When you begin a relationship with someone new, you may feel pressure to be friendly with their ex. This pressure only intensifies if your new partner has children with someone.
It’s one thing for exes to be civil with one another, but when there are children involved, there’s still going to be quite a bit of communication between the two.
As a stepmom, you may feel conflicted. On the one hand, you understandably want a fair amount of distance from your partner’s ex. On the other hand, for the kids’ sake, it seems best to make an effort to be friendly.
It’s essential to keep in mind that there’s a difference between friendliness and being friends-and as a stepmom, you shouldn’t feel obligated to be the latter with your partner’s ex.
Understanding Your Partner’s Family Dynamic
When you enter a relationship with someone who has kids, right off the bat, you know that the kids will always be a crucial factor in your partner’s decision making. Furthermore, you know going in that the ex is probably still in the picture. That’s what makes you a brave wonder woman for taking on such a challenge. Most women do not have to face the woman that came before them.
The best thing you can do is get a thorough understanding of their family’s dynamics. What is the custody agreement? How often is the ex around? How often do your partner and their ex still communicate?
Again, when you enter a relationship with someone who has children, there’s going to be some adjustments on your part as well as the ex and your partner. Yes your partner and his ex will need to communicate about the children but your relationship needs to be respected.
Friendliness vs. Friendship
As mentioned earlier, there is a big difference between being friendly and actively being friends with someone. For the sake of the kids, it’s vital to, at the very least, be civil with their mother and the same goes for their mother toward you.
However, you are under no obligation to have any further interactions than that. In popular culture it’s common to compare ourselves to others. Some step/blended families in social media brag about taking vacations together. If that works for them, great, but don’t feel pressure to reach that ideal. In my work with stepfamilies I can assure you that goal is rare and not common most exes don’t vacation with one another when they have a new significant other.
You do not have to go to lunch with this person, shop with them, or even have any conversation outside of when they pick up the kids. It’s only natural to feel uncomfortable around your partner’s ex; you have the right to want to limit interactions. The ex is always going to be in the picture, and that’s a sacrifice you’ll feel daily.
Don’t Be Afraid to Set Boundaries
It may seem pretty straightforward-you don’t have to be friends with your partner’s ex if you don’t want to be. However, what happens if your partner or your in laws place pressure on you? What if the ex is always trying to insert themselves into you and your partner’s relationship? Does your partner’s ex call at inappropriate hours like 2AM? Or does your partner’s ex still ask your partner for help with things she can do herself such as helping her fix her sink?
In this situation, it’s up to you (and your partner) to set some boundaries. Remember if they are divorced or broken up they should not be helping each other with personal favors anymore. That’s disrespectful to you and your relationship. The only thing ex need to focus on are their children.
Every Family Is Different
Ultimately, every family has a unique dynamic, especially those in which the parents are separated or divorced. Keep in mind your partner and his ex will need to communicate but don’t be afraid to speak up when something doesn’t feel right.
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries with your partner and the ex. This approach doesn’t make you the wicked stepmom-it makes you human. Everyone has limitations, and yours deserve to be respected as much as anyone else’s.
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