‘They were dropped off sick with pneumonia. The oldest had underwear that had been worn for so long, it had fecal matter stains.’: Stepmom stands her ground against abusive ex-wife, ‘It breaks my heart’

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“Girl. Grab a snack, a drink, the entire wine bottle… I got you. We are going to be here for a while.

The struggle is SO real.

Something so often overlooked and minimized are the struggles of being a stepmom. There are some support pages here and there, but I feel like stepmoms just get brushed off and left to figure it out for ourselves, carrying the burdens and pains in silence. But our journeys — our struggles, our downfalls, and our triumphs — all need to be shared. We need to speak up and be the support not only to these new children in our lives but also to other new stepparents who have no idea where to turn.

As a stepmom, I feel like we are often subjected to more abuse at the hands of the ex. I haven’t quite figured out why, but female exes tend to exhibit the most vindictive, jealous, and hateful behavior I have ever seen.

Hi! I’m Christina, and I have been the target of one of those exes. I refuse to call myself a victim because I refuse to let her affect my life or psyche the way she so desperately wants.

But girl, do I have stories. The trouble is, we are stuck. As a peaceful natured person, you just want to be there for the new child or children in your lives, but don’t want to overstep any boundaries.

You have to deal with the glaring, stalking, harassment, and the children being used as their biological mother’s mouthpiece for spewing her disdain and hatred towards you that you just can’t seem to figure out. You tried to be kind. You attempted to bridge the gap and tried to be cordial and positive. But it seems no matter what you do, you are always wrong and treated as if you are a criminal. You can’t win. If you’re dealing with a genuinely insecure and mentally and emotionally damaged ex, you never will win until she comes to terms with her own issues and chooses to work on them.

My story is frightening, painful, and heartbreaking both to listen to and tell. I’ve been a target of immeasurable hatred since the day I came into my husband’s life. He did everything right. He waited until he talked with his ex about our relationship to ensure everyone was on the same page and that he had her blessing before introducing a new person into their children’s lives. He also continued to be there for his children every day, something I supported wholeheartedly. His ex was okay, at first. Kind of. We women can pick up tension like magic. And let me tell you, it was there. A glare every time she saw something that shattered the image she wanted to have of me: the vapid fling who could never measure up to her. Things as small as me baking cookies, seeing my house, my job, the fact I was much older than she assumed, and the breaking point – her children actually bonding with me.

I was attacked as often and as hard as possible, every chance she got. I became the first name drop in every court document in the custody dispute she started, after figuring out I was not going to be the worthless fling she wanted me to be. You want to talk crazy? The woman even had her attorney put in official court documents the Judge should order my husband to leave me and move back in with her. It doesn’t stop there. She also requested the judge order him to refer to her as his ‘wife’ and sleep in the same bed as her. If my husband chose not to comply with this, she would continue to try and take his children from him permanently. I’m not even joking. It felt like I was in the twilight zone or some alternate universe where craziness is entirely acceptable and encouraged. Luckily, the court did not entertain those first ludicrous requests, but, unfortunately, they did begin to welcome every one of her shenanigans thereafter.

That was almost 6 years ago, and we have only just recently been able to overcome all the conflict.

Even through all of the attacks, I did my best to remain neutral. I continued to try and form and maintain a relationship of trust and respect with my stepchildren. We carried on, while she got away with things that, anywhere else, would be frowned upon. She moved from place to place with a much younger boyfriend who seemed to have sinister intentions. She even refused to work or support her children financially and instead put them into the welfare system, despite my husband and I having the means to support them. We had to fight for it, but I covered their health insurance and paid every single one of their medical bills. They were dropped off sick, with pneumonia, barely clothed in freezing temperatures. The oldest had underwear that had been worn for so long, it had fecal matter stains. When I first met my oldest bonus child, she was almost 4 and was not even the slightest bit potty trained. So here we go – a boundary I have to cross because I want this child to have a healthy life and learn how to use the bathroom so she can enjoy things like preschool, swimming, and being prepared for kindergarten.

The list goes on and on, and no court or judge cared. The neglect and abuse were incredibly apparent, and we did our best to protect them and counteract all the negative with the positive parenting and environment in our home. The story could continue for hours, but sadly, it ended up with the ex giving my husband an ultimatum: he could either cut me off entirely and adhere to every one of her demands (all of which went against the court order she agreed to and was in full effect) or he could never see his kids again. He obviously wasn’t going to divorce me, so she did what she said she would. She didn’t let him see his children for over a year. We tried everything, and it eventually tore my husband and me apart, which is a story for another day. We are incredibly lucky our separation allowed us to heal from it all and come back together, but it’s amazing what happens when you are dealing with an incredibly manipulative person who tricks everyone into believing their false tales of hardship.

The truth is, I could go on and on all day about my experience and how it affected me, my marriage, and my life overall. But at the end of the day, while it is vital to have an outlet to talk about our feelings and struggles, it is the children who suffer the most in circumstances like this. They end up being the ones who are genuinely forgotten. I can only imagine the damage this woman, and many other counter-parenting exes, have done to their children. It breaks my heart. I would give anything to change it, to not see my husband struggle with the pain of not seeing his children, to not know the pain that the children must feel who have to experience this and the horrible things they are told. If you’re still reading this, you probably think the exact same way.

You know the struggle. Caring for children who aren’t yours, loving them as your own, and being a punching bag for someone else’s insecurities all at the same time — it’s not easy. I want to let you know that it’s okay. If you have taken on children who aren’t your own and love them and treat them as your own, you are an incredible person, and you deserve all the credit in the world. There are times where you want to give up, where it feels like there is no end in sight or where it just feels like you are doing something wrong. But please know – you are not doing anything wrong.

Through all the struggle, tears, and hard days and nights, you are building something for that child/children they will never forget. You are giving them something their own biological parent isn’t even giving them – unconditional love and respect. Love that’s not based on a competition of households or conditional upon whether or not that child will join in on their hatred. Stay in that space, and as much you can help it, do not engage with the aggressor.

Stand your ground and stand confident in the fabulous woman, mother, and stepmother you are. You have every right to be in that child’s life, and you have every right to care for them and love them. If you’re dealing with a neglectful biological parent, do not feel bad for a single second for stepping in and taking care of that child the way they deserve. Most of all, do not be afraid to use your voice. Speak up. Share your stories. Find a community where you can vent and find strength again. Talk to your partner about your feelings and stand up for yourself. Just keep your head up, keep doing what you are doing, maintain firm boundaries between yourself, your family, and the aggressor and stay true to yourself. You got this, girl.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Christina Feldermann, 35, of Michigan. Follow her journey on Instagram hereDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories from Christina here: 

‘You’re the girl who cries on her way to work but walks in with a smile on her face. The girl who never asks for help.’: Woman reminds us ‘there is no shame in being vulnerable’

‘She called the police on me while in my dorm because I didn’t text her back soon enough. I finally committed to cutting her out of my life, for good.’: Woman says narcissist mother ‘showed me everything I do not want to be’

‘I am a daughter of a mother who alienated me from my father, erasing him from my life. My story is never told, the story that gets ignored.’: Woman details the effects of parental alienation

‘I’d get married at Taco Bell and wear a piece of string around my finger if it meant spending the rest of my life with the person I adore.’: After abusive relationship, woman says marriage isn’t about material possessions.

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