If you are a single parent, most likely you have an ex of some kind (unless you were fortunate enough to get your cousin, Benny the Butcher, to tie cinder blocks to his or her feet and make it appear as if there was an accident by the Chattahoochee River). But, chances are, you have an ex that you have to communicate with, see occasionally, and interact with amicably for the sake of the children. For the most part, you have some sense of control of the parenting schedule; you know what to expect, and so do the kids. So, how do you handle it when your ex introduces a factor that is beyond your control?
The New Girlfriend/Boyfriend
Let’s say, for the most part, things with your ex are manageable with minimal conflict. You have moved past the failed relationship and are happy enough to focus all your positive energy on your career and children. Life is good. Then, one day, as you are exchanging children and pleasantries with your ex, he or she springs it on you: there is a new girlfriend/boyfriend in the picture and they would like to plan a day introducing her/his kids to yours. How do you handle this situation that is largely beyond your control?
Begin with a Background Check
Ask lots of important questions such as: How did they meet? Is she from a nice family? How many kids does he have? Where did he grow up? Was she valedictorian of her high school? Is he employed? Does he have a criminal record? Does she live in a trailer with her dad who gambled all his money away, so now she supports him while he sits in his recliner watching Here Comes Honey Boo Boo?
Stalk Him/Her on Facebook and Other Social Media
You can gather a wealth of knowledge about your ex’s new girlfriend or boyfriend from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media. Scour his/or her pages for likes and favorites (i.e. Cake Boss or Mob Wives? Barbra Streisand or Ozzy biting the head off a bat?). If you are not able to see their information because of privacy settings, you can create a fake profile posing as a coworker or friend from spinning class. He/she will never suspect that you aren’t who you say you are.
Get Over Your Fears
Let’s face it – eventually, with a little luck, both you and your ex will both be in loving, positive relationships that will enhance your children’s lives. A new relationship brings new opportunities for everyone involved. Maybe your only son will now have a chance to have brothers as a result of your ex’s romantic choice. Perhaps your new partner always wanted a daughter and you have three of them to share. Maybe your new boyfriend/girlfriend has a house in Destin, Florida, and you and your children will have fun family vacations at the beach. Maybe your ex’s new love has season tickets to the Atlanta Braves, and your kids will attend games on a regular basis. The positive possibilities are endless if we get over our fears and let them develop.
We, as parents, should make every attempt to be friendly to each other, especially in challenging situations. Our kids will model that behavior, and ultimately, become happy and well adjusted in their new environments. In the long run, they will potentially have two whole sets of parents who love them unconditionally and open them up to new experiences.
Even though you may not know much about your ex’s new paramour, try to trust that your ex has some sense of good judgment when it comes to relationships. After all, he or she originally chose you. On the other hand, you might want to keep Cousin Benny on standby…just in case.