For many, the idea of therapy is frowned upon. The idea of telling complete strangers your dirty business and exposing yourself to possible judgement makes people cringe. Imagine having that mindset and now you’re a stepmom dealing with all types of emotions you don’t know how to process or communicate. It is nothing shameful about seeking an alternate perspective or insight into the sometimes chaotic world of co-parenting.
Here are three warning signs that might sound familiar that will have you considering therapy for your blended woes:
When your daily life begins to suffer as a result of the ongoing conflict, seek individual therapy. As stepmoms, we’ve frequently discussed the option of stepping in and stepping out as we see fit to preserve ourselves. Sometimes our daily responsibilities or expectations may be overwhelming and we don’t know how to ask for help. In other cases, we are full of pride and don’t want to admit it’s just too much. It is important to be self aware especially when you begin to notice that your peace and mental stability are being affected. At times, fathers unwillingly place unspoken expectations on stepmoms and we willingly accept the burden out of fear of how he will respond and/or society will view us. It’s the ugly truth! We are too busy trying to reshape how society views the importance of our role in the family and we don’t want to let anyone down. As a result, we are so drained by the ongoing drama that we begin to react out of character by projecting our feelings onto others around us who are not the issue. When any or all of these things are happening, it’s time to speak with a life coach and/or therapist to sort through your issues in a healthy way.
Communication with BM is filled with confusion and constant misunderstanding. Misunderstandings are bound to happen when you say one thing and BM processes something completely different. How about when you both are constantly talking over each other which means no one is listening?! Perhaps you explode on them over small things that have begun to pile up over time. Communication is key but also understanding each person’s communication style would be helpful to prevent these things from happening. Some people prefer to text or email but by doing so, it is left up to the recipient to understand what you are trying to say. This is tricky when dealing with sensitive issues because tones and true intentions can be misinterpreted. Believe it or not, there is a group out there that still prefers to speak on the phone to eliminate the undertones a text message may carry. Sometimes you may not want to hear the sound of their voice so this may not work for you. Lastly, there is the stepchild who is often the messenger between households where he is frequently being used a tool between the adults. This is unhealthy in some many ways because children should be protected from the drama that the adults have created. By including the stepchild as the messenger, you are offloading your burdens onto them which may affect them in the different areas of their life. They may begin to act out at home, in school or withdraw from activities they once enjoyed. All of these scenarios point to a serious breakdown in communication which can be resolved in a group family session over time.
When physical violence is the solution to resolve your issues. Everyone’s blended situation is quite different but as adults, we have to find another way to sort through stressful times without physically assaulting the other person. Not only are personal boundaries broken but the family dynamic is downright toxic. If a referee is needed for you to deal with your BM, therapy should definitely be an option but you also need to check your level of accountability. Do you have to involve law enforcement? Is your stepchild(ren) witnessing these altercations? When people communicate with their fists, it means they have a difficult time controlling themselves and can be viewed as impulsive. If there is enough discord or tension, anger may manifest in your body as knots in your stomach, sweaty palms, headaches, anxiety, etc. Out of anger, you can seriously hurt someone and it is a known fact that a few minutes of anger can leave you with a lifetime of regret. Anger management is absolutely needed in cases where you health is affected by your stressful situation but family therapy would be beneficial especially when law enforcement must intervene.
In blended families, therapy can provide healthy boundaries and effective communication as safeguards to protect your sanity when emotions run high and patience runs low. Ultimately, we all want to co-parent to the best of our ability but often lack the knowledge and resources to do so. It is at this time that you need to speak up and get help for the sake of yourself and your family.