Inevitably, at some point after your divorce, and for some people, even during the divorce, your ex will start dating someone else and that’s bound to stir up some emotions no matter what.
My current guest Donna F. had been married for seven years when they got divorced and within a short period time of that Donna’s ex was dating. The person he was dating was one of Donna’s good friends and while that may be a deal-breaker for some people, for Donna there were some definite benefits. Here’s Donna:
Before I moved to Colorado a good friend of mine told me she was dating my ex. She had lost her husband a couple of years before in a motorcycle accident. She wanted to have more kids and she had actually been engaged to someone else for a short time. But that was her goal, she wanted to have kids and they started dating right after our divorce.
For me, it wasn’t horrible. I thought she was crazy, because she knew the story, she knew how crazy he was.
She was the person who helped me take care of my daughter when I was still living in Arizona. She was a nurse and she was home a lot after the death of her husband because it was just so traumatizing. She was the one taking care of my daughter and I think my ex saw it as like an instant babysitter.
They started dating, in January they moved in together and by April they were married. I realized that he was creating a reason for her not ever to come up and visit me. Then she was pregnant right away. She had one son from the other marriage who was six months older than my daughter.
But there was a gift in her being in our lives. One was she knew me. She knew I wasn’t crazy. Two, she brought some, “Yeah, of course she needs to see her mother.” She brought some sanity to his insanity, because he was keeping my daughter from me.
It was this interesting relationship. Seriously, she’s still a friend of mine. They had one child together and then their second child together was autistic and that brought out more of his insanity. She’d buy things, bring them home and he’d sell them. So she said, “You’re not going to keep selling our stuff.”
They ended up separating, telling the kids they were still going to stay married and he moved on the block behind them just like the court said we should do. And I go, “Seriously, this is going to work?”
My daughter was maybe nine or ten. Within a short time he already had a new relationship and new baby on the way. My friend called me and she was like, “Oh, my God. Can you believe it? He’s like dating someone who’s from my work, someone I know.” And she heard herself and she was cracking up.
And her mom goes, “Yeah baby, Donna knows that whole story about how that feels.” It was funny. She goes, “Everything you told me about how convincing he is and how he creates his own reality and how he believes that and he can’t really get back to what’s real, all that stuff was so true.”
What it did for me at that time was reaffirm that my moving to Colorado was best for my daughter, to not pull her apart.
I’ve interviewed two ladies whose marriages ended because their husband was dating a friend and ended up getting married to the friend following the divorce. That clearly adds another dimension to the emotional struggle of seeing your ex with a friend. Both of these ladies however were also able to their ex’s new wife as a positive for their children.
Terry says it’s important to see the bigger picture and appreciate the benefit of having someone else who clearly loves and cares about your children and who your children also like. It’s especially helpful when you’re working full-time and one of the kids is sick.
Carolyn says she’s learned to disassociate from her feelings because she realized pretty early on that if she even tried to play her kids against her ex or his new wife (her former best friend), then the new wife might start to resent the kids or not treat them so well.
I’m not sure that you’ll be able to see any benefit to your kids until you’ve processed your own emotions around your ex’s new partner. So do spend some time allowing yourself to feel those emotions and try to identify what the emotion is – jealousy, anger, sadness, grief?
The emotion itself may surprise you. For example, if you initiated the end of your marriage and you do genuinely feel your life is better now, then why are you experiencing jealousy? Try to understand where the emotion comes from – in the jealousy example it may be that you’re not jealous of the new partner but rather jealous of relationship your ex and they seem to have. You’d like a similar relationship though not with your ex.
Next, consider the boundaries you need to draw so you can be comfortable with the new arrangement. That might mean choosing not to discuss certain topics with the new partner, it might be asking that the new partner not expect to come into your home, or you choosing not to enter their home, it might mean you choosing not to sit next to the new partner when you’re watching you kid’s sporting activities. The boundaries are about what will enable you to be civil and respectful to his new partner. You will likely find it easier to set harder/higher boundaries in the beginning and then as everyone adjusts you’ll find yourself relaxing some of the boundaries.
It’s all about handling the transition and helping your kids.
What’s helped you deal with your ex’s new partner?
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