Quick background – started dating my DH 10 years ago in Fall 2002. His boys turned 9 and 12 just before I met them that fall. We got engaged in late summer 2004, married in May 2005. At the time we were dating and engaged, both boys lived with BM – 40 minutes away from me. DH moved in with me when we got engaged (I owned, he rented at the time). The intent was for us to get married, then we’d find a new “us” house after the wedding was out of the way. That didn’t happen because as soon as we got home from our honeymoon, OSS (by then 14), was out of control and BM threw him out and I became a full time CP SMOM. (Literally RIGHT after we got home from our honeymoon – the next day).
So, I was a newlywed, a CP SMOM and an NCP SMOM all at the same time. It was a lot of pressure immediately and there was a lot of drama surrounding the transition for OSS.
There is a lot that I could write about ALL of what went on – but for brevity’s sake – here’s truly what I learned now that I’m 10 years into this relationship, 7 years into the marriage….
1) I would ABSOLUTELY marry this man again. In a heartbeat.
2) Everything starts and ends with respect. Think about all of your complaints – and ask yourself, are you being treated with respect. Think about your DH/SO – are you treating him with respect (or her – I just got done dinner with a friend who is a Stepmom in a same-sex marriage – the issues are generally the same).
Everything – EVERYTHING – revolves around respect. Are you cleaning up after kids old enough to be able to clean up after themselves? Or a man who ought to clean up after himself? Why? Why do they believe that someone ELSE should clean up after them? That is disrespectful. Teenage stepkids that roll their eyes? Disrespectful. Are you being disrespectful to the stepkids? Really ask yourself that. I know that at times, I certainly was less than respectfull to OSS.
3) Your SO is in a tough spot. Think about it. Let’s assume he loves you with all of his heart. Let’s also assume he loves his kids with all of his heart (because really – would you be with a guy who DIDN’T love his kids)? So he loves them, and he loves you, and you and the stepkids are his whole world. It hurts him when the stepkids and you don’t get along. Quite often they assume that everyone that they love automatically will love each other. “If I love “A”, and I love “B”, then “A” SHOULD love “B”.” Yeah. Doesn’t work that way. I don’t know how to fix that – but understanding the tough spot your SO is in helps a bit.
4) The best thing I ever did with respect to dealing with a challenging teenager was to stop being overly invested making sure he was doing what he “should” be doing. Instead – if he didn’t do what was required of him, he got a consequence. He knew he’d get the consequence. He knew what the consequence would be when he chose to not do what he was supposed to do. I stopped getting emotionally wrapped up in making sure he did what he was supposed to do, and just handed him the consequence that he essentially asked for.
5) Making things easy for kids is NOT helping them. It is undermining their abilities to problem solve and become functional adults. Having said that – other than telling your SO this, then stepping aside if they decide to help anyway, there’s nothing you can do about it. Stop worrying that the kid won’t become a functional adult- it’s not your fault nor is it your responsibility.
6) Boundaries are vital for everyone. The old adage “good fences make good neighbors” is all about boundaries. Making sure that BM’s impact on our house was minimal was key. Locks on doors where needed are important (we have a lock on our bedroom door after finding evidence of OSS having been in there when we weren’t home). Locks on the boys’ doors were removed.
7) Minimize contact between BM & SMOM as much as possible. I could never be sure what would tick her off – so I try to minimize contact as much as I can. She’s not as extreme as some that are dealt with on this board – but still, I can do without drama.
8) I am NOT the boys’ mom. I am not their mother. I am their STEP mother. For OSS, that meant I was an “in your face” “you WILL get your stuff done” kind of CP. He needed that (still does, but that’s BM’s problem now that he’s an adult on her couch). For YSS for whom we were NCP, that meant that I was his number 3 or 4 cheerleader (behind his parents, and then his GF ). I try to remember that while BM doesn’t do things the way I would – SHE is their mother, and I will try (not always succeed) to not offend her by taking “her” place.
Those are probably the most important things that I learned over the years. The sense of relief now that the kids are 18 and 21 (almost 19 & 22) and my “job” is essentially over is wonderful. OSS is most certainly NOT doing what he should be doing – but it has no real effect on me. He’s not impacting my back account, and he’s not disrespectful, so, for me – it’s ok. I probably have seen BM 5 times since January, and most of those revolved around YSS graduating HS.
And 10 years on – I am still with the most wonderful man.