The Stepmom Who Wanted to Leave…But Stayed

Pensive Stepmum

When I married my husband I anticipated a wonderful marriage full of love and devotion but what I didn’t expect was feeling like I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I left my perfectly happy single life and never anticipated the heaviness of this marriage. I obsessed over why my husband didn’t see the need to create boundaries with his ex and ignored her poor parenting choices. My newly acquired stepchildren displayed rude manners and took over my house. Our “honeymoon” lasted approximately 3 months and then the reality of what I got myself into hit hard. What was I thinking?

Several years ago, I left our marriage never wanting to return and in my solitude, I found myself scouring websites about exes, stepmoms, and their husbands. I felt so alone yet, what I found was an entire world of stepmoms dealing with the same issues I was experiencing and ways on how to combat those problems. I found I was NOT alone. You may also be where I was years ago. Please don’t give up hope; but instead, set your course for a successful life with your new blended family.

Your husband may need time to adjust to you and separate your new marriage from his previous marriage.

My husband married me because he loved me and wanted companionship. But, he wasn’t ready to marry me. In fact, it was our actual marriage that forced him to face his fears of remarriage, the reasons for his past divorce, losing his ex-wife, this new life and wife. The problem was, neither of us knew this until after we were married. Thus, the honeymoon ended abruptly and realization struck.

He never wanted to leave his ex; it was solely her choice. He married me while still feeling loyalty to her and that’s a dangerous combination. During the first couple of years of our marriage, he would often reflect back on their marriage telling me what a superb cook she was, how they were best friends and how their marriage was great. What he wouldn’t or couldn’t see is why their marriage ended. If she called him up crying he would sit and talk and pray with her. If she wanted to interrupt and ruin our dinner for him to pick up the kids (because she failed to reply to him earlier with a pick-up time) he left the house immediately. If we had an alone weekend planned and she asked him to take the kids he would do it for her. When they had private phone calls I would be told by her he wasn’t being honest with me about their conversations. The list is never-ending…and our new marriage suffered dearly.

He allowed himself to stay emotionally connected to his ex while starting a new marriage with me. I would beg my husband to set boundaries with his ex. I couldn’t understand why he was being overly nice to this person that treated me horribly and was actively trying to ruin our marriage. He didn’t want to rock the boat with his ex and cause issues with his kids, but he didn’t understand how his actions were hurting me and our marriage. I was at the end of my rope in our relationship. We saw many counselors during this time and all of them reinforced my perspective of setting boundaries and the destruction he allowed in our marriage. It wasn’t that he wanted her back but he couldn’t let go of their past, a past relationship that had no business in our new marriage.

When I walked out on him in year three of our marriage he understood I meant business. I would not tolerate this ex-wife who treated me like trash and disregarded their marriage (and our marriage). Either he needed to let our marriage go or make a strong commitment to set and enforce boundaries. Now, I’m not saying to leave your husband to get your point across but this was our tipping point; yours may be different. No matter what, he needed to let go of the past and start new with me. Those were the only two choices, as I was done. This was the line in the sand that saved our marriage.

We worked hard after this point to set firm (not mean) boundaries and stick to them. Setting boundaries will never be an easy job; it’s difficult and you will feel guilty imposing safeguards for you and your marriage. Often, you will be looked at as being mean when a new problem comes up and an additional boundary has to be created. The damage these initial years did to our marriage was profound for me as I felt (and sometimes still do) like a second choice. The good news is the memories of the first few years of our marriage are overshadowed by new memories of a strong and sustaining marriage.

Setting boundaries will never be an easy job; it’s difficult and you will feel guilty imposing safeguards for you and your marriage.

linda black

Your parental expectations for your stepkids may become a spot of contention.

My husband was accustomed to his ex-wife, her ways, and her parenting choices. He was a weekend dad and counted on his ex for most parenting decisions. But, when we got married, their parenting choices started to control my weekends and household. The ex’s poor choices were my husband’s norm and when I tried to tell him something was askew he worried my actions would cause waves, which could cause problems for his kids. Thus, I started to become the bully when I would say something needed to change. Now, understand me, my ultimate long-term concern was my stepkids would eventually move in with us (which is now true), and if they did, a disaster would hit if these behaviors continued.

Here are just a few issues that drove me nuts. The children missed numerous days, like A LOT, of school per year due to “poor health” but then showed up to our house perfectly healthy. The kids would be told by their mother they had medical conditions, which excused inappropriate behaviors when no medical diagnosis was supported. My stepkids would spit food out at the dinner table and tell me how they hated what I cooked. My once clean environment now had fingerprints up and down the staircase, trash in the car, unmentionables stuck to the walls, loads and loads of laundry, and tons of homework on weekend visits. I had two kids living in my home that didn’t even care about me.

Here’s the deal…these inappropriate behaviors the kids displayed were my issues, yet I knew their actions were very wrong. His ex was incapable of seeing any of these issues and again, my husband didn’t want to rock the boat, so I was a lone sailor in a turbulent sea. But, as my husband started to see differences between his ex and me, things became a bit clearer to him. It also didn’t hurt that professional opinions supported my findings. For example, my husband went to an IEP meeting at his son’s school where the special education teacher said she really didn’t know if he actually qualified for special education or just missed too many days of school. Medical professionals couldn’t find anything wrong with the kids that substantiated anti-social behaviors. I cooked meals I enjoyed and expected everyone to try at least one bite. If they didn’t like it they couldn’t comment negatively or throw it on someone else’s plate.

Today, things are much different. But, it took years to overcome many of the struggles. Currently, my stepdaughter lives with us full time and all her so-called medical conditions disappeared within months of moving in with us. Just recently, my stepson announced he also wants to move in full-time this summer. Both kids attend school regularly (thanks to us and a new stepdad) and make awesome grades. Food has become a lesser concern and now the kids love my cooking and have their personal favorites (which they would have spat out years ago).

Your single lifestyle and independence will be confiscated by another family where you feel like an outsider.

This hit me two times. The first, when we married. Immediately, I felt like I had to have dinner on the table, healthy food options and smoothies each morning to prove I was a good wife. I had extra cleaning and laundry every day. My mornings of lingering in bed, drinking a cup of coffee and watching the news disappeared. I longed for the nights when I would watch Lifetime and drift to sleep. I remember lying in bed nights before we married thinking I would miss sleeping by myself the most. Honestly, there were times when I disliked sharing my life with this new man and dealing with all the baggage he brought into our home.

The second was when my stepdaughter moved in with us. Now, I really had to have nutritious meals, lunch items for school, snacks, etc. After work, I found myself transporting her to this event and that function. I became this mother figure to a child that wasn’t even mine! My husband and I found ourselves raising a teenager together and we both had different parenting styles. All three of us had to learn to adjust to one another and compromise, as needed.

I still get feelings I don’t belong in this family. I hope this is normal as it hits me a few times each year, especially around Mother’s Day. But, today, I can’t sleep without my husband next to me and I feel united with my new blended family. I love them and I think they love me, too. Also, today, my favorite part of each day, is when my husband and I linger in bed drinking coffee and talk. Now, if I could only get him to make the coffee…

So, YES, I wanted to leave this marriage and felt I made a horrible mistake…years ago.  Today, I think I am the luckiest woman alive and know I have the most wonderful husband. I have a man that stuck it out and worked with me to make our marriage successful. I’m not going to lie and tell you the journey is painless or drama-free because it is anything but that. But, if the two of you know what you want and work towards those goals all the happiness can be yours…TOGETHER!