In July, my Husband asked that we promise not to bring anyone around our children for 1 year. The following New Year’s Day a strange car arrives to pick up the boys. Out pops some lady and my ex-husband. Instantly my stomach hurt. It wasn’t because my ex was dating. It was because MY children would have another woman in their lives as a motherly figure. It incited a protective, “mama grizzly” instinct that caught me off guard. I though it wouldn’t bother me for him to have another woman in his life because I was over my Ex-Husband . Boy was I wrong! A few months later my son says to me “Mommy, you’re just like Ms. [insert ex’s girlfriend here].” Everything in my being screamed “Are you freaking kidding me? I’m nothing like her. I AM YOUR MOTHER! No one compares to ME!” It was nothing short of a miracle that I didn’t say these things. I am grateful for that divine intervention.
I see many people in this scenario while going through a divorce who don’t react very well. They instantly want to put rules and regulations on the other parent. They come to me wanting to go to court because the other parent is being reckless, allowing the children around this stranger. They are adamant it isn’t in the best interest of the children to be introduced to another man/woman and insist the judge “fix” it. Granted, it may not be in the children’s best interest. This is a very confusing time for the children. Most of the time the parents don’t really understand what is happening. The children are infinitely more confused. However, the Courts cannot mandate good parenting. Absent serious neglect or abuse, parents are free to make their own decisions with regard to the children. What we must understand is that there is a significant harm to the children when parents argue. Most of the time, the harm caused by arguing greatly outweighs the damage caused by the action you hope to prevent.
If we’ve decided we don’t want to make this new development into an argument, how do we live out that intention? Here are some helpful hints:
- Journal. Instead of saying all the things you want to say to your Ex, write them down. Give yourself permission to be as nasty and hateful as your spirit desires. Call the new girl all the vile names you can imagine. Just get it all out. Often when we see it in black and white, it sounds kind of “high school” and childish. When we get all of those thoughts out, we can begin to release them. It makes it much easier to handle the situation maturely.
- Ask for help. Most of us never expected to be faced with another person in a parental role with our children. As fun as our newfound freedom can sometimes be, this is the price. Be kind to yourself if you just don’t have it in you. Ask the universe or your higher power (for me it is God) to help you see your Ex through eyes of love. Use those words exactly. If you ask for this help consistently, you will be surprised at what happens. When I got over myself, my reaction, my feelings, my hurt, my, my, my …. I began to see my Ex as a broken, hurting soul. He was lost and needed a woman in his life. He was desperate to fill that empty space with something and he chose to fill it with companionship. This is almost always the case with the first relationship after a divorce, especially when the relationship begins so soon. When you see the new relationship as an extension of your Ex’s pain, it really is hard to be angry.
- Stop thinking of your children as possessions. If you notice my initial reaction, it was mostly about me and my children. The thing is that these are not MY children. They aren’t even OUR children. They are independent spirits and our time as parents is extremely limited. We don’t own them. We simply live with them for a time and do our best to prepare them for adulthood. Try to view this as an opportunity to teach a life lesson. Talk to your children. Give them permission to love another person. Teach them there is no shortage of love. They can love their mom and dad and the new girlfriend. One does not detract from the other. If your children see you giving grace in this situation, they will learn to give and receive grace in their relationships. It is a powerful lesson.
- Remember that at some point the tables will be turned. There will come a time when you will be dating. At some point, you will want to introduce someone to the children. How you react right now will greatly determine how your Ex will react in the future? Do you want your Ex micro-managing your relationships? Do you want the awkward vetting of the new boyfriend by your Ex-Husband? Can you imagine listening to your Ex tell you all the things HE doesn’t like about your new man? Imagine the alternative. Imagine you say to each other, I trust you not to bring anyone around the children who will harm them. And, let go! Have faith your children are going to be okay and that you are preparing them to deal with life.
After the newness wears off and you have learned some skills to deal with the situation, you just may find your Ex being in love is not the crisis you once perceived. At the end of the day, love is never a bad thing.
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Photo Credit: Tela Chhe