My husband and I just celebrated our wedding anniversary. We’ve been together for almost 7 years. Our marriage has been challenging due to his ex and her instabilities, which inevitably trickle down to us.
Nevertheless, each year we like to reflect on the past year and how our marriage has improved.
This year I had a revelation during our conversation;
Stepmoms are not most women.
Most women would have left years ago. If you are reading this I suspect you are also not like most women. Who are we? Why do we stay? Why do we feel lonely? What do we sacrifice? What do we need? What do we get?
Who are we?
We are STRONG women with even stronger values. We are not like his ex; we aren’t quitters. We love our partners even though their past life brings us much turmoil. We have their backs and won’t let anyone mess with them, and we expect the same in return. We are strong because we care for our stepkids just like they were our own.
I thought I was weak because I stayed with my husband and endured torture due to his ex. I would ask myself why I am staying with this man when he has all this baggage with his ex and kids. Am I afraid of getting back out there? Am I afraid of another failure? Am I tired of being alone? Absolutely, YES to all of the above! But, additionally, I love him. Just because we recognize our weaknesses doesn’t mean we have to let them rule us. Recognizing our weaknesses gives us power and the ability to stay strong.
Why do we stay?
There aren’t many of us that STAY. Yes, there are more stepfamilies than traditional families but our statistics for longevity are poor. The average first marriage lasts around 8 years but the average second marriage lasts around 6.5 years.[i] The divorce rate for second marriages when one partner has children is over 65% and the rate rises to 70% when both partners have children. If you’re in a third marriage you have a 25% success rate.[ii] So, to increase odds, we need to learn how to take care of ourselves and our partner needs to learn how to appreciate and support us as a new wife and stepmom.
This one may be tricky. Your new partner has to acknowledge your role in his life and that of his kids. The staying power starts when you and your partner start working together. The longer this process takes to accomplish the harder it is for your relationship. This may mean setting boundaries with that high conflict ex or structured rules for the kids. If his ex doesn’t like the new boundaries your relationship brings that’s a huge indicator they were desperately needed.
Why do we feel lonely sometimes?
Recognizing our weaknesses gives us power and the ability to stay strong.
We can feel totally LONELY in a room full of step kids with our partner’s arms wrapped around us. We feel like we don’t belong to this family that existed prior to us. We are afraid to incorporate how we would like to do things with already established processes. Their old activities and traditions might not be ours. How can we feel like we belong?
It’s important you work together in setting rules, incorporating old traditions with new customs and working together as a family. Ask your partner and step kids to be open to your suggestions. Ask your partner to include you in conversations with the kids, activities, rulemaking, discipline and setting new family traditions. Your input is invaluable and will bring a fresh perspective. This shows the kids you and their father are working together to make a new life, healing from past pains and showing the children the appropriate functions of a healthy family.
Additionally, your partner needs to make sure his children understand your role as their stepmom. He needs to allow you the freedom to set rules and help you maintain rules. The key is structure and consistency for both the ex and kids. Remember, not many of us stay so when we do we’re special.
What do we sacrifice?
We SACRIFICE a lot! We give our love, patience, time, money and “turn the other cheek” each day. We have started a new family with our partner and often times we have added our own children to the mix. We are challenged with balancing who gets what and who did what to whom every day. Sometimes we just want to escape but commitment makes us stick it out.
Many nights we just want to come home, put on our pj’s and eat ice cream. We don’t want to prepare a meal or do laundry. But, this is what we do. We give up our free time to raise step kids. We get no recognition from his ex for doing any of this; in fact, she may challenge or criticize every move making our task that much more difficult. We receive very little acknowledgement from our step kids and an occasional thank you from our partner. Often, Mother’s Day goes totally uncelebrated with us even though we do much of the rearing. Our sacrifice is great, happens daily and is usually met with a thankless group of individuals.
What do we need?
In a perfect world, we NEED his ex to move 10 states away and our step kids to listen to our advice and rules with complete understanding and follow-thru. But, we don’t live in a perfect world.
So, in our not so perfect world here is what’s needed. We would appreciate occasionally being told that what we do matters and is causing a positive change for our blended family. It helps to know our relationship with our partner is a major priority in his life. We need to know what we do is recognized and appreciated by both our partner and step kids. We don’t demand a lot, but a little acknowledgement would be grand.
What do we get?
We GET a new chance on life. We GET the opportunity to live our lives with a new partner. We GET the opportunity to raise step kids that might not have it as great if we weren’t in the picture. We GET the chance to blend families that were badly broken and show them what a realistic but happy marriage and family might look like. We GET everything! We appreciate what we have and don’t take it for granted because we know what a broken family feels like and we don’t want to go back to that place.
We are not most women. We are strong, we get lonely, we make huge sacrifices and we need our partners and step kids to acknowledge our role. But, in this world of turmoil and disappointment where it’s easy to leave, we STAY because the rewards are much more beneficial than leaving.
[i] Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, Family Law Attorneys, Everything You Need to Know about Divorce-Facts, Statistics, and Rates.
[ii] KSL.com, Stepfamilies: The odds are against us, Kimberly Sayer-Giles
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!