Life is hard now.  Money is short and job security is tenuous.  A cloud of fearpx272008 and insecurity hovers and is felt every time we hear the news or pick up a newspaper.  I think these stresses are felt in everyone’s marriage and family.  But it may be particularly hard in stepcoupling when we naturally scapegoat the exes and stepchildren with our misplaced anger.

When the child support is due, you hear “if we didn’t have to pay so much to YOUR EX, who refuses to get a job” … or at other times, if YOUR child would at least help around the house … It doesn’t matter what the triggers are, they come out at stressful times in harmful ways.  Watch yourself when you begin to reach boiling point.

In the heat of battle, you often say and do things you wish you hadn’t.  Unfortunately you can’t push the delete button.  Think before you spout.  Stop before you lash out. Don’t take your frustrations and issues out on spouses, ex-spouses and kids. Be an adult and handle your feelings in a mature way.  Take a deep breath, take a break, walk away, regroup, and use your head.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…easy to say, hard to do!  I AGREE.  I remember things I’m not proud of.  I said and did stuff I shiver to admit.  But I always knew when I was wrong and I always apologized.  I also always felt badly about the damage I’d caused.  It’s NOT a good feeling.

Know your emotional buttons in stepcoupling and how they get pushed.  Know when you’re vulnerable, i.e. tired, bad day at work, bills due, hungry, frustrated, scared, etc.  Use this self information to talk to yourself, your spouse, friends, counselor, etc.  Learn effective coping skills and practice them. Most important, give yourself credit when you can successfully calm yourself down and avoid a nasty scene.  That’s a huge first step!

When you have experience with one success, that’s good because you now know there are others where that came from.

What are your  stepcouple emotional buttons?  How do they get pushed, and how do you deal with them?  Do you know when you’ve gone too far?

Susan Wisdom
January 2009

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