It's not *that* weird, is it?
No little girl dons a pillowcase for a veil and daydreams about being her husband’s second wife. She doesn’t think about how great it will be to become a stepmom, how she can’t wait to be the second woman her husband will have a “first dance” with and she certainly doesn’t envision dealing with an ex-wife.
But sometimes, those things you’d never dream of are the things you can’t imagine living without.
When I married my husband, his ex-wife (and mother of his two children) and I got along fairly well. We sat together at T-ball games, shared funny stories about the kids at pick-up and texted each other about the second grade drama my step-daughter would share. But as the years have gone by, our relationship has grown in ways I never would’ve imagined. She’s not only become my friend; she's a huge support system for me. If I’m England, she’s America and it’s World War II. Here are ten reasons why I’m so thankful to have my husband’s ex-wife as my ally:
1. She’s a stepmom, too. I got lucky with my stepkids’ mom because she already put her children first and was grateful for me in their lives. But because she’s also a stepmom, it added a whole new dynamic to our friendship. She knew exactly how much I loved her kids because she loved her step-daughter the same way. I never felt like I had to explain my feelings to her; she understood immediately.
2. She knows my husband’s family. I love my husband’s family and think of them as my own but we all know how nice it is to have someone who's "been there" before. She knows the star players in any drama and can already guess what’s happened before I’ve even had a chance to explain. She'll roll her eyes along with me and simply say, “Girl, I know” without trying to offer advice or opinions.
3. She's remarried, too. I know one of the reasons she’s so happy to hear how much her kids love me is because she gets to see firsthand just how much they love their stepdad.
4. She deals with the same judgy, side-eyes as me. We’ve talked before about how our relationship is totally weird to outside eyes. She knows what it feels like to be stared at while we’re trick-or-treating because most people in our social circles think she’s totally insane for allowing me to be that close.
5. She knows what a poor relationship with her ex-husband could do to her children. She knows first-hand what painful and unfriendly divorces look like and the toll that can have on children. She once told me that she hoped her children always knew she still cared about their daddy; she just couldn't live with him anymore. Her respect and love for him is evident in how her children view our relationship.
6. She trusts me with her children. She doesn’t reprimand me for disciplining them and she knows I’m doing the best I can with them and for them. People love to tell me, “Oh wait until they’re yelling ‘You can’t tell me what to do, you’re not my mama!’” I just remind them that if they do, their mama will totally be on my side.
7. She doesn’t give a damn about what people think. Huge, you guys. HUGE. If we take the kids to the homecoming parade together, she totally does NOT care that people are whispering about us.
8. She has a great sense of humor. I’ll never forget the first time we all went trick-or-treating together. Her husband couldn’t make it so it was just my husband, his ex-wife, their children and me. My husband made a quip about how we should’ve dressed as the cast of Reba. Worried she'd take it the wrong way, I didn’t respond until she piped up, “Well Sam, that makes you Barbara Jean!”
9. She’s gives me sound parenting advice. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I texted her a lot to ask her if certain things were normal and to share my worries and fears with her. She was always supportive and reminded me I was already a great mama (cue hormonal tears) and that everybody figures it out as they go along. I’m so grateful for her “expertise” as a parent, especially knowing how much her kids adore her.
And the biggest reason my husband’s ex-wife is my ally?
10. She was my husband’s wife once. Not that we talk poorly on my husband, but you guys? She GETS IT. She's the ultimate ally when I’m fighting with him or the two of us are butting heads. She can I can laugh together at the fact that he never remembers anything like T-ball games or Honors Night at school. During a trial separation with my husband, she was extremely supportive and gave me lots of insight based on her own relationship with my husband. After all, she knows how he thinks, how he feels and how he acts. She has a bond with him that can never be broken but she never uses it for ill gain. She simply listens to me, offers advice and tells me what it was like for her when they had marriage troubles.
Maybe you’re dealing with an ex-wife, too. Maybe you are the ex-wife. Maybe you’ve wondered how to get along with your ex-husband’s new girlfriend, the stepmom to your children or your stepchildren’s mother. Maybe you think it’s impossible.
Having respect for each other starts it all. Do it for your children, but most of all, do it for you. You might just find your support system in the most unlikely of places.