One of the most common sources of conflict in step-families is the ex-spouse. An ex-wife, ex-husband, ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend always make the blood of a step-parent boil and their hearts bpm go from 62 to 162. For starters the thought that your partner would have chosen that ex and you in the same lifetime is unfathomable because you are just waaaaaaaaaaaay to different right? Yet here you are now in a situation where you are in each others lives whether you like it or not. No one really has a choice here simply because some DNA combined and formed tiny little humans and that is a lifetime connection. Step-moms are especially most affected by this. Simply because they are up against ‘mom’. No one goes head to head against ‘mom’ and expects to win. Mom has trophies and mugs declaring she is the best in the world, she is thanked daily and is told just how much she means. Heck! there is a whole day every year dedicated just to her and all the wonderful things she has done in her children’s lives and in turn her country and the world. Songs have been sung for and about her. For step-moms who make it happen for their stepchildren day in day out with little or no recognition at all this can be a bit too much to bear especially if mom isn’t all that and a bag of chips in the parenting department.
Meet your ex-in-law. The only reason I call them in-law is because just like your in-laws they are a part of your family whether you like it or not, whether you love them or not. I can already see you cringing at the thought. I also struggled with it but honestly speaking, they are not going anywhere especially if they are actively involved in their children’s lives. As a step-parent the sooner you accept this the better for you. Its the first step towards the having healthy relationships with all those in your step-family.
Having an ex-in-law presents quite a number of challenges for the step-parent. In this 3 part article I will take you through the most common challenges and sources of conflict and how you can overcome them. So lets have a look at the common complaints
This is the number one complaint for stepparents and more so step-moms. Basically this is the bio parent speaking ill of the step-parent in the presence of the children and vice versa. This is not healthy and all it does is create a rift in your family relations. A step-parent who badmouths a biological parent is setting themselves up for serious failure with regard to their relationship with the children. Essentially what they are doing is creating a loyalty competition from the children which a match lost before it even begins. Children will always side with mom and dad when they feel pressured to choose.
We all have opinions of the ex-in-law some good, some bad and some just down right ugly but there are other ways to sort out issues which are negatively affecting the family. Use these channels and leave the kids out of it.
Controlling through the children
Women have for a long time used their children to get what they wanted either for themselves or for their children. Not the best show of parenting skills but it happens. Am reminded of the story of Rebecca in the Bible and how she helped Jacob get the brothers inheritance by duping Isaac. Not cool…. not cool at all. Things are no different today. Some women use their children to get money to finance their lifestyles and push whatever agenda they want. They use their children to spy on the activities of the other home to see how they can sabotage or cash in on different situations. This creates a lot of mistrust and conflict in the step-family with the step-parents bearing the brunt of it all
Studies have shown that one of the leading causes of divorce and conflict in marriage is money. If you think its difficult in a family where you are all blood, try handling finances in a step-family. Its like playing minesweeper. One click and boom! major conflict. When you combine his, mine and ours babies needs in a budget then the fireworks really start to spark. Now if there is no structure for all players to adhere to then everyone is always fighting for what they think is right for them or their children, easily forgetting that they are a family.
Lifestyle differences and income disparities between the bio and step-parents homes is also a source of conflict and if not managed well will only make the family break apart.
Everyone is anxious about themselves. The step-mom feels like an outsider who is unappreciated for all her efforts and is sidelined, the step-dad feels like he not king in his castle. He makes it happen for his wife and her kids but none of them recognize this. Bio mom feels like her position is threatened and will be snatched from her while bio dad if not stressed by trying to make everything right for his wife and children, is threatened by the man who is raising his children. Every player has their own fears. As humans fear presents only one option of us. To fight. Get them before they get me, attack them before they attack me. This may sound like good advice by soldiers on a battle field but these words are worrying in a family setting and if acted upon will only spell doom for everyone.
So how do you deal with the challenges? Find out in part 2 of ‘Meet your ex-in-law’