- and +

conflict or harmony for divorced moms and stepmomsWhy does it even matter if you get along with the stepmom or ex-wife in your life? Can’t you just go through the rest of the days, weeks, and years (that you’ve got the kids), leaving things as they are?

Your motivation to improve your relationship is even lower if things are bad between you.  Like thinking of exercising when you’re lying in bed, all warm and cozy, and it’s cold and weirdly dark outside, and you just suffered through one of the worst bouts of insomnia of your life.

Why try!  Who cares?  What difference will it make to the world if you just stay in bed???

It all comes down to two little symbols:




In one corner, there’s all that crap that usually attends these ex-/step relationships.  You may have favorite stories you haul out to prove to friends and family what a real bitch this other woman is, how unreasonable she is, how calculating and manipulative, how unyielding and difficult she is.  The boatload of stress she adds to your life.

In so many ways, it’s easy to do.

You get caught up in the emotion of the story; you’ve got a beginning, a middle and an climatic end that delivers sympathy, excitement and perhaps some righteous anger on the part of the listener.  Like a magician pulling a endless silk scarf out of hat or from behind someone’s ear, you can provide a list of her wrongdoing that is endless, colorful and entertaining.

And what are you left with at the end of these stories?  The fuel of conflict throughout human history.  You get to be right!  You get to be better!

But that flood of temporary good feeling ultimately just leaves you with this:  - .

If it’s bad now, and you settle for the ego strokes (however fleeting and feeble they may be), it’s going to stay bad.  If you’re unlucky, it may even get worse.  There will be all those lovely feelings of jealousy, frustration, competitiveness, anger, confusion; wanting to give up.  There will be that wonderful sensation in your stomach where your innards are being twisted to their limits like rubber bands.

There will be more drama, more conflict, newer stories coming down the pike that you can tell in the future.  And in the meantime, you’re bringing reactivity and ill will to your household; maybe you’re leaking misplaced anger or despair into your marriage or romantic partnership and inevitably — especially — your relationships with your children or stepchildren.

Eeek!  Stop talking about this!  Make it go away!  It’s too horrible to read about.

The sad thing is, if you just settle for --- (that’s a big dose of the negative, for emphasis), you’ll never know how good + could be.

What is +?  The + stands for all the good stuff that could come your way if you worked to get past the negativity.  We’re all grown-ups here.  You know what it’s like to do the right thing and stop engaging in that whole win-lose mentality.  What’s ONE THING you could do, right now, to make things better with this other person?  What’s another?  Imagine yourself putting those ideas into place.

Will you try?

Here’s what you stand to gain if you worked on creating a bridge from your world to hers.  A partner who knows the ins and outs of the kids’ issues.  Better communication, fewer flubbed up meetings, school details, forgotten items traveling back and forth between the two houses.  Someone to call when you’re stumped by parenting issues (who actually has some good ideas that you don’t!).  Someone to share good news with.  Someone to befriend who intimately knows your world like few others, even close friends.

And then, think of what it would be like for the children if you two got along.  No more (or less) guilt if they like one or the other better (maybe temporarily, but still).  No more hiding their own daily life stories, editing themselves as they go along.  Less of a separation between their two lives, less of a schism, internally and externally.  More of a feeling of a united family unit, even if it’s slow in the making.  They get to breathe a little easier, knowing there is a more cohesive family container holding them, watching out for them, looking after them.

And then there’s your romantic partnership.  If you’re the stepmom, obviously, we know you’re in one.  There less animosity that you’re channeling everyday, fewer stories that have to be listened to along those lines.  Less time wasted, grumbling.  There’s more room for lightness and happiness and other things, because god knows there’s never enough time for other things.  If you’re the ex-, you may or may not have a partner.  Either way, there’s just less venting to bring to the table and that can only be appealing and healthy.

Globally, both families are much more likely to be stable and weather the inevitable gale-force winds that blow into our lives if this one link is strong and reliable.  You’d be surprised how much weight the shoulders of women can bear, but then again, if you’re a woman, you already know.

We’re asking a lot.  And we know some people are going to be pissed off, reading this, as if we’re saying it’s a piece of cake and geez, come on and just do it already.

We know it’s tough; figuring out how to get along with each other was one of the hardest things we ever did.

We’ll talk soon about how.


© 2007 Jennifer Newcomb Marine


Anonymous said...

Trying to get along with the bio mom is one thing, but it gets much more complicated when she's egging on her current boyfriend who then becomes very aggressive and threatens my partner (custodial father of 2 girls) and yells in front of the girls.

If she were single it would be complicated enough, but she is the borderline personality disorder type and she is manipulating her boyfriend (a big 6'5 security guard) into menacing my partner (without any provocation from my guy). How do you deal with a crazy ex who incites her new partner to be aggressive??

I mean, we're taking note of all this and if it continues to escalate we'll call the police, but meanwhile it seems like it would be pretty stupid to try to be friends with such a vindictive/selfish woman (she doesn't even care that her guy is scaring the girls by threatening their dad - whom they love dearly and get along with wonderfully - in front of them!).

For the record, btw, she is the one who ended their marriage by having an affair, then she's the one who wanted a divorce. I am not the "other woman" or anything, my partner and I got met well after their divorce.

June 30, 2007 12:38 PM  

Stepmom2Be said...

I totally agree with anonymous. I would love to have a friendly relationship with bio mom and I'm sure other stepmoms out there want the same thing. That relationship is possible, if bio mom is not psychotic, unreasonable, or distrustful (especially when it comes to legality). My fiancee and I tried to be amicable and trustful, and giving bio mom the benefit of the doubt, but time after time, she betrayed us and shown us that she cannot be trusted. Maybe one day we'll be on good term, but at this point, friendship is impossible. We will not force our friendship on bio mom. Besides, bio mom is the one who needs to earn our friendship because she is the one who insticate problems and makes things difficult for everyone. Society need to understand that Bio moms are not always the victims in a bad divorce.

August 27, 2007 9:29 PM  

Anonymous said...

I love your message and I lived it for the first year and a half of my marriage. Biomom and I buried the hatchet right after the wedding and it was wonderful. I was all about all of your +'s. But then. A conflict arose and her anger poured everywhere, drowning the goodwill I had worked *so* hard to build over the previous 18 months. I've retreated, and am now of the mindset that "friendly" is better than "friends," in this case. I simply don't trust her anymore, and don't think that "friendship" was ever real. Advice?

October 18, 2007 1:59 PM  

Anonymous said...

I am the bio mom and have gotten along well with the stepmom. The problem arises around bio dad and I. Everytime I think we have made some progress it is brought back to the level we were at during and immediately following the divorce. It would be a piece of cake if I just had to deal with stepmom.

November 13, 2007 3:51 AM



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