As a new wife and stepmom, you may be wondering what you’ve done to merit the contempt of your partner’s ex. You’ve played by the rules, refrained from badmouthing and treated her kids with kindness. But maybe it’s not about you at all.
You remind her that she failed.
No one enters a marriage thinking they will be divorced. However, the break-up of a marriage can leave the parties involved feeling as though they have failed not just themselves, but their children. As she watches her ex regroup and remarry, that failure is compounded. A new spouse is an assurance that life has moved on. If the ex hasn’t allowed herself to grieve the end of the relationship, there is no turning back. She is faced with this conundrum every time she sees you or anything representative of you.
2. You have the relationship that she wishes she had.
Anytime failure arrives in our lives, we head straight into the blame game. In the ex wife’s case, she can blame the demise of her marriage on all of the hubby’s less than stellar attributes. Until he remarries and magically changes. No longer able to focus on his foibles, she must revisit her own part in the failure of the relationship. Watching her husband be happily married she now has to envisage what could have been. Perhaps made even more difficult if she has not entered into a new relationship or at least a serious one. She may be experiencing jealousy. She may be experiencing grief. Whatever the emotion, she is forced to realize that you are having the relationship with her husband that she was unable to have which ultimately makes her question why she wasn’t worthy of that sort of relationship.
3. She doesn’t know you.
Your family knows your kind heart. Your friends know your penchant for witty banter. They all love you and your famous broccoli cheese casserole. But your husband’s ex-wife knows none of these things. She doesn’t know you as a person. And maybe she doesn’t want to. However, keep in mind that her disregard or even distaste for you is not personal. In other words, it’s not about you.
4. You spend valued time with her kids.
The marriage is over. The assets have been split. Sadness and grief ensued. But perhaps the most difficult part of the divorce scenario is sharing custody. There is only a certain amount of time in each week and now that time is split between two homes. Time you spend with her kids is time she could be spending with her kids. And time is all the more precious when it becomes a scarce commodity. In addition, you are likely participating in sporting events, parent-teacher conferences, doctor appointments, etc. The more involved you are with her kids, the more value you have in their lives.
Divorce can have grave financial implications on a number of families, especially those in the mid to lower income brackets. It is generally accepted that while men rebound financially from divorce within a couple of years, due to a disparity in the job market and the continued inequality of women’s salaries and retirement accounts, women are more likely to be feel the burn of divorce both in the short and long term. Specifically, women’s household income fell an average of 41 percent, almost double that of men in a divorce situation, according to a 2012 report from the US Government Accountability Office. Seeing her former husband rebounding emotionally is one thing but to watch as his financial stability gains as she struggles is another. When you add your ability to contribute to his well-being and that of her children with your own assets, you have upped the ante in the game of life where money can breed contempt.
Your role ensures that you have little control over these issues. Yet, they are viable issues for his ex to contend with. Show grace and compassion. In doing so, your stepchildren will benefit from your attempt to ease tensions in their homes.