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By Mary Kelly-Williams, M.A.

"He spends more time with his son than me."

"She spends too much time on the phone with her ex."

"He is closer to his daughters than he is to me."

"She has lunch with her ex-husband to talk about their kids and I feel excluded."

Do any of these complaints sound familiar to you?


Do you ever find yourself feeling like you're in some kind of time warp back in junior high feeling jealous about the attention your spouse is giving to his/her children and former spouse?

You're not alone.  And my advice to you, and everyone else getting eaten by the green-eyed monster, it's time to face reality and grow up.

Yikes, did I just say that?  I sound like Dr. Laura.  But this is one of those rare times where she and I would probably be in strong agreement.

Okay, let me defrost a bit.  Something those of us in remarriage with children need to remind ourselves from time to time, that combining families is complicated, and rarely something that comes in a neat tidy "Brady Bunch" package.

Perhaps the largest complication is the "package deal" we choose when remarrying.  This is very different than most of our first marriages where it was just the two of us before the arrival of children.

Our spouse comes with children, a former mate, their family and his family.  And, most likely, so do you.   "Leave your ego at the door" sounds like a cliché.  But in the case of swallowing the whole package in remarriage, we would all be wise to learn how to do this. If this is a trait you're lacking in, do anything, read anything, practice anything to cultivate it now.

I have worked with dozens of remarried couples who come in wringing their hands wondering why things aren't going better.   They are angry, resentful and wonder why it is so tough.  

When it comes to jealousy, blind spots are rampant.  Men and women start keeping track of how much time their spouse is spending with their children vs. them.  The competition becomes so fierce, it makes the World Series look like the little league.

And let’s not forget the ex-spouses.  Normally grown mature healthy adults resort to eavesdropping, following their spouse around, and checking cell phones calls when it comes to their jealousy around their spouses former mates.

This is where the growing up part comes in.  When I help forge people through this green-eyed maze of a mess, I encourage them to drop their possessiveness, let go of their end of the rope, and let their spouses be great parents and great ex-spouses.

One thing that's helpful when the green-eyed monster rears its ugly head, is to think of the children.

Children are, after all, the only true victims of divorce and remarriage.  As adults, we always have choices (we may not like them, but we have them), but children often times have no choices and are forced to take Flexibility 101 and "flow" back and forth between two homes.

Put yourselves in their shoes if you didn't experience this as a child.  Imagine your parents divorcing and having to pack your bags weekly for years on end.  You go to a different house, with different rules and people who just aren't your family.  And, as so many children do, you wonder if you are still loved after your parents' divorce.

When children go to spend time with their parent, they need and want their parent's time and attention.  I haven't found a study yet that suggests a close bond with the stepparent is more important than the child/parent relationship.  My stepdaughter was only 5 when her parents divorced.  She was an only child and had to step into a world of 4 teenagers, a step-mom, and the novel idea of sharing her father.

She didn't like this so much.  Who could blame her?  I made it very clear that she never had to worry about competing with me when it came to her dad.  I told her that the weekends she spent with us was her weekend with her dad and I had no intention of horning in on it.

I knew and accepted that she had a full-time mother and father.  Her eyes, when searching, were looking for them and not me.  Why would I take this personally?

THIS IS A GOOD THING!  I encourage my clients who are struggling with the amount of time their spouse spends with their children, to see the benefits of having such a dedicated and devoted parent.  


And, if your spouse has a healthy friendship or relationship with his/her ex, all the better.   What a great role model to show kids that his/her parents get along and no one is going ballistic.  To learn that grown-ups can actually be wise and mature.  And, best of all, to feel well loved.

Recently, I had a client whose ex-husband's wife refused to call her during a medical emergency that involved her daughter.  Her daughter had gotten an extreme case of food positioning and was rushed to the hospital.  She asked her father's wife twice to please call her mom, who was only 20 minutes away.  Rather than honoring her wishes, she called her husband in California and let him call the mother.

This led to confusion and poor communication.  When the mother finally got the details on where to go, she arrived at the ER only to find that "step-mom" had high tailed it out of there as soon as she heard Mom was coming, leaving the daughter alone in the ER.

All of this due to jealousy and resentment on the part of the stepmother towards her husband's ex-wife.

Does this remind you of junior high school?

So, do a quick inventory and have an honest conversation with yourself.

**Are you guilty of jealousy playing any part in your relationship with your stepchildren?

**Are you quietly keeping tabs of the time your spouse spends with his/her children as opposed to you?

**Are you unnecessarily possessive of the relationship your spouse has with their ex?

My strong suggestion:  Become Mother Teresa real quick.  Become an adult.  Focus on the positive.  Focus on the reality of what you have chosen.  Focus on the PACKAGE DEAL.

It may surprise you—and you may find you've got yourself some real treasure in the midst of the mess.


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