Truer words have never been spoken when dealing with family issues. Unfortunately, Husband #2 and I thought we had joined our individual circuses and our monkeys were running the concession stand.
We both had children from earlier marriages. Husband #2 started when he was in his early twenties. I started having children when I was on the threshold of 30. His kids were adults on their own when we blended households. Mine were young and in grade school. Husband #2′s first divorce happened when his oldest was around 7 so he had limited experience living with children on a full-time basis. I was a late comer to the party so I never established close relationships with his children. Our monkeys were vastly different.
We also had different relationships with our older family members. My parents were estranged. His were long distance. My closest sister was bossy. His sister was hardly in contact. More monkeys for our circus.
Even our circus tents were different. My circus of origin was controlled by a domineering ring master. His circus of origin was more free-flowing and hands off.
Early on we battled about our monkeys and our circuses. He called one of my little monkeys a spoiled brat. He felt I cared too much for my monkeys and did too much for them. I referred to his growing up as being raised by wolves…no rules, no boundaries, no responsibilities. Where I was over-responsible, he was under-responsible.
Husband #2 felt it was his job to fix my relationship with my parents (people I had not spoken with for over 7 years). He focused specifically my mother. He’d email them, he’d bring them up to me when we were in their area, he’d tell me I was just like my mom. He’d push my buttons. (Side note: there are those readers who might think I need to get my parents back into my life. I’ll touch on this more in future posts but sometimes you have to let go of destructive relationships because they cause more damage to your self-esteem than you can handle. That’s where I am. I’ve forgiven them but I don’t need to keep these monkeys in my tent.)
I felt it was my responsibility to improve Husband #2′s relationship with his family. I’d tell him to visit his parents more, to listen to his kids better, to visit his grandchildren. I was working to get Husband #2 involved in their lives.
I learned a lesson at a monkey wedding. Something I saw as hugely insulting and hurtful to Husband #2 was brushed off by him as easily as swatting a mosquito. I decided that fighting over monkeys wasn’t going to change a thing, so I stopped trying to train his monkeys. He would complain about his monkeys but I wasn’t taking the role of monkey handler. I’d nod my head and listen. And then forget what he was talking about.
I recently watched a Dr. Phil episode where the step-father complained about the wife’s over-doting on her son from a previous marriage (The episode: It’s Either Me Or Your Deadbeat Son). Here’s the most important thing I got out of the episode: Mom’s relationship with Son was her business and the Step-Dad had absolutely no right to step in. It was her circus and her monkey but not his to get involved with.
Husband #2′s relationship with his children is his circus, his monkeys. It’s not for me to deal with. I can be supportive and listen but I’m not the problem solver. My relationship with my parents is my circus and my monkeys and if I choose to close up the circus tent and set the monkeys free, that is my choice.
After all, it is my circus, my monkeys…no one else’s.