So many people want to know the details that went into how my blended family became what it is today. When I share that I am close friends with bio mom, and that she will be a bridesmaid in my upcoming wedding, the usual response is something like, “WTF! How?! Why!?” I will share a few snippets of the truth. There is ALWAYS a silver lining. There is ALWAYS light at the end of the tunnel. The Universe wants each and every one of us to be truly happy and healthy, however, the light bulb within each of us must go on before that can happen on a frequent basis. By light bulb, I mean taking full responsibility for ourselves.
I find so often that the adults in blended families are obsessed with wishing and wanting the other people in it to change-It could be the exes, the spouses, or the children. There are so many self-help platforms out there that allow blended families to safely chat, but it turns out to be more venting and bitching. Sure, it creates a place to relate to one another, but it does not create a healthy mindset or change the course of the relationships in the long term. There is also a lot of buzz about external self-care. This is incredibly important!! I think a lot of the self-care encouragement is about taking care of yourself instead of bending over backwards to burnout, which is something we all want to avoid. However, it still doesn’t solve problems that most blended families face, which are chaos, stress, identity loss, and control issues. Doing external things that make us temporarily feel good are great only in moments. It is the inner work that is the gold.
I experienced ALL of the above when I first met my fiancé. It was awful!! My anxiety was at an all-time high, I went through periods of depression and was on medication for a bit, my relationship with my fiancé suffered, I lost my sense of self entirely, and my people pleasing skills were through the roof. There were several periods where I sincerely questioned whether I really wanted to be a part of this life. It appeared more stressful and chaotic than anything else. Ew! I also had a peanut gallery of people giving me all kinds of advice and warnings about why a 24-year-old shouldn’t be involved in this lifestyle and it would likely be a shitshow if I did.
The phrase, “high conflict” is thrown around in the blended family community quite often. People will tell me that my situation now appears as if the people in it are not high conflict- often the bio mom is labeled as high conflict. In the beginning, people might have observed bio mom’s behavior as high conflict- mostly because she was pissed and she showed it. She would even tell me, “there were times when I was crazy.” There were times her anger had me thinking that could be true-turns out it wasn't. I have been "crazy" too. Haven't we all? Be honest with yourself! Also, people in my fiancé’s life told me I had no business connecting with her. Here’s my point- there were moments where she created conflict. HOWEVER, I really don’t find it right or appropriate that “high conflict” is always put on the bio mom. In fact, WHY OR HOW DO YOU THINK SHE ACTED IN THAT WAY? Sure, it is her choice to act the way she chooses, despite any justification, but the truth is that the father assisted in creating the conflict because he is also “high conflict,” but this gets swept under the rug a lot of times. People tend to forget that we have all lost our cool, but labeling a person as something is just not right- or true for that matter.
In our situation, my fiancé helped created this conflict because he wanted me to have no contact with her. I asked about meeting her and including her, but he and plenty of people in his life truly believed that it wasn’t necessary or needed. It is so easy for a new partner (stepmom) to come in and see only the conflict as one sided from the bio mom. She sees her new partner as perfect and blinded by love- it must be entirely on bio mom, right? WRONG. There is a history of conflict, hurt, pain, and shit that was never resolved. It takes two to tango. Because I know this, I chose to take responsibility for myself. Before that, I also chose to respond the way I did, creating anxiety and depression and stress, until I no longer allowed other people to decide for me, as well as blame others. As soon as I was true to myself and opened the door to a reality I really wanted, things began to shift. It wasn’t easy or comfortable in the beginning, but it was a step. My intention wasn’t to control her or how she responded to me. I was authentic and gave her the energy and compassion I would give to someone I really cared about. Why? Because she is no different than I or the rest of us. She is human, too. She acknowledged that, and overtime, we developed a friendship. We developed trust. I showed up as my best self and the situation shifted naturally.
My fiancé and bio mom may never be best friends, but they are now friendly, and we frequently do things as a family. It is an amazing feeling. There is a lot less stress, I have a wonderful friendship, and most importantly, the kids are thriving!!! It is entirely on the adults to create a space for the kids to thrive. Take responsibility for yourself. Some bio moms won’t respond the way that mine did. Not to be discouraged. What you focus on expands. Want more stress? Focus on the things you despise, even subconsciously, and you will get more of that. Focus on all of the things you wish she would be, and then become that person and give it out. You will be entirely surprised when you truly take responsibility for yourself and live your example.
External self-care is necessary, but it is not going to be what is needed to create meaningful and satisfying relationships in the long run. It is tough shit to do, because we humans like to avoid pain and anything uncomfortable. Making the commitment to doing the work is the most successful way to unfuck yourself and any situation you’re in. My story doesn’t have to be bizarre, unrelatable or uncommon. This is possible no matter how shitty it appears. Your reality is first created in your mind. Ditch the excuses and create the life you want.