When Relationships Get Messy:: What Do You Do?

Shivaun Palmer: RelationshipsShivaun Palmer, CEO and co-founder of Plaid for Women, knew that relationships can be complicated and difficult. Upon marrying her husband, a widower with four daughters, Shivaun experienced many of these challenges for herself. Today, she has a great relationship with her step-daughters, and Shivaun gladly shares about their journey with us.


4word: Relationships can be messy and complicated. How does Plaid for Women help strengthen relationships in women’s lives?

Shivaun: You bet relationships can be messy, particularly with women. We are emotional beings, and because of that, unwanted drama can occur from time to time. Plaid for Women is all about being real.  Through our website, radio podcasts and live monthly speaker events, we tackle substantive, messy, uncomfortable issues that prevent women from moving forward in both their personal and professional lives.  Then, and most importantly, we provide content experts and resources to address and hopefully correct what is broken.

At Plaid, we address the whole woman. Our tagline is We’re About The Business of Life. You can’t talk to women about just one aspect of their life. The personal challenges impact the professional side and vice-versa.

We believe that women have segmented themselves too much. We believe that ALL women are working-women, whether you are the CEO of the home or a Fortune 500 company. Whatever your definition of success is for your life, that is what we will support at Plaid for Women. When women focus on what unites, not divides us, we can be unstoppable.

4word: How did becoming a step-mom challenge or change your relationships?

Shivaun: Relationships were changed in numerous ways. I married a widower with four adult daughters. My husband lost his wife to breast cancer when she was only 49. His girls were in their late to early twenties. When I met the girls, they were still grieving. It took a long time to get comfortable with each other.

As women, we tend to take everything personally, which I did at the beginning. I thought “Why am I not bonding with these young women?” The fact is, they were strangers when I first met them, as was I to them. Why would you automatically bond with someone you don’t know? It is not a moral issue, just reality.

Happily, after 19 years, I believe they consider me a good friend and role model. I have been involved in three weddings and the birth of six grandchildren since I married their father. The grand kids made a world of difference in terms of creating a more relaxed, happy family dynamic.

4word: What resources did you rely on to make your new family unit “work”?

Shivaun: No big secret, just lots of genuine effort.  A solid friendship is what I was going for, not to replace the girl’s mother- I ‘m only eight years older than the oldest (she is 46, I am 54), so that would have been ridiculous. I got to know each of them on a one on one basis. They are four very different personalities.

4word:  Did you ever feel like giving up? What kept you going?

Shivaun: Absolutely. I was overwhelmed at first. And believe me, that’s not my personality. I realized that if I ticked one girl off, the other three would follow!

Women need to understand the entire “package” they’re marrying, as unromantic as it may sound. You are marrying an extended group of people that will impact you in a positive or negative way. You need to be pragmatic (not just romantic) about your decision.

Luckily, my mother and father-in-law (married 70 years) were very supportive, as was my husband’s sister, brother and their spouses. They knew what I was walking into and welcomed me with open arms. That made a HUGE difference. Having said that, I am a pretty nice person and made a great effort to get to know all of them as well. I don’t want to underplay the amount of time and effort I put into making things work.

4word:  What advice do you have for when life seems unfair?

Shivaun: Everyone is going to be challenged during this life, regardless of  your circumstances. Happy (or shall I say satisfied) people can push through the pain, stay strapped in on this roller-coaster we call life, and at the end of the day, if you serve others, and just BE KIND, your life will be so much more enriched.

Life is short.  Making a positive impact at the end of the day is what we should all strive toward.


What relationships have been challenging in your life? Comment and let us know how you handled the situation.