Updated 1/2016. This article was first published in 2011 for No One’s the Bitch.
I consider myself pretty successful in my transition from single girl to stepmom and I’ve always had the best of intentions when it came to my husband’s ex-wife.
And yet, I’ve made some moves that seemed right at the time, but weren’t.
Here’s one of them:
I won’t get into the details for privacy’s sake, but basically, I was tired of feeling like my husband’s ex-wife was pointing her finger in our direction for everything gone bad in her household, so I spoke up. Rah-rah, good for me, right??
I even did it in a way that was diplomatic. I didn’t call her names or tell her what I thought of her. I simply sent her an email giving her some really great advice.
I told her the truth; that until she took responsibility for her own life she would never be happy.
Then, thinking that I could enlighten her even further, I proceeded to explain that if she continued to blame others for her situation, she’d never have a healthy relationship and her unhappiness would continue.
All the while, I’m thinking, ‘This is great advice! These are the things her friends should be telling her!’ After all, read any book by Deepak Chopra or other spiritual leaders and you’ll find the same advice. She simply had never heard such wise words and once she did, she’d see the light. It worked for me in my life, so I’d be selfish not to share such knowledge with her. Right?
Yes, I actually believed I was being helpful.
Oh, how naïve I was.…
She’s not interested in what you have to say
To put it mildly, she wasn’t “thankful” for the unsolicited advice, she wasn’t “enlightened,” and she didn’t suddenly see (what I perceived as) the error of her ways.
After a few days, I had some realizations and sent her an apologetic email. These were my thoughts:
- Each one of us is living in our own reality. Me and my husband’s reality is VERY different from hers.
- Nothing I could ever say or do would convince her to see the situation from our perspective.
- She’s viewing life from her own childhood experiences, life experiences, her own values, her own lessons learned. And we’re viewing them from ours.
- We cannot tell someone else what their truth is.
- Even if I was spot on with her truth, the last person she’d be receptive to hearing it from is me.
No matter how right we think we are, no matter how much we think we have life figured out, even if we’re convinced we are holding the key to happiness in our hands and want to share it with the world, it’s really only the key to OUR happiness.
So before you waste one more precious moment fretting over the other woman, realize that no matter how justified you think you are, how wronged you think you’ve been, trying to change her will be the biggest waste of your time and emotional energy and will only serve to sink you deeper into her world.
To do this we start by trying to accept that she is who she is. It doesn’t mean we have to like her, be okay with her actions, respect her as a person, or even have contact with her. It just means we say goodbye to expending our energy on wishing she was different.
It means we take back our power by redirecting our energy onto ourselves, our marriage, and our family; where it belongs and where it will benefit us most.
In the end, we can either spend years fighting her, or we can let go, accept her and focus on the good things in life. I’m not saying it’s an easy choice, but it’s a choice that is ours to make.
Where to start
If you decide this is something you want to try, but it seems like an impossible task, start with baby steps. Think about one incident where you’ve been triggered and take some time to think about it from her perspective. What need of hers was she trying to meet by doing what she did? What was she trying to protect? What was she trying to gain? How was she trying to make herself feeling better?
Once you have a clear understanding of what might have been going on with her, release yourself from the need to correct her or defend yourself. The more you respond to her the more you validate her behavior, so focus your attention elsewhere in a positive way. Leave the house, go for a hike, laugh with a friend, do whatever it is you do to center yourself so you can behave in a way that’s true to who you are and so you can be proud of yourself.
© 2011 Jenna Korf All Rights Reserved
You might also like: