How to Ex
Sounds like a strange phrase “to ex”… but perhaps we should be thinking of “ex” as a verb. A way of being in the “extended family” that includes your children’s other parent and his partner. Your child or children are now in a stepfamily, and now you are “the ex” in that extended family. You may not have thought of it that way before. And the feelings you’re going through are not fun:
Suddenly there is another woman in the your place, with your children. It’s not only awkward, it fills you with ——— (you fill in the blank!)
Of course, you feel protective of your children, so you compare her to you in every way, hoping she’ll come up short. You judge her and feel superior.
You just know that your ex has painted a terrible picture of you, and you have no way to defend yourself – you find yourself obsessing about what he might have said about you.
She may be younger, prettier, or better at certain things – you can’t stand the rivalry you feel! It can be very painful to see her, as it reinforces bad feelings you have about yourself.
You may want it not to work, and you may be making negative comments in front of the children to try and keep them loyal to you, and see what’s wrong with her.
You tend to question the children when they return to you, to find out how it’s working “over there”, and try to get details (perhaps to use against them or to make you feel better).
Unfortunately, the rivalry between a new stepmom and a bitter ex has the most impact on the children. The pain you feel is common to ex-es in general, and it is worse to the extent that you have not healed from your divorce. You can’t see her as anything but an enemy, or a host of other terrible things. You may think you’re hurting her, but it’s your own children you’re placing in the middle and making it tough for them to have a chance at a happy and whole adulthood.
Believe that it can get better, and that this drama can subside, making your life and your children’s lives more peaceful. That is what you want, isn’t it? It is so important, for your happiness as well as for your children’s well-being, that you begin to work through the pain and the hurt that might be taken out on others.
I have a couple suggestions for you: go to www.thriveafterdivorce.com and use some of the tools and techniques there to move past your negative feelings from the divorce. Recognize that it can take a long time and a good bit of effort to heal from a divorce, but to the ex who wants a better life in the long run, it’s an essential part of the process! Another great book to read and work through: No One’s the Bitch by Jennifer Newcomb Marine and Carol Marine, a stepmother-mother pair who learned how to make it work.
The key: consider the children’s best interest!