From a reluctant extended blended family member

These words may sound a little familiar to you: I resent being a part of the blended family my ex-spouse has created. I never imagined my kids living in a step family, or myself either, for that matter. Since our divorce and his remarriage, the kids live with me half of the time and the other half with my ex and his new wife. This makes me a not-so-happy participant in his new step family. Because we share custody, my ex-husband and I discuss the kids on a regular basis, but we usually talk on the phone so it is relatively painless. What has always been really difficult, though, is being in the same room with my ex and his new wife, like at school or sports events for the kids. I am looking for blended family advice on how I can avoid having to see them together as a couple, and seeing her with my kids.

Your ex-spouse is not an ex-parent

Your ex-spouse may no longer be your spouse, but he or she will forever be the other biological parent of your children. It is easy to understand why you find it painful to be around your ex-spouse. However, when you both attend important events in your children’s lives, you are there as Mom and Dad. Your being ex-spouses is irrelevant.  Each time you head out the door to support your kids, remind yourself that this event is not about you, not about your ex, not about his or her new spouse; your feelings about either of them does not come into play. When you focus on your role as parent, it all gets easier.

Redefine your relationships

Here is a hint to make dealing with your ex easier: stop thinking of them as your ex-husband or ex-wife. When you refer to your ex-spouse in conversation, use the only title that now matters: my kids’ dad, or the mother of my children. At the same time you begin to think of your ex-husband or ex-wife as a parent your kids love and need in their lives, also redefine his or her new spouse. They are no longer your replacement, the cause of your divorce, or however else you may have labeled them. This person is now your child’s step parent, and it is in the best interests of your kids that you make peace with this reality. Blended family kids whose parents get along do much better personally, socially, emotionally, and develop healthier relationships as adults. You can help your kids accept and feel at ease with their new step parent by showing them how it is done

Coping mechanisms in a blended family

It is important that you and your ex, and the step parent of your kids, learn how to be comfortable in the same room together. Children generally want their parents in attendance at events like graduation, marriage, childbirth, and other important milestones in their lives. Parents who cannot get along well enough to attend these events without high levels of drama or suffering are sometimes not invited.  So the time to learn how to cope is now. Here are some ways to make your encounters with your ex-spouse and new partner bearable.

  • Wear something you look great in. Smile.
  • Take a friend along so you have someone to sit next to and chat with. Often, seating assignments come in blocks for family members.
  • Visualize talking with them. Yes, you absolutely must make polite conversation with your kids’ other parent, and with his or her spouse. Talk only about the kids.
  • Give yourself a reward for having undergone the ordeal.

If you are resentful of the blended family you find yourself in, consider how your kids feel. They did not ask for a step family arrangement, either. Do your best to set aside your personal feelings when it comes to helping your kids cope with blended family issues, and take advantage of school and sports events to practice getting along with your former partner and his or her new spouse. Nothing makes delivering a great performance on the field or on the stage feel even better to a kid than seeing his divorced parents making an effort to get along, for his sake. If you need additional assistance, contact The Blended and Step Family Resource Center for coaching.