Yesterday was my husband’s birthday. As always we had the kids and grandchildren over for dinner. This birthday party was particularly nice. Beautiful day. Potluck so everyone brought goodies. It was peaceful and fun – no fights or hurt feelings. (This may be a first!) Grandkids played with their cousins. The ADULTS…where did the time go!??… sat around, talked about the news, their kids, etc… We joked about family memories we can laugh about now.
It has not always been that way. Like any stepcouple and stepfamily, we had to get here. The only way we made it was by facing our issues and fighting hard to resolve them.
What I’m talking about are those Unresolved Emotional Issues (a.k.a. baggage) that we grew up with and held on to through adolescence and into adulthood. (By the way, it never goes away completely!) The powerful effects of our UEI’s are experienced and played out in our relationships. Their demons come around when we’re in an emotional conflict of some sort. They write the scripts for the roles we play and positions we take. Without even knowing it, our demons rule us – unless or until we address them and change the script.
I grew up with a terrible inferiority complex. In my family of origin, I was never good enough… or even good at all… so I thought. I married young and impulsively. My husband left with me with two kids to raise. After my divorce, I was more sure than ever that I was worthless and unlovable.
I turned right around and married a man with kids who needed to be cared for and raised… by someone.
As a stepcouple, this is where the work on the Unresolved Emotional Issues began. In the beginning of my remarriage, I was completely out of my element. The kids were killing me. I was a failure. I should have never taken this on! Losing the battle, losing control, I WAS ANGRY. Angry at myself, angry at my parents for not raising me better, angry at both our exes, and angry at the kids… blah, blah, blah
On the other hand I loved this man and he loved me back! That alone was the medicine I needed. It was time for me to grow up and take responsibility, rather than blaming others, for my UEI’s… and the power they had over me.
As a stepcouple, my husband and I trusted each other. We were a team. We took it one day at a time, facing what we had to face. Individually and mutually, we dealt with our issues as they came up. We saw a counselor who helped us pinpoint our issues and guide us in the right direction.
This is a developmental process. It can happen only if/when you’re ready to become consciously aware of yourself, including understanding your UEI’s and how they drive you. When you’re ready to understand and address those issues, they no longer hold the power to rule as before. The journey to heal and move on begins here.
I was ready… so was he. We had a job to do which was raising five kids. As I moved into the position of wife, mother and stepmother, I gained confidence. I was finally growing up.
As our stepfamily celebrated Sunday, I was proud and happy. Our kids are married and have families of their own. They have their kids to raise and hurdles to overcome, I’m sure… just as we did. But that’s not my business. I’m off duty now!
Some guidelines to think about when you want to understand and communicate with your partner better. (It’s always a good idea to think before you spout! It’s helpful to keep a journal too.)
As a stepcouple, what do you need? What does your partner need? What are your stepcoupling issues?
In the meantime …
- Take an honest look at who you are and what your UEIs are. (Unresolved Emotional Issues) How do those issues play out in your relationships with your partner, your kids… stepkids…others?
- Ask yourself what you want in your stepcouple relationship. What are you willing to give and receive from your partner?
- Look for familiar patterns that get in the way of your happiness and fulfillment.
- Develop the art of self-awareness and communication. Be willing to talk with, listen to and hear your partner. Be curious and respectful with each other.
- Do you know how to please your partner? Does he know what pleases you?
- Does your partner bring out the best…or the worst… in you?
- How do you handle conflict? Are your styles similar or different from each other? Does that cause problems? What about parenting styles?
For more info about unresolved emotional issues and how they play out in stepcoupling, I suggest that you read Chapter 7 of my book, Stepcoupling: Creating and Sustaining a Strong Marriage in Today’s Blended Family. Three Rivers Press, 2002. It’s available on Amazon.com.
Licensed Professional Counselor