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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. 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. Or better yet, just block her completely.
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 acceptance or lack of has nothing to do with your value as a person or a stepmom.
Let go of trying to please her and focus on what really matters— you, your marriage and your family.
(As previously published in the October 2011 issue of Sm Magazine)
© 2011 Jenna Korf All Rights Reserved
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