Your ex is getting married. How do you handle it?
Adjusting to life after divorce is a process that takes time and patience. It looks different for every person because every person’s marriage and reason for divorce is different. Dealing with your ex getting married is another part of adjusting to life after divorce, and there is no one-size-fits-all way to deal with this new circumstance either.
Acknowledge Your Emotions
You may be heartbroken. You may be grief-stricken. You may be relieved. You may be elated. You may be angry. You may be scared. You may feel any one or a combination of these emotions when you hear the news your ex is getting married, and they are all normal.
For your health and wellness, it is imperative to allow yourself to feel your emotions, acknowledge them, and work through them. Friends, family members, counselors, therapists, or religious advisors are all resources to help you process your emotions and eventually let them go.
Protect Your Kids from Your Emotions
Your children, however, should not experience your emotions to this news. Your children will have their own reactions to this news, and it’s your job to be their sounding board for processing their emotions. Their response may be very different from yours, and you don’t want to confuse them or make them feel like they have the “wrong” reaction. Remember, they are going to have lots of questions and concerns too, and you need to be there for them. The calmer you are, the more at ease your children will be with this new situation.
Help Your Children Establish a Healthy Relationship with the Stepparent
No matter how you feel about your ex’s choice of a new spouse, help your children develop a healthy relationship with him or her. Respect is key to any relationship, and it is your job to help teach your kids this important life lesson. Kids learn by watching what we say and do, so practice what you preach.
Don’t express any concerns you have about this new spouse in front of your children and don’t let other family members or friends do it either. If your children are badmouthing the new spouse, put a stop to it immediately.
Don’t Be the Middleman
Don’t try to be the intermediary between the kids and the new spouse. Encourage the kids to talk to your ex directly about any concerns or problems they are having with the new spouse, so your ex can address the issue. Encourage your kids to find common ground with your ex’s new spouse, so they can start to build a positive relationship.
Don’t Make the Kids a Middleman
Finally, don’t question the kids about your ex’s new spouse. You are putting your children in an uncomfortable situation by interrogating them about what goes on in your ex’s household or what the new spouse is like. They’ll infer judgment or jealousy from your questions, potentially making them feel guilty, angry, scared, or worse.
Discuss Changes to the Parenting Plan
Work with your ex to decide how this change will impact parenting plans.
Have an open, honest conversation with your ex, if possible, about how the new marriage will impact your current parenting plan. Have this conversation out of earshot and eyesight of your children.
If You Are Co-Parenting Successfully
If you and your spouse have been successfully co-parenting, it will be essential to create clear boundaries for the new spouse and the role they will play in raising the children and changing household rules. Decide how you want to handle changes in family traditions, holidays, or vacation schedules ahead of time and share these changes with your children.
If You Are Parallel Parenting
If you and your spouse haven’t been able to communicate and are on a parallel parenting path, learning to let go will be more critical than ever. No matter how you feel about your ex’s choice of a new spouse, you want your child to feel safe and secure in that home, so you can’t express your concerns in front of them or badmouth the new spouse’s parenting or housekeeping practices.
You may want to talk to a lawyer to find out if there will be any change to alimony or child support payments now that your spouse is marrying, so you can make plans for how this will impact you and your children as well.
Communicate the Coming Changes to Children Together
The more prepared you are, the more prepared you will be to answer your children’s questions openly, honestly, and consistently, which will go a long way in ensuring they successfully adjust to the changes a new marriage brings to your family dynamic.