Knowing your children are safe and well-cared for when they are with your ex puts co-parenting on a different level. For starters, it’s easier to build trust and communication. Bringing new partners into the circle also adds another dimension that many of us have no experience dealing with. When Terry realized her former friend was going to be her children’s stepmother, she and her ex talked about boundaries. Here’s Terry:
One of the agreements that he and I made immediately when we separated was,
“If it’s about the kids and I need to talk to you, I’m going to talk to you. I don’t want to talk to your new wife or your new girlfriend when it’s about our children,”
unless it’s a situation that all four of us need to talk or whatever, but I want to come to him first.
I don’t mind getting her input on things, or him getting it for me, I welcome that because she’s around my kids all the time, too, but I think I can welcome it because she’s not trying to overrule me. She’s not showing up at parent-teacher conferences. It’s always he and I at the parent-teacher conferences. So I think that makes me feel a little bit better about her.
My ex and I are our children’s parents and both his wife and my husband are very good about that. There isn’t a ton of needling in, where she wants to make the decisions, where she wants to be the one that I talk to. She’s perfectly fine. As far as I know, those guidelines are self-imposed by her.
She might be giving her opinions to my ex and she has every right to be able to talk to him about it, but she doesn’t come to me and say,
“I need you to only talk to me or you need to do what I say.”
It’s the same thing with my husband. I’ve never told him “this is the way it’s going to be” and neither has my ex. He just agrees that they’re our children and he’s more than happy to listen to me and give me his opinions, but he wants me and my ex to make the decisions.
So, we try and so far, so good.
The Divorce Coach Says
Wow! You hear so many negative stories of step-parents, I was really encouraged by this. I would imagine that setting the ground rules really helps. Those ground rules may not be needed most of the time but when there’s potential for conflict, you can remind yourself of the ground rules and use them as a guide for your own behavior. Of course, that Terry and her ex are on the same page with this to start with makes a huge difference and that their respective partners accept this philosophy also helps to make this work.