Dealing With a Difficult Ex-Wife

(As previously published in the October 2011 issue of Stepmom Magazine)

Hindsight is 20/20. If there is one thing I wish I could have foreseen when I met my husband, it’s the difficulties I would encounter with his ex-wife. Before she had even met me, it seemed her mind was made up. I was the devil—at least on the days she was willing to acknowledge my existence.

Within many stepmom communities, divorced moms have earned a pretty bad reputation, and it’s easy to see why. There are many reasons why perfectly sane, intelligent, otherwise-normal women act not so normal when their ex-husbands remarry.

Stepmoms can save themselves a lot of stress and angst by understanding a few basic truths and some sound coping strategies.

So, here are five things that will help you cope with a less-than welcoming ex-wife.

1. Don’t expect appreciation from her.

You deserve to be acknowledged, but being deserving isn’t enough. In mom’s mind, she didn’t sign up to co-parent with you, and she and her ex were doing just fine before you came along.

If you stop expecting a “thank you” that might never come, you’ll stop being disappointed. Let that expectation go, and if she happens to come around one day you’ll have reason to celebrate!

Who you should be receiving appreciation from is your husband. If he’s lacking in that department, give him a little reminder that it would be nice to be recognized for all you do.

2. Let go of wishing she would do things the way you do.

It’s so easy to judge another’s parenting, especially when we only hear half the story. Realize that she is not you. She doesn’t see life through the same filter as you. She probably has different values than you, and our values guide most of our decisions.

Is she making decisions that put her child in immediate danger? Will her choices assure your stepchild a life of crime? If so, then your husband needs to kick it into high gear, but if not, try to let go of your judgments. They’re a waste of time and the only person they hurt is you.

3. Recognize the need for boundaries.

Does she seem to CC you on every nasty email to your husband? Or perhaps you’re the lucky recipient of her anger. A wonderful boundary to set in regard to email is setting up a rule.

On most email servers, you can set a rule that says, “If from ___ then send to ___.” That way, her email goes directly into a designated folder for later use in court or the trash—whichever you see fit.

Either way, it saves you from being harassed or affected by her negative words. And what you don’t know won’t hurt you.

4. Remember that she’s your husband’s ex, not yours, and it’s his job to deal with her.

I don’t know why we stepmoms feel the need to have our hand in everything, but the smartest and sanest thing you can do is let your husband be the one to communicate with her.

This might seem harsh, and you might feel guilty because he’d rather not talk to her either, but it was his decision to marry her, or at least procreate with her, so she’s his to deal with.

Stepping away from her drama will leave you in a more peaceful state and better able to support your husband.

5. Don’t take it personally.

Unless you were intentionally nasty and cruel to her, please stop beating yourself up, wondering what you did to make her hate you.

And while you’re at it, please stop trying to be overly nice to her while she continues to show you she has no interest in forging a relationship with you. There are probably a million emotions she hasn’t processed or isn’t capable of working through and she just might not be able to accept you.

It’s OK to stop trying to get somewhere with her. On the upside, she doesn’t have to accept you!

Her opinion of you doesn’t dictate your worth.

Let go of trying to please her and focus on what really matters— you, your marriage and your family.

(photo credit:Idea go)

© 2011 Jenna Korf    All Rights Reserved

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41 thoughts on “Dealing With a Difficult Ex-Wife

  1. Spot on. BOUNDARIES are the best advice anyone can give in this situation. It takes a lot of work to set them up, and often there will be drama in doing so, but once they are up things get so much easier for everyone. No one can open up if they don’t feel safe. Boundaries allow that safety and the potential of getting along in the future more than any fake niceties ever could.

  2. Really great article. I am so drained from dealing with the ex I decided about 6 months ago to detach from the situation. And let my husband handle it. He is so drained from her antics and making every situation difficult and exhausting. He rather avoid her all together. Because we don’t know if what she is saying is true or not. It’s easier now that the kids are older to call them or text on their phone. Even tho I have made stepped back and refuse to deal with it, somehow it’s still my fault. My husband never responds. The one time he does, she thinks it me pretending to be him. I’m like OMG, how old are we? It’s like her mind is gone. I have tried the past few months to be helpful and nice. Her issues should be with her ex husband not me. Cuz honestly I don’t care. After what I have been thru I want NOTHING to do with her or the whole situation. It’s my husband drama and he is dealing with it. But she still wants to drag me in. I just want to be left alone and enjoy my life. Why wouldn’t she want the same and stop the crap. I get along great with everyone including my ex husband wife. I think she is great. I have never been called the psycho ex wife, we are actually friends. That’s cuz she is normal and sane and so am I. My husband ex can’t get along with me, her husbands ex wife, my husband. Anyone. It’s like go away. Live your life. U dont need to talk to us. You don’t need to bother us. We want u to go. My husband is to his wits end. He hates her. I have never seen him hate before like he hates her. He is rey positive but if her name gets brought up. He can’t stand it.

    • Hi Kelly, some people are addicted to drama. You’re wasting time trying to understand why she is the way she is. Stick to your firm boundaries. She can only drag you in if you let her. Great job stepping back and letting your husband handle things! :)

    • OMG!!! This sounds just like my situation! I am so glad that I am not alone. I just made up my mind this past week to remove myself from the drama too. I feel bad because the ex-wife’s antics hurt the children and we try so hard to smooth it over…of course we are still the bad people. Many people will tell me that in time these kids will see what parents have their best interest in mind and who was the one to hurt them. I’ve got 3 of my own kids that are great and my ex-husband and I get along without any drama. It’s so hard on my kids to see me deal with it all too. I try to keep them away from it but all we want is a “normal” life…as normal as blended families can be. I look forward to this blog and reading about the other parents dealing with the same issues. God Bless!

  3. This is a great article and I should remember these when the moment arises, however, I have come into something different, and I am not sure how to cope. My husband and I do not have a “rich” life, we are middle of the road. I can’t recall the last time we even went out and splurged on ourselves. We have been having to dip into our savings to make it through the month. I no longer recieve child support, as my children are older. My husband has been paying child and spousal support to his ex, his kids are younger, however, my husband, for a few reasons, has not been employed for the past 3 years, and has still been paying his very high support, his support to her is more than I bring home in a month. He was going to have a judge revisit the situation, which would then alleviate us financially but also still paying support, then his ex asked him to extend the court date, in order for her to get her affairs in order, as she sobed to him, and he went ahead and did this. My husband than received a call from her lawyer!! And then he was anxious to get a job, and then he was offered the position and said that he is not going to go through with having a judge revisit the custody orders. And I am very very angry!! He darn well should, he gives her everything, he pays beyond what he should, he gets no help with dentist/ortho payments or many other things, in fact he has also in the past paid her cell phone on top of what he gives her. Their children are in school full-time but still refused to work full-time to make more money for herself. Her live-in bf has so much money it’s crazy and her bf takes her on world-wind trips without the kids, which is going to be a problem now that we are both working full-time. Her bf and her are also looking to buy a home together, and it is her bf who is going to be paying most of that and yet she gets more from my husband, has her part-time wages, and her gov’t child bonuses and complains about things that drives me nuts.
    I wish my husband would somehow not feel so obligated towards her and be more obligated towards me and our family and home together, after all she is far from single, she just has a very “princess” lifestyle and my husband seems to fall for her cries all the time.
    So how do I now face her when I see her, whether at my home, her home, get togethers for their kids?

    • I am so glad I read your comment, My husband’s ex is draining us dry. He was never married to her but they have 2 children together. He has always taken care of his kids. He has done so much I can’t even say it all. He even bought her a car and paid her insurance. He paid her rent and all her bills for four years and moved in with family members. One day out of the clear blue sky she re-opened a child support case on him that had been closed for 13 years. She said he had not given her a dime in all those years. No lawyer can help. Their sons are now out of school and working. We have a 8 year old we can barely feed. If it were not for grandparents buying his clothes and underwear, he would not have any. I have been so hurt because I have treated her children like my own and now she does not want my son to and I to have anything now that she does not need us as babysitters anymore. I just can’t cry anymore. There were days when I needed prescription medication for my blood pressure and could not get it because of child support payments. Because she lied and he cannot prove 13 years of child support payments, they settled on him owing $30,000+. I feel so bad inside because I regret every good thing I ever did for her or her children. This is totally against my nature and I have no peace. I have never lived with regret. I have made mistakes in my life but, I have never felt regret over learning experiences. On the outside I look normal but, on the inside I am as angry as I have ever been. I hate this feeling but the thought of her living the life she is able to live at the expense of my husband, based on a flat out lie and, my son having to go without because of it breaks my spirit. I have no peace. I am a good person and I feel awful about the thoughts that consume me. I am cheating my son out of the mother he deserves and my husband out of the wife he married. I just don’t know how to get over this. we have 3+ years to pay her. Sometimes I don’t think I can stay with my husband because I just want my peace back. Can someone please help me?

      • Pamela, you need to stop focusing on that situation and her. You’re not going to be able to make sense of it and thinking about it is only harming you and your family. I would make a concerted effort to catch yourself whenever you think about the situation and shift to better thoughts. Make a list of thoughts and visualizations that make you feel good and force yourself to think about them every time you catch yourself thinking about her. Eventually your brain will think about her less and less. Your brain is in the habit of thinking of her and the situation and you just need to form a *new* habit. Maybe think about how lucky you are as a mom or remind yourself of why you married your husband in the first place. Think about vacations you took or activities that bring you joy. Anything but her. :)

        • Thanks Jenna this is great advice. It has been hard for me to move forward. I have been frozen in pain and suffering to myself, trying not to make other people feel uncomfortable. That sucks. I decided to separate myself from the situation and focus on my vision board for my life, It is a real effort but you have inspired me with very good advice. She is a horrible person and, I should not waste any time from my life I can’t get back thinking of her. There is nothing more she can do. She has played her last card and there is an expiration card on everything in life. I must move on and leave thoughts of her behind. I don’t have to deal with her anymore. The aftermath of what she has done keeps us constantly getting in and out of situation after situation. I am going to think my way out of this nightmare.

    • Kailua, I think your husband May be feeling guilty about the divorce. My husband admitted that he felt guilty about divorcing his kids’ mom because of the changes that his kids had to go through & not being able to be their for them on a day to day basis like he used to. He could no longer get along with or be around their mom as the marriage had broken down significantly (I won’t even get into her DRAMA that we have to deal with). I wanted to share with you my experience of what my husband felt because of his divorce, & maybe you can have a heart to heart with your hubby to see why he tends to bend over backwards for the ex… it may be something more going on with him emotionally.

  4. Hi Kailua, the problem here is the not the ex-wife, it’s your husband. Men’s instincts are provide for their family, and it seems that he’s still feeling it’s his duty to provide above and beyond while your family suffers. It’s not unreasonable for him to go back to court and ask for support be adjusted to reflect his current income.

    Have you talked to his plan for the future financially? If you’re dipping into your savings just to get by, how does he see that playing out? Is he willing to stop paying for “extras”?

    I hope he’s open to differing solutions and to seeing that while it’s noble for him to want to provide more than he’s required to, he really should be making sure that it’s not detrimental to your future and his.

  5. Thanks Jenna. I wish it was that easy. I was very happy when he chose to have his support etc. readjusted, as he realized just how we were living month by month. And then when his ex asked to speak with him before the court hearings, we thought this would be a good idea to have a discussion that was civil first. I did not attend this but it did not go well, and his ex and oldest child brougt on the tears. I have no idea what the was discussed between him and her lawyer, however, we did find out that the calculations we thought would change were incorrect and we would be having to pay her a little more than what we thought would be adjusted to, but still less than what he pays currently. And then out of the blue he was more anxious than normal to find a job, which he has and he will be starting shortly, however, there should still be an adjustment, and if his ex would like when he has established himself in his new commission based job, she can then have this readjusted at that time. But when I question him on when the court date is, he just says he has dropped the whole matter and will continue to pay the support as is, as he feels he will be able to make the money he did 3 years ago, however, the cost of living etc. has increased since then, so it should be readjusted accordingly regardless of employment.
    My ex is certainly not the same as my husband, his only concern was for the our children’s well being, as he said, we are no longer together, we have moved on, and it is no longer his responsibility to worry about me financially or day to day but more as the Mom of his kids and that is how I feel about my ex. I do not understand what it is that his ex seems to have a hold on him about, I do not know why they divorced, and if that has something to do with this or not, and it makes it very difficult for me to support him in his decisions. I understand that there are decisioins he needs to make with his ex regarding their kids, and that my input is not required, however, when it comes to how it affects our household and our family, then should I not get a say?
    When I was going thorugh my court adjustments, my husband was all over it, telling me what I need to ask the Judge for, what I am willing to surrender or change, and how I still need to have my support coming in, even though it is not written that way in the law books, he wanted me to do anything and everything to keep my support money coming in, to the point where he was sure a Judge would see my side of things, and in the end, the Judge did was was lawfully right and there was no arguing with it, because it was the right thing to do, whethere I liked the outcome or not. However, he will not do the same for himself, nor will he take my input on this.
    I do not know how to support him?
    I do not know how to like his ex, when she cannot see beyond herself and see what he pays for, that he has a new family (actually we are not new by any means), and that she is very much pampered by her ex, her not new live-in and her ex MIL, who is my current MIL.
    It makes it hard for me to get through my days sometimes, knowing I am hard working and always have been and yet I feel I bring home really nothing at the end of the day. I almost feel like I should be getting a second job, even when my husband didn’t have one.
    I am also at the point, that I will splurge on myself, even if it is to make myself feel a bit better, and than I will feel bad for doing it.
    I don’t like living like this financially, and almost feel like it was his ex-wife who made his mind up for him to return to the workforce, don’t get me wrong I am happy about that, but not about the timing or the reasoning, he should have done this for the sake of his family not his ex.
    And now things are going to change, he is no longer going to be at their becking call to transport kids to and from schools or friends or when Mom didn’t make them a lunch etc…they will not be at our home as oftern, because of school, as well as my husband will be working most weekends, and possibly later starts but then later ends…so it will make a difference for everyone, and we only have one vehicle, I had to surrender mine, as we could no longer afford it, so if he has the car, I am not able to assist with transporting anyone and therefore, that leaves people to have to depend more on themselves, and others.

  6. Kailua, first, you don’t have to like the ex. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you’re feeling about her. The more you try to deny your feelings the more they will persist. So feel them and then work on moving forward when you’re ready. But I think a big part of that is assigning the responsibility where it belongs, with your husband. These are *his* choices.

    What about putting aside a little extra cash of your own every paycheck, that’s like your personal stash. That way at least you’ll have money to spend on yourself when you want to treat yourself. It may also help you feel less resentful.

  7. I will work on moving forward with my hubby’s ex and hopefully in time, things will work themselves out.
    Yes, I do put responsibility on him, and I would like nothing more for him to take this and move forward with this himself. I must admit from what I know of being divorced and my friends, they have a very unique relationship. They say they just see each other as other people, but my hubby has a key ot her house and is welcome whenever he likes, we get invited for dinners there and have gone, to the point that my hubby is making dinner for everyone at her home. To the point where he has gone camping with her and her bf at her bf’s cabin, but I have never been asked to join, he has gone twice in tow years, and when he gets angry at something, he runs and he always runs to her. And yet, he says he doesn’t care, it is about his kids. They go as far, as when we go on vacation to the States, he bring her back cigarettes and she does the same, plus she has boughten him clothes on her vacation, and it is her bf who is taking her and that she is with. It is nice to be nice to your friends and help out and share, but they are ex-spouses and there seems like a boundary is being crossed. His ex even still spends nights at his Mom’s place and goes for dinners, even brings her bf along and many other things.
    Would my husband being adopted have anything to do with how he feels towards people, just being people?

  8. I’m so glad im not alone! i have been with my husband for 9 years married 7. He has 2 girls 15 & 17. He or we paid child support everymonth payroll deducted at $1072 per month as well as half out of pocket medical expences. His ex wife remarried after knowing a quite older man after dating for 4 months and moved to another county. The girls came to live with us to finish school and not comfortable with the new man. My husband & ex verbally agreed to no lawyers, no child support & to return any money she received until we could notify the state of the arrangements. A few days later we were served with papers from her attny. Long story short she was ordered to pay us a $120 per month in child support. She now wants us to pay for her attnys fees of $30,000. We have been to court twice in a yard and no final judgement on attny fees. She has paid child support late and the wrong amount, is 2 months behind on medical. I have tried to remove myself but its hard as i keep records of everything and have to sit down with my husband to answer any emails our attny may have. HELP!!

  9. I read all kinds of advice that Stepmoms are supposed to extend the olive branch to the bio mom and try to work out some kind of relationship. But there is no advice for Stepmoms who have bio moms who have shown and said nothing but contempt for you, even if you’ve never met her. Am I supposed to put myself in an extremely vulnerable position and ignore my boundaries to try and communicate with someone who is potentially harmful to my psyche? I have my stepson full time, not only do I not expect a thank you or even acknowledgement, I don’t ever expect a direct contact from her ever. Which in a way is fine, but I suppose the fantasy of having someone on my side to help with her son, is still inside me. She is hostile and confrontational with my husband, so co-parenting is not an option unfortunately. It is hard to have the ambiguous role of ‘mom but not mom’. Any advice from anyone who’s been there?

    • Sun, the short answer is no, you are not supposed to put yourself in a vulnerable position or ignore your boundaries. No way. Some times a mom/stepmom relationship works, most of the time, it does not. What I have learned after years of trying is to just let go of whatever fantasies I had of all of us being one big family that works together and puts the needs of the kids first. Unfortunately, many of us stepmoms just don’t have that sort of counterpart in the mom. Too much territoriality, jealousies, bitterness, lack of healing from their divorce, etc. If you have a difficult mother that you deal with, strive for basic peaceful interactions when you simply HAVE to interact with her and let that be it. I’ve had to do the same…. It just is what it is. She is not the kind of person that is healthy for me and my family to be around.

      I know it’s hard sometimes to let go of what we wanted to happen in these blended families… those fantasies of having someone on our side, to have both woman putting the kids first and working together, but that is really a rarity. Best of luck to you!!

    • I so badly wish I had an answer for you, I don’t think I ever will, but your situation sounds so much like mine I had to comment. I am struggling so much with this right now (why I found myself reading these posts). There is such a negative connotation towards stepmothers right off the bat. (I try not to blame Disney but hey, if the shoe fits…) I don’t even like referring to my step-son (he’s also with my husband and I full time) as just that. I love him like he’s my own. I care for him as if he were my own, it sounds like I’m distancing myself from him when i say “step-“. What he and I have decided to do is refer to one another as “bonus-mom/bonus-son”. That sounds better and it’s honestly how I feel. He is the wonderful bonus I received when I married my husband. Sometimes it takes a little explaining when I refer to my “bonus-son” to someone for the first time, but usually after I explain he’s my son who I coincidentally can take no genetic credit for, people respond very positively. It also puts a positive spin on it for myself and my family. That’s part of how I deal with the “mom but not mom” thing.

      There is also this outright war between step moms and “bio moms” so right off of the bat there’s tension no matter what situation you find yourself in. Often there’s this “know your place” kind of attitude condemning involved step-parents. While I agree a step-parent can not and should never try to take the place of a child’s biological parent, I don’t see the issue with taking an active role in that child’s life…especially if you live together almost every day. I can only imagine that “know your place” attitude stems from jealousy and I’d hope if I were in the “bio mom” position I’d be happy my child had more positive influences care takers and role models in their life than most children do. That is assuming the step-parent is a good one and an upstanding human being. I also can’t imagine doing this halfway. I will never apologize for anything I do for or with my bonus-son. I couldn’t possibly just take a back seat here and hope for the best. Hopefully someday his mother will see why that’s nothing but good for her child. I’ll spare you the trash talking of my husband’s ex but it’s not unwarranted and similar to what I’ve read others complain about. The fact that my husband has custody tells you enough. The “line” or “boundary” for what a step-parent can or should be doing sure isn’t stationary by any means. I think it’s different for every family and changes as children grow and hopefully parents grow too. That’s part of the reason it’s so difficult.

      As I said, I haven’t figured this out. I don’t think I ever will but what any of us has to try to do is whatever we can to make these kids’ lives better. If we are going through so much ourselves, imagine what a child is dealing with, not knowing all the information, being told 2 different stories by adults they’re supposed to inherently be able to trust, bouncing back and forth and sensing all of the tension…it’s awful.

      My goal is to remain at least civil with my bonus son’s mother, hopefully set clear boundaries for her negatively impacting our daily lives and harassing my husband, maybe try mediation or counseling to get a cohesive parenting plan in place and ultimately for my husband and myself to be the bigger people and pick up the slack she leaves for the sake of her child. The guardian ad litem in my husband’s custody case explained it nicely for us outside of the courthouse…If one parent is Maria from “the Sound of Music” and the other is just awful…who do you think will have to compromise more for the sake of the child? Parenting is a selfless vocation, co-parenting with a toxic person is even selfless, and I think step-parenting in that situation is even more so. It will never be easy but I hope the end result will be worth all of this pain. <3

  10. My partner and I have been together since his wife of 15 years decided to have an affair and walk out on him. She is now living with the man she had the affair with…My partner being a good hearted person believed her when she said she was just moving to the city temporarily to go to school (this happened shortly after he found out about the affair and she said she wanted to patch things up). He believed her, but once she got to the city she quickly informed everyone around her that she was never going back. He is now 16000 in debt for lawyers just to have partial access to their three children.. the oldest of which won’t even speak to him unless she wants him for something…..otherwise she is screaming at him just because he has asked her how her day was…..we recently found out that the mom told the kids that he and I had the affair….how do we even combat that??????? It’s not like he can sit three kids down and say hey this was not me it was your mother and him. He refuses to do that to them……he doesn’t want to tear the ex up to the kids they deserve to be able to love their mom without that ….. you would think that he would deserve the same in kind!!. I have gone out of my way for all of them her, her boyfriend every time they are angry at him send nasty texts to me……I am terrified of her boyfriend he has previously threatened to beat my partner up and yelled at me because of something she caused. She misinterprets everything My partner says and twists it so that it doesn’t even remotely resemble what is true then next thing I know I get texts from the boyfriend threatening my partner. He is very careful to keep if veiled and only to be outright blatant when he is in person so then it becomes our word against his……she is constantly after us for money…..he is paying her 40% of his paycheck and I now have to work two jobs just to make ends meet. There is nothing left for my own children………My partner has joint custody and joint guardian ship of their children and half of all holidays….It is the end of June and she still won’t give him a summer schedule that they can communicate on (per the court order) I don’t know what else to do……I had to put up a boundary that My partner could have a relationship with his older daughter but not at my home…….she is toxic and terrorises everyone in the house. Yelling and screaming slamming doors etc…..

    • Hi Taylor, I highly recommend you and your husband read Divorce Poison by Richard Warshak. It’s a book on Parental Alienation and it will give you some great tools to refute the lies mom is telling the kids without disparaging her. The problem with not telling the kids your truth is that they may grow up believing lies about their father and choose not to have a relationship with him – all based on lies. In that case, their mom would have been successful in alienating them from him. You should also block the boyfriend and mom from your phone. There is no reason to give them access to you. You must protect yourself from their harassment.

      • My partner and I have since begun the journey of reclaiming our lives with both of our mutual children. We are heading back to court requesting the court divide the holidays to even and odd years, (rather than expecting her to be reasonable regarding the schedule and when he receives it) boundaries laid out in black and white regarding drop off. A mediator that they will both go through to mediate any change request for holidays or for regular schedule changes (thankfully not me anymore) to ensure that they are done in a fair and respectful manner. Drop off to be at a neutral location and financial requests to go through the lawyer.

        My partner is handling all things with her allowing me to have freedom from it other than to support the choices he makes regarding his children.

        Reading this site has given me a lot of insight as well as the conflict/crisis counselor. I can not fix her…….I can not make her be reasonable or willing to put the value of the children’s relationship with their father as important as hers…..I could spend countless of my hours wasted trying to figure out what I can do differently to make things better……..but I can’t so I won’t and should not….

        This is not going to be an easy journey for me. There will be times I will struggle not to fall back into that roll of trying to fix everything. It is my personality trait…….but I will work on it to keep my family safe and intact, this does include the relationship that I have with the two younger children who live part time with us.
        Thank you Jenna for providing guidance and a place for those of us who are struggling with this issue.

        • You’re welcome, Taylor! Any time you start to feel yourself slipping into the fixer role, just come back here for some support. You can do this! :)

  11. Thank you, the stress on our lives while trying to navigate this has been immense. I have blocked all phone calls from both the mother and her boyfriend. I have also set up a filter that blocks her from emailing me. I am exhausted and this has given me the first positive feeling in a long time.

  12. Reading these stories is so helpful. Thank you.

    We, too, are dealing with a toxic ex. My particular struggle is that she is a completely different person privately and publicly. I believe that she suffers from borderline personality disorder, and that my husband is the target of her blame (borderlines often have one target. Used to be her dad, now it’s my husband, someday it will be her new husband… poor guy). My husband suffered from nearly 2 decades of emotional abuse from her that he is only now healing from. And since our marriage, she has done horrible, scarring things (like showing up at our home screaming at my husband immediately after my son was born when we were all home bonding, correcting her daughters when they call our son (technically their half-brother) “brother” rather than their “half-brother”, insinuating that we had an affair when actually SHE is the one who had an affair while my husband and I only MET after their separation, etc).

    But the horrible part is that she is SO GOOD at hiding her “dark side” from others, who pretty much uniformly think she is a lovely person. She is lovely to me in public (school functions etc) and in front of the kids, but routinely awful to my husband and me (she used to be a bitch to me in email, but we have stopped all email contact). And to make matters worse, *sometimes* she is super nice even in private, so it’s a total roller coaster.

    The reason is that this is so hard is that we live in the same community, where she has been for a decade and to which I moved only 2 years ago. To make matters worse, she has aggressively maintained friendships with my new colleagues (my husband and I are both professors and I was luckily able to get a position in his department). So my current senior colleagues are old mutual friends of “theirs”, and she refuses to back off from them. So I have colleagues who are senior to me who have no idea about the abuse she is putting us through. We are “friends” with them too, but what kind of friendship is it when someone is being awful to you and you have to hide it? (I keep my mouth pretty shut – I know that given her facade, no one who knows her will believe everything I say, and it will just make me look nuts. But really, I’m not exaggerating. I’ve been in therapy for years and I am able to “own my own shit.” But this woman has done so many things that are just crazy, crazy, horrible.)

    How do I handle living in the same community as her????????????? I think the answer is to disengage from her circle and to just find our own completely separate friends, and back of from non-professional friendships with our colleagues. But in the meantime it is HARD, and there are inevitably times when we overlap. What do I do? I don’t want to be a crazy person who goes around saying nasty things about the ex. But I also am having such a hard time with this injustice. Help.

    • Hi Jessica, I think you’ve answered your own question. :) Disengage and find your own circle of support. At the times when you overlap, just put on your happy face and remind yourself you’re doing it for the kids. The kids will have their own experiences with her and they will, unfortunately, likely resemble the ones you’re having. And as far as injustices, stepfamily life is full of them. Just do your best to take care of yourself and your marriage without focusing on her any longer than necessary.

    • Jessica, I feel your pain in your message. There are so many people who have been and are in the same position you landed in. Jenna gave me pretty much the same great advice she gave you. You cannot worry about things out of your control. I know it hurts pretty bad right now and, nothing about it is fair. It will all make sense later. Move on and focus on the great things ahead for the two of you. Set a goal that has nothing to do with this situation, something that requires a great deal of attention and planning. Make this your new project. It will not be easy because you want and deserve a voice but, it is powerless. You still have all the power in how this turns out for you. This has to be good enough. You have the right to be stress free of other people’s drama and happy with your life decisions. Create some new memories by focusing on the future you want, where you hold all the power

  13. I am dealing with a really tough situation. My husband and i are newly married but have been together for almost 3 years. He was previously married and had 2 kids by his ex wife. Whats hard about my situation is that he pays child support. The visitation for his kids arent fair because at the time when they divorced he was laid off from work and was on unemployment . So the ex wife got custody of the children. Since then he has held a well paying steady job. She hasnt worked since they have divorced. It always is up to her when he can see and spend time with the kidsit has to be on her terms. Because of the child support its hard for us to save the money to change the visitation with the courts. She always wants to bicker and argue over the things in the past….and says remarks about how her kids need to be raised to her standards….its almost as if she just doesnt want him involved at all. It bothers my husband and i because we do alot for the kids but, getting extra time for them isnt a option with her…i dont know what to do. Its stressfull thinking about how the kids think about their father when the mother is always picking at things for no reason and making it hard for my husband to be a father…what to do?

  14. Why is it always the ex wife who is hard to deal with? My ex husbands new wife goes out of her way to make my life and my kids lives a living Hell. Why not talk about how to deal with that. This woman treats my kids like second class citizens and treats her own kids like they can walk on water. It is not always the ex wife who is hard to deal with. I am a step-mom also. My step sons mom and I get along great. (we are actually good friends) It can be done. But when you have a situation to where its not the ex wife, but the new one, what then? This woman is toxic to my children and goes out of her way to make things more difficult for everyone.

    • It can most definitely be the stepmom who is more difficult to deal with, but I don’t talk much about that on this site because this site is specifically for stepmoms – and many of them are searching for ways to deal with a difficult ex-wife. Of course the strategies I offer work for everyone, in either position, but you may want to check out No One’s the Bitch if you’re wanting another perspective.

    • This site is about step moms and dealing with being a stepmom and all that comes with it. There are many sites that you can find about being the ex-wife, and how hard it is for you to be the ex-wife… This is a site for STEP MOMS, DEALING WITH THEIR husbands DIFFICULT ex-wife… Hence the sites name – stepmomhelp.com
      Take your “Anonymous” else where.

  15. My fiancé and I have been dating since October 2012 and I been his ex wife’s target ever since. I’ve never in my life encountered such hatred from anyone. We’ve never been formerly introduced because she has refused to meet me and has said on more than one occasion she will never accept me. She has sent numerous ugly messages via her and my fiance’s daughter who’s preschool age, most recent was a message that she wanted to fight me.
    My future stepdaughter keeps asking me to please talk to her mom, I would love too but I don’t believe she would be receptive. Should I try or just cut my loses and focus on being a good stepmother to my stepdaughter. I guess I’m having a hard time with this because I have a awesome relationship with my kids stepmother, we all participate in family functions a one huge noisy/fun crowd. I’m not the enemy and I wish that she would see that.

  16. It’s very nice to read that so many others are sharing in the same frustrations of having an ex- wife involved. I must say it does take a toll on me at times and puts a strain on our family. We try to have a peaceful home, but the ex lives for the drama.

  17. I have released my expectation that my husband’s ex will ever change or improve. But “forgiveness”? I feel like “forgiveness” gives the ex some sort of validation or permission to continue her toxic behavior, and I will never do that. The best I can do is take the position that “I will continue to detach from you each time you try to attach a psychic or emotional cord to me, but your bad behavior will *never* be excusable or acceptable.”

    • Annika, if you do some research on forgiveness, you’ll learn that forgiveness actually has nothing to do with the offender. Forgiveness is for YOU. It’s not validating what the offender did. It’s not saying it’s OK to continue the bad behavior. The other person never even needs to know you’ve forgiven them. All it is is you taking back your power by letting go of the anger and emotional ties to her. It can be difficult at first, and sometimes you have to forgive over and over again. But it is one of the most freeing things you can do for yourself. :)

  18. I, too, understand what you’re going through, Jessica. My husband’s ex is medically diagnosed bipolar and narcissistic. She has a public face and a private face, and never the twain shall meet, if she can manipulate things to her liking. The other side of that coin is, though, that the ex has very few actual friends. I think it must be exhausting for her to maintain her public facade, and when she is in private with people, she lets the mask slip and they see who she really is–and if they’re not already running away screaming, she then nukes the friendship and gossips to the whole town, telling the tale in a way that makes it appear to be all the other person’s fault. Master manipulator, that one is.

  19. This is by far great advice. We have gone through this the last 3 years and a huge lawyer bill defending our self’s against evil lies and is just dying down. But you are right Jenna about forgiveness, its not about her or letting her know you forgive her. The fact that you have never met her (In my case) but she has slandered, lied, tried to ruin your good name and character leave you flabbergasted that someone can literally be so evil. By my faith in Jesus that he is my protector by always staying righteous and not returning the evil the truth always comes out. The truth has came out and was not good for her. The children are now in Therapy and the truth has came out of were all the drama was coming from. The therapist is shocked Mom did not have custody taken away from her from all the lies and false allegations made in court. I can’t believe bio moms put their children through these type of situations. In all really it boils down to bio mom’s jealousy issues. I was one that took a step back early on when this start. Bio mom said stay out of everything, guess what I did other than cooking meals for them. I don’t help with homework, reading, teaching them how to shower them selves (bio mom was not teaching them and gave sponge bath still at times, gross right?) and among a lot of other stuff and guess what? I like it, less stress of my shoulder. More work for my husband. I got to the point I would go in my room and read a book just to stay away from my stepchildren age’s 8,10 now. Didn’t know if they were lying all the time or bio mom put a twist on the story making the lies come from her to. Best thing a Step Mom can do is place your limits. Believe me the girls will know were the drama is actually coming from as they get older, they are just starting to realize it know. All I care about is I treat my stepchildren with kindness and show them I love them. That’s what they will remember not the leis being told by bio mom. Bio mom is only making her self look bad in the eyes of her own children. I stand 100% behind my husband knowing he is a great dad and shows it to the girls and as long as God knows and see the truth that all that matters.

    Remember you will be judge by God as the measure of evil you do on to others. Pray for you enemies and your neighbor as you will be praised for it and saved for it into the kingdom of God.

    • Thank you for your post, Wendy. The Lord knows I needed to see this. Boundaries is truly key, and I will pray for the bio-mom that God will touch her heart to stop this….after all, it’s the children who suffers.

  20. What do you do if the ex-wife is bashing the new wife EVERYTIME there’s a conversation or if the ex-wife is in the same room as the new wife. And doesn’t want the stepmom being anywhere near their son. Mind you the newly wed couple are very nice respectable people that try to make things better. The mom is the residual parent and since she’s been since the divorce, the son is 12 and has had all F’s two years in a row now.

    • If the ex wife is constantly bashing. You cannot control that. Acceptance that you cannot control the ex-wife and all the venom that she spews is the first step. But although you cannot control her, you can control YOU. That is what I learned (the hard way). Nothing I could do would ever stop the ex wife from spreading horrible rumors about me, telling her children (my step kids) how before I entered the picture, there dad and her got along wonderfully. Which is a lie. She cheated and cheated and finally my husband filed for divorce. The children were so young, they have no memories. So she is free to put in their mind lies, probably because she never wants them to learn the horrible truth of her. When I married my husband, the ex wife was already remarried to her last fling (her 5th marriage).
      You must realize these women (ex-wife’s) who refuse to get along with the new wife, are extremely insecure, narcissistic, or have some other personality defect that is causing them to wreak havoc on your life, your husbands, even their own children, and everyone else who Knows them.
      All you can do is ignore. For your own sanity it is best to disengage. If you have tried and done all you could to make peace, yet she is still bashing you (my husbands ex wife, would smile to my face, and pretend to be all nice and want peace, then turn around and say the most disgusting things about me and my young daughter – the fact she brought MY young child into the drama was my wake up call – THIS WOMAN IS DERANGED, WITH NO MORAL COMPASS – and to continue to try was putting my child at risk)
      Accept that the woman you are dealing with is probably not playing with a full deck… She won’t change. Maintain your dignity, and never get on her Low level. I interact with my step kids when they are here. And I treat them like I would my own children. I never talk bad about the ex wife to them, and neither does my husband. That is their mother and always will be. They are now getting older (13&16) and are figuring out for themselves about their mother. As she continuously puts me down, yet I say nothing negative about her, and how she lies and let’s them down. They have come to realize that they can’t depend on her for anything. Which is pretty sad… It’s hard to understand, but I have learned to ACCEPT it for what it is…

  21. Boundaries are still definitely crossed by my husbands ex. She used to have complete control of him and what he did by threatening to never let him see his daughter if he didn’t do what she wanted (been divorced 9 years) so for the years prior to us he bowed down to her every whim to avoid her insane wrath. Shes medically DX bipolar and bat **** crazy. She has multiple faces and personalities, you never know what face she will be wearing from one hour to the next. Husband and I have been married 3 years and I wish everyday this woman would just go the hell away. My husband and I have never fought and he’s my absolute other half of me. We are very happy and a very happy blended family. I have 2 children and he has 1. The first year of our relationship was pure hell. She tried to get me fired from my job, told their daughter I wasn’t allowed to brush her hair or hold her hand, and even went as far as telling my precious step daughter that I was good friends with the man that tried to kill “mommy” years ago (she was sleeping with a man not to long after husband and her divorced), has bad mouthed me constantly to stepdaughter, I wasn’t allowed to wash her clothes and if I did mom would re-wash them. I washed them because for one I’m a mother and two everytime husband has daughter her clothes smell like mildew. The one incident that really almost sent me over the edge was when she tried to keep his daughter from him because he moved me and my two sons in and she wasn’t comfortable with boys being around her daughter because my they may “touch” her. Wtf?! But even through all this, I never once retaliated and never once bad mouthed her in front of stepdaughter. And my husband kept telling me sorry and that he would understand it if I wanted to leave. THAT, she will never have. Year two and things quiet down here and there when she’s wearing her nice face. It’s a freaking roller coaster w her. But this roller coaster is one I would like to get off. Watching my poor husband deal with her upsets me. I only give him advise when he gets off the phone and is angry.
    My number one problem with the whole custody and visitation arrangement. THERE is NO legal arrangement. So the crazy ***** switches days, makes him drive half and hour to pick his daughter up and bring her home. My husband works out of state sometimes and sometimes his drive home is 6 hours and then has to drive more time to get his daughter. It’s infuriating. If he doesn’t drive to pick her up he won’t be able to have her on his weekend and if he doesn’t drive her home he threats start spewing. And I’m not allowed to get her and this disgusting excuse for a mom won’t allow her daughter to be here with me unless my husband is here. She even says on Father’s Day and holidays that “she’s ALLOWING him to have daughter for the day.” Really?! He needs permission? Ugh, I want to slap her into reality, but I’m more controlled then that. I mention periodically to husband about filing for joint custody so that there are set days, times, and a halfway point for pick up and drop off. This is her last means of control and I wish to remove it but I’m not going to pressure my husband every moment. He did pick up the paperwork and filled some of it out but he’s nervous the ex won’t allow him to see daughter until after the court hearing. I get where his fears come 100%. Any one have any idea how to go about this? I know I’ll be the one the blame poop gets thrown at but I’ve become use to it and don’t care.

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