Five Stepmom Truths for His High-Conflict Ex

Pensive Stepmum

When it came the time to meet his ex I suspect we were all a bit apprehensive. She was the one before us and at one time your partner loved this woman. They will forever be a part of each other’s lives as they share children, future grandchildren, and history.

But, now that you are part of their world, you are going to have to deal with her for many years to come. So, naturally, you want to make it work with this individual and making a good first impression is essential.

However, even though we try, sometimes she’s not open to any type of normal relationship with us. Here are some ways my husband’s ex-wife blew it with us and some things ex’s need to know about being a stepmom.

1. We were apprehensive to meet you the first time and wanted to make a good impression.

I remember meeting my husband’s ex. It was January 2011; the kids were with him for visitation, I had baked cookies and we were hanging out watching football. His ex came to pick up the kids. He introduced her to me and she barely looked my way, although I was the specific reason she came inside the house that evening. I sent a big bag of cookies home with the kids. On the way out the door, his ex dropped the cookies on the floor, stepped on them and told me I would have to clean them up.  That was my first impression and things pretty much went downhill from there.

Exes – Stepmoms really want to make a good impression but often find ourselves continuously shunned, abused, and devalued by you. Wanting to make a good impression only lasts for so long. But, if we see anything positive on your end we will take up the extra length and bridge the gap. However, continually ignoring us and not valuing what we can bring to the lives of your children will only harm you in the long run. Instead of finding an ally, you will find a woman not willing to put up with abuse for herself, her husband, or your kids.

2. Did you actually think your ex would never remarry and another woman wouldn’t be involved in the raising of your children?

My husband is a wonderful man and it didn’t take me long to fall in love with him two years after his divorce. His ex treats me like I had an affair with him and took him away from her, but she’s the one that left their marriage due to her infidelity and malicious accusations. She ripped apart a family and then didn’t like it when a new woman entered the picture. Falling in love with him also meant his kids became part of my world. My stepkids have known me since they were 4 and 6 and I’m the only woman they have ever seen their dad with romantically. My stepdaughter now lives with us and we have more influence over her decisions than her mother. I’m sure this sucks for his ex but what did she expect? I have no intention of turning either child against her. But, I do become a sounding board when either child has a disagreement with their mother or has to digest her dysfunctional behavior.

Exes – Stepmoms love and care for your children in your absence. We are an extension of everything motherly when they are without you. We do some things better than you and we lack in things you excel in. We aren’t trying to ruin your life by mothering your children and loving your ex. I’m sure you heard the expression…one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Research shows that once the divorce is final, 54% experience second thoughts about their divorce.[1]  If you have these regrets it’s for good reason but don’t expect us to feel sorry for you. Learn from your mistakes and know a decision made in haste often has much distaste.

We aren’t trying to ruin your life by mothering your children and loving your ex.

linda black

3. Be respectful of our boundaries and we will show you the same in return.

I found out really quick that my husband’s ex didn’t have any boundaries and she didn’t care one bit about how she treated me nor did she respect my relationship with him and her children. She overstepped her boundaries in my marriage right from the start, told lies and manipulated situations. She didn’t care if the children were brought into the middle of this drama or harmed in the process. This behavior didn’t de-escalate until my husband and I set firm boundaries.

Exes – Stepmoms don’t like all the drama you bring to everyone’s life. Some of us had pretty dramatic situations prior to you and are in search of a peaceful life. We’ve already been used and abused and it won’t take us long to have your number. Boundaries won’t be far away with any stepmom being abused by you. But, treat us with respect and we will return the favor without question.

4. My husband (and your kids) might tolerate your bad behavior but I won’t.

And eventually, they won’t either. My husband’s ex is a leaking sieve of drama. Just when you think you have one hole covered a new one forms. What gets weird is you start to anticipate where the hole is going to form and you take precautions to prevent the unnecessary drama. For example, I was picking up my stepson from school on a recent Friday for our weekend visitation. Something told me ahead of time he didn’t even know I was picking him up and if I didn’t confirm the pickup arrangements my stepson would get on the bus and I would be driving all over Portland. I hit the nail on the head as my stepson was clueless I was picking him up and totally surprised when I arrived at the school early for pickup. My husband’s ex later called as we were driving home and tried to sway my stepson to believe he knew he was being picked up by me and that he even told her we were driving by their house to pick up his weekend bag. He most adamantly denied any knowledge of anything. What’s scary is I anticipated her action and what’s scarier is she didn’t care to manipulate her own child to cover up her mistake.

Exes – Your poor behavior will be tolerated by your ex and kids for only a limited amount of time. Obviously, your kids will excuse your behavior much more freely than your ex but when your choices start to hurt them the clock starts ticking. The older your kids get the wiser they become. Plus, the woman your ex married (me) is pretty normal and they are comparing the two of us. When you ignite drama, lies, and accusations and use your children, you are only harming your future relationship with them. We want you to stop and think before abusing your children in this manner. We are not a traditional family and we have to learn to play fair and respectfully for the sake of the children.

5. We are going to remotely be in each other’s lives for many years. Can’t we make it pleasant?

This is almost exhausting to say but it’s the truth. We have birthdays, graduations, marriages and births of grandchildren to celebrate. I am now a solid part of this family and I’m not going anywhere. My husband’s ex can either start to realize my position or completely be ignorant of my influence over him and their children.

Exes – Can you think past this year or next and realize us stepmoms will be around for the lifetime of your children? We are a solid foundation in this family and each year that passes; our love for this family grows. Your acceptance or rejection of me will set the stage for our relationship and possibly your future relationship with your children.  Don’t be a fool and totally make your kids feel guilty for accepting the love, experience, and possibilities we bring to their lives.

Now What?

Stepmoms – You are a valuable addition to your new blended family. Don’t let a jealous ex take the joy out of your relationship with your new family. Set up firm boundaries to protect yourself, your husband, and your stepkids. When you feel like leaving remember it does get better and the payoff is great!

Exes – Stepmoms are here to stay and ultimately our goal is to be a loving, important part of this family. We will do this with or without you, your guidance and your blessings. At the end of the day, we love your kids, what could be so wrong with that?

[1] Do YOU regret getting divorced? Jemma Gillard for MailOnline; August 18, 2014