What We Can and Can’t Change

Do you think you’re able to change someone? I’m guessing intellectually you know you can’t. After all, how many times have you heard “The only person you can control is yourself”?

Yet you continue to think:

Maybe if I’m nicer to her…”

Maybe if I appease her…”

Maybe if I ignore her…”

Maybe if I kill her with kindness…”

Aren’t these all attempts to alter someone’s behavior?

In one of my earliest blog posts I describe how I thought I could change my husband’s ex wife’s behavior by giving her advice. It went over really well.

We can’t change someone’s behavior, values or the filter they see life through, to fit our needs.

People in high emotional conflict can’t see the good intention or hear the words that are meant to help.

In some cases we can influence, give others another perspective that may lead to insight on their behalf. But this usually happens with people we have an established relationship with; are close to and respected by.

Not quite the description of your relationship with the mom or stepmom in your life. Right?

Whatever is going on with her, it’s bigger than you.

Release yourself from this burden. Lighten your load.

Honor your own moral standard as best  you can and repeat to yourself “I am not responsible for her actions.“

Focus on what is your responsibility (at least partly) – the dynamic in your household. Make changes as you see fit.

Less worrying. More laughing.

Less stress. More fun.

Less anger.  More love.

Real, lasting change will only come from within. What sort of change are you looking for?

© 2011 Jenna Korf     All Rights Reserved

(Photo credit: Tina Phillips)

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  1. I like this post. It puts the anguish I’m feeling about this new school year for the kids in perspective. I’m bound to have to run into the kids’ mother more and I’m feeling quite uneasy about it. It’s like I don’t even know how to act anymore around her. I was being friendly but now with another court date on the horizon for my husband and her regarding a modification in child support (she wanting triple what she gets now even with 50/50 physical custody), things have went so far south again. There is lots of underlying tension. He has asked her to stop emailing me and she is taking it to the extreme and won’t even talk to me on the phone about a child related question/request. It was almost better this summer without kid activities because we could pretend the other didn’t exist. I want to put on a happy face and be friendly for my sake and hers but not too friendly that it upsets my hubby. I just feel at a loss and need to remember to rise above it. I’m just having trouble getting back to that point again. I know I need to work on me – first and foremost – before I can bring any value to these interactions. Thanks for letting me vent.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Amyleigh. It sounds like you need a refresher in some self-love, self-nurturing! When you’re okay with you, you’ll know how to act around her ;). Hang in there!

  3. I encourage every step mom to remember you are a step up from what your husband left behind. No comparison, just a choice he made to marry you. After a few years of turmoil and being accused of everything in the book even while on vacation. It has been a great journey to know I am blessed to be the woman my husband married even if it takes therapy, vacations, manicures, pedicures, massage therapy, afternoon tea, yoga, walks on the beach, wonderful gourmet dinners from my husband the chef, home improvement projects to bring zen and relaxation to the mind, home and family. The list is endless, oh no time for drama as I have fully taken a lifestyle change to maintain the gift of peace. Therefore, a court appearance ok let’s have a spa day! After court, lets do something romantic…it’s never about anyone else except my husband and I because that is how God looks at us as one! And so do your kids! Everyone else is just a world wind triging to mess up my hair, thank God I have curly hair… Lol. So just let your hair down and embrace your challenges.

  4. My current wife is incredible and button down. Great cook, wife, lover…. Where I seem to have a problem sometimes is it seems my kids only do wrong and her son is the sweetest, silliest little pumpkin. My kids admittedly come from a crap home with a former crap mother (not just being mean) who now suddenly wants to be a great mom. So my kids are definitely a handful and I (years of enabling and guilt have created some precocious kids) know I need to continually strive to get better. Having said that sometimes it is hard when I see her reprimand my daughter (9) for chewing with her mouth open and her son (8) proceeds to put his face to his plate and gorge on uncut food like an animal. Or tell my kids that have to eat what’s cooked for dinner (behind 100% – they have horrible eating habits) but many times we cook things her son likes (even then she will indulge his whims with tons of sauce and cheese neither of which is particularly healthy. It’s tough to describe the complete dynamic here. I love her and I think she is incredible and up to a monumental task but sometimes I feel a real uneven handedness that I am pretty sure only makes her task harder. I guess what I’m trying to get at is how do I fix this? When I approach her she always has her reasons. He’s younger, he is slightly autistic, he had a rough life just like your kids with an absent father, he eats what I tell him (here – he was lucky to be brought up with a basically healthy meal each night, mine were not and then were indulged for years – admittedly all my fault, just saying if someone fed me foie gras every night I would probably grow up eating it when put in front of me and so not equal footing here. Another item my kids don’t always treat her with respect, you know rolling their eyes or storming off and I am trying to make sure I put my foot down but her son, which I’m sure was cute at some point, calls me idiot, dummy, etc.. he says it to his mom too and her reaction is something like, “oh you crazy or silly” and the one time I brought it up she told me when he does it I should set my foot down. I guess sometimes I’m confused about this “same page” thing, I guess it means her page and mine is blank. Anyway would love your feedback and honey if you’re reading this I am behind you 100% I just see a real bias (natural of course but hurting our cause at times because I’m sure they notice it)

  5. Hi Me, my first thought is to commend you for owning your part in enabling your children’s behavior and striving to do better. My second thought is that it sounds like you two could benefit from couple’s counseling or coaching. Often when behaviors that are not serving the relationship are pointed out by a third person it’s much better received than when pointed out by our partner. A counselor or coach can also help you communicate to each other what’s not working and help you create solutions to those challenges. You both have tough jobs. I wish you the best! :)

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