When I read “mommy blogs” or articles about co-parenting families, and the subject of stepmom or long-time significant other comes up, it seems like the birth mother consensus and "other woman" resolve is always the following:
All of this existed at some point before you, and there is no room to accommodate, comfort you or make changes, newbie.
This narrative is false and needs to stop being perpetuated by birth moms, ex-wives, stepmoms and girlfriends.
Facts that are not often-enough acknowledged by the birth mother and ex are:
1. You are no longer in a romantic relationship or friendship, and there is no need to spend quality time with each other.
2. The children can spend quality time with the individual families of your ex without you.
3. Change is inevitable, and pretending that it is not isn't healthy for the child or the ex.
4. Not changing to include your significant other will be detrimental to your own new relationship.
But what is often passed as law is:
1. The children need this activity to never change, though our relationship obviously has.
2. A change in anything familial will be detrimental to the children (but somehow a nasty divorce doesn't count?).
3. It’s a tradition. Your family likes me and invites me, so it’s OK.
I'd like to present the uncomfortable, nontraditional situation I was in and how, as a unit, we talked, prepared and made changes.
I emphasize we, because it is not the place of the new significant other(in this case, myself) to approach the ex to request changes. And often, a conversation with by the ex with his own family should be had too, to give them heads-up of the changes and make any requests you need to of your loved ones.
If you're the new significant other, this should come from your partner, who should be willing to make changes for you if your relationship is of value and more importantly, to be their own advocate if this situation is also making them uncomfortable.
In my personal situation, we were coming up on our second Thanksgiving as a couple and I was dreading hosting at our house for two reasons: being a host and cleaning up, and having my partner's ex in the house — being served by me.
Now she and I have no contentious relationship. We made small talk, laughed at each other’s jokes and hug every time we see each other. I'm not faking the funk, but also if this type of relationship wasn’t in place, I wouldn’t mind either. I'm aware of how their marriage ended and the behaviors exhibited at that time, the instability of her new relationships and the reliance on his family for the complete package or appearances.
So, as the woman who loves this man, I cannot help but believe there is advantage being taken by her in various forms.
Back to my Thanksgiving story — I just wanted the holiday to be fresh like our relationship, without including a frozen dish from years past.
My boo didn't want to see her either and didn't care for all the interactions he had to have. The hugs and "love you, thank you" comments rubbed him the wrong way, and he always had an underlying fear that this woman would be irrational if any questions of her parenting or refusal to fulfill a request came up. My significant other had expressed his dislike to be around his ex to his family before, but hadn’t specifically asked them not to invite her on their own to events, and had not expressed how being around her made him feel uncomfortable.
This time around, things were different.
The first call he made was to his sister to tell her how he felt about his ex. He has her full support and she agreed not to assume her invite to any functions and to spread the word to the rest of the clan.
The second call went to his ex. He told her that
1. He'd like to be creating memories with his children individually, as it’s his responsibility as a parent and
2. that he was working to make space for me in the family and that having only me at his family’s events was what that called for.
What was the expected outcome was not the true outcome and the assumption that this could go terribly wrong was met with complicity. She understood his point of view and admitted she continued to come to the family events simply due to history. His ex respected his wishes and did not become petty or retaliatory because of the change.
For her, this could be considered a closed chapter or even the opportunity she was waiting for. I don't know her feelings, just her actions, and she respected his wishes without any pushback.
You know what Thanksgiving looked like after that and where his family is now? His children and I, by his side surround by the love and support of his family.
All co-parenting relationships are unique, as is any type of relationship carried on with an ex after a break-up. The wiggle room in the relationship is dependent on what’s requested and what is accepted. But alas, you won't get anything without advocating for yourself , your children and your significant other.