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Who’s Interests Are You Really Serving? The Kids Or Your Own?

August 3rd, 2011

The recent crisis over our country’s debt limit and the way our leaders are handling it got me thinking about the way many stepfamilies and ex-spouses relate to each other. Conflict is inevitable in the environment of a remarried family or stepfamily (meaning a divorced couple, their children, and their new partners). There is a great deal at stake in the way the adults handle these conflicts.

Parents, new partners, and exes will have clashing values—around lifestyle, money, parenting, goals, etc. When parents become fixated on their own agenda, and are unable to appreciate and respect opposing perspectives, they lose sight of what should be their true goal: the best possible outcome for their children.

When problems arise in remarried families, the adults need to step back and take a look at the entire situation—listen, think, negotiate, and compromise. It’s not about winning or losing, but understanding and improving. Strong leadership serves the best interests of the entire group. It does not seek to win, but rather, to protect and support those whom it is charged with leading.

We are all capable of hurting others while thinking we’re acting in their best interest. It’s easier to get out of this trap when we can put our ego away and treat the other parties with respect, dignity, and curiosity. Children notice how their parents and stepparents treat each other, and it impacts them significantly. Parents who model compromise and respect, while standing up for the needs of their children, serve the entire family.

My hope is that our national leaders can learn to work together in a way that their constituents can be proud of and use as a positive model for their own families.

Susan Wisdom, MA
August 2011

Joan Kennedy At The Funeral

September 4th, 2009

I was touched but not surprised by Joan Kennedy’s appearance at her ex-spouse’s funeral. She was, after all, married to this man for 25 years and raised 3 children with him. They’ve been divorced for many years – it’s hardly fresh. Hopefully time heals hurts and wounds.

Re: relationships between spouses and ex-spousesA developmental process

As a counselor I’ve seen everything over the years from complete hostility …don’t even MENTION the exes’ name… to almost communal living of first and second families. It depends on the players, the circumstances and timing.

I believe there’s a developmental process of first dealing with the stress and grief of a failed marriage and then regrouping and restructuring the boundaries. It happened to me. After the shock of my first husband leaving me alone with my kids, it took me a while to GET IT and ADJUST to it. I was deeply hurt and furious with him. I hated him and the woman he left me for.

Then I met David. We fell in love. I was young, naïve and totally idealistic that I could move right in and easily raise his and my kids together. (Thank God, no one today is as naïve and uninformed as I was!) My three stepkids were reeling from the loss of their mother, and they took it out on me. I hated her for dumping her three angry kids in my lap.

The wounds have healed over the years. And yes, I can greet and spend time with our two exes…chat with them, get caught up about old friends and family etc. And yes, I can imagine us both at our exes’ funeral services for our kids’ sake as well as history that started and ended a long time ago. It’s a developmental process.

Susan Wisdom
September 2009

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