From Hell to Healing: My journey with my husband’s ex-wife

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Healing Stepmom crazy ex wife Korf

I’ve been with my husband for six years, and I recently noticed that for the past few months I’d been describing those years as “hell.” “The hell we’ve endured.” “The hellish stress.” “The years of hell she’s put us through…” Because even though my marriage to my amazing husband has been wonderful, it was often overshadowed by my hellish experience with his ex-wife.

The stress with my husband’s ex-wife was present from the beginning and I was completely unprepared for what I encountered. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was doomed from the start and destined for never-ending conflict with a woman I had never met.

I entered the relationship with my husband with positive preconceived notions of his ex based on what I had seen growing up in my own family; My mom and stepmom getting along fabulously. So my confusion began early on when I expected her to treat me neutrally or better – not like the enemy. It was as if, before ever meeting me, her mind created this horrible person and she placed that image, like a mask, onto me.

Years later it would become obvious that nothing I could ever do or say would change her image of me. I understand now that she probably needed that image of me in order to cover up her pain and unfinished business with herself.

Protect yourself at all costs

Looking back, the one thing I wish I would have done differently was completely deny her access to me. I should have refused all contact with her, but I kept thinking of a million different reasons to leave myself open. I’d get a glimpse of normalcy and use that to hold out hope for the future. I kept thinking that eventually she’d understand me, she just needed time. That she’d see me for who I am instead of the person she believed me to be. I tried to be compassionate and patient.

I tried explaining myself, correcting her misperceptions, etc… But all that did was keep her engaged and allow her to keep dumping her aggression onto me. I would block her from email periodically, but never consistently. And this was my mistake – allowing her back in over and over again.

When someone is aggressive towards you and is completely stuck in their own reality with no willingness or ability to see you in any other light, the only way to protect yourself is to stop giving them access to you. But so often we’re unwilling to take action that will actually keep us safe.

I don’t really believe in regrets – and so much good has come from this experience – but if I could go back to 2008 I would have stopped having contact with her after her first hostile email. Granted, there was no way I could have known what I was in store for. I just couldn’t have imagined such persistent and skewed perceptions existed in that manner.

So how do you know when you should cut off contact? Check in with your body. Assault on your psyche will take its toll. Emotional abuse is traumatic. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is real and can occur after being exposed to continued harassment. When an email or a text would give me anxiety for days, that was a huge red flag that something was very wrong. When the simple sound of a text message notification caused my heart to skip a beat, that was my cue that I should have been protecting myself better. Our bodies aren’t meant to be on high alert for extended periods of time.

You might think it’s impossible to block contact with someone completely when you share custody and your husband counts on your help, but it’s not. My husband had 50/50 custody, with the boys going back and forth almost every other day. But if I could have seen the future, I would have lovingly told my husband he needed to figure out how to make this work without me ever having contact with his ex. I’d be glad to drive them and help out, but in no way will I have anything to do with her. And he would have. You have to let the main players take responsibility for what’s theirs while you keep your boundaries intact. Otherwise, years down the road, you and your family will suffer.

The Healing

I was 5 years into stepfamily life when me, my husband and stepkids moved 3000 miles away from his ex and I was finally able to get some physical and emotional distance. I didn’t have to worry about seeing her car or running into her at the grocery store. No more negotiating – anything. I finally blocked her completely when the iPhone made it simple and complete: Block all numbers and email with one button.

Ten months later, although 3000 miles away, I was still feeling the effects of her assault on me. I couldn’t hear her name without feeling like I had just been punched in the gut. I found myself angrier than ever at her treatment of me over the last six years. My husband didn’t quite understand why I was still so upset when things were currently good. The ex is far away and I have no contact with her. Why couldn’t I relax and be happy? I was stuck. I realized if I can’t let go of the anger and injustice when I’m 3000 miles away and fully protected – I’ve got a problem. Some healing from the trauma needed to happen.

I was lucky enough to find a retreat center within 45 minutes of my house and very reasonably priced. So I signed up for a “healing retreat” which included 4 days of solitude for self-reflection and daily 90-minute sessions with a counselor.

There’s something very healing about stepping away from your usual environment and taking the opportunity to see things in a new light. Getting away from your home is crucial, because you’re removed from the usual triggers. You have a blank slate and time to reflect without the stress of everyday life. You’re not having to worry or provide for anyone but yourself. You can experience a sense of calm that you just can’t get at home. The bottom line is it’s extremely difficult to heal while in the environment that is causing the trauma.

The third morning of my retreat I was enjoying my coffee and reflecting on something the counselor and I had discussed – that you can’t experience the light without the dark. And it hit me: The darkness is behind me. The darkness of the past six years is over and I’m living in the light. Right now, my life is 100% awesome. I knew that I would never again allow my husband’s ex access to me and that from here on out I would be safe. So it was time for me to let go of anything I was holding onto from the past. After a 20-minute cathartic cry, I was free from the anger, resentments and pain I had been holding onto. I felt light, peaceful and open.

Now I can hear her name or talk about her without the emotional intensity I felt for so many years. I don’t feel it in my body anymore. She’s just another person. One that I won’t welcome into my home or share another family dinner with, but also one whose name or voice no longer has any physical or emotional effect on me.

You’re probably thinking that you can’t achieve this level of healing because you’re still in the thick of it. And you’d be right. As far as I can tell, you can’t heal a trauma as long as it’s ongoing. But you can find strategies and boundaries that work to minimize its effects on you. My number one recommendation is to cut all ties. Take the necessary steps to completely protect yourself from the offending behavior. If you’re not willing to do that then find other alternatives that protect you to the best of the their ability.

How did we get here?

We spend every day just trying to survive the stress, that we don’t take an inventory of what it’s really doing to our systems. Are we more depressed? Short tempered? Less fun to be around? We don’t acknowledge the seriousness of what’s happening to us. Maybe because it’s like any change that occurs over time, you can’t really see it until you wake up one day and find yourself miserable more often than not.

We justify, call her crazy or dysfunctional, but we never really open our eyes to the seriousness of the effects of being treated so disrespectfully. We’re also afraid to stand up and say no because that will make things more difficult on our partners or the kids. But we have every right to protect our well-being and we owe it to ourselves and our families to do so.

I eventually turned this experience into something positive by becoming a certified stepfamily coach and helping other stepmoms through their difficult times. So if nothing else, at least the pain of this experience was not wasted on me.

It’s not her job to care about me

Before I was freed from my anger, I was in the midst of another frustrated thought wondering how it is that she has never apologized to me or owned up to her behavior, when another realization hit me: it wasn’t actually her job to care about my feelings or treat me respectfully. Her job isn’t to ensure that I’m comfortable. That’s MY job. Her job is to take care of herself, which is exactly what she was doing. She was doing what she needed to make herself feel better. And I should have been doing the same. It was my job to make sure that I was comfortable and safe by being inaccessible to her. A job I’m finally taking seriously.

© 2014 Jenna Korf    All Rights Reserved

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This article first appeared in the July 2014 issue of Sm Magazine

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142 thoughts on “From Hell to Healing: My journey with my husband’s ex-wife

  1. This is one of the best articles I’ve ever read. Going to therapy and starting massage therapy soon.
    I feel so validated from the difficult choice I made almost 10 years ago and that was to not be accessible to my husband’s ex. I have an ideal relationship with my 1st husband and our 18 yr old daughter has thrived from it. My 3 stepchildren, not so fortunate. I have felt guilty for so long for not wanting anything to do with their high conflict mother.
    Again, thank you!!! I will make it a priority to go to a retreat someday, but I’ll take alternative measures in the meantime to take care of me. 🙂
    Yours truly,
    L. Michele Walton

    • Hi Lara, so glad I was able to validate your choice and put your mind at ease. 🙂 Continue to take care of yourself and your family will benefit. You’re doing great!

  2. Thank you for sharing this healing message. I am currently in the thick of a similar situation with 2 teenage step daughters living 50/50 between 2 high conflict homes. The ex’s anger and disapproval radiant through her daughters, mostly the oldest (16). There 2 households are very different and the “good” standard is set by the ex. We are judged daily, through the daughters, by a value system I neither subscribe to or condone. I am searching for ways to remain true to myself, my relationship, and to my step daughters. Thank you for validating that taking care of myself and setting boundaries are priorities.

    • Thank you, Kiki. All I can say is try to do your best to ignore the judgements and accusations from the other household. They have nothing to do you and are probably projections from her own subconscious beliefs about herself. Do what you can to prevent yourself from even seeing or hearing about them. Keep making yourself a priority and focusing on the positive parts of your life. 🙂

      • Thank you everyone for these responses as I am currently in the same exact boat (yet with a 7 year old and a 4 year old) along with an ex wife who whenever she doesn’t get her way she will argue with my husband along with bring up relationship issues stemming from her previous marriage to him as if it has anything to do with the children. She is currently restricting me from even picking up the kids when there never was an issue for the past year. Along with trying to restrict me from taking the kids to their eye doctors appointments regardless if it’s with my husband and my husband giving me full authorization to medically care for the kids in his stead when they are under my care. Reading this article along with the comments has made me see things in a different light and understand that what I feel is not a “wrong” way to feel.

  3. Can I say OMGness again? I just want to *sigh*……(and I have)….
    Reading this post was like looking into my own daily life….although I will never be that far away from the root of my(our) problem LOL
    I do and don’t want to be far enough away from her…I want to for my husband and I, but I don’t want to for the sake of the kids and my husband. I fell in love with my husband, and in turn fell in love with his boys. I made the CHOICE to be a part of their lives, for the rest of our lives, loving and honoring them all as a package. Unfortunately, with that has come the slow destruction of my “self”. The negating my existence from BM, the disrespect, slander, name-calling, bad-mouthing me to the children IN FRONT of the children, the stalking, spying and vandalism has been too much for my emotional and mental states to handle. I have chronic stress disorder and anxiety/panic attacks and I am on anti-depressants (although I don’t really classify myself as depressed! LOL). I know that I need therapy of some description, and I agree….I believe that total omission of contact is the only way to move forward. It is going to be more than hard. I can only hope that after my husband reads this he sees now exactly how things need to play out. Thanks again for posting this. You have literally made my day. 🙂

    • LJ,
      Wow, I appreciate your honesty. I have contimplated getting on an anti depressant over the years, but know it’s only circumstancial. It’s unbelievable what th he stress can do to us physically. I recent have hired a massage therapist. I go every other week. Mental therapy is great, but I get tired of hearing myself complain. 🙂 Now putting that money into something beneficial. 🙂
      Thank you for sharing. Makes me feel human. 🙂

      • Hi Lara,
        Well, I am on anti-depressants to control the stress/anxiety disorder (which I actually started when my Father passed) then I met my husband…things were looking up…but I didn’t realize the gravity of what I would have to go through with his ex. It is rather tragic the effects that it has on someone. In three years I have gained 70 lbs. The additional stress that even that brings is unreal. We just have to continue to be positive. We are all only human….thank goodness for sites with information and support like Jenna’s!

        • I am grateful for her Blog/site too. It’s not negative like the other pages I’ve found. Don’t get me wrong, I’m up for a laugh anytime, but this is my family and anything positive and beneficial is welcomed. 🙂

    • Hi LJ, I’m glad you found my story helpful. 🙂 It kind of blows my mind, the abuse we put up with, ignoring the seriousness of it, as if any type of attack on us is OK. I think it’s so important for our well-being to be honest about how others are treating us, and our participation in it and then take the necessary precautions to make sure it stops. I hope you’re able to protect yourself. I wish you the best in your journey!

  4. It really is amazing how much of an effect an angry vengeful ex-wife can have on us. I somehow was extremely lucky and my intuition told me from Day 1 to restrict contact with my husbands’s ex-wife with full support from my husband. He knows this is HIS battle. This is only possible to a certain degree as sporting events, school performances etc. all open up opportunities for access. These opportunities have been used to blast my husband and myself to ex-wife’s fullest content, many times with the kids present and frightened. We now have a LOT of professionals involved and the only thing that has improved is that we are left alone in public, so I am pretty much free of face to face, email, phone attacks….but I am still easily triggered. The kids just say “Mom says” and my blood pressures shoots through the roof. Professionals are trying to manipulate me into the middle of battle (in what I guess will make their jobs easier), but I am digging my heels in and maintaining my “peace”.

    • Hi LN, I’m surprised the “professionals” are trying to force you to participate when you have obvious signs of PTSD. That’s awful. Just stick to your guns for your own well-being.

      • Wow!!
        LN’s story is carbon copy of ours. We recenyly started court ordered therapy with BM and have had 2 sessions so far. In almost 10 years those are the only 2 times I’ve been near my husband’s ex. The doctor led me to believe that my being there was important as I too am one of the children’s parents, but I have been offended not only by the dr., but by my husband’s ex, as well during these sessions. I strongly believe I am experiencing ptsd. Until doing more research, I had no idea.
        Looking forward to being coached. Hoping it’ll be a breath of fresh air and a new beginning for my family. 🙂

      • Our situation has gotten so bad that I honestly think they are at a loss and grasping at straws. The ex-wife claims to want to interract with me because she thinks I can help make the situation better, my intuition tells me that if she has access to me, she will go on the attack and what we think is bad now will be a whole new low. We believe fully we are dealing with a Narcissistic personality disorder that is making great strides in the realm of alienation.

        • I am also dealing with a narcissistic ex-wife, and on top of that she is a lawyer working for the top law firm in our city. It has been a battle from day one with her. I did a lot of research and after a few months of conflict, decided to cut out all communication leaving my husband to deal with her. But, despite leaving it up to him, he still made poor boundary decisions which infuriated me. He would take her side of things over mine, which made me feel second best. We battled this out through our engagement, and then finally… finally… he set up the boundaries I had been wanting. THEN.. my husband and myself had a short falling out ( 2 weeks ) where we took some time apart to work through a situation. During that time, she jumped back into his life and all boundaries were dismissed. When she found out we were reconciling, she hired an expensive lawyer to try and take custody away from my husband claiming his life was too unstable and it was emotionally damaging their 3 year old… who apparently had developed an eating disorder in just 2 weeks.
          The judge did not allow her to take custody away, and kept things as they were but has now ordered my husband to have post divorce counseling with his ex-wife. They have been divorced for almost 3 years…. We are back to square one again, and she is going to now be a constant presence in the lives of my husband and myself…. I fear that my life is going to be a never-ending fight with her, she will fight us when he starts school, where will he attend… she will fight us on sports (which was another stipulation the judge included) and counseling, and what ever else she has up her sleeve so that she can be a negative constant presence in my life. I have two children of my own also, who will sit on the back burner, to her and her demanding focus that my stepson become the primary focus of my kids and my life. If she wants her son to be in 5 different sports a week, then my family will have to work our lives around her son’s stringent schedule. She has already enrolled him in soccer, swimming lessons, gymnastics, and basketball… and he is 3. I can’t afford to put my children in all these sports, and I fear they will feel second to my stepson just as I do now.

    • Oh LN….I hear you totally. It is very easy to get manipulated “into the chaos”….but yes, stand your ground. It is not only of the utmost importance for you, but of the family that you have around you when you have the children. It is horrendous the effects that her behavior brings to our lives and that she brings down upon her own children. Although of COURSE she states, and fully believes, that she is the best woman and Mother in the entire world that does everything for her children and puts herself last. Yes…right you do lady! LOL That is why you still smoke, get your hair and artificial nails done, you bought a $65,000 car with money from the separation yet you can’t contribute to the children’s dental care, activities, daycare and NEED spousal support although you were ordered to be in part time employment over a year ago. *sigh* It is very reassuring to read of other step-moms experiences, and how similar they are to my position. I do my best to stay in the background…and although my husband knows it’s ‘his fight’ it is also hard for me to let him do it all, and go through it all on his own. I am his partner and I want to help him face it all….but I know now that for me to be “all that I can be” in this new family, I need to remain out of it and the crossfire. There are going to be moments, but I hope that my pulling back even more now, that I will be able to handle things better. Much better.

    • It is nice to know we aren’t alone! Ours doesn’t spend money like crazy, perfers to play the “unempowered woman”/victim who struggles to make ends meet. Makes us look all that much more evil for having full time stable jobs and a comfortable house. It’s a great tool for alienation.

  5. It definitely is nice to find somewhere to vent and know that we are not alone….sometimes its the step-parents that feel alientated.
    Our BM claims to be the victim….pleads poverty…but her actions don’t match her words. She pulls every scam under the sun to get $$ from people, the government….us. Her dog was run over by a car as it ran out the front door and she tried to have us pay for it. When that didn’t work she did an online Fund Raiser to raise $2000 (from the PUBLIC) for the operation. In that post she trashed my husband and I and stated that she was so broke and the lowly single Mother with no help. Yeah…she takes half of my husbands income and she got the 4 bedroom house to which her family paid off the rest of the mortgage.
    I agree that we always are made to feel that we are “high and mighty” for getting a home and making our own money….which she is more than capable of doing too. Little does she know that being a strong, independent woman/Mother MEANS giving up things, MEANS contributing not only emotionally and physically but financially too.
    I don’t hold out much hope for change….but I do hope that I am wrong with that thought!

  6. This is a great article, Jenna. As always, thank you for your advice and sharing your experience. I am so glad I read this TODAY. Perfect timing, Obi-Wan.

  7. Thank you very much for this article. I’m in a situation when the ex won’t talk to me or come to the door when she drops the kids off knowing I am home. I think this is great advice and that more stepmoms/stepdads need to follow this thought process of not allowing access. It seems to me that this results in a lot less stress and a happier home life. And you’re right, it’s her job to do what she needs to do to take care of herself and it’s my job to do what I need to do to take care of myself. Thank you, thank you!

  8. Thank you…I am living in the thick of this right now. BM is a bitter, angry woman. She blames my husband for HER situation still. He’s moved on, finished college, improved his job, remarried (me) and is happy. She is miserable, lonely, with a “poor me” attitude all the time and blames it all on him. Trying to find the balance between emotionally supporting my husband and having to deal with her craziness. Thankfully my husband makes all contact (I have and never will choose to have her phone number) yet I still hear it all second hand from him so I still am living in the midst of it. And the only way to control her situation she is constantly denying EVERYTHING they try to decide together. For example SD15 needs counseling, badly. She is struggling right now with pretty much everything, school, friends and absolutely hates me and her Dad because when she visits her BM she runs the house and gets everything she wants. (She is threatening to go live with BM because she “hates living with us” – her words) Anyway they both discussed her getting counseling and agreed that it was a good thing, so he found one that takes our insurance had immediate availability and specializes in adolescents and he let her know. Now she is refusing because SHE didn’t pick the counselor and is saying he didn’t cooperate with her. This just happened last night. We’re in the middle of a modification battle (she refused to mediate so hubby has to go to court) to clear up some discrepancies in the parenting plan of their divorce decree. So it just a giant tornado of crazy right now and I don’t know how to deal – the day to day stuff even can send me over the edge of anger, sadness or resentment and I hate feeling that way. I WISH we could move away – or that she would move back home since this town isn’t where she is from – it would certainly make things more tolerable.

  9. I’m at the begining of my step parenting journey. Only 7 months in and it’s been a hell of a ride. I’m so thankful that I have found your blog when I did and I’m learning so much, hoping to put stratigies into place early to protect and care for myself. Thank you for overcoming your journey and healing so you can help others.

    • Thank you, Mel! I’m so glad you’re finding my site helpful and are taking the time and effort to ensure your (and in turn your family’s) well-being. 🙂

      • Loved the article, I’m new to this craziness and do not understand how a woman can be such a toxic waste of space and bad mother, not to mention master manipulator. I just feel that he enables it sometimes… He doesn’t seem to believe she is everything everyone else sees. And I go from wanting to step in to needing to step back. I loved the idea of letting him just deal with his mess; it was a refreshing piece of advice. But what happens when he can’t see her us getting sucked in to her narcissistic, selfish crap?Advice?

        She neglects the kids, uses him and plays the “I’m mentally sick and you abandoned me” card, but is out spending the child support with her boyfriend. It’s so frustrating. He takes so long to come to a decision and he still hasn’t learned to actually say NO.

        • Hi SA, it can take a really long time for a man to finally see and accept what’s actually going on. It usually takes a serious event, such as her putting the kids in danger. Or sometimes it just takes years of him trying everything possible, until he finally realizes that it’s hopeless; that she’s never going to change or be reasonable or rationale. Hang in there and in the meantime create boundaries to protect yourself.

          • It took him right years to finally leave, and it only takes one “conversation” with her to put him back. She is relentless and just won’t stop. Every week she gets the kids, it’s like she scheduled her late night ER VISITS just so she can say she’s top sick to take the kids. When I talk to him he gets so defensive and then we end up fighting. He says he’d rather hope for the best then tell her to back off, respect boundaries and be a mom. So frustrating. He really thinks she won’t or doesn’t affect us. It’s hard. It’s exhausting, trying to undo all the brainwashing and trying to get him to stop dictating everything by her twisted rubric. How do you draw boundaries? Aside from no contact, how do you teach her to not intrude on our lives? Pick up/drop off is at 11am every Sunday: she calls at 8am whining and texting about her needing to dump them asap or she can’t have them BC she is soooooo sick, or she was out of town w her boyfriend. Two hours!!! That he texts back while she insults him until he yields… How do I make him see that’s not normal out fair. She’s the ex, but he won’t let her go BC she cries at the drop off the hat.

        • SA if your experience is anything like mine, you WONT get your husband to stop catering to his ex-wife. I have been watching it happen for 7 years. I had a counselor tell me that often men do not see the manipulation when it is coming from a woman. I don’t know if that is issue, but my husband gives in to nearly all of his ex-wife’s insane demands. I guess he figures she will refuse his visitation with the kids. He still hasn’t figured out that giving in to her just makes her demand more…

  10. Jenna, I can’t even describe how freakishly similar my current situation is. As of now there are attempts from her to not allow me present when visitation exchanges occur. My husband and I are the primary custodial parents. I have been the main care taker while my husband works. I’m not step mother, I’m momma. They are 4 & 6 and know me far better than they do her. They have become mine as close as they can be, apart from different blood lines. It’s crushing me. I relate so much to the flinching when I hear texts come through or anxiety and heart racing when I see the call time approaching. I’m 5 months pregnant and really want to just focus on me and our babies well being. Part of me doesn’t want to back down and just not be there cause I feel like I wouldn’t be there for my husband, but I’m slowly breaking down. And wonder if I would beat her at her own game as it is if I just vanish from her sight all together. I can’t stand seeing her, so what have I got to lose?
    Bottom line is, issues are present and I want them buried. For good! For my family.

    • Hi Jamie, instead of focusing on the fact that she’s trying to control whether or not you attend drop-offs, I’d look at it as an opportunity for some wonderful alone time and also as a means of protecting yourself from her. You don’t want to be exposed to her negative, toxic energy, and not attending drop-offs is a great way to manage that. Maybe you should silently thank her for this gift! 😉

  11. Ditto! I can relate to everything you said! It wasn’t until a friend of mine who knew all parties involved very well said, “Do you see that no matter what you do, it will never be enough?” That statement set me free. I began to research and learned what Borderline Personality Disorder was and realized that all of my efforts were not only harmful to me, they were fueling the aggressor. Thanks so your willingness to share!

  12. Hi,
    Your article resonated with me more than I can express. I too came to the relationship with an expectation of civility at worst and friendly acceptance at best, after all, I have enjoyed a very easy and friendly relationship with my daughter’s lovely stepmum.
    Nothing could have prepared me for the malice and viciousness directed at me. Reading your account is like reading my own – to a point. I have been totally non contact for two years. We communicated this intention formally in writing after taking legal advice following a particularly aggressive encounter at our house.
    Things are infinitely better and yet, I can’t let everything go. I never responded to her, engaged in the drama or even for a long time addressed things. My husband and I were both reeling from the things said and done and feared for his children’s wellbeing – with good reason. Consequently there are many things I want to say, wish I had said, and will never have the opportunity to say – and I don’t know how to let go.
    I’m heartened you have reached where I want to be (and so happy for you) and although I currently find it difficult to envisage the same for me, it does give me hope it’s possible and shown me I need to be more proactive in looking for ways to achieve this.
    Thank you x

    • Hi Alice, I believe there are different methods for moving forward that work for different people. For me it was getting out of my home, having time alone for uninterrupted self-reflection and a realization that I’m finally fully protected. I do believe you can let go, but you have to want to. That means learning to stop yourself when you find yourself reliving in your mind all of the awful things you’ve been through. I think that’s the biggest thing that keeps us stuck in the past. Learning how to forgive someone who never offered an apology is also a very helpful tool for releasing your heart from the pain. Forgiveness has nothing to do with her. It’s not about saying what she did was OK or right, it’s just about making a choice to not hold on to the pain any longer, by realizing it’s in the past and you can’t change the past. I hope you do get to that point. You will feel like a new person. <3

  13. This is a fantastic article! I did something similar shortly after my husband and I were married. Cut. Her. Off. From me, that is…
    My main question/concern: how do you deal when your husband (who is also bipolar) has to deal with the narcissistic ex? He basically has PTSD from years of dealing with her. I try to keep an open dialogue with him about his feelings, discussing situations and talking him off a ledge, more often than not.
    He has to deal with her, and when he does, I have to deal with him. I find it very difficult to remain truly “free” of her influence in my life.

    • Hi StepmomSymposium, your husband should be making sure that his contact with her is brief and as infrequent as possible. You also want to try to minimize her impact in your house by not talking about her and not bringing up all her past offenses. You can’t be fully free from her influence until the kids are grown and out and you both can choose to fully block her and disengage completely. But you can definitely be freeER from her until that time.:)

  14. I remember being asked what I would do differently if I could by another stepmom support site about a year ago. There are, of course, a few things, but the main thing I said was that if I could go back, I would care less about what their mom thought of me. She didn’t like me and that bothered me. I’m likable! Why didn’t she like me? 🙂 It took awhile, but I eventually realized it had nothing to do with me. She really didn’t know me. It wasn’t personal. It was about her. Her insecurities. Her jealousies. Her fears. Once I understood that, I could step back from the situation and let go. I stayed out of the discussions between my husband and her. They weren’t about me. They were about their kids. He was the one who was married to her, not me. It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure. But I felt so much freer and happier, and much healthier just from stepping back. The idea of a retreat back then would have been great. I love that you did that for yourself. Talk about self-care! A stepmom friend and I treat ourselves to lunch and massages about once a month. That’s a good start… 🙂

  15. Yeah, a lot of women struggle with wanting the other one to like them. For me it was never really about that. I was just expecting her to treat me with human decency. You know? I’d never had such close interactions with someone who was high-conflict ( I didn’t know that was a real “thing” then), so I just thought she was misunderstanding me – causing her to abuse and harass me. Once I realized it wasn’t about her misunderstanding me, but about her needing to believe I was something I wasn’t, I knew my only option to protect myself. I just wish it hadn’t taken me so many years to realize I was in a no-win situation. Oh well, live and learn! 😀

    • This article is brilliant,but I need to share with you I have been living with this abuse, undermining, lying to her daughters (my step daughters) who I love and have a great for 25 years, my husband and I have been dragged through 2 unnecessary court cases, as she has always wanting more and more and even made one of the daughters take us to court for uni fees even though we were already supporting her, my step daughters are in there 30s and still on a daily basis get calls from their mother bagging there Dad and myself and we don’t even have contact with her.
      The girls tell me they have had to ignore her as they formed there own opinions of us many years ago and they won’t don’t listen to her crap anymore, Stupid things like What’s the budget for the grandchildren from your Father and Jan this year? On response ,it’
      Are they broke this year ha ha,……. like who does this, this constant put down even though our contribution to the grandchildren of $80 per child (6) has been the same for several years, but you are so right I need to stop contact, I’m not doing it any more, the other thing is she won’t leave my I laws alone but they just put up with her. She is always in my face and bad mouthing my husband and I at every turn.

  16. Wow I am not alone! It has only been 3 years but 8mos ago it blew up in my face. I was trying to be friends with his ex, she is borderline crazy! Tried befriending me since I moved to his town with my kids to blend us finally.. I took her bait and was completely made out to be this horrible person. I was truly hurt and am still in the process. I need the stress to stop not only with his ex but with his mother. This article gave me hope. Thank you

  17. Thank you for writing this. I would give anything to be able to move away. I love my husband but there are so many days where I feel my days are numbered and the stress is too much. I had yet another visit from police today. She lost in court so as usual she calls police and makes up harassment. She wants my husband back at any cost. They were long separated when I met him. I am not the other woman. My husband and I daydream of moving away but we are forced to stay close for the safety and well being of his children. We have had therapy to deal with the trauma that comes from dealing with a disordered individual but your article made me realize I need more. I need distance.
    I am so happy that you were able to get 3000 miles closer to happiness. I pray that option is ours one day.

  18. Thirty years into my marriage to my husband full of stories from his ex to his children that painted her as the victim and all but destroyed any chance of relationship with my stepchildren (completely different from her initial gratitude of my being in their lives), I can be around her for family functions and keep myself apart from her barbs. It has taken boundaries work, faith, therapy and acceptance of what I cannot change to get here. Your article had many valid points that resonated with me. Didn’t know this resource existed but am VERY glad it is here to help the next generations.

  19. Wow, very good article and I wish I had read this 7 years ago. All 4 of my parents get along well – we even do most holidays together! So I too came from a background of all step parents getting along with birth parents. I became very good friends, actually best friends, with my husbands ex girlfriend and it was great. We shopped, saw movies, did dinner, happy hour…we got along famously. My 12 yr old stepson acted better and it made the entire situation very easy…until it was not easy. Until she blew up like a volcano one day over something rather small and expressed how she honestly felt about me. I was stunned and very hurt and honestly, I went off right back at her because I couldn’t believe the things she was saying. I’ve never had someone be so fake to me for so long and really don’t know how someone does that but, it happens. She did a complete “180” immediately and is the typical ‘ex’ and pokes constantly. The drama is unbelievable. I understand the instant stress and anxiety of a text alert. I had to find a way to make it somehow better for myself so I reached out to her via email and called a truce. I never cared if she responded or wanted to talk things out and she says she does but we won’t. It’s been 3 weeks and we haven’t and that is totally ok with me. I sent the email for me not her because the act of hitting SEND was like a huge weight lifting off my mind and I now have so much peace about the entire situation. I forgave her and don’t care if she never apologizes because it doesn’t matter and I don’t need it. She actually has stopped a lot of the drama since that email so in my opinion, it helped. I’m sure there will still be issues in the future but I have found a way to rise above it and not let it bother me.

  20. I am so glad that I have found this blog…..I am so new to this. Really Fresh!!! My ex-husband and I do a great job at co-parenting. We are probably the exception to the rule….but my new boyfriend ( We have been dating 1 year) his ex-wife is unbelievable. We dated for 8 months before we even introduced ourselves to one another’s kids. Trying to be super cautious and take things super slow…. I knew not too long after first meeting him that his ex-wife had narcissist tendencies and seemed to be more histrionic than anything else. She uses the kids as human shields. She emotionally abuses them. She had an 6 year affair but you would think he did. She had burned every bridge known to man…. She interrrogates the kids about me. I purposely have stayed away from any sports events because I was scared. My question is how do I handle her verbally accosting me during public events in front of people….do i ignore….don’t attend? It hasn’t happened yet but I know it is coming…..

    • Hi Diane, glad you’re enjoying my blog. 🙂 In regards to your question, I would have a phone ready to record and then if it happens, I’d submit the recording (or even if you don’t get to record it) ask the police for a stay away/restraining order for her. That sort of behavior should never be tolerated. You want to protect yourself as much possible. I wish you the best of luck!

    • Hi Diane,
      We all here can totally appreciate what your going through. Each has their own story, but SO many of the chapters are eerily similar.
      You are definitely doing the right thing by taking things slow with the children, it’s easy to get “caught up” in the new love and then get labelled as “over stepping your boundaries”….actually even when you DON’T do that you will hear that! lol The narcissistic tendencies are all too familiar, and as sad and hurtful as they may be to you both and those children you have to look and move past it. It’s a long road ahead but as long as you look out for you (doing this will keep you and your relationship balanced) things will be smoother. Sometimes you have to realize that things WON’T change…they will get better….there will be glimpses of them getting worse again….but the person will never change and you can’t ‘make them’. No one can. It’s unfortunate that the kids have to go through what they do, but all that you guys can do is make them comfortable, happy and stable when they are with you. One day they will see the truth and hopefully come out of it all intact. Once you release yourself of that worry and stress of “her” 24/7 then it diminishes what control she has over you…eventually things will lighten up, it may take months, it may take years but it will happen. It took me over 3 years of enduring hell to realize that I needed “me” time to get away from it all and that I needed to pull back from the huge amount that I was contributing to our new “unit” as the kids already have their Dad…and as insane as she is, they have a Mom. I am not that person. I am just another important adult…they can trust me, come to me and love me as I love them, but the high level of involvement…discipline etc etc is NOT required. Cutting off ALL ties humanly possible with your husbands ex will be pivotal to your sanity, your relationship and your new family unit. I have been, and I am still, faced with the same things to which I am getting through slowly…but yes…not going to sporting events, or classes or school or pick ups and drops offs where she may or may not be, is very important. If she is like most, just your presence will set her off….and BOOM. You don’t need it. The kids don’t need it. Your relationship does NOT need it. You will feel bad or guilty to start with, when you withdraw from things that you perhaps used to be a part of, but in the end, doing what is right for you…will help make things much smoother for all of you. Good luck Diane!!


  21. I’m so happy I have come across this website. I have suffered over 6 years of verbal and emotional abuse from my husbands ex. We share everyday care of 2 wonderful children 50/50. After reading this article I see that I gave her access to me and my emotions and I thought I was strong enough to handle all her negative feedback, but I was not. In the last few months I have cut off all contact with her after a set of highly abusive text and emails about me and my family, I should of done this earlier. Later today I have to see her face to face for the first time in months at a children’s sporting event, it is going to be very hard for me to look at her as she will make a point of saying “hello” to me. I will stand tall and be polite but I will not allow her to get into my emotional space. If only I had cut of direct contact with her years ago maybe I would not be feeling nervous about this afternoon.

  22. Wow I can relate to this! However for us the damage was done through my partner with constant texting, phoning and threats surrounding the kids. After 5 years of this, the only things that have worked have been getting a court order (50/50 time) and then when that failed to stop what I can only call stalking, we denied all contact through phone or text other than for medical emergencies so that everything would be done through email or mediation. It was me finally standing up and saying ‘No’ by email that actually stopped it in our case – she didn’t get the same buzz out of bullying me. It’s very tough as there is no co-parenting with his ex at all but after years we realised any attempts were fruitless anyway – she only wants to contact us about herself, not about important issues re children. Boundaries do not exist for this woman.
    What really struck me in this piece was the bit about the damage done and that sicky feeling when the phone beeps; It’s horrible. My partner ended up having a breakdown and suffered really bad IBS for a long time which had a huge impact on me; I ended up being a carer instead of a wife and that left me with a lot of anger towards his ex. However I do believe that I have come out with full self-respect for how I’ve handled it all and a great relationship with my partner and his kids while her bitterness has brought her nothing. As long as we hold onto our principles and right behaviour and don’t let bitterness into our hearts, we can survive just about anything.
    Thanks Jenna

  23. My two stepchildren were about to be picked up today by their mom when I read this. After a wave of jealously that your BM is 3000 miles away, I ‘checked in with my body’ about her arrival and immediately got a hunch to avoid it. I realized I was jealous of your 3K miles because of choices I make, not because of anything I’m forced to do. As a result, I continued on with my workday (I work at home) which involved a trip to our back storage. I was going to do it after they got picked up. Why? I gathered their things and told them to keep an eye out for their mom. They’re old enough. In the past I have revolved around her arrivals, even under a work deadline. Again, why? While hers is passive, not outward aggression (about me to my husband, with a side of constant inappropriate attempts at behaving like she’s his wife), her opinion of me obviously erodes the children’s trust in me and it still affects me more than I even know, I think. I’m in my 4th year and I have been through personal feelings, struggles and lessons I thought I had previously completed. I simply saw so clearly today how I can choose to end contact without even doing anything extreme and possibly without even making any grand statements to my husband. And that it is precisely what I need. Because I have come forth in love, and I have been received with suspicion at best. And that’s an awful thing to have to deal with over and over and over. It’s such a shit sandwich. I’m reminded of a saying “there are no victims, only volunteers” Thank you. I’m so grateful this is here, and I texted my friend a new stepmom.

    • What a wonderful insight you had, AT! It’s can feel so freeing to realize we have a choice. 🙂 And also texting your stepmom friend, reaching out for support. Bravo!! 🙂

  24. I know this is old, but I just came across it and it’s like I had written it myself! Your story is my story! My husbands ex is a narcissist who hates the fact that I’m a good mother to my step son! I used to be nice but she used me and abused me so much I was literally sick and depressed! I can’t express how enlightened your story makes me feel! I’m not to the point of healing but would LOVE to get there! Any advice would be greatly appreciated and thank you for sharing your heart!

  25. Wow can I just say this read really helped. I am currently married to an amazing man and we have a beautiful relationship and I truly get along with his kids that live with us full time and visit their mom on holidays and school breaks. My husbands ex is a 100% text book narcissist and for the past 3 years has been putting me through the ringer. Parts of your article hit home, some days I find myself having total mental breakdowns and anxiety with stress over what is coming next because she is always planning her next big chaos. Like clockwork a few months she will apologize and want to co-parent properly together for the kids and all of us then she screws up in her personal life and starts hating us and creates drama. Shes been arrested multiple times tried cutting herself in front of the kids and shoplifted with them and still somehow makes us the bad people. I say this is like a Lifetime movie and people look at us like were crazy when they hear about it so its refreshing to see other women going through this. I like the idea of looking into something to clear my mind and get some personal help on dealing with this. Again thank you for sharing your story

    • Hi Amber, you’re very welcome. I’m glad you found it helpful. 🙂 Feel free to contact me about personal coaching. I’d love to help you work through this. 🙂

  26. I find it interesting that you don’t find your husband at all at fault for allowing his ex-wife to attack you. You don’t think he should have stepped in and said “This is not acceptable!”? It seems like he just let it happen and you don’t harbor any ill will towards him at all, only her.

    • Hi Kef, if you only knew. My husband repeatedly told her that it’s not acceptable, repeatedly stuck up for me and for himself – but you can’t control someone else. Telling her did nothing but feed her need for drama and engagement. She was relentless, until he got the communication restraining order against her. And until we were able to completely block her, which took years due to technology and needing to communicate about a very troubled child. 🙂

      • Jenna,
        I am so glad to hear he defended you, even if she didn’t listen. I didn’t pick that part up from reading the article. While it doesn’t solve that you were her target, at least you felt like he was/is on your side so you are a team. I have lived a similar situation to yours for 7 years but my husband seems happy that his ex-wife uses me as her punching bag, not him. He makes the same comment “I can’t control what someone else says/does.” But when you make no effort to stop your ex-wife’s behavior and interact with her as if nothing is wrong, you are tacitly encouraging it in my opinion. I am glad this is not the case for you!

        • Oh yes, Kef, I’ve always felt that my husband and I were a united front. I have no complaints about how he conducted himself. He is definitely my protector. 😉

  27. Hello Jenna and fellow step mothers, looking forward to meeting you at the upcoming NY retreat! I am 2 1/2 years into marriage to my wonderful husband. My goodness I have never witnessed such evil from a mother to her kids, ex and new wife. After reading the pain of other step moms here, I see that truly we have a community. For that I am grateful.

    Here is what I haven’t yet read about and hoping for guidance: When BM and my husband separated, their kids were 15, 12 and 8 (girl, boy, girl). Kids began to spend every other weekend at their dad’s house, but after a few weekends of this, BM begged to have eldest daughter stay back with her because BM could not stay alone. She had eldest daughter ask her father if she could stay “home” with her mother. That quickly evolved into eldest never spending another weekend with her father and siblings. Flash forward to 6 years later and still, my husband has had no extended time with his 3 children together at the same time. These poor kids know BM won’t want the kids to be with their dad because that might include me. Son is wonderful – always makes time for his dad and loves his step-family. Younger daughter is caught in the middle, poor thing and is starting to pull away, asking to stay “home” instead of spending the weekend with dad. My husband continues to try to get the kids to agree to even a dinner together when eldest is in town and the eldest never attends. BM makes sure there is already a plan for the kids and no time for their dad. I feel so sad for my husband and his children. Am I right to tell him to keep trying to arrange gatherings? I would never want his daughters to say “dad stopped trying to see us, he wanted his new family more” which is what BM has told them for years. I get that BM is still sad, her kids adore their amazing dad. Still, how could anyone want to deny kids their time with their dad? How else can I support this father who is in pain from not seeing his children?

    • Hi Katherine, I’m looking very meeting you at the retreat as well! 🙂 This is a sad and common occurrence. I do think you’re right to encourage your husband to keep trying to connect with his kids, but to also honor when he’s too tired and has had enough. There is a book called Divorce Poison that’s about Parental Alienation. It’s filled with great tips for parents whose kids are becoming alienated from them. Also, be cognizant of your partner’s experience and pain and try not to place your own strong feelings about it onto him. Does that make sense?

      • I am cognizant of his pain. I think you are hoping that I do not voice my frustration by saying to my husband things like “BM doesn’t want kids to see you/us, that’s why you do not have outings with them”? If so, I do hold my tongue for his sake. It has gotten to the point though that I can silently predict almost to 99% accuracy how the latest drama will play out. I don’t voice it though, I don’t need to, he is starting to see a pattern on his own.

        • Actually, I was referring more to just being aware of when you want something more than your husband does and then pushing him for it. For example, some stepmoms push and push their partners to get full custody or more custody of their stepchildren, when their partner didn’t really want it. Then when they win, it’s so much harder than they expected and they ended up regretting pushing their agenda. I wasn’t at all implying that you have done that, I just like to advise stepmoms to check in with themselves. 🙂 Sounds like you’re doing everything you can to be a wonderful, supportive wife!

          • Ooooh, now I understand what you meant. Thank you for clarifying! Nope, I don’t try to gain more time (I’d have to cook too much!) or push an agenda he may not want. This poor dad just can’t get a break. I’ll buy the book you recommended. Thank you again. Looking forward to gaining new endurance tools at the retreat!

  28. Hello again Jenna and step moms – I finished the book Divorce Poison. I found it to be an excellent resource for those of us dealing with high-conflict-personality exes. The examples were spot on to what we experience.

    Recently we found out that my eldest sd (the one who doesn’t see her dad) had an incident involving painkillers and alcohol while away at college. Ex never told this child’s father about the incident. Why would a mother keep this information from the father? Do we address this with ex or sd or just let it go? I hope we can discuss at the retreat.

  29. Wow, what a refreshing article to read. I thought I was the only one who had it this bad.. I’ve been married to my husband for 4 years and we have 2 children together, and he has an 9 year old with his ex. She is absolutely the most manipulative, cruel, nasty human being I have ever come across. I have been her target since day 1. I was naive for the first couple of years and would always try to be nice to her, I tried so hard to extend myself and get along with her. She took advantage of that to the fullest. She would manipulate my husband and try to turn him against me by being really nice to him and trying to get close again, while lying to him telling him lies about me. Countless times she has told him she saw me with another man while he was at work, she even went so far as to delete her sons pictures off my husbands facebook right after we had our first child together, and suggested to him that it was me because I was jealous of their son and only wanted him to have pictures of our son on his Facebook. (My husband accidentally stayed signed into his Facebook on their sons tablet, so she was able to gain access when their son went back home) The majority of fights for the first couple of years of our marriage were caused by her. Her manipulation almost worked, but somewhere along the line, my husband finally began to see her for who she really is. Two years ago while I was pregnant with our 2nd child, I found out he had cheated on me with her. More than once. It was a day I will never forget, and the lowest point in my life. I do believe that was the turning point in our marriage. I don’t think he ever thought about me finding out. But when he saw me, and how crushed and broken I was, I think that was the point where he decided enough was enough. He no longer gave into her demands, he no longer let her walk all over him, or me.. later on he told me she would blackmail him if he didn’t do what she wanted and threaten to tell and prove to me his infidelity with her. He said in a way it was a huge weight lifted off his shoulders because I finally knew, she could no longer use that as a tool to control him. We are really close now, and in a weird way it seems like our marriage is way better now, than before i knew. Ever since she lost her control over him, she has progressively gotten worse. She now targets both of us, shows up on our doorstep at all hours of the night pounding on our door, screaming and yelling. We have called the cops, but she is so incredibly manipulative that she somehow tells them a bullshit story and plays the victim, and they do nothing. This woman is relentless, she rubs my husbands cheating in my face every chance she gets, and says deeply hurtful things to try and get in my head. I can not grasp how someone could ever be so cruel, especially to someone who has never done a thing to them. Sorry for this being so long, I just needed to get that off my chest, and ask for any advice you ladies might be able to give me on how to deal with her would be greatly appreciated!

    • Hi Laura, I think you get the award for sainthood here. Some people are just so broken that the only relief they can get from their own pain is to try and cause others the same amount of pain. I’m so glad your marriage was able to survive the affair and actually improve! I hope one day the ex finds her happiness so she’ll stop being so compelled to make everyone around her miserable. Glad you were able to get all of that off your chest too. It’s a lot to hold in!

  30. Wow this really hit home. Unfortunately my husband passed in January and to get through all of this I had to let go of the hate and anger I felt toward his ex. There are some days I still feel like she robbed us of our happiness. Like you I kept trying and letting her in. I’m so glad I came across this and read it.

  31. This article hit home and is so helpful. My relationship with my husband has been overshadowed in its first 5 years by the ‘hellish experience with his ex-wife’ too. We have 50/50 custody now. His ex is high conflict, manipulative, narcissistic, and uses kids as pawns. We’ve been through a parenting coordinator process that also involved my husband and his ex going to see a psychologist. Once psychologist explained to her that she would tell a court that the kids are in good hands with us and that she needs to correct her ways, she lessened her ‘blatant’ crazy ways with us. Now her behaviors are more disguised and passive-aggressive…I’m not sure which is worse. I try to take the path of least resistance, say ‘yes’ to each of her requests, and maintain a friendly relationship so that she does not wreak havoc on the kid’s situation. She uses the kids as pawns so if she feels our relationship is different, she is likely to be less willing to cooperate with the kids team sports and conditions the kids thinking/decisions (suddenly they don’t want to play the sport they have always loved playing and are talented at). We said No once to one of her request to have the kids on one of our days only because we already had plans in place and suddenly she sends an email saying the kids don’t want to play soccer any longer. When we asked the kids they replied with “I don’t feel like it anymore and I want some down time to relax.” Then when the program begins they want to play and we can’t get them re-registered because it’s full. I am constantly manipulated “into her chaos” and I need to remove myself from it. How do I do that without causing issues for the co-parenting situation?

    • Hi BMD, the problem with making decisions so you don’t trigger her or so she doesn’t take it out on the kids is that you’re then taking responsibility for her actions. You’re putting your well-being at risk in order to “control” her into not taking it out on the kids, but you’re not responsible for her actions. And you can’t save the kids from her. They need to learn how to navigate their relationship with her. If they have a mom who punishes them like that, they need to learn that it’s unhealthy but that it’s HER. And you can be there to support them and show them a better way. But if you continue to put your well-being at risk by tip-toeing around her you won’t survive it. Remove yourself in a way that works for your well-being and you’ll be in much better emotional shape to support and help the kids through their journey with their mom. 🙂

  32. Thank you so much for your postings. It is truly invaluable for those of us going through this to have our experience validated. I have a wonderful husband – married 1.5 years, and we have been through hell with his BPD/NPD ex-wife. They have 3 minor children- 50/50 parenting time split at the moment, so we can’t move away. Things got to their worst when the ex started making false allegations of severe abuse to the court-ordered parenting consultant. Her false allegations were particularly upsetting because she has physically and verbally abused the children in the past. The stress and poison in our lives was giving me a panic disorder. I would wake up every morning feeling scared, with my heart beating hard in a fight or flight response. My hand shook every time I went to check email. We are finally finding some peace with our great family therapist and also a new coach we hired to help us with the court and the parenting consultant process. (We also have a great attorney.) The coach’s specialty is helping people deal with very high conflict co-parenting with personality-disordered individuals. My best advice to all in this situation is to assemble a team to assist you. For us, the therapist has been very helpful, but the coach who has experience with this specific issue has been critical to our getting our hope back that we can have normal lives again and get control back over our home and our peace of mind. Our main strategy right now is to predict her patterns so that we can stop having to always be reacting to her disordered actions. This includes mapping out her triggers so that we can know when she will go off the rails. While it is very difficult to accept that we have to have a team to help us deal with my husband’s ex-wife, at least I feel like we now have a way to cope. Hiring a coach has been very well worth the money. My husband is a wonderful man, and the kids are wonderful. We are worth it as a family to keep working for peace in our home and to keep working to show the children there is another way to live that is calm and healthy.

  33. I am so thankful I found this blog today. My husband and I have been together for 5 years and have experienced a boat load of ups and downs with his ex-wife. The most recent is her becoming strangely close to his family, which then stopped us from having a relationship with them. We are essentially estranged from my in-laws because they have chosen to have a relationship with her rather than us. The boys (step kids) are 13 and 10, we have a 1 year old daughter together that the boys adore. The situation came to a head over the last month. I decided it was better for my mental health to limit my contact with her. I tried for YEARS to be friendly with her, to “co-parent” and work as a team. All she did was use and abuse me. She would be nice to my face but manipulate and twist anything I said to her benefit. She was sweet as could be when I was doing what she wanted, but a terror when I stood my ground. I cut off ties with her via social media, and it’s now gotten to the point that I deactivated all social media so she cannot snoop. She didn’t like being cut out of our lives, she wants to constantly over reach her boundaries and dictate actions in our household. We aren’t putting up with it anymore. Last night my husband called her and told her that her behavior was unacceptable, that her interactions with his family was weird and disrespectful, that her trying to bully me is unacceptable. Of course she said he was a liar and we are the manipulative ones and so on. This morning she texted me trying to stir things up with me, saying how fake I was. All over me wanting boundaries for myself. I am married to my husband, not to her. I am still reeling over this latest explosion. But I stood my ground and did not respond to her text. It is a conversation I could not win…and the heartbreaking thing is that there should be no winning or losing. Just supporting two kids on their journey through life. I can only take this one day at a time. The hard part is we will see her Thursday for back to school events. I will maintain my distance. I don’t have any other option.

    • Hi Shannon, it’s great that you and your husband are creating healthy boundaries for yourselves. 🙂 The only thing I would recommend is also blocking her on your phone so you don’t receive those nasty text messages anymore. 🙂 But GREAT job not responding to them. 😉

    • Shannon, good for you creating boundaries. Our kids mother is very similar to what you described…acts sweet and innocent and tells everyone what a great person she really is but manipulates every situation she can and the emotional abuse she heaps on the kids is staggering. I won’t even go into the damage she has done to them and what they think about her. I too tried in the early years to get along with her, invited her over, included her in our life, but that had to stop once I understood the full extent of crazy we were dealing with. We established firm boundaries and cut her out years ago and she has continued to act so poorly the kids don’t even want to be around her. They’ve told us that she’s normal until any subject involving their father, me or events with us come up and then she goes psycho (their words). I hate to hear my stepdaughter discuss her episodes, but I also want my stepdaughter to continue trusting that she has a safe place to come and vent about her mother and anything else going on in her life, so I listen and try not to let it irritate me. She gives some great insight into what a terrible person that woman is. So just be warned, establishing boundaries does not necessarily prevent her vitriol from spewing and you hearing about it, but it does lessen the negative impact she has on your life. And like Jenna said, the block feature on your phone needs to be used!! I’ve closed every avenue of that woman reaching into our lives except through the kids themselves, and that can’t be fixed.

    • Shannon, good for you creating boundaries. Our kids mother is very similar to what you described…acts sweet and innocent and tells everyone what a great person she really is but manipulates every situation she can and the emotional abuse she heaps on the kids is staggering. I won’t even go into the damage she has done to them and what they think about her. I too tried in the early years to get along with her, invited her over, included her in our life, but that had to stop once I understood the full extent of crazy we were dealing with. We established firm boundaries and cut her out years ago and she has continued to act so poorly the kids don’t even want to be around her. They’ve told us that she’s normal until any subject involving their father, me or events with us come up and then she goes psycho (their words). I hate to hear my stepdaughter discuss her episodes, but I also want my stepdaughter to continue trusting that she has a safe place to come and vent about her mother and anything else going on in her life, so I listern and try not to let it irritate me. She gives some great insight into what a terrible person that woman is. So just be warned, establishing boundaries does not necessarily prevent her vitriol from spewing and you hearing about it, but it does lessen the negative impact she has on your life. And like Jenna said, the block feature on your phone needs to be used!! I’ve closed every avenue of that woman reaching into our lives except through the kids themselves, and that can’t be fixed.

      • I struggle so much with her. While I feel good about creating these boundaries I worry how they will affect the kids in the long run. They are both close with their mom (she wouldn’t allow anything less, she bullies them into having a close relationship with her). They do have a good relationship with me but I struggle with showing them that adults can get along despite differences or showing them that it’s okay to set boundaries even if that means someone doesn’t like you. I don’t know which I can live with more. She has gotten so far in my head that I question my every action regarding the kids. I hate that! I wish we could cut her out altogether but at this point my husband cannot completely. My hope is that his contact with her lessons as the boys get older.

        • I understand this, Shannon, but the best thing you can do for the kids is be in the best emotional state possible. That probably means creating boundaries. And when you allow yourself to be abused or harassed by her because you’re worried about the boundaries negatively affecting the boys, you’re also taking responsibility for her bad behavior, which is HER responsibility. Just some food for thought. 😉

          • You are very right! I’m in therapy with an amazing therapist that has helped me with this journey. I know this journey won’t be easy, but it is worth it for myself and my kids. I just need to keep that in mind. I SO wish we could move away from it all!

  34. what do I do.. my husband’s ex wife clearly has a personality disorder. She manipulates her adult children through guilt and lies, especially about me. The children are sweet, and are very kind to me. But this ex wife is like a pit bull, she will not NOT let her daughter be in peace about this new mix of family, especially since the grand daughter was born 2 years ago. I am tired of being the one ALWAYS to be gracious, and take the “high road” when we are uninvited to our grand daughters birthday party because our grand daughter might want to sit on my lap instead of her other grandmother, and my step daughter cannot handle the daily tears about it. She cried almost daily for a year to her daughter about not spending as much time with her grand daughter as I did at the first birthday party. when the truth is she hardly came out of the house because she was crying so much to her daughter. Keep in mind, that this woman ( the ex wife) CHOSE to leave my husband 16 years ago with another man, and ripped his world apart!!! now she feels like she has a right to use every single bit of guilt available in order to keep me away from her grand baby at all costs. I am a very very loving Nana. our grand daughter is lucky to have me. and my husband is finally happy in a relationship after 13 years of being alone. I wish this woman would leave us alone. these are the fruits of her own choices. Sorry for venting, it feels so good to be able to vent as an anonymous person. there really is no one I can talk to because every one is involved at some level, and I am keeping peace at all costs. for years this family has operated and coped in this weird dysfunction dynamic. My husband says on one hand that he wants nothing to do with his ex. but he still has 6 pictures of him and her and the kids all over the walls. there is not one of us on the wall. He talks more about his family trips with them when the kids were small than our trips. I feel like I will NEVER fit in. I feel like I am intruding, even though they really have not spoken to each other more than a few hours in the last 16 years. I feel like she is trying to sabotage my relationship with my grand daughter, and our relationship with his adult children. She has already tried to fill her sons head with many many lies. she NEVER stops, ever. The only way this family knows how to deal with it is to give in to her, and try not to make waves. read into this…. makes sure she ALWAYS has more time with the grand baby, make sure WE are uninvited to parties that she is invited too, then we are secretly phoned to come by after she goes home. We were asked to wait to meet our new grand baby until after she did. Turns out his daughter said we should come meet her baby. ( the ex was still on a plane ) when the ex came to see baby, the first words out of her mouth were “did I see her first?”. her poor daughter had to deal with all the emotional melt down. I asked my husband if we could do counselling,he does not think it is necessary . I think they are so used to this woman, and used to this way of doing things I do not see it ever changing. what do i do?????

  35. Jenna, this is really eye opening to me! I think that I do have PTSD caused by my ex and then added on to by my boyfriends ex. To make things worse and harder on everyone my ex sought out my boyfriends ex and is now dating her. They use each other to feed off their hate for us and provide each other with intimate details of our past lives and current lives with our children to use against us. So we have it coming from all sides and it’s terrible. I AM effected by this and I don’t want to be anymore…

  36. I never knew this awful world of severe mental illness and abuse existed until I met my husband. He is the love of my life, an amazing man, and I have such a hard time understanding how he married and had three children with such a beast. That he lived in this ulterior universe for so many years. It makes him that much more thankful for me, but with that he allowed the three children to be raised void of emotion, ungrateful, and have terrible manners. They are just like her. It doesn’t seem like any of the comments here are relatable? He is now the father he was never allowed to be and is trying to work with the boys when we have them, but it is difficult because he was too weak before so they see him as weak. Her brainwashing is working, she tells them they are above him and they don’t have to respect him. We are having so much trouble with the 13 year old. I learned the hard way and now cannot let them around my two children who have never been exposed to mental illness. Has anyone had this experience with their own children? We want so badly to have a baby, but I can’t see how we could bring one into such a toxic environment. Also, no one here talks about the financial impact. The money we pay just to fight her sickness is already hurting us. The amount needed to bring in professionals and fight this in court is unfathomable. How do any of you do it? And I’m curious how anyone is able to move 3000 miles away while the children are still young?

    • I’m so sorry you’re going through this. We have used a fair amount of our savings on attorneys, a parenting consultant, a therapist, and more recently a coach. We wish we had known there were coaches for this kind of issue. It looks like Jenna does similar work to what our coach does. Our therapist is very important for our relationship to thrive in this difficulty, but if we had hired a coach sooner we probably could have saved a significant amount in attorney/PC fees. The coach has helped us a great deal with practical advice on how to manage the difficult person by predicting patterns of behavior, limiting contact, and staying grounded and centered ourselves despite what the other person does, because, basically, she will keep on doing the toxic things. The coach also helps us handle issues with our kids, and between the two of us we have six. Again, I’m sorry you’re going through this. In all honesty, if we didn’t have our coach and therapist, this would have broken our marriage, which would have been terribly sad because we’re dedicated to each other and the children.

    • I feel your pain! We believe the ex is bipolar and it has greatly effected the kids. She lies constantly and asks the kids to lie as well. She moved the kids out of the county illegally and we just now got them full time Monday through Friday. We had no idea where they were staying for over a year when they were with her. We did find my iPhone searches and when she figured out we could find them took our phones away, bought them new ones and told them not to allow their father access. My husband and I are very close and connected, otherwise we would not be making it through all this but that was one thing we disagreed on. He should make them use our phones during our weeks and her phones on her weeks. We should have their passwords and be able to access their phones at all times. They are kids who need guidence and everything is on social media now and when we did have access we prevented several bad things from getting worse just by seeing and then casually taking them through it. We’ve spent over 10k in legal bills, all the while the judge knowing fully that she was lying, not giving us an address for where they were staying etc. She didn’t want to change custody and California is very sympathetic to the mother. It’s been a year in this battle and the mother moved out of the county permanently which allowed us to get them Monday through Friday’s but now the mother wants all weekends, holidays and summer to keep it as 50/50 as possible to 1) spend time with her children-not denying that, 2) to prevent a lowering of child support and 3) to get the fun times with them while we do all the work. Then she looks good and is fun mom where we are doing homework, driving all over the place picking and dropping off kids with both of us having extremely demanding jobs and paying for their entire lives such as private school, any extra curricular activities, etc. While the mom just takes them shopping for clothes and make-up. Who wouldn’t want to do that! Sounds like fun for a kid. All going unnoticed, unapprecuatrc and resented by the kids because I’m not their mother and makes excuses for everything she does. It’s heart wrenching and a no win battle for me. The only way I cope is peridiocalky dusassociating myself from the entire family. Sometimes I just need a break from it all so I’ll go do activities like tennis, band practice, work events just to avoid the high stress times. It’s not necessarily right to run away but better than exploding in front of the kids which I feel like doing when they act out and/or talk badly to their mother about me. We really all get along so well, they know I love them and take great care of them but when they do go to their mothers it takes days to get them back to normal all resenting and blaming me the entire time. My heart hurts:(

  37. Sorry folks. My ex was married when he met the new love of his life (also married). Blamed me in front of the children for the divorce, threatened the children that they could not live in their home as he wanted it for him/her. He sat unhappily in the basement for 15 years drinking 1.5 L of wine/day. Glad he is gone even though I thought at the time that it was better to keep the family together and support my spouse who clearly had a mental health illness (as addiction is just that). She is, after 2 1/2 years, now divorcing. They are not yet living together, but will soon. My daughter is 15. My son is 12. They witnessed a lot of verbal, physical and emotional abuse throughout the separation as he would not leave the home. That’s the background. Today? They have no interest in seeing their father and of course, they have less than zero interest in having her as a stepmom. They prefer to stay in their home vs. visit him in his new home. So instead of trying to repair any relationship, he is taking me to court for sole custody. If anyone wants to call me toxic for thinking what I think of this woman, go right ahead. If anyone wants to call my daughter or son toxic for what they think of this woman, go right ahead. There are a lot of emotions around these types of situations and so many just figure they can pop kids into therapy and it’s all going to be ok. Blended families are not always rosy. Teenagers especially are sometimes not interested in dealing with step parents or step siblings and that’s that and it isn’t because the “ex” is some psycho. Let’s face it, who is going to paint their “ex” as this wonderful person that they just “had” to leave. It’s all a shame that there are so many people out there that are floating around in their little bubble of happiness that they really don’t see what happens to the kids with all this. Give yourselves a reality check… do you really think kids like to shuffle back and forth between homes? They simply have to suck it up and deal with it. Doesn’t mean they like it or that with some “therapy” they’re going to be ok with all this.

    • Oh… and just to note, there has been zero contact, as initiated by the “ex-wife” to either the ex husband or the new love of his life. She is not interested in talking to either of them.

    • Hi DDD, I’m pretty sure no one with their eyes open would call you toxic or be blind to someone with behaviors such as your ex husband’s. Most of us have dealt with legitimate verbal and emotional abuse from the ex-wife. We’re not sitting here calling wonderful women toxic. We’re calling high-conflict, abusive women that.

  38. This is amazing
    . I thought I was going crazy. My poor husband has already gotten to where he can ignore her but she so knows how to push my buttons. The fact she gets to me drives him crazy. this woman has even went as far as to recently say that no matter who they have been married to over the years(we’ve been married 17yrs together 21) they have always been there for one another. No she has not I HAVE I AM HIS WIFE!!!! She calls my mother in law mom and just started doing this recently. she is best friends with my sister in law also recent. the adult children believe we should spend birthdays and holidays with her. I refuse and then get told its all my fault my husbands relationship with his kids is strained. No she started off from the beginning getting in arguments with him over the phone saying you would rather be with her than your kids… thank you for making realize i am not crazy

  39. I disagree with your statement about its not her job to take care of you. Yes and no. Ultimately, no it’s not. But she has an obligation to be civil at the very least and act like an adult. THAT is her job. And if she is a Christian, it IS her job to care about your feelings. Love thy neighbor. Or enemy. Do unto others… Shame on her. And shame on my husband’s ex wife for treating me like trash as well. I’m doing her the biggest favor of her life. I’m raising her children. And well might i add. SHE is not. God is watching. There’s no excuse. These exes aren’t 5 yr olds on a playground. They DO know better. They just are selfish.

  40. Hi ladies.. I am really happy I came accross this page. Thanks a lot, Jenna! I am new to this stepmom situation. I have been married to my husband for almost 10 months now. My husband has already got divorced since the first time I knew him 3 years ago. But his ex-wife still think herself as his wife even after they got divorced. She sent message to my mom’s Facebook saying that “your daughter is a bitch” and that she is his wife and she will not approved my relationship with him. She also sent me a message through her son’s account (to make me think it’s her son who sent me the message), telling that I am a whore and just a toy. She doesn’t allow the kids (14 yo daughter & 9 yo son) to meet me and my husband has no choice but to follow this because he doesn’t want to put the kids in the middle and make them choose between their parents. The kids live with her on weekdays so on weekend my husband has to go out without me, pick up the kids and go out somewhere together with the kids since they can’t come to my house. It’s not suprising if she tells bad things about me to the kids. It’s just sad to know a mother can use her kids to satisfy her selfish, jealous, hate, and insecure feelings. I love my husband so much so at this point there is nothing I can do. But I really want to get close to the kids. Is it wrong to wanting this? I trust my husband fully but sometimes I can’t help myself feeling worry if my husband can really set the boundaries between him and her because she always uses the kids and my husband will do anything for them.

      • Yes, we will find a way, dear… hang in there & don’t give up! what I do now is trying my best to ignore her as much as possible! By doing so, I hope I can get my peace.. Good luck! 🙂

  41. I have never met or spoken to his ex…she is a complete narcissist. She started off wanting to meet me but my instinct told me not to. Then she turned nasty. Then writing to me begging that we meet. Fake facebook accounts. Phoning my work. However now she has started sexting my husband, even at 2am…he shows me and doesn’t respond but I’m SO ANGRY. It’s been seven years now! She doesn’t work, takes drugs…I’m a professional with children of my own and care for his two as my own when they visit. Please tell me not to jump in my car and punch her on the nose…….

    • I completely understand how you feel Sally. Hope you found the strength you needed to not drive over & punch her. I can certainly understand that level of utter rage–I found laughing (as best you can) at anything helps to take the edge off enough to breathe and calm down a bit.

  42. As an “ex-wife” – I find this article incredibly insulting. Please remember that there are two sides to every story – and not every “ex” is a maniacal lunatic hell bent on causing you stress and anxiety at every turn. I stay out of my ex’s relationship 100%. We have a child together, and we communicate very well in that regard, but otherwise, he’s free to date whomever and however he wishes. Our ship has sailed, and I’ve accepted that. So before you automatically assume that your new beau’s ex-wife or “baby momma” is out to get you because your lover has told you horror stories…remember there are two sides to every story. Perhaps his ex left because she was tired of coming home to a drunken mess every evening? Maybe she was tired of raising a newborn by herself without her “husband” even offering to hold the baby so she could shower? Perhaps she begged him for counseling when she knew there was a problem and she genuinely wanted to fix it, but he refused. Maybe he publically declared that HE wanted a divorce at a friends party ( while his buddies looked on and laughed) and humiliated her to her core? It’s time we stop bashing one another and spend more time realizing that not every relationship will work out in life. It’s okay. But walking into one with blinders on and believing every last word fed to you about his horrible ex without taking the time to genuinely get to know this woman is only going to feed the animosity. Love happens. Divorce happens. You don’t need to be BFF’s with your man’s ex-wife, but at least respect her – especially when she tries to do the same for you.

    I’m aware that there are expectations. Believe me, I dated a fella who’s ex-wife was genuinely psychotic. I tried time and time again to befriend her and make idle conversation and to never overstep my bounds (they had a child together) but this woman literally verbally assaulted me on every occasion and even threatened physical harm against me – because I became pregnant. So yes, I know there are truly horrid ex’s – I’m just tired of so many articles bashing us as a whole of “crazy bitches” instead of promoting respect between all parties involved. Just remember that there are two sides to every story…and it may enlighten you to at least listen to both before jumping to conclusions and labeling someone as a “crazy ex.”

    • Amber,

      I think we all understand that not ALL ex wives are psycho’s, but please keep in mind that the step moms who are NOT dealing with a psychotic ex wife are probably not on a site called “stepmomhelp” looking for any type of support for the idiocy they face daily. While many mothers might be wonderful people and work hard to get along with the ex and his wife for the good of the shared children, the majority of us come to this site for help because we DO deal with a truly unstable ex-wife who spitefully uses the kids against the other parents and tries at every turn to make life hell for the stepmom. Jenna wrote of her own experiences, not from the “war stories” her husband might have told her before she ever met the woman, but from her own years of contact with a woman who was unstable and did things against her simply because she married her ex and cared for her children.

      I am also a stepmom who tried for years (6) to be friendly to the ex wife, invite her into our home, try to “blend” the family and have a harmonious relationship only to discover she still had unhealthy emotional attachments to my husband and was using my kindness and attempts at friendship with her as a way to keep as close to him as she could, all the while telling my stepkids terrible things about me and my family (like we should mean nothing to the kids, the kids shouldn’t consider us family because we were not, etc). To the point that when she told me (to my face) that my husband was her best friend and emotional support in life, I actually realized what the woman was doing and my husband and I forced some severe boundaries. The ex of course was so upset that we implemented boundaries that she cut us off for everything… we don’t get medical updates on my stepson’s diabetic appointments (we have to call the doctor ourselves to get information), she puts her mother as secondary contact with the kids school instead of their father… she doesn’t put him on the kids information at all, we’ve had to contact the school to get that done). We basically parallel parent now with no contact with her at all except what the kids relay from her from time to time. The infrequent face-to-face contact we do have is terrible, complete with her crying, throwing temper tantrums in public when she doesn’t get her way or more money and emotionally bullying the kids into doing what makes her happy… i.e. Running into the other room crying and telling the kids they don’t love her if they say they want to do something with their father and I.

      So while I’m sorry Jenna’s article offended you as a mother, please understand that most of us don’t deal with mentally stable individuals, and it has nothing to do with stories the husband have told us; it has everything to do with things we stepmoms witness and are subjected to daily. Thank you for not being one of the crazy ones. It helps us step moms to at least know that somewhere out there, there is a step mother who is NOT dealing with an unstable, crazy, bitter, jealous, insecure woman with a mental illness (or whatever it is that seems to be ailing these exes). I just wish that I was one of the stepmoms who did not have to deal with it daily. Like Jenna said, it takes quite the toll on the stepmom to have to consistently be putting up with poor behavior and always being blamed for everything (including the fact that her own actions are driving her kids away… she’s just too dumb and blind to see it).

      • “I think we all understand that not ALL ex wives are psycho’s, but please keep in mind that the step moms who are NOT dealing with a psychotic ex wife are probably not on a site called “stepmomhelp” looking for any type of support for the idiocy they face daily.” My thought exactly. 🙂

  43. What do you when the children act out because of their mother? I have a 14 and 11 year old stepdaughters and the mother constantly tells the children extremely inappropriate things, tells them both myself and my husband talk about her behind her back while she talks badly about us both right in front of them, treats them like best friends not children who need to focus on being kids and has the older one wrapped around her finger. I rarely get upset about anything she says about me personally to my husband. I can laugh at that because it’s completely based on jealousy, and to be honest I can understand why and empathize with her, but her actions with the kids are deplorable. I could tell a million stories which would blow your mind but the main point is I love those children just like their my own, I am super involved in theirs lives, I make them feel special and love them everyday but the oldest fights the relationship tooth and nail because she feels like it’s a betrayal to her mother and I just recently found out the little one, which I have a very close relationship with, said I didn’t deserve a birthday present. Her mother texted my husband the text stating the girls don’t like me and he doesn’t know his own girls. That’s the most gut wrenching thing. I could care less what she thinks but when you give your all, even more so than the mother because we have them Monday through Friday,it literally breaks my heart. We had them in counseling for over a year and the counselor told me it was mandatory for them to talk badly about me to her. That’s a heartbreak that I’m not sure I can take. I conceptually know they love me, as the counselor says, but when the mother sends texts showing what they say my heart can’t take it. I’d like to think they would say nothing or I don’t want to talk badly about her but that is wishful thinking. They love their mother as all children do and it feels like it will never end. I never had kids so this experience is all I have and it’s a shame it has to be so tough. Any words of wisdom helps. she rarely reaches out to me directly yet texts my husband constantly which, for the most part, doesn’t respond to the crazy.

  44. I just need a place to vent & have nowhere else to turn.
    I hate this woman with every fiber of my being. She is emotionally unstable and everyone I’ve met that knows her agrees she is a bitch. But she plays the victim card VERY & describes me as a gold digging whore and homewrecker to everyone she talks to about this. (She & he had separated [they were never formally married] over a year before I MET him, she had sent him messages acknowledging that they were both moving on, AND she was seeing someone else also!!!)
    She creates endless drama, sends loads of nasty, abusive emails and texts & leaves voicemails of the same kind, she tries to ban me from seeing/talking to the kids AND TO TOP IT ALL OFF because she was a stay at home mom and therefore the primary care giver for the children while they were together, she emotionally manipulates him into not taking a stand against her!!!
    It’s EXHAUSTING! He won’t set any boundaries and she makes my blood boil! I want to scream!
    HOW CAN I FIND PEACE?! HOW can I keep this from getting to me????

  45. I don’t even know where to begin, but here goes nothing. I met, my now fiancee almost 4 years ago. He had been divorced for almost 3 years prior to us knowing each other. He was married for almost 16 years and has two daughters. One is still a minor, 15 and the oldest is now an adult. During our first year and a half, we decided not to let the girls know about our relationship until we established that we really did want to be with one another. I met the girls, and everything is perfectly fine. Did not push my relationship with them, and just maintained a very cool atmosphere. Girls have always been very respectful and well behaved. However, the issues we’ve encountered are with the ex wife. Oh god, when she found out I was in the picture, the world was coming to an end. I am 15 years younger than my fiancee. Name calling, constant email threats, harassment calls and texting to say the least. She is a very manipulative person, and loves to be in control with everything and everyone. At first, I tried my best to stay away from all the co-parenting but as the years went by I just seemed to be getting more and more involved. Eventually, she was calling me to work, and then, I just blocked her from communicating with me. My last conversation with her almost 2 years ago, she said to me ” these are the consequences of him leaving me and you’re going to have to deal with them”. Long story short, my fiancee has put his foot down but to some extend, and not where it needs to be. She’s been blocked from texting because we could get up to 100 text messages in 1 night. Let me rewind a bit, my fiancee would do whatever his ex requested because she would threat him by not allowing him to see the girls, and since NEITHER of them wanted for the girls to know about all their fights, he would just deal with all her demands and would please her. Until, the girls started to get older and speak up for themselves. Aside from $1,500 child support, he also pays for the oldest expenses such as car, insurance, college, cell phone and any extra expenses for both his daughters. He’s a great father to the girls, that’s not a doubt. This summer, I found out that he was giving his ex wife money aside from everything else for groceries, car issues, hotel to travel, and to take her family out to eat. I LOST MY MIND! I was so mad because i felt that this is part of the reason why she does not stop with the harassment calls and demands. She can call up to 5x in one day or in a minute and if he doesn’t answer one phone, she will call the other one. Not even exaggerating. Worse part is that they do not coparent and they cannot be on the phone for more than a minute before they start fighting. Guess who takes the punches after those calls? MEEEEE!!!! All his anger and frustration was being let out on me. So when I found out over the summer that he was still giving her everything she wanted, I told him, he was the one to blame. I let him know that if that was the type of relationship he wanted to have with her it was fine, but that there was no room for me in his life and I was out. I told him, I was not going to be part of that. Obviously, he gave me all the excuses that she would give him and said that he would discuss with me any decisions prior to responding to her (which I thought we had already established this) apparently not. Well, recently, she’s been having issues with work and pay is not the same. She first calls him and explains to him the situation, and he tells her that he was going to speak to me, and we would let her know what we could assist with. Well, I’m over here thinking he is giving me my place, when he had already transferred her money. Yet, here we are coming up with a “plan”. My request to him was to send her x amount but though child support, so it’s documented. Next day, we get served with a lawsuit from her requesting more child support. SO OF COURSE I AM MAD! I could not believe she had just called to request additional assistance, and now we were being served. Forget about all that, I feel extremely betrayed by my fiancee because he transferred her money without me knowing, and he did not bother to do it via child support, per my only request, and it was mainly to protect himself because she had already said, she was planning on hiring an attorney to take more from him. He stated he felt stuck and in the middle because his daughters called him to tell him they needed money for house payment, and things were really bad, so he just did it. I am trying my best to understand that he felt a moment of anxiety and just did what was best for his daughters. However, I cannot get over this anger within me. I feel so betrayed by him because this was not the first time this had happened, yet, the emails, and calls have been non stop for 4 years. I am mad at myself for having expectations, I feel that when we have expectations on people we are bound to get hurt and disappointed. However, I can’t help but be mad. He doesn’t understand where I’m coming from. He swears, this will eventually end, but Im starting to realize that this might never end. We’ve come such a far way to give up now, but with this incident, I don’t know if I can over come it. Part of me, wants to leave this situation, and the other part of me, does not want to leave him because we have such a good relationship aside from his psycho ex. Not sure how to forgive, which I know better, but I can’t seem to swallow this one. I’ve put up with so much crap for the sake of the girls and because I know my fiancee fears that the girls will turn on him, but I cannot put myself second anymore. This woman is malicious and I’m ready to give up. It’s hard for me to work on myself to be a better person when my fiancee and his ex wife are in a crazy weird relationship. I want to postponed our wedding but my fiancee does not. I told him that I am not marrying into this until he fixes it, but I still feel betrayed. HELP!!!!!

    • Oh hon, this is difficult and I’m so sorry you are in this position. I cannot tell you what to do, I can tell you what I would do, but ultimately you have to decide what you are okay living with and what you are not okay living with. What I WILL tell you is this… it will NOT get easier once you are legally married to this man. The ex’s craziness and lack of boundaries and attempts at controlling and manipulating your fiancé will not stop just because he marries you. If you are ALREADY having severe boundary issues and your fiancée is lying to you or hiding money things from you BEFORE you are married, do not expect this to change or improve once he puts a wedding ring on your finger. In my experience, it will only get worse as time goes on and you will find yourself at severe odds with your husband. Money, crazy exes and kids are the reason many second marriages end in divorce. You have to take a huge step back and try to look at your life as it is right now and decide whether this is what you want your married life to be like. If your fiancée does not see the error of his ways and how his actions are so wrong and a slap in the face to you, don’t expect him to see it once you’re married. There are some men who cater to their ex-wife and her idiocy their entire lives, and the poor step mother is dragged through the drama, hating her life and resenting her husband and her step kids. Don’t be that woman. If your fiance’s ex cannot afford her house payment, then perhaps she should downsize or perhaps the kids could come live with your finance if she cannot afford her life. But her house payment is not your fiance’s problem. If he so willingly bends to whatever her wishes are, he will continue to bend after you are married. That will not change.

      This is a terrible position for you to be in and I am so sorry you are going through this. But you and your life with your fiancé should be both you and his main priority, NOT making house payments behind your back for his ex. I hope that whatever decision you make, that you find peace and happiness. Hugs to you.

      • Thank you so much for writing back. It sure has been rough these last couple of days. My fiancée finally came around and admitted his fault for betraying me. I’m not sure, if it means anything right now, just because this is the 2nd time this happens. He did however, hire an attorney which he was against of doing so, for the longest time, but it finally got done. He also deleted his ex wife from his transfer list on his bank which is a huge way to disconnect too. I suggested him opening up a bank account with the 15 year old, and set an allowance for her, so he’s aware that she has money. He felt more at peace. I’m not sure where I’m at just yet. I’m trying to suck everything in. At this point, I made it clear to the attorney of my expectations of us hiring her, so at this point, this is my last battle. But thank you for thisbwebsite and everyone stories. It gives me some sense of peace and belonging knowing I’m not alone. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.

  46. Reading this gave me some peace. My husbands ex and their marriage was really a sham. It happened over a decade ago, lasted a year with a unwanted pregnancy. He took his responsibilities and she was well aware they were not going to be “together”.
    I’ve been with my husband for 12 years. I can’t tell you the hell we have gone through up until a year ago when I finally put my foot down and stopped her harassment once and for all.
    She has continued trying to weasel her way back into our lives, mine especially but I had finally cut contact.
    It’s taking me some time to get over all the horrific things she has said and done to me especially, and yes I sometimes wonder how she doesn’t own up to things. But then I think of how after all these years she has never settled down with anyone else due to her behavior. And how she single handily destroyed any type of normal relationship her daughter has/had with her father.

    I am glad to know there are other women out there dealing with the same situations. I always think sometimes how I wished I handled it differently back then and never had contact no matter how many times I felt it would help. That was my fault…. I could have done so many things different but as the saying goes you live and you learn.

  47. What a great article. My ex is what I call “crazy” too and she always ups the ante to try to get to my new wife and myself. She recently has befriended my wife’s ex and has been taking the kids around each other on her time. She is trying to get a rise out of me and my wife but we are taking the high road and not going there. I don’t really get along with my wife’s ex and she knows it bothers me that she is taking our kids around him. She had my oldest spend the night at his house this past weekend and she kept his new wife’s kid with her at her house. Its a very strange situation that we don’t like but really can’t control. At first we wanted to call them out on it and ask why they wanted to do such a thing but we took a 30 minute car ride to cool down and calmer heads prevailed. I am dealing with the biggest narcissist I have ever met. My ex is all about herself and I hate that my kids have to go through that. I wish I could cut all ties with her but I can’t because my kids are 8 and 12. I do like your suggestion of my wife cutting all ties though. She recently has been targeting her and it weighs on her more than it weighs on me. I have found the love of my life and I hate for things like this to weigh down our relationship even though I know we will always endure. I told my wife to put this in God’s hands and let him take care of it. She agrees so that is what we will do. If you have any suggestions for my wife and myself I would love to hear from you. It seems that my ex always goes to the next level when she finds that something she does isn’t working. Thank you for your time.

    • Hi Brandon, it sounds like you guys are doing everything right. It’s exactly what you said, you can’t control her, so let her attempt to play her games and you guys just focus on your house and what you can control. She might try even harder at first to get your attention and to get you to engage, but eventually she’ll (hopefully) see that her tactics won’t work. Your wife should see a big improvement in her quality of life once she cuts all ties from your ex. So that will be good for both of you. 🙂 Good luck!

      • I once had a wise psychologist tell me the only way to deal with a narcissist is to not engage. That is what I have chose to do and I can tell it bothers her more than anything. I am learning to approach my dealings with her like a business deal. Nothing personal just handling business and in business sometimes we don’t agree and that’s that. Thank you for your reply..

        • You are right about the “not engaging”.
          My husband was the one who kept telling me to stop responding actually. I couldn’t stand someone badmouthing my family and putting lies on me to everyone……
          Now that I’m not engaging she is looking for every which way to contact my husband. It’s over things that his teenager daughter could easily ask for if need be.

          Appreciate your wife Brandon. If you have children together then you both have to protect your new child from the harm and damage your ex may cause.
          I have done that as well……

          The normal in their house is not everyone’s normal. And there is not much you can do on the outcome of your children’s personality but I can tell you this…being in my step child’s life for many many years; and having the mother she has, has caused her to have some serious mental issues as she is getting older.

          You have to pray and keep praying. These women will never set their feelings aside for their children. They will end up alone in life…..and they are the only ones to blame….
          That’s what bothers them the most about the men that are able to move forward.

          Good Luck and God bless!

          • Wow, Its like you have lived what we are going through. Crazy how similar people stories can be. I told my wife that I feel like I am living in a movie with an ex who has a fatal attraction. I am beyond excited to share this site with my wife. Thanks again,

          • I appreciate my wife more than anything. She is my rock..She is my constant that will always be by my side. Without her I would be lost! Me, Her and God are the 3 things that will get us through anything and I know that. I have found my soulmate and cherish every minute I have with her. I love that woman to death and have the utmost respect for her. I have to give all praise to God for putting her in my life..

            • That is great. I say that because my husband often says that no one would have dealt with any of this and have been as good of a person in their child’s laugh regardless of how the bio mom acts. That was me….

              But now I did have to take myself out of it. It gets easier……you grow and you learn. It makes us who we are.

              I wish you both the best!!!

    • Hi Brandon,
      Cutting ties is the very best thing your new wife can do for herself and especially your marriage. Yes my husbands “ex” is trying every which way to sabotage me and my husband. She has gotten by far the worst since we had a child together. As we should. We have spent 13 yrs together……the only unhappy part is dealing with his past…..
      You cannot find that many women that will put up with these things so please appreciate your wife. It’s also on you to keep your new life separate from your ex. This is crucial.
      And tell your wife to please stop contact…..any texts or emails or even calls your ex makes to your new wife PRINT OUT!! Keep a file.
      And have her ignore all contact.

      I know how hard it is not to respond and curse her out. I’ve been there and it’s very hard……
      But if anything were to occur, with the law or court, you and your wife will have files of papers showing how she is harassing you both and causing severe emotional distress.

      Women like this never move on……and when there is a mental illness it is even worse. Which is what we deal with.
      You won this battle. You moved on. And found happiness.

      Your children will grow up fast. I have a few years away from 18. And even now she still refers to her child as the baby when she contacts my husband. “The baby needs new clothes”
      Not kidding. It’s insane…..the child is in high school lol…

      So just remember what I said. I know first hand how difficult it is. You should only speak via text or email as well. No verbal conversations…..

      • Thank you for your reply. I love the contact through email or text. This is the best way for us to communicate because a simple phone call always turns toxic really fast. Thanks again!

  48. I have followed the rules of No Contact all the way, for the last 5 years. Over the years, the ex has sent members of my husband’s family to tell me not to attend certain family events, so that SHE could attend…so I do not attend family events. But with the kids’ upcoming college graduations she is trying a new game. Saying I’m the one who “doesn’t care enough” to attend. I do care – but HOW can I attend when I’ve always been told not to attend events, and have never met her in 5 whole years. Frankly, I’m scared to death of the woman after all I’ve heard. And, she’s told so many lies about me, and manipulated his family to turn against us both. UGH, when does life stop being so ugly. I desperately need a group of understanding people I can talk to about these things.

    • Cheery, you should be honest with the kids. “I’ve not attended because I was trying to respect your mom’s wishes that I don’t. Would you like me to come to your graduation? Because I will if you want me to.” Once the kids become a certain age, it’s OK to ask them what THEY want. You have certainly sacrificed a lot and missed many events – but it doesn’t have to always be that way. Also, in about 1 week I’m launching a new group on Facebook for stepmoms. It will be private, positive, and supportive, but best of all you’ll receive coaching from me in there. Let me know if you’d like to be notified of its launch so you can be a part of it. 🙂

  49. When my husband and I first met he told me one of the things he loved about me was how I always saw the good in everything and everyone. I looked at myself in the mirror just now and saw a beat-down, worn person I didn’t recognize. We’ve been together for 6 years and I’ve tried in SO many ways (even once in a “put your big girl panties on and put the boys first already!”) to have a civil working relationship with his ex-wife! Aside from that one time, all the other ways have been nice. 🙂 All I’ve received in return is nastiness, accusations and awful behavior. She takes her aggression out on the boys. They love her but are also afraid of her and have several times come home crying or asked us to not bring things up so she won’t get mad.
    I guess my biggest question is what about when the kids want you to get along? My SSs are 6 and 8, and the 8 year old has for years now asked me to pray with him that his other mommy will be friends with me. She has tried to refuse contact with me – to their detriment in the sense of being rude in front of them (they will be visibly uncomfortable), or refusing to take the goodnight call to talk to them if it’s on my phone (if my hubby is at a work meeting and not present). They get very upset she won’t talk to them, but she doesn’t seem to care. The new one now is she is claiming I am stalking her – by trying to enable the boys to do their goodnight call!!
    I get SO much stress by any and all contact with her – but both my hubby and I see how much our boys are upset by her refusal to do so. And we also don’t want to just give into her bullying and say “oh ok – you pitched a big enough fit – you don’t have to take her calls”. How do I handle this?? I miss being happy.


    • Hello. Your stepchildren are not your bio children and if you don’t start accepting that, then you will destroy yourself…..
      What their bio mom does to them is nothing you can control. You are the better wife and mother to those children and that’s all you have to do when they are under your roof. They are actually fortunate to have a positive female figure in their life (you)….and that is all you can be to them.
      Is there a reason why your stepchildren reside with you and your husband and NOT the bio mom?

      • Hi Sarah – I’m pretty sure I’m aware I didn’t birth my stepsons. But in the same way I would absolutely hope and pray any woman my ex might marry would treat my kids the same as her own, I love and treat my stepsons as my own. How cruel would it be to treat them any differently?
        As far as living conditions, we are one day shy of equal custody. She takes us to court every year for more money and tries to take the kids away. The judge has given us a day each year (we are fairly certain bc she has shown nothing but aggression and craziness in court, but whatever the reason we’ll take it). The boys do a goodnight call every night with whichever parent(s) they aren’t with that night.

        • Hi. I am glad you do treat your stepsons as your own, but let me give you an example of what I had gone through as
          For 13 years of being in my step child’s life I was threatened, accused of all kinds of things, my family threatened etc.
          For those 13 years though, I treated my stepchild like my own as you are with your stepsons. It went unappreciated as after so many years spent with my husband I finally gave birth to my own child. And once that happened the ex had threatened not just me but the well being of my baby.
          It got so bad that I completely stepped away from my stepchild, as she was too afraid to go against her mother.
          My husband now sees his child who is a teen, outside our home on weekends and I have kept myself away from both her mother and her child.

          You trying to get along and constantly reaching out is going to backfire. Stop.
          As a woman who has gone through this and worse for 13 years I wish every single day that I had put my foot down a long time ago…….but what’s done is done and I finally have peace in my house, my marriage and my world….

  50. It is nice to find this blog. Dealing with an intrusive, narcissistic ex-wife is a very tough road. I don’t think anyone knows what is in store for them; including their new husbands. You enter this with your heart open and just wanting peace. Your goal is not to try to be the step children’s mom, but just to be nice and form a healthy relationship over time. I had my husband’s horrible ex trying to go after our marriage right away. She cheated and married the other man breaking up another family. I didn’t know her and met my husband 3 years after their divorce. She called all of the time criticizing for the most petty things. She bad mouthed lied and was a total hypocrite. She constantly used the children and tried to control our lives. It was horrible. My husband didn’t get it and hates conflict. She was always so rude with her comments and would shake when I was around and stare at my wedding ring. She called up to discuss how we were spending our money when my husband paid more than the guideline in child support on time every time. She is a pathological narcissist. I wish I had handled things differently instead of putting up with her insane abuse and meddling. I never imagined someone could be so awful and evil. After all, she cheated and was remarried. I so wish I would have had the boundary talk right away with my husband and sought counseling. My husband went along with her for so long since she would use the kids to punish him by violating their decree and interfere into with visitation. She has conducted aggressive parental alienation and is the absolute worst person/ parent I have ever encountered. My advice is to discuss boundaries with your husband. If verbal attacks and foul behavior occurs remove yourself. You don’t need to be subjected to a mentally ill, high conflict individual. You can’t change them, but you do not have to take it and you can let them know. Cut off contact and you need your husband to support you and set boundaries too. These people will do anything to create drama and lie to cause problems. They are truly toxic and a new wife with great intentions does not deserve this. It is a tough road so educate yourself and stick to boundaries.

  51. I am in this situation ! My fiancé of 4 years has his ex wife contact me regarding logistics and scheduling of their 5 year old daughter. His ex has majority custody, but my fiancé picks his daughter up from school daily. My fiancé and I recently had a new baby together , and when his 5 year old is sick, he asks her to pick their daughter up to prevent baby from getting sick and the ex wife freaked out and took it as “daddy didn’t want to see his daughter” and she would make comments like “it wasn’t mady’ choice to have siblings , it was your choice. ”
    I called her after reading that msg and she told me “it’s not fair that he gets to take care of the new baby all the time but can’t take care of mady when she’s sick” she has majority custody ! She also told me “it’s not fair that mady has siblings” when a month ago, she texted me “thank you for giving mady something I couldn’t give to her–a sister. ” and after I calmly confronted her about what she said , she tried to back track by telling me that she didn’t mean any disrespect towards me and the baby, she just thought it was unfair that mady now has siblings. And I offered to watch mady when she’s sick so long as baby was at the sitters. So I told her to let me know. She never called me, so the next day I asked if she was still sick in text and I didn’t get any response from her. Then we find out she picked mady up from school cause she had diarrhea and took her to daycare. But we found out from mady herself, not her mother. Her mother called my fiancé , but only to make sure that he picked mady up from daycare. Why is she so mean?? She knows I go out of my way for her daughter (her daughter and I are close, and she never wants to go back to her moms ok our weekends that we have her) and she tells others that I do a lot for her too. I just don’t get why she likes to use mady against her father and make it seem like her dad doesn’t want to see her. If she keeps doing this, I’m afraid that mady will resent her sister. I just don’t know what to do. I want to confront her but she’s a huge narcissist. She knew she hi A nerve with me when I called her on the phone, because I usually never confront hher about anything ! Help!! Any advice is appreciated!!!

    • Looks like everyone is dealing with an ex like this. And from personal experience it’s best to completely ignore her and step away. Let your fiancé handle her moving forward. That was my biggest mistake for 13 years always being the one to try and reason and be nice etc. I wish I could have done things differently and sit my husband down and say hey, …your child….your ex…handle it!
      She has always tried to sabotage my life, my marriage and my family and had no respect for my husband as the father of her child. Now she wants to prance around with boyfriend #45 and act like a lamb….none of them last and I’m sure you see the same with your husbands ex.
      You can be a good woman to that child when they are under your roof but that’s as far as it should go.

      The sooner we all learn this the sooner our lives will be at peace.

  52. I loved reading this, it has been almost 9 months since I decided to block his ex wife and have zero contact, and it has been the best choice I have made in dealing with the entire situation so far. The stress and frustration was just too much, I realized that by keeping my distance I am actually helping the situation rather then making it worse. It took me almost 3 years to realize that her hate towards me has actually nothing to do with me, it has to do with her and her ex and her trauma from their marriage ending. I love my step kids as if they are my own and they know this and I will trust that my love and support is helping them regardless of what she says. At the end of the day I can rest knowing that I am free of anger and hate and able to be happy and grateful for this amazing life. Its nice to know I am not alone!

  53. Thank you for this very helpful read. I completely agree about drawing boundaries. I did this early on when approached by his Ex who wanted to tell me her side of their story when we were just newly dating. I have no contact there and all of our kids are all over the age of 16. It should be less complicated or entangled now. Do you have advice on how to address when the Ex chooses to esentially harass and lie about us in blogs and social media posts? We have many mutual friends as its a small community. Her and her current husband’s responses to my husbands requests in writing for her to stop focusing or writing about have been met with hostility. (Basically mind your own business) We simply want to be left out of their media blitz. Any suggestions you could offer are appreciated.

    • Hi Jeanette, you could consult an attorney about filing a cease and desist order, but other than that, no. If you can’t prove that it’s causing you harm, then the only option might to stop reading or checking on it. Your true friends know the truth about you. Good luck!

  54. I so needed this tonight – after yet another insane, long, scorching email from the ex. I need to block her out totally. I need to tell my husband to not share her emails to him with me and let him handle it. I need to take care of me. Talking to other step moms who are surviving this is what I need most right now

  55. Dear Jenna:
    Thank you so much for this insightful article. I am very much looking forward to your Intensive as I can use all the help I can get dealing with the constant stream of vitriol I endure from my beautiful fiance’s bitter ex. I meet my future husband and his three kids about three years ago. Initially, our blended family (I have three biological kids and three kids I adopted out of foster care) became a happy crowd of joyful people who loved spending time together. We had so much fun and I fell in love with his kids. But, as our happiness increased, the ex’s misery and outbursts of pure hate became worse and worse. Her favorite weapon of choice is turning her kids against us. Now, their picture of who I am is so off kilter that I hardly recognize myself in their cruel words and actions. You recommend cutting off all communication with the ex…a pretty simple task. But how do I insulate myself from the messages of hate she sends along via the kids? My fiance is constantly telling me not to let their arrows pierce, but that has so far been impossible. I hope your webinar will help me find solutions. Thanks to all the women who are sharing their stories. It is very comforting to not navigate this hellish journey alone

    • I had to reply to your comment. I have been dealing with this for 13 years. Being a great step mom and then having to be threaten d, harassed, manipulated, and abused by the ex I had to do what I had to do to protect my own child. I had a very very close bond with my step daughter. Did everything under the sun for her during her visits. Taking her places when her father worked, buying clothes for her when her mother would send her in rags while she dressed to the 9.
      She has put lies in her head about me and her father that I feel she does somewhat believe. But I know the truth will come out eventually as she is getting older and sees her mother for what she is.
      its very hard. And I can’t tell you to try ignoring it because you really cant. But my best advice to you is put your foot down and make sure you never ever allow her to dictate what goes on in your house when her kids are there and when they are not. Make it very clear she is not a 3rd party in your marriage. I did this finally after 11 years and I can’t tell you how many times she has tried to win her way. Sometimes we may love the man we are with and he may be foolish and sit back and avoid conflict, but we as their wives have to take control sometimes. Good luck!

      • Oh Sara, thank you thank you thank you. I’m like a person who is walking across the desert with no water. Your kind response is like making it to the oasis. I love my man, I do. But, I’m often jealous that I raised good kids who love him, are kind to him, and all I get is hate. Is it worth it? You are 11 years down the road. I’m sensing that it will only get worse. How do I take back control? HOW??? I feel like I have tried and tried. I say the right things, do the right things and they have decided to hate me. AAARRGGG.

  56. I am actually 13 years into this. Just 2 years ago (which would have made it 11 years) I put my foot down.
    You can email me directly if you’d like! How can I give you my email without everyone getting it?

  57. WOW! I am so glad I read this article! I have been struggling for a long time with the same bitterness and resentment towards his ex. This article has really opened my eyes. You are very inspiring. Thank you!

  58. I feel so normal after read this post. I was beginning to think I was the one with and needed help. With all the hate emails, texts and calls she had nearly convinced me I was the issue. But now I realise this isn’t about me at all. It could have easily been any other woman in my shoes. From now on I’m cutting all ties with her and I refuse to let her manipulate and dictate our lives my husband and I. Thank you so much again for this post. You have no idea the kind of reawakening I’ve just experienced.

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