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Why doesn't my ex just move on like I have and accept my new partner?

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Separation is a difficult time for the family but can be more contentious when one coparent starts a new relationship. You may feel that the relationship with your ex is over, you’ve moved on and are ready to start a new life with someone new. You may feel your ex is making it so hard.

Unfortunately, the hurt and pain of loss creates fears in your ex that your new partner will take their place. They feel that their family unit has been broken and being recreated in your home with a substitute parent. There is fear that the kids will want to spend more time with you and that the kids will like your new partner better than them. You may think your ex is crazy, you might think, why don’t they just move on. They are struggling with grief, stuck in shock, denial, anger and resentment. They feel their whole world has come crashing down around them and they fight to keep what they love the most…. their children as they can’t bear to think of losing them too.

It’s important to be sensitive to the parent who was left, understanding they are dealing with possibly never wanting the breakup in the first place, never wanting to lose the relationship with you, never wanting to have the kids part time, never wanting to lose the family home and never wanting their kids to call someone else mum or dad as they feel their identity is under threat.

Understand the fear to understand the behaviour, which will help you to have empathy and compassion.

There are key actions to minimise conflict –

  1. Don’t take your new partner to handovers. Do pickups and drop-offs on your own. You may feel you need support or a witness if arguments arise, but it actually fuels conflict having your new partner there.

  2. Don’t let your new partner bad mouth your coparent in front of the kids. This not only upsets the children as they are half of both parents, so to hear bad things said about their other parent will make them reject half of themselves.

  3. Don’t leave discipline to your new partner, you should manage the discipline with compassion as poor behaviours may be a response to the instability and breakdown of the family unit.

  4. Don’t get the kids to call your new partner mum or dad, they already have one. Your kids can still develop a great relationship with your new partner without adopting the same name as their other parent. It creates feelings of confusion, disloyalty and guilt in the children as they attempt to make both parents happy but become collateral damage when conflict arises.

  5. Enable your child to enjoy just you and their other parent at a school concert, grand final, etc until both parents have healed and re-partnered. Trying to create family happiness as a blended family too soon can have the opposite effect, damaging the long-term coparenting relationship. You will be coparents for as long as you have kids together, so create a harmonious coparenting relationship built on mutual respect and being child focused.

  6. Ensure your kids get to have quality one on one time with you enjoying pastimes you did together before the breakup as your children may be upset, they don’t get time with you without your new partner being around.

  7. Be respectful to your coparent, appreciate what they do for your children who adore them. Try to think of something positive about your coparent, even if it is the impact on the child. This could be they are always dependable for the kids to be there when they are in need for example.

  8. Put yourself in your coparents shoes when you think about how your actions may cause reactions which may be damaging not only to your ex, but also make the children sad that their other parent is upset.

  9. Remember you can't change someone else's behaviour but your actions can minimise their reactions.

  10. You might think why should I, it’s not my problem, it’s theirs. Do it for your kids to have harmonious homes ❤️

If you think that your ex may not react well to a certain situation don’t secretly relish in the fact that they will suffer…. as ultimately your children will suffer. Always think of the impact your actions will have on your ex and subsequently what that impact will be on your children.

Author – Cheryl Duffy, Divorce Coach, Conflicted Co-Parenting Coach, Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, NMAS Mediator, & Parenting Coordinator.

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