It could have easily been a case of Step-Monster vs Rebellious Teenage Daughter. Especially with the first woman my father dated after he and my mother separated. She was nice enough from what I can remember other than the fact she didn’t want to share my dad with his kids. I have scenes from movies playing in my head where the single dad starts dating and gets engaged to a beautiful woman whom he thinks is great for his kids, only behind his back she is making plans to ship said kids to military/boarding school as soon as they say “I do”. Thankfully it never got that close, but still.
Truthfully I wouldn’t have cared much either way. My dad and I had a REALLY strained relationship. (Like the kind where I honestly thought I hated him). It pains me to say that now, but that’s how deeply I felt unloved by him and thought I’d be better off without him. Besides I was more interested in having the freedom to hang out with my friends and flirt (ahem) with boys. My dad got in the way of that with his strict rules so the further away the better. Did I mention I was a somewhat rebellious, self centered, bratty teenager? Fortunately for us all he ended that relationship. Also fortunately for us all, she had a best friend who later became the love of his life.
It started out as a friendship that grew into a love I didn’t yet know was possible. There was respect and laughing and family time. A LOT of family time since MA (short for My-All) had 3 sisters who all had children and all lived within 10 minutes from their parents, Nanny & Pop Pop. It didn’t matter who you were, they were still Nanny and Pop Pop. They were that family. You know the one that had a picnic for any excuse possible. They actually enjoyed spending time together. They knew everything going on in each others’ lives. I don’t remember ever being treated as an outsider or even a visitor. Until then my experience of “Family” had been completely different. Most of my family lived on other continents and I barely knew them. The ones that lived closer I saw on average twice a year. But MA’s family was what I imagined a “REAL” family to be.
As my dad and MA’s relationship progressed, my defiance started to lose some steam. MA made me feel like I was the daughter she never had but always wanted. She loved me even when I was being ugly (and I could get ugly!). She accepted me in my rebellion (which f.y.i when rebellion is accepted it not longer qualifies as rebellion). Even more than that she was able to express my father’s love for me in a way I could understand. She gave her ALL and it was the bridge that brought me back. I’d like to think that my dad and I would have eventually worked things out, but I’m not sure we could have without the help we got from MA.
In the 20+ years that my dad and MA have been married, it’s become even more evident that MA has a knack for operating in forgiveness and acceptance of which I admire and strive towards. Don’t get me wrong, that woman can get mad! I’m talkin’ the kind of mad that makes grown men wish they were in a dark alley in the worst part of the city…cause it’s safer! She’ll break a nose before she lets someone hurt her family! But if you’re family, or a friend of the family or a friend of a friend of the family, you can rest assured that she would give you the shirt off her back, or those really sweet shoes in her closet or her sewing machine because you mentioned you wanted to learn to sew. She is a silver lining.
“There are no ‘STEPS’ in this house besides the ones going upstairs!” -MA
Sometimes, and by sometimes I mean pretty much everyday, B will say something so incredibly sweet to me for no particular reason. Today, during our after-dinner-cuddle, he looked at me in my sweats with my hair all mussed and told me that I am incredibly beautiful. He’s also been known to call me gorgeous and stunning (<– I love that one.) Sometimes he’ll thank me for working two jobs, or tell me I’m a great mom and tell me how proud he is of me. AND I don’t need to fish for it. EVER! He’s a treasure trove of affirmation that I never expected to find in a significant other. It is a key to the awesomeness of our relationship.
When we first started dating I thought his words of kindness were really cool, but figured they would slow down the longer we were together. I was wrong. If anything they’ve increased. I don’t ever wonder if he’s happy in our relationship because he regularly affirms how he feels. As you can imagine this is all new to me. So much so that I wasn’t able to express how I felt unless I wrote it in an email or text. Written communication has historically been better for me. Maybe because I had time to put my thoughts together and I’m less likely to jumble my words when they are inked on paper. Maybe because there is no distraction or interruption from the other person. But his ability to verbally lift me up drove my desire to do the same for him. Slowly I began expressing my feelings for him, sometimes using the same language he used like a baby learning to speak. It felt foreign to my tongue. The more I told him how I felt, the easier it became. Although I am still not as eloquent as he is, I’m secure in the knowledge that he is equally affirmed on a regular basis and know’s how I feel about him.
With my own relationship experiences and those I witness in the lives around me, it’s surprising how uncommon kindness is. In the one relationship that is supposed to be the safest and of greatest support, there is rarely the regular affirmation necessary to build security and intimacy. Instead people mistake “safety” for having a free pass to say what they want when they want regardless of how it makes the other person feel. They mistake “intimacy” for something that happens after the kids are in bed and before they roll their backs to each other as they fall asleep. I wonder how saying a kind thing about one another once a day (without any ulterior motives) would improve the poor communication and insecurities running rampant in so many relationships today.
It’s common sense really. That’s what makes the fact it took me 36 years to fully understand it absolutely frightening. The idea that he/she has to love me because he’s/she’s my husband/wife, father/mother, brother/sister, son/daughter isn’t enough! They love you because they choose to love you. In the same way you can choose to be kind. Not because you are trying to get them to be kind in return, but because it’s the right thing to do. It’s an action of love. Love is a verb after all. And it can be as simple as telling your loved one what you love about them. Try it today.
I’d love to hear an example of how a kind word affected you. Please share in the comments section below.