Saturday, July 21, 2018

Sometimes deliverance comes in the form of disaster...

This morning, I was reading a post on RfM about a woman whose 32 year old stepdaughter still lives with her husband and her.  The stepdaughter had gotten married at 18 and the marriage didn't work out.  Apparently, she was trying to escape having to work or go to college.  The stepmother had raised the young woman from her days in diapers and sometimes she would be acknowledged as the "mom", even though the bio mom was still in her daughter's life.

One day, stepdaughter and her dad had a spat and the woman's bio mom helped her move out of the house.  Now, it seems the row has gotten to the point at which the dad is going to change the locks once the rest of his daughter's stuff is gone.  A commenter made the observation that sometimes deliverance comes in the form of disaster.  I think that's a very wise insight.

I read the thread with interest because I could relate to it on several levels.  I lived with my parents for almost two years after I finished my time in the Peace Corps.  It was very difficult for all of us.  My parents were never divorced, so I don't have any stepparents.  However, when I married Bill, I became a "stepmother", albeit a completely unacknowledged one.  If I had been allowed the chance to be in my husband's daughters' lives, I would have done my best to be good to them.  I think part of being a parent is being unappreciated.  But it must be especially hurtful when you have a child or a stepchild who's only interested in a transactional relationship-- that is, only "loving" you when you give them what they want.

In 2009, Bill went through a similar phenomenon with his former stepson.  He discovered that the young man was really only talking to him because he was getting money from Bill.  It became very clear that once the money stopped, so would the relationship.  That was a very painful realization for Bill, whose love for his former stepson and his daughters was genuine and non-transactional.  Once he got over the initial shock, though, Bill was able to see the truth of the situation and developed empathy for his ex stepson's situation.

We recently heard that ex stepson had done some maturing and realized that he'd been shitty to Bill.  I don't know if he and Bill will ever talk, although I know Bill is willing and we've heard ex stepson is willing.  It would not be a bad thing for Bill's children, including ex stepson, to have a relationship with him again.  He can do nothing but help them.  They have to make that realization, though, and understand that relationships are two ways.  They can't simply be tied to what someone does for you or gives to you.

It occurs to me that a year ago, Bill started his job with the company he's now with.  I remember how stressed out we were in the three months leading up to the job change.  Not everyone got hired by the new company and competition was stiff, although in truth, I don't think Bill's position was ever in jeopardy.  He is very well-liked and extremely competent at what he does.  Not many people have the professional background he has.  It's like he was one of the rare people in the Army who wound up being specifically aimed in a career direction.

I remember telling Bill that this job shake up might be a blessing in disguise.  The other company wasn't paying Bill what he was worth, didn't offer benefits that were as good, and frankly, didn't treat their people very well.  As it turned out, months after they lost the contract, the division that Bill worked for was sold to another company anyway.  So even if the company hadn't lost the contract or Bill had stayed on working with them in a different office, he would have soon had another employer.

I was right about the new job being better.  Bill has good bosses and gets paid considerably more now than he was a year ago.  He gets better benefits, too.  In fact, the other day, he told me there were a couple of guys about to retire from the military and looking into jobs with his company.  If Bill refers them and they get hired, he gets a very generous bonus.  I don't know what the specific requirements for the bonus are, or how it would be taxed, but it's definitely substantial.

Look at the failure of Bill's first marriage, too.  At the time, he was devastated by the divorce and the loss of access to his daughters.  But then he married me, and very few people would describe us as miserable.  It took some time, but he turned that disaster into deliverance.

I often worry about the future, even though I've never been in a truly catastrophic situation and I've always been able to recover from setbacks.  I'm not sure why I often feel like I'm doomed, since I never really have been.  But experience has taught me that even when something goes terribly wrong, there's usually redemption.  Sometimes that process of recovery leads to better things.

Bill's disastrous first marriage was painful and had lingering effects, but ultimately, it led to something much better.  I have often considered what would have happened if he hadn't been married to his ex wife.  He probably would have married a nicer person.  It wouldn't have been hard to do that.  The other woman might not have been quite as perfect for him as I am, but she probably would have treated him better.  They might have stayed married and then he would have missed what we have today.  I would have missed it, too.

So... I guess today's theme is realizing that sometimes what seems to be awful isn't really that awful.  As for the stepmother who inspired this post, I think it's high time the 32 year old woman who doesn't see her as the "real mom" anymore got on with her life in her own apartment.  This development may seem painful now, but it may turn out to be the best thing that ever could have happened.

I keep telling myself the same thing about Donald Trump's presidency... every cloud has its silver lining.  Maybe this disaster will lead to better things.  I've seen how Germans have evolved for the better after the Holocaust.  Maybe Americans will also evolve.  But there will be pain to go through in the course of getting there... and that is the hardest part.  As Tom Petty famously sang, "the waiting is the hardest part."

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