October 31, 2011

Why can't we just get along?

Great question!
I am 43 years old and for some reason, I have held onto the same belief I had as a pre-schooler in the sandbox.  I continue to approach new people in the same way I did back then, "Hi, my name is Kathi, wanna play?" (of course I say it a little differently for fear people would run screaming from the crazy lady....in the sandbox)...but you get the idea.  When the reaction is less than friendly (or when they do run screaming) I am always left hurting and wondering what's wrong with me. I understand that this is MY issue and I'm working on it...but why can't we just get along?

Take my man-friend's ex-wife (please...he he).  I was an ex-wife once too and, even though the first year was heart breaking, I remember embracing his new romances and even wanting to be friends with them...is this wrong? I even set him up with a friend of mine and they are still together to this day. She never liked me around, however, and in the end she told him to stay away from me....go figure. I never perceived her as a threat or someone I shouldn't like just because she was with my ex husband.

These images are very prevelent in our
society. Two women pitted against
each other over a man...when do we
say, "enough" and go out for coffee
 So what is it about women? Or is it just women? I have done nothing to upset this woman. In fact, I was excited to cultivate a friendship with her years ago (having learned she is in the health profession too). I came into this relationship with my man-friend with big, ignorant, naive eyes looking forward to making another female friend.  I imagined us going to coffee and walks together......(you must be thinking I was completely on crack by now....) but in reality, I became her number one enemy. Although I haven't felt her wrath, I have felt her disdain. It's upsetting and stressful for me when I find myself in the same room as her now and it shouldn't have to be this way. I realize my expectations were unfairly high, but at this point, I'll be happy with a "hello".

If my ex husband had a long term relationship with someone and that woman was spending time with my (hypothetical) children, I would work at befriending her and learning who this woman was and how she could influence my children. Why don't more women do this? Why can't we all get along to support the children in these hard transitions? Why can't we speak nicely about each other as role models for good social and emotional health? I understand the influences of jealousy, and perceived threats to our self esteem and confidence. I understand that, while I feel she may hate me, she may also be feeling threatened, fearful, protective, and jealous. I just think it is a sad situation when we automatically dislike someone for their position in our lives (and for no other reason). I know...this is the way of the world in war, religion, and other social disparities....I realize.

While there isn't a lot of research on step mother-hood, there is some that suggest that one of the biggest influence on children's health as they move towards a blended family or the integration of a new woman is the ex-wife. If she is able to embrace the change and support the new woman, there is (obviously) less stress  and more support for everyone. Nice, eh? I realize there are instances where it is very difficult to embrace a new woman...but in a less dramatic situation, is there room for this type of support? It's tough, but it is definitely doable.

After saying this, I have done a bad, bad thing. After three years of saying, "hi" to her, inviting her to holiday dinners and the like, I decided to withhold my pleasantries and give her a taste of her own medicine. Something I'm not proud of, let me tell ya.  Finally, yesterday, I entered another realm of rudeness...something so out of character that I felt sick after. I knew, after I did it, that I took the low road. I bent down to her level, and as a health promoter, I disappointed myself (with all I know about emotional and social health, I should know better).  Because of my offensive actions, I certainly wasn't "becoming the change I wish to see in others" (like the teachings of Gandhi suggest). If I want her to treat me with kindness and respect, I have to treat her the same way.

If these two can get along...we all can.
I won't get into who's the rat and
who's the toad....it's just not relevant.
So.....as much as I want to avoid my next step and run screaming in the other direction, I will be apologizing to her for my rudeness (the next time I see her of course...I won't be knocking on her door anytime soon).  It's going to be tough and it's going to make my insides spin, but I can't avoid it if I want to make our relationship into something more positive. The high road certainly isn't easy and many times I just wish I could just "put her in her place" or "teach her a lesson she wouldn't forget", but in the end I know I will feel better just knowing that although she may treat me like a bug in her wine, I will treat her like my friend......(that is unless I'm tired, hungry, PMS'ing, stressed out, or angry.......but I will try my very best to be that change I wish to see in her).

I'll keep ya posted.



  1. You're a better woman than I...I would have resorted to rudeness a LONG time ago and then taught her a lesson she'd never forget. But remember, you are a FABULOUS person and this relationship is totally her loss!

  2. Awweee....You are so nice and supportive (not to mention beautiful and smart).
    Thanks, Nicole.
    In theory, it's great...in practice, it could get nasty. But I'm hopeful and I will keep you posted!

    Thanks for the comment. You made my day!

  3. Follow up....
    I ended up buying her a pair of gloves and sticking a note inside saying "sorry I was a big bitch the other day, promise it won't happen again".

    She accepted the gloves but the words thank you (or any for that matter) never crossed her lips. I wonder what she will do after I give her my Christmas present.....he he he.


  4. Another Follow Up....
    I gave her a nice roibus tea along with a travel tea mug for Christmas. I have never heard one word for her yet. I must say, I'm starting to get a little tired of my own game, but I will try again on her birthday.

    Isn't this the definition of insanity?????

  5. Update...
    I gave up and forgot her birthday, but still say hello and acknowledge her presence when appropriate. I decided to let it go and not force the issue. When she is ready, if she is every ready, maybe we can talk like normal human beings.
    Until then, whatever.

  6. Yet another update...
    Pigs are now flying in the sky! She extended the olive branch last month and suggested that "the family" (ex hubby, me, the kids and her - and her new boyfriend...he he) should all get together for a dinner. That's a step in the right direction. Did it happen? It creeped the kids out so we didn't do it.
    Whatever! It's a start!

  7. Hopefully the last update...
    Since I have moved in with my manfriend, this woman has taken a turn for the very worst. She has attacked me personally and has become a bully. She is using her mentally ill child against me and trying her very best to put a stake between me and my manfriend.

    I no longer work towards making her a friend. Now it is about protecting myself and teaching her that harsh words and false accusations aren't okay.

    Why does it have to be like this?

  8. This reminds me of my relationship with my boyfriend & his ex-wife. Our relationship became 'official' last Valentine's Day. He made it very clear from the beginning that he wanted us to be friends. Although she is his ex-wife, they are very close. He assures me (& I believe him) that there is no romantic or sexual attraction to this woman. Fine, I will make my best effort. Well, she was willing to accept me (at least that's what she told him, while she made snide comments at my expense,) as long as she thought I was "just a phase he's going through." Now that it has become clear that I am his girlfriend & I'm not going anywhere, she has turned on the manipulative dramatics & he is a complete sucker for this. He hurt her terribly when he divorced her, so he can't bear to hurt her any more. Though they have been divorced for 25 years, she has & will always be a part of his family. I accept that. They have a 25 yr old daughter & his family is her family. I get it. What I don't get is why she still lives in this delusion that after all these years he's going to get back with her & live happily ever after. He has been trying to prepare her for Christmas by telling her for the past 7 months that he plans to bring me to his parents for the holiday. After reluctantly going along with it for months, she just told him on Thanksgiving that if I go, she's not going. He was upset because he wants us to be friends, but he was willing to let her back out. (She has backed out of every opportunity to meet me.) Their daughter however, felt I should back out because she shouldn't be deprived of Christmas with her mother, so I have obliged for their daughter's sake. His "ex" had him for Thanksgiving, she'll have him for Christmas, & if she has her way, I will never be at a family gathering. I don't know how your "manfriend" feels about your situation, but mine feels terrible because he just wants us all to get along & she is fighting that with a well-timed tear & a poor-poor-me attitude that he falls for every single time. In fact, he thinks that I am mean for suggesting that she knows how to manipulate him. Sign me ~Very Frustrated~

  9. Dear Frustrated;
    Wow. Your story reflects the frustratios of so many others married or with men with children. I am sorry to hear you are going through this (but very pleased you felt comfortable enough to share your story).
    It sounds like your spouse is very supportive of you and trying very hard to please everyone. Unfortunately, in this situation you cannot please everyone. If the ex wants him back, she will always be unhappy and you will always be "the outsider". The children will always side with their mother (especially at a younger age) and no matter what we do or say, this will always be the case.
    I believe there are some realities we, and other women in our situation, have to come to. At the same time, you are the person he is with and a part of his family. Perhaps you can negotiate what a family gathering is? Perhaps it is time to reconstruct traditions to reflect the new family dynamic? But who am I to say anything...I'm still struggling with my dreams of a world without ex drama (I don't think this world exists if the ex is angry, bitter, hurt, or wishing she was back with the husband).

    What's most important is your own sanity and well being. Do what you need to to help and care for yourself. At least that way, you have control over your own health and happiness (although it's hard to do sometimes).

    Thanks again for the comment. I wish you all the best and hope this Christmas you find peace and a sense of family.


  10. Updates? It's almost been one year since I wrote the last update to my story and since then, things have settled a bit. I have worked on my own confidence and my role as a "step parent" and do not feel the pressure I used to to extend the olive branch or need us to all get along. I accept things as they are and it has brought me more peace than I thought it could.

    On October 31, the ex came to my door asking for the kids and she was very respectful and nice and I almost wanted to invite her in to chat (then reality got the best of me). I know she is struggling with the care of her sick daughter and her own issues around body image, eating, and exercise addiction and I understand more now where her anger towards me comes from. I no longer take her rants or comments or negative behaviour personally; understanding that is all her.

    It is a very comfortable and healthy place to be (albeit it took me over four years to get here).