We're happy to present this article by Jenna Korf from one of our favorite sites, YourTango.
When you marry a man who already has children, dealing with his ex-wife can be a real challenge. One woman asked me: "Why does my husband's ex-wife hate me? I've never done anything to her."
This woman, like thousands of other stepmoms, feels utterly perplexed by the level of pettiness and outright hostility her husband's ex-wife hurls her way. What's behind all of that animosity? Here are the most common reasons your husband's ex-wife might not think too fondly of you:
1. She doesn't hate you, she hates what you represent.
The failure of her marriage, the breakup of her family, the woman her ex-husband became a better man for, the fear that she might have ruined her child's life by not being able to make her marriage work.
2. She's afraid her kids will love you more than they love her.
An irrational fear, as the chances of that happening are basically nil, but a common fear nonetheless.
3. She perceives you as overstepping boundaries.
This could include you showing up at a parent-teacher conference, forcing the kids to call you "mom" (yes, that does actually happen), disciplining the kids, calling the children "mine," posting pictures of the kids on your Facebook page, trying to co-parent with her by responding to messages sent to your husband, etc.
4. She resents you participating in events she considers "mom" territory.
These might include: taking your stepdaughter to buy her first bra or get her first haircut; participating in any sort of cosmetic experience (hair color/new hair style/mani-pedi day); talking to her about the birds and the bees; painting her nails or coloring/cutting her hair the way you like it or similar to yours (even if your stepchild is a teen and she requests this, it could still push Mom's buttons).
The same goes for any other life milestone you know Mom will likely want to be there for.
5. She has unresolved grief about her divorce.
For a long time, she could just ignore the painful feelings that accompany divorce. She didn't really have to face it. She may even have remarried herself, but she never actually grieved the loss of her marriage and family. Enter you, the stepmom, and suddenly it's all real and it's right in her face.
6. You act as a mirror for her.
When she looks at your strengths, all she sees are her weaknesses. If she never thought she was a good business woman and you own your own business, that insecurity is magnified. Same could be said for your intelligence, physical appearance, age, housekeeping skills, creativity, fashion sense, how much her kids enjoy being around you and your happy marriage.
7. She perceives you as doing all the parenting while dad is "let off the hook."
Stepmoms often help their husbands out with tending to the children, household duties, and life in general. That's what a marriage is all about: partnership. You shuttle the kids back and forth to school or help with homework, you schedule appointments, etc. Often this has to do with gender roles, but all Mom sees is that at her house she's doing all the work while at yours, you're taking care of the kids and Dad "does nothing but go to work."
8. Now that you've come along, Dad is asking for more parenting time.
With your support, your husband may now see that he should exercise his visitation more or that he's now able to provide more stability for his kids. In turn, he requests more parenting time and/or parental input. You'd think this is a good thing, but this change in dynamic can feel threatening and/or scary for Mom. Not everyone likes change. It's easy for her to pinpoint your presence as being responsible for this.
9. She doesn't know you.
When Mom sends her kids off to stay with their dad, and this woman she doesn't even know (a.k.a. you) has full access to them, it can feel like she's being a bad parent. She doesn't automatically trust you just because Dad does. But, at the same time, she doesn't necessarily want to meet you. It's a no-win situation for all involved.
10. She sees her ex-husband being a different (better) man with you.
It's painful to see the man you think treated you so poorly, treating another women like a princess. She might think he's being a fraud, or she might think "Why wasn't I worthy of being treated like that?" She's possibly still grieving the loss of her marriage even though he's moved on. It's nearly impossible for her to have good feelings towards you when she's still processing — or in denial about — the loss of her life partner and family.
11. You actually did something worthy of her negative feelings.
Are you consciously or subconsciously trying to make her look like a bad mom? Do you try to prove to your husband that you're a better wife than she was? Are you trying to make your stepkids love you more than they love her? Do you try to show her up in any way? Do you want the school faculty, PTA or your neighborhood moms to think you're a better caretaker than she is? Take a look at your behavior and your motivations. Have the courage to honestly reflect on how you might contribute to the high-conflict dynamic that exists between you.
Jenna Korf is a Certified Stepfamily Coach. You can find her at StepmomHelp.com.
More juicy reads from YourTango: