My situation, smom for 8 years (SD was 2 when we met), 2 young bios with DH. I think we did a few things right when DH and I got together, we went to counseling even before we married to work out boundaries issues with BM. But that didn’t prevent the future issues! Also, I realized right off the bat that BM was a crummy mother, and I knew that she did not put SD’s best interests first. She had also treated DH like crap by cheating on him, etc.
So I knew that I didn’t want to know her and I met her once and was polite to her but avoided her like the plague after that because she made me sick and I knew we’d never have a good relationship. I spent all my energy on SD in the beginning, and we were very close and had a great relationship.
Things I’d do differently:
1) I never listened to anyone when they told me how difficult stepfamily life would be, I assumed it would be hard, but we’d work it out. I wanted to help my SD and I felt bad for my DH. I wish I had listened to all of those who told me to run the other way. There were stepparents who I judged when they told me “I wish my stepkid would just disappear”, but eventually I came to have those same feelings. Now I get it, and I realize it is part of the stepfamily dynamic at times. This is way harder than I thought it would be.
2) I wish I had known that I would never be able to “save” my SD from her mom. From this forum I learned that SD will always want her mom (I saw this in her actions too), and that I will always be second best. Even if I’m teaching her things that will make her life glorious instead of difficult every day, what SD really wants is for her mom to love her. Her mom, who doesn’t love or care for herself in a healthy way, who will probably never be able to love SD the way she wishes, who is in an abusive relationship and exposing SD to physical abuse, she has a very dark past and upbringing. She will not be able to be for SD what SD wants. But that is for them to work out, it’s not something I can help with.
3) I realize now I need a very tough skin to be part of a stepfamily. My in-laws have been judgmental about my decisions, my relationship with DH, and my level of involvement with SD. Getting accused of abusing SD by BM was very upsetting (especially as I had very young bios at the time, one of whom was physically dependent on me). This spurred my decision to not have contact with SD again (DH sees her for his regular schedule at his sister’s house and our kids see her regularly too). Me not having contact with SD and BM has been wonderful for me and my kids, I am so much less stressed out, and DH still gets to see her for his regular time. Dh isn’t thrilled about it, but it’s a compromise that we can both live with, so it’s what we do. Honestly sometimes I love not having him around for the weekend so I can just hang out with the kids!
I stay with DH because we have 2 wonderful children who love him to pieces and he’s a good dad. I do feel like being a stepfamily took a lot out of our marriage and a lot of joy and money from our lives. But it’s a choice I made and it’s not all bad. We do have a really nice family and as the kids have grown older things have gotten much easier and I’ve insulated myself much more from the BM drama. Sending hugs to all the smoms!