How to Have a New Romantic Relationship While Still Maintaining an Active, Healthy Co-parenting Relationship with your Ex
Getting through a divorce with children can be emotional for everyone involved. As a parent, you have to devote a great deal of energy to supporting your kids while also going through the process yourself. After you, your ex, and your children have had time to adjust and get into your co-parenting routine, you may be ready to begin a new romantic relationship. Navigating this new dynamic may be challenging, especially when you have concerns that introducing a new partner may impact your ability to effectively co-parent with your ex. The good news is that there are steps you can take that may help make the transition easier for you, your kids, your new partner, and your ex. Here is more on how to have a new romantic relationship while still maintaining an active, healthy co-parenting relationship with your ex.
Taking Stock of Your Co-parenting Relationship
If your co-parenting relationship is functioning well, chances are, you and your ex have worked to get past your feelings about the divorce to achieve this dynamic. However, not all relationships between ex-spouses operate this smoothly or cooperatively, especially when it comes to making decisions regarding kids. Depending on your situation, adding a new person may create tension or temporarily throw things out of balance between you and your ex. It's essential to consider the state of your relationship and thoughtfully consider the best way to bring up the topic with your ex.
One way to think about it is to consider how you would feel if your ex was starting a new relationship and planned to have their new partner in your children's lives. How would you want to learn about this new person? What would your expectations be going forward? How would you like your ex to communicate with you? What would you want to know most? By asking yourself these and other relevant questions before meeting with your ex, you may be able to introduce the subject in a way that addresses your ex’s concerns and supports your co-parenting relationship.
Setting Boundaries with Yourself and Your Ex
It's essential to maintain appropriate boundaries with your kids and your ex when bringing a new romantic partner into the picture. With your kids, you can start by introducing the idea of your boyfriend or girlfriend as an addition to your life rather than implying that they are a replacement mom or dad. Your children already have another parent. Whatever bond they may form with your partner will be separate and distinct from their connections with you and your ex. Additionally, your kids may be wary of this new person at first and need time to establish trust. You can help by not pushing your kids too hard to immediately connect with your partner. Give them the time they need to get used to the new person in their lives. It will also help if you refrain from discussing your ex with your new partner around your kids.
No matter how much you try and prepare, it’s not always easy learning that your former spouse is seeing someone new. This change can reopen not-so-distant wounds connected to your divorce. Your ex may be hurt and express their feelings through your co-parenting interactions. If your ex begins disparaging you or your new partner around your kids, talk to them as soon as possible about not doing so. Further, you may have to impose limits on how your ex interacts with you. For instance, suppose your ex has become accustomed to dropping by unannounced or calling you to socialize. You may not have thought anything of it before. However, now, you are developing a new relationship, your ex's ongoing presence may not be appropriate. In that instance, you may need to evaluate the situation and make changes to reduce or eliminate these behaviors. To do otherwise may send a message to your new partner that you and your ex are still emotionally involved.
Discuss Your New Partner’s Role in Your Family
Having clear expectations regarding your new partner’s role in your household can help them, your kids, and your co-parenting dynamic. Considering issues such as how your new partner will be involved in your children’s daily lives can be a good starting point. Will they be providing child care on your behalf? Do you plan on cohabitating? How do you and your ex expect discipline to be handled? Will your ex and new partner need to communicate about the children? Having open and honest conversations with your ex about these changes and covering these or other applicable topics can help clarify concerns and potential issues before they arise.
If your children are of a suitable age and maturity level, it would also be good to talk with them about their feelings. Your kids may be harboring fears about the addition of a new person in your life. This type of discussion can provide an opportunity for you to address your children’s concerns and reassure them about your relationship.
Communication with your partner is also vital. You want to be on the same page about how life will be going forward in your relationship and for them to feel included in decision-making. Your partner will also benefit from having a clear idea of your and your family's expectations.
Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law is a trained Wisconsin attorney, Collaborative Attorney, and Mediator. She has extensive experience assisting clients before, during, and after Wisconsin divorce cases. She can help you understand your options and find the right resources. Call us today to set up a consultation so we can take a "first look" at your situation.