When I began dating a man with a cute, round-headed toddler, my concern was not that he already had a child. I didn’t mind that many of our dates consisted of taking his son to the park or shopping for new shoes. Part of the attraction was the fact that he was such a loving, involved father. “It’s not the child you should be worried about,” my mother told me soon after we began dating. “It’s the child’s mother.”
Never have more prophetic words been spoken.
What should have been a very blissful first five years of marriage turned into this ugly, unwanted menage à trois. Suddenly, I had a person in my life who tried to dictate how our weekends and holidays were to be spent, where we should direct our finances—she even told us where we had to shop when buying clothes for her son. Court battles, domestic disputes, a sheriff’s deputy standing at our door—I could go on but I won’t. Just thinking about it makes my stomach churn. But over the years, I’ve found ways to cope that doesn’t include prescription drugs, a mental asylum or the women’s prison.
Read Related: How to Co-Parent After Divorce
If you think this story is going to end with us holding hands and realizing we have to do what’s best for the child involved, all while humming kumbaya—nope, not going to happen. However, I will offer a few tips on what to do when your spouse’s ex tries to interfere with your life. I’ve been married for 15 years and my stepson is now 18. I know some things.
DON’T ENGAGE HER
My husband’s ex would call and leave rude messages. She would text me, email me, and threaten me. She openly badmouthed me to both my husband and my stepson. She would sit in the driveway and honk—all in the guise of wanting to discuss “her son.” I realized that having little to no contact with her was the key to my sanity.
TRY TO PUT YOURSELF IN HER SHOES
What is her problem? Is she jealous? Is she sick? Is she bipolar? Is she on drugs? All of the above? Recognizing that this woman may have “issues,” that she may have some legitimate gripes with your husband—her ex—may make it easier for you to handle her venom. Either that, or accept that she really is in need of psychological help, and there’s nothing you can do to change that. She is suffering more than you.
ACCEPT THAT SHE’S NOT GOING AWAY
I knew that once I married my husband, his son and his son’s mother were part of the package. I tried my best to support my husband by encouraging him to maintain his relationship with his son, despite the evil ex. Sure, there have been times when I wanted to throw my hands up in frustration and cry, Why on Earth did you ever impregnate that woman? It´s your fault we’re dealing with this! But I don’t. I do, however, give him his space to deal with the situation.
DON’T TRASH THE EX TO HER CHILD
Even if you’d rather watch a horde of angry red ants crawl all over her, remind your stepchild that his mother loves him. I saw it as an opportunity to build up my husband and honor him by loving his child, even if I wasn’t his biological mother. The relationship I gained with my stepson, who realized I wasn’t going to slam his mother, was all worth it.
LET YOUR HUSBAND DEAL WITH IT
Ultimately, this is your husband’s responsibility. I’m not saying dust your hands off and act as if it’s none of your concern. It is—this is your life together. But at the end of the day, your husband has to grow a backbone and deal with the woman he chose to have a child with. He has to be the one to set and maintain the boundaries, and keep his new wife and his child or children out of the crossfire.