I was watching Dr. Phil the other day. Comedian, actor and author, Steve Harvey was on talking about his book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. Steve Harvey’s wife also appeared on the show and Steve told the story of when he knew that she was the woman for him. Apparently Mr. Harvey had been a player and one time when he and Mrs. Harvey (she was his girlfriend at the time), were on an overnight date, Steve’s phone rang in the middle of the night. It was another woman and he actually took the call. Mrs. Harvey said that she calmly got up and started packing her things. Steve asked her what she was doing and she replied, “I’m going home. You can be a player if you want to, but I’m not going to have any part of it. You will treat me with respect.” Steve told Dr. Phil that it was at that moment that he knew that she was the woman for him because she had standards and expectations and she made them perfectly clear.
There is a chapter in Harvey’s book on setting standards. “Here’s what’s happened over the years. Women’s standards and requirements have lowered. And as men, we know that. We have taken advantage of it. We’ve created terms that we feed to women that allow us to exist as we do. We created the term nagging. There’s really no such thing as nagging. As soon as a woman starts registering her complaint, we call it nagging. We let you know it will drive us away,” said Harvey. “So many standards have been lowered by women that now a man doesn’t have to climb over a very high bar to get to her. So now you have more men who can get away with more things with more women without any repercussions, ” he explained.
I am going to have to agree with Mr. Harvey. Many times women lower their expectations for how they should be treated based on what other people will think of them and this holds true for the stepmother as well. The stepmom or future stepmom might believe that she can’t require her husband or future husband to treat her a certain way because he has kids with another woman. She might feel like she can’t demand respect in her home because then she will be seen as the evil stepmother. She might feel as if she can’t expect her husband to make their marriage a priority because she will be seen as the woman taking him away from his kids. There are many other situations and reasons why a stepmom or future stepmom might not want to make her expectations perfectly clear, but I caution them not to lower their standards and expectations. Like Steve said, when women lower their standards, a man doesn’t have to work very hard to get to her and he is able to get away with more things. He’s able to use the “it’s for my kids” or “but she’s the mother of my children” excuse for mistreating you. It’s okay to put your foot down and demand to be treated as you would if he had never been married and didn’t have kids. This doesn’t mean that he is disowning his children or disrespecting the mother of his children just because he treats his wife or future wife the way she should be treated.
That being said, setting standards is different from delivering ultimatums and/or whining. When Steve Harvey’s wife left that night, she didn’t say you have to stop or I’m going to leave. She told him that he can be a player if he wants to, but she wasn’t going to have any part of it. Stepmoms need to apply the same method to their respective situations. Realize that you can’t force someone to behave the way you want them to and after talking or arguing about your feelings for so long without change, then it’s time for YOU to take the situation into your own hands. Often times, when people are confronted with conflict we give our power to the person we’re in conflict with. We do this by continually whining about a situation that we’ve expressed our feelings about, over and over again, and still expecting the other person to take action. What we must realize and accept is that sometimes that other person just isn’t going to take action and we must be prepared to take that next step either way. Stepmoms need to start setting standards early (before you take the trip down the aisle). If there are things that you know you won’t tolerate, make it perfectly clear early on and be prepared to act on it so he knows what your expectations are. Let him know that he can continue the behavior, but he can do it without you. Let him know that you won’t tolerate rude and invasive exes or disrespectful children, from the very beginning. Tell him that you understand how everyone must feel, but you will accept no excuses for being mistreated in any way. Outline your standards and make your expectations of him perfectly clear. Make him work for you because you are worth it.