This was first published on KSL.COM
I read your articles every week and I love the advice, but here goes my question? I've been with my husband for 10 years and we have one child together. I also have three from a previous marriage and he has four. My problem would be that all our fighting is about each other's kids. We don’t agree with the way the other one handles their children. He doesn’t discipline his well and I resent him for that. I’m practically raising our youngest alone, too, while he is overly focused on his daughter. We are always defending our kids and this is pulling us apart. If you could offer help on this, that would be great.
I would love to give some advice on blending families, especially because 46 percent of marriages today create a step-family and these second or third marriages are much more challenging than we think.
The divorce rate for second marriages, when both partners have children, is over 70 percent. These statistics are especially disturbing because most of these couples are unaware of the difficult challenge facing them when they wed. Studies have shown that 80 percent of couples entering a second marriage do nothing up front to prepare themselves for the complexities of the challenge. They think their love should be enough to get them through. But it isn’t.
You must get educated about step-families if you are going to make it. I highly recommend getting some books about step-families, attending seminars and classes, or getting some professional help from a coach or counsellor. Things go much smoother when you know what you are doing and have a plan to deal with the inevitable challenges. I also recommend getting professional help at the first sign of trouble, don’t wait until everyone is deeply hurt.
Here are some important realities regarding step-families and some tips for making yours work:
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach and speaker.
I loved your article on self-sacrifice and I’m trying to take care of myself, but my boyfriend doesn't want me to stand up for myself. When I do, he says I don't really want him in my life anymore. He thinks I’m a mean, selfish person if I get bothered with how I’m treated. Do you have any advice on how to actually transform this relationship?
Your boyfriend is using guilt to manipulate you. So, I’d like to explain how you recognize manipulation and give you some ideas for getting out of or dealing with this person.
Here are some common signs you might be in a manipulative relationship (either with a parent, child or significant other):
Do you have self-esteem issues? Are you a kind person but also a little bit naïve? Manipulators are subconsciously drawn to people pleasers with low self-esteem because they are easily pushed around.
Does this person use guilt to make you do things you don't want to do?
Does it seem like every argument ends with you being at fault?
Does this person trigger your emotions and then get mad at you for being emotional?
Manipulators often figure out what character traits are important to you and then use them to push your buttons and control you. It sounds like your boyfriend knows you are afraid of being seen as selfish or mean, so he is using your desire to be a good person to manipulate you.
Does this person do nice things for you and then make you feel obligated and/or guilty because of them?
Do you have to keep some things secret and even occasionally lie to this person to protect yourself?
Does this person get offended easily? Are you often walking on egg shells worried about doing or saying the wrong thing?
Does this person discourage your friendships with other people?
Does this person call you repeatedly to find out where you are or what you are doing? Often manipulators are controlling.
Does this person criticize your plans or goals and squash your dreams?
Are they loving one day and cold the next ?
Do they often blame you for how they feel?
Are you frustrated and sad more than you're happy in this relationship? Have you tried to break it off numerous times?
If these questions are striking a cord, it’s safe to say you are in a manipulative relationship (also remember that manipulation can happen with a parent, a sibling or friend, too.)
Here are some suggestions for dealing with this person:
1) If this is a friend or romantic interest, you might want to at least consider ending this relationship post haste. It is highly unlikely that this person is going to change (unless this person agrees to some serious professional help, which most manipulators don’t think they need). It is best to deliver this news quickly and leave the premises so you cannot be manipulated and pulled back in. Sometimes it is best to break these relationships off by email or text to avoid further manipulation.
2) If you decide to end this relationship, you are going to need a good support system to stand by you, and in some cases protect you from conversations with this person. You have the right to refuse to talk about it.
3) You must recognize that your low self-esteem is partly responsible for this situation. You may want to get some professional help from a counselor or coach to work on your self-image. You must learn to see yourself as bulletproof and refuse to let other people determine your value. You are a one-of-a-kind, amazing, irreplaceable being and nothing anyone says or does can diminish you.
4) If this person gets angry and tries to retaliate in any way, do not react or even respond. Let it go and move forward with your life (or in some cases you may need a restraining order).
5) You are also going to need to grow a back bone and establish some boundaries. If this person is a parent or sibling, you can’t break up with them. So, you must have clearly defined boundaries and a strategy for enforcing them. Then you calmly repeat these boundaries over and over until they get it. You won’t be pushed around anymore.
6) You must stop caring what other people think of you (even your relatives). What they think is irrelevant and cannot affect, change or diminish you. They cannot hurt you without your permission.
Make it your official policy that it doesn’t matter what this person thinks of you.
Harriet Braiker wrote a book called “Who’s Pulling Your Strings?” In it she said, “If you are an approval addict, your behavior is as easy to control as that of any other junkie. All a manipulator need do is a simple two-step process: Give you what you crave, and then threaten to take it away. Every drug dealer in the world plays this game.”
You have got to quit playing this game with this person. You must figure out who you are and not let other people tell you different. When you let go of your need for approval and claim the power to determine your value and character, you will be free and invincible.
If this is proving difficult, I highly recommend some professional help.
Hope this helps.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of ldslifecoaching.com and claritypointcoaching.com. She is a life coach and speaker who specializes in repairing and building self-esteem.
My husband and I both have kids from previous marriages, and blending our families has been hard. We fight all the time, usually about his kids not getting along with my kids, his kids wrecking things, me not treating his kids good enough, or him spending too much time with his ex and her family. (I think he spends an abnormal amount of time with them.) I don’t know how to handle any of these issues, and they are tearing us apart. Can you offer some advice?
Blending families is a really difficult endeavor and not for the faint of heart. I know — I am in a second marriage situation with kids myself, so I speak from experience.
There is a reason that 70 percent of second marriages fail, and the odds are even worse when children are involved. Making a step-family work is a huge challenge, but you can significantly improve your odds of making it if you get some help, plan ahead, and get educated so your expectations are realistic.
Studies have shown that 80 percent of couples entering a second marriage do nothing up front to prepare themselves for the complexities of the challenge. They think their love should be enough to get them through the difficulties.
Let me set the record straight right now: It isn’t.
You must get educated about step-families if you are going to make it. I highly recommend getting some books about step-families, attending seminars and classes, or getting some professional help to work through the challenging issues. Things will go much smoother when you know what you are doing and have a plan to deal with the challenges.
Here are some other tips that may help:
Improve your communication skills. This is the most important thing you must do.You must learn to have mutually validating conversations with your spouse and have them often. Couples who know how to communicate with respect, in a loving way, can solve almost any problem. There is an article I wrote for KSL.com that will help you understand what that looks like. Click on the link to read it.
If you are unhappy with how much time your husband spends with his ex and her family, you need to talk about it and figure out what amount of time you would feel comfortable with. If you still can’t reach a compromise on this issue (and the many other issues that cause the fighting), you may need some professional help with your relationship skills.
Make the house rules, as a couple, ahead of time. You must be a united front and decide on rules, consequences, job sharing, conflict resolution and responsibilities ahead of time. Successful step-parents are always united on decisions and discuss their disagreements in private. They are a cohesive team in front of the children, so it is clear they cannot be played off each other.
Couples should decide on the rules together, but the natural parent should be the one to dish out the discipline to their child. If the natural parent isn’t present, the step-parent can remind the child of the house rules and the consequences in a very loving and calm manner. If you can't speak to your step-children with kindness and respect, you need to get some help to change this.
Children deserve respect, understanding and kindness even when they mis-behave. If you treat children this way, they will respect you back. If you behave immaturely, lose control, yell and berate children, they will lose respect for you.
Give everyone some time to learn how to handle this complex situation. Your spouse has never been a step-parent before and neither have you, so you both need some time to figure this out. You must be patient and not expect your spouse to have all the answers and do everything right, right away.
Don’t rush the process of blending. Everyone needs time to get used to this new way of life. You must let each child set the pace for how close they want to be to the new step-parent and when. Don’t worry if they pull back at times; they are fighting a battle of loyalties that often confuses them. Don’t take their moving slow personally. It takes years to build strong relationships of trust.
Make sure you treat all the children the same. Feeling cheated, short-changed or left out is a common problem in step-families. Make things fair and the same, as much as possible.
Insist on mutual respect for everyone. Not everyone has to like each other, but they do have to respect each other. If you are going to make your step-family work, children must respect the adults in the home, and the adults must respect the children. This means listening to their thoughts and feelings and respecting their right to feel the way they do. Respect must happen in every interaction.
This will not be an easy road. It will test your love and patience on a daily basis, but you can do it, if you are both committed and open to getting some help.
There are many other great articles about step-family dynamics on KSL.com. Check some of them out:
Step-families: The odds are against us
Committed couples can make step-families work
Tips for making a blended family work
Many families underestimate the difficulty of remarriage
LIFEadvice: Dealing with a difficult ex-spouse
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of ldslifecoaching.com and claritypointcoaching.com. She is a sought after life coach and popular speaker who specializes in repairing and building self-esteem.
How do you deal with exes who try to ruin your new marriage? How do you set boundaries with an ex who uses children as a manipulation tool? How do you deal with an ex-spouse who personally attacks you all the time? I guess that’s three questions, but any help would be appreciated. My ex is really difficult to deal with.
Research shows that kids do best when their divorced parents get along, though divorce rarely makes that easy to do. Here are a couple of suggestions that may make the road a little easier:
Principle: Children need to be protected from conflict.
Your children have the right to love both their parents, so never bad-mouth your ex in front of your children. If your ex is saying negative things about you, there isn’t much you can do about it except live so that your children see the truth for themselves.
If your ex is hostile or insulting, whenever possible use e-mail or text messages for communication. The children can’t overhear those and won’t think the problems are their fault.
Principle: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Treat your ex the way you wish to be treated, even if they don’t deserve it.
Behaving in a calm, rational, respectful way (even if your ex doesn’t) is the first step to a more civil relationship — and, your kids are watching your behavior and learning from your example. If they witness mature behavior from you, they will learn how to deal with problems appropriately.
Principle: Focus on what is your responsiblity.
You must take responsibility for your actions and behavior, but do not waste energy on things you have no control over and things that are not your responsibility. Make sure you don’t have a tendency to “own other people’s problems” and feel guilty if you can’t fix them.
Get out a piece of paper and draw a line down the center. Write what’s in your control on one side, and what’s not your responsibility or in your control on the other. Get really clear about what belongs to you and let the universe handle everything else.
Principle: Setting clear boundaries is crucial.
You will teach people how to treat you by the kind of behavior you tolerate. You know what your boundaries need to be. Set them and start enforcing them in a strong but respectful way.
Make it clear that all communication must be about the children. You have no other reason to communicate. Rude or disrespectful text messages will be deleted without response. You will not respond unless treated respectfully.
Principle: Strong and respectful communication makes a difference.
There is a right way to have a conversation with a difficult person. This involves asking questions and listening to your ex’s point of view first, then asking permission to explain your point of view.
Asking questions and listening does not mean putting up with abuse. It is about honoring and respecting the other person’s right to their opinions so they will be more likely to respect yours.
If rational, respectful conversations are not possible, stick to text messages only.
Principle: The universe gave your child this parent (your ex) for a reason.
Your ex may not be a perfect parent, but apparently they are the perfect parent for your child. If your ex causes problems or even damage your child (and you are unable to protect them from this) there is a divine reason that experience was meant to happen.
Trust the universe. It knows what it is doing. Your child will survive this and may become stronger for it.
This is tough to live with when your ex is hurting your children, but you really only have two choices. You can live in anguish while you try to help your child through it, or you can live in trust while you help your child through it. Trust creates more peace.
Principle: You can choose peace regardless how your ex behaves.
You cannot escape this difficult situation, but you can choose how you want to experience the situation. Pain and suffering are optional.
You can choose to ignore the attacks. You can choose to see that attacks aren’t really about you. You can choose to see your ex as the scared, struggling human being they are. You can choose to trust life. You can choose a state of inner peace.
People only have as much power over you as you give them.
Peaceful does not equal passive, however. You must still set limits, enforce your boundaries and protect yourself and your children.
Get some professional help
Less than 25 percent of remarried (step-family) couples seek out professional help, education or counseling in spite of the fact that it usually makes the difference between success and failure. Less than half of all step-families even read a book about step-family dynamics. I strongly urge you to seek out some professional help and read some books.
If your ex has anger issues or behavior that seems ridiculously inappropriate, they may suffer from borderline personality disorder. Research and learn more about the condition to find out what you can do.
Hope this helps.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of www.ldslifecoaching.com and www.claritypointcoaching.com. She is a sought after life coach and popular speaker. Follow her blog on the KSLAM page http://www.ksl.com/?sid=&nid=315
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These articles were originally published on KSL.COM
Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and is a
popular life coach, author and speaker. She was named
one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly
on local and national TV and Radio.