Finding out that your ex has a new partner can be unsettling. If you’re still single, you may experience twinges of jealousy knowing your former spouse found a significant other before you did. But the toughest blow usually is realizing this person you didn’t choose will have a hand in raising your children. Here are three tips to help you adjust to the change in your ex’s relationship status.
1. Radical Acceptance. You didn’t have a choice in the matter, and you may not like your ex’s paramour, but you do need to accept that he or she is part of your life going forward. Focusing on the new partner’s real or imagined flaws won’t change him or her; it will, however, drive you crazy. Obsessing over something you can’t control is a way of avoiding reality. The sooner you can accept that your ex has moved on, and another adult will be involved with your kids, the quicker you’ll be restored to sanity!
2. Respect boundaries. Unless you have specific rules around new partners written into your parenting time and custody plan, or your ex’s new partner is threatening your child’s safety, you have limited reasons to become involved in the relationship they have with your child. If you find yourself interrogating your kids about the new partner, stop! You will just make your child feel anxious and guilty for enjoying the time they spend with the new adult in their lives. Worse, you will telegraph to them that their other parent’s partner is a threat, which could eventually undermine visitation and cause conflict for everyone.
If your kids complain about the new partner, listen to them with the awareness that they may be adjusting to a different kind of parenting style or feeling threatened that someone else is replacing them in their parent’s heart. You should normalize your child’s feelings and give them strategies for acclimating to another change in their life.
3. Value your role. If you’re worried that the new partner will replace you as a parent, remember: you are your child’s mother or father! The new partner is simply another adult caregiver who will be present in your child’s life. Sure, they may try to be the outrageously fun grown up when they are around the kids, usually as a way to impress their new partner. But guess what? This type of behavior usually ends once the newness wears off and the realities of parenting sink in.
Bottom line: Whenever you find yourself feeling jealous or uncertain, focus on your child’s well-being. Having a stepparent means having another grown-up who cares about them. The more people your child feels are on his “team,” the better. Concentrate on your own relationship with your child and the unique contributions you make to his or her personal development.
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