While all couples need to focus on their relationship, to keep it strong, this is especially so when you're a Stepmum or if you both have children. Couples often have many things to disagree on or argue about, but throw stepfamily dynamics into the mix and it can create even more arguments or resentments.

Contrary to popular belief, however, statistics show second marriages are less likely to end in divorce than a first. (See link below). This is put down to couples being more mature second time around. Despite this reassuring statistic, it's important to keep your relationship alive amidst the whirlpool of childcare, schedules for stepchildren, and complex dynamics, and avoid being a statistic of a second marriage that breaks down.


Some second wives say that the thing they argue about the most, is the man's ex. If she is in contact a lot, or at unreasonable times, or you feel he spends too much time talking to her. The solution to this, as with most couple solutions, is good communication. But also - setting boundaries and reaching agreements.

Be upfront that you don't want to be discussing a third person all the time or argue about his ex. And make suggestions how that could be avoided. For example you could agree that, as a couple, you will only discuss any communications from the ex, once a week on a Friday after work, and set a time limit of 15 minutes. During this time your partner or husband can update you on any arrangements, changes to arrangements or other issues. Most of the time, by the time it gets to the end of the week there, will be very little to say. Any communication that has gone on during the week will have either resolved or become irrelevant. Sometimes it might be something you want some input on though. If it affects your plans. Eg if your partner or husband says. My ex wants to swap week-ends in November. You can both look at the calendar and discuss whether this is reasonable or not. The main thing about this is you feel included in decisions that affect your work, life and plans, while still being flexible and accepting your partner has children and he and the childrens Mother occasionally have to change arrangements.

The other thing some second wives or stepmums find difficult in a relationship sometimes is - not knowing what the communications are about. You may trust your partner or husband but still feel uncomfortable that he is spending so much time texting someone else. This is partly solved by the solution above, but in some cases you may need to say to your partner, you want to be involved in reading and replying to messages if they are important ones. If he wants to reassure you, he shouldn't have a problem with that. After a while you will probably get to the point where you're really not interested in seeing or being involved in the messages, and happily leave your partner to deal with it. Providing he updates you on any major possible changes to dates.

After you've been together a long time, he may even just hand his phone to you for you to reply while you discuss what to put. Eg a simple "Ok"

Tips:

It is best to leave the communications between your partner and his ex, and not get involved - generally. It's rare that everyone is best friends and most separated parents need privacy, their own lives and boundaries - not to all be pals. It is diplomatic and discreet to not be "in your face" about dealing with his ex and let him deal with her and her communications - even if you discuss things between you. Contacting his ex directly could annoy her. Likewise you might be annoyed if she contacted you directly rather than discussing the matter with your partner, and your partner may also feel uncomfortable about that too - as the Dad.

If you both have children and both deal with ex's over arrangements, there can be little jealousies or uncertainties initially and you both may need to be transparent and inclusive initially, for reassurance. Depending on the circumstances.

Physical Boundaries

Some things may be simple = others not. You may need to reach agreements about physical boundaries also. Are changeovers going to be on the doorstep, at the end of the garden path, or is the respective co parent going to be invited in for a chat and to make arrangements for next week etc. Generally it would be a doorstep changeover, maybe with a brief chat, if things are amicable. If things are tense, then a quick doorstep changeover, or end of the garden path drop off is better, and any communications done with some distance - eg text, Whatsapp, parenting app or email.

Birthdays and other celebrations. Generally when one or both parents have new partners, it's better to have separate celebrations rather than all mingle. This is why court orders usually allow for alternate years with each parent. for a child's birthday, for example. The main reason though is because it's better for children to get used to their parents having separate lives and can be confusing or emotional for them to see their parents together again at their birthday. When they just want to enjoy their birthday.

Smartphones

This is a topic all on its own really. Please check out the forum. Once a child has their own phone, boundaries can be crossed and things become more complex, if one parent abuses or uses the phone contact to cause disruption. Micromanaging from a distance is one example. It's a huge topic and there are various strategies that can help reduce issues with these. In amicable situations, this isn't really an issue and it's good the children can keep in contact with both parents.

Clothes and other items

This is something that can be an issue in many co parenting situations, and can lead to arguments or stress between you and your partner. Clothes being at the wrong house, left at school, not returned. Likewise, ipads, school bags etc etc. While these things should be easy to resolve, sometimes they aren't or someone is being difficult. It's important not to let this type of issue come between you and your partner and cause arguments. In the bigger picture of your life and relationship - this is small stuff. Annoying small stuff sometimes, but it can lead to resentments and tempers flaring. Maybe you are expected to get clothes washed and dried overnight before school the next day if a child comes with stains on their school uniform. Maybe the child comes for the week-end, arriving in uniform and no spare clothes.

These are things that can be resolved fairly simply by organisation and agreement between you and your partner. Avoiding arguments between him and his ex. Eg - you keep your own spare sets of school uniform at your house. Any stained ones can be washed and swapped over next time. You keep your own spare sets of clothes and a pair of trainers at your house. For wearing at week-ends. No discussion or arguments needed with his ex and you and your partner have a simpler life. Some people get frustrated about the financial aspect of this. If Dad is paying child support and still having to buy additional clothes. Try to factor in the small additional outlay - and balance it with the peace of mind and stress saved. Some practicalities are just not simple and children don't always want to carry bags of clothes around and look different, and ex's don't want to find clothes in the wrong place and cause issues. PE kit can be left at school all week and one parent take it home on Friday night for washing.

My kids, your kids

This is something else that can lead to resentment and arguments, if you both have children. Occasionally you or your partner may feel the other one is favouring your kids over theirs and vice versa. This is something again that will need communication and agreement and some common sense. You could agree that you will treat all the kids equally. If your kids live with you full time, and his only come every other week-end, for example, it's important that all the kids feel at home and included. Your kids will have their own rooms. His kids need to feel they have their own space also when they come to stay, even if they have to share a room. Keep things fair and inclusive.

Tip:

Present a United Front - When explaining things to both your kids, discuss and agree in advance so you can present a united front and this does a couple of things. 1) It doesn't give the kids the opportunity to play you off against each other privately. 2) It helps them all feel they are being parented and treated equally and gives them a sense of stability that the adults are dealing with things and in agreement.

Focusing on your Relationship

Is the key. All the above - communication, agreement and setting boundaries, cannot happen easily if you hardly ever see each other, both rushed off your feet, both tired and stressed, and when parenting takes over full time. Take time out of it and have

Date Nights

Date nights are really important. Set aside one night a week where you go out together. Even if it's just for a walk. Going out for a meal changes the dynamics and level of conversation. Sitting across a table in a public place, having left all the domesticity at home, you suddenly are a couple again and remembering who each other are. You both feel more special - it's a bit of a treat. You feel more relaxed. Other people see you both as a couple. You can find the level of conversation changes completely - you can laugh more, crack jokes, see each other face to face, and see the side of each other that gets buried in day to day hectic life. Maybe some domestic topics might come up during this time, but somehow they are easier to discuss in a different space when you're more relaxed.

Keep telling each other you love each other. Don't take it for granted.


Photo by Debbie Hudson on Unsplash