How I Learned To Stop Hating My Ex-Husband's New Wife

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How I Learned To Stop Hating My Ex-Husband's New Wife [EXPERT]
A personal essay about learning to accept the new woman in my kids' life.

I hated her for being nice to my kids; I hated her when I picked up my younger son and he didn't want to leave because they were laughing and eating popcorn together; I hated her because I saw my older son talking to her in an animated and smiley way, only minutes after he had given me the cold shoulder; I hated her because she cheered enthusiastically at soccer games and insisted on going to school conferences.

Through the distorted lens of jealousy and insecurity, I saw her as a manipulative person who was trying to steal my kids away. It was especially hard at first, during their honeymoon period. She was working hard to make things work. They were going on outings, having family game nights and generally having lots of fun.

 

They bought a new home and were busy settling in. They were excited and happy. When I would pick up the boys, I couldn't help but feel like I had dropped in on the stepfamily version of the Cleavers.

But honeymoons can only last so long. It was when theirs ended that some drops of compassion started to seep into my bitter heart.

My younger son, approaching adolescence, started being disrespectful to the woman in my seat. I remembered how my older son acted at that age. According to the stories, she was handling the situation with my younger son the same way I handled it with my older son, i.e. very poorly.

My heart ached for her for a moment. Having been through adolescence with one son, I had learned better ways to deal with it. Not having children of her own, she was as helpless as I had been the first time. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

My frozen heart started to thaw slightly, but for the most part I kept my heels dug in. One day I was complaining to a friend about her. My friend shook her head and said, "Have a little pity for her. I wouldn't want you to be the mother of my stepchildren. You're a hard act to follow." Hearing those words made the world feel as though it had been out of focus and was suddenly becoming clear.

What was it like to be her? What was it like to walk into an existing family and make a place for yourself? What would it be like to establish yourself with children who already have a mother, that they love?

Finally, it started dawning on me that she wasn't in an easy position. If I felt threatened, how could she possibly feel? What could it possibly be like to mother two children who would never be hers?

Standing at the curb the day they left, I looked into the face of the woman in my seat. She looked different to me now. Not the devious Cruella DeVille I once imagined her to be. She was a woman, like me, struggling to make a happy life for herself.

She was a woman, like me, with strengths, weaknesses, successes and defeats. I reflected on our journey and knew that I'd come a long way. There was so much I had learned.

I learned that we are not in a competition. We can both have a relationship with the boys and the quality of one will not detract from the quality of the other. I don't have to compete for their love, as if there is a finite amount that will be split between us. In fact, I've learned that the more I accept and embrace her, the more my children will love me. Love creates love. 

This article was originally published at Mothering.com. Reprinted with permission.
 
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