3 Tips For LeAnn Rimes & Brandi Glanville

3 Tips For LeAnn Rimes & Brandi Glanville [EXPERT]
Family, Heartbreak

Leann Rimes is making headlines again. This weekend, she and Brandi Glanville engaged in a Twitter war, which begs the question: Why can't mothers and stepmothers get along?

Here are three suggestions to make the inherently tense stepfamily dynamic work better for the sake of your kids:

1. Remind yourself again and again that you are a grownup. Grownups interact with those they need to deal with in a respectful business-like way independent of whether they like them or not. So whatever the other woman does, it's up to you to mind your manners. 

A generally reliable test for which behaviors are grownup behaviors is whether they pass the okay-in-the-business-world test. If what you are about to do would not fly at the office, do not do it in your interactions with the other woman in your husband's life. Would you act that way with your banker? With work colleagues?

Emotionality and meanness are both out of bounds in the business world, the world of grownup interactions. Talking in an irritated, angry or excessively emotional voice does not fly. Nor would sarcastic, critical or constantly complaining attitudes. Talking disrespectfully about the other to a third party (worst of all, to the kids) also would be out of bounds.

2. Remind yourself that changing the other woman is not your job. Punishing her is not your job either. Interacting in a respectful way, a way that enhances your own self-respect, is your job.

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This principle means that your job is to look at what you yourself can do differently to improve the situation. It is not to keep ruminating about what she, the other woman, should do differently. 

Your assessment of what the other woman should do differently may have been perfectly correct. The problem is that you need to use your brain power to figure out how to fix your behavior, not hers. Focusing on what the other woman needs to change will just needlessly increase your levels of stress and upset.

So instead of wasting your energies on trying to get her to change, focus exclusively at what you yourself can do differently. Hopefully you then will be able to figure out how to deal with the tough situation more effectively.

3. Remind yourself that your job is to do what is best for the children. Fighting with the children's other mom creates needless tensions for the kids. Allowing them to have a positive relationship with both of you is what they need. 

How can you get over a narcissistic obsession with how to isolate The Man from the other woman? That's the right question. Competing over who gets how much time, who is more lovable or to get back at your husband/ex for having or having had another woman in his life is totally out of bounds and will only sustain your distress. 

The bottom line is that a mother and a stepmother have to share. Sharing time with the kids is a given. Sharing a connection with the same man, one of you as wife and the other as former wife and co-parent, is a given. 

So if you are the mom, you will be best off accepting the reality that your man has moved on to a new marriage. Your kids now have a second female who will be a part of the caretaking team. It will only hurt you and your children to keep fighting this reality.  You’re better off joining it.

If you are the stepmom you need to accept that your husband's former wife will be an on-going part of the family social system. As my own mother used to say, "A woman never marries just a man; she marries a family." Accepting that the on-going presence of the children's mother in your new family unit is a fact on the ground. You can negotiate how often and where and how, but her presence in some fashion is a given. Making the best of this reality will be to everyone's benefit, yours included. 

What about the man's role?

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Hubby, listen up. Your role counts a lot. If you interact reasonably with both women, that can hugely help. If you are not listening to your new wife's concerns, or if you are unwilling to stand up appropriately to your former wife, you are being a big part of the problem.

To get to a better place, brainstorm together with your current wife, who is your teammate now, what each of you can do differently. What can each of you do to assure that both of you will both consistently sustain a calm businesslike manner in all your dealings with your children's mother? Note especially if you have had a history of submissive behavior to avoid her getting angry. This strategy may need to be replaced with more assertive standing up.

In any dispute, the role of third parties, in this case, the husband, can make all the difference. It's you the women are basically fighting over. So become an expert in win-win problem-solving. Then take the women’s tendencies to go to war as an opportunity to solidify your new marriage partnership and at the same time to soothe, or at least stand up to, your old.  

If at least two of the three players in a step-family situation are doing their part, the odds zoom upward that everyone will calm down.

Susan Heitler, Ph.D. is a Denver psychologist who specializes in couples counseling. Her book for couples, The Power of Two, is now available as a fun interactive online workshop at PowerOfTwoMarriage.com.

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