Category Archives: Relationships

Stuck in a Blender

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“Hi, Lisa!

I noticed in your bio that you are in a blended family.  I am, also and I am wondering why you don’t write about blending families more often. My husband and I have been married for 3 years and together we have 4 children (his two daughters – ages 5 & 8 – and my son and daughter – ages 10 and 12)…To be honest, this has been a lot harder than either of us thought it ever would be.  The kids are not responding the way we thought they would, our relationship is strained and our exes are not making things any easier.  I fear that we have made a mistake and didn’t think this through.  Do you have any advice to offer?  I do love him, but sometimes I wonder if that is enough… V”

 

Hello V!  First let me offer you a big virtual hug.  This is just a portion of your letter, yet it’s obvious that you and your mister are in a bad place right now and I’m sorry for that.  I am also sorry that it has taken me a while to respond to your email.  I’m not completely comfortable with giving advice and, in fact, I’m not going to give you any. I’ve given your letter a lot of consideration and finally mentioned it to my husband to get his perspective.  What I can tell you is how we have dealt with our situation in hopes that it can give you some encouragement and insight.

First, please know that blending a family is not easy for anyone.  We honestly do not know of one blended family that hasn’t suffered from bumps and bruises. In biological families there is a multitude of personalities and quirks that often get in the way of familial bonding.  Blended families tend to have that same dynamic and then some.  We enter these marriages with such high (and often unrealistic) hopes for an instant family without realizing that not too long ago we were all perfect strangers.  I know that for you these three years of marriage have seemed long and trying but, in reality that’s not a lot of time for people who barely knew each other to grow to love one another.  Big Poppa and I have been married for 11 years and we are still stuck in a blender.

I would have to admit that the pressures and trials of being in a blended family have almost ended my marriage…more than once.  We have sought counseling (family and couples) on and off throughout these 11 years – which is not a bad thing even when all is well.  To be honest with you, I don’t think that we have done a very good job of effectively becoming one family.  In many ways we still operate like three separate families – his, mine and ours.  Each of us is still very tender about the subject of our children and it has become a topic that we really don’t discuss much.  Awkward? Yes. Survival technique? Definitely.  I don’t advise this approach, I’m just being honest.

Our saving grace has been our love for God and each other.  Ultimately, we are committed to our vows and each other.  Not to mention that Big Poppa and I are the best of friends.  There have been moments that we have lost sight of this, but that has been what’s always brought us back to try to talk things out or at least find a comfortable place to call a truce.  It’s so easy to find fault with the other person and their children and fail to see where we missed the mark.  On the other hand, you both need to firmly believe that nothing the other person is doing is with malicious intent or trying to cause harm.  Yes, we are there to provide protection for our children, but we are also there to provide protection and support for our spouse.  It all starts with trust and commitment.

V, raising a family is hard and a blended family is even harder.  There’s no easy way to say it.  I wish that I had advice that could help you or somehow make it easier, but I don’t.  I can tell you that I feel you, girl. I’ve been there and it’s hard, and it’s exhausting and it’s painful.  You’re husband is not going to understand everything that you’re feeling and you’re not going to understand him completely either.   His kids may reject you and your kids may reject him, but don’t reject each other.  Please don’t do that. Hold on to one another and eventually you will all get to a comfortable place.  Some couples therapy wouldn’t hurt either.

 

Take good care,

Lisa

 

Our Family Circa 2012

Our Family Circa 2012

 

House Hunters

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photo credit: scherago.com

photo credit: scherago.com

Can you believe that it’s been almost a year since we moved to Texas?  Yep, at the end of this month we will have lived here one whole year.  It’s been, like, the third longest year of my life.  Before I get started let me say again, as sort of a disclaimer, that I have met some great people here in Texas.  However, I’m a Midwest girl to the core and there’s no place like home.  Okay, moving on….Big Poppa and I were feeling rather nostalgic today so we rode around the area and looked at some of the houses that we visited on our house hunt early last year.  Actually, it was his idea because  I was afraid that if we went looking we would realize that we really should have made a different choice.  We like our house and I kinda like to leave well enough alone.  As we rode around, I got to thinking, that our house hunting excursion and subsequent move was probably one of the best team building and relationship strengthening exercises that we have ever been through, both practically and philosophically speaking.  Although, the situation had the makings of the perfect storm.

Big Poppa didn’t have to look for a new job, he just wanted to look for a new job.  Always one to keep his eyes and ears open for new opportunities, he heard about this specific position and warned me that he was applying.  I use the word “warn” because he knew how I felt about the thought of relocating. I didn’t like it.  We had been in this position before when he applied for a job in Ohio.  I cried…hard, but then I decided to go along with the program, but it was too late.  He had already withdrawn his name from consideration.  I felt guilty about this for years.  So, when the Texas position opened up, I promised myself (and Big Poppa, but silently) that I would not stand in his way.   Obviously, I was a bit bitter but, I made some very conscious decisions about how I was going to conduct myself in this situation (I didn’t tell Big Poppa about these):

  • I prayed that God’s will for our lives concerning this move be made very clear to the both of us;
  • I decided to lay aside my bitterness and anger and to proceed joyfully (that might be a stretch) as a help to my husband; and
  • To submit to my husband’s leadership (yes, I actually said submit.  Just follow along.)

Now, you are probably thinking  that I had no choice but to submit since he’s the one with the job but, what I did know about my husband was that, if I had protested enough he would have called the whole thing off.  I just didn’t want to do that to him again.  He was beyond deserving of this new opportunity and I’m his biggest fan. Was I sad and angry? Yes.  Was he aware of my feelings? Yes.  Was I toxic? No.  For weeks leading up to our house hunting trip we tossed around our wants and needs for our new house.  I worked closely with a relocation specialist at my husband’s company and our real estate agent in Texas.  By the way, our first tip to anyone looking for a new home (especially if you are relocating to a new area) is to get a great agent.  This woman was phenomenal.  She knew the area extremely well,  worked hard to get what we wanted within budget, and was very well connected and respected within her profession. Loved her!  Stay tuned, there will be other tips because, in hind sight, we did some things that we can’t believe that we did and would never suggest that anyone else do either.  Like…enforcing a ridiculously tight timeline.

Our house hunt was only one week.  That’s right, we flew to Houston and our mission (because I was a bit, shall we say, rigid) was to find the perfect home in one week.  I took into consideration that we still had to sell our current home, close on the new one, move across the country and get settled all before school started.  You’re wondering could we have leased a home before we actually bought one? Yes.  Could we have possibly made two trips instead of one? Yes.  However, I didn’t want to, I wanted it to be over and Big Poppa just wanted me to be happy or at least to stop looking sad.  He had high hopes and understandably so because most women absolutely love looking at new houses.    Under different circumstances, I do too, but, I didn’t approach this with that kind of enthusiasm.  We looked at countless homes that week. In fact, we actually exhausted the inventory of 5 bedroom homes, in our budget, for that area.  After a while they all started to look the same to us until one day we walked into an absolute stunner.  I’m talking 5,000 square feet of absolute perfection at an exceptional price!  The problem – at least for me  – was location.  Big Poppa didn’t seem to care about that much.  After all, he’s not home a lot so location wasn’t much of an issue for him.  It was here, standing in the great room, that he realized that there was not going to be a house that I just loved because I didn’t want to be here. He was disappointed.  Not because I didn’t want the house so much, but because things were not going to be made right that easily.

So, we pressed on, our week just about to end.  Unknown by me, Big Poppa had also made some conscious decisions about how he was going to conduct himself during this time in our lives:

  • He prayed that God’s will for our lives concerning this move be made very clear to the both of us;
  • He accepted my feelings and decided to put my needs and wants first;
  • Submitted himself to me, and our children, as a servant leader to care for us and protect us as we went forward with our move.

Ironic, huh?  I like to think of it less as irony and more as love.  On that Thursday, just days before we were to return home, we walked into the house that we now call home.  I can’t say that we were both unanimously sold but, I can say that we both got everything that we wanted without one cross word.  No arguments, no budget stretching, no bickering over counter tops or flooring or who gets the bigger closet space.  Kinda impressive under the circumstances.  We learned that we can trust each other and that no matter what, we really do want what’s best for one another.  What could have been a contentious situation turned out to be a blessing. Even though I still don’t necessarily want to be here, I do like the story about how we ended up here in this specific home.  Oh, and you will be happy to know that after our drive around today to look at the other contenders, we still like our home the best.

Intent is 9/10 of the Law

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photo credit: tugceninkitapligi.blogspot.com

photo credit: tugceninkitapligi.blogspot.com

First, I have a story to tell you.  Last night, the evening of the 4th of July, some friends of ours stopped by to pick up their daughter who had spent the day with us.  For the sake of this story, we will call them Bob and Sue.  As usual, Bob, Sue, Big Poppa and I ended up sitting around chatting when Sue told a story about meeting  Bob’s elderly aunt for the first time before she and Bob got married some years back.  As Sue explained that Bob’s aunt was legally blind, she described how the woman had sat next to her and felt her arm to get a sense of Sue’s size and in doing so commented “Oh, you got a good healthy one here!”  Umm…I think that I should tell you that my friend, Sue is like most of us, an average sized woman, not thin, but not heavy, and laments about that 10 to 20 pounds that she’d like to lose. So you can imagine that this whole situation was a little, shall we say, uncomfortable  for her.  But, wait! There’s more.  Bob then proceeded to say that it was a good thing that his uncle wasn’t alive then because “He really liked big women.  He would have loved you!”  Silence.  Everyone else stopped talking – everyone except for Bob who hadn’t realized what he had said. He continued on with the “compliment”…”Oh, yes, he reeaally would have loved you!!”   This was about the time that my husband stopped breathing and sank down into the sofa next to me, hiding behind pillows.  He wanted to throw his friend a lifeline, but he knew that there was no way that Bob could be saved.  On the other hand, I was laughing so hard that I had tears running down my cheeks.  Not laughing at what he had said, of course, but at the look on Bob’s face when he realized just what he had done.  I  have to tell you that my friend Sue is unbelievably funny and an incredible actress because her portrayal of the wounded wife was worthy of an Oscar.  I say her “portrayal of the wounded wife” because of what she said after we all collected ourselves.  I’m not saying that Sue wasn’t bothered by the statement but, for other couples that could have ended up causing a major argument that lasted days or weeks.  However, she said, in so many words, that  while Bob’s words may sometimes be clumsy, he never intends to purposely hurt her and that makes all of the difference.

This made me think about when Big Poppa and I were preparing to marry and we went through pre-marital counseling with our pastor and his wife.  We were discussing marital conflicts and conflict resolution and I had never considered that husbands and wives would ever intentionally do or say things to hurt one another.  I mean, I knew that arguments happen and things get said that you may regret but, I never thought that it could be intentional.  Why would you ever marry someone then intentionally hurt their feelings?  What good could you ever expect to come of that?  Now I know how naive I was because people do it all of the time without any regard as to how to pick up the pieces afterward.  Sue is completely right.  The fact that I know that Big Poppa handles my heart with care and would never intentionally inflict pain on me is a huge factor in how I respond to our disagreements. Admittedly, it takes a lot of effort to remember that in the heat of battle ( sorry, just an expression).

How often have we all said something to our spouse and immediately wished that we could get those words back? Or even worse, how often have you wanted to say something, but knew that it wasn’t going to go over well and couldn’t find the right way to say it?  That second one really frustrates me because,  in my opinion, Big Poppa should know me well enough to know that I would never intentionally say anything to hurt him.  He should know that my intentions are to help us get to the heart of what ever is between us.  It’s called giving someone the benefit of the doubt.  Am I sometimes blunt? Yes.  Do I like to get straight to the core issues? Yes.  Am I warm and fuzzy when it comes to working out our differences?  No, not really but, I think that intent matters and that it is something to be considered by both sides.

Whether intentional or not, my words and/or actions can inflict pain on my spouse and I am responsible for the outcome.  Therefore, I should be prepared to deal with the fall out afterward.  On the flip side, if we accept the words in the spirit in which they were intended, doesn’t that lessen, not eradicate, the hurt?  After all, this isn’t a stranger that we are having a disagreement with, but it’s our spouse.  The person that we have chosen to spend our life with and spend more time with than anyone else.   Shouldn’t we be able to extend to them some consideration?   Don’t get me wrong, there have been many times during a disagreement when I have wondered how Big Poppa could be so insensitive or thoughtless.  However, I have had to take a step back and remind myself that he is not doing this on purpose. That’s not to say that I don’t take a moment to make him aware of how he has made me feel and why. We just don’t see this issue the same way. It’s a matter of trust.

Admittedly, there are things in a marriage that are done with the intention of hurting your spouse.  Domestic violence is intentional because it’s a power play and the abuser uses it to instill fear and to control his victims.   Lying is intentional regardless of what you’re lying about because you actually have to take the time to think up the lie to cover for whatever it is that you are doing wrong.  Infidelity is intentional. It never just happens.  That’s a lie (hence the previous statement) because you actually have to think about it and make plans to meet your lover at some predetermined location.  And even if you meet someone in a bar/work/gym and a one night stand follows, there are opportunities between meeting and the act to stop the entire thing.  It is a conscious decision.

Intent means a lot.  It can be the difference between experiencing some uncomfortable moments, but reaching a positive conclusion; and completely destroying a relationship.  Just something to be considered.  By the way, Bob and Sue are just fine.  She made him squirm a while, but then let him off the hook.