The New Stepfamily
Bringing two families together can be an adjustment, as some of Dr. Phil's guests are finding out. Ken has been married to his second wife, Brenda, for a year and a half. He's worn out from constantly trying to please his new wife, Brenda, and his 17-year-old daughter, Emily. Dr. Phil offers this advice:
"Kids join our lives, we don't join theirs," says Dr. Phil.
It's important to understand that kids eventually move on with their lives, and you have to make decisions that are right for you.
Kids may think it's all about them, but that's not the case.
"I think we've raised kids in this generation to have the idea that everything is all about them," says Dr. Phil. "It's like, 'He's my dad, he is supposed to take care of me. He's not supposed to be going out doing something I don't want him to do, particularly when it's not with my mother.'"
Take on new roles.
Dr. Phil tells Ken, "Your role has been the one of peacemaker, and the problem with that is you can't choose how others feel." Stop trying to make everybody happy. Adjust your role.
The only person you can control is you.
"The greatest stress we can ever face in our life is when we're being held responsible for things we don't control," says Dr. Phil, explaining that if Emily and Brenda don't get along, they're competent, articulate, intelligent women, and they will probably work it out. "You've got to let people own their own feelings and emotions instead of you holding yourself responsible for them," he says.
Give yourself permission to pursue your happiness, your own life and your own choices.
"You have to decide," Dr. Phil tells Ken, "'I have the right to love this woman. I have the right to pursue my life and, in fact, I have a responsibility to do it.' You have the right to move on without guilt. You haven't betrayed anyone because you fell in love and got married."
Stay plugged in.
"Of course you want to create harmony in Emily's world," assures Dr. Phil. "You're very important in her life right now. And she needs the security of knowing that you are committed, that you are focused, that she is safe in her relationship with you, that you're not so distracted that you forget about her and the challenges that she faces in life. Talk to your daughter about what's important to her. Let her know, 'My dad's still here, he's still plugged in to my life.'"
Respect your father.
"You don't have the right to tell your dad what to do or not do, yet you are exercising that power and control through your expectancies," Dr. Phil tells Emily. Ken is an adult and he doesn't need his daughter's permission to go on with his life.
Recognize the part you play in creating a relationship.
"What can you do that would contribute to a solution? Maybe by acknowledging that she's answering the phone instead of saying, 'Is my Dad there?' Maybe talking to her and acknowledging her existence would break the ice a little bit," suggests Dr. Phil.
Having a relationship with your stepmother is not a betrayal of your mother.
"Don't think that if you have a cohesive, harmonious relationship with Brenda, then it's kind of a betrayal of your mom. Those are two very different things," Dr. Phil says. "Recognize that being civil, laughing with, or playing a game with your stepmother is not at the expense of your relationship with your mother."
Understand that people draw their love from different accounts and one doesn't affect the other.
"There are separate accounts that you draw from in terms of love, committment, loyalty and caring. The fact that [your dad] has a Brenda account and it's a full account doesn't affect his love for you," Dr. Phil tells Emily.
Support your parent in what's important to him.
"If you support your dad, you will support his relationship with that which he loves and has invested in, and you will seek to create harmony in his world," says Dr. Phil.
Contribute to a solution.
Ask yourself, "What can I do that would contribute to the solution of this problem?" Being warm and open can help break the ice and help smooth the transition into a blended family.
Adjust your role.
"You've been staying back from this and letting it all play out," observes Dr. Phil. "Good for you because you can't fix them. But it's time to adjust your role in this family."
"Make the effort to get involved as a family," advises Dr. Phil. "Ask yourself, 'What can I do to close the gap and heal this? Can I help here in some way? Can I be warm? Can I be more involved? Can I be more caring?'"