Friday, June 1, 2012

Safe Harbors in Step Families

No, I did not find the answers every stepfamily member is looking for. No, I haven’t found the miracle formula. In fact, as of now, a few years on the road, I’m considering accepting like a proven fact that there are no safe harbors. Due to human nature, and all the sensitive components involved, conflict will always arise, even in the most harmonious families, even if all individuals involved are “nice people”.

I have arrived to my first conclusion of fact: good faith is the only umbrella we have available in the rainy roads of interaction within a stepfamily. Be intelligent enough to prepare to fight the worst, but hope for the best. Take Good faith in any single action, so my conscious can feel fine when the storms threaten and comfortable when the rain temporally stops.

I read a lot, got advice from insiders and professionals, I numbed my judgment so I could not infer right or wrong from my “step family members”, closed my eyes so I could not see if there was something unpleasant and enjoy when I could feel something good.  I tried silence (which was the hardest, and what had the worst results for me personally), I tried several recommended techniques (for instance, I applied  the method of not exercise authority directly but going to my husband first; I tried rewards systems in domestic chores -which I’m against to-, I tried to be invisible, so my husband’s kids would not  resent his new life, I tried to give them all the space  during the time they have so they could really enjoy his father, I tried to softly introduce my husband to new ideas I though may help to his kids’ improvement), I even basically stopped being me, because it seems that being who I was and exert my opinions the way I normally do,  will hurt susceptibilities. Nothing I tried was taken the right way. Nothing I said was taken in plain meaning. No gesture in my face escaped to judgment.

So I got tired. I quit. No, not from my marriage, not from my husband (that’s out of question) l but from the tiredness of spending a lot of effort in finding the best approach (objectively speaking, not what people expected) without results, since I was the only one who seemed aware about the time it would take and the difficulties a stepfamily involved per se. It seemed I was the only one visited by realistic expectations and that was not fair. So I decide to feel good and comfortable in my own skin: I decided to be me, with my very own and rooted values and opinions. I have to recognize it; it is hard to be me every other weekend, so I have not been entirely successful at it, but I’m not discouraged. 

I decided to rely in two things: good faith and time. Everything I say, do or suggest, has been always in good faith, and thinking it will help everyone to grow and improve. I learned also that time is the best remedy. Time dilutes differences, or finds a way to minimize their effects, either creating turnarounds, improving, or softening the roads. And slowly, things are getting course.

Time flies. Soon my husband’s kids will be on their own, reaching those ages when independence springs and probably I will see them less often. My son will be very demanding by then, and I’m sure some of my ideas will not sound that crazy or bad intentioned while applied to my son.

My husband and I will grow old, and there’s too much time ahead as to devastate my soul in unsuccessful efforts to prove me right or to prove my good intentions.  He married me because he knew I would bring goodness to his life.  I just pray for guidance, wisdom and tolerance. I pray… to not be hurt when accused, to persevere when tired, to love when attacked, to look beyond the difficulties, to have such a dynamic mind so I could find solutions for the sake of everyone. I pray for the peace my son and I deserve, the home we’re constructing, the life and the home I want for him, and for my husband and me.

I wish for the best to my husband’s kids, even though we may not be in the same page. They deserve goodness. I pray for their wellbeing. I move honestly and in good faith. Worries will always be present, that’s the parent’s story of life. Impulsive answers to worries are to be fear.  

I also pray for my peace of mind and the consolidation of my own family, I have the right to do so. I will always be defending my best interest and my son’s best interest, and my marriage’s best interest, yet I would keep in mind what’s best for everyone and, to favor my side, I would not move to destroy the other one. Maybe because in defending that other side, sometimes my husband has attempted against our own wellbeing, and I do not believe in such unfair method. Second does not mean last… conversely I will say… present weights more when planning for future. That’s why I finally disposed of the feeling of having no right to defend what I have and what I want.

I’m not sure whether silence or speaking out is the better way; I’m in the process of analyzing that.  Silence may reward when time lapses the challenges, but may annul the right to have voice. Speaking out may help to healthy discuss and operate agreements and solve conflicts if partiality is not involved (the trickiest part), but words to an unprepared ear may be taken the wrong way and endanger what otherwise could be stable. So, that’s my current quest.

Due to the unavoidable nature of the interest within stepfamilies, there’s nothing I can do or say that could redeem me from judgment. I know, knowing the elements currently involved in my case, no matter how best my intentions might be or how objective my perspective might be, I’ll be under the microscope, and trying to save my skin from the statistics of misunderstanding. Moreover, I will often find myself at the losing side of the table; I’m not expecting my ideas to be considered as the right ones… I know there will be a few tears involved once in a while. But I’m strong enough as to keep standing and fighting for my family.

Thus, I would hold on to my good faith approach when dealing with stepfamily issues. I owe that to my husband, and I believe in the peace of mind it gives me when the tides are up. Life cannot be unfair with me, at least in theory, if I fairly move always in good faith.
Whether others agree or not (I do respect different views), I put everything in God’s hands, and walking in good faith, I hope for the best.

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