Loyalty conflicts in stepfamilies is part of stepfamily life. We can’t make it go away. We get afraid that talking about them or acknowledging them will make it worse. The opposite is true.
I have learned that it is important to have room in your stepfamily or single parent life for everyone to have different feelings, be able to say them, and have them acknowledged (Yes, that makes sense to me.). You can’t fix anyone’s loyalty conflicts but just having them acknowledged and being able to say it can be very comforting.
In our Stepfamily program, we teach My Reality Is… Rather than trying to talk each other into understanding your reality, you simply say, “My reality is…”.
When you talk about your own reality rather than what someone has done to you or what you want them to do, then it becomes easier to understand what the other is feeling.
Old Way: I don’t like it when you say that to me.
New Way: My reality is that when I hear those words from you, it makes me feel sad and upset.
Old Way: I don’t to be at your house.
New Way: My reality is that I miss my Mom when I’m with my Dad and I miss my Dad when I’m with my Mom. (I heard this one a lot when my daughters were young.)
Can you see the difference?
We have found that teaching our children this works well too. That way, they can feel what they want and not be judged for it.
Whey they have been upset about different things, we go around the room and each person gets to say what their reality is and how they feel.. without comment or criticism from anyone.
Understanding that loyalty conflicts cannot be avoided and just need to be honored and heard is the key to having a stepfamily or single parent family that is respectful and loving to all its members.