Like most women that are falling in love, I was hopeful and anxious when my Future Husband and I began dating. He is an astonishing man! He’s tall, dark and very handsome. He is kind and gentle. He has rock hard abs! He is also a Father. The latter was a tough fact for me to digest initially because I had heard the horror stories that come along with dating men with children. I would often see those crazy baby mama/daddy drama videos on Facebook and thank my lucky stars that this was not my life! “Poor suckers!” I would think.
Little did I know, I’d soon become that very same poor sucker.
When we entered the definition stage of our courtship, I began to ask him more questions about his Co-Parent. He was always so proud to gush about his kids but he rarely spoke about their “other” parent. Occasionally he would offer a disgruntled tidbit about a recent annoyance and antic, but he always said, “I want you protect you from all of that.” I let him lead. I now know he was doing the best could considering the transitions that were happening in his life. I do not think most men are properly equipped to deal with divorce, abuse, and alienation all at once. Methods for properly coping with the death of a family unit are not something we learn in school. In fact, when life hits us hard, most of us are just winging it. My Husband was trying to navigate being a divorcing Dad with a Co-Parent that boasted about her mission to make his life a living hell. For the first 7 or 8 months of our relationship, I was completely shielded from the D-R-A-M-A.
Like many of you, I recall the exact day that the course of our relationship changed. I went from his oblivious girlfriend to being completely inundated with the nuances of his broken family. They were beyond broken, in fact. Divorce represents a death of an original family unit and this one was on life support. I hesitate to use the word life, because they were only considered alive as the final decree of divorce had not yet been signed by the judge. There was no home, no love, no loyalty left. It had died years before my Husband and I even knew of one another’s existence. As luck would have it, I had the misfortune of experiencing the fallout from a situation that I had NO hand in creating NOR destroying.
When I arrived in “CrazyTown,” I remember talking to anyone in my circle that would listen. In fact, I’d talk to complete strangers. I joined online forums, I ordered books, I read articles (like the one you’re reading now). I was so desperate for help and reassurance. I needed support. Fortunately, no one in my circle had experienced high conflict-divorce or a “Crazy” of their very own; however, this meant I was totally isolated. My parents and my Husband’s parents are still married. My one girlfriend that was divorcing after 10 years would invite her soon-to-be Ex Husband and his new boo over for game night! Needless, to say, she could not provide me with insight on the perspective of my Husband’s ex. I’d tell my divorcing girlfriend about the antics, and she’d say, “I got nothin’. I don’t know what to tell you”.
Everyone was so patient with me and they TRIED to give me good advice. Although, I did have one girlfriend that stopped talking to me because she got overwhelmed with the “negativity I was always telling her about.” The one thing that even the most well-meaning friends would end every anecdote with is, “You chose this when you decided to date a man with kids.”
I did not CHOOSE to be disrespected, isolated, stalked, harassed, name-called, picked apart, unfairly judged, threatened, and everything I was experiencing because I chose to love a man that had scorned a woman and/or that had been scorned (depending on who is telling the story LOL). I voluntarily signed up for happiness, peace, love, companionship with my boyfriend. All that other crap, that was waste from his failed marriage. My partner chose not to use our new relationship as a dumping ground for the old waste. BUT waste has to go somewhere. In a landfill, it could be burned, perhaps. Some choose to recycle. But some people allow waste to stink up their world day in and day out. It begins to fester and rot and its putrid stench grabs hold of all within it’s range. It took a while, but we both adapted a few extremely effective tactics to shield ourselves and our relationship from catching a whiff.
When my overprotective loved ones told me I signed up for this, they were essentially telling me that I needed to accept my position as a Waste Management Worker. While every person comes with baggage, you never expect that in order to love them, you have to tolerate abuse. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TOLERATE ABUSE from his family in order to love your Man. While your well-meaning friends are only trying to help, I suggest you find yourself a circle that has walked a mile in your moccasins. Out of my own search for support, I created a super engaged Facebook Support Group for people like us. You’re more than welcome to join.
The road to becoming a Stepmom begins with acceptance. You surely will need to accept that your partner is a parent (not with you though). But you also must accept that your family system is not traditional. There are extra people that you had no plans of being around and they surely did not plan on you joining the party. For your Man’s ex and kids, you may always be the uninvited guest! They may never offer you a seat at the table. But who knows? They may come around and yours could be one big, happily blended bunch! Whatever you do, accept the reality of your circumstance as it stands TODAY, not yesterday, and certainly NOT tomorrow. Meet your blended clan where they are. Do not force yourself in the lives of people that are still mourning their former life, and most importantly, stand firm in support of your Man! I am firmly reminding you that you CHOSE to be happy. Now go and command your happiness!
Your Fave Blending Guru,