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WORDING EXISTING BOUNDARIES SO THAT YOUR DH UNDERSTANDS BETTER

Sometimes it can be overwhelming to consider how different the parenting and stepparenting experience can be in certain situations. One of the worst feelings in the world is to have a problem that your partner could solve (or at least improve) and him not being able to understand that your experience is very different than his. That you are not being understood by the one you love the most in the world can be quite discouraging.

Here are a few of suggestions on working through this communication gap. I tend to love word pictures (rephrasing a situation in terms a person can relate to), so here are a few examples:

If he's focused/aware of business situations:
Imagine you've been reorganized into a new company. The existing employees have tenure with the company and all have known each other for many years... You on the other hand do not have tenure and don't have the knowledge of the people in the situation to be able to gauge whether they will be cooperative or difficult in any situation. Given there is no union...how do you represent your own best interests if the existing employees are as unfamiliar with you as you are with them. At this point in time your interests are the same (you all now are part of the same company...and in a manner of speaking dependent on each other). How is it possible to work together if the larger set of existing employees will not listen to your perspective?

Other men tend to focus on sports:
A member of a basketball team has been traded. The existing team has a way of playing together. They ALL know each other's subtle signals to pass the basketball to each other. You are a new member of the team. If they do not open up a bit with their communication (signals and plays), you will not be able to help the team. The owners and coaches of the team recognized your value (that's why they wanted you on their team)...however, the team members can make or break the opportunities for you to help the team. If they don't want you to know their subtle signals...they won't tell you, and when it comes game time, and the pressure's on, you will not be able to succeed personally as a basketball player, but also you can't help the team in the most beneficial way. Your husband and kid(s) are acting like the team members that refuse to allow you into the family "team"...you can't force them, as it is their choice as to whether to allow them to operate as a full-fledged member of a team.

From the woman's perspective:
Stepmothering reminds me of when a child is born, and they put the children in their incubators in the nursery. The people outside (not the birth parents) can look in and admire the beauty of the children, and even admire the closeness between the children when they are being held by their parents.

From a stepmother's perspective:
Stepmoms are often held behind the glass wall of the maternity ward. The catch comes when the father of the child(ren) we love expects us to be responsible for the care and well-being of the children...but we are not allowed beyond the glass wall. The glass wall can be put up by the father (who wants to remain the Disney dad he has become to his child(ren)...to remain the hero despite what he KNOWS is not healthy for his children long-term). The glass wall can be put by the children. The children that are emotionally torn between households (despite the efforts of one parent, if either (or both) parent is insecure with the other moving on with their lives (finding new relationships), they will emotionally challenge their children NOT to bond with either the non-custodial (usually the father) parent or the stepparent (usually stepmother).

Sometimes the glass wall is placed up by both the father and the children. Because of the perceived sense that the stepmother is going to try to break up the existing relationship between parent-child.

So here we are. We are women (sorry Mike) that love men that have children. We love them beyond reason (it seems) because of all the complications related to becoming part of an existing family. As women much of our emotions get tied up into taking care of others...especially children. We see a child in distress and our immediate nature is to try to help or care for the child...but there's this glass wall (no matter the reason that put it was put up) blocking you from getting anywhere near these people. In some ways I equate being a stepmom to watching 9/11 on television. We see the pain and difficulties. We can see the difficulties (the plane into the building could be issues of distrust as a result of the ex's unfaithfulness), and we hurt for the people we see in pain. For some of us, we jump in the cars to get to the area and we help with the cleanup, even though we didn't cause the mess. Some of us are not allowed in the city long enough to help. Some give up and remain watching the horror in our own homes...still hurting while watching the pain on television.

These are just a few suggestions, but if you put your mind to it, you can find different ways to express your problems in a way that your DH will eventually understand his part in making your stepmother experience a bit less stressful. Once the light went on in my DH's case, the rest of the issues faded away. We were able to spend more time focusing on the marriage, rather than being frustrated with each other.


Darilyn (Donata) has been a stepmother since 1996. The surprise of becoming a stepmother after marriage prompted a (several year) revamping process that brought this topic to the forefront (expressing your concerns (as the stepparent) in a way that brought understanding, rather than defensiveness). Her own stepmothering experience has been like being a surfer. One that understands the flow and tide of what's around her, lives to love another day!!!