Some relationships are more difficult than others, and the relationship between you, your husband, and his ex-wife can be one of the hardest of all. Millions of women are married to men who were previously married, only to find that his ex wants to make life for the couple as difficult as possible. So, how do you deal with this woman without tearing your hair out?
Try Being Friends
Achieving a more positive relationship with your husband’s ex will depend just as much on your actions as it will on hers, and showing her that you’d like to be friends could lead to some surprisingly positive changes in your relationship. Try getting to know the ex-wife outside of her connection to your husband: you could invite her out for coffee, or give her a call just to see how she is. Let her know you’d like to get along with her.
Working out ground rules for interacting with your husband and his ex-wife’s children will be enormously helpful in preventing misunderstandings, fights, and jealous, angry feelings. Establish boundaries by having an open conversation with your husband’s ex-spouse -- or, if you have cause for concern that things might get out of hand -- with the ex-spouse and your husband. Remind her that you’d like to be involved but don’t want to take over her place as the mother of her children. Find out when you can step in, how you can help, and what situations or topics involving the children will be off-limits to you as a stepparent.
Not all women will respond positively to your friendly overtures; some exes become angry and only wish to annoy her ex-husband and his wife. Don’t let this stop you from being respectful toward her. Not only will stooping to her level only make the nasty things she says about you right, but you may find yourself becoming more angry as you focus on the negative. Instead, keep it civil, especially in front of her kids. They are not to blame for her behavior, and badmouthing her in front of them will unfairly drag them into a bad situation.
IAccept that your husband once had a relationship with this woman, and that at one point in time, they were in love. Practicing acceptance will help you prevent any dislike you have for his ex-wife turning into resentment toward your husband for having married her in the first place. Remember that accepting your reality doesn't mean you have to like it: it just means that you don't waste energy wishing away a person who isn't going anywhere. Acceptance takes practice. Try starting by accepting small things and move up slowly to the bigger ones.
Instead of getting angry at her, try remaining calm and putting yourself in her shoes. Especially with holidays and the complicated logistics that go in to planning a Thanksgiving or Christmas around blended families, it can be easy to become stressed and upset with her for wanting a particular arrangement. Think about what you would want if you were in her position, and ask yourself why she might be asking for something. If you’re finding it impossible not to become angry with her, it might be best to remove yourself from the situation and let your husband make the arrangements with her.
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A New York native, Carrie Stemke is an avid writer, editor and traveler whose work has covered many different topics. She has had a lifelong fascination with and love of psychology, and hold's a bachelor's degree in the subject. Her psychology research articles have been published in Personality and Individual Differences and in Modern Psychological Studies.
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