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How to deal with your ex's new partner

1 Nov

Introducing a new partner to a co-parenting dynamic is not easy, learn how to do it successfully for all involved.

Young couple holding hands walking in garden with the sun behind them

3 in 4 people go on to remarry, therefore introducing a new partner or dealing with your ex’s new partner is inevitable. This isn’t easy, and even the best co-parenting relationships can struggle with a new partner coming into the picture as we all saw in the film Stepmom with Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon. How this situation is handled has a huge impact on your children's acceptance of the new partner and your success as a blended family going forward.

Here are my top tips for introducing and accepting a new partner, so you can establish a healthy family dynamic that allows you all to thrive going forward:

1. Remove the idea they are competition. Pitching yourself against your ex’s new partner will not end well, it  creates an unhealthy competition based on an idea that one of you has to be superior and the other inferior. They are not your enemy, nor are they your competition.

2. Realise you and your ex were not right for one another. It is common for people to push all of their pain and resentment towards their ex’s new partner. Whether the partner came on the scene after or during your marriage, they were not unfaithful to you and ultimately they were not the cause of issues within your marriage. Blaming them will not make this situation any better or allow you to move on. This can be difficult to deal with and something you may want to understandably get help with.

3. Recognise they are just as intimidated by you. I have seen it time and time again where the ex is unnerved by the new partner. The truth is in the majority of cases they are just as fearful of you. We all have our own hang-ups, and insecurities, which are often brought into focus when we believe someone is better than us. But do not centre on this, if we can be more honest and vulnerable with each other we can find more connection.

4. Shift your focus. Rather than making this about them, push the focus on to you. You can’t control any new partners and they can’t control your  thoughts, behaviour or actions.  So if you spend your time and energy to better yourself and your children you will be in a much stronger place.

5. Identify the fear. 95% of our thoughts come from our subconscious mind, which drives our behaviour, habits and ultimately outcomes. The majority of destructive behaviour is a symptom of fear.  Understanding the fear allows you to identify the root cause and do something about it. So, ask yourself what is it you are afraid of and what can you do to remove or reduce this? If this is something you are struggling with then do not be afraid to get professional help.

6. Avoid badmouthing - put your kids first. Taking swipes at your ex or their new partner is not helpful to anyone, especially not your children. This is really damaging to your family dynamic and their development . Children are innocent in this, making life difficult is unfair, damaging and cruel.

7. Introduce new partners to ex’s before your children. If it is you who is introducing a new partner you have a responsibility to your children, your new partner and your ex to manage this situation. Telling your ex and introducing your new partner to them before your children will give you the best chance of your partner being accepted and creating a healthy family dynamic for everyone.

8. Establish communication and boundaries. Communication is key to any relationship, especially as co-parents. Sadly it’s not rare for a good co-parenting relationship to suffer when a new partner is introduced. Ensuring that you continue to communicate effectively is more vital now than ever. It’s also important that you establish boundaries and roles within the new dynamic that you are all comfortable with. Your ex’s new partner is essentially becoming a new part of your blended family, so you need to be inclusive.

9. Tell your children together. Once you have decided your roles, expectations and boundaries, your children's acceptance of this new situation is greatly increased if you are both on board and tell them together. Really, it’s the same as telling your children about your divorce –  they need to know they have the support of both parents and that this change is here to support everyone.

These tips are varied and can be hard to adhere to but ultimately you need to realise this new partner is going to be an important person in your ex’s and therefore your children’s lives.  It is thus in everyone's best interest to get on and make this work. You all stand a much better chance of moving on and thriving as a family if you come together, deal with your own issues and put your children first.

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