While extending your blended family into a working relationship with an ex-spouse is great, setting boundaries which protect the autonomy of your remarriage is vital. Sometimes an ex-spouse steps across the lines of divorce and remarriage. Whether they are seeking to sustain or even lengthen their old ties, or simply having a difficult time redefining a post-divorce relationship, it can be an intrusion into your new blended family life. What can you do? What should you do? How do you know what is and is not okay?
What is appropriate contact between ex-spouses?
If your partner and his or her ex-spouse have children together, communication about and for the kids is always appropriate. Co-parenting takes cooperative collaboration, and communication is essential to being effective parents. Sometimes ex-spouses carry on a business together, or they may share ownership of pets and other property. Whatever the tie that makes it necessary, when you accept and support necessary communication, you are supporting your blended family partner. If, on the other hand, the ex-spouses have no remaining ties, there is no valid reason for continued contact.
What kinds of co-parenting communication are appropriate?
When you come right down to it, once visitation schedules are set, there is very little reason for much face-to-face contact with the ex-spouse at all, even when the kids are being picked up or dropped off. As a matter of fact, too much friendly contact could even confuse children who are secretly hoping their parents will get back together. And most kids do hold on to that hope for quite some time after the divorce, and sometimes even after a remarriage. Communicating with an ex-spouse by telephone usually works well if you can stay on message and avoid being drawn in to an emotional or otherwise inappropriate exchange. Using text messages or emails are other alternatives if telephone conversations tend to escalate into arguments, or when one of the parties is in the habit of bringing up old marital issues and other conflicts. The bottom line? Find and use whatever type of communication works in the best interests of your kids.
How much contact is too much?
An ex-spouse who calls, texts or emails every day, may have a flawed view of what divorce means, refuses to let go of the relationship, or perhaps simply does not know how to reframe and redefine it. At any rate, once visitation schedules or other business arrangements have been established, there really is no reason for your partner and the ex-spouse to chat unless a change in plans becomes necessary. If your blended family partner talks with his or her ex-spouse so often that you find yourself fretting about it, chances are pretty good there is too much contact. Talk with your partner about it.
Try not to obsess about the ex-spouse
This may be difficult, but try not to allow the inappropriate actions of an ex-spouse make you feel insecure, and try to avoid seeing your partner as being manipulated or drawn in by them. If you talk it over with your partner, you may find you are feeling threatened by a hapless attempt to ride the path of least resistance. Reasonable people can find a reasonable solution to most problems, and if you are clear about what you can and cannot tolerate with respect to the ex-spouse, everyone will be happier.
Remember, the success of your blended family depends on you as a couple, and how well you manage the pressures that come with a blended family situation. Stay strong, stay reasonable, and stay happy.
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