Early on in my stepfamily life I wanted to get on well with everyone, be happy, be energetic and be everyone’s friend – especially the children. For me, the desire to be accepted by them was significant. My stepchildren were then 3 and 9.
The desire to be accepted was present at different levels for each of the children. With the 3 year old the need wasn’t so great. I was comfortable reminding her to pick something up or to explain how something was a bit naughty. But it was very different with the 9 year old.
He needed reminding about things too, but I couldn’t bring myself to do the job out of fear of becoming a nag and being disliked by him. Consequently I bit me lip on.
Did the lip biting have a negative effect?
Yes. I became more negative and frustrated towards my stepson and that had an impact on my relationship with my partner. It got to the stage where I could hardly be in the same room as my stepson without noticing something he was doing ‘wrong’.
I didn’t tell his dad at risk of nagging and moaning and I didn’t want to alienate myself with my stepson (which I was doing through my non-verbal communication anyway).
The pressure was building within me and I wasn’t enjoying being a stepmum at all. Something had to change.
You must learn how to communicate your needs effectively
I learnt a long time ago that you can’t control or change other people and that you need to be the change you want to see. So I realised that it was me who needed to change, not my stepson.
Through exploring what was going wrong I discovered that I wasn’t communicating my needs effectively. In fact I discovered that I’d NEVER been any good at communicating my needs and was probably even suppressing them.
So what are our needs? These are going to be different for us all but generally we all need to be loved, understood, to feel connected, to feel special, to feel secure, respected, listened too, etc.
By not communicating what I needed I wasn’t helping myself or my family. In fact I was doing the opposite. Once I realised this I knew it was my responsibility, for the success and health of my family, to make sure I communicated what I needed. So I discovered how to do that.
After over 30 years of not communicating my needs I do still need to make a conscious effort to get it right.
What are the results?
Now I easily get 10 minutes peace and quiet after dinner. The children put their washing in the laundry basket, take care of a few tasks around the house and speak to me with more “pleases” and “thank yous” than before.
These few simple things have made a positive difference to my family. Things run more smoothly now and I have a more peaceful state of mind!
Until next time!