A Stepmother Asks “How Do I Stop Myself from Asking about the Ex-Wife?”

stepmothers, mothers, stepmom, stepfamily, stepchildren, remarriage, divorce, parenting, gossip, ex, ex-wife, Stepfamily help, Barbara Goldberg
Every Stepmother Has That Moment When They Want to Say, “Kiss My Brisket”

Do you ever find yourself asking your partner:

“What did she/he say?”

“No, really, tell me what happened.”

“I don’t care what she does.” Next moment. “Tell me what she did.”

Do you feel as if you can’t seem to stop yourself?

Does it feel as if you are addicted?

So, why are we talking and how can we stop? Let’s face it. We are gossiping. We may say that we need to know because we are helping to manage the family. I challenge you that the only information that we truly need to know is about scheduling and children’s needs. We don’t need the rest of the drama and the silliness. Below is a list of the possible reasons that you may feel addicted to the gossip. If one of these possible explanations resonates with you, it may be your true self trying to tell you something. What ‘feels’ true for you?

 

Being a Part of the Tribe

If you read The Evil Stepmother Speaks: A Guide for Stepfamilies Who Want to Love and Laugh, you may remember the section about the innate power of the tribe. We are sociologically wired to want to belong to a group. In the early years of human development, if you did not fit in with the tribe, it meant isolation. Isolation meant death because you no longer had the security of the tribe. You were left to gather for food on your own with no protection and nowhere to hide. Our reptilian brain, the oldest part of our neural structures, still responds to this isolation and sends out that flight or fight response. Anxiety sets in. This is why we respond so strongly to feeling as if we are not part of our families. Are you viewing being part of the drama as a symbol that you are included within your family tribe? Do you feel as if the sharing of this information and/or the drama brings you closer to your partner?

 Are You Starving for Attention?

Of course, we are starving for attention! Be a stepmother for a couple of years and you will learn about feeling invisible and powerless. Being in the middle of the family drama is a logical way of getting attention. Per basic Skinner behavioral theory, any attention is good attention. In other words, even if we are arguing with others, at least people are paying attention to us. Even if we are nagging our partners and driving them insane, at least they are engaging with us. Even though you are ranting about the behavior of the ex, it is better than being ignored.

Are You Feeling Insecure? Anxious?

Many of us are hard wired to be anxious. It can manifest itself as being controlling. You harbor the fear of the unknown. To assuage your anxiety, your brain is telling you that if you know everything that is going on, you will feel better or calmer. Your brain may also be telling you that if you know everything that is happening, you can control the future. It makes you feel safer. Do you think that is really true? Does the gossiping soothe you?

Are You Jealous?

Jealousy is coveting something that someone else has. We love our partners so it would be normal to covet the past relationship that he/she had with the ex. Ever felt jealous of the connection between the members of the ‘first’ family? Do you ever wish that you were your stepchildren’s mom? Jealousy can drive the gossiping urge. Speaking negatively about the ex or stepchildren may be an effort to secure our own positions. Are you secretly insecure about your relationship? This is a hard one to admit, but worth giving some thought.

Are You Trying to Fix Things?

Are you a Type A, hard driving person? Do you like to fix things? Often these traits are associated with men. Many women also share this same drive and desire. Those of us who are strong leaders at work may be particularly susceptible to this pattern. Lines blur between work and home. Somehow, we may take it further and we feel as if we should fix everything. After all, as a newer member of the family, we should be able to see issues objectively. We see ourselves as healers and teachers. We confuse loving our partners with fixing their lives. We may also see this same pattern with our children. Can you relate? When you are talking incessantly about the ex, are you really trying to show your superiority and wisdom?

The answer is simple yet difficult. Stay focused on your own life while supporting and leading by example. Your actions are more powerful than your words. Feeling the need to gossip? Put your favorite music on. Call a girlfriend, go to a place where NO ONE can hear you and vent. Drink a glass of wine and take a bath. If the pull is too strong, join Stepmom Life Class (private FB page) Read a book. Bake something. Take a walk or go to the gym.

Ask your partner to only share fact-based, core information that you need to know. Don’t forward those nasty e-mails and texts. Please don’t talk on the phone to the ex within your earshot. Try to get those phone calls done during the day, if possible. None of that drama will be good for your head and heart.

Bottom line is to be good to yourself and the rest will fall into place.

 

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