~Welcome to my personal story as a first time wife and stepmom. I use this space to share real life happenings in a blended family, funny stories, my personal frustrations, failures, and occasional victories as I journey through this life with two beautiful and challenging stepdaughters. Thanks for reading, and I hope you find something to help you have a better day!~

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Unhealthy Hostility

When I accepted my husband's proposal for marriage, I knew I was also accepting his two girls into my life--forever. What I was also accepting, however--as far from the forefront as my thoughts as it was--was his ex being part of my life--forever. Despite my early, naïve thinking that she would be a very insignificant factor in my new life--maybe to only be seen or heard from around birthdays or the holidays--the cold, hard truth is that she is very much a big part of our family life and she is here to stay. She'll never stop being their mom. Any hostility, resentment, insecurities, or jealousy on my part will only lead to my own unhappiness and miserable marriage. I had to realize that my negative comments or "Poor me--I don't have a say in anything. I'm just overlooked, neglected stepmom" attitudes are the exact opposite of what my family needs from me.

My husband just escaped a hostile environment. Divorce wasn't pleasant. There's always arguments and accusations, hurt feelings, court dates, dividing property, financial distress. He didn't endure that just to get back into a relationship with a negative, hostile person. And it seems like the more involved I get, the easier it is to fall into that negativity trap. I'm here to be his second wind, his breath of fresh air, a reminder that love CAN last, and trust IS attainable. So anytime I roll my eyes at the mention of her name, or mutter under my breath while he's talking to her on the phone, or act hurt when the oldest girl talks incessantly about memories of their family "before", I am doing a disservice. I am hurting, not helping. I am inviting unhealthy hostility into my life and the lives of my family.

I had to make a choice very early on in my blended family experience to GET OVER IT! I now am so involved in the girls' daily life and school happenings, that I communicate with her at least two or three times a week. At first it was just places and times to meet to drop off or pick up this or that. Gradually it has evolved to also include discussions of behavior, health, puberty, and what we need to work on. It's not always easy, but if I don't let my mind wander and dwell on the past, we work together pretty well. On the flip side, I have to walk a tight line and not get too involved or friendly with her to the point that I'm sharing and parenting more with her than with my husband. He doesn't want us to be "friends" because he knows I'm a very trusting person and could easily be hurt by her stabbing me in the back again.

So I must be friendly, but not friends.

I must be open, but not vulnerable.

I must be flexible, but not a push-over.

I must be non-judgmental, but not naïve.

I must be honest, but not mean.

I must communicate, but not overshare.

I must be very balanced!

It's easy to see now why so many stepmoms easily fall to one side or the other over time and have such huge frustrations because it's such a delicate balance. I feel like the old adage to "keep them at arm's length" is a good one to apply in this situation. Don't let her control your life, but be open enough to allow the kids to see a united blended family instead of all the unhealthy hostility.

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