Saturday, June 29, 2013

Month of June

June has often been a calamitous month for me and so it was this year. For three years since I married DB, I watched him decline in physical and mental health a helpless bystander who speaks a language foreign to him. There was no way I knew to make a connection, say or do something that would spark resonance. Change always seemed right around the corner - I celebrated little victories and hoped to build on them. Yet each time a tidal wave of missteps swept it all away and I was back to chasing the mirage that is to find a common vocabulary with him. 

His problems were overwhelmingly big for me to solve. I chose to run away from them in fear and pray for the best outcome. Then one evening this summer he nearly died. After several days, he came home a man completely unlike the one I had married. I can't remember how many times I looked at our wedding pictures in those days that I was with him in the hospital. The pain was so intense that I could not even feel it after a point. I went through anger, denial and grief over the incident and after all was done turned into a human bot that does what is required without emotion. That has been my coping mechanism of choice for dealing with all that is unresolved, unsolved and hurting in marriage.

A girl I know is getting married tomorrow. Her story is similar to mine in many ways except the child is his from his previous marriage. They look completely invincible in their pictures. In trying to write my note to congratulate her, I could not help thinking of DB and I when we were engaged to be married - we projected a very similar aura. We had both beat some very serious odds and made to where we were in our individual lives. It seemed like together we could only do so much better. That some some Junes ago.


Ardra said...

I hope DB is healing in every way, and so are you...

love and prayers

Radhika said...

Hi HC,

I check your blog regularly and I've been wondering about why you have not been posting as much. I hope these hard times don't last long for you and DB. Hugs and prayers!


Heartcrossings said...

Ardra, Radhika - Thank you for your kind words and good wishes for us..

Anonymous said...

Sorry to read this post. Wishing DB , you and J good times ahead. Your description of a human bot doing what needs to be done was very poignant.



ggop said...

Thinking of you HC - lost these posts in the whole Google Reader demise. I hope dismal June makes way for a more hopeful July. I wish you and DB well..

Anonymous said...

I wish you and DB peace, and happiness. Go easy on DB - unconditional love and support are the only ones that can resolve something like this.

It is hard to be the spouse of a person with sole custody of a child. The parent and child in many cases become a tightly-knit unit not trusting or allowing anyone into that inner circle. The child, used to being center of parent's world, is reluctant to share the parent with the newcomer though he/she may like the stepparent as a person. An insecure child often uses the only power left to him/her: saying and doing anything they can to discredit the stepparent. Watch "Parent Trap" to see what I mean.

Management principles say that trust/authority and responsibility go hand in hand. Often and especially in sole custody situations, the parent may expect the stepparent to become an idealized version of parent. On the other hand the parent may not trust the stepparent in a parenting role, and maybe overly critical of whatever the stepparent does. Add to this mix an insecure child who may complain about stepparent and a super-tight parent-child bond, and there is recipe for depression in the stepparent.

Am in the same situation, except married to sole custody dad of a daughter. Have battled depression, panic disorder, and suicidal tendencies ever since my 3 year marriage. Only my sense of responsibility and some logic still left after fleeing that impossible situation at year #2 keeps me from acting on the suicidal tendencies. Am recovering now, slowly and steadily.

I know of three marriages where a person was married to a parent with sole custody. One marriage was saved on the brink of divorce, through counseling: counselor advised the couple to live apart and forge an adult relationship without involving the child. In two other marriages (including mine) - the stepparent fled to another state to escape the impossible and often suffocating situation where one is damned if they do, and damned if they don't and nothing they do is right or good enough.

I wish you and DB peace, and happiness. Would not have written this comment, but the statement about DB's problems being too big for you to solve gave me pause. My spouse too said I was the one with problems. He and his child himself are/were perfect. You seem like a sensible person, so I hope you are not suffering from that same mindset.

Please don't misunderstand me.
The stepparent has a side that often gets neglected/ignored. Sole custody parents can act as though no one else except their child has any feelings. Invalidated feelings are driven underground, result is deep depression.

I wish you all the best. Good luck, and God bless.

Heartcrossings said...

Anon, ggop - Thank you for your good wishes for my family..

Anon - Thank you for your perspective of the step parent. I am sure there is a lot that DB has had to deal with because J and I were a family unit and he was the add on.

Fortunately for him, J has never not accepted him.. Her biological father has never been in her life. DB is the only father she knows. He has legally adopted her. That said, it is a huge responsibility to take on as an outsider and I am sure that has had a part in his decline.

I struggle with understanding how I can support him. Support the way he understands it and what I am able to provide are so far apart that there seems to be no way to meet..

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
Stepparent again. Don't know your exact situation but here are some suggestions based on what would've worked for me (I said the same to my spouse and it fell on deaf ears):

1. If DB does some activity with J differently than you do, accept it as his long as it is harmless, it need not be perfect.

2. Since DB has adopted J, he is a parent too. Let him have a say in things, ask his opinion every time be it a car purchase or vacation destination (one common pitfall is birth parent and child deciding jointly on something, and expecting new parent to just follow along). You and DB are the partners, J is the child. If this equation is not clear, feelings of being sidelined will ensue.

3. Make time to know DB outside the parenting context. For many sole custody parents, as they have been the "only" parent for a while, they feel enormous guilt to even think of leaving child with a friend or sitter for a few hours to go out with partner. But child-free times are important for adult bonding. These are the good memories that tide one through rough crossings. Think of them as a cushion, that will soften any subsequent fall. During such times don't talk of family problems or child-related issues. This is your bonding time.

4. I know married couples (first marriage, common children) who leave children with grandparents for a week and take a holiday together once a year. They say it strengthens the marriage bond, and the child(ren)'s bond with grandparents. If such an option is available, take it (again, no guilt). Often parents' focus is on child(ren), and getting away helps each person focus on partner for a while.

5. Accept DB's parenting mistakes as honest mistakes that are part of parenting. We as parents make mistakes without being labeled 'evil'. But stepparents are somehow expected to know everything from the get-go. This sort of pressure is paralyzing, and the fear of failure becomes a roadblock. So go easy.

6. Never berate spouse in front of child or undermine him in front of child. Berating spouse in front of child is a terrible blow, and makes them feel like an outsider. Handle disagreements delicately

7. Let DB and J handle any disagreements between them, on their own. If you need to intervene do so diplomatically without taking sides.

8. Allow DB and J to bond on their own terms, without any pressure to become "perfect dad". Perfection takes a few years...and even birth parents are not perfect.

9. Don't automatically take child's side and justify it with "I am all she has". This is alienating no matter which way you look at it.

10. Notice and appreciate the little thoughtful things DB does for you or for J, or both. Some kids don't like stepparents being praised, parents need to step in here and say "in a family everyone should feel loved/appreciated/included. How will you feel if...." etc.

11. In a family everyone's needs are important - sometimes one person's needs are more important than others - but it is important to take the time to acknowledge everyone's needs and feelings. Long-ignored needs deepen wounds and erode trust.

Again, not sure of your exact situation but I wish my spouse had done the above for me, and made me feel like part of it all. He took the easy route, sided with his child always, acted like no one except child had any feelings. The two of them are doing great now, and as I heal from the wounds of the last 2 years, I wish them well......from a distance.