(Kicking the High-Conflict Habit)
It’s a cycle we’re desperate to break. We’re angry, so we ruminate, which makes us angrier, and so we ruminate some more. The anger and the insecurity means something to us – it’s evidence to us that what we’ve been through, what we’re going through, isn’t right. We’re justified in feeling this way, and slowly our pain starts to define us.
Through the emotional bombardment, we’re vaguely conscious that having our stepchild’s mother tap-dance devilishly around our minds probably isn’t doing anything for our mental wellbeing. I came to this realisation after my partner told me that my teeth grinding was keeping him awake at night.
I was actually quite reluctant to do anything about it at first. I thought that by not thinking about the things that were upsetting me, the people who were hurting us were getting away with it. I’m now so blissfully happy that I did though, and that I slowly started to find some peace – and I know you will be too.
Here are three hot, practical tips for regaining some control, which you can put into practice immediately. Good luck, and let us know how you get on!
[And of course, remember that what you’re going through isn’t easy, and it’s actually not normal by most people’s standards. If you are really struggling, nothing can replace professional qualified advice. Never be ashamed about asking for help.]
Tip Number 1 – The Stopwatch
This might seem completely bonkers but bear with me.
When you find yourself thinking about your stepchild’s mother, start your stopwatch on your phone.
Allow yourself a tiny amount of rumination time – I’m talking a few minutes max.
Once that time is up, move on to whatever it is you were in the middle of, to begin with.
At the end of the day, write down how much time you allowed yourself to dwell on her.
Keep doing this for as long as you find that she’s taking up too much space in your big, beautiful brain.
Being intentional about the time you spend thinking about her makes you more aware and, as a result, more in control. Eventually, you’ll start to see those numbers coming down, and one day that stopwatch will lie untouched.
Hurrah, a sense of achievement that you can actually measure! Because measurable goals become tangible achievements. Pat yourself and have a cheeky something-or-other on me.
This also works for social media stalking. Oh don’t look at me like that – we’ve all done it, and it never feels good. I will never tell you to just stop though, it’s not always that straightforward, but being aware of how you’re spending your time will go some way to helping you kick the habit.
If there is just one thing in this world that stepmothers need less of, it’s more power being diverted away from them.stepmum in stilettos
Tip Number 2 – The List
Insecurity, in a variety of forms, often plays into our negative thought patterns regarding our stepchild’s mother.
Even if you’re an otherwise Confident Strutter, sometimes all it takes is a quiet “my mummy does it like this” to start an unexpected spiral.
We all know that comparison is the killer of joy, and if you’re feeling less than yourself it may be time to start focussing on what makes you, you.
Keep a note on your phone of:
- the things you pride yourself in (kindness? Intelligence? Great teeth?);
- your talents;
- even the things that you know you do better.
Get it out when you need a pick me up, or you’re having a low moment.
It will help to remind you of who you are, and will hopefully reduce some of the insecurities which plague us all sometimes.
Tip Number 3 – The Name
This one is going to feel really uncomfortable, and if you’re dealing with a high conflict dynamic then I know that, initially, you’re probably not going to want to do it. In fact, you might hate me for even suggesting it…
Call your stepchild’s mother by her name. When you speak about her to your partner, when you download to your friends, and in your head – use her name.
Nicknames have power. Positive or negative, they are deeply personal and they intrinsically mean something to the people giving them (as well as those receiving them). If there is just one thing in this world that stepmothers need less of, it’s more power being diverted away from them.
Refusing to acknowledge another human being as a human being gives you no hope in hell of ever getting to a place of peace. It keeps a person trapped in a never-ending loop of negativity and hate.
You will see how far you’re coming as you stop clenching your teeth when you say it, and your heart rate stops increasing when you think it. You will feel so proud of yourself, and rightly so!
You’re starting to heal. So even if you don’t do it for anyone else, do it for you.
And you know what, even if the name-calling started with their less than flattering nickname of you, someone has the break the loop. As stepparents, it often falls on us to take the moral high ground, but that’s OK – maybe it’s what we’re here for. Own it; let that loop-breaker be you.