It’s Every Girl’s Dream-Part II in the series
15 Aug 2016
By Mary Ann Lawson, Psychologist
From the series :It’s Every Girl’s Dream”
“Remember that everyone “both spouses, ex-spouses, children, and even pets!) have experienced significant losses prior to the formation of the new family. Everyone in the mix has been hurt. Be kind.”
Building a relationship (whether between two people or a whole family system) is a lot like building a house. When building a house the first step is to CLEAR THE LOT. That means not only the brush and overgrowth, but also old appliances, foundation of previous structures, and trash left by the previous occupants. When building a human structure, that means clearing away the emotional garbage: the hurt, anger, bitterness, fear, regrets, resentment, grief, and on and on! Consider that each member of the new family has piles of such garbage and that each member’s garbage is uniquely his/her own with no two coming from the same experience or perspective. It is quite an ominous task! And a time consuming one as well!
In reality, most, if not all, blended families are formed long before such and ominous task can be completed. While the excitement of new dynamics may be fun for a while, the stench from the garbage of the past inevitably seeps through and the newly formed family structure is challenged. Just like building a house of bricks and mortar, the first task MUST be to focus on the foundation. While the fun part is to focus on the paint, flooring, rugs, etc., the stability of the structure depends on giving attention to digging the hole and pouring concrete moorings that will hold the structure over time.
When building a human structure this means focusing on the cornerstones of that foundation which are trust, communication, commitment, and love. None of these can be demanded or forced but must be earned with careful attention to our words and behavior. We are living with people from different family cultures who speak different emotional languages, and who experience the myriad of changes from their own perspective as bio parent, blended parent, mother’s child, father’s child, youngest, oldest, etc. No two people in the mix have the same emotions or the same words to communicate those emotions. This is a challenge to the best in each of us.
My first suggestion in this regard is to keep the task in mind. The conflicts that erupt will demand attention and the warm fuzzy moments will be inviting. It will require conscious focusing to stay in tune with each person’s experience, listening to word and behavior, sharing and caring. It is a time in which parents need to establish clear and reasonable expectations which are delivered with care and enforced consistently to build trust and a sense of fairness. It is essential to establish healthy boundaries. Lots of words of kindness and affirmations need to be delivered to and by all. Each person’s experience must be respected and acknowledged, but not allowed to dictate the future of the family. We accept each one’s experience while moving together towards the building of a new shared experience.
The challenge is great! So are the rewards!