When Your Ex Remarries
What do you do when your ex remarries?
My client recently called me with a dilemma. Her ex-husband was getting married according to her children and they were very unhappy about who he was marrying. She wanted to remain neutral, yet she could see how much pain the situation was bringing on her children. The children were feeling neglected and like they were second fiddle to the new woman in their dad’s life, his girlfriend has 4 young children.
Despite being happy in her own relationship, my client felt a pang of jealousy. She also felt extremely conflicted about how to advise her children without putting down their father (something that she was crying out to do internally). While her intentions were good, wanting to maintain an amicable relationship all around, she agreed with her children and was ready to intervene on their behalf.
What do you do when your children put you in the middle?
Where do your loyalties lie?
Is it your place to help fight your children’s battle with your co-parent?
Should your children learn their own coping skills?
Can you be a neutral observer when it comes to their co-parent?
While the tendency as a mother is to want to fix everything for our children, at some point they need to find their own way and learn to navigate their new relationships. While I do think it’s okay to be a sounding board, without their own tools, children will never learn how to master any relationship.
How should you handle the conversations about your ex?
- Resist the urge to identify all the flaws in their co-parent. While you got to divorce him, they don’t. He’s always going to be their father.
- Listen to what they’re saying. Are they upset about the person their dad is marrying or the fact that he’s marrying someone that’s not you?
- Help them find the words for their conversations. Do not contact your ex on their behalf. These skills will serve them well in life. How is this situation making them feel? What is their relationship like with their parent’s new partner? How does she/he interact with them? What has changed that’s causing them to get so upset? Does their dad even know that they’re upset?
- Teach them empathy so they can have better conversations. As they know all too well, when you confront them about everything that’s wrong, they get defensive and really don’t hear what you’re telling them. How can they have a conversation with the other parent where that parent will hear them? You can’t argue with someone’s feelings. If your kids are feeling neglected or bullied and that’s scaring them and making them sad, they need to tell the other parent. If they’re feeling abandoned in favor of the new partner, they need to tell the other parent. It’s entirely possible that your spouse is assuming that the fact that they don’t want to be together has nothing to do with how they feel.
- If your kids feel like their conversations are falling on deaf ears, they may have to do some swallowing. Sadly, if they want a relationship with your ex, they are going to have to figure out how to get along with the new partner. As much as they’d like the world no longer revolves around them and they will have to get used to it. New parent relationships are unfortunate by-product of divorce.
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