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"My mother is accusing my husband of unfairly treating his step-daughter"

Dear Ayal,

I have a nine-year-old daughter from my first marriage. My ex-husband and I were divorced when she was three. He really wasn't the "model" father and she expressed some behavioral problems throughout it all. When she was six, he was killed in a boating accident. At that time, I had been with my fiance for one year. We have been together for almost four years and have had another daughter since then now sixteen months old.

My mother is constantly picking apart my husband telling him that he doesn't treat my older daughter as "fairly" as he treats our younger daughter. Recently she came over while I was at work and while he was at home and totally "ripped" into him regarding this issue. She called him names, yelling, and finally left. All while both my daughters were in the home. Now she wants nothing to do with him and it has upset my entire life. I wanted to have a family relationship but she is trying to control every issue. What to do?

Hi. Well, firstly, I am concerned that you did not mention what you are doing to help your older daughter with her behavioral difficulties. Does she still have them? You mention quite briefly that her father was not a model father. What does that mean? Was she mistreated? I am wondering more right now about your lack of concern for her, as it appears, or your focus of priorities. What are you doing to help this child? It sounds as if your mother is being an advocate, albeit an angry one, for her. How about you? It's YOUR job to be her defender and advocate and to do all you can for her well being. Are you doing that? If not, why not? How DOES your husband relate to her? Is it true that she is not given the same love as the other daughter? If so, where is your concern about that? And if so, what do you plan to do about that? Are you more concerned with having a husband than taking care of your child? Are you intimidated by him in any way? You seem to want to defend your husband against attacks. How about your daughter and being there for her needs as well? Where are you at with your ability to be self empowered and do what you need to do?

I think that if you do your job of taking care of your daughter, your mother won't feel she has to, and that will alleviate the problem.

If you want a wonderful family, you have to be the one who can create that. Remember, everything in your life is created by you to mirror an issue going on for you. Everything is a mirror for something about ourselves. Your mother seems angry that something in the family dynamic is not working. I think she is acting as a serious wake up call for you. Where do you bury your head in the sand and not see or deal with what you need to in your family that needs some help? Where are you in fear and not standing up for what you know to be the right thing to do?

 
Hey Chris - I want to answer you a bit more - I didn't address what you were actually asking about, which is the situation with your mother. What I'd like to share with you is this: you have every right to set boundaries in your home regarding what you will allow in your home and how you will allow those in your home to be treated. Your husband is a grown man however, and it is up to him also to speak with your mother and work things out with her, if possible. It sounds as if she has a lot of upset going on, and the best way to work through things with people is to hear what they have to say and to let them know that you have heard them. If you can do this without feeling hurt or destroyed yourself, if you can allow them to express and you stay clear that this is how THEY feel, and how THEY are choosing to see things due to their own personal make-up, their own experiences, the issues and filters they see through, and not take it on - it is a very good thing to do. It's called "mirroring" them. You become a mirror - you state back to them what you think you heard them say to let them know that they have been heard and understood, and you check in to see if you got it right by ending it with a question, such as "is that right?"

Examples of mirroring are : "If I understood you correctly, what I hear you saying is that....." Or, "I hear that you are very upset (angry, troubled, hurt, whatever) when you see such and such happening, or when so and so said that (etc.), is that right?" Or "I hear you saying that you feel ..... when ........ , is that right?" Or you might say "Tell me more" when they share a bit, to really help them release it and get it out - if you can handle still being there for them in a non-judgmental way. You don't try to fix it, or give advice. You're just being a mirror for them to help them see and feel what is troubling them by gently repeating it back to them. If you do a good job, you'll get a big "yes, that's it!" or "Exactly!" or some such response from them. If they say "no it's this way...." then you try to mirror them again and see if you can get what they are going through and trying to share.

When people have been understood on this deep level, without judgment, they are freed of a lot of burden and they are usually able to move on and relate in a better way because they feel loved, which is what they are needing. Love and understanding. It's quite amazing what happens. A person who can be a good mirrorer is a great gift to everyone. When people feel heard, they usually gain a better perspective of what's really going on for them and they end up working things out for themselves. They just need to get it out and feel safe, (not judged or criticized), sharing what they are going through.

If someone shares something that does affect you or trouble you about yourself or something in your life, then that means that there may be some truth in it and something important for you to look at. If, at that point, you are unable to mirror them anymore because you yourself are starting to get upset, then you say something like "I appreciate your sharing with me, and I realize I am unable to hear more at this time because I need to think about some things ....etc. "

However, it also sounds to me as if you are facing issues of setting your boundaries in a clear way. If your mother doesn't want to work things out, but simply wants to harangue you, or if what she does brings disharmony to your home, then you need to speak your truth to her and tell her that she is welcome in your home with certain boundaries. She is not welcome to attack your family, etc. She is not welcome to criticize, etc. Again, however, your husband has a relationship with her as well, and as an adult it is his responsibility to work things out with her as lovingly and clearly as possible.

She can't have control over your life unless you relinquish that control to her. Right?

I'm not sure if what I picked up on in my first response to you felt true to you or not. I hope that if there is truth in it, that you will also set boundaries within your own nuclear family. If your husband does not treat your first daughter fairly, just as with your mother and setting clear boundaries with her, it is up to you to set clear boundaries with him. This can be challenging to do, but it is important to be able to stand up for what we will allow in our lives, for ourselves, and for our children.

Blessings, Ayal

190. "I feel ashamed after making love with my husband"

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