Blended families

Christmas comes but once a year – thankfully!

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December 5  |  Blended families, Christmas, Dating, Living with baggage, Love & Relationships, relationships  |   Cynthia

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The season of good cheer is almost upon us once more. How did that happen?  Judging by the way the shops carry on, all the ghastly festive paraphernalia starts rearing its ugly head by September. Christmas trees sprout up by October and by November – we’re in full hideous hysteria, counting the days we have left to lose those extra pounds to squeeze into that little black number (only to put them all back again – and more), racking our brains for gift ideas and engaging in full-scale war with our significant others, about how we’re going to survive spending time with the assorted hotch potch of his n’ her family and friends. Not to mention having to endure folks we can barely tolerate the other 364 days of the year.

Then – when Christmas day actually arrives, we end up eating way too much, bingeing on huge amounts of unhealthy food and booze – and then collapsing  semi-comatose thereafter in front of the box, just in time for the Queen’s speech. Is this really fun?

Why do we do it to ourselves?  Unless you’re religious – which I’m not – then it’s a really good question.  Tradition plays a part, but actually Christmas is a dreadful time of year for anybody who’s suffered personal loss, or is ill, alone or depressed.  Unspoken feelings between family members, which get stuffed down along with the turkey – ever ready to explode at the slightest provocation.  Disappointment when the gift you wanted  was a bottle of Chanel number 5 – and instead you’re presented with a Primark onesie, and your benevolent, fake smile hurts so much, your face feels like it’s about to crack.

And if you’re single – that can feel like a giant bucket of gritting salt – carelessly chucked into your gaping emotional, lonely wound. If you’re part of a blended family – with stepchildren and ex-partners thrown into the emotional melting pot, you’ve got the potential of a scenario which makes “War And Peace” seem like “Wind In The Willows“.

January looms – the most depressing month of the year. Excess pounds, depleted wallets, and low moods vie for your attention.

The Christmas message is drowned out by the ugly manifestation of rampant commercialism. Whether you believe or not – the message should be about hope and having faith in the future.  Instead, we go absolutely crazy, held hostage by the disease of more – where needs are few but wants are many. We try to patch up our inner, insatiable void with external fripperies – and it never works.

For children I can see the point – the excitement of Santa coming, the bright Christmas lights and putting out milk and carrots for Rudolf the red nose reindeer. But for we supposed grown-ups – let’s face it, Christmas has lost its sparkle.

I believe it’s time to stop, think and regroup. Life is short so why go along with all the fuss just to please others?  If Christmas is your bag – fine. But for those of us who for whatever personal reasons would rather skip from November, straight to January -there should be no guilt. We have to learn to please ourselves first and foremost – because we’re worth it.

Bah humbug!

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Stepping up to the plate – the challenges of step parenting

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November 12  |  Blended families, Living with baggage, relationships, Self-Help, Step parenting, Stepchildren, Women and love  |   Cynthia

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“And they ALL lived happily ever after”, as the fairy tale goes. Note the italics, because when you’re a step parent, even in the very best of cases – which are few and far between – it’s an impossible job.  If you think being a natural parent is tough, then try step parenting out for size.

Ok, so we all have baggage.  But when you take on a partner, it’s a case of “love me, love my dog”,  and some dogs are just plain nasty, and bite viciously, no matter how many bones you offer them. We live in a time when “blended families” are the norm, and the traditional mores have all but broken down.  Some of that baggage is weightier than others.  You and your partner bring into the current relationship, along with your own personal wounding, that of your progeny.

No matter how bad the birth parent was or is, as a stepparent you have no voice, nor any rights – legal and otherwise.  There’s no exterior body of  support, as there is for single parents.  And with the best will in the world – your partner may invite your opinions, but will probably discard them, feeling caught between a rock and a hard place. The word, “injustice” takes on a whole new meaning when you become a step.

As someone who has had almost 15 years experience of being a stepparent, in extremely difficult circumstances, I can tell you that there’s no easy answer.  The best thing you can do to preserve your relationship – and your sanity, is to distance yourself and keep your mouth shut.  You can try until you’re blue in the face, but in the vast majority of cases, your input won’t be appreciated and may well be thrown back in your face.

There comes a point where you have to decide what’s important – the health of your relationship with your nearest and dearest or the time-limited surge of power which comes from being “right” about The Baggage. Isn’t better to be happy (sort of) than right? If not, you risk stirring up a tsunami of raw emotion and end up driving yourself and your partner into that crazy-making, hideously familiar emotional cul de sac.  Then you beat your head against the wall – and repeat this all over again, illustrating Einstein’s theory perfectly – that madness is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

Given the lack of external support, I firmly believe in the therapeutic powers of The Sisterhood. Regular rendezvous where you can safely vent your spleen, dissipating The Daily Frustration of “guess what they did THIS time?” The bottom line is – if you’re brutally honest – your steps don’t want you, now or ever,  and frankly you don’t need the hassle and upset of having to cope with them. They were in search of their own happy ever after – two birth parents under the same roof. Harsh – but alas, true.

I dedicate an entire chapter in my book, “From Dinner Date To Soulmate – Finding Love At Any Age”, on how to live with baggage.  It’s an ongoing struggle and process for most of us. But don’t give in!  That’s probably want they wanted in the first place – and you just need to learn to be smarter and more resilient than them. A great relationship is worth working at and fighting for. Don’t give up on a good thing.

May The Force be with you!

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