Beauty and the Beast
Growing up in a family where controlling one anothers' addictive behaviors was the norm, I dedicated the first part of my life to trying to fix those around me.
Thanks to those struggles throughout my life, I’ve finally figured out they key to controlling others! Are you ready to learn my secret? Here it is….
You can’t force meaningful change by trying to control another grown-up’s behavior.
That’s right, you have no control over someone else’s behavior. So do yourself a favor and stop trying to control it! Easier said than done, I know. And I know this is probably NOT the answer you were hoping for, but hear me out, it may just be the answer you need to hear.
DISCLAIMER: Before I explain any further, I want to make it clear that I’m NOT talking about controlling children’s behaviors here (unless your stepkids are adults, in which case yes, this probably does apply).
You have no control over another adult’s behavior.
Influence sure, maybe, sometimes, partially… but control, no, never. When it comes to controlling an adult’s behavior (ie, biomom, in-laws, your partner, adult-children), you have no control.
Believe me – I, of all people, know it can be hard to face your powerlessness, especially when someone you care about is doing something that is clearly harmful to their own well-being. The urgency to fix the problem can be all-consuming.
Time and time again, I’ve witnessed those I love drink themselves into an unconscious mess (and sometimes a lot worse). If there’s anything I’ve learned from my lifetime experience trying to change what I saw as “wrong”, “bad” or “harmful” in others it’s this: you can’t force meaningful change in anyone, but you can choose to change yourself.
And changing yourself is hard enough, but I believe it’s possible and in many cases necessary to thrive in a stepfamily.
Every now and then, this urgency to ‘help’ still comes up for me as a stepmom. I feel the need to ‘fix’ or teach the biomom, or control my husband’s way of interacting with the kids.
Stepfamily life can really trigger that need to control in any of us. We’re put in a situation where we have to deal with someone else’s kids, who likely have behaviors and ways of being that are not 100% aligned with our vision of what our children should be.
Naturally, we want to help, correct or control the situation. And that desire to help isn’t a bad thing. That desire to help is healthy, and our opinions do matter.
But when we become so attached to our desired outcome, and turn it into our life’s mission, it can be harmful to all those around us, especially to ourselves. Often times when we do try to force change, we are instead consumed by someone else’s problem. We tend to think that we have the answer, or at least that our answer is better than theirs. We don’t trust in the other person’s ability to lead their own life. Deep down, we don’t trust that God/the universe/a higher power will help them, and we unknowingly try to become their savior or higher power.
Maybe OUR way isn’t THE way?
When we make it our life’s mission to force change in someone else’s behavior – whether it be something serious like a drug-problem, or something simple that you consider an annoying habit – you aren’t doing anyone a favor… not the person you’re ‘helping’ and certainly not yourself.
As stepmoms, we often fall into the trap of ‘encouraging’ our partner to live a certain way when it comes to his kids. We feel powerless and we want our opinions to matter, so we react by trying to control the outcome. And don’t get me wrong, our opinions DO matter.
But our opinions are just that, opinions.
We can’t force anyone to see it our way, not our husband, and certainly not the biomom. You can only help those who want to be helped, and you can’t force your will on those who don’t. As the old saying goes, ‘you can take the cow to the watering hole, but you can’t force it to drink.’
FORCE is the key word here.
It’s about letting go of our need to control or FORCE our desired outcome. We can share our opinions from a place of love, but eventually the decision on whether or not our opinion is taken into consideration depends on the other person, and that’s okay.
When we share our opinions without the need to control the outcome, that’s healthy.
But when it becomes our mission to change someone else’s behavior or get them to live in a certain way because we want it that way, it’s a recipe for disaster – especially in our role as stepmoms and second wives.
Instead of forcing an outcome, focus on yourself.
We must learn to let go of the outcome, or we can quickly lose ourselves and cut off our connection to our own intuition and inner guidance.
When we focus on ourselves, that’s when true transformation can happen, and that’s when we can find peace among the chaos that stepfamily life can often bring about. It’s a fine balancing act to learn what we do and no not have control over as stepmoms. And what we can control differs from one family to the next. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
What I know for certain, is that when we focus inwards, follow our intuition, and transform ourselves… the world around us transforms in ways we couldn’t have imagined.
Have you ever tried to control a situation and had it back-fire? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or via email.