Being a stepmom in a newly blended family has been the hardest task of my life. For me, the most challenging part has been learning how to deal with my husband’s ex and controlling my feelings towards her actions. But, before I get started, I don’t have a feel-good relationship with my husband’s ex. She literally despises me, and in return, I have very little tolerance for her high-conflict, always the victim mentality. Our relationship will probably never be tolerable and we won’t be planning any birthday parties together in the near future. So, if this isn’t your type of article, be forewarned.
When my 12-year-old stepson made the announcement this past December that he wanted to come live with his father, sister and me, my mind started racing and going through all the scenarios of crazy that were about to descend on our lives. It’s been a hard five years learning how to deal with my husband’s ex but time and tolerance have taught me how not to react in an overly negative nature (most of the time).
We quickly understood 2018 was going to be a bittersweet year. Sweet, because we would now have both kids together under our roof to love, guide and raise. Everything my husband lost due to his divorce has gradually been restored and this represents total closure. Bitter, because nothing worth fighting for comes easily and his ex has a way of making transitions nasty for all involved. So, immediately, we knew what we were facing and put on our armor ready for battle. But, what we also realized was we didn’t want to fight dirty and our real struggle would be our own self-control. Here are some of our actions about how we try to step above the drama and keep our sanity in light of insanity.
Be Wickedly Sarcastic (my personal favorite)
Truly, this helps more than anything. My husband and I laugh over just about everything… eventually. I say eventually because sometimes, at first, things just don’t seem funny. It seems like the sky is falling. But, if you step back (at least one of you), and make the other laugh about the situation, the tension can lighten up.
We are guilty of making extreme eye movements like his ex, repeating something she previously said in our “EX voice” and editing her communications as she misspells words. We wonder what her poor new husband is experiencing, as they only dated one month prior to marriage, and we are sure the rose colored glasses have come off. The list goes on and on, as the longer we have experiences with her, the more rich material she provides. In fact, this is one sure thing she can and does deliver on. I feel pretty sure we can all relate.
I know this isn’t very nice if it were to get outside the inner circle and pretty detrimental if the kids were to hear. So, we try to keep this between the two of us to relieve a tough day, week or month. Oops, I just told you!
“I’m in full possession of the amazing power of being sarcastic.” ~ Sarah Rees Brennan
Don’t Send Communications Until Sleeping on It for at Least One Night
Often, when my husband’s ex sends communications we find ourselves biting our lip, shaking our head and letting negativity swarm around us. Usually, the messages are extremely disturbing, accusatory, full of lies, bitter and full of typos (oh, the temptation…). To her, she is always the victim and us, the assaulters. The words make us feel like horrible people even though we are always trying to do the right thing.
Our first intuition is to respond immediately defending our turf and countering her accusations with words of disgust about how despicable she is both as a person and a mother. So, together, we write a pretty horrible response (as a draft) and go to bed. We don’t send it, but we expelled our feelings. In the morning we re-write our communication mainly keeping to the facts and remove most of the negativity.
Now, don’t get me wrong, we don’t let her run over us. We do defend ourselves as needed, but most of what she writes is white noise and should be ignored. We feel so much better knowing we rose above her invitation for constant drama.
“Do not allow negative experiences to make you bitter. They should make you wiser, and with that wisdom, you shall find joy.” ~ Leon Brown
Try to Put Yourself in Her Shoes
My husband’s ex causes so much trouble for the kids and us. But, there’s a reason for this. I don’t really think it’s because she’s a bad person; I believe she’s truly discontent in her life. She left the marriage planning on re-marrying right away. The only problem is it took her nine years to find another man. Her dream was to be a stay at home mom and now both kids have left (to live with us). I represent everything she’s left behind; I’m raising her children, have a successful career and have the love of her ex husband. That’s a lot to deal with for any woman!
I have to often take the “ex-wife” view at situations and say, how would I feel being put in her situation. So, in that respect, she deserves a bit of mercy from me. Often I find myself defending her point of view to my stepkids. For example, I know exactly how she feels when her son tells her he’s moving out. My son did the same thing and it hurt worse than anything.
Regret is a hard thing to swallow and having your ex’s new wife push it in your face (intentionally or unintentionally) is horrible. My husband and I do try to understand where she’s coming from, how our messages (and the kids’) are interpreted and what the possible outcomes might be. But, in the long run, we can only control our side; she has to ultimately take responsibility for her choices.
“Remorse is the poison of life.” ~ Charlotte Bronte
Try to Keep Communications Brief and Professional
Much of the time our communications to her are pretty straight and to the point. We have numerous emails where we have set firm boundaries and the specific reasons why those boundaries were needed. Please understand, when you put your foot down, you are not being mean or disrespectful; you are respecting yourself and your family. But, communicate those needs and expectations in a definite format and always keep your string of communications archived. No matter the appropriate tone you use, the response from the ex will likely be hostile and full of venom…so get ready to exercise some self-control.
Recently, we have learned to avoid numerous communications over a specific topic. For example, we have always been able to give and take on the visitation schedule, but this year his ex was not willing to make any adjustments (part of the 2018 crazy drama). We figured this out after about the tenth communication, which spanned over a month. First, she said she never got the document (like 5 times), then she didn’t know how to use Excel to edit the document, then she starting fighting over weekends. Our mistake was allowing all this back and forth madness to go on and on. She loves this madness, we hate it and she knows it. So, we went straight to the court documents and developed a schedule strictly adhering to those judgments. In the end, it took well over thirty communications (many of which we were maliciously accused of anything and everything). But, we managed to keep our cool and communicate the facts unlike her.
Sometimes you won’t even realize what has hit you until you are near the end of that particular event. Our visitation schedule with the kids should have taken about four emails total but took over a month and a half and well over 30 communications. I guess you live and learn.
“Sometimes it takes a wrong turn to get you to the right place.” ~ Mandy Hale
Be There For the Kids
Kids flounder when there is drama all around them. They thrive in a structured environment where they understand the expectations and behaviors of those around them. Put them in cyclical dysfunction and they will lose control, suffer from depression and possibly take on those poor characteristics of their surroundings.
I picked my stepdaughter up a couple weeks ago from a visitation with her mother. As soon as she got in the car she fell into my arms and exhaled. She had a horrible weekend full of fighting and stress. She was mentally exhausted and just wanted to go home.
If his ex is full of drama you will find yourself in many similar situations just like mine. I wanted to call my husband’s ex and say WHAT THE HECK!!! I refrained from doing that, as it would have just instigated more drama. The carousel would have started and I would have had a hard time getting off. Our job as a stepmom and spouse is to be there for our new family offering support, love and stability.
“Your perspective on life comes from the cage you were held captive in.” ~ Shannon L Alder
Stepping above the drama of his ex isn’t an easy task especially when your stepkids and his ex constantly bring it through the front door. You can either let it encompass you or work together as a family openly discussing the issues, how to handle them and keeping things as light as possible. Sometimes it requires repeating many times we know the drama is there but we have to rise above it. His ex will probably never change; she will constantly try to drag you down into the rabbit hole. You might get your boots dirty (several times) but always try to take the higher road, avoid the rabbit hole and save your sanity.
“Drama does not just walk into your life. Either you create it, invite it, or associate with it.” ~ Unknown
Linda is a mom, stepmom, grandma, ex-wife and most importantly, a new wife residing in a coastal town in Oregon. 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!