Are You Addicted to Suffering? Stepmothers and Ex-Wives

17 11 2010

In the past month I’ve had several conversations with stepmothers who think about their partner’s ex constantly. They just can’t seem to stop obsessing about her. Please raise your hand if you’ve ever spiraled into negative thoughts about the ex that just won’t quit. Is everyone’s hand raised?

I always pay attention when I have the same conversation with more than one stepmom. And lately there’s been a lot of talking about the concept that we’re addicted to suffering. Having a challenging ex to deal with for some couples can feel like you’re charging into battle with your mate, ready to fight side-by-side. it makes you feel closer to your spouse. It can make you feel needed and give you a sense of control. But that is not a solid foundation to build a marriage on, my friends.

How many of you read every email the ex sends or talk to your husband about every conversation he has with her? I have two challenges for you this week.

#1. Take a week off having to know everything. Let your partner deal with the ex. If her emails make your blood boil because you’re so hacked off at her treatment of your spouse, I’m talking to you. Don’t read them for one week. You don’t have to read them. In fact, you’ll probably be happier if you don’t. And you can still support your partner emotionally as he deals with her challenging emails.

#2. Turn her into a human being instead of a monster. I wrote about this in my book, but it’s worth repeating a million times. We stepmoms often build up the ex (living or dead) into this monster or mythic being that has superpowers to make our lives hell. But the truth is, she’s just a regular old human being just like you. There could be many reasons for her behavior: fear, sadness, loneliness, etc. How can you turn her into a human being? Write her a letter? Imagine how she would describe her life to her best friend?

Rumination is something that I often struggle with. My thoughts get snagged on something and off I go down into the pit until I’ve made myself even angrier than I was to begin with. There is a part of me that is addicted to suffering, because the truth is, I could STOP those thoughts at any time. If you’ve read my book or listened to my Stepmom Circles podcasts you’ve heard my pineapple exercise. It works. I still use it sometimes.

What do you use to help you stop negative thoughts and end your suffering? The ex-wife is not ours to control, but our thoughts about her are!



13 responses

17 11 2010
Peggy Nolan

Definitely need to have you back on the show! How would you like to welcome in 2011 the first Monday in January?

I love this article Jacque. I talk about this all the time and teach in my class how human beings agree to help each other suffer. I even have an article about how me and my own daughter fell into this trap.

The more we can get this message out and help others out of this trap, the happier this world will be!


17 11 2010

This post came at just the right time for me. I constantly obsess about what the ex and the stepdaughter say about me, which I know is mostly negative. My husband doesn’t share much of it with me because he knows it will just anger me. He has enough on his plate dealing with her and his out of control teenage stepdaughter.

It was really causing a rift in our marriage. To the point that we are in counseling. This week it dawned on me….I don’t have to make her craziness my craziness. My husband doesn’t either but he chooses to allow it. I am detaching from the ex and the stepdaughter. They no longer have control over the way I feel. I don’t care what they say about me; most of it is untrue and I know it. They are not worth my peace of mind.

18 11 2010

Wow! Perfect timing on this post for me. I do find myself obsessing not only about my husband’s ex but even more so, his children. My husband has plenty to deal with mostly regarding his teenage daughter’s obnoxious behavior and her rebellious attitude. It is really causing a lot of stress and resentment in our relationship and I just need to let him handle his kids. I read somewhere that I didn’t create the problem, so it isn’t my responsibility to fix it.

Like Tamela, I know what they say about me isn’t the truth and I am no longer going to allow their hurtful words/attitude control how I feel. I have my own family and plenty of people who enjoy my company. It is with them that I will share my time and energy. I’ve detached from my steps and find I have a sense of peace slowly finding its’ way back to me.

Thank you for another great post!

18 11 2010

This is such a great, useful exercise! I figured this out for myself a while ago and it has been a life saver. I think it’s also great for the husband in a lot of cases b/c they don’t feel the pressure of what WE have to say about the situation or OUR complaining about the ex on top of everything else. Another thing that helps me to think about what my life was like before I came into this drama and to remind myself that I’m still that same happy-go-lucky person! And no-one, especially not some angry ex, can take that away from me 🙂

13 12 2010
my great adventure

sometimes I feel the same …. like I’m a different person around my step kids cuz they act sooo stand offish !!!!!

19 11 2010

Amen, amen, amen. I am tired of the demonization of *either* stepmoms or biomoms. We are all just human beings doing the best we can despite less than ideal circumstances.

23 11 2010

Stop thinking of her as HIS ex but rather as your step child’s mother.

13 12 2010

I find my self obssessing over every word and call. I even record every call incoming and outgoing. But before you tell me I’ve gone too far, hear me out. My ex-wife-in-law is an alcoholic, and we are in our 2nd custody battle with her. The first one she successfully convinced the GAL that she wasn’t the alcoholic (even though there are records of treatment). The GAL told our lawyer to talk us into dropping the suit because it was going to be a dog fight.
This time around, we gave her space and time and she drove off the road with the kids in the car after drinking and taking sleeping pills. Her husband finally had enough and called social services and the children were removed and transferred to our care. The Social worker hinted that we needed to file for permanent custody (between the lines that means that if we didn’t, the kids would be returned to her through a chips order…and the social worker did not want to see that happen)
Why do I record the calls? She calls the kids and says things to them that villifies their father. We want to know what she says to them! Plus, the kids have been told they are not allowed to talk to us about their life with her. We may not be able to use these recordings in court, but we look at recording as a method of knowing what the kids are being exposed to. She has the kids convinced they are with us for the school year and then they are back with her.
I wish I could take your challenges! I need a break so badly! I agree with you when it comes to the attraction to “helping the man in battle”. My first husband was abusive, and I felt protective of my new “love”. I would think, “I’ve been there. I can warn him of what’s next. I can help him through this. ” I suppose I could have chosen to end the relationship before I became stepmom, and that is what I hear from a lot of women. I didn’t. I felt strong enough to weather any storm she may throw at us.

23 12 2010
Emma Walker

Thanks for your wisdomand support Jacque.. i have been reading your book and yesteday, when my teenage step daughter came back, our transition day, I went a bit pear shaped… angry for helping herself to the salad i made, not eating with us, one set of rules for her etc etc… usual stuff… However, i sat down by myself and read some more of the book and guess what? i read the chapter on transition days and I think I have one! it actually takes a day for me to get back in the swing of the step mom each week… must be more patient with myself and then i can be more patieint with Dani…
Merry Christmas… hope you all have a good one in whatever form it takes… let go of any expectation and I’m sure you will all find joy…

Emma x

17 01 2011
Step mom to be

I would love to know the title of the book as Im hoping for the same strengh. In my relationship I battle between being the Childs stepmom n just backing off n letting him do it. The Childs not even two, so he constantly needs help with the child naturally, but then when it comes to decision time I have no voice nor say in anything. He’ll come back home and say the Childs mother and him talked and decided this. I get that they are trying to fix their communication for the sake of their young child, but how do you go from hating this women from taking away your child to fighting in court for your child and then once getting your child try to become “friends” with her. We are in the process of planning our wedding and instead of being happily in love, every other week when his child is with us we fight over the stupid things, but then the other week is great. How do I deal with this? Why doesn’t he see that every decision that they make together never considers me n my opinion as well as hurts me because I can’t be a part of it. Or is this something I just have to leave alone and start our marriage with every other week feeling emotionally a mess and powerless in a Childs life I have grown to love? I’m sureyou understand why this book is of interest to me.

25 12 2010

Thank you for this post. I tried being compassionate with my husband’s ex, even defending her actions and behaviors in the beginning of my relationship with my husband. It is sad when you are fighting with your husband over the fact that you are defending his ex-wife. Unfortunately, my naive outlook on life and my willingness to see the best in people bit me in the butt. The things she has been doing have been pissing me off to no end and it has gotten the better of me lately. This post did help. Thank you!

26 01 2011

I can vouch that this technique that Jacque suggests WORKS. I did coaching sessions with Jacque in November and December and this set of concepts were the first challenges she set for me. I accepted the challenges. My life was changed, and that is not an exaggeration.

It was a relief to know that I didn’t even HAVE to know what was going on. It was as if Jacque had given me permission to do release this obsession, and I recognized it as an obsession.

It’s almost like breaking a bad habit… chewing your fingernails or something. Once you get on the other side of breaking the habit, you always wonder what internal compulsion ever possessed you.

I actually got to the point that I was bored with the whole thought of my partner’s former and what her issues were. That was a blessed realization. Amazingly, as I progressed through breaking this habit, I became more compassionate towards her, and could see the pain and could see that it was from this pain that she was reacting. She was not helping herself… she was mired in the past. But her choice did not have to bring my husband and me down into that swamp of despair. Once I realized this, my own spirit became light. I felt like some rope that had been binding me was cut and I was free.

26 01 2011

What’s the Pineapple exercise??

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