I Spoke Badly About My Husband’s Ex-Wife and now My Stepkids Hate Me

Reader Should Have Kept Quiet writes,

Dealing with a lot of issues in my three year marriage.  My husband has twin 13-year-old daughters and I have an adult son.  My husband’s ex-wife has never really accepted our happiness, always badgering him and telling the girls mean things about me. She ridicules and mocks and frankly, never taught the girls to cope with our new marriage. She lives with a guy and the girls and is very bossy and has to have things her way.

I have bitten my tongue for over three years, tried to teach the girls to take turns as one of them is favored by her mother and dad. I never thought much of this woman from her past and upbringing with meth use and “multiple abortions” according to my husband. I now wish I had never been told these things because the truth all came out on a recent camping trip and it’s my fault for blabbing. I had too much to drink and I lost my cool.

This has caused a great riff as now the girls want nothing to do with me and won’t accept my apology. My husband takes them to dinner once a week to keep in touch but every time he returns, it’s an argument that does further harm. To make matters worse, I just inherited a lot of money from my father and now have to make some very tough decisions. It is stressful to say the least.  Any suggestions or criticisms are welcome.

sad woman 

Dear SHKQ,

Unfortunately, even though the girls’ mom says bad things about you, it is still bad that you talked trash about her to her kids.  When step-parents do this, many kids consider it unforgiveable, as you’re seeing from the girls’ reaction.  Badmouthing parents or their new partners has toxic effects on kids, as I discuss in How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce and whether or not she used drugs or had multiple abortions doesn’t matter.  In fact, for you to say really bad things (things the girls may not have even known) is far more harmful than if you just made little jibes about her messiness or something of that nature.

Your husband needs to figure out how to handle this situation, and I would recommend that he makes a full apology for your behavior to his girls and to his ex-wife, and doesnt try to save face or defend you, or say that he apologizes BUT she was mean about you first.  What you did was wrong and there is no denying it.

I don’t know what you mean about the tough decision with inheriting money.  Were you originally intending to give some of this money to the girls?  Either way, I believe that your behavior moving forward needs to change.  You should not try to parent or teach these girls anything.  Your job is to be a pleasant and kind presence during their visits to their dad, if they resume visiting.  If this is too difficult, then you need to remove yourself from the home when they come by.  Gradually, you can reach out to them again, and perhaps they will forgive you if they see that you’re not trying to change them or re-parent them going forward.

I believe that underneath all of your anger toward the girls and their mother is some anger that your husband has not made this situation easier on you.  Certainly, he did you no favors by trash talking his ex to you and burdening you with private information about her past that she would obviously wish you didn’t know.  He did not show his ex much respect, and no matter what she did, she is the mother of his children.  Obviously she does the majority of the parenting, since currently he’s only seeing them for dinner once a week, so whatever she did in her past cannot be so egregious that he fears for the children’s safety or wellbeing, as I assume then he would have battled in court for full custody.

Your husband sounds like a passive guy who thinks things just kind of happen to him and deflects responsibility for any occurrences that don’t go well.  You may be enabling this behavior by colluding with him in the mistaken assumption that it was his ex-wife’s job to acclimate the girls to the idea of his new marriage.  It is also your husband’s responsibility to do this, and it seems like he left a lot of this to his ex and to you.

I urge you to examine the dynamic within your marriage and see if in fact there is anger there toward your husband that you have been projecting onto his ex-wife and, to a lesser degree, his kids.  I understand you were drinking, but on some level, I believe that you were fed up and wanted to lash out at your husband and his ex-wife, and the girls got caught in the crossfire.  I believe that couples counseling would be very helpful to allow you and your husband to change your dynamic, and to explore your anger at the fact that the honeymoon stage of your marriage has been consumed by these conflicts with his ex and his kids.

Good luck, and thanks for writing in.  Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist That Says, Also Read About Imago and Think About Whether You’re Subconsciously Attracted To Men With Problems.

This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family.

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