You’ve survived the break-up, the children are finally settling into their new routines and it looks as though life might be on an even keel at last. Then, suddenly the bombshell drops. Your ex has a new bow. And now you’re going to be dealing with your ex and her new partner. In an instant everything changes. You thought things were on the up and up, but suddenly you fell back to rock bottom.
This guy won’t just be in your ex’s life, he’ll be in your children’s lives, in your marital home and sleeping in your old bed. He’ll take over everything you used to own. He’ll be relaxing in your chair, cooking in your kitchen, eating food from your cupboard, smiling at your ex and listening to your children tell him about their day. Not surprisingly, dealing with your ex and her new partner will likely stir one of the most common emotions in life after divorce – anger.
Initially, it will be a huge shock. Even if you thought you were prepared for it, when your ex announces she has a new man in her life, you’re likely going to be consumed by the news. You’ll be resentful, jealous, or angry. And, you’ll be worried about the impact this guy will have on your kids.
Take A Deep Breath
Take some much needed time to adjust to the news. Don’t lose your cool. And don’t say the first thing that comes into your head. The truth of the matter is, no matter hard it is to accept, your ex was inevitably going to find someone new and start a new relationship. Keep calm. Focus on your own wellbeing and that of your kids as much as you can.
Think things through and make a list of your priorities, then you have a better chance of having a calm and productive conversation with your ex. You’ll want to know whether your children know about the new man, when they’ll be meeting him, if they haven’t already, how they are feeling, whether he’ll be moving in, or how often they’ll be in his company and a little about him. Try to push aside that image of him enjoying breakfast at your table and crawling between the sheets with your ex. Stick to practical matters. Remember, your ex loves your children and will most likely be looking out for them and doing what she believes is best for them. Even if you vehemently disagree, try to be realistic. You’re all in the process of moving on and creating news lives, and a certain amount of flexibility will be needed to keep peace. One day, it will be her turn to deal with the new woman in your life and handing her children over to you and some other woman.
Look After Your Mental Health
Be kind but firm with yourself. After the first few days of rage and self-pity, or obsessing about the injustice of it all, you’ll need to start to bury those feelings. It won’t be easy, but you need to understand that negative emotions can have a powerful effect on you physically and psycholgically.
Likewise positive emotions can affect you deeply too, so concentrate on promoting positive thoughts. If you find yourself regularly drawn to dwelling on the changes, purposely steer your thoughts to something happier. Distract yourself. Pour yourself into something you’ve been thinking about doing, or a meeting with friends or even a work project. Distract yourself from these cyclical anxious thoughts. Tell yourself, I’m not going to think about that right now, and then don’t. Focus, focus, focus – on you, and your kids.
This will be hard and you’ll keep dwelling and worrying about the same things, over and over again. But as time goes by you’ll find it easier to push negative thoughts aside. Try not to imagine his new place in your family’s life.
Don’t let anxieties about your relationship with your kids take over. Being anxious about your place in their lives is natural. You’ll wonder if they’ll like him more. He’ll no doubt spend more time with them than you if he lives with them. They’ll tell him things and he’ll give them advice. They’ll have fantastic trips together. He’ll get to do all the things that you thought you’d be doing as they grow up. Stop.
Remind yourself, they love you. You’re their dad and however big a presence he is in their lives, he cannot replace you. If they love him, that’s a good thing. It doesn’t mean they love you any less. It means they’re comfortable and happy with the people in their lives, which is how it should be. If you’re honest, you know that you wouldn’t want them going home to someone whom they don’t want to be around.
If things get too much for you, find someone to talk to. This could be a sympathetic friend, a family member or, if you’re really struggling, a trained counsellor. Just make sure that the person you’re talking to is giving you good advice. Friends are great for sounding off at, but it won’t be helpful to spend time with someone who is ready to label your ex as toxic. You’re looking for kindness but honesty. Sympathy is great, but a good friend will help you accept what you cannot change and won’t let you wallow in bitterness.
Dealing With Your Ex and Her New Partner
After you’ve got over the initial shock, make sure that you keep the channels of communication open so you can deal with your ex and her new partner. You’ll want a certain amount of information about her new partner if he’s going to be spending time with your children. You’ll need to know whether he’s moving in or how often he’ll be seeing them. Keep it civil. If things get heated you’ll miss the opportunity to find out what you want to know. And your input is more likely to be heard if you make your case calmly.
Stick to your existing routines and implement any changes cautiously. Everyone’s priority should be the kids and how they’re coping with the new situation. This article gives an idea of how to sensitively introduce a new partner into your children’s lives – and how not to.
First, know that you don’t have to meet this new guy if you really can’t face it. But, getting to know someone a little can help stop your imagination from running wild. And, it would be useful if you can pick up the children from him if your ex can’t make it or have a phone conversation with him to make arrangements for the weekend.
If you do decide to meet him, make it somewhere neutral at first. Try hard to be polite and approachable. If you find him aloof or less than friendly, stick to your guns and be the better man. Don’t steam in and start trying to lay down rules as soon as you meet him. Start with more general terms; you should at least both be able to agree that you want your children to feel happy and settled. It would be more appropriate to leave detailed rules to a meeting with your ex at another time. Then at least you can say that you have met him and given him a chance.
Over time, things should ease up and become a little more comfortable between you and he. Keep the tone of any meeting professional and try and let the children see that you are able to speak to him without animosity. If you can be civil to each other, as well as easy going and helpful it will make everyone’s lives easier.
How You Can Help Your Kids
Your children will be going through a major change in their lives when your ex finds a new partner. They will suddenly be having to share their mother with someone else and may well have to adjust to a new person living in their home.
Make sure you’re not dismissive when you speak to them about him, however hard it is. Younger children in particular may look to see how you respond to him and pick up on your feelings. It won’t help if you manoeuvre them into feeling negative about him, it will simply give them anxiety and make their lives less happy. And if they do get on well with him, they may feel guilty about it.
Your role is to be a rock for them. Reassure them that nothing will change their relationship with you, he won’t be replacing you and you will always be there for them. And then make sure you are, as often as you can be. Don’t be tempted to indulge them with treats and gifts; what they really need is quality time with you. This doesn’t have to be trips out or vacations, quality time is simply time when you are connecting with each other, over meals, shared books, games or movies for example. Concentrate on giving them a relaxed, pleasant time with you. Let them talk about him if they want to, and try and put your own feelings aside for their sakes. It won’t be easy, but if you manage it you really will be a great dad.
Throughout this difficult time, remember to look after yourself. Remind yourself that there are still good things ahead for you and that this will pass. Focus on building strong, healthy and happy relationships with your children and on creating a good life for yourself instead of focusing on dealing with your ex and her new partner. These are your priorities now, and negative emotions have no place with you.
This is without a doubt one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do. Seeing your children accepting a new man into their lives and reacting with good grace can feel impossible at times. But persevere. You may be filled with negative emotions, but put every ounce of effort into putting the negativity aside while you’re with your children. In the end, this will help you too; by getting into the habit of behaving in a positive and easy going manner, you have a good chance of raising your own mood and being able to cope well with the change. As time goes by, the new situation will become easier and more comfortable for everyone and you’ll feel happier about the future as it becomes clearer that although your ex has a new man in her life, your place in your children’s lives will never be in doubt.