MATE DEBATE: CAN YOU FORGIVE A CHEATER?
08/11/2015 Sunday, November 8, 2015; Romantic Reminders

CAN YOU FORGIVE

By Romantic Reminders

This Side

Infidelity claims the lives of successful relationships around the world every day. What we’re looking at today is whether or not the cheater should be forgiven.

Our steadfast stance on the matter is no, absolutely not – like the Swiss, we lend no quarter. Relationships are built on trust and respect, among a few other indispensable elements. These elements are the sum of a strong support foundation that can provide both guidance and backing for future challenges that couples may face. If your relationship is the kind where both parties are comfortable with the opposing person interacting intimately with other people then the ramifications of cheating do not exist. If, however, you are in a clearly determined monogamous relationship, then it is paramount to the well being of your person and to the relationship that you close that chapter in life and begin to move forward on to the next phase. By excusing your partner for having cheated, you have directly encouraged the dismantling of the sturdy foundation of which your relationship is built on, quite simply because your trust has been severed and you did nothing to stop the bleeding. In addition, there is a mega chance that once your partner has tasted the fruits of faithlessness, they will become a full blown repeat customer and cheat again. In no way shape or form will that serve any positive purpose towards the strengthening of your relationship and the love shared between the both parties. Simply put, you should not excuse your partner if they’ve engaged in infidelity, it’s a lose-lose no matter how you cut it.  

That Side

Put on your boxing gloves, folks; this one could get ugly! Can you forgive your partner for cheating on you? Oh. Fo. Sho. Unless you have some sort of predetermined agreement (in which case I believe “swinging” would be the word), cheating is not OK. But it ain’t a black and white, if/then statement (i.e. If you cheat, the relationship is over). It’s one of those “it depends” statement. You know–to exercise your brain! Here’s the deal: First off, all couples define cheating differently. Is cheating flirting? Making out? Staying over? Texting? Getting horizontal? Grinding? Becoming Facebook friends? This is an important definition, but for the purpose of the argument let’s just go with the home run. Cheating is having sex with a person who is not your partner. Ugh. Yeah, that’s a tough one to come back from, but cheating should not be the act that defines the future of your relationship. Here’s why: In some cases, cheating can basically be the cowardly way to convince you it’s over. Cheating can be the symptom of a failing relationship. Cheating can be a sticky affair, a premeditated, selfish act. In some cases, the relationship wounds caused by cheating are harder to heal, and in those cases, perhaps calling it quits is the better option. But in other cases, cheating is a short lapse in judgment. The result of a few too many gins and charm at just the right (wrong) time. An indication your relationship–or sex life–could use a little TLC. Yep, in other cases, cheating can actually be a catalyst to change and promote growth. Or, it can be the beginning of the end. See, it’s up to you how you decide to proceed if you get cheated on, and all this chitter-chatter about it being unforgivable gets in the way of making a decision that’s going to benefit you. So screw all the messages in our culture that say to end it despite the situation…that’s just gonna blur your vision. It is possible to forgive, and it is possible to heal. It doesn’t mean you have no backbone, it doesn’t mean “it’ll happen again,” and it doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed. Humans mess up, and sometimes forgiving them is the best route. Now back away from the burning barrel filled with their clothes and call a couples’ therapist!


LATE NIGHTS
16/08/2015 Sunday, August 16, 2015; Romantic Reminders

My husband and I have been married for 3 months, and before that were together for 7 years on and off. The whole time we’ve been together, there’s been one major issue: what happens when he goes out with his friends. When we were in college, he played football and was always out with the boys on Friday and Saturday nights. Sometimes he wouldn’t be home until 5 or 6am. You can imagine where my head goes at that time. After we graduated, I thought the late nights would end, but he still would spend most weekend nights out. Then I convinced myself it would change once we got married – but that didn’t happen. I feel like I’m panicking and am considering ending things with him. I’m 31 and want to have kids soon, but I don’t want to do that if I can’t be sure I’ll get the support I’ll need from him. What should I do?

I can certainly understand your frustration considering the length of time you’ve considered this the “everything’s great except ____” issue. Of course, in the same breath, it’s a testament to the strengths and values of your relationship that you’ve been together for the better part of a decade (most relationships dissolve before the 5-year mark). Your concern is a common one, as women in our culture are socialized to be relational, while men are more socialized to be independent. As a result, women tend to want to connect and are viewed as “needy,” while men feel pressured to retain a sense of autonomy and independence. Another interesting tidbit? During times of stress, women have an additional response to the fight/flight/freeze instinct — one which motivates them to connect, and referred to as “tend and befriend”. Their brains secrete more oxytocin (the “cuddle hormone”), urging them to desire closeness and connectedness. However, men in general (not exclusively by any means) are more likely to close off in reaction to this response, creating what’s known as a demand-withdrawal pattern.

Now, if this has been going on for seven years, my guess is you’ve had a conversation about it before. However, it’s common for couples to share a way of communicating about a contentious or chronic issue that gets immediately dismissed. For example, it might be that every time your partner comes home at 5am, you sleep on the couch and give him the cold shoulder for the next day. Sometime in the afternoon when he gets up, you have a disconnected conversation in which he tells you to stop controlling him and points out all the evenings he’s been home that week. You end up feeling powerless, dropping the issue, and slowly connection builds again until things are good. Now, that’s just an example — I have no idea what your “pattern” is, but my guess is that there is a pattern of sorts. It’s important to try to communicate in a different way, so that your partner really hears you, rather than dismissing it right away.

First, I encourage you to explore the issue internally to really understand the impact it has on you, and the impact you believe it has on your relationship. Some questions to consider: What exactly is the issue? What is the emotional impact the issue has on you individually – how does it make you feel when your husband stays out all night? Angry? Hurt? Disrespected? Jealous? Resentful? What message does it send you? That he doesn’t care? That he’s interested in other women? That he’s not committed? What’s the impact it has on your relationship to your partner (e.g. feelings of disconnection, resentment)?

Then, really explore realistic expectations for change. If we have unrealistic expectations, they will not be met, and we’ll continually be disappointed. What would realistic change look like? What would compromise look like? Is there a possible solution that can meet both of your needs, and the needs of the relationship? What are concrete behavioural changes that you’ll be able to measure/see change? Is there anything you can change internally, with regards to your expectations or your perception/interpretations that can be clarified or changed? Is there anything getting in the way of change right now (e.g. resistance, egos, lack of resources, addictions, etc.)?

Finally, as you two continue to transition from young adulthood to middle adulthood, whereupon the relationship dyad becomes primary (as opposed to the peer group), my guess is that you will notice less nights “out with the boys.” That being said, hoping for change is not enough. If you aren’t getting the cooperation you expect from your partner, there might come a point where you need to make a decision as to whether or not this is a “deal-breaker,” or whether or not you can accept this behaviour or find a way of managing your frustration around it. This is not to say that you should take that route; however, when we feel powerless or hopeless towards a behaviour of our partner’s, and don’t want to remove ourselves from the relationship, it is generally less painful to work towards expecting, accepting, and finding a way to negotiate this behaviour rather than struggle against it.

Warmly,
Megan Bruneau, M.A. RCC

Although many individuals share similar concerns relating to their relationship advice, no two persons or couples are the same. Romantic Reminders’ Registered Clinical Counsellor, Megan Bruneau, provides professional advice that some might find helpful influencing how they consider approaching their concern; however, her advice is by no means a substitute for couple’s therapy or one-on-one professional help. Megan advises all of her clients to seek relationship support in the form of a trained professional if their situation grants them the opportunity to do so. Additionally, if physical or emotional abuse, addictions, or mental illness are present in your relationship, this advice likely will not be suitable or sufficient for you. Instead, individual and couple therapy are strongly recommended.


HEALTHY COMPETITION
05/08/2015 Wednesday, August 5, 2015; Romantic Reminders

lesbian-couple

I’m sort of embarrassed to admit this, but it feels like my girlfriend of two years and I are competing. I went back to start my Masters, then she applied to do hers the following semester. Last June, she started eating better and exercising more and lost 20 lbs, and all of a sudden there I was signing up for Crossfit and counting carbs. Sometimes, it’s harmless, but other times I feel like we can’t be happy for each other because we’re too focused on one-upping each other (or at least, that’s how I feel). Got any advice?

Competition in relationships (particularly ones in the dating stage) is actually quite common. The research on competition suggests that we’re most likely to compete in areas that matter to our identity, and even more if it’s with people with whom we relate or share commonalities. For example, with any partner I’ve ever had, I’ve actually felt quite angry if they’ve beaten me in tennis. However, if they schooled me in say, replacing brake pads, I didn’t give a crap. Some believe this is because if we are outperformed in skill areas that are integral to our confidence, self-esteem, and identity, our self-worth in undermined.

Some suggest it is within sibling relationships that we develop such tendencies, competing for our parents’ love and validation. This then transfers from the parent/child relationship to the romantic relationship. Some suggest that, before the couple truly considers itself a unit (which often happens during marriage), they still feel the need to prove themselves as individuals. Of course, chances are, there’s a combination of things contributing to the presence of competition in your relationship.

So, what to do? Well, first, check in with yourself and acknowledge how it makes you feel when your partner does something that leaves you wanting to compete. This will be an important indicator for creating change. Vulnerable? Afraid? Angry? Threatened? People generally feel a need to “prove themselves” if they feel as though their worth is being threatened, or that they might not be “good enough.”

Then, bring attention to it with your girlfriend. Perhaps not during her thesis defense, or when you’re having people over for dinner and she brings out the crème brulée you’d expressed interest in learning to make, but sometime when you know you’ll have the time and the environment to discuss things. Use “I feel” statements to avoid bringing about defensiveness—e.g: “There’s something I’ve been wanting to bring up with you. I’ve been noticing something happening in our relationship, and I’m wondering if you notice it, too: Sometimes I get the sense that we’re competing. This leaves me feeling vulnerable, confused, and frustrated. What do you think?”

Now, if she says, “OMG I notice it too — I’m so glad you brought it up,” then the topic is now open and you can discuss it. Voice your shared responsibility contributing to the issue: (e.g. I’ve been thinking about it, and I have a feeling the reason I feel a need to compete is because I worry I won’t be good enough for you/myself if I don’t outperform you), and suggest ideas for change or brainstorming (e.g. I’m going to make a point to pay attention to when I feel the sense that I’m competing with you). Now, it’s also typical for people to get defensive when they’re feeling accused of something. Although “I” statements tend to decrease the possibility for this to happen (as opposed to “You” statements that tend to seem accusatory) she may not have the same insight, or might feel accused or embarrassed and act defensive as a result. If you receive a defensive or denying reaction, focus on what you can do to notice when you’re comparing and change your reaction.

Use immediacy when you notice competition is putting a wedge between your relationship. Some couples find it helpful to use a word — in this case, perhaps “comparing” might fit. For example, if you find yourself feeling competitive, say “comparing” either in your head or out loud, and check into what you are feeling. Perhaps an urge to prove yourself is coming out of feeling threatened or insecure. Notice this urge. Be curious about it. Don’t judge it. Then, rather than reacting with a need to “one up,” sit with that feeling of inadequacy and give yourself a compassionate statement such as “I’m feeling a need to compete right now because that’s a habit I’ve been in for a long time. Initially, I thought competing would make me more loveable, but I now realize this habit does not serve my relationship, and I realize the real accomplishment is not reacting to my urge to compete.”

If you receive a positive response from your loved one that invites discussion, I encourage you to explore areas where it might be better, at least for now, to do some things individually rather than as a couple (e.g. if you find your Crossfit classes aren’t enjoyable because you’re too focused on outperforming each other, it might be a better idea to take classes at different times for now), and to instead do something more “fun” together (take an art class, join a recreational softball team).

Finally, it’s likely that as your relationship continues to develop and feel more secure (and as you begin to feel more secure with yourself), the desire to compete will decrease. However, it likely won’t hurt to say something like, “I love you regardless of what you achieve or how long you run for. I want to be with you because of the person you are, not because of how you look on paper”.

Warmly,
Megan Bruneau, M.A. RCC

Although many individuals share similar concerns relating to their romantic relationships, no two persons or couples are the same. Romantic Reminders’ Registered Clinical Counsellor, Megan Bruneau, provides professional advice that some might find helpful influencing how they consider approaching their concern; however, her advice is by no means a substitute for couple’s therapy or one-on-one professional help. Megan advises all of her clients to seek relationship support in the form of a trained professional if their situation grants them the opportunity to do so. Additionally, if physical or emotional abuse, addictions, or mental illness are present in your relationship, this advice likely will not be suitable or sufficient for you. Instead, individual and couple therapy are strongly recommended.


DOES OCCUPATIONAL COMPATIBILITY EXIST IN RELATIONSHIPS?
19/10/2014 Sunday, October 19, 2014; Romantic Reminders


By Jamie Rea, Romantic Reminders

Does what you and your significant other do for a living have an affect on your relationship?
The bond you share with someone and the way that your personalities combine together is what really creates chemistry and compatibility, and not what you do to make your living. But your job and career do have some very important add-on factors that help contribute to compatibility in your relationship


BRINGING UP BABY
23/09/2014 Tuesday, September 23, 2014; Romantic Reminders

BRINGING UP BABY

My wife and I have very different views on child-rearing. I’m more of the “throw them in the pool and they’ll learn to swim” mindset, and she won’t even let them go in the shallow end. It’s creating a lot of tension between us, and I think it’s confusing our little one. I don’t want to end up raising overprotected, fearful kids, and even more so, I don’t want our different philosophies to ruin our marriage. What’s the right thing to do?

Parenting, like putting together IKEA furniture, is something you can read about, watch Youtube videos on, and have explained to you in detail; but until you’re actually sitting there with what seems like an alarming surplus of screws and hinges and lack of tools, trying to correctly interpret the cryptic pictorial directions, cursing, injuring yourself, feeling frustrated and defeated, and quitting numerous times in the process, do you realize that it’s something you figure out as you go and privately hope you won’t quit or destroy your product in the process. What’s more, marital satisfaction tends to decline considerably following the birth of a couple’s first child — a statistic that is likely partially influenced by conflict around parenting, but also around the financial demands, new responsibilities, and other factors that put stress and restrictions on the couple. A couple under more stress is more likely to experience more conflict.

As you can probably imagine, there is a lot of research out there on parenting. Study after study has revealed that an authoritative parenting style — one that is characterized by high expectations and high support – coupled with inductive reasoning (when parents explain rationale for discipline and choices), produce prosocial behaviour and positive emotional health in children. An example would be, “I expect you to meet my standards, but I still love you regardless of whether or not you do.”

The strengths in this parenting style remain consistent across cultures, although there are some exceptions to the rule (there are always exceptions!). For example, if children are being raised in dangerous neighborhoods, an authoritarian parenting style is necessary for children’s safety. Interestingly, though, studies show that what’s more important than the parenting style is the “coparenting alliance” (the degree to which parents cooperate, show warmth towards each other, low competition and low “verbal sparring”). It’s common for couples to develop a “good cop/bad cop” dynamic in their parenting styles, and that’s just fine. You don’t have to be the exact same. Generally, one will be more strict and one more laissez-faire. Consistency is most important for things like mealtimes, curfews, bedtime, sharing, non-violence, manners, and respect, for example, so not to confuse the child or create tension in the relationship. Discuss with your partner what values are important that you instill in your children, while acknowledging that flexibility, re-evaluation, and discussion will inevitably be necessary.

Additionally, it can be beneficial for both of you to take some time to understand and have empathy for each other’s parenting style. Perhaps you learned it from your parents, or believe it is the “right” way. Biologically and socially, women tend to be more nurturing (in general – there are many situations in which the father is the more nurturing half of the parental unit), while men tend to value and instill autonomy and independence. Acknowledge the common goal that you share of raising healthy, happy children. Consider taking a parenting course together, which most communities offer, so neither of you is viewed as the “expert.”

Finally, make sure that you’re taking time together as a couple. Some parents believe that, once children are born, everything should be done as a family. However, experts stress the importance of continuing to nurture the couple unit in addition to the family unit. Utilizing “Romantic Reminders” is a great way to do this, ensuring you have at least one occasion every couple of weeks that requires a babysitter.

Warmly,
Megan Bruneau, M.A. RCC

Although many individuals share similar concerns relating to their relationship advice, no two persons or couples are the same. Romantic Reminders’ Registered Clinical Counsellor, Megan Bruneau, provides professional advice that some might find helpful influencing how they consider approaching their concern; however, her advice is by no means a substitute for couple’s therapy or one-on-one professional help. Megan advises all of her clients to seek relationship support in the form of a trained professional if their situation grants them the opportunity to do so. Additionally, if physical or emotional abuse, addictions, or mental illness are present in your relationship, this advice likely will not be suitable or sufficient for you. Instead, individual and couple therapy are strongly recommended.


MATE DEBATE: I’M FINE
10/07/2014 Thursday, July 10, 2014; Romantic Reminders

i'm fine

By Romantic Reminders

This Side

The most loaded, three-word phrase is not, “I love you”… it’s “I am fine”. Generally speaking, these words have nothing to do with being fine, in fact, quite the...

That Side

Guys, if you come home, and ask your partner how she’s doing and she says, “I’m fine”, you have just walked onto a landmine.  You know her...


AT A LOSS
10/07/2014 Thursday, July 10, 2014; Romantic Reminders

depressed-man1

My husband and I have shared a wonderful 13-year partnership, most of which has been amazing. He travels a fair amount for work, but we talk on the phone almost every night that he’s away. We have two kids (age 9 and 4), and he’s great with them. Recently, he revealed to me that he believes he has struggled with depression his whole life. He even told me he’s thought about suicide before. I’m at a loss. I feel so guilty for not knowing what he was going through, but I also feel angry that he thought about leaving the kids and me, and hurt and betrayed that he kept such a huge secret from me and didn’t come to me for support. Does this mean he doesn’t trust me? Now I feel like I can’t trust him. I feel deceived. But then I feel guilty for feeling angry and hurt and deceived. How could I have missed it? I want to talk to someone about it, but I’m embarrassed to tell my friends. I also want to help him but don’t know how.

I’m really glad you brought this question to me. It sounds like you’ve been through a pretty emotionally-exhausting experience processing this information your husband has shared with you. As depression affects ~15% of Canadians, it’s quite common for one or both partners in a relationship to struggle with it; but, because of the stigma that still exists around mental health issues, most people don’t talk about it or feel comfortable bringing it up. I see a need for both emotional and practical support in this situation.

Let me start with emotional: Firstly, I see what are called both primary and secondary emotions coming up for you in this situation. The primary emotions you are feeling are shock, anger, hurt, betrayal, confusion, anxiety, and guilt for not knowing. The secondary emotions are the emotions you feel for feeling some of those primary emotions — i.e. the guilt for feeling angry, hurt, and betrayed. You have every right to feel angry and hurt and deceived. Our emotions serve a purpose, so please try to practice self-compassion and recognize that your hurt, anger and betrayal all come from not being informed of your husband’s struggle. In a society that values openness in relationships, him hiding his depression may be viewed as deceitful. So, make space for those primary emotions (i.e. allow them to be there), and the secondary ones will likely dissipate.

I hear you being hard on yourself for not helping your partner, and not knowing. Yet, from the sounds of it, he was not ready to bring attention to the topic (and thus probably hid it well), or perhaps he only really became convinced of it recently. There are a number of reasons as to why he might have done this: perhaps he was afraid you might view him as “broken” and leave him? Perhaps he thought it might make him be perceived as a less capable father? Perhaps he thought he could “get over it” on his own? Perhaps he didn’t want it to put strain on your relationship? Perhaps he was ashamed or in disbelief (particularly in men, there is much shame around depression, as society shapes them to be strong and independent and not needing help). But, this is just speculation. When there’s space to do so, I encourage you to have this conversation with him.

Now, there are 3 practical areas that I see as needing support from your question: Yourself, your husband, and the relationship. I will speak to each of these:

For yourself: You know how when you’re on a plane, they always emphasize the importance of putting the oxygen mask on yourself before helping your loved ones? Same goes for real life. If you are suffering, not only will you not be able to be helpful, you risk building resentment towards your partner and setting the premise of a caregiver/cared-for relationship that is not reciprocal. Who are your supports? Who can you call to talk about this? What can you do to take care of yourself? How do you manage stress and difficult feelings? Depression in a relationship affects more than just the individual whose mind it occupies, so ensure you’re treating yourself with the same (if not more) compassion, patience, and understanding as your loved ones. You can expect to experience a whole gamut of emotions and thoughts, right from “I should have been able to mitigate my husband’s depression” to “Our entire relationship was a lie”. These are thoughts, not truths, and, as I mentioned previously, you could not have known he was struggling (it sounds like he wasn’t fully aware, himself!). So, I encourage you to seek out counselling support yourself, or check out a family members support group. I also encourage you to discuss with your partner sharing your experience with a friend or family member so that you can gain support. If he is adamantly opposed to the depression being known by others, it’s important for you to respect that. However, perhaps there is still a way you might be able to seek support from friends/family for yourself that does not reveal the nature of his struggle. And, as I mentioned before, your own personal counselling could be an excellent, safe and confidential resource for navigating things from here forward.

For supporting your husband: Particularly as a woman and mother in your relationship, my guess is that you identify as being caring, nurturing, and helping, and might feel as though his well-being is partially your responsibility. As members of an intimate partnership, you both share responsibility to contribute, so it’s important to both allow and expect him to be supporting and caring for you (and the kids as well) alongside the depression. I believe in the all individuals’ resilience, and by respecting his ability to help, you will be more likely to empower him. Ultimately, he has to make the decision as to what he wants to do to seek help; however, by saying it out loud, he has made the most difficult step. I encourage you to ask him what he’s considered in terms of treatment, leaving the decision in his hands. If he is uncertain where to go, your family physician is an excellent first step.

For your relationship: It sounds like you feel your relationship has taken a blow. This is completely understandable given your feelings of betrayal, and also most likely completely repairable. Ask yourself, what questions do you need answered from your husband to help build back your trust? What do you believe your responsibilities are as partner – not counselor or doctor – but as a partner in a reciprocal relationship? If and when space allows, it might be helpful to ask him what he expects from you. If those expectations seem realistic and are in line with what you expect from yourself, explore how you can best set yourself up to meet those expectations most of the time. If those expectations exceed what you expect from yourself or seem unrealistic, it is important to consider a compromise (if this cannot be achieved, I strongly recommend that you access a third party/counselor to help).

Warmly,
Megan Bruneau, M.A. RCC

Although many individuals share similar concerns relating to their relationship advice, no two persons or couples are the same. Romantic Reminders’ Registered Clinical Counsellor, Megan Bruneau, provides professional advice that some might find helpful influencing how they consider approaching their concern; however, her advice is by no means a substitute for couple’s therapy or one-on-one professional help. Megan advises all of her clients to seek relationship support in the form of a trained professional if their situation grants them the opportunity to do so. Additionally, if physical or emotional abuse, addictions, or mental illness are present in your relationship, this advice likely will not be suitable or sufficient for you. Instead, individual and couple therapy are strongly recommended.


Step by Step
14/03/2014 Friday, March 14, 2014; Romantic Reminders

photo_1565_20060515

My husband has three kids from a former marriage, and I swear his ex-wife is feeding them lies about me and trying to turn them against me. We have joint custody, so every second week they’re with us. They’re so awful to me, but I feel like I can’t discipline them because it’s not my place. My husband doesn’t seem to get it… they’re pretty angelic around him, but as soon as he’s gone they turn into little sh#ts. I hate to say it, but I’m seriously wondering if this relationship is worth it. What do I do?

Gaining a step-family through marriage can be a challenging transition — often made more difficult by “evil stepmother” stereotypes and the expectation that you must love your stepchildren right away or treat them as your own; still, with re-marriage rates on the rise, step-families are becoming more and more prevalent. Unlike first marriage families in which marital satisfaction begins high and then declines, satisfaction in step-family marriages typically begins low and then climbs. As a result, the risk of divorce in step-families is greatest within the first two years.

It’s a difficult position to navigate: how does one meet their role of new wife, a time that society paints to be joyful and fulfilling, and stepmother, a challenging and overwhelming position?

Firstly, I encourage you to look at the expectations you’re placing on yourself. Are you expecting yourself to immediately develop a strong relationship with the children? Are you expecting yourself to remain calm and let their behaviour slide off your back? Being able to express your emotions and seek out good support are important tools during this challenging adjustment. You are very much allowed to feel frustrated, powerless, disappointed, trapped, angry, confused, uncertain. It sounds like you don’t necessarily feel comfortable discussing it with your husband, which, again, is quite common. Biological parents will often side with their children in a new step-marriage (called “triangulation”). While ultimately you do want to be able to gain support from your husband about this, I encourage you to access other friends/family supports for venting and validating purposes; your partner might feel conflicted and anxious about the situation initially, and not provide you with the support you need.

You’re correct to lay off disciplinary duties for now. It is important for the stepparent to focus on relationship building in initial stages, and for the biological parent to be the disciplinarian. Once you’ve developed a stronger relationship to the children, that can change, but for now focus on finding common ground and being a consistent and compassionate presence.

Additionally, you’ll want to take time away from the kids as a couple. Now, in your situation, it might be easier to do this initially during the week that you don’t have the kids (so not to give the impression that you’re taking away from time with Dad). Eventually, though, once more trust and connection is built, it will be important to set the precedent that you two also need time on your own in order to benefit the step-family unit.

Another piece to keep in mind is that transition between households can be very difficult for children, and so their acting-out might not be a result of their mother’s comments — it could simply be a result of the adjustment to a different environment.

Depending on the developmental stage of the children, you can try out telling them how you feel in a compassionate but assertive way: E.g. “I really want us to be able to develop a relationship. I don’t expect you to like me right away — it takes time to get to know people before we like them — but I feel hurt when you (specific behaviour).”

I do want to stress the importance of ultimately gaining support and understanding from your partner. Otherwise, this issue will likely breed resentment for you and leave you feeling angry and unsupported. As I said, you might not gain this overnight considering the anxiety and confusion the situation might be causing him. Explain to him how you feel, and, with understanding of his position as well, ask for him what you need (e.g. a sit down with the kids requesting their respect and effort, etc).

Finally, some people find practicing a compassionate meditation to be a helpful strategy if they’re having trouble finding patience and compassion for a person or persons. Find a comfortable seat, and imagine feeling compassion for someone you really love. Really sit in these feelings of warmth and love, then actively try to send these feelings to the children. Compassion for their struggle, and awareness of their developmental stage, may help dissipate feelings of anger towards them.

Warmly,
Megan Bruneau, M.A. RCC

Although many individuals share similar concerns relating to their romantic relationships, no two persons or couples are the same. Romantic Reminders’ Registered Clinical Counsellor, Megan Bruneau, provides professional advice that some might find helpful influencing how they consider approaching their concern; however, her advice is by no means a substitute for couple’s therapy or one-on-one professional help. Megan advises all of her clients to seek relationship support in the form of a trained professional if their situation grants them the opportunity to do so. Additionally, if physical or emotional abuse, addictions, or mental illness are present in your relationship, this advice likely will not be suitable or sufficient for you. Instead, individual and couple therapy are strongly recommended.

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