Blended families and Managing Relationships with the Ex

by Cynthia Thiers, MA, LPC

The trend for custody of children in recent years is a shared or 50/50 schedule in which children spend equal time with both parents. This type of schedule makes it more likely that new partners and old partners will have more contact and more often with each other. Getting along with your exes new partner or vice versa will help children adjust to their new situation and make them feel comfortable in both homes in which they are being raised: their mother and father’s. The following tips may help you manage this challenging relationship, always keeping the best interest of the children in the forefront of your mind.

When approaching this new relationship, it is helpful to visualize your goal in the relationship. Set the goal to “get along” and picture what that will look like. What we think and what we believe most often becomes our reality. Setting boundaries for this relationship is also crucial in making it work. You do NOT have to be friends with each other. Being able to discuss any problems or issues and effectively come to a solution are the critical parameters. Keep in mind that your new partner’s children have a mother and do not need another one. There is no need for new partners and their exes to compete with each other. Children are very capable of clearly defining new relationships in their lives and maintaining the ones they have already established. Trust that the more people that love a child, the better his or life life.

Find your niche with the children, everyone is good at something. Find interests and common ground between you and the children and get them involved with those activities. Understand that their other parent also has a niche and respect that as well. Acknowledging you partner’s ex and their good work in parenting can go a long way in developing a positive relationship. Never speak badly of the other parent in front of the children, trust that if your new partner picked you for your good qualities, most likely your partner’s ex also has some good qualities. Look for those qualities and believe that if the adults in model kindness to each other, children will also learn to navigate life’s many difficult relationships as they grow into adulthood and raise their own children.

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