Confessions of a(n enlightened) stepmom


I consider myself pretty successful in my transition from single girl to stepmom and I’ve always had the best of intentions when it came to my husband’s ex-wife.

And yet, I’ve made some moves that seemed right at the time, but weren’t.

Here’s one of them:

I won’t get into the details for privacy’s sake, but basically, I was tired of my husband’s ex-wife supposedly pointing her finger in our direction for everything gone bad in her household, so I spoke up. Rah-rah, good for me, right??

I even did it in a way that was diplomatic. I didn’t call her names, I didn’t tell her what I thought of her or where I’d like her to shove it. I simply sent her an email giving her some really great advice.

I told her the truth; that until she took responsibility for her own life she would never be happy.

Then, thinking that I could enlighten her even further, I proceeded to explain that if she continued to blame others for her situation, she’d never have a healthy relationship and her unhappiness would continue.

All the while, I’m thinking, ‘This is great advice! These are the things her friends should be telling her!’ After all, read any book by Deepak Chopra or other spiritual leaders and you’ll find the same advice. She simply had never heard such wise words and once she did, she’d see the light. It worked for me in my life, so I’d be selfish not to share such knowledge with her. Right?

Yes, I actually believed I was being helpful.

Oh, how naïve I was.…

To put it mildly, she wasn’t “thankful” for the unsolicited advice, she wasn’t “enlightened,” and she didn’t suddenly see (what I perceived as) the error of her ways.

After a few days, I had some realizations and sent her an apologetic email. These were my thoughts:

  • Each one of us is living in our own reality. Me and my husband’s reality is VERY different from hers.
  • Nothing I could ever say or do would or could convince her to see the situation from our perspective.
  • She’s viewing life from her own childhood experiences, life experiences, her own values, her own lessons learned. And we’re viewing them from ours.
  • We cannot tell someone else what their truth is.
  • Even if I was spot on with her truth, the last person she’d be receptive to hearing it from is me.

No matter how right we think we are, no matter how much we think we have life figured out, even if we’re convinced we are holding the key to happiness in our hands and want to share it with the world, it’s really only the key to OUR happiness.

So before you waste one more precious moment fretting over the other woman, realize that no matter how justified you think you are, how wronged you think you’ve been, trying to change her is something worth letting go of.

To do this we start by trying to accept that she is who she is. It doesn’t mean we have to like her, be okay with her actions, respect her as a person, or even have contact with her, it just means we say goodbye to expending our energy on her.

It means we take back our power by redirecting our energy onto ourselves, our marriage, and our family; where it belongs and where it will benefit us most.

In the end, we can either spend years fighting her, or we can let go and accept her. I’m not saying it’s an easy choice, but it’s a choice that is ours to make.

If you decide this is something you want to try, but it seems like an impossible task, start with baby steps. Take one incident where you want to react and stop yourself. Remember that you’re here because of your partner — or if you’re a single mom, your priority is what’s best for the kids. Decide what will serve you and your family best. Check your ego at the door. Leave the house, go for a hike, laugh with a friend, do whatever it is you do to center yourself and turn your focus back on you.

And just like that, you’ve begun the process.

© 2011 Jenna Korf     All Rights Reserved

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  1. Thanks Jenna – words of wisdom I need to start living by.

  2. You’re welcome, Kim! Sometimes this sort of thing is hard to remember, especially when you’re in the thick of it. I’ve gone as far as scheduling reminders on my phone throughout the day. That actually helped a lot! :)

  3. Absolutely the message that I needed to hear right now. I’ve also been guilty of addressing “issues” with my step childrens mother in an attempt to fix behavior I felt needed to be fixed… And boy, did my good intentions backfire. I absolutely need to stop expending so much energy on her and I need to put that energy back into my marriage and relationship with my step kids. She’s not going anywhere and I can’t change or fix her personality or our differences. I need to stop trying and then resenting the situation because it never changes. Thank you Jenna for delivering the exact message I need to hear today! You and Jennifer Newcomb Marine both challenge me to think differently. Thank you!

  4. You’re welcome, CKsmom! Glad it could help :)

  5. Elissa Robertson says:

    Wow Jenna, you truly hit home for me. This is exactly what I did and how I thought. Thinking I could “enlighten” he. Really who did I think I was? And I couldn’t believe that she rejected my advice! It has taken me nearly 6 years TO GET IT and I finally have and reading it from you as well in black and white is re-assuring. I have wasted so much of my time and energy believing I could make her think like me because of course I am always right – NOT! Being a step mum (or in a step family full stop) really means having to have a lot more empathy tolerance and patience because you sometimes have to deal with people you would otherwise put out of your life. Thanks heaps Jenna for sharing your wisdom. xx Elissa

  6. Elissa, you’re so right! We’re forced to deal, on a day-to-day basis, with people we normally would have nothing to do with. So being able to find compassion, patience and tolerance is a huge step on the path to letting go :) Good for you!! And I’m curious, how has the mom’s reaction towards you changed, if at all, since you started letting go?

  7. It’s not our job to fix or change anyone. Our job is to be ourselves and to keep improving ourselves. I strongly recommend reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Personally, I think every stepmom should read that book, but when the student is ready, the teacher appears :-)

  8. Peggy, I second that emotion! I love that book it really changed things for me, even before I ever met my husband. It got me to a place of saying ” that person’s behavior is not about me”. And also the agreement about not making assumptions. HUGE breakthroughs happened for me after reading that book :).

  9. I really related to reading your post. I’m a Mom and a Step-Mom and my daughter has a Step-Mom of her own. The step-mom has sent me hundreds of emails over the past 15 years with biting comments and suggestions and has failed to see why I’m not appreciative of receiving them. A real blow to the self-esteem. So several years ago I just started deleting them from my inbox before ever opening them and save myself the emotional roller coaster ride. It was so refreshing to hear that you thought about it and sent an apologetic email. People make mistakes, but acknowledging them and extending an olive branch when you have hurt someone is refreshing. I think it’s unlikely that I will ever receive an email like the one you sent as an apology. However, In my own relationships with my Hubby’s two ex-wives I have been successful at never sending an email to one of them trying to set them straight. I haven’t been as successful at not expending energy on thinking and stewing about things they have done to the kids, my Hubby or me. So even though I’ve never shared those feelings with them it has taken up a lot of space in my life with negativity. You can’t change people, but you can change whether it rules your life. Slowly over time I have started to let go and move on.

  10. Lisa, I like that you did what you needed to do to stop that emotional roller coaster for yourself. It sounds like you’re on the right track to eventually letting them take up less and less space in your life!

  11. Wow, it’s like I was reading an e-mail to myself! I have done thsi very same thing recently! I have for the past 6.5 years left DH to deal mostly with BM, hanging out on the fringe and quietly going about our life. Not that this was ever good enough for BM. There would be months at a time where she would talk to me amicably and even share a smile and a “hello” then there would be other times where I was not even allowed to exist or share the same breathing space! I’m sure other’s here undersatnd the “cycle”.
    6 months ago, after discovering this blog, I decided to extend an olive branch. I wrote a carefully worded e-mail ackowledging my wrong doing in the past 6.5 years (including being the “other woman”) and suggesting a fresh start be made for the sake of 8 year old SD.
    I got no reply other than a snippy comment about their marriage break up was ALL my fault regardless of what I thought.
    So I sent a follow up e-mail suggesting that perhapes talking things out could help us move forward? That fault can be found on all sides of any relationship etc etc but SD must come first!
    To this came no e-mail response but within weeks her behaviour had regressed to that of 6.5 years ago! Back to square one… so I lashed out…. I sent her a message saying exatcly what you’ve explained above…. telling her she had to let go for her and SD’s sake!
    It is only now, after seeing the response to this, that I see as many of you do now too, that I can only be respoinsible for my actions and stop wasting my time and engergy on her when I have my own 2 children, DH and SD to concern myself with!
    Life is grand and I will not let others tell me otherwise x

  12. @Karla – The fact that you just quoted “other woman”, as if that were an insignificant attachment to the situation, leads me to believe that you are fairly insensitive. Having gone through the betrayal of infidelity, and now dealing with the ‘other woman’ being around my children (Which is a significant hurdle and why I search the internet at night looking for others to talk me through this situation), you have no idea what that adds to the pain of divorce. Yes, you are only responsible for your own actions, but you have extremely significant actions that caused a tremendous amount of additional pain to another human being. And she has to deal with that. Leave her alone.

  13. Karla and Elisette,

    These are very complicated issues. They’re made even more complicated by infidelity and here’s one reason why: for many mothers, one of their first reactions to the stepmom is: I don’t know you and you don’t belong in my child’s business. I haven’t approved of you (the way I would with other adults that come into close contact with my children) and knowing that you are interacting with my children feels “wrong.”

    Eventually — not always — but often enough, the mom realizes that it’s in the child’s best interests to at least *accept* the stepmom, once she’s been a consistent figure in the child’s life and has shown herself to be a positive influence. Many women will never get to the point of active cooperation with each other, but there’s at least begrudging acceptance on the mom’s part, and believe it or not, that IS progress!

    Add infidelity to the picture and you can see why for many moms, this feels like the ultimate evidence of the stepmom’s unsuitability to be in her child’s life. The pain of the divorce is coupled with the pain of a fundamental betrayal, and then you’re throwing all these parental issues into the mix too.

    And yet, hopefully, the stepmom is here to stay as a stable, loving, attentive figure in the lives of our children. In a perfect world, none of us would ever have to deal with infidelity — from any angle. But there it is.

    And so we are all faced with the question of how we want to be, moving forward…. Unfortunately, we cannot deal with the problems we have with each other in isolation. It may *seem* like we can for a time, but ultimately, they end up having a detrimental impact on our children or step-children. And that’s what often prompts change for the good in us, uncomfortable and frightening though it may be in the beginning.

    I send you both good wishes.


  14. I have been trying to write a response to this and really can’t put my frustrations with it into words, but I’ll try. Sorry if this comes off brash.

    We should let her abuse us then? Is that the only other option. Ignore the disrespect and blatant manipulation and turning the kids against us and say nothing? Reach out a thousand olive branches but let ourselves be walked on as they are constantly rejected?

    At what point is it better to speak up so that at least you have stood up for yourself and your family, even if you know the behavior will not change? I am not talking about a public confrontation or badmouthing, or even criticizing her in front of the kids, but defending your family.

    When I finally emailed the BM in my life saying she was being disrespectful it was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, even though I knew that her reality was too closed off to listen. I didn’t expect a response or a change from her. I have become cynical about that. But I was tired of letting the manipulation slide without calling her on it. And, interestingly, for a few months it did improve things for us. It made me the bad guy enough in her mind that she was willing to listen to my husband’s suggestions for a time. She slid back into her normal self, but I found it was worth her being angry at me because she communicated better about the kids with my husband.

    And for those who say, “Would YOU want someone writing YOU with what bothers them about what you do?” I say, in this case yes, absolutely. I -wish- the BM would email me with a list of what exactly bothers her about me, or her point of view. As hurtful as it might be, at least it could begin an honest dialogue. I am tired of reaching out and getting stomped on, or having her say one thing to my face and another to our shared child. I’m tired of it.

    So while I understand where this post is coming from, I really am asking- where is the line? When -is- it appropriate to speak up and say, “Hey, STOP!” even if she won’t listen? Is it never, and if so why is that? Don’t stepmothers have a right to defend themselves and their family as much as mothers do?

  15. @Carrie – If sending that email made you feel better, I think that’s great. But I think what the author is talking about here is what you do now that you had your say.

    Let go.

    I’ve had to do this with my ex. I had expectations of him, that he would do a, b, or c. And I would get let down, then angry and frustrated, sad, etc. The more I let go of expecting him to be anything more than what he is, the happier and easier my life is. I recently asked to switch days with him. I went into that EXPECTING him to say no, and arranging things with that in mind. I was pleasantly surprised when he said yes. And the important thing is that I don’t change because of that one act. I will continue to expect NOTHING from him. Then I’m not surprised when that’s what I get.

  16. Hi Carrie, thanks for your comment. In my post, I’m not necessarily talking about lying down and not speaking up if you feel you’re being disrespected. I’m talking about trying to change someone. I’m talking about spending your precious time and energy focusing on someone else’s behavior instead of on yourself and your family. We can’t change other people. They have to want to change. If you send her an email letting her know she’s being disrespectful to you and she decides to back off, that’s great! SHE decided to make the change. You did what you thought was right and she responded positively to it. Wonderful! I too have had positive outcomes when I’ve spoken up for myself in a non-threatening, adult manner. But what I was talking about in my post is my personal experience with giving mom unsolicited advice in hopes that she would change her behavior what I thought it should be. Can I know what’s right for someone else? No, not really. I’m also talking about the way a lot of women obsess about the other woman. With so much anger, hatred and resentment, how do we expect to nourish our marriages and ourselves? That’s where I’m coming from. Just passing on some of the lessons I’ve learned, but we each have to figure out what’s right for US. :).

  17. Elisette & Jenna-
    Thanks for your responses. I’ve stopped expecting her to change but do have trouble with the letting go issue. (Obviously. :) )

    I’m learning to accept her as she is. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I don’t. And Ican even find sympathy and empathy for her in some things, too, but I have a lot of trouble forgiving her even so. I wish there were some magic powder or something- Eternal Forgiveness.

    I’d love that.

    In the meantime, while it was cathartic and it did help for a time, I hope it never gets to the point I have to write such an email again!

  18. Elisette,

    I used the term “other woman” mearly as a simple way to explain a complicated situation. After 6.5 years and 2 children I no longer consider my self the “other woman” at all and actualy think it is a derogetory term but one that I used to serve a purpose.
    I find it rather hurtful that you would respond to my message in such a way. You judged me and labled me insensitive without knowing any realy deatails. No I didn’t go into details because that would require a whole blog in itself. But in response to you, I do understand the hurt I have caused and have been as sensitive to BM’s needs and emotions as best as I possibly can. But that sounds about as contrite as it must have come across to BM. How could I possibly have any understanding of what she was/is going through? I can’t. But I have tried on ALL levels to be sensitive and NOTHING works! I can NEVER be right in ANYTHING i do! So I choose to stop trying, even though I KNOW it affects SD, I cannot make BM see that her hatred for me is hurting HER child! All I can do is go on loving her (SD).

    Also the hurt I caused her (and have appologised for) does not give her the right to then go on causing hurt to others (me, my children and her own).

    I completely understsand where you are coming from! It was the manipulation of MY children that finally caused me to snap! Using me and my family as an excuse for her poor behaviour made me see red! Not that it got me anywhere. It did make me feel better that after so long I finally stopped trying to mend fences (at the expense of my pride) but ultimately it also made me see that she won’t change no matter how much I wish it or ask for it. So I let go (as best I can).

    Thank you agian for your post it hit the nail right on the head for me! I think I was obssessing about her just as much as she is obsessing about me and it was getting us no where. I cannot make her change so I chose to instead! It will not only save my sanity but my marraige was suffering as a result of all the stress caused my the constant friction! You are truly enlightened!!!!

  19. I have gone back and forth about posting… I don’t want to be deliberately hurtful, that’s not who I am, but this is my issue: My ex cheated on me while I was pregnant with our third child and now this woman is a part of my children’s life. My ex has presented such lovely thoughts as “she has to get use to being around three children.” (yes, and she had a CHOICE to do that, I had no choice in getting used to being a single parent of three children). “Think about how she feels” (Wait, when was she thinking about how I felt?) and “She doesn’t want to be a mother” (And what exactly does she see herself doing in my children’s lives?)

    Now, note, I encourage my children to love their father, have never prevented any visitation and in fact have been sorely disappointed in his ability to exercise committed parenting.

    Above all, the common thread of the step-mom angst is “But we love the child(ren)!” And my point is, that is not enough. Love isn’t enough. It wasn’t enough in the marriages that created these children, because certainly none of us got married hating our current exes. Parenting takes devotion and sacrifice. It takes leadership and, my sticking point in dealing with an affair partner in a parenting role, it takes morals.

    I feel I am parenting upstream against the morals my ex and his affair partner have modeled in my children’s lives. I want them to be good students in school and more importantly, I want them to be good people in life. This is where a lot of my frustration comes from.

  20. Hi Elisette, there are too many issues regarding infidelity for me to talk about on this comment, but I did want to touch on three things.

    1. As far as your husband trying to get you to see her side of things, it sounds like it’s turned into a boundary issue. Can you tell him that you won’t listen to it anymore? Explain to him that it doesn’t help you feel any better about things, it’s not having the effect that he thinks it is and really it’s just making things worse for you? If he doesn’t respect your request then you can teach him it’s not OK by ceasing communication whenever he starts in with it. If you have to hang up every time he starts telling you how hard it is for his wife, then hang up. He’ll eventually get the picture.

    I would, however, urge you to let go of trying to make sense of it (her actions). There are people we will never understand because they’re so different from us and our realities are on opposite sides of the spectrum.

    2. No one is saying you have to like, respect or even talk to his wife. The healing that needs to be done after an affair is a lot of work. I don’t know where you are on the continuum in that area, but ideally, for the kids, they should know nothing about your feelings for the other woman and vice versa. What’s best for them emotionally is to think everyone gets along and there’s no picking sides that they need to do. As hard as that may be for you, that would be the ideal situation for them. (You probably already know this ;))

    3. I understand what you say about parenting upstream. Unfortunately, all we can control is what goes on in OUR household. You can be sure you’re doing your best to teach them right from wrong. If you keep resisting what’s going on in the other household (obviously I’m not talking about serious things like abuse) then you’ll be frustrated for a long, long time. It’s not fair, but it’s the reality of a dual-household family. And sometimes is SUCKS.

    Do you think you could leave the window open for the possibility that maybe, just maybe, even though someone had an affair, they still might be able to parent positively and be a good influence on the children? I don’t think the two are necessarily mutually exclusive.

    I do wish you the best!! We’re here to support you in any way we can :).

  21. Speaking as a woman, I continue to get frustrated with woman, men and our society Always squarely placing the blame on the “other woman” when there is infedility. Elisette, you had a vow with your husband and he broke that vow, not his now wife. She did not have a vow with you. Yet, your anger is directed at her, or so it appears from your post. I’m not trying to diminish the terrible hurt and betrayal that you felt and probably still feel. And now that they are married, it is a constant reminder and probably is like throwing salt on an open wound. I feel for you. I do.

    I also feel for Karla, because as the “other woman” she trying to be the best step mom and mon she can be is most likely judged, harshly and how can you make a right out of infidelity. But, I would bet that Karla is not a “bad” person, I would bet that she is not morally bankrupt, that she does not advocate infidelity, even though she may have been party to an affair. I bet that she loves and cares for people just like we all do. I bet that she wants to be the best step mom and Mom she can be and that she loves fully.

    One thing that I have learned from this site is how we can not judge others because we have not walked in their shoes. I have learned that good people can make mistakes, but that one mistake should not define them as a person, nor should others be able to define us simply because of our title BM, SM, “other woman” etc.

  22. The Ex-Wife (Of Jenna's husband) says:

    There is obviously a epidemic sized breakdown between parent/step-parent families communicating successfully.
    From my experience it’s the erroneous judgement placed on others that creates and sustains separation.
    A dynamic I have no interested in. When divorced families can truly check their self righteousness at the door we will see change. Until then it’s a bunch of hot air.


  23. They’re not married and my children were introduced to this woman seven months after he moved out. Before any recommendation by his therapist, his mother, and the mediator. They’re not married, because we’re not divorced yet. You can all go ahead and feel sorry for the tough bed these people made for themselves, while I pick up the pieces of a shattered life.

    And yet, somehow *I’m* the one trying to figure out how to mend things and make them more livable for me and my children. *I’m* the one reading on “step-mother” forums to get an idea of where to start and how to deal.

  24. Elissette,

    I’ve been reading your comments and my heart goes out to you for what you are having to deal with. I would like to offer a perspective as both a mother of a child with a step-mom and as a step-mom to five kids.

    As a mother, I divorced my ex-husband 16 years ago, no third party was involved. My ex was very upset and when it comes down to it he was his hurt. He moved in with another woman four months later and married her the following year. I remarried four years later.

    For the past 16 years he has never been able to get past the anger from me leaving him. My daughter has felt the anger from him toward me even when he hasn’t said a word. Just the tone of his voice, the sharpness in his words, the face of I’m the injured party here. So even though you are encouraging the kids to love their father, I think you should ask why do you need to encourage them? Could it be that they sense they need to take your side in the divorce. Take care of you? Having six kids in my life I can tell you they are pretty darn perceptive about the underlying currents between divorced parents and step-parents especially as they get older.

    Your kids are a part of the two of you regardless of the choices either of you have made or will make. From personal experience, over time, the anger and dislike my ex had for me started to get internalized by my child. If my Mom’s bad I must be bad too. Followed with a drop in her own self-esteem. It wasn’t my ex’s intent but it was a by product of not letting go of the past.

    I know you are hurting and probably trying to hide your feelings as best you can. I’m not suggesting that you need to forgive, but by letting go of the anger you will be freeing yourself and your children to move on and find happiness again.

    Now as a step-mom, being one and my daughter having one. My child’s step-mom was kind to my child in the beginning. As she got older the dislike and tension grew between the two. Having your child cry at every drop off and pick up is unbearable as a parent. Then the fighting between you and your ex about what exactly mis-treatment is, the debate over what exactly happened and so forth. Your ex and his new wife loving your kids won’t solve everything, but it’s a pretty great starting point for the kids to move on to have a happy life with healthy relationships.

    As a step-mom who loves her step-kids, please know that LOVE is what you want the new wife to feel toward your kids. It means that she wants them in your ex-husband’s life, their life together and they aren’t just some nuisance that she is trying to erase from his life.

    You were hurt terribly by your ex-husband’s actions and he probably has a list of why he feels justified in having the affair. Your ex should have talked to you about his issues rather than committing infidelity, but he didn’t. He made a mistake, but he still loves the kids, wants them in his life. He left you for another woman, not the kids. Somewhere buried underneath the hurt and anger are the memories of your ex loving your kids, being a good Dad. Even though you won’t be apart of it, they can still make new memories with their Dad and even his new wife if they are given permission by you.

  25. By encourage I mean “Don’t forget to tell Daddy xyz!” “Hey, let’s make valentine’s for everybody – grandma, nana, daddy” “What do you want to get Daddy for Christmas, let’s go shopping.”

    You know, the same stuff you’d do if you were together, with the occasional, “Even though Mommy and Daddy don’t love each other, we both still love you.”

    And my ex plays the victim quite a bit. If I forget to tell him something while managing three children’s lives and my own in a constant juggle, that’s me being passive aggressive.

    I am expressing a lot here that I don’t express in real life, at least no where near my ex.

  26. It’s good that you’re getting some of your feelings out here in an emotionally safe place.

    I know saying you have to let go of the hurt and anger is so much easier said than done. If it was easy we wouldn’t be sharing our stories.

    Life is hard especially when it throws you curve balls. I know for me I gave a lot of power to my ex and my Hubby’s ex’s thinking I could change their behavior so they would stop hurting me. After many years I realized the power to stop hurting was in my control not theirs. With that AHA moment I took the power in my life back by doing what I needed to emotionally so they could no longer get into my head. That freedom gave me so much more time and energy to love my kids, my husband and my family at a much deeper level.

  27. Great perspectives Lisa.

    My therapist told me once, the best revenge, is a happy life. As Lisa said, easier said than done. But it is true. And I believe we can all find happiness. There is also a chinese character for crisis and turned upside down stands for “opportunity”.

    I hope that all of us on this site, having to deal with so much personally, so many emotions from ourselves, our exes, our children, hurts from past relationships, frustrations with step parents and step parenting, can find a place where we are happy. We can not rewrite the past, you can only control you and help to write your future.

    I will also say, that in dealing with so much guilt, anger and injustices and all the fighting that resulted from those feelings all of a sudden my kids were growing up and I wasted too much time on all of those negative emotions. It was a waste of my time, because really in the time we have with our children time is truly too too short.

  28. Lisa and Rae, I second your emotions! :)

  29. Wow- I love this article and I LOVE what Lisa has to say to Elisette!!! I have been a step mother to three girls for 13 years and I also have a step-father. I have had such a tough time with step-mom support blogs because so many of the people who post are in mature, selfish, mean and in my mind do not put the kids first.

    BM and I didn’t always see eye to eye, sometimes I would get frustrated with things. But I DID understand how difficult it was for her now being a single parent (even though I don’t have children of my own) and I DID give her credit for being a fantastic Mom. How did I know she was a fantastic Mom?? Because she has fantastic girls!!! While my husband was also a fantastic father and I did everything I could to support him (and their BM) in that role as parents. Having great kids was not just the product of a great Dad and I give their mother a LOT of credit for this too!!

    Our relationship (BM and I) is not great, but I NEVER would have sent the BM a message telling her what she did wrong. I believe that people do the best with what they have and some people have more than others. I respected that BM did what she could and I never bad mouthed her to the girls and never let my husband either if it was within my control and thank god he is mature enough to have listened to me when I thought that he went over the line with things like this.

    So, early on I let go of anger towards the BM. I did everything I could to be supportive of the girls and their parents roles in their lives. Did this impact my life sometimes? Yes, but I had made a choice to get in this relationship with this man who had children and being a parent (or step parent) means you make sacrifices. The parents were making them too as the girls grew up!! I knew that the kids would have to come first sometimes and accepted that and did what I could to be as supportive as I could or get out of the way. I knew that they would not be children forever and if “we” all could raise happy, healthy children then some day they would become independent and not always have to come first.

    All families have their challenges- we all need to do what we can to help and support each other. That is what family is all about!!

  30. I’ve sent several emails to the BM and when doing that I’ve never considered the points above simply thought I was helping. Her 6yr old daughter was sharing her mums internet chat room life (of a sexual nature) with complete strangers – I just felt someone needed to let the BM know. Why did the 6yr old even know about that in the first place is beyond me… But in hindsight – it is the BM’s problem, certainly not mine and what do I care what people think of her. My head still tells me to protect the kids but my heart is winning the race and loving them is the most and the best I can do and i can only be responsible for the examples, values and morals set in our house. Thanks xxx

  31. Jodie, I hear ya! We do these things with the best of intentions, only to have them backfire on us, because of a dynamic we never knew existed in the first place.

    It’s kind of like, we don’t know what we don’t know. Experience and reaching out to others can help teach us tons about these crazy situations :).

    Thanks for the comment!

  32. Thats for sure, I just never thought the degree would take so many years to achieve and I feel (7yrs on) that class has only just began.

  33. This is all great, IF the BM and stepchildren would leave us alone, quit bringing up the past and blaming. How does one live with the constant criticism and barrage of hatred?

  34. Hi Leslie, I don’t know the specific details of your situation, but the best way to protect yourself is through boundaries. Show them you won’t be treated or talked to that way. You can limit contact with mom by disengage. As far as your stepdaughter, depending on how old she is and how often you see her, it will help for your husband to support you by letting her know that she WILL speak to you respectfully or there will be consequences for her. I know it’s difficult, but you have to protect yourself, and by setting boundaries you can do that.

  35. Emilina says:

    Again, this article was meant for me and others like me. I am a step-mom of three wonderful boys who are all teenagers and my husband and I now have a 2 year old boy and newborn daughter. My husband has been divorced way before I came in the picture, like 9 years or so. She left him which boggles my mind as to the things she does. When I first came around, she seemed happy that he had found someone. Then all of a sudden when I found out I was pregnant, she started to change. Then she found out we were getting married, and it was like “all hell broke loose.” She even took my husband back to court for more child support, even though he has joint custody and the boys half the time. She ruined the relationship I had with the boys, saying everything was my fault and they even told my husband this. I had to start all over with them after being with their father for two years. I still don’t feel as though I have won them back.

    What Carrie said hit home. I blame her for everything in my head. I feel as though she is the one that has caused all this hurt and turmoil in my marriage. I don’t want to forgive her for all this chaos she has caused in my life. I am heartbroken and hurt. I feel as though my actions to retaliate were justified because of what she has done to us. Her mother even got mad at my husband one day saying that because he had more children she had to go and have another child too. What is with these women?! Are they nuts? Am I the one that is crazy because I don’t understand?

    Jenna when you said “I’m also talking about the way a lot of women obsess about the other woman. With so much anger, hatred and resentment…” that is totally me. Sometimes, and I know this is horrible, I am happy when I find out that her life isn’t all hunky dorey with her boyfriend. I want to stop this and just live my life. Everytime I try, she hits me with something else. UGH! I can’t stand it anymore and I want my life back! If I could go back, I wouldn’t do this again. I had a friend who told me not to get involved with my husband because he had kids, and I am beginning to think she had a very good point.

  36. Hello all!
    I stumbled upon this site and this post today while trying to figure out if I should reach out to the mother of my step child. My situation is a bit different in that my husband had an affair so the mother is also the “other woman” in my situation. The baby girl is 19 months old and of course I’ve been around since before she was born. The mother and I have had conversations but she is VERY fickle. I never know what to expect from her! She’s also quite young (she’s 20) to which I attribute a lot of her behavior. Anyway I was trying to figure if it would be a good or bad idea to speak with her about her ideal relationship would be for us (that is me and her). I HATE some of the things she does (for instance when I go with the hubby for pickup she’ll talk only to him as if I’m not standing there, I feel so disrespected), but I have accepted that I can’t change any of the things she does, I can just be me and stay as positive as possible. BUT I would like to know what she’d like our relationship to look like. That way I can know what to expect. What do you ladies think about this? Should I just leave it alone, expect nothing and just welcome any positivity that comes?

  37. Tammy,

    While I understand your feelings completely, I wouldn’t expect her to make any acknowledgements. One thing I’ve learned is that some things require time. In the mean time, smile! If during one of those moments she returns a smile, you can start there.

    BM never spoke to me during drop offs and pick ups, and I never expected it. We went from that to hanging out, then to not speaking again, to now where we are cordially sending FYI emails re: SS occasionally. If you are with your hubby for long, you will experience years of changes, so my advice is be patient, and TRY not to take anything personal.

  38. I think with this situation the problem is her inconsistency with how she acts towards me. I try my hardest to be consistent with how I am towards her. I am definitely guilty of rushing things to just be how they’re going to be when it comes to this situation and I guess I just want to know how SHE wants things to be so that I can know what to expect. I know things change, in the short time I’ve been dealing with this situation I’ve changed, my husband has changed too, but neither of us change the way we treat her as the mother of his child. Even through all the hurt I feel from the situation I have ALWAYS (and I’m not just tooting my own horn) been respectful and courteous towards her, she on the other hand has done some really ugly things towards me including ugly emails and text messages, this from a woman had previously said she hopes we can be friends, then a few months after the ugly emails apologized and said she hopes we can have a cordial relationship, then turns around and completely ignore my presence sometimes and sometimes doesn’t. It’s just frustrating to always be the person taking the high rode, ESPECIALLY in a situation like this. In any case I have decided to just continue to be me, not worry about contacting her or even what she wants our relationship to look like especially since that would try only serve to give me a reason to be disappointed when she does things in direct contrast to what she may say. I’ll just let things be as they are and go where they may all while trying my darnest to be positive and keep my step baby at the forefront of my mind… But its going to be hard!

  39. My husband and I both have children from our previous marriages. I have an 8 year old daughter from my first marriage and he has a 6 year old son. Together we have a 2 year old son and a baby due in April.

    I have been researching this subject “step moms” “stepparenting” as my ex remarried 2 years ago and I am now a birth mom and a step mom.

    I’ve got issues on both ends. My daughters step mom is constantly trying to do exactly what this blog suggest, change me and the way I look at things. She want my daughter to call her mom. I say no and my daughter came to me to say I don’t want to call her mom. She continues to push this as well as other issues. I wish to get along with her for my daughter but have had to cut contact and refuse to discuss things with her because she’s so pushy at various times then we start over and she works her way back to that point again…

    With my husbands ex wife, she hates me. She hates my husband. She hates my children. She and I were cordial to one another until she learned of our engagement then everything I did and my husband did was “stepping on her toes”. We are in court 2-3 times a month over bogus issues….and she’s began to try to manipulate my step son into disliking us….it doesn’t work…he loves us all and loves coming here. We don’t speak (her choice) and she barely speaks to my husband unless its to cuss him out….I created personalized videos from Santa for my children and my step son. The first thing I hear from her in months is a text that I am an inconsiderate bitch and had no right to make the video…she then created one of her own and showed it to my step son before school in front of several men at her work. Santa told him he was naughty. All the workers laughed at him. She punished my step son because she was angry at me. I let my husband handle it. He wrote her and told her to back off all of us and focus her energy on positive things for their son. She never responded. I was going to respond to her text the other night but decided that it wouldn’t mean jack coming from me…I helped my husband write her back but it came from him. Reading this I’m so glad I didn’t text back.

  40. Want to be notified of follow up comments and didn’t check that box so commenting again

  41. Hi Jenny, sometimes when a woman makes it that clear that she wants nothing to do with you, it’s best to just step away, for your own sanity! It’s sad for the kids, but better for them not feel your stress of trying to make things work when the relationship is so strained. Hang in there and try your best to focus on your family and know that her issues with you aren’t really about you. :)

  42. Jenna, thanks for such an honest, authentic post! As I read it, I found myself laughing because I could relate so well! No, I never sent TM an email like that, but I have fallen into the oh-so-human trap of trying to give someone (like my hubby or sister) helpful advice, somehow thinking that not only would they change but also be thankful that I was kind enough to share my vast wisdom!!! Ha ha ha!!

    As I started reading the comments, my mood went from light to more somber. Wow, there is a lot of pain out there, isn’t it? I started thinking that Dr. Phil and Oprah should tour the US, stopping in all the major cities to gather tens of thousands of moms, stepmoms, dads and stepfathers together and give them some guidance on how to deal with each other and successfully build/rebuild families and children’s lives after the trauma of divorce and/or infidelity.

  43. Elisette – I have walked that path and continue to do so with the OW now acting as SM, tho her own divorce drags on. I’m hear if you need an ear. You can find me on FB in the No One’s the Bitch group if you would like to reach me. Hugs and more. To the others who justify infidelity at all…I was also once an OW. I walked away but my Karma came to me a thousand fold when I remarried later. I see a society who blames the wife for infidelity rather than the OW. It takes two. Yes he broke vows to me, but she had a lot to do with it. I say this as a woman who walked away and allowed another marriage to be repaired without my negative influence. When my own husband went from devoted to despising me in a matter of weeks 3 years ago, I realized exactly how traumatic infidelity is-on everyone including the kids and extended families.

    Jenna- the only thing I disagree with is that I actually can deal better with my feelings regarding the OW’s presence in isolation. When I was the OW in my past, I accepted fully that the wife…the kids…the extended family may never accept me. And if the OW in my life is not that enlightened as to what trauma and pain she contributed to my and so many others’ lives enough to feel entitled to a respectful relationship with me? Then she will have to work on that on her end. As Elisette (I think it was you!) mentioned…how could I ever trust someone who had no concern for me or my life, other than the desire to have it for her own.

  44. I came home tonight and was truly ready to just throw in the towel, and then I Googled “how to deal with your ex-husbands new wife” and came across your site. I have to say that your words hit the nail right on the head! I left my ex, who was very successful but an addict. After 14 years of marriage and two kids later, I knew it was time to head out on my own. The divorce was actually not that bad, but when he remarried, all hell broke lose. His new wife (who also has two small boys from another man) was a lot younger and wanted to party all the time. My husband, who was an executive at the time, started going into work late and leaving work early and doing drugs. He went from being a great father to a total loser): This woman is just nasty! If I don’t do everything to her liking, she’ll send me a text and tell me what a horrible mom I am and how I should be grateful that she and her husband pay all my bills…really? This woman was living in someones basement when my ex met her! She’s a total bitch to me! Did I roll out the red carpet to her when they got together, no. But does she have the right to say and do the nasty stuff she does to me…no!

    Now my ex has lost his job and even though I know he was offered a great job by a friend of ours, he’s not working because they are both doing everything in there power to get my support lowered. My ex husband used to be a great guy, but unfortunately the woman behind the man is not a great person. My poor sons can’t stand her and I always have to take the high road and keep my comments to myself, it’s not easy.
    I’ve been in school the entire three years we’ve been divorced and followed my divorce decree to the T! I feel so much anger towards this woman and everyone keeps telling me to just ignore her and not engage, but I just want to rip into her and tell her what a horrible person she is. I’ve spent my entire life taking great care of myself and now I’m breaking out in rashes from all the stress this is causing. I know I need to just let it go but that’s easier said than done. This is the first time I’ve ever written on any blog but after I read what you wrote above, it made perfect since to me. I just want to raise my boys and live a healthy and beautiful life and every time I try to move on, the two of them start something. I guess it’s just one day at a time but I don’t think my ex wants me to ever be happy.

  45. So sorry, Sharon. Have you thought about blocking all contact from her? As far as ripping into her, you certainly could. But I guarantee you won’t feel any better afterwards. Well, maybe for a minute. But then you’ll regret stooping to her level. You’ll regret that you let her get to you like that. And worse of all, it won’t do any good. There is nothing you can say to her that will make things better. She has to want to change.

    Just do your best to create boundaries to protect yourself. You’re under no obligation to communicate with her, so get her blocked. And if she’s harassing you and won’t stop, file for a restraining order. Take care of you and your babies. And I’m sure you’re doing a great job of keeping your kids out of the middle and not bad-mouthing her to them. I’m sure it can be difficult, but it’s the right thing to do.

  46. Danielle says:

    I found your page today and it couldn’t have come at a better time. My situation is as such. I am with a wonderful man. He has two children from his first. I have four, one grown and has two children of her own. My 16 yr old lives with his biological father in AZ and my two youngest ones are 12 and 8 (boys). His are 17 girl and 15 almost 16 boy. His arrangement was split custody for 4 yrs after they split up, which was working until she got involved with a new man who didn’t like their arrangement so she filed papers and somehow won. Missouri is a mother state. Anyway, I had just recently ended a relationship and he was coming out of his second relationship. She, the second woman, was with his kids for almost 6 yrs. His kids were, well, a whole lot younger than when I met them. I adored their personalities, but as time went on I started feeling as though we were being forced on each other and it wasn’t going so well. He has issues with how their mom raises them and she is dealing with so many of her own personal demons that she has managed to make the children behave in a way that is very uncomfortable for both he and I.

    I love his children yet I am told over and over that I have no natural affection towards them. I don’t want to say that is true, but it feels like that is what it is. I am not allowed to deal with them the way a parent who has been involved from early on would. I am really trying to become more aware of my overall mood on his weekends, but somehow his son gets under my skin when he gets hyper and mouthy. His daughter is a wallflower kinda girl and is very sweet, but very dark inside and I have trouble relating to that way of thinking. Neither of them I feel have ever dealt with or even talked about the divorce or the last relationship ending so abruptly and I often blame those circumstances for the trouble we have now.

    My children are not perfect but they are not monsters either. Every time I attend a school meeting or what not, I am told how great they are doing and while my 12 yr old is a tad wound up and resistant to simple basic rules, ie; if it’s not yours, don’t touch it…. and such, that when we argue about the kids (mine) that is he tells me how they are the worst kids in school and that he even knew who my son was in his stepdaughters school which I don’t believe to be true. Both of us have spectrum disorder children as well. So I am now in a situation where I am the bad guy and I really don’t know what to do.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. BTW, I am currently reading Three Steps To A Strong Family, by Richard and Linda Eyres. A must read for all!!!!! I just really want to turn this around.

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