Blended Families, CoMammas, Divorce, ex-husband, ex-wife, Family, first wife, Louise Oxhorn, Lynne Oxhorn-Ringwood, Marriage, new wife, Peaceful Parenting, second wife, Step-Families, Step-Wives, stepwives
(Image from the movie “STEPMOM“)
Tips For The Ex-Wife/Step-Wife:
- Please be as empathic as possible to your ex-husband’s new spouse. It is not an easy task to come into a marriage with a set of family guidelines already in place.
- Your ex-husband’s new wife probably only wants to impress you and be accepted by you, and has no intention to take over your role as mother (of course, there are always exceptions). In fact, the new wife may very well be insecure of her role as newcomer in an already established family! Take it easy on her and acknowledge when she does something nice for you or your children. Remember to say “thank you”.
- No matter what, never tell your children your thoughts about their new step-mother. Give your children permission to love this new person in their life unconditionally, by showing them that you accept her unconditionally. They will not love you any less…ever.
- Whatever your thoughts are about your marriage and divorce with your ex-spouse, do not divulge this information to your children. The children do not care, nor should they be burdened with what transpired or transpires between their parents. And for goodness sakes, don’t make up lies to “get them on your side”. Yes, even if your ex-husband IS a jerk…to the kids he is their loving dad.
- Look on the positive side. So, the man you used to be married to has a new wife who is now sitting in the passenger side of the car you used to sit in while going through long rides in the countryside with YOUR (ex) husband and YOUR kids. It’s enough to make any woman feel ill, even if you completed the divorce from start to finish and were happy to be rid of the man you once loved! It’s human nature. However, although it will be difficult, use this time when your kids are with their dad and step-mom to really take care of yourself: pamper yourself with a spa treatment; go to the movies with some girlfriends; go take a long weekend out-of-town with friends, or by yourself; take up dance lessons; go skydiving; do something fabulous that you always wanted to do for yourself. You deserve it!
- Co-parent! Do your very best to resolve any and all underlying emotions regarding your past marriage so you can communicate with your ex-husband without becoming overwhelmed with sadness, anger, jealousy, bitterness, etc. Kids do amazingly well after divorces in families who don’t have ongoing conflict and who do have empathy towards each other (of course it is natural for them to hold on to a desire for their mom and dad to reconcile). In addition, the step-mom will most likely be taking on a lot of the “motherly” duties while the kids are at dad’s house. It is in the best interest of everyone involved if you reach out and make friends with her; co-parent with her. She is an important part of the family now, make the most out of it and learn to work with her for the benefit of your children. You will feel closer to the kids while they are in dad’s and step-mom’s care, you will feel better with yourself, and you feel more comfortable knowing the kids are in good hands with a person you know about and can trust.
- If there is a blow out between you and your “step-wife”, just resolve to get back up and try again. Work together to build up the trust. For goodness sakes, don’t tear down the relationship that you both worked so hard to build up. Being natural adversaries, it could be very easy to use your knowledge and personal experience with your ex-husband to take digs at her. DON’T DO IT! If for a fleeting moment it comes across as a good idea to tell your husband’s new wife about “the great sex you and your ex-husband used to have” for heaven’s sake slap those forming words out of your mouth! Repairing relationships is so much easier without having those hurtful things that were said in the heat of the moment to remember for all eternity.
- Finally, at all times, treat your husband’s new wife like they way you would want her to treat your kids.
(Highly recommended book: Step-wives)
Tips For The New-Wife /Step-Wife:
- Please be as empathic as possible to your husband’s ex-wife. As difficult as it is for you to come into a marriage as the second woman, it is just as difficult to feel powerless while watching another woman taking over your position as wife, mother, and daughter-in-law. Even if you have no intention in “taking over as mother”, please be understanding that your husband’s ex-wife may naturally feel defensive.
- Even if all you want to do is impress your husband’s ex-wife by proving that you will take good care of her children, take it easy on the “perfect wife and step-mom image”. Your well-intentioned good deeds may be misconstrued by your husband’s ex-wife and trigger a defensive mechanism. Don’t take it personally. Try this good deed: compliment your husband’s first wife. When all else fails: compliment, compliment, and compliment some more!
- Never, ever, ever say anything remotely derogatory about your step-children’s mother in front of them. Even something as simple as “she is always late”. The children’s loyalty will always lie with their parent. It may be hurtful to them to hear something negative coming from you, especially if they have underlying loyalty issues between you and their mother.
- Your husband and his ex-wife once had a marriage, which means they were very likely in love. Don’t get stuck comparing his first marriage with your marriage…ever. This could lead you down an ugly pathway of destruction. Focus on your marriage. If issues arise, discuss what boundaries need to be applied between your husband and his ex-wife. Setting boundaries is not a bad thing.
- Remember that when you and your husband are excitedly picking up the kids for a weekend stay or vacation, there is a woman hugging her children goodbye as her heart breaks because another woman and her children will be enjoying a family weekend together, and she may be ordering take-out Chinese food. In short, be empathic. You may not know the circumstances, but consider the loneliness, fear and jealousy that your husband’s ex-wife could be experiencing.
- Co-parent, but do so CAUTIOUSLY! Your “step-wife” may get defensive if it appears like you are taking over the job of what she believes her ex-husband should be doing for the children. So, as I said in step two – COMPLIMENT. It is acceptable to praise her parenting and ask her questions, or advice about caring for her children. Do it always with a compliment.
- If there is a blow out between you and your “step-wife”, just resolve to get back up and try again. Work together to build up the trust. You’ll have to work extra hard to compliment, be kind, and use empathy even when you probably don’t want to. Just remember that these tactics will help to build trust between you and your husband’s ex-wife.
- Remember that you are in a relationship with an incredibly high divorce rate, and all the blood, sweat, and tears that you put into becoming the best step-mother will probably never be repaid or even recognized. If being a mother is a thankless job, being a step-mother is even less of a thankless job. Create a network of friends with other step-moms and allow them to give you the praise you deserve and be the buffers when you need to vent. 😉