By Marianne Mancusi Beach, GalTime.com
When my husband asked me to marry him, I was overjoyed, to say the least. But then I started thinking about the wedding. And the fact that my mom and stepmom-- who'd managed to avoid each other for years-- would finally be forced to meet, face-to-face. Over the next few months, I stressed about this more than I ever stressed over my table linens or dress fittings.
Whether you're a member of the First Wives Club or the new bride on the block, having to deal with the "other woman" in your husband's life can be difficult to say the least.
"A new wife and ex-wife are put into a relationship, not by choice," says relationship advisor and therapist, Dr Terri Orbuch, author of Five Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great. "They are put together non-voluntarily and asked to get along. They didn't choose each other. They may be very different from one another. Non-voluntary relationships are more challenging."
But as the mother of his children or the current part-time caretaker of yours, you've got to learn to let live--not only for your own mental health, but that of other family members as well.
"This is a person who will spend a lot of time with your children. It is in the best interests of your children (overall wellbeing, happiness, adjustment) if you get along," says Orbuch.
So how do you manage to do that? Well, first, Orbuch suggests, you need to manage your expectations. "Don't expect miracles regarding your interactions or relationship," she says. "If you have unrealistic expectations about your relationship with her, it is bound to lead to frustration and anger. No matter how much you try, she may not like you or welcome you with open arms. Also, don't look for or expect her approval or to be a best friend, either. Real life isn't like the Brady Bunch family."
Second, resist the urge to talk behind her back. "People are going to ask you about the divorce and the new wife. Be careful not to say too much, because your words will probably make their way back to your ex or the wife. And who really needs to know?"
Remember, it's okay to feel some anger--it may even help you move forward with your life. "But it is important to express anger in a constructive way," says Orbuch. "For example, journal or exercise."
And don't be afraid to insist on boundaries on both sides.
"The husband and new wife can sit down and set limits, expectations, and boundaries for their relationships (both ex-partners and ex-wife and current wife)," says Orbuch.
My wedding, I'm happy to say, went off without a hitch. And while my mom and stepmom will never become BFFs, they faced the day (and each other) bravely and ensured I had nothing to worry about. Which is often, says Orbuch, the best you can hope for in these tricky situations.
"They don't have to like each other, be friends, or communicate regularly with each other, just get along."
Are you and ex wife, a new wife, a stepchild? What's your dynamic...how do you handle "the situation"? We want to hear from you!
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