Each partner in a relationship will always have an ex, but that’s never a problem because they have no ties to them, and their paths may almost never cross. But in a situation like mine, where the Ex has children with your partner, things get a little more complicated and it becomes a whole different ball game.
You have to try and form a cordial relationship with your husband’s ex for the sake of the children and for your peace of mind.
The complication arises when the Ex is not willing to reciprocate the gesture and is not willing to co-parent with you. She may refuse to accept you or consider you as her children’s other parent even if you guys have full custody of the children. I would like to share a few tips that have helped me to keep sane and rise above the drama over the years.
Tip #1: Avoid any drama like the plague, and let your husband deal with it. If the ex does not wish to involve you in any decision-making regarding the kids and instead choses to constantly keep alienating you from her communication on the children, step aside. This is where your partner then steps in and ensures that you are copied on all emails so that all parties are on the same page. This works out because at the end of the day, you are the one executing most if not all of the work when it comes to the children.
Tip #2: Don’t take it personally, her acceptance or lack of has nothing to do with you as a person. Maybe she is still dealing with emotions and issues that you cannot fully appreciate. Like I always say, divorce is not easy for anyone so you have to give her time to heal and hope that one day she will able to put aside your differences, move on and find it in her heart to work together with you.
Tip #3: Always be neutral even when the ex is not being reasonable and is badmouthing you to the kids and anyone else willing to give her a listening ear. Be the bigger person and never say anything negative about her in front of the children. Remember that she is still their mother and they are not responsible for her behaviour. Never ever mix the kids up with the Ex, even when the kid’s behaviour falls short of your expectations. They are just kids, remember even the bible recognizes that foolishness resides in the heart of children! (Proverbs 22:15)
Tip #4: It is important to respect and acknowledge the strength of a biological connection. Never try to take her place or to replace her as the mother of her children. This only leads to the ex feeling threatened. Who wouldn’t anyway? So I always try to maintain her place in the children’s lives and remind the children that they have to love and respect their mother just as she is. We don’t get to choose who we are born to and so she deserves respect and love from them, regardless of whether she is with their father or not.
Tip #5: When it comes to parenting styles, remember that she doesn’t see life through your filter. You are 2 different people so you won’t necessarily share the same values. When the children are with you, ensure that they adhere to your house rules but also be accommodative, keeping in mind their mums parenting style and the values that they had been raised with before you came into the picture. It will take a while to streamline expectations, but you need to be firm and consistent.
Tip #6: Set boundaries from early in the relationship. Do not allow yourself to be treated like a doormat or to be disrespected. Be firm and polite. Always speak up whenever something makes you feel uncomfortable. And ensure that everyone adheres to visitation schedules.
Tip #7: Invest in a support system. A group of friends who are also step mums is a good place to start. Have a trusted partner that you will be able to vent off your frustrations with when it becomes too much to bear. However, be extremely careful who you share your struggles with as you would not want to hurt any family member or the children.
I believe that a balance can be found between step mum and mother as long as there is respect on each side. Friendship would be the ideal situation, but you have to be open to the fact that it may or may not happen in this lifetime.
So, for the sake of the children we need to make it work. We need to put our feelings aside and put the children’s best interests and needs ahead of our own so that we can raise happy healthy children. Remember, at the end of the day, your partner’s happiness, as well as your own happiness will be ultimately determined by how well you strike this equilibrium.
So far, I don’t think I’m doing a bad job at balancing it all… Some days I’m confident and other days, I feel like I’m fumbling in the dark, but I still give it all I’ve got. Believe me, every single day is a critical part of life’s never ending learning curve.