When you become a step mum, you don't just take on the kids, you take on your partners whole past, including the ex.
Some stepmums may get lucky and the ex may stay in the background, be respectful to the step mum and not interfere in the new relationship. While others may feel their life has been completely taken over by their new partners past. They may feel second best or even third wheel in the relationship. It can make even the sanest woman become an emotional mess!
There are lots of a reasons a stepmum may struggle with their partners past. The ex may still have a control of your partner, emotionally, physically and financially and this can be really hard for the stepmum to accept.
When you meet someone new, you never think that their past could have that much of a BIG effect on the present.
One of the things I hear most when I am coaching stepmums is that they feel second best to the ex. They feel that their partner puts their previous relationship before their current one. This can bring up jealousy issues, resentment and insecurities, all of which is very natural.
It takes a really strong woman not to be bothered by any of the stressors that come along with being a stepmum.
If you are struggling as a stepmum, start by working on yourself first of all, rather than trying to change anything external.
OUR PAIN CAN SOMETIMES COME FROM TRYING TO CHANGE OTHERS, WHEN REALLY WE NEED TO CHANGE OURSELVES FIRST.
Here are my top tips for helping you to not feel second best to your partners ex.
1) CREATE BOUNDARIES WITH THE EX
Instead of trying to change too much at once, begin to take baby steps in creating boundaries with the ex.
A lot of resentment and insecurity comes when the ex begins to creep into your own home.
Remember your home is your home, and the ex's home is her home. It is okay for there to be a divide and it is okay to want your privacy and emotional space. Not every stepfamily blends together magically. A lot of families feel having a divide actually creates more peace and harmony.
Look at what is causing you stress right now, and pick ONE THING that you need to set an emotional or physical boundary in, so that you feel the ex is not interfering in your life.
Some ideas could be:
2) REMEMBER THE EX IS AN EX FOR A REASON
I know there are a lot of stepmums who worry their partner is going to get back with their ex. And I completely understand how you feel, as I was also that stepmum in the early years!
The important thing to remember is that no one breaks a relationship or marriage up when there are kids involved, unless there is a real reason to. It can be hard enough to end a relationship as it is, without having to separate finances, arrange custody schedules and have to give up having your kids full time.
That isn't a decision that most people would take lightly. I feel most couples would have really tried to make a relationship work when there are kids involved, before trying to end it.
I doubt it was love keeping them together, it is more likely that that they didn't want to hurt their children or it would be complicated to break things apart.
I know this is really simple, but sometimes you just need a reminder.
3) YOU ARE PROBABLY COMPARING YOURSELF TO A PERSON THAT DOESN'T EXIST
In most cases, you don't really know the ex that well.
You may think you know her from what your husband or stepchildren say about her. But you don't know every single part of her. You don't know her how her best friend knows her, or how her parents know her.
WHAT PART OF HER ARE YOU COMPARING YOURSELF TO?
You may be comparing yourself to a person you have created in your mind.
You weren't there in the previous relationship. You don't really know the happy or sad times.
There really is no point comparing yourself to someone you only think you know.
Remember, a thousand versions of you exist in the mind of everyone who knows you. Everyone sees you (and everyone else) in a completely different way to one another.
Instead of focusing on her, focus on you. You only have so much time and energy every day, so use it wisely. Decide where you want to focus your thoughts, and if it is causing you stress or pain, recognise that and focus your thoughts elsewhere.
4) ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP
Again, this may be really obvious but in a healthy relationship it is OK to ask for what you need, and having your feelings acknowledged.
I know in the early days I thought I was always going to come behind everyone else. I didn't know and feel that I deserved to be also made a priority. If you don't feel a priority, of course you are going to be unhappy and resentful as a stepmum.
I have found it is about compromise and knowing that at different points and times in life, different members of the stepfamily will be made a priority.
We should never be made to feel scared or ashamed for speaking up for what is important to us. We will only be left feeling resentful if we feel our needs are pushed aside, or not made to feel as important as the ex.
Here are some tips for asking for what you need as a stepmum:
5) THE ONLY PERSON WHO CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE IS YOU
If you are feeling second best, the only person who can change that is you.
You will either need to change something emotionally or physically so that you feel more important in your family.
If you want to feel more secure, have a happier marriage or stop wasting your precious time and energy on the ex, the only person who can change that is you.
Sometimes we think the power is with the ex, but that is because we have given her our power.
Sometimes we think we are second best, but if we keep thinking that, our actions will align with feeling second best.
It all starts with wanting to change, and knowing you are capable of that. You are in control of how you think, and you are the only person in control of your thoughts.
From today, you CAN decide to feel and think that you are a priority and really feel it inside, and then see how your actions begin to change from that feeling of deeply knowing that you are not second best to anyone in life.
Remember to believe in yourself, love yourself, know your worth and go after the life you deserve.
Remember you are completely worthy and loved as a human being, and stepmum.
When you love yourself truly, you create space for others to love you too.