It doesn't have to be a war!
A little over eighteen years ago, I met the Psycho Bitch from Hell! Seriously. I know this to be true because that's how she introduced herself to me. It was the first time I met my then boyfriend's (now husband's) soon-to-be ex wife. I guess I should have taken that as an omen of the tough times ahead. But, hindsight is twenty-twenty, and I have to admit that staying with this man has been well worth the pain this woman attempted to inflict in our relationship over the years.
How do you react to an introduction like that? I'd like to say that I took the high ground and we were able to achieve an understanding and civility, but that would be a lie. Over the years I've made numerous efforts to get along with her and have reached out multiple times in an effort to make things easier for everyone concerned, in particular my stepdaughter. However, I can't say that I never reacted badly to the things she would say and do.
I can also say that every time I did so, I quickly came to regret it. I regretted it because of how it negatively impacted my stepdaughter and our relationship, and to a lesser extent how it impacted my husband (he would invariably get one of those long complaining calls about what a bitch I was and how he was going to lose his daughter forever because of me). But mostly, I regret it because of how it brought this woman into my life.
Every time I would dwell on the mean, spiteful or hurtful things that she would do or say, I was inviting her into my life. I was giving her power over my happiness, my relationship with my stepdaughter and my relationship with my husband—something I never wanted. After all, I was never married to her!
What I did learn was that the best thing for me to do was to let it go. Nothing I, or anyone else, could say or do could ever change her behavior. She was the only person controlling her behavior. If she didn't want to change, she wouldn't. I could never know what she was thinking or feeling, or what internal struggles prompted behavior that I didn't understand or agree with, which was something I wish I had realized much sooner.
I'd like to share some of the lessons I learned about dealing with his ex:
- Don't get involved in your husband and his ex's spats—she's his ex, not yours
- Don't take anything they say about you personally—it's not about you
- Don't take on a parenting role—support your husband in his parenting, but always remember these are not your children
- Don't put down your husband's ex in front of his children (this is one thing I can honestly say I never intentionally did)
- Don't stoop to their level—as difficult as it may be, we all have a choice to either react, or not
- Do be a friend and source of support to your stepchildren
- Do provide your husband with moral support and love
Finally, if your husband's ex isn't a Psycho Bitch from Hell, and I know many of them aren't, thank your lucky stars!
For More On Relationships From YourTango:
- Why Men Are More Distant Than Women In Relationships
- A New Twist On The 80/20 Rule For Relationships
- Find A Relationship Expert