Your ex and you have parted ways. Even in the most amicable of situations, it’s never fun. But, since you have kids together, he (or she) is still a part of your life. So far that’s worked out…all right. He’s even started to date. That’s a good thing, isn’t it? Sometimes, it’s not, for a variety of reasons. Now what do you do?
First, evaluate your feelings. Usually, when the ex makes the announcement that he’s moved on, the way you take the news depends, in part, on your past relationship. While you might be feeling relief that “someone else” is dealing with his issues now, you might feel jealousy that he’s found someone first, or younger, or more attractive. Or maybe he’s doing things with her that he’s always promised you. Maybe you are angry because she is the reason he left in the first place. Or she’s your best friend. Or she just rubs you the wrong way (there’s no rule that says you have to like everybody!).
Now that you’ve acknowledged your feelings, what do you do about them? What you need to do is find a healthy outlet for them (read: NOT your child!). Parents often “use” their kids as therapists, especially older kids. Not only is this uncomfortable for your child, it is unhealthy for them and for you. It also puts a strain on your relationship with your child and their relationship with the other parent. And, while may you think you want that in moments of anger or bitterness, that type of interference tends to backfire. If you have to talk smack about the ex’s new love, by all means, do so, to a trusted friend or counselor. And please, keep it off facebook and twitter, especially if your kids use social media.
Make sure you keep your communication with your ex limited to the interests of your child. This should basically include such topics as visitation, child support, health concerns, school issues and any other topics which affect the physical or mental well-being of your kid. That’s it. As tempting as it may be to tell your ex that his girlfriend is a whore, refrain. It could deter him from discussing important issues with you later. Also, when it comes to communicating about your child, discussions should take place between yourself and your ex. The love interest doesn’t need to get involved. You are both the parents of the child, know her best, and have her best interests at heart.
Of course, you can always try to improve your relationship with the new love, especially if she is going to be around for awhile. This can only be a win-win-win for everybody. Your ex wins because he doesn’t have to deal with the fighting anymore (as does she!). Your child wins because she doesn’t have to feel like she’s “in the middle” of all of you. And you win, too, because you may make an ally and you’ll know that someone else is in your child’s corner. However, sometimes, this isn’t always possible; some people can’t be reasoned with. If that’s the case, avoid her as much as possible and try some or all of the other strategies already listed here. Hopefully, it will help ease the tension between you and the “new love.”
Break-ups are rarely easy, especially when kids are added to the mix. You may think you are “done” with your ex, but you aren’t…unfortunately you have to deal with them for the sake of your child. And with them come their new partners, for better or for worse. Make the best of a bad situation. Everyone will benefit and you and your child will be happier.