course my mentor. A sixty-something woman who has seen all angles that this complicated lifestyle can throw at you….and she got through it with loving, satisfied and happy adult children.
“Real uplifting lady, but that crap isn’t for me. Therapists have no idea what they’re doing and I’m not much for God, so what I can’t be fulfilled?” You laugh, but some of you, EVEN IN SECRET are saying that right now while reading. Okay no problem, take those two things out of the equation. Would you fight me if I said that eating well and exercising are good for your health? Would you tell me I was wrong if I suggested you try and incorporate a vegetable or two into your day and get outside and move once in a while?
Of course you wouldn’t. While it’s not always a priority, our physical well being puts it all together. For me, I am not feeling my best when I neglect my health. You don’t have to pick up running or be a Jillian Michaels clone to be in good physical shape for yourself and your family. I look at ALL of these things (therapy, church, exercise) on the exact same level. Life training – life strengthening. Therapy helps my mind, my soul and viewpoint so I can thrive in my home each and every day. Church does the same, but it adds a layer of strength that no one can touch- if I’m growing and maturing AUTHENTICALLY within my spiritual life. And when I make sure my physical health is a priority on top of all these other things, I can’t be shaken.
I spent YEARS putting everything else ahead of my own strength and well being because I was convinced if *I* wouldn’t do it, who would? I am NOT suggesting you don’t be there for those kids because God only knows, they are hurting and having a lot of their own issues. ESPECIALLY if you are in a boat like me where BM doesn’t even drop in to see if the child is ALIVE let alone remain an active part of their lives. What THOSE kids need is a strong, attentive and unwavering mother figure. It’s a tall order and can break you. It almost broke me. BE PREPARED AND ALLOW YOURSELF to ask for help. You will need it. And it is when you are humble and out of your comfort zone that you are able and ready to grow. You may think being a brick wall and being the only thing holding your family together is your job. Sure. But who is holding YOU together? I choose to be not only strong for my family, but strong for myself. And I’m not afraid to discuss my love of therapy even with the most close-minded individuals. The world is changing every single day. As women, as stepmothers, we can’t be expected to fight through, tongues bitten, losing every ounce of ourselves in a situation bubbling with bitterness and resentment. NOT making a change in ourselves and allowing ourselves to be stifled and turned into background noise. I won’t do it. I will fight for my needs so I am a contributing and strong member of this family. I don’t TALK about doing it. I do it. Are you?