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Ask Shari: New Relationships, Blended Families, and Getting Up On Your Feet!

Shari Hardies, LCSW is back to answer all of your relationship and healthy living questions! Check out this week’s offering. We’ve touched on getting comfortable in new relationships, bringing in a new family member, and exercising and working back from surgeries.

Q1.) Hi Shari, I’m just getting into a new relationship and getting comfortable. I kind of want to get a feeling about how my man is feeling too, but I guess I’m not really that good at asking. What are some questions that I could ask him that could give me a good idea about where this relationship could lead?

A1.) Hi New Relationship, congrats on finding someone who is relationship-worthy! It sounds like you are getting nervous about where you stand with your man, a clear indication that you are investing in a relationship. It’s natural to want to know what his feelings are at this point so that you can protect your heart.

I get that it can be hard to ask direct questions on this subject, mostly because we aren’t sure we want to know the answer. This can get really tricky really quick, especially if either one of you have had bad experiences with DTR (defining the relationship).

I typically advise that honesty is the best policy, but I know all too well that it is often easier said than done. It’s easy to be honest when you know that you don’t stand much to lose, sooo… I can assist you in that way. You are not really losing anything if you find out that you never really had it to begin with. Realistically, understanding your relationship (or lack thereof) will allow you to be protected by not getting too comfortable in something that isn’t sustainable, or, enjoy with confidence something that is. It comes down to finding the right question to ask, the right setting, and the courage to ask it.

I would suggest talking about it when it seems to come up naturally, when you guys are in a talking mood and feeling relaxed. Perhaps use a discussion about your time together to create the setting and discuss some experiences you have had with your man. Talk about what you would like to do moving forward, “I want to go camping with you”, or, “I think it would be so much fun to travel with you”. Tell him what parts of the relationship are working for you and get his feedback during the conversation on what is working for him. Discuss what you are looking for long-term and get his ideas on what he is looking for.

These are the types of questions that can get you close to an answer without having to flat out ask something like “ Look man I like you, are you in or out?” or “What are your intentions with us before I get too into you?” which can often be just plain scary! I believe that your relaxed feeling at your end of the relationship is a great sign, typically if you are starting to relax it’s because you truly can be.

Q2.) Good morning Shari! I actually just got remarried, which means that not only am I adjusting to a new personality in the house, but so is my young daughter (she’s 8). Do you have any recommendations as to what my daughter could do with her new step-dad in order to get them to be a little bit closer? I just don’t want her to not feel like he’s a part of her family! Thanks.

A2.) So you’re blending a family are ya? What a fine idea!

Hi Blended Family, congratulations on your new marriage, I wish you all the joy in the world! Sometime soon after the cake is cut it occurs to all the people involved that one journey is over and a new one is beginning.

I want to call attention to the idea of something ending, so many people get caught up in the adjusting to the new (exciting stuff) that they forget to leave space to grieve (a lot less fun, but important!). In fact in general most people relate grief to death and dying, not so!

Grief occurs on so many levels, any time we have to endure the loss of circumstance, structure, places or people we can expect to grieve that loss. The 5 stages of grief are: denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance. Each person grieves very differently and in their own time. Children grieve in interesting ways as well.

OK, enough about grief! I bring this up because the best way your new husband can substantiate himself as your daughter’s stepfather is for him to help her honor her relationship with you and her past. He can help her with her grief process by talking about the changes openly and providing opportunities to discuss needs. If he is attentive to learning about her and her needs she will learn that he is interested in her.

In general, children respond to how adults experience them, not what they tell them. In other words you can tell your child day after day how cool and funny they are but they will doubt that it is true if you never laugh at their jokes and seek them out for entertainment.

If you can pay attention to grief and needs, as well as create opportunities to experience one another at your best, you will be in good shape.

Q3.) Hi Shari. I’m looking to get a little bit more exercise in my life, but I’m a bit slower since I’ve had quite a few knee surgeries. Do you have any recommendations for slower activities to get into? Not really physical therapy, just more fun things to do to get me on my feet! Thank you!

A3.) Hey Moving Right Along, sorry about all the surgery but great job on the recovery part. I would wholeheartedly recommend Yoga or Pilates classes. Many of these classes are geared toward physical therapy and can be both beneficial and fun! I know there are many Yoga classes that are geared toward spiritual awareness and meditation but many are geared toward socialization and fun.

Although I am no doctor and you certainly should check with your physician, it is my understanding that water activities are great for knee injury. Check out the different kinds of classes that are offered at your local recreation center or gym and don’t be scared off if your first attempt isn’t what you were looking for. There are tons of classes and tons of different kinds of people, take the time to find something that works for you. Best of luck!

Shari Hardies, LCSW, is a social worker and contributor to Sono Bello Style, that has a true passion for improving the lives of others. She will be answering weekly user submitted questions on the topics of dating, relationships and live.