Home' Nova National : NOVA JULY 12 Contents if there are children involved, the
complicating factors go up another
So how to best deal with the situation?
First of all, don't waste time and energy
comparing yourself with your predecessor.
A Fine Balance
12 © NOVA JULY 2012
Coping with an ex-wife or partner
is a tricky business. You almost
can't win no matter what you
do because you are the dreaded
replacement. If your husband has stayed
on good terms with her and especially
You are totally different women even if
the same guy chose to marry you. Being
jealous of what he had with his previous
wife is like wanting to stay 21 forever. The
past is the past and if he wanted to still be
married to his first wife, presumably that's
where he'd be.
If she chooses to be jealous of you,
you can't control that but don't give it
more recognition than it deserves. Be
very pleasant in all your dealings with her
whether you care for her or not. Don't
put your husband in the middle of the
two of you as that path leads to nothing
but conflict and pain. Just be who you are
and accept that this man has chosen to
be with you in the present.
If you find yourself suddenly cast as
the wicked stepmother, play the role
your own way. There are no fixed rules
for this one, I'm afraid but there are
guidelines -- never criticise their mother
to the children, refuse to participate in
comparison games and, whatever you do,
don't try to buy their love with presents
and outings. Yes, they'll love the gifts
but not you -- kids have an uncanny knack
for spotting a bribe! Do things your own
way so that if your stepchildren do come
to like you, it'll really be you they like
and not a pale imitation of their mother.
Be friendly but draw clear and firm
boundaries; set rules that are fair and few;
don't play the heavy parent. You cannot
ask them to like you but you can demand
respect that they accept your way of
Stepparenting is known to be one of
the most difficult of all human roles.
The first and immediate obstacle is
the resistance and resentment of the
children, whatever their ages. If they're
very young, especially toddlers or pre-
schoolers, the acceptance level is higher.
The new parent is assimilated quite easily
as long as he or she is kind. But with older
children, the stepparent faces an uphill
battle, no matter the effort expended.
This is often the hardest part with
children resenting even the new parent's
niceness, seeing it as merely a ploy to win
Teenagers understandably are the
worst. They resent the loss of the original
parent, whether through divorce or
death, and the intrusion of the new one.
Many, many blended families fail over
time, simply because of the degree of
If both partners have children, the
level of difficulty goes up several more
Blended families operate on a delicate
balance and every member is an import-
ant component in the dance. For harmony
to prevail, a great deal of tolerance and
compromise is needed. It's virtually like
two instant families under one roof.
The secret here is to ensure that two
opposing camps do not develop, there's
no favoritism or preferential treament for
any individual and all rights, needs and
feelings are respected.
The 'dos and don'ts' of
being the second wife,
with relationships counsellor
Dr Charmaine Saunders.
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