So you’re married. You have great bond with your Husband, your kids love him, his kids love you, and maybe they even call you mom. Who could ask for more? Your life is perfect, right? Wrong. Chances are if there are kids involved from previous relationships, drama will ensue, usually sooner than later. Here is my advice on how to deal with your spouse’s ex and the parent of your step kids.
Not every relationship is coated in pretty roses and ribbons, in fact some have an air of something quite vile. Depending on the breakup between your spouse and their ex, you might still be able to sense the stench when they talk about or to each other. The first thing you need to understand is that most people go through certain stages during a divorce. The divorce could have been caused by a mutual desire to part ways or something more traumatic like a cheating spouse. Either way, divorce is a huge life change for everyone involved. The stages both parties will experience during this time closely resemble the stages of losing a loved one to death. These stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The first 4 stages aren’t always in the same order. Some stages can be skipped, others repeated. Each situation follows its own set of unwritten rules, but almost always ends with everyone accepting the situation and the things they cannot change.
In many cases, your spouse and their ex are usually in either the anger stages or the acceptance stages. It’s been my experience that the anger stage hangs around for some time. It may just be dormant until something or someone stirs it. If the parties are in the acceptance stage, it makes your situation a lot more comfortable. But never forget that anger and/or hurt could be lying quietly in ones subconscious. If they are not in the acceptance stages yet, it helps to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel if you just hang in there.
The second but the most important to remember is that the children involved are the most important and impressionable people in this situation. They were hurt and might be angry due to the loss of full time access to one parent. Arguing over the kids may not be something your spouse can help. Fighting around the kids can always be prevented.
The third thing to remember is the past is the past. Where your step kids are concerned, you will always have to deal with their other parent, and so will your spouse. However, when it comes to you and your spouse, he chose you, don’t let jealousy interfere, he and his ex separated for a reason. Don’t think that when they talk it is anything more than what it is unless you have just cause to suspect something. You harboring unrealistic animosity towards their past relationship will only pull you and your spouse apart. Ask yourself if it’s worth it before adding that stressor to your marriage.
The fourth and last thing to remember is that you are a third party in this situation. Even if you and your husband have custody of the children, she will always be their biological mother. He will always be their biological father. You may be single handedly raising the kids on your own while dad works. She may see them once a year, and never call. Doesn’t matter, she gave birth to them and will always feel like she has more rights than you. Whether you think that is right or wrong, it’s something that you must accept to a degree and learn how to deal with it. And while doing so, never stop being the best mom you can be to your kids and your step kids.
There are lots of things you can do to help make baby mama interactions go more smoothly. Some of these things include:
Don’t hate his ex. Have you heard the old saying “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”? This is one of those times where this phrase makes perfect sense. I’m not saying you should be her best friend but, this is the person with whom you share family, be at least cordial at all times. How would your step kids feel if they knew how you felt about their mother? Keep those feelings behind closed doors.
Never talk bad about his ex in front of the kids. If she is a terrible person, or a bad mother the kids will figure it out on their own as they grow older. If you try to tell them she is, they will only despise you. Encourage your husband to do the same. If she is talking poorly about you or your husband to or in front of the kids, you can ask her to stop. If she doesn’t, ignore it. Be the bigger people. The kids will appreciate you for it more when they are older. **This does not apply if the biological parent is causing physical or psychological harm to a child. If Harm is being done or if a crime is committed please seek legal advice or call your local child services department.
Be the mediator. Don’t get involved in the heated part of discussions. Keep calm, and try to keep your husband calm. There will be times when your husband is being unreasonable. There will be times when his ex is being unreasonable. There will be times when they are both being unreasonable. Think of ways for them to compromise. Offer your thoughts as an outside party. Always put the kids first. Most times during an argument it’s hard to maintain composure and to be reasonable. Keep quiet during the argument and then calmly state your concerns or ideas to best suit the children. You have a better chance of being heard if you are not involved in the argument.
Choose your battles, and help your husband choose his. If she has a request that will inconvenience you, but not put you out, discuss the issues with her, and grant her request. As long she isn’t repeatedly upsetting your routines, save your battles for a request that will cause more damage than a minor inconvenience. When you do this, it keeps the battles to a minimum and gives the battles you choose more justification because you don’t always say no, only when you have to. This will also work out to your advantage because the more you help her out the more apt she will be to grant any of your requests.
Learn to suck it up. She is going to piss you off. She might even do it on purpose. Take it with a grain of salt and go on with your life. Dwelling on little comments or something she did last month when you went to pick up the kids isn’t going to do anything for you.
You may read my article and think that by taking my advice you will become a pushover. But actually the opposite is true. It’s easy to argue. It’s easy to be selfish and always want things to go your way. It’s not so easy to put someone else’s feelings before yours. It’s not easy to be the bigger person. It’s not easy to keep kids happy in a very difficult time in their lives. It’s not so easy to be an awesome parent or an amazing step parent. It’s not easy to talk to someone you despise and maintain a calm friendly composure. But it’s worth it.