Friday, June 15, 2012

Time: deadly weapon or life saver…a matter of attitude. Some ideas about the adjustment period

Walking on the tricky roads of daily life of a step family pattern, determination and patience are key to develop the strength necessary to successfully overcome the difficulties involved, from both sides, equally. That “equally” part is the hardest one, even when there’s love and commitment on both sides of the marriage. Information gathering is vital as well as awareness regarding the length of time adjustment takes and rational conscience about it. I may be wrong, but despite the fact no one comes lectured on how to raise a family and one learns and grows on the road, I strongly believe that to handle the step family pattern does require rational discussion, research, outsource information and planning. The “natural” flow one can find in a regular family cannot be found in a stepfamily by matters of spontaneous generation (I’m not saying it cannot happen, but it is not the average), they are not the same; the functionality and harmonious development does require a different approach in order to be successful at it. Help from an independent source and counseling is key, but pride will often put aside that alternative. Even when all the ducks are in a row and the stars aligned towards a marriage… an inappropriate management of the “step” part in the new family can kill a few ducks and vanish a few stars. It does require clarity and objective analysis of the characteristics of the elements and circumstances involved, conciliation and an objective approach, it demands rational expectations...easy to say, hard to accomplish. Family matters tend to be emotional. Step families, because of the conflictive emotions it may raise, demands the utmost dose of rationalism and realism on expectations. It does require equanimity more than good will and wishes; it would be great to find tons of it in the parent spouse.

Time then could be an ally or an enemy, depending on the side you’re on. Time can save the day… and the marriage day by day, if you understand that time is of the essence and no one knows the specific amounts of it that a determined stepfamily will need to begin acting as a functional one (basic functionality). Time also can be a deadly weapon, if your expectations are unrealistic, or anxiety is bigger than you and common sense or logic. The secret: to go smoothly… both spouses should share perspective… but  I can tell It is not the usual way to go. Something everyone should know and interiorize: the adjustment period is a matter of years –and not one or two-, it can take more than five years. That’s why patience and perseverance is so important; it is easy to be visited by negativism and desperation, and anxiety can threat a great marriage which otherwise could result a successful one.  

 My experience placed my husband and me on opposite sides on that matter. Time was a conflictive factor among us then, but it is turning OK I guess. What do I mean? His mind was set considering everything should be easy. Looking at his kids with the eyes of love, he truly believed affection would come by default because he could not find anything but the best characteristics in them. Overlooking personalities, he thought he would have a family  full of candid interaction quickly. Believing I should accept everything, he thought I had certain “obligations”, and being me the one “accepting the package”, the burden was on me ONLY. I’m sure he truly believed there was no reason other than my own lack of effort for the tardiness on the process, thus he carved his own frustration and desperation. On the other side, when I had a clear picture of where I was, I immediately knew it would take time, so I place my bet on it.

During all these years, I’m sure my husband has been feeding the anger monster with frustration because the Bready bunch is not emerging. I’m sure he has confronted his love for me with his resentment towards what I’m sure he believed my lack of effort. Time was an enemy for him. He was looking at the years coming and saying good bye without the gift of his utopic vision. Had I shared such a perspective, time would have been a deadly weapon to our marriage. He then adopted a position of expecting nothing, like taking for granted a failed effort to constitute a step family close to functional, which probably placed in jeopardy the marriage effort. A while ago I heard him say: “if it has not happened in five years it will never happen”. That confirmed my suspicious on the fact he never had the right information or objective perspective on the development of step families. I’ve been suffering with his anger episodes, and wishing I could heal his pain, but he needed to overcome that stage by his own, and I needed to preserve my emotional health to support him on the road and have the strength to walk it with him.

It is not that I had the answers, but I kept myself gathering information on the subject, and studying the topic seeking advice and support. One of the very first things I had clear was that the initial adjustment process takes years (and not one, not two nor three as I mentioned). A few books I read coincided in a 6 years average. I knew I should not let anger or frustration invade my spirit, I commanded myself to keep a low profile and wait, I correctly expected a challenge of patience, and I can see the rewards a few steps ahead.
A few weeks ago, a paragraph on my daily readings made me think on the issue, and breathe its truthfulness:

As wonderful as it is to have found love the second time around, living in a blended family can seem particularly stressful at times. Newly formed stepfamilies -- and experts say that "new" is a term that can apply for up to seven years, as everyone learns to navigate old loyalties, unfamiliar relationships, and developmental changes -- need lots of advice, and they know it. Conflict about how to handle kids is tough on everyone and can be murder on a marriage. (It's one of the reasons second unions fail more than first ones.) We've got advice on how to handle the most predictable hurdles”.
Experts are right, I’m living evidence. Despite the fact we’ve been together for 6 years, I honestly think our true road began three years ago, as I previously explained in an early blog.  It has taking years for my husband to overcome guilt and give me, our marriage and our family the right place (a place I would say). My son’s birth was the trigger to this positive change. It took years for him to understand that by having a new life and be happy living it did not involve downgrading the place of his other kids. It took years for him to act coherently with the fact the he had a new family.  It took years to stop his incessant verbal obsession of telling me who was first and that under a given facts, I would be the dispensable one.  It is taking years for me to adapt to way unfamiliar relationships and approaches, to navigate being who I am among circumstances which directly conflict with my principles. And it took  years for those kids to grow up, and once they were older, develop and  overcome difficult stages and softening things while they get older and the natural independence they’re getting makes my husband realize that he has to take care of his own life too, instead of sabotaging it because of guilt or unfulfilled time expectations. Time has taken away lots of conflict sources; we did not solve many of them, but they disappeared and we were able overcome the feelings related.

Time was kind with me, the Heavens were generous. Time is helping us to make it. Despite my husband’s opposite approach towards time, it has come to our rescue. Time, and the perseverance which accompanies it, has become the lifesaving boat that has protected our marriage. Things would have been easier if we both would have had a more realistic perspective of the time it takes to put things on track. Such awareness I do think now is vital to pursue common goals and reach success in the establishing of an acceptable functionality of the blended family.

Time has made us all grow, reason why, time has helped us lessen the hardship, to highlight the positives, to use the care and concern to prepare the soil for the seeds of affection, time has weakened prides and open our minds and eyes to begin having a more realistic idea of who we are. I’m sure it will work with our hearts too.

Time has made us grow as a couple; consequently the strength of that bond is close to allowing us the ability to design a strategy with rationalism and objectivity, instead of pride, anger and partial views. Time has taken away a lot of the conflicting issues, time has brought solutions to remaining ones, and strength to keep dealing with the unsolved.
The bottom line is that managing a step family should not be left to luck, but to informed decisions, strategies and well established notions regarding its development, it requires a drop of rational methodology...sort of speaking. One should have a clear understanding of the time it takes to adjust, to be patience, to not become dangerously

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