I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve heard stepmoms tell me, “My husband won’t stand up to his ex wife!” It’s a very common stressor with stepmoms around the world.
Stepmomming is never an easy task—especially when co-parenting with the ex! All too often, we get dragged into family problems feet-first—or even sidelined, dismissed when giving feedback or advice, bad-mouthed, or blamed for things that aren’t our fault.
In these instances, we expect our partners to support and protect us, though—especially since it’s their ex we’re dealing with, right? Wrong! Your partner may be missing in action or even regularly take her side, leading to a further sense of betrayal, mistrust, and hurt.
These situations can really do harm, leaving us drained and depressed and making it hard to work, enjoy our lives, or even be a good stepmom!
If you’re tired of feeling alone, abused, unjustly attacked, ignored, or unsupported, it’s time to take action!
You Deserve to be Heard and Supported
When I became a stepmom, I remember feeling like an outsider at odds with the pre-existing family dynamics. You too may feel like this, alienated or living as a second-class citizen in the home, and therefore less deserving of a word in edgewise or support when things go wrong.
Many stepmoms opt to stay quiet and minimize their needs when family issues and confrontations with the ex arise. In these situations, not approaching your partner, airing your grievances, or demanding the support you need may seem like the best solution.
However, being a doormat can do untold damage to you and your relationships with your partner and stepkids over time!
I’m here to tell you that, as an active part of the family, you deserve to be heard and feel supported! No matter how big or small your role, you have the right to be treated with respect, empathy, fairness, love, and consideration from the get-go.
In other words, it’s okay to take up space.
How to Approach Asking for Your Partner’s Support
Before you approach your partner, it may be a good idea to reflect on your particular situation and how best to go about asking for their support.
Why is your Partner Not Supporting You?
First off, contemplate the reason for the lack of support on their side. Though not your fault, it’s a good idea to understand why your partner is acting the way they are. Just remember to discuss the reasons with them when you do sit down to talk, too, to avoid misunderstandings!
Here are some common reasons your partner may avoid supporting you during conflicts with the ex:
- Unresolved family issues
- Avoiding responsibility
- Fear of the ex or being punished by the ex
- An inability to put up boundaries
- A lack of self-confidence
- Addictions or abuse
- Avoiding conflict
- Keeping quiet for the kid’s sake
- Agreeing to keep the peace
- Misconceptions about your role in the family
- A lack of emotional understanding
- Unhealthy family dynamics
- Unfair expectations of you
What Do YOU Need From the Situation?
Next up, think about your perspective and what you need from the situation. Ask yourself the important questions, such as:
- Why, when, and how do you feel unsupported?
- Why, when, and how would you like to be supported?
- What treatment or neglect will you no longer tolerate?
- What do you need from your partner going forward?
- What boundaries do you want put in place with the ex?
- Where do you need your partner to take more responsibility?
Be sure of all these points before you sit down with your partner. After all, if you don’t fully understand your reactions, needs, or feelings, it will be difficult to talk about them—let alone ask for what you need, and resolve the issue!
Schedule a Good Time to Talk
Talking about issues is vital in any relationship, family, or household. If you don’t speak up, it’s unlikely anyone else will initiate a conversation about your grievances.
Once you know what you need from your partner, schedule a time to talk with them.
Ideally, aim for a time when both of you won’t get disrupted, tired, stressed, or unavailable (emotionally or otherwise).
As stepmoms, it’s easy to get entangled in the pre-existing family dynamics. When an argument brews or you’re asked to play mediator (or scapegoat), you get pulled in, hook, line, and sinker—whether you wanted to or not!
I’m here to tell you that it’s totally okay to untangle yourself, step back, take a breather, or refuse to get involved at all—especially if your partner isn’t going to support you when things go south with the ex!
We all have a right to preserve our peace, state of mind, and mental and emotional health.
Put Up Those Boundaries
Unfortunately, we can’t always rely on others to hear us, support us, or do the right thing by us. In these situations, it falls to us stepmoms to take our power back. How? By setting and enforcing boundaries!
It’s likely lax boundaries are exactly what has allowed your situation to get to this point to begin with.
Boundaries teach others how we will and will not tolerate being treated. If your partner refuses to discuss, accept, or uphold your needs and boundaries, you will need to take the necessary steps to put these in place yourself.
Here are a few boundaries you might consider setting for yourself:
- Refuse to get involved in non-constructive or abusive arguments or conflicts.
- Step out of confrontations as soon as they turn abusive (emotionally, physically, verbally).
- Don’t take responsibility for conflicts and issues that aren’t yours to handle.
- Threaten to call law enforcement if you feel threatened or in danger.
- Refuse to talk directly to the ex anymore, especially if things are high-conflict.
Keep Your Peace, Not Just “The Peace”
As stepmoms, it’s so easy for us to fall into the trap of minimizing our own needs, walking on eggshells, or taking the blame for problems that we shouldn’t just to “keep the peace.”
Though tempting, this short-term solution, more often than not, causes much bigger issues in the relationship later on. Denying your needs can result in feelings of resentment that will definitely disturb your inner peace and happiness.
This lack of satisfaction in the relationship could ultimately cause a disconnect, too. True intimacy involves being open, vulnerable, and understanding. So, if you’re not expressing your needs, reconsider your approach.
Do What’s Really Best for the Kids
When there are kids involved, we stepmoms are often encouraged to avoid confrontations to “keep the peace” for their sake. Though this course of action may seem like the right path, remember that you are also modeling certain behaviors to the kids!
Do what’s truly best for the kids by encouraging constructive conversations and modeling openness, empathy, free communication, and boundaries.
Get the Support You Need
If you’re struggling with feeling seen and heard, setting boundaries, or navigating your role as a stepmom, you’re definitely not alone! These are challenges that SO many stepmoms just like you face.
I’d love to help you feel supported in your journey and develop peace of mind and happiness in your stepfamily. Apply now to find out if stepmom support coaching would be a good fit for you!
P.S. Looking for more info on boundaries? If you’re anything like me in my early stepmom days, you might even be asking “What are boundaries in a relationship?!” Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered!