The Stepmom and the Ex-Wife: Are We Sister Wives?

divorce, getting my stepfamily to work, how do I get my stepfamily to work?
Ex-Wives and the Stepmom: Are We Really Sister Wives?

The Ex-Wife and the Stepmom

Have you noticed how many shows and documentaries are featuring the lives of polygamists? There is the HBO show, Big Love, the A&E show, Sister Wives and this past week Lisa Ling produced a documentary on the OWN network called Modern Polygamy.  The public’s fascination with these shows is the relationship among the women.  Their relationships are intriguing, as is the relationship between the ex-wife and the stepmom.

In these shows, the women are great friends.  They claim to choose each other as members of their families. (Something the ex-wife and stepmom cannot claim.)  Watch as they share the chores and the parenting of the children.  As a working mom and step mom, it looks fantastic.  I always wanted a wife!  The wives also seem to be free as birds when it comes to their relationship with their husband.  They are all about sharing him.  Overall, the focus is on the family.

In a weird way, I sometimes think that step moms and the ex-wife are like sister wives.  We are raising the same children. We are married to the same man,just at different times. We love this man, just at different times. Some of us live in the same space as our ex-wife. Yet, there is a preconceived notion that we must hate each other. Meanwhile, our sister wives are quite happy.

Maybe, we are all resentful because we did not get to choose each other. The ex-wife feels as if she is forced to hand her children over to a stranger. She may feel as if she is transferring her life over to some new, strange woman. How frightening!

Maybe, we are cosmic sister wives. We are meant to be together. We are meant to share. We are meant to be reflections or mirrors of each other. We are each other’s ultimate teachers. Let’s rewrite our own reality shows and tell the real story. The truth is that we are lucky to have our sister wives. They are our best friend.

21 Responses to The Stepmom and the Ex-Wife: Are We Sister Wives?

  1. I am a step-mom. Our situation would have been much worse had the bio-mom not set the example she did. She set the tone from the beginning. She and bio-dad had an amicable split. They both agreed it just wasn’t working. She was always respectful to me, so I was respectful to her in return. When hubs and I got engaged, set the wedding date and got pregnant, HE told her before anyone else so she didn’t hear anything through the grapevine, or from their son. She appreciated it. They have one child, we have one child. We were careful to not create any animosity about her child vs my child.

    Their child is now in his 20’s, and things have broken down terribly between him and them, but they remain a united front as parents. I was removed from his existence by his choice, and there is no relationship between the children at this time. It’s a long story but through all the drama, the 3 adults behaved as adults. For the sake of the children I am grateful to her for setting the tone early on.

    I have warned hubs that if it ever came down to it, I would be a nightmare ex-wife so he best not tempt fate twice.

  2. Barb – This so weird I wrote about this very thing a couple of times this past summer when we travelled with the Ex-Wife for my SS on his College visits. For me I look at it more like we are Sister Mom’s – we’re sharing the kids not my Hubby.

    • So glad to hear from you as I’ve been thinking about you. This post really resonated with alot of stepmoms, both pro and con. I love the idea of sister moms. That has come up alot as well! I hope you are well.

  3. OMG, I can’t believe you wrote this because I was planning a blog post along the same lines! I may still go ahead and write it and add my own twist, including that I grew up in Africa where polygamous marriages were common.

    • The concept of sister wives really sparked a nerve in alot of us. I would love to see your twist on it. Write to me and let me know when you post so I can read it. Thank you for taking the time to write to me. It means alot.

  4. Sister Moms is a very good way to describe it. I don’t communicate with my stepkids’ mother – she has been diagnosed with two personality disorders, so functional communication is not an option for us. But I still consider her a teacher – having her in my life has taught me a lot about stress management. Having a mentally ill family member (she is like an extended family member to me) can take a serious toll on your life. My marriage and my family would not be thriving under those circumstances if my husband and I had not learned certain key lessons about boundaries, compassion, laughter, acceptance and valuing what’s really important (and letting the other stuff go).

    • I agree with you. Our “sister moms” are one of our greatest teachers. My theory is that if we can hold onto that thought it changes the dynamics between us. Some spiritual teachers say that we attract the people in our lives that are a reflection of how we think of ourselves. So, when you speak about your stepkids’ mom, it brings that thought to mind. “When you see beauty, divinity, sweetness, or light in the soul of another, you are seeing the goodness that resides in your soul.” I can feel the goodness in your soul through your comments.

      • Thank you – that is so nice of you to say. My husband and I have watched and re-watched “The Secret” many times too, and that helps. We also have it on CDs in the car, and downloaded into our iPods. Even though I’ve heard it so many times, it’s never a bad idea to plug in The Secret and listen to random parts of it – it’s always a good message to remember!

  5. Unfortunately there are too many situations in which the “Sister Wives” concept gets a little sticky. Think about the situations in which the ex-wife is still pursuing her ex-husband (even if he has moved on). Jealousy is blinding in these situations and the kids ultimately get thrown under the bus.

    I much prefer the concept of “Sister Moms”. Two women working together to raise children, each bringing their unique talents and gifts to the table—drama free.

  6. I could not imagine calling my husband’s ex-wife a sister wife….She is evil in every way!!!! She is fake as they come….I’m new to this site and really hoping it will make being a stepmom easier for me and dealing with their mother….please help 🙂

    • Dear Amanda,
      Thanks for joining all of us step moms. First, know that you are not alone. There’s a large community of us and now that you found me, you will see that we will all chime in. If you feel like it, join me at @stepmomspeaks on Twitter. The reason I’m suggesting this is that the rest of the gang will see your questions and comments and you will get a bunch of good advice.

      Now, I’ll give you my take on your comments. You can’t change anyone else, only yourself. Believe it or not, you have a lot of power in the situation, it’s just not the ‘normal’ type of power you usually think about. It’s about focus and energy. It always helped me to focus on the kids. I could always figure out the right thing to do when I put myself in their shoes and thought about what I thought was best for them. (No, that does not include taking them away from their mom). What I always thought was best was to create a ‘home base’ or haven for them. When they came to our house, there was no bad mouthing. I baked. I cooked. I listened. I had fun. I took any negative kinds of comments and let them brush off my shoulders.
      Think about having fun. When you have fun, your energy changes. It’s like the pure energy that a child has. You know that joyous feeling when you are around a baby? It’s like that. Another way of looking at it is, “What would be a great memory for the kids to share later in life?” When you answer that question, the rest falls by the wayside.
      I know it’s not easy, but in the end, it’s all worth it. You end up learning a great deal about the true meaning of love.

  7. I’m am in such a pickle right now because my husband’s ex and I have been talking more and more, she has really been opening up to me, and she wants to be buddies with me, and i’m actually openminded enough to see where it goes out of curiosity. BUT as sooon as i told my husband he said, NO, don’t talk to her, she’s toooo crazy. I told my mom and she jumped all over me calling me nieve, that I should NOT talk to this woman, that she is trying to set me up in somekind of trap. She does have some issues, witch is why I have full costody of my SS, but she has recently started meds and seeing a psychologist. Should I run for the hills?? My family is putting fear in my head, and insist that she is the enemy that is scheming to take my check every month. :S I went from feeling cautious to full blown pain in the pit of my schomach after talking with my family. she said she felt a connection with me when we met, I Felt that connection since before when she was even being a psycho bitch and i couldn’t stand her, like, who know’s maybe we are friends on the other side. But people keep telling me not to trust her :\ Even my father in law tells me the less I talk to her the better. I i feel now like an idiot for trying to be there for her. I guess I will stop talking to her either way sinse my husband really feels uncomfortable about it, and i’m on the fense, plus she does talk too much. What do you feel about Stepmoms and Bio moms being friends??? what about if the bio mom has a history of having mental problems?

  8. Sorry for all the typos in the previos post.

    I’m am in such a pickle right now because my husband’s ex and I have been talking more and more, she has really been opening up to me, and she wants to be buddies with me. She doesn’t seem to know her boundaries, but I’m open minded enough out of curiosity to see where it goes. BUT as soon as i told my husband he said, NO, don’t talk to her, she’s toooo crazy. I told my mom and she jumped all over me calling me naive, that I should NOT talk to this woman, that she is trying to set me up in some kind of trap. She does have some issues, witch is why I have full custody of my SS, but she has recently started meds and seeing a psychologist. Should I run for the hills?? My family is putting fear in my head, and insist that she is the enemy that is scheming to take my check every month. :S I went from feeling cautious to full blown pain in the pit of my stomach ache after talking with my family. she said she felt a connection with me when we met, I Felt that connection since before when she was even being a psycho bitch and i couldn’t stand her, like, who know’s maybe we are friends on the other side. But people keep telling me not to trust her :\ Even my father in law tells me the less I talk to her the better. I i feel now like an idiot for trying to be there for her. I guess I will stop talking to her either way since my husband really feels uncomfortable about it, and I’m on the fence, plus she does talk too much. What do you feel about Step moms and Bio moms being friends??? what about if the bio mom has a history of having mental problems?

    • Dear Cupid,
      The word ‘friend’ has a broad definition. My impression from reading your post was that you were choosing between “best friends” and “no communication at all”. I think friend means different things to different people and there is a wide spectrum. Clearly, every situation is different.

      Saying that, my favorite situation is when step moms and bio moms are kind to one another and can work together with the children. If bio dad is not around, you can confirm arrangements, etc. You are probably not the right person to be her confidante. I am not a fan of confiding about your personal lives to one another. I also don’t see a need to be social friends, separate from the family events that you share. I just don’t see the upside. Both of you can find wonderful girlfriends without having each other fill that space. Your marriage is a stable rock for your entire immediate family and I can understand why your husband feels uncomfortable.

      I wonder, “Why do you want to be her friend?” Think about it and write back.

  9. hello everyone,
    Although having a civil, respectful, friendship with an ex wife would be absolutely wonderful for everyone especially the children my situation was doomed from the start. it’s hard to have all those things if the ex wife is so jealous of what she feels she has lost to you or her own insecurities as a mother and woman in general that it blinds the things that need to be focused on which are the innocent children. When I have done all I can to offer up the kindness to the ex and tried to minimize all her fears of my being the step mom it just seemed to make things worse. clearly there is no winning to an ex wife who is very insecure in herself that jealousy over powers her ability to be able to see the friend I could be to her but then again i am gaining and she is not and this is how her side of the fence feels to her. maybe when she meets someone new who makes her happy again it will get easier but sadly her behaviors have destroyed that for anyone to want to try again. Keeping her at a distance has proofed best for everyone. Something’s no matter how nicer they would be cant be forced on those who choose bitter paths despite its effects. the truth is it can’t get better if she’s not really over the marriage between her and her now ex my husband. On one hand I understand how she feels but on the other see how her destructful behaviour has effected many lives and hope someday we can co exist on better terms for everyone’s sake. As relationships may come and go but the children are what keep people connected otherwise we would have no tolerance for her and she would have moved on we’d like to think.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more. At the end of the day, it is all about the kids. They anchored me. I appreciate the time you took to write. Please continue to share as I will do the same.

      Take care,
      Barb

  10. I had this kind of “sister mom” relationship with DHs ex for 10 years. Now it’s all gone downhill. SD asked me to talk with BM about her living with us when SD was 11. I felt that as the second wife I would be overstepping my boundaries but as a SM I couldn’t make SD feel like I wasn’t there for her. The topic came up when I was taking SD to BMs after our time and it was the first I had ever heard of it. I assumed at that time that BM and I could have a civil conversation about it. I walked SD up to the door and SD told BM “Can you and SM talk about what we have talked about?” I was completely blown away because I had no clue that BM and SD had already discussed the issue. (I will say that up until that point BM and I were basically the “parents”. DH works a lot of hours so it was up to BM and I to communicate with each other about any and all issues regarding SD; sports practices, games, pick up and drop offs, insurance issues, doc appts, ect.) BM asked SD if she was referring to living with her dad, SD said yes and BM flipped out. Yelling and screaming at SD “WE’VE ALREADY HAD THIS DISCUSSION!!! YOU ARE SUCH A —–!! DON’T YOU DARE OPEN YOUR —— MOUTH! GET YOUR — TO YOUR ROOM!” I was shocked, to say the least. I asked BM if we could possibly talk outside and she agreed. I kept my mouth shut while BM proceeded to tell me how easy my life was because I had DH and how shitty of a mom I was. I just let her rant and rave for about 30 minutes, told her thank you for taking time to talk to me and left. Since then I have seen and experienced first hand why SD didn’t want to live with BM. After that I was the one she raged at. SD is now 14 and every time we have her she apologizes to me that I am now BMs punching bag (verbally, at least) and thanks me for not abandoning her even though she knows how hard it is for me to stand there and take BMs constant cussing and demoralizing me. I have been my SDs SM for 13 out of her 14 years of life. I was a VERY young SM. Met DH when I was almost 16 and we got married when I was 18. I come from a broken home (my mom was married 5 times by the time I was 14) so I know how difficult it is to have “steps” in your life. I saw my SFs battle their exes for time with their kids, I saw the kids cry for more time with their dads and I saw my mom be the proverbial punching bag for the exes. *sorry for the rambling*
    My point is, “sister moms” is doable, I’ve seen it done first hand. But if one of the parties isn’t completely honest about what goes on in the children’s lives, it can go downhill VERY quickly. I feel that situation could’ve been avoided had BM been upfront with DH about SDs wants instead of hiding them from him. It’s been almost 4 years since the “discussion” that changed everything and I don’t hold a grudge against BM for her angry words. They were obviously the truth about how she felt about me. I just wish I hadn’t spent the first 10 years living a lie. I wish I had known how much she hated me instead of feeling like we had some kind of mutual respect for each other. Now I feel like the bond we had can never be mended because BM can’t be honest about her feelings. Last year I sat down and wrote BM an email outlining the “problems” I had. BM said she would write back her problems with me. I felt that would be a good place to start rebuilding some sort of amicable relationship again. BM did write back but instead of saying how she felt, she did what she had done the first 10 yrs, said “I don’t have a problem with you. I am in counseling to deal with my issues with you.” I felt so confused but also I feel like there will never come a time when BM can be honest about herself and her feelings.

  11. Don’t get me wrong, I never was naive or delusional that BM truly “liked” me. I just never knew how much anger, hate and animosity she had towards me. It’s evident now that she harbors a grudge against DH and I for 14 years even though I didn’t meet DH until after they were divorced and BM was the one to file for divorce and kick DH out. It has since been told to me by BMs new husband and SDs counselor that BM feels I “stole” DH from her. I can’t say I understand her logic but I can say I feel sorry that BM can’t move on even after 14 years when she was the one to call it quits. I often fantasize about a day where we can at least have a decent relationship for SDs sake again but I’m not holding my breath.

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