You are here

In need of some advice to help with my wife which is a step mom.

Hardy13's picture

Hello all, 

I do not understand all the difficulties that are involved with being a step parent. But, my wife is experiencing all of these. So, I would like to ask some advice on some things to be able to help her. We have been together for almost 2 years and we got married a few months ago. Since then, we purchased a house together, so there are a few stressors in her life. Now, we are getting used it living under the same roof. More complex issues have arose.  

Fears from my wife: 

1) She is worried that she can never provide any 1st’s for me. I’ve already had a kid, I’ve been married, I’ve had the “first” Father’s Day, etc. Even though we purchased a home together which was a first for me, that’s all she feels she will be able to provide. She feels as if she has sacrificed a lot of monumental firsts when marrying me. Even though I told her that I will cherish every first her and I have if we conceive, I believe she is still worried that she will never get those moments. What can I do in this situation? 

2) I get my son every other week, so, he (7 years old) has not opened up to her. He is wonderful around her family, but for some reason he is holding back with her. This is making her feel not needed and it’s stressing her out to think that he doesn’t want her. If he gets hurt or needs me, he would prefer for me to be the one to attend to him rather than her. I want to prevent her from getting to the point of giving up. What can I do to help establish a bond between the two?

3) She is worried that if we have our own child, then my son will not accept it well. She is a afraid it’s going to cause more of a resentment towards her. She claims that kids with step siblings don’t really accept them as part of the family. I need to find a way to help her with this. 

 

I know now it is overwhelming to her, but I also know she isn’t the only one going through this. Please shed any advice you may have on these topics. I want to make sure her and I can live a happy life full of firsts, more children, and a lovely family home. 

Curious Georgetta's picture

That in no way marginalize other experiences   My first  child tells her siblings that we became parents for the first time when we held her.  This was true and we could never have that first time parent feeling again.  My second child says that he was the first child that we held with confidence. This was also true  - because we were so nervous and concerned about every little thing that it took a long time to learn to relax. With the second child, we had a we have got this attitude and were very relaxed and confident  The youngest knows that she was special because she was going to be the last and we held her knowing that we had to cherish that baby moment because it was going to never by  happen again.

Each experience is special because of the uniqueness of that moment.

You do not go to a used car lot and expect to get a brand new car. The same is with a spouse. If you go to the used parent lot, it is unrealistic to them  be upset because you do not get the first spouse experience.

The experience ,however, is only marginalized if you make it so. You can look at it the way that my kids look at their place in the queue - each place is unique and special in its own way.

 

 

 

 

ldvilen's picture

My advice is to love her and treat her like the wife she is.  And remember, she is your wife and not your ex-.  Personally, #1 never bothered me.  I never even thought about it that much, until I read it here, someone thinking or saying such.  But, every SP is different.  I feel like my DH and I have had all sorts of firsts, so to speak.  But, yeah, she's not going to be the first wife or your first kid or be around for your first father's day.  Nothing can be done about that.  Make your own new firsts.

Regarding trying to esbatlish a bond between the two, remember you cannot force anything on either end.  There are things you can do (just google "how to bond with step child" or similar) to try to make both of them feel more at ease, but they may never really bond in the way you, SM or child wants.  You don't know what is going on at BM's home, and it is not uncommon for SKs to feel conflicted loyalties over bonding with anyone other than mom.  I'm not sure what you or your wife means by "giving up," but what may work today, may not work tomorrow, especially as SKs age.  What is important is that you set the role model for your child, and treat your wife as your wife and your wife with respect, and don't put her in the middle.  This is your child.  If anyone gets put in the middle, it is you.

Regarding #3, this can be true.  There are some step-siblings who get along like bother and sister and others who don't want to have anything to do with each other and have nothing but resentment going on between them.  The answer to this is much like #2, where you have to set the example for your child.  But, at the end of the day, it will be the siblings who will ultimately decide how they get along.  You'll probably wind up hearing accusations of unfair trmt. from both sides.  Whatever you do, do not try to make it a competition among step-siblings or among your child and your wife.

Again, you do not know what is going on at BM's home with your child, and there is really no way you can.  You and BM are divorced.  All you can control is what goes on in your home.  Set the example, and try to create a welcoming environment for all.  You know your kid, and hopefully you know your wife, so you are the one who needs to go out of his way to smooth things over as much as you can. 

Old sm's picture

Kudos to you for trying to help your wife.  Wish my husband had the same attitude.

Regarding #1, I can relate. I've always been a little disappointed that I wasn't DH's first wife; had his first child.  But, I also realized that that was something I was just going to have to live with if I married him. When it bothered me the most was when my DH would say something like " when SD was a baby, I did ........" or "when I was married to BM, we had to do........".  I didn't need reminders that he was married to someone else and had a child with someone else; I had a living, breathing daily reminder in my home all the time that reminded me that someone was there before me.  So, I'd advise avoiding statements like that.  Instead, maybe you can say something to your wife to the effect of "You know, honey, I always wanted to do ......... but never had the chance. Let's do it together" and make something special out doing something first with her.

Regarding #2, your son may never really want your wife to help him and always come only to you. Your job is to make sure you and wife are a team in front of him and that one doesn't come without the other.  For example; if your son wants to go to the park, you have to say that you have to consult with your wife first; let her say yes and be the good guy here. Emphasize to your son that you respect her and her role in the family.  He may never love her but he will learn to respect her through you.

Regarding #3, it is alot like the answer to #2. If you have more children, you treat them all the same; you punish them all the same even if your son is visiting for just a couple of days.  Alot of resentment develops between stepsiblings because the visiting child gets special privileges and treatment.   The biological parent doesn't want to upset the child that visits only twice a month and you end up creating a Disney dad and manipulative kid.

  And consult your wife and respect her opinions.  Put your marriage first.  I cannot emphasize that enough.  

icanteven's picture

Wow good point on those little reminders, and avoiding them. There's a road I won't drive down in our city because every time I do, my husband says, "Look, it's where [stepson] was born!" the second the hospital comes into view. Then he tells us the whole story of his ex-wife's stupid dramatic c-section, and my mind goes to this place where I think, "if only they had both died on the table and I didn't have to hear this story all the time while dealing with the poorly behaved result of it..." I'm not the kind of person who likes to think things like that, but Every Time we go down that road I have to hear about his ex-wife's c-section. I can't handle it. 

Yesterday we were shopping for me at a large department store and he went and instinctively grabbed me something from Petites. I'm 6" taller than his ex. I wear standard sizes, and sometimes those are too short. He laughed and said, "Oh, I guess [ex] liked shopping more than you do, and I've been here with her hundreds of times. Old habits, you know?" Ok but you just grabbed your 5'10" wife a petite size because your ex wears petites. Stop. I seriously wanted to leave but the manager was really nice and helped me pick out some things, so I got past it.

My life is full of moments like this. This is what is to be avoided by good husbands.

Melissa29's picture

You made a good point about being a team with your spouse. Kids need to see their parent have a united front even If one of them is a step parent.

I wish this would happen more often with my own husband.  

icanteven's picture

This post is wonderful! You are listening to your wife and trying to make things good for her, and that's something I wish I had. Many of us do. So you're already doing a good job just by thinking these things.

As for firsts, I think it helps if you acknowledge the firsts that you two have and really say how much you like experiencing those things with her. It can be anything. You bought a house together. Maybe you will travel somewhere new together. Maybe you will eat some type of food for the first time. Maybe you will take up mixed doubles tennis. Anything can be a first that you love having with her, and if you show her that you value these, I think it will help. 

Just don't do what my husband does. We were walking through Paris and he pointed out to me every place his ex did something stupid last time he was there. He thought he was sharing funny stories with me but all he was doing was reminding me a dozen times a day that he'd done all this and more with her before. I try to diffuse those situations by reminding him of our firsts, like I'll say something crazy like, "remember the time you married some tall girl in a green jumpsuit (me)?" just to try to get the focus back on us, but he doesn't usually get the hint. So as long as you don't do this, you're mostly doing well already.

As for the kid, a bond will develop or it won't, but just let things develop on their own and don't push it. My husband tried to push me and his son together and it made things a lot worse. The kid and I can't stand each other. I don't know what would have happened if he'd left us to our own, but it probably would have been better. These things take time. Some books say it can take 7 years until a blended family feels like a family. As long as everyone is civil and mostly ok with each other, just giving it time might work. 

lorlors's picture

1. Give your wife plenty of space away from the stepchild. Steplife can be a pressure cooker for the step parent.

2. Don't be your ex's little b1tch. Just don't. Have clearly established boundaries and only communicate with her as absolutely necessary.

3. Don't expect your wife to love your child, she probably won't.

4. Discipline your child as necessary and don't succumb to the guilty daddy syndrome. It helps no one.

5. Get your child to do age appropriate chores such as taking the bins out, making his bed, emptying the dishwasher etc.

Hardy13's picture

I appreciate you all responding positvely. My son's mother and I are civil when it comes to my son. She even tries to help him with ideas for him to be closer to my wife. Her and I have been seperated for almost 5 years now, so it is what he is used to. 

Around the house, I show her as much love as I can and I always find ways to support her. I do not think she is crazy for thinking any of these things. I am sure most step parents feel the same way. 

My biggest concern is losing the love and passion she has for me due to her stressors. Therefore, I am trying to find ways to combat the issues before they get even larger. 

I purchased some books to help me be a better father and not be a DISNEY dad. So, with more established guidelines, I have hoping to establish a good healthy baseline for everyone. 

ProbablyAlreadyInsane's picture

1) That's a super real fear a lot of us experience. For me it's not the "firsts" that get frustrating... It's the memories that are scary. The fact that it feels like anything I do is going to be tainted with old memories. Me having our first together in the hospital will be tainted by the fact she gave birth before I did, etc. It's not a pleasant feeling. The best way to help with that is avoid making any comparisons. When she's trying to do something, don't pull the "well this is how it was before." Your experience, while it may help you and sometimes be welcome, can also make her feel a bit overshadowed in her own life and home. It's not the firsts that are scary, it's feeling like these other memories will over-shadow and taint any that you create together. Just keep reassuring her and show her how excited you are about everything you two do together.

2) You can't force that kind of relationship from either side or-else they'll both grow to hate each other. Give her time with him, but also give her time away from him to function as an individual. A lot of stepparents seem to lose themselves a bit attempting to please everyone and bond... But a bond can't be forced.Best thing you can do for her, uphold a high standard that your ss is going to respect her as an adult figure, then let anything else happen naturally and by both of their choices.

3) That is a VERY real fear. What ifs can be terrifying. And as a parent you want your child to be comfortable in their own home. Make sure your son is being respectful, following house rules, etc and that will help. In no way will it completley vanish, but if you're showing her that you expect him to follow rules and that you stand up for that and for her, it will help.

Good luck! Maybe considering sending her here so she has an outlet too. I know it's been a godsend for a lot of us (me included, hardcore) and stepparents often need a place to vent and sort throught he conflicting and strong emotions that come with being a stepparent.

In the meantime stand up for her. Remember she is your first priority and your son is your first responsibility. She is your wife. Also limit communication with BM unless necesarry, NOTHING hurts a Stepparent as bad as their spouse being TOO friendly with the ex and overstepping boundaries that they expect to be there (this varies by person, it's not uniform whatsoever)

marblefawn's picture

I was not my husband's first anything. He was always very clear, though, that his first marriage was so awful, he felt he had a wonderful first chance at happiness when we married.

My husband doesn't often talk about his first marriage or wife. But when he does, it's only negative. Sometimes he'll say how nice it is to come home from work to me and our dog and our house and our life. This makes me feel really good because it's unsaid that this was not what he had before so I feel no competition. So say it -- remind her how happy you are with her, even when it might not be easy to say right now because she's going through this.

I have no advice on the kid -- my SD hates me and always has. But she never lived with us and was an adult when we married. But one thing I always read here is how misunderstood and taken for granted this hands on SMs feel toward their spouse and skids. So say it -- tell her you're grateful for what she's doing and you're sorry the payback from your son hasn't happened yet. Tell her you hope she'll hang in there because you're so happy with her.

Men aren't as verbal as women, so remind yourself to acknowledge what she's struggling with. Tell her how happy she makes you. Ask her if there's anything she needs from you (my husband does this all the time and it works to make me feel not so alone and stranded in step hell).

Lastly, whatever made you two decide to marry in the first place -- great vacations, golfing, concerts -- make a point to keep doing them. Take time away from your son to do this stuff. Let her remember why she married you in the first place and do those things again so she knows you're still the same person even if the situation has changed.

Evil3's picture

My DH was great for making me feel special for my firsts, but his seconds. When I was pregnant, I had my SKs talking about when their mother was pregnant. My DH was really good about not bringing up his previous experiences with pregnancy. In fact, he said it was like his first, because I'm an athlete and the way I was handling my pregnancy was way different from BM, so it was a first for him. My DH was also really good about reminding me that I'm the one he's married to. I'm the one with whom he's having a successful marriage. In time, I beat BM in duration of my marriage. She and SD cranked up the territorial crap quite a few notches, because if BM couldn't last beyond 8 years with my DH, then neither should I. It didn't work. My DH saw it for what it was and we got through it. It's been 22 years and I have way more history with DH than BM ever did. That alone has put in in the position of Queen.

My DH also said something that was very cathartic for me when I had the same concerns as your wife. He said that I'm a very different person from his ex and that because of that, he is experiencing everything with me for the first time. When our DD was born, it was his first time having a child with ME. I'm sure it's bullsh*t, but I'll take it. LOL! My DH said that our marriage is the first healthy relationship he has ever had. He also announced in front of the SKs even, that he has a trust in me that he's never had with anyone else. If you make announcements like that, I guarantee that not only will your DW feel great, but you'll get lucky. LOL!

My DH would mention things that I do that makes me an amazing wife. Maybe recognize some things your DW does that you appreciate. It'll help her feel special and she won't worry about her value to you, which is where the concerns about being memorable firsts comes from. Also, my DH would remind me that I'm his last and longest.

Oh, and try to encourage your DW to sign on here. When she sees that you cared enough to post your questions, she'll love it. Also, I had my DD and was very worried about her being left out because of my SS and SD being full siblings. The minute my DD was born, she had both of her siblings wrapped around her finger. In fact, I have to come to their aid, because they let her walk all over them. There is no talk about "half" siblings at all. My DD is their sibling. My SS even ran between DD and I and what we thought was a home invader. SS was willing to fight to protect his little sister. My SD and DD are sisters and there's something about that sister bond. DD and SD are closer as siblings than SD and SS are even though SS and SD are only two years apart and SD and DD are 11 years apart. SD and DD have even battled against BM and I to protect one another. I think the sister bond is even stronger than the mother/daughter bond. So, I wouldn't worry about the sibling bond if I were your wife and if she joins here, there are some of us SMs with bios who can reassure her. Also, you can reassure her that you will not favour your SS over your next child. I was worried about that too, but it didn't happen. Sure, my DH and I raised our DD differently, but that was due to my insistence that my DD not be raised as an entitled, arrogant cow due to coddling and Disney parenting. It wasn't because of my DH loving our DD less. Your DW has every right to raise her baby as she sees fit and she has equal say, so she may very well have her own ideas about how your baby is raised.

Iamwoman's picture

Ok:

1. Make sure you act just as elated as her with all of the “firsts.” Be sure to tell her that the firsts with her are much more special and meaningful to you because they are being done right as opposed to the crap you had to tolerate with your son’s BM (don’t let your son hear these things).

2. Never, ever parent your son through “guilt goggles.” Make sure he follows the house rules and ALWAYS ensure that he respects your wife, ALWAYS. Eventually when your son realizes he is a child and doesn’t get to choose every adult authority figure in his life, he will relax and accept her.

3. You must refer to any new child you and your wife bring into this family as your son’s brother in his presence. If he becomes belligérant over this matter, he can go spend time in his room alone, because you must make it very clear to your son that you are not going to have a divided family. It sounds like BM is PASing him, so you will most likely need to be forceful with this issue for many years until your son decides it’s just not worth the fight anymore. Be sure to include your son in events just as if they are actually biological siblings. No one gets to feel left out.

 

Thank you for saving your marriage preemptively before these issues spiral out of control. You are a rarity as you can probably see here on this site!