I BELIEVE IN YOU!!!!
These are four words that your husband will never tire of hearing. I hadn’t realized it until recently but my words of affirmation towards my husband were getting fewer and fewer the more and more stress we had in our family that centered around the kids.
It’s not that I believed in him less, loved him less or even thought less of him but rather when I disagree with my husband’s stance on some parenting issues the words of affirmation weren’t flowing as freely as they should have been. Especially since my husband’s love language is words of affirmation.
Recently, I was watching a video which is part of a series called The Art of Marriage sponsored by Family Life. In it, a woman commented on how a wife is her husband’s biggest cheerleader. She said when we put on our wedding dress we are putting on a cheerleader uniform and pledging to cheer our husband on. It really hit me when she made the team sport analogy. She talked about how loyal people are to their sports team and how they cheer them on year after year always remaining faithful and supportive regardless of the tic marks in the winning column.
When our husband isn’t doing things the way we want them to, do we stop cheering for them? We may not stop believing in them but we may stop verbally cheering them on.
Being from Cleveland, if I can cheer on a group of football players year after year despite bad trades, bad plays and consistent losses certainly I can cheer my man on through every season of his life. I do believe in him and I recognize the importance of cheering him on each and every day regardless of how I am feeling because its’ not about me.
Cheering on our husband is about being a good partner. That’s what we pledged on the alter. We didn’t say “I would love, honor and cherish as long as he does what I want him to do” but rather we commit to love, honor and cherish through it all.
The most amazing thing happened when I picked up my pom poms and started affirming my husband several times each and every day. My encouragement and belief in him was so powerful and gave him additional energy to handle things with more peace and, as he would put it, “with more reserve in his tank.”
I also noticed that the more I verbally affirmed my husband in front of the kids the more they were verbally affirming each other. I have made it a point to thank my husband at the dinner table in front of all the kids. Often I thank him for working so hard for our family or thank him for always being a man of integrity. He always beams when I compliment him and the kids take notice. He always compliments my cooking and shows gratitude that we can eat each night as a family which I appreciate. If our kids choose to marry when they get older I want each of them to be very verbally affirming of their spouse. We have to model the life we want our children to live.
I love cheering him on! I see the energy it brings him. I see and love the additional energy it brings to our relationship. He cheers me on too and our team can’t help but win when we are both each other’s biggest fans and are marching down the field striving towards the same goals.
How do you cheer your husband on? Do you find it difficult to be verbally supportive when you are in a season in your relationship where you aren’t agreeing on important issues? Share your thoughts on this. Would love to hear from you.
This stepmom’s story illustrates the gift that stepmothers are in helping their stepchildren trust again. The stepmother who is sharing her story wishes to remain anonymous and has changed names to protect her stepdaughter. I want to thank “Nancy” for sharing this story. Here is her powerful and moving story:
Falling in love again after my divorce was not in my “plan.” I was at peace with being a single mom. I never planned on getting remarried but then again, I never planned on meeting Tony and his daughter.
I was a 38 year-old mother of two pre-teens when I married Sarah’s dad, Tony. Tony had been a custodial father to his tween daughter for a few years before we married. I had a son and daughter from a prior marriage and loved being a mother. I felt love for Tony that I had never, ever felt before and I really liked Sarah. My heart ached that she didn’t see her mom and I was sure my love for her would “cover her wounds.”
And so my stepmom story began, as I’m sure many others have. I married Tony with my eyes shut and my heart wide open. I weathered a terrible storm of hate and blame in the early months of my marriage to Tony. His daughter blamed me for her mother’s absence, she took her pain out on my two children, and I watched as she manipulated my husband every chance she got. He didn’t seem to see anything. He never knew that I was crying in silence. My heart was breaking for a life I wasn’t sure I wanted anymore and for a life I didn’t want my kids to have. But I had committed to my husband and this new family and I would not leave. I committed to changing me and waiting it out. Surely, Sarah would come around and see that I cared.
I cooked. I cleaned. I cared for Sarah and tried not to push my love onto her. It still hurt to know that I was a good, trustworthy and compassionate woman and yet was not treated as such by her.
I waited. I didn’t recognize it at the moment but I came to know much later that Sarah was testing me. She felt her mother had left due to her behavior and was trying to prove it’s accuracy by driving me away. But I never left. I never wavered. I decided to focus my efforts on loving her dad and modeling what a healthy, loving marriage looked like.
As a mom, I often felt that some things “just weren’t right” with Sarah, in terms of her emotional development. I had a son and daughter of my own and knew a thing or two about tween development. I found it odd that Sarah would have meltdowns before she had to go see the doctor. She also had high anxiety at her yearly exams. I found it strange that Sarah also noticed and pointed out men with sleeve tattoos and considered them all evil (not a view that either my husband nor I share). I also worried about Sarah because it seemed as if she had few friends as she seemed to struggle with trust and letting others “into her life.” I tried to share some of these concerns with my husband but it was to painful for him to consider why she might be feeling this way. While those I talked with thought I was “reading into things”, something in my gut told me that something wasn’t right and that same gut feeling told me to wait on it.
Then one day (three years into our marriage) my stepdaughter was asking to get out of a scoliosis screening that her middle school was doing as part of their Phys Ed course. She had tried to get out of it the year before but neither I or Tony would sign the paper. “It’s just a scoliosis test. Don’t worry about it,” her dad had said. Last year, Sarah had a meltdown in the middle of the screening and was teased for crying in gym. The incident seemed to fade away.
This time Sarah begged me to sign the release form when her dad wasn’t home. “Please, please you have to get me out of this. Please don’t make me have the scoliosis screening,” Sarah begged me. The gut thing came back and I knew this wasn’t a typical tween request. My kids had gone through this without even a second thought. I knew something wasn’t right. Something in me made me nudge Sarah and ask “why don’t you want this test?”
“I don’t want some creepy doctor putting his hands down my back,” Sarah shouted as she collapsed on the floor and started weeping uncontrollably. At that moment, I knew why she had hated the testing and I started feeling sick at the real consequences of my thoughts. No “typically cared for” child refers to a doctor as creepy nor would most kids describe the test as a doctor putting “his hands down my back.” As my stomach tied itself in knots in a way I’ve only known a few times before, I asked the question; “Sarah, has someone….” and before I could finish Sarah let it all out…..
She told me about how when she was with her mother that she would be made to sit on her mom’s boyfriend’s lap and he would put his hands all over her body…up and down her back and to the front. The boyfriend touched her sexually and with her mother sitting right there. She shared how she was made by her mother to sit on his lap when she visited. She screamed that she hated her mother. She screamed that she hated her mom’s boyfriend and how she hates doctors. Sarah wept in my arms on the kitchen floor for what seemed like hours.
I comforted her, I consoled her and I also told her that she needed to talk to her father. It was a hard conversation to have. Tony loves his daughter with such devotion and did everything he could to protect Sarah. Yet in the beginning of the custody dispute, the courts ordered Sarah to spend every other weekend with mom. There was nothing he could do especially given that he had no knowledge this was going on. Words can’t describe how my husband felt when we told him.
Sarah never told anyone what happened because she didn’t’ want to be taken away from her mother. This, in and of itself, illustrates the fierce loyalty children have to their biological parents. Even though she was abused, she never told on her mom.
For six years, Sarah carried this secret inside. She walked around with this pain. I was able to open a window to the wound and help get the hurt out. I am thankful I was there to help Sarah. She is now in counseling and doing okay. She continues to share her heart with me and for that I am extremely grateful.
Playing a role in helping Sarah face what happened to her and start on the road to healing is worth all the pain and hurt feelings I endured in the beginning years of my stepmom journey. Now I know why she didn’t trust me. Now I know why it took her so long to warm up to my brothers and to my dad. Now I know why she freaked out everytime she had to get in a hospital gown for a medical exam. Now I know why she feels sick when she sees men with sleeve tattoos.
I never knew she was developing trust in me at the same time she was ignoring me, being ungrateful and often rude to me. But she was.
After talking with a few friends and with Heather, I decided to share this story because I felt like those first few years of stepmothering were wasted and I think many stepmoms feel so weighed down with feeling unappreciated. But I realized that while I wasn’t getting a lot of thank yous, my stepdaughter was watching me. I thought Sarah hated me during those early years but she was actually testing me and developing trust in me. She was watching me and my character. Sarah didn’t want to tell her father because she felt ashamed. She felt as if the abuse were somehow her fault. But she could tell me because of two reasons; one she could trust me and two, I’m not her “real” parent. I am someone she could trust but also someone with whom if she disappointed wouldn’t crush her.
I am grateful for the opportunity to share my story. And I hope it helps others. Remember, that often we do see hurt in our stepkids that our husband’s don’t see and/or don’t want to acknowledge in their children. Be patient and know what you are doing really does matter.