Learn From My Mistakes: Relationships

thWrote a prescription for the perfect man:
made him tall, strong, romantic, dependable,
family oriented; told myself I was ready.

Projected expectations onto the first likely
candidate – single dad, three full-time kids –
read desire in his brooding eyes, ignored

the burden of his grief, the irrational speed
at which we moved, the complications of
blending a family – and jumped in head first. th-1

Dreams shattered before we’d even unpacked –
the impossibility of distinctly different parenting
styles, the lack of logistic in setting boundaries,

the truth about his wife’s hasty departure, Friday
night’s descent into depression that disabled him
and left me in charge of six teenagers and a pup.

Trouble was, I was willing to take responsibility
for the happiness of all, called myself to be a better
partner, a more adventurous lover, a super parent;

th-2believed him when he said he wanted to marry me,
that the bills were being paid,  that the kids were safe,
that the ad in the personals wasn’t his – only

it was,  and the violence that his values deemed
permissible was endangering the children, and
the only redeemable thing I could do was to flee

and live with the ever-burdening guilt that I had
been weak, and selfish, and so needy as to put
children’s live in jeopardy – an irreversible sin.

Now, haunted by irrepressible self-loathing, I amth-3
mired, scrambling to rise above the pain; offering this
warning for any other woman who is considering

being a solution to his problems, believing herself
to be up for a challenge, hoping for the ideal, but
really selling herself and her children too cheap.

 

 

Blended Angst

Growing up, my example for what a blended family looks like was The Brady Bunch, a television sitcom that depicted ever-patient parents, and six children whose disagreements were cute, story-worthy antics.  It was all
very entertaining and appealing.  th

The irony was that at the time I was (unbeknownst to me) part of a blended family myself – one that did not in any way resemble the eight adorable Brady’s.  In fact, much of what I experienced during my childhood years was chaos and dysfunction – something I am only now, in adulthood, deciphering.

Almost eleven years ago, I remarried, throwing my children and his into family mode.   We had agreed, while dating, that kids came first – a decree which protects children during the courtship phase of a relationship, but threatens to destroy it once the marriage is finalized.

Unlike the Brady’s, our children ranged from eleven to twenty-nine at the time of our nuptials, and many were either out of the nest or just about to be – a situation that would, from the outside, appear to be congenial.

Grown-up children, however, can be just as disruptive to the family as dependent ones.  Such is the case that has prompted this post.

My oldest daughter, now thirty-three and a mother herself, is strong-minded and determined, not unlike my husband, and a clash between the two is common.    As the mother and wife of the parties involved, I am inevitably caught in the middle – a fault, I am coming to realize, that is totally my own.

Despite my efforts to break the habit, I am an incorrigible people-pleaser.  When either party takes a stand in opposition to the other, I want to rush in the middle and negotiate a plea bargain.  I want them both to be happy.  I can see both sides and am personally affronted that they cannot.  Inevitably, taking such a position only places me in the line of fire, with one or both of them angry at me.

When will I learn?  th-1

Being a family (any family) means that there will be differences of opinion (okay), moments of dissension (also okay), and times of peace (even if short-lived).  It is all part of growing and bonding together.

Life is not all always a Disney ride.  So why do I feel so compelled to try make it one?

As in all things, I learn one step at a time.  I backed out this time, set a boundary and said: “I am not involved”.  And guess what?  They didn’t kill each other.  They both walked away mad, and then came to a compromise, and the problem was resolved – something that might not have happened, had I kept poking my nose into the mix.

Trust the process, V.J., I need to keep telling myself.  We all have the right to learn in our way, and a meddling mother/wife only delays progress.

I suspect this people-pleasing addiction has more to do with my past – wanting to rewrite family dynamics – than it does with current issues.  The lines between the past and the present are always so blurred.