A crystal ball: will your relationship with the ex-wife or stepmom ever improve?

Here's an easy way to know if you're ever going to break through the impasse with the stepmother or bio-mom. Ask yourself: am I stressed? Does my stress level stay at a pretty consistent level?

(Sure, you might also be thinking, Well, it's because of HER that I'm so stressed, but not so fast, Buster....)

When I think of this situation between us, do I already feel like a loaded-down camel, about to be brought to its knees?

The answers to those questions will tell you a lot more than you think.

If you're like most of us, you're kind of amazed (but sadly, not surprised) at the amount of stress that you manage to live with on a consistent basis.

We're all running around like crazy people, not getting enough sleep, not connecting enough with those we love, feeling like we're sliding down the hill backwards with tasks lists coming at us like snowballs. I mean, who remembers how to eat at a dinner table with other family members anymore?

This would all mean that your resistance to change, to the unknown, to additional stressors, is already at its limit.

Who in their right mind wants to tackle anything hard, when life is already hard enough?

People in movies.



Really friendly, hard-working dogs, like Labs or Huskies or fierce, tiny, guard-dog Chihuahuas.

So if you want to make headway with this other woman that you just happen to be stuck with (and chances are, she feels the same way!), start by reducing your overall stress levels.

This way, there's space in your heart, your brain and your psyche for movement, for change, for room to grow.

I recently started reading a new book called "HeartMath" about tuning into the heart, which apparently has its own tiny "brain," that can be trusted to make decisions.

It talks about using some easy exercises to get your body into a state of "coherence," which is a fancy way of saying not working against itself. Believe it or not, our autonomic nervous system (or ANS) for short is usually fighting against itself.

The ANS has two parts: the flight or fight branch and the rest and restore branch. One is the accelerator and the other is the brake.

So when you're stressed, your body is alternately trying to help you ramp up to avoid getting eaten by the tiger, but also calm you down, so that you don't use up all your stores of adrenalin and poop out at the wrong time.

When you're consistently stressed, you deplete your stores of energy by keeping both feet on the accelerator and the brakes.

There's an easy exercise in the book you can use to regroup at any time. This is an over-simplified description below without the benefit of additional context (I highly recommend the book - get it at the library or something), but if it makes sense to you, try it.

This should only take about one minute total.

  1. When you're having a hard time with something, notice it and decide to take a time out. Mentally describe the situation in one short sentence.
  2. As best you can, step around your unpleasant feelings and racing thoughts. Tune into your heart. Imagine that you're breathing in and out from your heart. No need to force any intense deep breaths, just visualize breathing in and out for at least 10 seconds.
  3. Imagine a situation that brought you simple, unadulterated joy, happiness or appreciation and re-experience that feeling. (For me, it's an image of my two daughters laughing together as friends, or petting my two giant, hairy dogs, tails thumping on the floor).
  4. Ask your heart, "What would be a more efficient response to the situation, one that will minimize future stress?"
  5. Listen to the answer that comes from your heart, not your head. You might hear some simple statements, but you'll know they're coming from your heart if you end up feeling calmer and clearer.

Keep doing this simple exercise during the day and you'll see a noticeable difference in your overall stress level and your ability to meet challenges, without reverting to your usual coping patterns.

Take that leftover surplus of energy and use it to create a bridge to the other woman. Or barring that, healthier boundaries that help you to create peace....

Repeat as needed!