I have been the crazy ex-wife and let me tell you, it's not a good look. No matter what my mama bear instincts were telling me or what I was concerned with, grilling the girl across the table at Starbucks should never have been the answer.
So, your ex is dating again. Let’s start by acknowledging that this will never feel good. I don’t care what your relationship is or was, what happened or didn’t happen, who they were then or who they are now, or how long it has been since you divorced; there’s not a soul in the world that feels truly A-OK about their ex dating again.
When my ex-husband started dating, I was filled with all the negative feelings you can imagine: anger, rage, jealousy, frustration, sadness, worry, the list goes on. We have a son together, so my feelings were amplified by my mother bear instinct to protect him.
I’m not proud of it, but in those early years my feelings were downright ugly. Now as a stepmom myself, I look back at that time with an expanded perspective and wish I could hit reset.
Here are five things I wish I would have done differently when my ex started dating again.
Set boundaries for what you and your ex will discuss, share, and ask about each other’s new relationships. I sincerely wish that someone would have given me a tough love talk about what is and is not any of my business. For instance, it’s not my business how they met or how long they’ve known each other, and knowing those things doesn’t serve me well. It’s also not my business to know what stage of the relationship they are in, and I don’t get to give an opinion on how fast it’s going.
It is reasonable to ask who the person is, when your child will be introduced, and how the person will be described to your kids. (Girlfriend, special friend, friend, etc.) It’s also reasonable for either person to wave a red-flag and say when a boundary has been crossed by a comment, opinion, or question.
NO CYBER STALKING
Do not cyber-stock the person. If they will be around your children, it is reasonable to have some basic information. I personally ask for things like name, profession, general geographic location, and if they have any history that my ex would like me to learn from him and not from somewhere online.
It’s oh so tempting to turn to the internet to find out the other stuff we really want to know. What do they look like? Have they been married before? Do they have other children? What are their hobbies? In my experience, going down the rabbit hole of social media will show you more than you can handle. You will start writing a story in your head that is a) not true; b) likely to evoke judgement; and c) one that may make you jealous.
ASK TO MEET THEM
If you want to meet the person, just ask! Nearly every time I asked for an introduction, I got one. Meeting the person my child would be spending time with set my mind at ease. Knowing is always better than not knowing.
WHEN YOU MEET THEM, DON’T GRILL THEM
When meet the person, don’t grill them. Oh, have I done this badly. I have been the crazy ex-wife and let me tell you, it’s not a good look. No matter what my mama bear instincts were telling me or what I was concerned with, grilling the girl across the table at Starbucks should never have been the answer. Now that I’m remarried, I think about the grace and kindness I hoped for from my husband’s ex when we were dating, and I try to create the best version of that for the new person in my ex-husband’s life.
LET IT GO
Be like the frozen queen and Let It Go. Dwelling for a minute (while under professional counseling or with a good friend) can be helpful, but there’s a point where you have to let it be. They are moving on and so should you. Resentment, anger, and jealously are ugly feelings. You are not ugly. Don’t hold on to that poison in your soul.
I wish I could promise you that this gets easier with time, but that’s not true in all circumstances. I can tell you that from my experience, every time I have followed my own advice, held my head up high, and handled the situation with poise and grace, I have felt much better about my own ability to navigate this dynamic.
Jessica Janssen Wolford is a mom and stepmom raising three kids with her husband in Nebraska. When she's not managing the complicated schedule of her busy family, Jessica is juggling a professional career in higher education. She shares her journey through blended family life and step-parenting on her site, www.astepintherightdirection.live.