When I divorced my ex over eight years ago I knew I wanted to remarry. I desired companionship and closeness with another individual. But, I had certain “qualifications” that I was looking for in a new partner. One “qualification” was that he would have children. A man with children of his own would understand the love I had for my two boys. But, what I didn’t consider was that my boys were almost grown and out of the house. Should I look for a man in a similar circumstance? Obviously, that flew right past me and I fell in love with a man that had two children that were eight and ten at the time we married.
If you’ve read any of my other articles you will know that my ex passed away a week prior to my marriage, so my new husband and I didn’t have an ex to deal with on my side plus my kids had one foot out the door. However, my new husband had young kids and his situation was an entirely different story.
When I first met my husband we started as just friends. About a year after we met, we decided to enter into a romantic relationship when we realized we were in love with one another. Although I knew my husband loved me when we married, I also suspected he still had a lingering devotion towards his ex. I say this because when I first went inside my future husband’s house (when we were just friends) I noticed he still had family pictures that included his ex displayed on the walls.
Occasionally, they would meet for dinners or celebrate holidays or birthdays together. She would call him if she needed anything. For a short time, they even contemplated getting back together when we were just friends. Did she still care for him? I think he was convenient for her and a welcome distraction between new boyfriends. He was her comfort zone in the dysfunctional world she had created. Regardless, she certainly didn’t want a new wife entering the picture that worked hard at changing the boundaries.
We married two and a half years after meeting, almost four years after his divorce. But, my husband and his ex had weak boundaries and remnants of those weaknesses continued in their communications and meetings after we married. When two people divorce/break up and they establish poor boundaries thereafter, it’s very hard to firm up those boundaries when needed. Did they really want each other back? This was my struggle and a fear I had to get over to move on with my marriage. But, I couldn’t accept running a marriage boundaryless without direction. My husband didn’t want his ex back but had a very hard time transitioning over to a new wife. His ex didn’t want him back but she also didn’t want another person (me) interfering with her established broken family.
My husband was the one man that ever provided her with consistency and comfort. So, this had to be an adjustment for her as well, keeping in mind all the boundaries we imposed were not wanted by her and caused her to go through a continual process of change. No one likes change and often people fight a structured change when they are used to living life according to their terms. She lost the one thing in her life that was good – my husband and she knew he wasn’t coming back.
His personal transition to a new wife was my inner struggle. What I learned was, when a man’s loyalty runs this deep for another it takes a long time to alter that devotion and earn what another once had, even when that other person did horrible things to the one you love. Is this a good or bad thing? My husband would tell me strong loyalty is a good trait to have combined with feelings that run deep. He compared his deep feelings to a well that you drill deeper and deeper each year of marriage. My sacrifice for these qualities in my husband was losing the “honeymoon” stage of our marriage and running without direction (boundaryless) for years until we both decided to find our routine and set firm boundaries. For me today, they are excellent qualities for my husband as these deep feelings of loyalty and love have transferred over to me. But, nevertheless, it’s been a huge struggle and you either are in the game to win or you’re going to lose. I decided to stick it out for better or worse and came out the winner.
So, how do you transition from a boundaryless marriage to a marriage rich in love, loyalty and trust? Both of you have to focus on the positive, pure and good qualities of your relationship. This takes sacrifice on both sides. For me, it was taking all the walls down, letting fear go and offering complete trust to my husband. For him, it was establishing firm boundaries with his ex and completely putting me first in our relationship. We decided to work as a team instead of cyclical fighting without resolutions.
Love is the most powerful of all the qualities of transition and the instigating reason we are all dealing with boundary issues in the first place. The Bible tells us love is patient; love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts always hopes and always perseveres.
I didn’t follow this definition of love very well during our first three years of marriage. I kept every record of each wrongdoing and mistakes my husband made in my “steel trap” of a mind. I was running out of patience each time another “ex-wife drama encounter” would happen, and I would blame my husband more and more for our cyclical disagreements.
My husband, on the other hand, followed this definition of love much better than me. He was patient with my frustrations and threats, didn’t keep a checklist of my errors and most always kept his cool. He represented the love we needed to get through this storm. Let me also say, my husband is one of the most humble men I have ever met which is one reason boundaries were hard for him.
Patience is rewarding when the prize is worth waiting for. The definition of patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. In fact, almost all definitions of patience state you have the ability to endure under difficult circumstances. Nowhere can I find a definition that tells me I am enjoying the wait. So, you are enduring pain while waiting for something good.
Many times I wanted to run away from my present situation. I would get literally sick when I would see his ex, lose sleep for nights on end due to one text or email and took much of this frustration out on my husband. We were in a cycle of constant disputes over his ex, her accusations, his responses, my overthinking his and her responses/actions, etc. It was such a slow process of trial and error to set boundaries and keep them. I desired to leave the suffering and boundary experimentation behind and enjoy the calmness of living single without the baggage of a husband with an ex. My husband would tell me time would heal our wounds and always compare where our marriage was a year ago compared to where we are today. He would ask me, “Have we made progress?” “Is our marriage better today than it was six months ago?” At all times, I would have to respond with a “Yes, things are getting better.”
So, look back. Are things getting better or worse overall? If they are getting better, hold on and be patient for your reward. It’s coming!
Faith isn’t tangible; it’s abstract. You can’t touch or see it. I believe faith is something you keep, and the more you keep the faith, the stronger you become with your convictions. Faith is offering complete trust or confidence in someone or something. With love, you can see the adoration in the eyes of your partner and feel the kindness in their touch. But with faith, you hope the other individual will do things that respect you and honor their promises to you.
Without my husband putting me first in our marriage by setting firm boundaries with his ex, it was hard to offer him complete faith in our relationship and to honor him as my husband. I had to put faith in him as my husband and partner. He, in turn, had to bend and adhere to firm boundaries to keep toxins out of our marriage. I needed to feel protected and safe to offer him my faith.
Today, I find it much easier to have faith in my husband and look at him as the leader in our family. When he starting putting me first and treating me better than himself this became an easy task. We both share a collaborative faith in God and try our best to run our marriage in a way He would approve.
Linda is a mom, stepmom, grandma, ex-wife and most importantly, a new wife residing in a coastal town. She understands being a stepmom might be the most challenging role you’ve ever played. Linda enjoys sharing her stories of dealing with his ex, her step kids and new husband and loves to hear how they relate to your situations. Linda wants to encourage other stepmoms to never give up their new life role and to always look for the joy!