“Dear Soon-To-Be Stepmom,
I see you over there, eyes bright and full of love and admiration for the new little family you have been asked to become a part of. I know how lucky you think you are to join them on this adventure called life and how special it feels to know your husband chose you. And I am so happy for you. But mostly, my heart hurts for you. Because you are so oblivious to the pain and heartache that awaits you just around the corner.
I want to protect you so badly. I want to warn you about all of it so your tender heart knows what it’s really signing up for when you walk down that aisle and say ‘I do.’ I wish I could prepare you for the fact the worst is going to come before the better. I know that right now, you couldn’t even comprehend how something so wonderful could begin to deteriorate at lightning speed as soon as the party is over and real stepmom life begins.
Like all soon-to-be brides, you love weddings! Because right now, you are intoxicated with excitement over your own. But you have no idea that next year, you will watch your best friend and her new husband sway back and forth to some romantic ‘first dance’ song at their reception, with nothing standing between them but love and the sweet innocence of two people embarking on the journey of marriage for the first time together. No step kids. No ex wife. Just simplicity. And it will feel like a sucker punch to the gut. And from then on, you will dread weddings.
And I know you’ve probably never had anyone hate you for doing the right thing. You don’t yet know what it feels like to gain enemies just because you love someone or because someone loves you. But there’s a good chance you will soon find out.
I know how hard you have worked to make your stepchild feel like they really belong with you and your family. And it’s going to break your heart the day it hits you that, until now, you never even realized you have been the outsider all along and no one is going to work as hard as you did to make you feel like you belong in the family you sacrificed everything to be a part of. No, you’ve never known the pain of feeling even more alone and isolated when surrounded by members of your own family. But you will.
And stepmom, I see how much you love and respect your soon-to-be husband, but you haven’t yet spent hours trying to wrap your head around the fact the man you know could have ever been a part of something so dysfunctional. And as his past begins to infiltrate your present more and more, you will find yourself living in a sort of twilight zone, where nothing is as it appears and even this man you know so well starts to feel like a stranger to you.
Maybe then you’ll get pregnant and think it will make things easier for you. Until your hormonal self gets on Facebook and sees your friend’s pregnancy announcement for her and her husband’s first child, and for the first time ever, the full weight of your husband’s past will come crashing down on you when you realize you will never get to have that experience. That it was stolen from you before you ever even met your husband. And then you will dread looking at social media.
I truly hope every time your doorbell rings, it’s flowers from your husband or girl scouts dropping off the 10 boxes of thin mints you ordered in a moment of weakness. But chances are, one day that ring will come at 7 a.m. while you’re sleeping peacefully in bed next to your two year-old, and some creepy old dude in a red jumpsuit will be standing at your door to serve you papers. Because the ex wants to take you and your husband back to court. Again.
And even though all of this is SO hard, what scares me the most for you is how tender your heart is and the way people will carelessly stomp all over it, while simultaneously pretending you don’t even exist. Because this is what will ultimately send you over the edge and into the downward spiral where you finally hit rock bottom and come to the understanding and acceptance that this marriage, this family, this life, will never be what you dreamed of as a little girl.
There is literally nothing you can do to change that. And it will hit you so fast and so hard that all of that love and admiration you had will swiftly melt into deep disappointment and anger. And resentment. And most of all, grief. Because your expectations were so high. Your intentions were so pure. You’re going to wonder if your heart can survive this kind of pain. But you will continue to scrape yourself off of the bathroom floor and press on. You will keep moving forward because deep down inside of you still burns a small flicker of hope that things can and will get better.
I want to tell you all of this so badly. I want to warn you so I can soften the blow somehow. But you wouldn’t believe me anyway. You wouldn’t really listen to what I had to say. Because you think your story is going to be different. That somehow your marriage and your family will defy all of the odds. And you are going to do what you want to do and that means believing what you want to believe. I get it. I’ve been there. And I don’t want to stop you. I won’t tell you not to do it.
Because it’s already too late to go back. You’re in too deep. It’s written all over your face. Your heart has made its decision and there’s no going back now. But know, sweet girl, you will see things you can never unsee. You will hear things you can never unhear. Being a stepmom will change the way you view the world. It will change the way you view humanity. It will change the way you view yourself. There will be a loss of innocence you will never get back. No, you can never go back to who you were before, to the life you had before.
But you will create a new you. And a new life.
Because once you hit rock bottom, you will be forced to realize the only thing you have the power to change, is you. And so you will work on you. You will work so hard. And you will build an inner strength and resilience you never even knew existed inside of you. And time will pass, and with time comes healing. Then, one day you will wake up and realize you haven’t felt that pain in months. Your marriage is rock solid. And not only are you no longer an outsider, but you are the very sun around which your little family revolves. Your authenticity will burst forth out of you, shining rays of healing warmth and beauty on those around you. Yes, you will still have enemies. But they can’t hurt you anymore because you have forgiven them from the very depths of your soul and you have learned the art of creating healthy boundaries.
Things will still trigger you, but now your triggers have become your teachers, showing you the places where you still need to heal. In moments of self-pity and weakness, your new found wisdom and strength will remind you there is no such thing as the fairy tale life you had wished for and you are exactly where you are supposed to be. That God does, in fact, keep His promises. Because now you see He has been working it all out for your good all along. Even when you couldn’t see it. Especially when you couldn’t see it.
Yes, being a stepmom will knock you flat on your face over and over again. But know this. The woman that rises up from those ashes will be a force to be reckoned with. And I can’t wait to meet that woman one day. But until then, I will be praying for you, soon-to-be stepmom. I believe in you. Because if I can do it, anyone can do it.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Rachel Dunne, the Spiritual Stepmom. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her website. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more from Rachel here:
‘My stepdaughter exploded a ketchup packet all over herself, me, my antique rug, and a dining room chair. If my five-year-old had done this, I would have FLIPPED.’: Woman shares realization about step-motherhood
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