Being a co-parent with your ex can be really hard. When your ex moves on and starts dating someone new, it can make even the most amicable of breakups difficult. You’re now trying to fit a new person into the equation where they might not easily fit. Co-parenting with an ex is like algebra to begin with, and adding that new person in throws an unsolvable variable into the already complicated problem.
There’s no one way to handle it, but for me, becoming friendly with my ex’s new significant other was the best thing to do for our little family. It wasn’t easy, and it took me time to get to this point. But ultimately, I realized that this isn’t just about my feelings, but about my son’s as well.
I wasn’t mad that my ex started dating someone new. Obviously, I didn’t expect him to stay single forever. And as the non-custodial parent, he had more time than I did to get out there and date. Our son was three and a half when his dad started dating someone else, and now he’s five. Though he had never known his dad and I as a couple (our relationship was long distance), he was at an age when he was beginning to notice romantic relationships. He was surrounded by married couples, and there aren’t many (if any) television shows geared towards preschoolers that don’t feature kids in a two-parent household.
But I still wasn’t sure how to explain this new person in his dad’s life.
Not long after we moved to live closer to my ex, he asked me if it would be okay if he introduced our son to his girlfriend.
Over my dead body, I thought. I told him that I thought it was too soon, but we could revisit the conversation in a couple months. My son was just getting used to having his dad in his life all the time, I didn’t think it was wise to bring a new person in too. My ex respected my decision and didn’t bring it up for a few months.
During that time, it was always in the back of my mind. I knew it would come up again, and I honestly didn’t know how to feel about it. Because my son is still so young, I knew that once this woman was a part of his life, she was also going to be a part of mine too. And even though I no longer had any sort of romantic feelings for my ex, meeting the new woman in his life and having her in mine made me uneasy.
When the time came for her and my son to meet, I wanted to be there for the introduction. My son was hesitant, but he’s like that with all new people. I didn’t really know how to act around her either. I couldn’t help but feel territorial and worry that somehow my son was going to like her better than me. hey get along well, but my fears weren’t necessary; as much fun as he has with her, I’m still his best girl.
A few months ago, she pulled me aside after a drop-off and asked if she and I could grab coffee or dinner to “get to know each other.” I panicked. I was fine with her being in my son’s life, but did I want her in mine?
After putting it off for a few weeks, I finally agreed to have dinner with her. I felt more nervous about having dinner with her than I did about going on a first date. And that’s exactly what it felt like. There I was, sitting across from a woman I’d known for almost a year, and yet I knew nothing about her. We mostly talked about me, my life, and my work. I asked my own questions and learned a few things about her. We talked about how much she cared about my son, and how much she valued her relationship with him. It was reassuring to know that she cares so much about him. After that night, I knew I had no reason to feel uneasy around her.
It’s hard to find an example of what the right relationship is supposed to be between a mother and the significant other of her ex. There’s aren’t many solid examples out there; on television shows you either have the evil ex who is nothing but trouble and has a terrible relationship with the new woman, or you get the exact opposite and they become best friends.
I grew up in a blended family, and all of my dad’s exes were part of my life. My mom got along with them all — they weren’t best friends, but they could be in the same room together, at least. That’s what I want too, to be able to be in the same place as her and not feel awkward. I doubt she and I will ever be the type to go get our nails done or have girl’s night out together. But I don’t mind having her in my home, or introducing her to people in my life when the time is right. If she and my ex end up together long term, there are lots of things we’re going to have to share — birthdays, graduations, and possibly even weddings and grandchildren one day.
I don’t ever want my son to feel like he has to divide himself between her and me. I want him to know that we’re both there for him no matter how we may feel about each other. And if that means occasionally having dinner together, then it’s the least I can do.
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