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The Magnolia Diaries, Volume II

So, you’ve finally found your prince charming. He’s wonderful and perfect on all accounts. He handsome, he’s mature, he’s stable, he has a great career and he even has kids! What could be better, right? Well, not exactly. While many second marriages and blended families can work, it doesn’t happen without a tremendous amount of effort.

If you are a single woman about to marry a man with children from a previous relationship, there are a few things you should consider before you ride off into the sunset with your knight in shining armor. Make sure that you ask yourself some very important questions or you just might find that your dream of happily ever after has turned into a nightmare from hell.

What Kind of Relationship Does He Have with His Ex?

The obvious answer to this question is that his relationship with his ex-wife is probably not very good since they are divorced, right? This could be true or not. Much of it will depend on how long he has been divorced and why. Many divorced couples are able to have a civil relationship for the sake of their children.

However, if he does not get along with his ex-wife, chances are you will be seen as the “other woman” in her children’s lives and could be seen as a threat. Not to mention, she could also negatively influence her children against you as well. Translation: She could make your life very difficult.

On the other hand, if you discuss these potential pitfalls with your future husband and you are confident in the strength of your relationship, then proceed. Just be aware that a contentious relationship with the ex-wife absolutely will test and strain your relationship.

What Role Does He Expect You to Play in the Lives of His Children?

Many men expect their new wife to step into the role of mother for their children right away. If he has always conceded the role of parenting to his ex-wife, then he may be especially eager for you to step in and become the parent. Are you ready to take on that responsibility?

While the notion of motherhood may be appealing to you, even under the best of conditions it can be an exhausting and impossible job. So, before you make that very important leap, begin by considering a few questions like these:

• How do you feel about his children?

• Have you taken the time to get to know them?

• Do they trust you?

• Do they even like you?

• Do you like them?

• Who will discipline the children and how?

• Can you accept being thought of as the evil step-mother for a while?

• Can you forge a working relationship with their mother?

It cannot be overstated how important it is that you are aware that the answer to any of these questions could determine how easy or difficult your new role as a step-mother will be.

Becoming a step-mother before you are ready or understand the gravity of the situation, could be a nail in the coffin of your marriage before it even begins. Make sure you give serious consideration to these questions before you walk down the aisle. Your future and happiness will depend on it.

How Often Will the Children Visit?

Every newlywed bride wants to spend quality time with her new husband. The relationship is new and exciting and nothing is more satisfying and fulfilling for a woman than to spend loving time with her man.

But, if he has children, you will have to sacrifice your time with him so he can spend time with them. Furthermore, depending on what kind of relationship he has with his children, he may feel guilty for divorcing their mother and want to spend even more time with them to compensate for his absence.

This can be very difficult for a new wife who does not have children of her own and can lead to resentment and bitterness toward the children. But, remember, he was their father before he was your husband and he was married to their mother before you became his wife.

While this may be a difficult pill to swallow, these are the realities of a man with children. If you’re not willing to sacrifice your time with him and make room for his children, you might want to reconsider the relationship entirely.

Do You Plan to Have Children of Your Own?

It is one thing to love your nieces, your nephews, your cousins and even your step-kids. But, there is no love like the love a mother has for her own child.

If you plan on having children of your own, you must be prepared for the differences in how you feel about your own child, compared to how you feel for your step-children. Many mothers are shocked at the profound differences of affection they feel toward their own biological child compared to how they feel about their step-children.

In addition, children often intuitively understand something even if they cannot verbalize it. If you show preferential treatment to your own child over your step-children, they will see the difference and will undoubtedly resent you for it.

Again, acquaint yourself with the potential issues that could arise if you decide to have children of your own so that you are not blindsided when difficulties arise.

For Better or for Worse is a Long Time – Are you Ready?

Even under the best conditions, marriage can be trying and difficult. It is important then, that you bear in mind you will be entering into a family unit that has already been broken down once by the pain of divorce. So, before you say yes to second marriage and blended family , make sure your expectations are realistic and that you are prepared to dig in and do the necessary work for the long haul.


ShriekDo you think that perhaps your husband is passive-aggressive? Chances are if you are reading this, you probably do. Chances also are that you are wracked with guilt, frustration and anger and feel like you’re going just a wee bit crazy as well. Such is life when you are living with a passive-aggressive husband.

In fact, the term, passive-aggressive, embodies perfectly, the confusion and chaos of trying to deal with someone who is truly passive-aggressive. Because, how can one be passive and aggressive at the same time? Aren’t the terms, by definition, mutually exclusive? Well yes and no. And that is the point.

Things are never the way you think they are when you are trying to deal with a passive-aggressive person. Up is down, down is up, yes is no and no is yes. It is the ultimate world of double-speak- fence-sitting and saying yes and no at the same time.

In fact, trying to deal with a passive-aggressive is much like trying to nail Jell-O to a tree or chasing your own shadow. You can never quite pin them down or get anything from them directly. And what’s worse, they have an astonishing capacity to make you feel guilty and wrong for even trying.

Consider This Scenario:

You’ve had this nagging feeling that something is wrong in your marriage and you approach your husband to talk about it. The conversation goes well until you point out something he is doing that is causing a problem. In the blink of an eye, the focus of blame shifts entirely to you. You are told you do not understand the facts and that you have completely misunderstood the circumstances.

What’s more, it might even be pointed out, though there may well be a problem and his actions may have precipitated the problem in some way, in truth, he was only acting in your best interests and out of complete love and devotion for you.

Bewildered, you apologize for questioning his motives. But, you still feel there is problem and you want to talk about it. At this point, he shuts you down completely. He might stonewall you with silence or simply get up and walk away. Refusing to talk.

If you continue to press the situation, you are accused of nagging, looking for a fight or worse yet, somehow “enjoying the conflict.” Furthermore, you are told, if there really is a problem, perhaps you are the source of it.

Shocked, you back off and drop the subject. The next day, you feel guilty for unfairly accusing him and consider that you likely misjudged the situation all together. You might even think he is right. Maybe you arecausing the problem. I mean, after all, he really is a good husband. He looks after you, he cares for you and he was only thinking of you and your best interests anyway. So you apologize – again.

Then, you notice he has become sullen and distant. He avoids you. You ask him if there is anything wrong and he tells you there is not. If you press the matter, you are met with the same resistance. This sequence of events may play out repeatedly over several days or even weeks. Eventually, out of exasperation and emotional exhaustion, you let it go.

Then one morning you leave to run errands and you discover that your vehicle has been shifted over to the side of the garage, making it impossible for you to pull out. You know you didn’t do it, so you ask your spouse if he did it. He says that he did, but offers a very plausible and innocuous explanation as to why and apologizes. You kindly ask him not to do it again and he agrees that he won’t.

The next day, however, you find the vehicle shifted over again – this time even further. You confront your spouse and once again are told (with great contrition) how sorry he is and that he had meant to move it back, but had forgotten. You contain your irritation and ask him once again to please not do that. He apologizes profusely and assures you that he won’t.

The next day, you find it pushed so far over that the only way to get the vehicle out of the garage is to incur some type of damage, like, dislodging a side-view mirror or scratching the paint job. This time, you snap and let your spouse have it with both barrels. He stares at you serenely and assures you that he would never do anything to damage a vehicle that he had worked so hard to acquire and pay for. And besides, he really did forget – again. He apologizes. You stomp off exasperated.

The next day, the vehicle is in the proper place in the garage, but you notice that the side view mirrors have been twisted out of their proper position. Congratulations. You’ve just been rick-rolled by a passive-aggressive husband.

What is Passive-Aggression?

In simplest terms, a passive-aggressive person is someone (most often, men, but anyone can engage in passive-aggressive behavior) who will not (or cannot) deal with anger, conflict or negative emotions in a direct manner. Rather than expressing directly what is bothering them, they will usually deny there is a problem, likely serve up a heaping portion of guilt your way for even suggesting there is, and then set out to stick it to you in very covert, stealthy ways.

While many of us engage in some form of passive-aggressive behavior at times, someone who is truly passive-aggressive creates an environment that makes it virtually impossible to interact in a normal, healthy way, through very subtle, almost sleight of hand, sabotaging behavior.

In fact, passive-aggressive people have a way of carrying out their attacks on you, such that, it appears they have your best interests in mind and would never do anything to cause you harm. Therefore, the unspoken message that is communicated is that you should feel ashamed for even questioning or doubting their integrity and then, round one goes to the passive-aggressive.

Trying to deal with a passive-aggressive person very often leaves you feeling confused and perplexed, questioning yourself and never quite able to put your finger on what the problem really is. They rarely own up to any responsibility in conflict and they always have a way of making you feel completely at fault. This is of course, exactly how they want it.

In short, a true passive-aggressive effectively creates a constant state of ambiguous chaos which enables them to hit and run completely undetected, leaving you feeling like the bad guy.

What does Passive-Aggressive Behavior look like?

One of the more maddening elements of passive-aggression is that they very often appear to be a genuinely ‘good guy’, with a very calm and even disposition. They could even be a Type-A personality, who is dutiful, responsible and hardworking.

Outwardly, they appear to be highly cooperative, congenial and helpful, rarely saying no to anything that is requested of them, nor will they openly express displeasure or anger in any way. Instead, they will quietly procrastinate, innocently forget or engage in some other type of obstructionist behavior that will enable them to register and vent their anger or negative emotions toward you without doing so directly.

If confronted, they might react with offense that you would question their motives or they withdraw behind a wall of silence to punish you. They might even become sullen and stubborn. They avoid personal responsibility through denial and blaming others for their problems. They can be incessant complainers with negativistic attitudes who see themselves as victims and martyrs, continually put upon by others and unappreciated for all that they do.

At its core, passive-aggressive behavior is based in fear and a need to control. Though they will never tell you directly that they are hurt, offended, and afraid or admit to controlling you, by continually shifting the focus of blame and responsibility to others, they let themselves off the hook and play you like a puppet in the hands of a marionette. All with a smile, of course.

Roots and Causes of Passive-Aggression

While some mental health professionals believe that passive-aggressive behavior is the result of both genetic and environmental causes, the general belief is that passive-aggressive people tend to be brought up in a very oppressive, controlling or authoritarian environment, where they were not allowed to express their true feelings, especially, anger.

In order to survive in that type of domineering, parental-control, passive-aggressive people learn to stuff, repress and live in complete denial of their emotions and feelings all together. Depending on how traumatic the environment, the person becomes so passive-aggressive adept at denial, they become convinced they do not have issues with anger at all. But, in truth, they are deeply angry and hostile.

One of the deepest fears of a passive-aggressive is the fear of dependency. As a result, they very often resist emotional and physical intimacy, fearing their spouse will either see them for who they really are and reject them or that they will bond in some way and run the risk of vulnerability. Both scenarios are terrifying to a passive-aggressive.

Can Your Marriage Survive Passive-Aggression?

Unfortunately, and with no shortage of irony, it depends. It depends on how deeply ingrained the passive-aggressive behavior is and whether your husband really wants to change. It also depends on how much you are willing to work with him to get through the issues.

Unfortunately, because passive-aggressive people are so disconnected from their real emotions, feelings and behavior, they rarely believe they are causing problems. In fact, in classic, passive-aggressive fashion, they are usually convinced the real problems lie within others anyway, so why do they need to change?

Consequently, without the help of a well trained therapist and marriage counselor, breaking the destructive cycle of passive-aggressive behavior can be virtually impossible. That is not to say that marriages cannot survive passive-aggressive behavior. Like any issue, it requires a deep commitment to the cause and a willingness to hang in there.

Or it just might be that you can find a way to accept your spouse’s passive-aggressive behavior as is and live with it. In order to keep from going crazy, and let’s face it, it is crazy-making behavior, it’s important to realize that your husband’s behavior ultimately has nothing to do with you, nor is it a commentary on your worth. Because, unfortunately, mates of passive-aggressive spouses often feel guilty, unlovable and completely devoid of self-worth. In fact, some might even say that passive-aggression is its own form of emotional and psychological abuse.

If you find that you can no longer tolerate the behavior and your husband is not willing to seek help or change, it may be in your best interest to pull the plug on the marriage. Sadly, many women do come to that conclusion and seek divorce. As with all of life’s decisions, however, it is a highly individual choice.


“Fear of Dependency and the Passive-Aggressive” October 20, 2010. About.com.http://divorcesupport.about.com/od/abusiverelationships/a/fear_of_dependency.htm

“Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder” October 20, 2010. Gulfbend.org.http://www.gulfbend.org/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=8165&cn=8

“The Passive-Aggressive Spouse” October 20, 2010. Families.com. http://marriage.families.com/blog/the-passive-aggressive-spouse

“Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder” July 19, 2006. Steady Health.com. October 19, 2010.http://www.steadyhealth.com/articles/Passive_Aggressive_Personality_Disorder_a289.html


???????Divorce is never a pleasant experience for anyone, at any age. But, it can be particularly difficult if you are getting a divorce in your fifties.

If you’ve been married a long time, have children, grandchildren and decades of memories together, it can be particularly traumatic. Untangling two lives which have become intertwined over twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five years or more, doesn’t happen at the snap of a finger either. It can feel like a band-aid that has been stuck on your skin through many weeks of dirt and showers. Peeling it off hurts like hell.

Take It Slow – Very Slow

One advantage of being older (and there are many) when you get divorced is that chances are you are much less impulsive than your younger counterparts. Middle-aged people naturally slow down in life. This can be a huge advantage when you are divorcing.

Snap decisions about finances, for example, and your future, are not wise. Taking the time necessary to think things through, plan and then plan some more, can help you not only adjust to the new normal that is about to take place in your life as a divorcee’, but to make better choices and decisions as it pertains to your future.

It also allows the grieving process to occur, which is absolutely necessary if you are to emerge from this time with a healthy sense of self and a life that could very well mean being alone if you choose to remain single. Speaking of remaining single, it’s not such a bad idea. At least, for a while – years even.

Stay Center Court – Avoid Rebound Relationships

You might be tempted to run out and find a replacement spouse after a divorce, especially if you were married for a very long time. People are built for companionship and if you’ve had a companion for most of your adult life, being alone not only feels strange, but it might also be scary. Resist the temptation to jump into a rebound relationship. Besides, how often do those types of relationships really work?

Taking the time to step back and self-reflect after a divorce is a very good idea. Maybe your prior marriage was not an emotionally healthy one. Why not? Did you contribute to that in some way? Are you a co-dependent personality? Why do you think your marriage failed? What can you learn about yourself?

These are important questions to ask yourself if you desire to pursue another relationship in your life. Without asking these types of questions and evaluating your behavior in your previous relationship, it could very well be that you take the same baggage and issues into another relationship and set yourself up for failure once again.

If you find that dating and being around other people helps you cope, there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Just resist the temptation to jump right back into another relationship too soon. Besides, you might find that being alone is easier and very satisfying. You can squeeze the toothpaste in the middle and have bed picnics while you watch your favorite night-time drama. But, you won’t know that if you do not give yourself a chance to be alone.

Career Choices

If you are already a career woman who has a source of income and a career path that you are happy with,career choices in your fifties may not be something you have to give much thought to. But, what if you haven’t worked in a very long time during your marriage? What if you have stayed home with your children and given up what could have been a lucrative career? What if you’ve never worked outside of the home? What if your career path does not provide the type of income level that you are accustomed to? Now what?

These types of questions and issues can be some of the more daunting and stressful issues you deal with during a divorce in middle-age. Add a broken heart and grief on top of it and it can seem almost unbearable. But, if you can begin this process by assuring yourself that change, while incredibly scary at times, can be a great time of growth. You might find that starting over with a new career or beginning one for the first time in your life is exhilarating and life affirming.

This can also be a time to be thankful for an economy that has pushed the age of retirement well into the age of seventy. People are choosing to work long past what used to be considered retirement age of sixty-two. Some are working because they just have to; others are working because they want to. As a result,employers are embracing the older worker more and more as well.

We have life experience. We are not afraid to get our hands dirty. We understand the value and sense of self-worth that a job well done can bring to your life. And some of us have learned that it’s a privilege, not a chore, to be able to physically work and carry out day to day responsibilities. Few young people have figured this out yet, so, believe it or not, your age can be an asset. Embrace it and use it to your advantage.

Redefining Your Life as a Single Woman

If you boil life down to the bare bones, it’s all about how we define ourselves, how we define our world and how we fit in into those definitions. These life definitions guide us and lead us forward. Life definitions are in our career path, whether we are parents or not, our gender, our culture and yes, our marital status, among many, many other things.

Life definitions can give us hope and a positive sense of the future or they can fill us with discouragement and despair. And again, when you are going through a divorce and still coping with grief, the process can feel overwhelming.

It’s imperative, if you want to survive and ultimately enjoy life again, to realize that you are in the driver’s seat when it comes to how you define yourself and your life. If you choose to see yourself as a victim who has been damaged beyond repair, then you will be setting yourself up for failure and more pain.

But, if you choose to redefine your life in a positive way and seek to find the good things in your newly acquired status as a single woman, then you can lay a foundation for peace, happiness and contentment.

Not to mention, that putting out positive energy in your life will open doors for more opportunity and more positive life experiences to come your way. There is great truth to the notion that you “reap what you sow”. Choose to sow good seed of hope, forgiveness and self-acceptance during this time of healing and redefinition and you will find that your life gives back an abundance of good fruit to enjoy.

A new haircut, a new handbag and a great pair of shoes are not a bad idea either.