Your Ex-Husband’s Wife: The Stepmom
You’re the kids’ mother. She’s their stepmom. How do you relate to your ex-husband’s wife? The relationship between the mom and stepmom is often filled with land mines, and it may seem that your life would be just fine, if she wasn’t in it. It’s hard to see your ex-husband’s wife impartially, in any case. Another woman taking your place – with your children – can be hard to take.
Jennifer Newcomb Marine and Carol Marine, a mother/stepmother pair who have actually made it work, write in No One’s the Bitch about the factors that can make it a war zone between you and your ex-husband’s wife. The two of them learned through hard knocks how to make a co-parenting plan work, and recently appeared on the Dr. Phil Show together.
If your ex-husband has pegged you as the devil’s assistant, then it’s obvious that your ex-husband’s wife is going to have a skewed impression of you. Badmouthing on either side (you against him, or him against you) makes it almost impossible to get cooperation between the two sides of the children’s family. The important thing for you to know and for your ex-husband to know too is that the real effect of badmouthing is putting your children in the impossible situation of being stuck in the middle between a rock and a hard place. They could get over the divorce so much more easily if you two stop this battle of trash talking one another!
It’s not fun to look at our motives for disliking (or worse) your ex-husband’s wife. The authors list some of these motives, which represent our “shadow self” – the parts of ourself that are a bit too ugly to admit (but once we do, we’re actually making progress!).
The motives summarized in No One’s the Bitch are as follows:
Wanting to be right – Our ego is so invested in being right that we will lose a relationship to be right, ever kept a fight going past the point
constructiveness – until you felt you had proved yourself right? Still trying to prove you were the right one from the divorce?
Wanting to look good – It’s hard not to be jealous of your ex-husband’s wife, and not to compare yourself to her. The ego’s best way of doing that? Making her look bad!
Wanting to be superior – Do you find yourself comparing yourself to her (as a cook, as a mom, as a housekeeper, physically, etc) with your kids, trying to come up on top?
Wanting to be in control – I know, you want to make the important decisions in your children’s lives – and when they’re with your ex-husband’s wife, she’s in control – yikes!
Playing the victim – After my divorce, I fell into the victim role with seemingly excellent reason when I tell my story, sympathy starts flowing my way every time. After a couple years, however, I was hit by the realization that playing the victim meant I needed to stay unsuccessful and miserable – what kind of victim has a wonderful life? So, I opted for creating the life I wanted, and letting go of being the victim.
Giving in to insanity and deceit – Ever notice how you can do wild and crazy things when you’re angry enough? How you’re willing to lie in order hurt others? It is insanity; take a look at your behavior regarding your ex-husband’s ex-wife – does this shoe fit?
So before you determine that the entire source of the problem you have with your ex-husband’s wife is ALL her fault, be willing to admit if any of these motives apply to you – even just a little. And whether you find yourself judging her – the way she dresses, looks, manages her home, treats your children, handles money or her career – any of it.
Getting honest with yourself is the first step – once any member of this triangle – yourself, your ex, and your ex-husband’s wife- changes motives, progress begins.
If you or your ex-husband is still carrying baggage from the divorce, this is where the first work needs to be done. That unresolved baggage is what keeps negative emotions alive and what fuels the above motives as well as the endless cycle of bad communication, anger and judgment.
You’re not alone in carrying around old baggage; it’s what we do as human beings, it takes years after a divorce to sort it all out, and it takes a lot of effort to dump it. And your ex may have remarried before you were complete with this work (divorced dads tend to remarry much more quickly than divorced moms).
So, I guess there’s plenty to gain from making her look bad – it makes you feel better.
But, what’s to gain from getting along with your ex-husband’s wife? According to Jennifer Newcomb Marine and Carole Marine, plenty! I recommend reading their book and taking their advice seriously to get the whole picture. Right now I’m going to focus on a particular benefit – the biggest one: A better life for your children.
You are not alone by any means in feeling that your ex-husband’s wife is a problem. But the problem with being at conflict is the tremendous drama that’s created in your life, which takes a ton of energy that could be used for living.
After all, there are children in common between you, children who are real people with real needs, who go back and forth, who need to put their energy into developing into independent adults, and who deserve a chance to be whole.
One of the most important things they need from you and your ex- and your ex-husband’s wife – is the chance to love and honor all of their parents. Yes, that includes her too!.
I was fortunate. I saw the advantages for me, and for my son. I had been divorced for seven years and had had a chance to clear my issues from the divorce, and no longer harbored much anger or resentment. I could see that my son was more comfortable visiting his dad when there was a “mother figure” in the home (the household functioned better than he could do on his own); and as a single mom, I really needed the break that his visits with his dad afforded me. I did have to let go of some control (they didn’t do many things the way I would have) and some judgment and jealousy.
But it’s all worth it now, when my grown son says that he feels fortunate for having the advantage of four parents, each of whom provided a unique contribution to who he is today.
If you need help on how to improve relationship between a stepmom and stepdaughter, see online course offered by StepMomSOS