If you are a stepparent or partner to an alienated "chosen" parent your role is important and unique and often the catalyst or bridge for the reunification with their beloved children.
Chosen parent is the coined name I have given to the alienated parents because their children have chosen them to lead their family out of the pathology. Their Children know they are the parent willing to figure things out, and go the distance to end the suffering in their family. They have chosen this parent because they know this parent loves them unconditionally.
As the beloved bonus parent, you are often the first person to reach out to us trying to fix things and end the suffering for your beloved. We understand that you are hurting too, and you want to be seen, heard and loved. When you step into this family dynamic you are often cast aside, ignored, and become the target of the pathogenic parent’s venom when they see that the chosen parent is happy or that their child loves you too.
As with any relationship, the only thing you have control over is yourself and how you show up in your relationships and the world. I have been hearing from a lot of stepparents reaching on on social media or calling our office frustrated and struggling. I thought to myself maybe this would be helpful for lots of people. I am sharing some tips you can implement right away to help your beloved reunite with their alienated children by creating the “Us” container where your unconditional love can grow and create the soft place to land for the children.
The “us” container is a sacred container owned by the two of you called your relationship. It is the prized possession of your coming together and it is a beautiful place to cultivate unconditional love and acceptance.
Because you have chosen to create the “us” container with someone who has children with a difficult coparent, it is easy to fall prey to bringing the stress and dysfunction of the previous relationships into the “us” container. It is easy for bonus parents to get caught up in the work that needs to be done by their beloved and all too quickly you can become exhausted, stressed, hurt, and angry. The next thing you know you are at each others throats, attacking each other.
Frequently, this wonderful relationship you have found yourself in has taken a turn and it is most often you, the new partner, who seeks out a solutions and you who tries to solve the problems that were created long before you were on the scene.
Often times, the beloved chosen parent is so exhausted they will happily or unconsciously pass the baton to you. You pick up the baton and run with it and this will not serve you, your beloved, or the children. So, what do you do? I have some guidelines to help you, the beloved bonus parents to shift the role of chosen parent back to the chosen parent and to step into the role that is divinely held for you, the bonus parent so you can create the greatest impact and transformational shift in this bonus family you have stepped into.
1. Set Time Aside Every Day to Allow for Each of You to Share Your Thoughts and Feelings.
It is important to do this exercise without being interrupted or trying to solve the other person's issues or hurt feelings.
Actively listening means hearing the other person without an agenda of your own. When you feel heard and cared for, you can manage your emotions and hold the sacred space of unconditional love for your beloved to also be heard. The solutions to hurt feelings and trauma bonds is counter intuitive and requires only ONE person to change the pattern. When you practice listening and sharing in the “Us “container, you will grow closer, feel more supported and can transcend any negative emotions and create whatever you want.
2. Articulate What You Need and Ask for It
As a bonus parent it can feel like you are lost in the chaos and that you are not important. It can feel like the alienation and the children are so consuming that you are afraid to upset the apple cart. So, you quietly wait until it is your turn, and it seems your turn never comes so the resentment, anxiety, and fear bubble to the surface. In this family dynamic it is easy to allow it to be all consuming and this does not serve you, your beloved or the children.
Instead, make the decision to show up differently. When you are not triggered in the heat of the moment. Take the time when your emotions are not running high to articulate what your needs are and then communicate in a way that you can be heard by practicing setting aside time to share your thoughts and feelings.
3. Affectionately Connect
The Marriage lab at UCLA, studies the ingredients that make a healthy long-lasting marriage and the number one ingredient for the healthiest relationship is affection. This does not mean sex. While having a healthy sexual relationship with your beloved is important, this is not the affection I am talking about. Also, sex can be a challenge if your beloved is completely distracted by the stress and depression that often times goes along with this family dynamic. What I am talking about here is an affectionate physical touch. Sometimes a hug, or a hand on their shoulder and not making the sexual relationship a qualification.
Many times where there is a lot of stress and tension sex becomes a qualification that must be fulfilled for one to feel connected and part of the relationship. It is easy to fall into the all or nothing mindset and fear of what sex or lack thereof means. If your beloved is struggling and you are feeling the anxiety and fear well up in you, turn that on its head and crank up the affectionate touch. Fill the “us” container with unconditional love through your affectionate touch without any strings attached.
4. End the Illusion of Competition
There is no competition. Not with you and your beloved, the children or even the other parent. You are two individuals who have chosen to come together and create the container of “us” and you decided to do this with someone who has children with a pathogenic ex-spouse.
You have chosen to become interdependent with your beloved and this may bring up triggers and issues for both of you which can easily create the illusion of competition. If you are feeling like there is a choice that has to be made, stop and ask yourself why you are choosing to have the experience, and what is really happening within you?
Everyone has their own hurtful and stressful relationship experiences from their past, and if you feel competition, stop and listen. Take the time to listen to your own inner voice and then listen to your beloved. Give your beloved the space to share with you their own inner feelings even if they are spinning a competitive tale, just listen. There is no need to jump into disagreeing. You can simply actively listen.
5. Process Your Triggers Outside of the “Us” Container
While it might make the most sense to process your triggers with the person triggering you or with your beloved. It is not necessarily true nor is it the best way to resolve the trigger.
Triggers are feelings from a past experience which come up unexpectedly or unconsciously during a present moment. The unresolved feelings from the past experience feel as real in the present moment. When you bring these into your awareness inside yourself you can process and heal them versus acting them out again in the present with your beloved.
When you are practicing active listening, you can ask your beloved what triggers they might have and what might be true for them without giving them the answer or solution or a need to be right or wrong. Just listening and creating the space of connection.
6. Reduce Stress by Communicating with Consciousness
When you are dealing with alienation in a family, this adds so many additional stressful elements that can make it difficult to communicate consciously. You may feel compelled to react especially when you feel like you have a giant target on your back.
Practice taking turns with who will go first and spend about 30 minutes each listening without interruption or problem solving. Listen and reflect back. What I heard you say is. Correct the unheard parts of the communication without judgement or anger.
Conscious Communication takes practice and then you will get good at it. Practice when you are not in the heat of the moment so that you are not emotionally charged.
The art of Conscious Communication is counter intuitive to the way we have been taught. Pick one subject at a time and practice with things that are not the most challenging so you can celebrate the win of a job well done. Celebrate at the end of the 30 minutes and take turns picking what the celebration will be. Don’t forget to connect with eye contact and an affectionate touch.
7. Create Bliss and Unconditional Love in the “Us” Container
Not everything has to be so heavy and dreadful and bogged down with the alienation. It is easy to get sucked into the vortex of the pathology and find yourself years into a relationship and realizing everything is about the alienation. This is exactly what the pathogenic parent wants. Pay attention to this and remember why you fell in love with your beloved and create the space and experiences that bring you joy. Focus on giving joy and not solutions or trying to fix anything. Create the soft place for your beloved to land where you have poured into your “us” container unconditional love through laughter, happiness and intimacy.
You are the place of which your beloved seeks warmth, connection, and acceptance. The “us” container is the soft place for you both to land. The place where you feel heard and understood. The place where you each know that no matter what is happening you have created this beautiful relationship untouchable by any outside influences and you can manage any struggles together. One of us is upset, one of us needs to be heard, one of us speaks at a time.
8. Repair the Breaches in Your Relationship
One last thing. All relationships have struggles and everyone can bring unresolved past stuff to their relationship. The family dynamic with alienation can be tough because there are children and other ex-partners and oftentimes pathology which adds an additional layer of stress.
Repairing beaches in relationships sooner rather than later is one of the most important ingredients in creating the soft place for the children to land.
If you and your beloved are at each other, this creates the energy of holding the children at bay. Everyone is connected energetically, and the role of the beloved bonus parent is super powerful. It is often the energetic force that pulls everything back together in a healthy way.
If the hurt is there because of something either one of you has done, it is mission critical for you to repair the breach. Be bold, and be brave.
The Breach was created in the unconscious minds and desires of the two of you to bring the hurts into the light to be healed. You can do it.
Beloved Bonus Parent,
It is you who often reaches out to us first. It is you that wants to heal and fix things. It is your unconditional love and unyielding fierce warrior spirit that brought you into the flow of this family and into my world. You chose the path of the beloved bonus parent. You chose the path that is not for the faint of heart, it is for this warrior spirit who intuitively knows there is a solution.
There is a stirring in you for peace and connection. For healing. You are here fierce warrior and I see you; I honor you and I thank you for hearing the calling and stepping into your purpose of healing the global family.
You are not alone.
PS: Click here to download the complimentary Stepparents Guide to get more tools to help you on your journey as the Beloved Bonus Parent.