Could you SPEAK to the ex-wives of America?!

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith were on Oprah today with their children—ALONG WITH HIS EX-WIFE.

Fascinating stuff.

Will was married to Sheree Zampino for four years (1992-95) and they have a 17 year-old son named Trey. She is now married to former San Diego Chargers player, Pastor Terrell Fletcher. Will and Jada also have two children, actor Jaden (11) and singer Willow (10).

Oprah: …And speaking of extended family, everybody’s here. Both grandmothers are here—

Jada: Yep, we got Kyle, my brother; we got Sheree, that’s Trey’s mama… and her husband, Pastor Terrell.

Oprah: And so, obviously—obviously, everybody gets along and you all made a conscious effort for that to happen.

Will: Absolutely.

Oprah: Especially when there has been a previous relationship and a child….

Jada: Yep—

Oprah: Why did you make that decision? We’ve talked about this before, I think this is powerful—

Jada: Well, actually Sheree and I both had to make that decision, because at the end of the day… we had Trey. And that had to be the primary focus, our primary, uh… you know, just: what does HE need? And so we had to put aside our own craziness—

Oprah: Your stuff—

Jada: Our stuff, and you know, all the baggage that comes with it. And she and I just had to focus on, what does he need.

Oprah: (to Sheree): Was there a talk about that?

Jada: Oh… we had plenty. (She and Sheree laugh, Sheree nods.)

Sheree: We did, we did… It took—it took a minute, but we got it. And we realized (gesturing to she and Will, smiling), we had our chance. Now it’s about these kids.

Jada: Right, right….

Oprah: (to Will): Could you speak to the ex-wives of America and tell them that?

(general laughing)

Jada: You know, I wish! And oftentimes—

Oprah: ‘Cause so many people are holding on to “what could have been….”

Jada: And the thing about it is, (simultaneously with Oprah:) the kids suffer.

Oprah: Yes. Yes—

Jada: And at the end of the day, it’s like… we have to let go of our own selfish desires, our own selfish needs and we have to look: What? What can we do to facilitate the group? And what can we do to facilitate the children, who—ultimately—they’re our future!

Oprah: They’re your future….

(Sheree nods vigorously.)

I know for many stepmoms here, I’m preaching to the choir. You’ve TRIED to make it better with the bio-mom and have been rebuffed more times than you care to count. Or maybe you’ve just stopped trying.

Or maybe you’re a mom and feel like you’re forever dealing with a stepmom who seems bent on outshining you in the motherhood department. Fun, huh?

Either way, notice Jada’s emphasis on how it was a decision both she and Sheree made to work together.

And most importantly, please note her admission that there’s baggage and “stuff” on both sides, but they each found a way to operate from a higher sense of purpose.

The kids’ well-being.

Your thoughts?

(Photo credit to The Dougie. Oprah transcripts from Harpo Inc., All Rights Reserved).

© 2010 Jennifer Newcomb Marine    All Rights Reserved

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Comments

  1. Jennifer,

    Thank you so much for posting this! I know as soon as I get back from vacation, I’ll be posting the same. This message has to be repeated over and over until…

    Xo
    Peggy

  2. I’m so glad I recorded this one! It seems like such a simple concept; common sense, yet one that evades most people. Thanks for sharing!! :)

  3. I am truly amazed when ex’s get along with the “new woman.” We have a great relationship with my ex, not just for the sake of my child, but for everyone’s sanity. Our custody is a little different, so there has to be lots of open communication or everything and everyone suffers. On the other side of the spectrum we don’t have a relationship of any kind with his ex. Of course, everything is my fault, even though I wasn’t even in the picture when they split, but somehow life has gone downhill since I came into the picture. I want the kids to be clean a presentable in public, hair brushed, teeth brushed, clean clothes, etc. and this is just not acceptable that anyone should expect such things. I had really hoped at one time that we could at least communicate for the kid’s sake, but that isn’t the case. I hope lots of other mother/step-mother relationships can benefit from not only your website, but this story of the Smith’s.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Amen! If BMs and SMs could put their egos aside for a second and realize that they need to get along for the kids, oh what a wonderful world this would be. Would you say that the key is to keep reaching out no matter how many times you get your hand smacked?

  5. Firstly, I think that holding up celebrities who appear on Oprah as a beacon of shining light in terms of parenting, relationships, and post-divorce family dynamics is ridiculous on its face. The Smith’s should thank their lucky stars that they’re not dealing with someone suffering from a personality disorder and whose life has been made quite substantially easier with a hefty pay-off.

    What society needs to stop believing is that this is all about “egos” or some unspoken competition for the title of greatest mother figure between bio and step.

    Most times, when someone’s “ex” and their “current” are not getting along – it’s less likely to be about egos and much more likely to be about personality disorders or the simple inability to move on with their lives… it’s just another manifestation of the “BS” that likely drove them to divorce in the first place.

    Push yourselves away from Oprah and the parenting/relationship advice of celebrities and look for real life and the truth. That, you’re not likely to find on tabloid television.

  6. Mister-M says:

    Firstly, I think that holding up celebrities who appear on Oprah as a beacon of shining light in terms of parenting, relationships, and post-divorce family dynamics is ridiculous on its face. The Smith’s should thank their lucky stars that they’re not dealing with someone suffering from a personality disorder and whose life has been made quite substantially easier with a hefty pay-off.

    What society needs to stop believing is that this is all about “egos” or some unspoken competition for the title of greatest mother figure between bio and step.

    Most times, when someone’s “ex” and their “current” are not getting along – it’s less likely to be about egos and much more likely to be about personality disorders or the simple inability to move on with their lives… it’s just another manifestation of the “BS” that likely drove them to divorce in the first place.

    Push yourselves away from Oprah and the parenting/relationship advice of celebrities and look for real life and the truth. That, you’re not likely to find on tabloid television.

    The Inevitable Discovery of the Psycho Ex-Wife

  7. Regardless of what they do, the old kids get moved to the side. But it’s nice if this is true and not just pr. It’s not ALL RIGHT though, but it is the best you can do in a bad situation. And well said Mister-M… I tend to think that they feel okay saying this on Oprah because Trey hasn’t screwed up yet, and if he does, he’ll probably be dropped to the side. Another case of a missing backbone by a father.. it’s just the nature of remarriages, and that’s why you dont f— up if you get married..

  8. I wonder how much the balance of power comes into play in situations like this. I suspect that in a lot of situations where stepmoms would like to get along with moms, but the moms won’t cooperate, the moms have more power — more power to scare or damage or intimidate the dad and stepmom — with threats of court, legal bills, mild parental alienation (or not-so-mild parental alienation) — I wonder if from the combative mom point of view, getting along with the stepmom looks like losing power (which may feel to the mom like she already doesn’t have as much as she should have, as a mom).

    Jennifer, I think you mentioned once that part of what got you thinking about wanting to get along with Carol was fear of having your kids taken away — it sounded like it was partially about not wanting to fight in court… Could it be that part of what was going on was feeling like you needed to get along — for the kids’ sake and for your sake? (Which would be totally reasonable and normal and fine!) Maybe not, maybe I am not remembering right. But if I am, maybe one of the differences with more combative moms is that they don’t feel like they *need* to get along, personally, for their own sakes as well as for their kids’ sakes.

    In the case of the Smiths, this might be one of those unusual situations where the stepmom is actually really powerful in her life in general and the mom isn’t as personally powerful, and it’s ultimately in the mom’s best interest — as well as in her son’s best interest — for her to get along with the dad and stepmom.

  9. I don’t know, Mister-M. Sometimes for sure it’s personality disorders or the inability to move on, as is the case with my fiance’s ex, but sometimes it is just about the ego or the mom’s fear that another woman will take her place. The things is, I find in those cases, those are the relationships that can be saved. Those are the women, that if they made the effort, they could get past their shit. In the cases of the personality disorder I think it’s likely the turmoil will always continue but they’re incapable of change. In my situation, I had to learn to say “when”, and I finally did.

  10. Oops, I meant the turmoil will continue BECAUSE they’re incapable of change, not BUT :)

  11. Mister-M says:

    Some very good viewpoints and keep in mind that my opinion is very likely colored by my own experiences (thought I’d never admit it *wink wink, nod*).

    The interesting thing is how little I see this type of “war” of sorts between bio-dads and step-dads. Sure, there are situations where there are questions about the character of the new relation in the ex-wife’s life… but in my experience – the drama just isn’t there.

    I count myself as blessed that my partner’s ex-husband isn’t a total psycho like my own. In fact, he’s the complete opposite. He’s personally thanked me for being a “great guy” who cares about his children and takes care of them when they are with us. And I respect both her and him – non-fighters, 50/50 agreed upon custody, always focused on the kids, always there to cover each other if something comes up (EVEN WITH MY SITUATION, which is way “above and beyond”) and he and I are quite good friends.

    If they weren’t the antithesis of the high-conflict divorce and custody situation… our relationship would have had zero chance.

    I also get annoyed quite easily when people look to Oprah and celebrities for advice about how things can work (or not). They simply don’t live in the real world and I can tell you from my own interactions that there is far more to be learned from the salt of the earth than there will ever be to learn from the Jada Pinkett’s and Will Smith’s of the world (and I like them both!)

  12. Mister-M, in regards to step-dads not usually having this issue, you’re right. Let’s face it, women in general are much more prone to drama than men. I’ve done reading on this issue, and one of the other reasons it doesn’t occur as much in men is that typically, certainly not all of the time, the woman is responsible for more of the “care” of the child; the scheduling of appointments, involvement in school, etc…So when another woman is on the scene, there’s a lot more at stake, so to speak. I don’t know, I think men just get it right as far as not wanting to cause drama and not being caught up in their minds. KNow what I mean? Congrats on your situation :) It’s wonderful that you guys have it worked out!

  13. Mister-M, I believe that problems between the two women, the two exes and all three (or sometimes four) adults exist along a spectrum. Sometimes it DOES simply come down to competing egos — and lots of mutual fear and jockeying for position. Other times, you’re right, personality disorders and mental illness definitely come into play. I believe that’s what behind most cases of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). I’ve read your blog off and on over the years and what you’re dealing with sounds truly harrowing. You have my sympathies (esp. after I dated someone with BPD for only two months. Holy cow.)!

    The primary aim of this blog and our book is to explore that *middle ground* where change actually IS possible. That means breaking through the illusions that it’s all the other person’s fault (and in no way are you contributing one iota to the conflict) and experimenting with some heartfelt (and sometimes really scary) attempts at connection. And barring any true progress over a sustained period of time, creating healthy boundaries around you and your family so that you can still feel happy and safe.

    PAS is a different game altogether. And while I still think there’s an enormous benefit to be gained by learning about “the other side” in the face of it, the strategy changes to one of protection. PAS is something I need to know about because of the nature of this topic, but obviously, the thrust of our work has to do with the land of possibilities, tangled though they may initially seem! We’ve heard enough stories of success to know it can happen, and not just for saints either.

    I wish you continued luck in your situation. And if nothing else, the kids must grow up at some point and then your involvement with each other will greatly lessen! Thanks for your comments. :-)

  14. Jill, fascinating thoughts on the balance of power. I think you’re right on in terms of outward power – sometimes – but from my own perspective, it’s the *inward* feeling of power that the mom is most afraid of losing. This may seem like a really weird analogy, but what if your husband’s ex-GF (not the ex-wife) came back into his life, as a “good friend” and suddenly, you found yourself having to make plans around her/their plans together, having to take her presence into consideration in all sorts of unwanted ways, hearing him talk about her, seeing him think about her, etc. Wouldn’t this drive you nuts? He’s YOUR husband!! It’s a clumsy comparison that doesn’t completely work, but I hope you get the main gist of it. The mom is used to havin the kids be her realm — or her and the fathers’. It feels weird and foreign including someone else.

    As far as my own situation long ago, good memory! There WAS a time when my ex suggested having the kids live with them full-time and even wanting to go to court over this, because I was “working too much and was too stressed out at it, and Carol was home full-time.” Talk about my Mother Tiger coming out! There wasn’t so much an imbalance of power as FEAR over a court battle on my hands. It’s hard for me to remember now if that actually prompted me wanting to get along. I think that came later, when my relationship started improving with my ex. I had to forgive him for some things – and own up to the ways in which I had led to our divorce too.

    But I agree with you that when the mom seems more powerful out there in the world, it might be “easier” for her to yield more towards the stepmom.

    What’s sad is how often that agenda to not lose any power translates into a turned back — from the mom to the stepmom. The kids end up losing in the process and I wish more moms GOT this. Some of them definitely do already, but when they don’t, there can be so much resistance….

    I miss your blog!!!

  15. Bio-step, in answer to your question about continuing to reach out to the other woman, there has to be a balance. You want to make sure that your own actions are above reproach, just so you can live with yourself and not come from that place of victimhood that’s actually so disempowering.

    But, as I mentioned above, you also have to do a thorough job of protecting yourself so that you can consistently create daily peace in your life. It’s hard enough for us to do this already, isn’t it? ;-) Self-care, healthy boundaries and integrity is what it’s all about. And yes, I know, easier said that done sometimes!

  16. Sarah, your comments just go to show – when the MOM has an intention to reduce conflict and drama, it can really set the tone for everyone to get along! Congrats on making it work with your ex… and I’m sorry to hear about your problems with the mom in your situation.

    Dave, sadly, yes, the kids often do just get moved to the side. It’s too easy for us as adults to forget what things feel like for the kids when the parents don’t get along. We don’t even realize we’re doing it!

    Jenna, I totally agree with you about the reasons why things are usually smoother between the two men. It’s the women who become the default, hands-on parents in our culture — responsible for remembering all those little life details where kids are involved. I don’t mean this to sound sexist, but really, there’s a different way that women pay attention to this stuff (typically, obviously not in every case!). As a result, it’s like there are two women operating in a shared arena and… clashes abound.

    I also think that women are capable of some amazing breakthroughs with each other, once they see the other woman is genuinely interested in reaching out.

  17. Janelle says:

    I agree with your sentiments, Jill, and I also have the same question/concern as you, BioStep – is persistence the key to making the mom/stepmom relationship work? In my experience, persistence just seemed to make it worse… Jennifer, you said that once the two women sense genuine interest from one another, breakthroughs are possible. I truly feel that I not only possess a genuine desire to find a stable middle-ground, but that I’ve expressed it as graciously as possible in numerous ways. Unfortunately, after two years of making solid attempts for – at the very least – improved communication, and hoping for a better relationship, the gap between the two of us only grows wider and deeper. For the most part, I’ve thrown-in the towel. The frustrations and hurt of constant scorn and rejection became too unbearable, and protecting myself became a necessity. I still hope that things can turn-out positively – just as it has for several others – but my hand has been slapped way too many times, so that hope doesn’t burn as brightly as it once did.

    Mister-M: While I agree with your sentiments of celebrities living in an alter-reality to that which we “average-Joes” are accustomed to, I believe situations like this reveal celebrities to be exactly what they are – human beings with emotional baggage and real-life issues! For me, a very realistic spotlight is cast onto these individuals that sends out a wake-up call: even the fortunate are prone to misfortune! The fact that the Smith family has experienced similar issues that each of us has experienced is, in my opinion, just one more verfication towards the fact that we’re all connected through our experiences and emotions. We’re all human! I don’t look towards celebrities for advice, or revere them as a shining beacon of example in regards to situations like these. Rather, I consider their story as one more example demonstrating that issues we here all deal with can happen to anyone!

  18. I agree with your sentiments, Jill, and I also have the same question/concern as you, BioStep – is persistence the key to making the mom/stepmom relationship work? In my experience, persistence just seemed to make it worse… Jennifer, you said that once the two women sense genuine interest from one another, breakthroughs are possible. I truly feel that I not only possess a genuine desire to find a stable middle-ground, but that I’ve expressed it as graciously as possible in numerous ways. Unfortunately, after two years of making solid attempts for – at the very least – improved communication, and hoping for a better relationship, the gap between the two of us only grows wider and deeper. For the most part, I’ve thrown-in the towel. The frustrations and hurt of constant scorn and rejection became too unbearable, and protecting myself became a necessity. I still hope that things can turn-out positively – just as it has for several others – but my hand has been slapped way too many times, so that hope doesn’t burn as brightly as it once did.

    Mister-M: While I agree with your sentiments of celebrities living in an alter-reality to that which we “average-Joes” are accustomed to, I believe situations like this reveal celebrities to be exactly what they are – human beings with emotional baggage and real-life issues! For me, a very realistic spotlight is cast onto these individuals that sends out a wake-up call: even the fortunate are prone to misfortune! The fact that the Smith family has experienced similar issues that each of us has experienced is, in my opinion, just one more verfication towards the fact that we’re all connected through our experiences and emotions. We’re all human! I don’t look towards celebrities for advice, or revere them as a shining beacon of example in regards to situations like these. Rather, I consider their story as one more example demonstrating that issues we here all deal with can happen to anyone!

  19. Gosh I wish my fiance’s ex-wife would read this. The lady is hellbent on keeping his son from us. We have a pretty stable at home life while she refuses to quite partying every night of the week but she insists that she is the better parent for the child simply because she is still angry at him because he didn’t come running back to her when they split up. It is really affecting their son. He is two and everything we try to do for him, she in turn teaches him the exact opposite. From potty training (which we started according to her instructions and she stopped the next week) to teaching the baby to cuss… I would love to get along with her but she will not even allow us to be introduced to each other… I just don’t know where to go from here. I’d love to have an ex-wife that was simply looking out for the child’s best interest and was that easy to get along with! Dream on, right?

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