Ten Proven Ways to Get Along (interesting reference for handling tough communications between Co-Mamas and Step-Wives)

Ashley - posted on 06/04/2009 ( 7 moms have responded )

216

25

32

In the interest of furthering the purpose of this group as revised by Emily, this is a re-post of a post that I posted back in April on the Stepmom's group. I think its a good reference. Here goes:

I'm reading a book. Most of it isn't very good. But, it did reference a little gem from the October 1991 edition of the "Active Voice"; a newsletter of the San Francisco chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (for those of you who care about the reference).

Anyway, I was reading over this gem and thought immediately of my communications with BM. In fact, this list is pretty versatile for just about any relationship. So, I thought I'd post it... see if you all find it valuable and what you all think. Here goes:

Ten Proven Ways to Get Along with People

1. Refuse to talk negatively about others; do not gossip and do not listen to gossip.

2. Have a forgiving view of people. Believe that most people are doing the very best that they can.

3. If someone criticizes you, see if there is any truth to what s/he is saying. If so, make changes. If there is no truth to the criticism, ignore it and live so that no one will believe the negative remark.

4. Before you say anything to anyone, ask yourself three things: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

5. Make promises sparingly and keep them faithfully.

6. Never miss an opportunity to compliment or to say something encouraging to someone.

7. Forget about counting to ten. Count to one thousand before doing or saying anything that could make matters worse.

8. Let your virtues speak for themselves.

9. Keep an open mind; discuss, but do not argue. It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable.

10. Cultivate your sense of humor; laugther is the shortest distance between two people.

In case you haven't guessed, I'm big into self improvement. In that vein, I've been attempting address and refine my communication issues for a long time (both professionally and personally). The book that I'm reading is for work. Personally, my mom has been preaching to me a lot lately since I've been so frustrated with teenage SKs and the BM. She was (and still is) a big believer in "tough love" (which isn't what a lot of people think it is). Basically, tough love seems to resonate pretty simply in the list above which is what I think really drew me to it.

The basic premise is that you cannot change what the other person is going to do... but you can change how you are going to behave/react. In essence, through your response and the other person's response to your reaction, you can help to cultivate better responses from the other person. It doesn't always work out that way, but it does bring peace and sanity to you. The bottom line is that it doesn't matter what the other person does. It matters what YOU do and THAT is the only thing that you can control to impact the situation. That's where I think it rolls into the list above.

I've been applying it with my teenage SK's (do "X" and you will loose my cooperation which means that you probably won't get a ride to do whatever with your friends or be able to use my computer to play on Facebook, or whatever). I've also been attempting to apply it to BM to bring sanity to myself and hopefully further my ability to have positive conversations.

The goal is no anger, no frustration, just kind-hearted action to protect myself and avoid being hurtful to the other person. As a result, I strive to make my actions kind (and necessary... I love that in #4)... and in the end, if it does not provide a desirable result for the other party maybe they will consider changing their behavior. Its totally impartial and a win-win. I can avoid being pissed off and the kids/BM live by the consequences of their actions. Ultimately, it has been doing a lot to help bring peace to my life and I hope some of the women here may be able to use it too :)

MOST HELPFUL POSTS

Emily - posted on 09/04/2013

128

38

17

That's so challenging, Evelyn. I'm right there with you as far as being unable to control anything outside of my own choices and not being able to make anyone talk to me, so I don't have the ability to talk to my son's stepmom. All we can do is see them as parents to our children and help our children feel that we have no animosity towards the other parents and accept their love for the other parents. This does wonders for their wellbeing.

I also try to loop in SM when I am parenting DS sometimes, even though she's not here. For example, she works in dentistry, so I will talk to him about brushing his teeth and tell him that I know SM loves it when he does a good job brushing his teeth. He can sense unity and support there even though she and I aren't having an active dialog. So that's how I live as a co-mama/step-wife even without contact.

Ashley - posted on 08/30/2013

216

25

32

Hey ladies... in responding to Evelyn's comment, I realized that I never posted anything about the book that I was reading at the time. The book is called "No One's the Bitch: A Ten-Step Plan for the Mother and Stepmother Relationship" and it is FANTASTIC... I highly recommend it. Check it out on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/No-Ones-Bitch-Step...
They also have a website (http://www.noonesthebitch.com/; also fantastic!), where they posted the intro to the book. This intro is 100% an eye opener. I've quoted it countless times to so many. Here it is courtesy of copy/paste:
If you found your way to this website, chances are you’re one of these two women:
*The Ex-Wife*
You just went through a terrible divorce. The wounds haven’t healed and your relationship with your ex-husband is still pretty rocky, but you’ve been pushing through because you share wonderful children.
You were just getting the hang of your new life, just starting to be comfortable with your ex again, when she showed up. She moved into your old home with your ex-husband, and now she’s mothering your kids.
That bitch.
*The Stepmom*
You just found the man of your dreams. He’s an amazing person and he has lovely kids from a previous marriage who you love as though they were your own.
You just moved in with him and everything is just perfect, you’re one big happy family – except for her. She keeps showing up, fighting with her ex, and ruining your happy home. Worse, she keeps trying to turn the kids against you.
That bitch.
Either of those scenarios sound familiar? Then I want you to take a deep breath and repeat after us:
No One’s the Bitch.
Ex-wives and stepmothers don’t have to hate one another.
That volatile stress you’ve been feeling doesn’t have to keep damaging your sanity, your relationships, or your kids’ happiness. Two households can live in complete harmony and raise children without having to fight, scream, swear, or consider vengeful acts to get back at each other.
Mothers and stepmothers can be partners and allies. And in many cases, they can even be friends.
No One’s the Bitch: A Ten-Step Plan for Mothers and Stepmothers shows you how.
You’ll learn to get rid of the traditional animosity and seething feelings between moms and stepmoms. In its place, you’ll learn how to build a revolutionary new version of an extended family – one that’s happier, healthier, and completely devoid of hatred.
How do we know it works? Because it’s based on a true story.
Jennifer Newcomb Marine and Carol Marine are a mother and stepmother who once had the volatile, awkward, stressful relationship so common among mom/stepmom duos today. It was making their lives miserable. Even worse, it was making their kids’ lives – the kids that they shared and loved and wanted so much to be happy – miserable, too.
They decided there had to be a better way, so they invented one. It worked so well, they became friends and leaders of a revolution. A revolution in which moms and stepmoms create a parenting team. A revolution in which two households live in complete harmony.
A revolution in which no child has to feel torn between two parents.
A revolution that says: No One’s the Bitch.

Emily - posted on 06/04/2009

128

38

17

Wow, Ashley... I'm learning a lot from your post about how to handle not only the step-wife relationship but everything in my life. I think about my own mom, who has some challenges in her life that damage our relationship, as well.
I think a lot of this is what helped break down the walls between BM and me. Step-wives have a lot going against us. Women are more territorial about children, for starters. Divorces involving children are often full of negative emotion, second. There's the fact that you hear all of someone's negative qualities without knowing any of their positives. And of course, there's the assumption that we just have to hate each other!
So for the first year and a half or so, things were rather frosty between us. But I tried to live by this list - I tried to have a positive view of her and to always live in ways that would earn her respect. One day the walls broke down. We realized that what we had in common was love for our shared little boy, and we realized a lot of other things we had in common too. It was a slow road, but by giving each other the benefit of the doubt and refusing to let stereotypes dominate, we've come to the point where I think we are lucky to have such a good relationship. We even enjoy chatting on the phone about things that have nothing to do with the son in between us.

If you see this, leave this form field blank.
Powered by RESPECT not THUMPS

7 Comments

View replies by

Evelyn - posted on 08/30/2013

3,155

7

871

Well, Ashley, as nice as your response was...the road works both ways no matter what names we put to Bio moms or step moms. I have no problems with that. Its just that even though this list sounds so good, after 11 years of being divorced from him and trying to attempt to work it out with both him and his wives (whomever he was married to at the moment things were being tried) I was always shut out by her. She wanted nothing to do with me. (Meaning both women) I had tried constantly to be nice and polite for my kids' sake. But to no avail. How do you get past a brick wall after that long of time and two step moms in the picture in that time frame? The first step mom lasted all of 14 months. This second step mom has lasted all of eight years so far, but the feelings I get from my kids about her and more from my youngest now that the oldest is out of the house is that nothing is positive. I have been told that no matter what is tried by my child to get interest of the step mom she does not give it. My child also has to vie for attention from dad and does not get one on one time from dad either. As for getting along in public, a good face is put on by all but in the end all of the negative comes out later. And I do hear about it.

The real question is this: How do you forge any sort of communication let alone a relationship with that step mom/new wife? If she is not willing to do it then repeated attempts are wasted. If she does not like you because you are there because of the kids and may resent the fact, how do you get past that?

In my life, I have bent over backwards to try to get along with the new wives. I left the ball in their court to make the next move once I tried the first one. The first wife he had after me decided she wanted nothing to do with me nor did she want to meet me! How do you forge anything with that? The second one would speak to me but when he and I had to make choices based on needs of OUR two alone, she would think she could dictate those choices (major choices in education or other things). How do you make that work?

Ashley - posted on 08/30/2013

216

25

32

Hey Evelyn! Thank you for resurrecting this post :) I had completely forgotten that I wrote it and am happy to see that someone else has found it useful or interesting enough to comment on it. For the record (and your reference in our discussion), I am a step-mom. I have been for 10 years.
As for your question of step-wife.... you're not sounding silly! In your situation, you are the step-wife to the step-mom. The step-mom is the co-mama to you. These terms come from the name of this group: "Co-Mamas / Step-wives ... Moms and Stepmoms partnering together". This group was founded on the premise that both women parents of the child. Whether the bio-mom or the step-mom feel comfortable with that, it is an unavoidable truth. The child is never just with one or the other. Both women influence the child's life. The most constructive and healthy scenario for the child is that both women accept and respect that fact.
So, with that common understanding, using the term "step-wife" helps the step-mom (SM) understand that when she married her Dear Husband (DH), she "married" his ex-wife. The ex-wife is the mother of the children. She is not (and should not be!) going away. Conversely, using the term "co-mama" helps the biological mother (BM) admit and recognize that she is co-parenting with another woman. As long as that woman is married to her ex-husband, you're working with her too! Here is the truth: there is a relationship between the SM & BM that needs to be recognized and nourished so that it will not be hurtful to either woman, personally, or to the children.
As for your comment/question on this post and how to make it work... I encourage you to re-read beyond the list itself. The only thing that you can change is YOU. If you reach out to her to recognize, nourish and respect your relationship with her, then you are doing your part to create a constructive and healthy environment for yourself and your children. In my opinion, this list is an excellent way to start doing that. But, as you point out, its not the end-all-be-all. I postulate in the post above that if you continue to do these things, you will eventually begin to see changes in others. What you project will come back to you. But, you cannot do it with spiteful expectations for changing her behavior. It has to be done with shear loving kindness. You can start by doing it to seek peace for yourself. You may be surprised with the general outcome years later. Believe me, I posted this original post 4 years ago. My step-wife and I just moved her youngest child (my middle child) into college last weekend... together (with my DH, of course). It is possible for things to change and you have to start (and commit to continuing) with YOU.
As for her hearing the worst about you... consider her sources and cut her some slack. I doubt that your ex-husband is singing your praises ;) Not that I am suggesting he is slandering you in any way, I'm just saying that he's probably still hurting inside and doesn't have a whole lot of fantastic things to share about you with his new wife. That's natural. Unfortunately, that means that she doesn't have any other means of knowing those parts of you... except through YOU. This is where the nurturing your relationship with her comes in. You offer her respect. SHOW her that what she gets isn't necessarily the whole truth. It may take a DAMN long time, but don't give up! Just because she already has an opinion of you is not an excuse to bail on any attempt to forge a better relationship based on the list above. Choosing to just be mean because there is a precedent is a cop out. :)
And... once you have that working relationship, you have to MAINTAIN a relationship based on the list above. I encourage you to reach back out to her (respectfully and repetitively, if necessary). Learn to love her. I'm not saying that its easy, but I am saying that its worth it, for both of you AND for the children.
BTW... the book that I was reading that I mentioned in my reply to this post so many years ago is "No One's the Bitch: A Ten-Step Plan for the Mother and Stepmother Relationship" and it is FANTASTIC... I highly recommend it. Check it out on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/No-Ones-Bitch-Step...

Evelyn - posted on 08/29/2013

3,155

7

871

What is a step wife? I am sorry to ask this and sound silly.

I read the ten items above on how to get along better with everyone. I follow pretty much all those things but its hard when its all one sided. Before I met the new step mom my kids got to have in their lives she had already formed her own opinions of me before even meeting me thus preventing us from at least learning to communicate politely at best for the sake of my two kids. I know she heard one side of the story and it was not good points either. They have had a second step mom come into their lives eight years ago. Again the same thing though I did meet her and have had conversations with her. She did not have a good opinion of me either as she had formed her own ideas before meeting me to even see what I was like. Though those points are good ones; I do not see how they work when its all one sided.

Ashley - posted on 06/04/2009

216

25

32

I'm reading a new book now. The new book is AWESOME. In a few minutes I'll post again on what I am learning from that one.

If you see this, leave this form field blank.
Powered by RESPECT not THUMPS

Join Circle of Moms

Sign up for Circle of Moms and be a part of this community! Membership is just one click away.

Join Circle of Moms