“You knew what you were getting into when you married him.”
When we hear those words, it can feel like a punch to the gut.
The sentiment reflects an ignorant yet common mindset from many of those who have never walked the path of a stepmom.
Want to know what I “knew” when I married my husband?
I knew that my experience as a stepchild was a pretty great one. That my mom and stepmom got along and that my parents never fought in front of me.
I “knew” that I was marrying an amazing man whose kids were nice to me.
I “knew” that his ex-wife wasn’t happy about me but that she’d eventually get over it – like any normal, mature, emotionally intelligent adult would.
Just as a new parent can never really know what to expect when their biological baby enters the world, no member of the stepfamily could actually know what they were in for.
What many outsiders don’t know is that the challenges don’t just appear the moment we start dating our partners. In fact, many of them don’t even show up until we get married.
It seems the marriage itself triggers many of these issues:
- The ex-wife who behaves like a three year old, full-blown tantrums and all, when she realizes you’re here to stay
- Kids who previously thought you were cool, now loathe you as they have to share their dad’s time and attention
- The permissive parent who doesn’t really parent because he’s feeling so much guilt over the divorce, which leaves you in a house full of undisciplined children
- Court dates and custody battles
- Parental alienation syndrome
- Doctor’s offices and school systems who don’t recognize you unless they get approval from both parents
…just to name a few.
So no, we didn’t “know” this was what we were signing up for when we said “I do.”
I think it’s shocking that people really think if we were faced with all these challenges on our first date – or before we fell in love with our partners – that we would have stayed.
Except for a few masochistic woman, many of us would have jumped ship.
For most of us, we were already madly in love with our partners when the common stepfamily challenges started to rear their ugly heads. And so we stayed.
And we continue to stay because we believe our men are worth it. We believe our marriage is worth it. And to make sure it continues to be worth it, we need to have many more good times than bad.
One stepmom told me that when someone tells her she knew what she was getting into, she replies with, “Did you know everything you were getting into with your first child?” And when they say “no,” she says “Well I guess we both knew but didn’t really know.”
I like this response. And it’s probably more effective than giving them the finger.
© 2012 Jenna Korf All Rights Reserved
You might also enjoy:
- Acknowledging loss and embracing your life as a stepmom
- 5 ways to make your marriage the priority
- Put down your good intentions and step away from the ex-wife
(photo credit:graur razvan donut)