In that moment, I knew I couldn’t say anything to make him understand. I could verbalize my emotions until I was blue in the face, but he just wasn’t going to make sense of my words. Exhausting myself trying to explain why I was struggling as a stepmom and needed my husband’s help was only hurting me. Of course he cared that I was upset, but he didn’t understand, and he certainly couldn’t empathize.
I love my husband. I love him more than I thought was possible. A quick glance in those gorgeous eyes or the slightest smile relieves me of stress and makes my heart skip a beat. He is my rock, my cheerleader, and my forever.
But some days he just doesn’t get it. He can’t comprehend what stepmom life is all about. He doesn’t understand what life looks like from my perspective or why sometimes I really struggle.
And I’m not alone. I posed the question, “What do you wish your partner knew or understood from your perspective?” to a group of stepmoms, and the response was astounding, boasting 15 common themes.
Though we all lead different lives in different places with different co-parenting dynamics, much of stepmom life carries the same notes. The themes are not mutually exclusive – nor are they all true for all stepmothers, but they are something partners should be mindful of.
15 Things Stepmom Wishes Her Partner Knew
1. I had no idea what I was signing up for.
I knew I was marrying a man that had a child, but I had no idea that would come with the indescribable pain of custody battles, the complex relationship with your ex-wife, and the intensified scrutiny of your family.
Honestly, it’s a really good thing I didn’t know then what I know now. It’s so much more than packing lunches, play dates, and family dinners.
2. The love I have for my birth children is different than the love I have for my stepchildren.
The love I have for all of my children (birth or step) is equal, but different. Though I’d take a bullet for any of my children, I find I’m more guarded with my stepchildren. They choose to love me and can choose to revoke that love at any time. I call it the invisible load the stepmom carries.
With my own children, I don’t have to guard my heart. I can be completely vulnerable with them because I’m their mother, and no one can tell them otherwise.
3. Some days I need a break, and that’s okay.
Mom life is exhausting, and sometimes I need to step away. I need me time, pamper/relaxation time, and time with my girlfriends.
My whole identity can’t be as a stepmom, so those days when I feel I’m really losing myself, I am going to have to step away for a little while, and I need that to be all right.
Not doing this sooner is easily one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made as a stepmom.
4. I can’t be the only parent. You have to enforce rules, too.
It’s really not fair when you expect me to be the only one to enforce rules, especially with my stepchildren. I need you to understand that I will always be fighting an uphill battle with your children since I’m not their mom, and they’re always going to respect you more than they respect me (even if just slightly more).
There’s a natural allegiance to you, and your enforcement of rules is critical to maintaining order in our house.
5. Your prior life controls my current life.
Our pasts aren’t the same. Anyone I dated before you is no longer in the picture. Your ex is very much in the picture.
In fact, I can’t choose to move away from here because we are required to stay close to your daughter’s mom. I can’t pack my family up and go on vacation this weekend since our schedule is dependent on your custody agreement.
I’m not complaining; I’ve learned to adjust. But I do need you to see how your prior life is controlling my life today.
6. I need your help.
There are many things I do around the house to keep our home running smoothly, and honestly, you probably don’t even notice half of them. Understand that I may make it look easy, but I could always use your help.
We both work really hard, and I understand when you’re home, you want to relax. But I enjoy relaxation too.
7. Some days I need a little extra love.
This stepmom gig is a lot more difficult than I anticipated. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but that doesn’t change my reality. Some days are going to be more difficult than others. Occasionally I’m going to need a little more patience, understanding, and love.
8. Honestly, it is your fault.
I don’t mean to sound unfair or petty, but you are the sole reason these additional complexities exist in our relationship. I wasn’t married before you, I don’t have a connection to another person that can influence our lives the way your child’s mom can.
You were married before me, and that relationship makes life for our family more complex (e.g., custody schedules, support payments). As a result, I do expect you to help me through some of my challenges since they were yours to begin with.
9. The entire world puts a ton of pressure on me.
You may not see it, but there’s a double standard put on stepmoms. We are held to an extremely high standard, and the second we screw up, someone is on our cases. The world looks for flaws in us more than they do biological parents.
10. Sometimes I think about what my life could have been like.
I love you, and I love your children. But if we’re being honest, sometimes I wonder what my life would have looked like if I hadn’t married a man with children from a previous marriage. Surely my life would be simpler, less stressful, perhaps easier…
11. When you don’t follow up or procrastinate communicating with your children’s mother, it makes it look like we don’t care.
The reason I nag you about following up with your children’s mother is because we need to look as invested and involved as we feel. However, when you procrastinate calling her or asking for details about events, it looks like an after thought instead of something we’re deeply interested in.
You don’t want anyone to ever question how much we love your children, and more intentional communication could help alleviate those concerns.
12. It really hurts to not feel like part of your family.
Your family isn’t as easily accepting of me as they were of your first wife. They’re guarded of you and your children, and that’s understandable! I’m sure it’s not through any fault of yours or mine, and I don’t believe they’re intentionally mean. And yet, it hurts to not be accepted, to not feel part of the family.
13. I gave up a lot to live this life with you.
Prior to our relationship, I was involved in so many activities for me. I was able to go to the gym everyday, dance classes, vacations, etc. Now, I’m attending softball practice, preparing dinner, and helping with homework.
I willingly chose this life, and I don’t want you to feel guilty. But I am asking that you be aware of what I have given up and supportive of those times when I choose to pursue my passions.
14. Boundaries matter.
It’s really important to me that we set and stick to boundaries with both your ex-wife and your parents.
Our life is really complex and complicated, and boundaries will help simplify that for us a little bit. We’re still trying to figure this blended family thing out in our own home. Once that’s figured out, we can better communicate beyond those boundaries.
15. I’m sorry, but you’re always going to be in the middle.
I know it doesn’t seem fair to you, but you’re always going to be in the middle. Your children’s mother is no longer married to you, and you are remarried. You will always be in the middle of your ex-wife and your wife.
As mentioned earlier, your child will always respect you just a little bit more than me; you will always be in the middle of your child and me to some extent. Even if you weren’t married before me, you’d still be in the middle of your family and me, just as I’m in the middle of my family and you.
One more thing…
I had no idea how madly, deeply I would fall in love with you and your daughter. Being your wife and her stepmother is the most rewarding experience of my life. I wouldn’t change where I’m at for the world; there’s truly nowhere else I’d rather be.
But if I could be in this same place with a partner that understands my perspective a little better, my quality of life and peace of mind would be exponentially better.
Think about it, please?
P.S. What if we each invested 7 days into the Thoughtful Partner Challenge? We can learn how to be more thoughtful and how to express our love and commitment in a way that resonates and makes each other feel special.
29 thoughts on “15 Things Stepmom Wishes Her Partner Knew”
Interesting…I have partnered with a man who has a daughter. I met her at 14yrs & have nothing, nothing g that is similar. I’m a hippy & she gets her nails done. The mother dominated everything, schedules, spread-sheets, biliing ..blah blah. The mother told her lots of untruths. I could not accept her. We waited till she was 18 & she moved into the Mothers permanently..& I moved in with him.You don’t always have to accept the kids..just what is best for your circumstances.
I’m glad you found what works for you and yours! That’s what this blended family life is all about ❤️
You’re so lucky to have a husband that will ALLOW you to parent his children! And one that will allow you to go to family gatherings, and actually celebrate holidays with YOU as his wife, his partner, in the same room! I’m not allowed any of those luxuries. My husband spends any holiday at his own mother’s home. Even his children’s birthdays are celebrated there, in secret. Our son isn’t even told that his brother and sister had two birthday celebrations! Wow, and you are upset because you think his family doesn’t accept you, or accepts the first wife more? My son and I celebrate every Christmas completely alone because we’re not ‘invited’ to my mother-in-law’s family Christmas celebration. No, my son’s dad leaves for two weeks, to stay in his mother’s house with his two teenagers, during Christmas. And when my husband goes out of town on business, his mother comes to get the teenagers and we see NO family at all until he returns. He calls us last, if at all. We are last on his list of anything. He is at the top of his list, his teenagers are second, if our son even makes the list, he’s next, and I’m last. And you want your husband to understand your struggles as a step-mom? You don’t ask for much. I’m allowed to do two things for my husband and step-kids: cook & clean. My husband rarely answers my phonecalls, and not at all when his mother is in town. But when he and I are together and one of the teens calls, he answers their call without even excusing himself from the conversation. If I text him while he’s driving, he ignores me and forgets to reply when he stops. If his teenager texts him while he’s driving, he texts them back…while he’s driving! Lest you think, “Wow, this lady is really dumb to have married such an abusive man!”, let me tell you his mother made me sign a prenup in order to marry him. It left me with NOTHING if we divirced. It gave me nothing during the marriage either. But we agreed I would be a SAHM. I said I didn’t want to sign the prenup. They said all my needs would be met, I would want for nothing. Then they got rid of all my assets. He gives me an allowance and treats me as an employee. I knew nothing of this before we married. I had no idea I would be alienated from the family after we married. I didn’t know any of these things, but when I hear women like you, complaining of your ‘normal’ situation…honestly, I get jealous that y’all can even complain. Do you know that NOT ONE MAN will step up to the plate and confront him? And he says that because nobody corrects him, it’s because he’s not doing anything wrong…
Think about my son and I, alone on every holiday, when you want your husband to be more understanding. There are worse stories than mine, I’m sure, I’m just not sure what they are. I live in ‘the twilight zone’, with a big ‘surprise’ about every two weeks, an emotional or physical ‘tornado’ happens to him and he doesn’t stick around to clean up the mess he makes, because he simply doesn’t want to.
Nancy, you’re very right that every situation varies and we could always have it worse. ❤️ Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help with your situation.
I go through a lot being a step mom. All I asked for was understanding but I can’t even get that from my husband. He called all of y’all cunts and I go through the same so yes he technically called me one as well. He has no idea how much I have to go through. He has ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what it’s like to be in my shoes. He can’t even be in the least bit understanding.
Just because you are in a crappy situation doesn’t negate anything else that others are going through. Even if you deem them as not being problems and calling the author ungrateful and deciding for her that she really doesn’t have any problems.
You chose your life. You choose to continue to be a doormat and then blameshift to others. I am truly truly sorry for the horrible marriage you are in. I’m sure you feel so stuck and afraid because you literally have nothing. You may not even know where to begin to start your ‘exit plan’- but from one severely abused woman to another, it is no one else’s fault. They are allowed to share their hardships and not have them belittled because others have things worse. You attacked someone for sharing their perspective and their experience- and also relaying the general consensus of what other women wish they husbands knew.
The author didn’t deserve your attack.
I truly hope you are able to reach out to someone to help get you out of the situation you are in, when you are ready.
I pray for safety for you and your son- and that you will heal and discover your worth.
I could have written this. Except we have four kids.
I hope it could help you relay your feelings to your husband!
My husband died three years ago. My sister in law came to the funeral and stole all my photos. She even tried to steal a plant my friend had sent to the funeral.
How awful 🙁 I’m sorry for your loss, Phyllis!
So much truth to this!! <3 We have 50/50 custody with my husbands two daughters & a "decent" relationship with BM. I met the girls young (11 months & 2.5 years) so I've always had a great relationship with them, and am certainly seen as a "parent" by them but of course, but by my in-laws, BM, society, etc. A huge conversation (in my husbands eyes) is that I "chose this life" or I "knew what I was getting into" whenever I get upset about one of the points listed above. I'm going to share this piece with him!
Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment, Ashley! I completely understand and relate to your feelings. I hope your husband gets as much out of the article as you did!
Thank you for conveying my thoughts and emotions in this article. Especially the part about why his prior life controls mine and it *always* will be his fault. Hahaha.. Not fair but c’est la vie.
Right?? It’s not meant to be malicious, but it’s the truth.
Wow! I identify with most of what you said. I started out with stepdaughters that were babies. It was never easy, no matter how much I kissed butt. When I stood up for myself it was much worse. They’re grown now, which is much easier. Sad to say I have no relationship with them at all. My husband finally accepted that it is better this way. He just wishes I would adore his grandchildren like he does. Not gonna happen. I’m not jumping back into being the nice one while being walked all over.
This is intense. I am a child of divorced parents so a lot of this resonates with me. My issues with my stepmom come from more of an attitude/personality base than from the fact that she’s my stepmom but I love that you’re sharing things from your perspective. I believe it will help many women through exactly what you’re going through 🙂
Thanks so much, Megan! I really appreciate your support!
Thank you so much for writing this. I just forwarded it to my husband as I have been trying to express myself with these things for the past few weeks. You said it perfectly and I hope he appreciates and understands it when he reads it! You have found a new reader of your blog from me!
I’m so glad you found it helpful, Katie! It can be so hard to express our perspectives. Looking forward to getting to know you better!
What a great post! I’m a bonus mom and there are times when everything is so conflicting. My hubby cheated and had my bonus daughter with this woman. My issue stems from my in laws being so accepting of the other woman and from my bonus daughter mom wanting us to do things together like we’re supposed to be one big happy family for their daughters sake. But because of the circumstances of the situation I’m a fire believer in keeping everything seperate. But her and my in laws are not. So its always a struggle of feeling like they chose her over me…Bonus parenting is truly crazy and complicated!
It keeps you on your toes, doesn’t it?
Keep your boundaries. If it’s something you’re uncomfortable with, that’s okay! Stand behind that. Your stepdaughter can have a perfectly happy life without you sacrificing your own happiness to try to have a relationship with her mom.
A couple of articles I think you should read:
Hey Stepmom, It’s Okay to Take Up SpaceThe Day I Realized I was not Best Friends with Bio Mom Anymore
I absolutely love this . I’m really glad I came across it and I’m beyond thankful I read it!
So glad we were able to connect! It can be tough verbalizing some of things – just know you’re not alone, sweet friend!
I completely under and agree with everything you said. But, why didn’t you know what you were getting yourself into? I hear this in so much and probably in 9 out of 10 cases.
There’s a ton of resources dealing with this subject, so what is the reason why so many…women especially, go into a situation thinking one thing and then getting slapped in the face with reality?
It’s truly impossible to understand how situations will affect you and your personality until you live through them. You can read about someone else’s insecurities and assume you’ll never experience the same thoughts or feelings. You can read about someone else’s court battle and assume yours will never be that bad. You can read about relationships with stepchildren and assume you’ll build a great one and love them “like your own” but sometimes it just doesn’t happen like that… There are so many unknowns, and you can do all of the research in the world, but until you live it, you’ll never truly know what it’s like to be a stepmom. You’ll still have so many situations, feelings, and insecurities that surprise you.
Here’s a blog post I wrote a while back that helps to explain why we don’t know what we’re getting into: https://stepmomming.com/stop-telling-stepmoms/https://stepmomming.com/stop-telling-stepmoms/https://stepmomming.com/stop-telling-stepmoms/
Thank you for helping me have more insight on how my wife may feel at times!
Happy to help, Andrew!! So glad you found it helpful!
Do you think stepdads feel the same way?
While there are some similarities for all stepparents, stepdads often experience things very differently.