Women who are partnered with or married to those with children often are surprised to find themselves lonely in a household full of people, especially women who don’t have children. If you’re reading this, you’re most likely one of them because, quite frankly, who else would want to read this? The general culture doesn’t really care if you’re lonely or not. After all, “you knew it was a package deal.”
You’re lonely for at least five good reasons and the sad fact is that stepmoms have a higher rate of depression than biological mothers. But how could you have known this before you jumped head first into the stepfamily mix?
Here are the five main reasons you may be feeling this way.
1. The stepkids
Kids that liked or even loved you before you moved in or tied the knot suddenly had a change of heart. They weren’t as demonstrative or responsive as they had once been and you may even have gotten the feeling that they were purposely avoiding or ignoring you. This is quite normal as they are going through their own transitions but it’s hard to not take it personally.
2. Your partner’s ex
Your partner’s ex became hostile and considered you a threat even though you barely knew the woman. You didn’t realize the boundaries she would be crossing: the over-the-top never-ending texts, calls and emails to your partner about their kids. You didn’t know about her intrusions and innocently thought your home would be a private and sacred space until your husband got a call from his ex demanding to know why you, the intrusive stepmom, were telling her kids how to behave (when all you said was, “please, say please”).
3. The “Mommy Club”
You definitely didn’t know about the “Mommy Club”. You went to the stepkid’s sporting events and school functions with the intention of being supportive. You were met with stares and sometimes glares. Those moms weren’t interested in you and no matter how involved you were with your stepkid’s lives, you weren’t their mother and their allegiance to her trumped all.
You were used to being liked by friends and co-workers alike. But these women didn’t seem to like you at all and certainly weren’t going out of their way to throw out the welcome mat. Despite the fact that you met your partner long after the divorce, you were still labeled as a “homewrecker”, especially if you were considerably younger than your partner.
4. Your friends and family
Whether they’re single or married, they have the same naivety about the reality of being a “stepmom”. They ask you if you’re thrilled, if you love your stepchildren and isn’t it just great to have an instant family. If you’re brave enough to tell them the truth, you might have seen the blank looks in their eyes, the puzzled brows and/or the judgment.
5. Your partner
He just doesn’t get it. He was excited about “blending” his family with you and his optimism often rendered him blind to the challenges you were facing when trying to fit in to this ready-made family.
So you’ve found yourself lonely and have begun questioning yourself. “Am I a terrible person that I’m not excited when his kids are coming to stay?” “Am I a horrible person or just so unlikeable and never knew it?” “Am I wrong to be happy when it’s just the two of us?” “Why am I so lonely ???”
The answer to the first three questions is a resounding, “NO!” You’re a human being and it’s not easy to figure out what your role is and how to become a member of an already formed family unit. Why are you so lonely? It’s because you often find yourself to be the odd man out, whether it’s in your own home, with family and friends, or out and about with your new lumpy family.
It’s really tough to be part of a non-biological family and anyone who hasn’t experienced it just doesn’t get it. Hell, you didn’t even get it because you and your partner were so sure and hopeful that this new “blended” family would be a great success. And how could you know when there were so many unpredictable factors that hadn’t yet come into play? Please don’t waste your time lamenting the fact that you didn’t have psychic abilities to have known better.
So as well as facing many new relational and logistical challenges, you’re left with your loneliness. And that’s the gauntlet I’m throwing out to you now. No one is going to come along and rescue you and throw a party acknowledging how tough it’s all been and what a great stepmother you are (although they should).
You are responsible for your loneliness so I’m suggesting two places to start:
1. Your partner. It’s essential that while he may not be able to fully empathize with your situation because he has no idea of what it’s really like to be the “outsider”, he can imagine it and accept it. Acknowledging why you’re lonely may be hard for him because he loves you and wants you to be happy (especially when his kids are around). If you know he’s at least attempting to understand how hard it is for you, you won’t feel so alone.
The two of you can talk about ways for you to feel more included or give yourself permission for some time spent in self-care (seeing friends, exercise, hobbies, etc.) while he spends time with his kids (many kids resent that they don’t get to spend enough time with their parents alone post remarriage). Be a team and you’ll feel less lonely.
2. Find other women who are dating, partnered with or married to one with children. Your loneliness will dissipate in seconds. I run a monthly local support group for stepmoms. I have over 320 members in the Denver/Boulder area. When first timers walk in, they’re timid about talking about how they really feel. But when they hear the more seasoned members talk about their once prevalent loneliness and guilt, the relief that washes over them is like a rebirth. They make connections and new friends who will last a lifetime. They’re relieved to be told they’re not terrible, they’re normal!
Take the time to find a group like this, a psychotherapist who specializes in stepfamilies, an on-line message board, and read articles by stepfamily experts in Stepmom Magazine who don’t pretend it’s all roses and lollipops…all resources to let you know you are not alone.
Pat yourself on the back that you’re still there. That shows courage, strength and love. Believe it and find others that believe it too.