Knowing that your ex’s new love interest is with your kids (and your ex) can easily release a wave of emotions – anger, upset, jealousy, fear, and even rage. Even if you think you are over her, there’s lots of emotion of another adult being around our kids. Those are normal reactions to have.
Depending on your parenting time situation, this new person may have more time around your kids than you do, which can be especially aggravating. Generally, though, there’s a natural concern about a step parent, and even some subtle competition.
Do keep in mind, that the reverse situation may also be true for your ex in time, as you have a love interest. This is all something you may not have thought about, so it’s normal to feel overwhelmed for a time. Here are seven ways you can get past the overwhelm and best support yourself and your kiddos.
This article will help put all of that in a bit of check and provide seven guidelines to help you out.
“Don't waste time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind.”
While it’s very easy to get sucked into the drama, don’t. Avoid comparing yourself to this person or your circumstances. Your job is to better yourself and be the best Dad you can for your kids.
Your only concern is if your kids will be treated well by this new person, which they probably are. If you feel your ex-spouse is a good parent (read: you don’t have to like her, just know that she is a good parent) then you shouldn’t have too much fear.
It is extremely unlikely that they will be with another adult who isn’t going to treat the children well. If you do have serious concerns, however, involve professionals and do not take things into your own hands.
It’s simply not worth the energy, and you have other more important things to do. Life is way too short. Your children may pick up on this energy and feel like they must defend you (or your ex). Please don’t put them in the middle – that hurts them and you.
While you don’t want to put them in the middle, listen you your kids and make sure they know they are heard.
Cranking up the empathy is a good idea.
Your kids may still believe that somehow you will get back together with your ex, and this new person is a threat to that dream. They may have fun with this person and feel guilty about it. There can be a lot of complexity that just listening to them can help. Remember though, it’s not your kid’s job to give you a report on the ex and what they do.
For both yourself and your kids, it’s important to be respectful. You want this person to be great around your kiddos for their sake, no matter how annoying it is to you.
While they will never replace your role, it’s normal to feel challenged a bit. If an issue comes up, it’s best to discuss directly, without kids present, as soon as possible. Remember, the focus is on the well-being of your kids. Anything else is noise, and your own issue to resolve.
While you may not be aware of it, you are modeling life-long behaviors for your kiddos, and how they will handle conflict in the future. Keep your primary job as being a Rad Dad in mind. Be such a classy, unflappable, strong, positive Dad that nobody knows what to do.
You can, however, do things in private like write an upset letter or draw a picture, then rip it up, to get your emotions out.
Yes, at some point this new person will probably be there at your kiddo's events. You are likely to see them at sporting events, concerts and the like.
If you can take the time to say hello and be civil on some level it is going to help your kids. At the same time, being overly friendly can be a mistake. For example, avoid telling this new person about issues you had with your ex.
It may be a good idea to plan a vent session before or after, in private, with a friend, to help you cope. At the same time, if this person wasn’t with your ex, and was being encouraging to your kids, you would see them as an ally. As weird as this may be, do attempt to be open to this perspective.
Sometimes this is easier said than done. It may take some time to fully do this, or you may have to do it in layers.
At some point though, you do want your ex to be happy, if nothing else for your children’s sake. If your split was contentious, this can be very difficult. However, the hate and anger eventually only eat you up, not them.
"The cold never bothered me anyway." - Let it Go Soundtrack
When awkward situations like this arrive, a good dose of humor can take the edge off. Make sure you aren’t being passive-aggressive and attacking anyone, of course. Even just laughing inside at the irony of the situation can help you cope.
"My wife's jealousy is getting ridiculous. The other day she looked at my calendar and wanted to know who May was." Rodney Dangerfield
As weird as this may feel, and as upset as you are, these seven ideas can help you cope more easily. Do know that you may have some feelings you aren’t proud of as you experience this. These are normal. Just acknowledge these feelings and let them go (don’t act on them).
You may also want to check-out our LEAP 3+8 program to more easily focus on your life goals and ignore noise that can get in the way.
Keep going for the best for your kids and yourself!
Chris has worked in tech for 30 years, and healthcare tech for 8 of those. He's on the advisory board of Harvard-Based Think:Kids, and runs Rad Dad Rules. He is the proud Dad of two awesome kids, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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