Think back to high school when you had your first serious relationship. It probably lasted anywhere from six days to six weeks to maybe six months. Then you broke up. Remember how it hurt to see that person so you tried to avoid them, but it was difficult because you had three classes together? Within a few weeks, your former girlfriend starting dating someone else and all three of you were in the same math class—awkward! Remember how difficult it was to get through that situation after such a short time together?
Now fast forward and you’re married with children. You and your spouse decide to divorce. The same feelings resurface, but the intensity is much greater and the hurt is much deeper. You wish you could avoid seeing your former spouse to help ease the pain, but with children you are connected forever. Then your former spouse starts dating and brings their new companion to your child’s band concert—awkward! But it’s awkwardness at a whole new level. It’s high school times ten. Eventually, you and your spouse both remarry. Now, there are more parents than children and it’s critical for everyone to get along.
Although I have not personally experienced this situation, I know many people who have and they shared some suggestions with me for how to help make a blended family and remarriage work.
Resist the urge to ever talk negatively about your former spouse in front of the children, or when they aren’t around! It’s never appropriate, unless your children are in some sort of danger. From a psychological standpoint, children know they are one-half mom and one-half dad. When parents talk down about their former spouse, children internalize that and believe that parent must dislike them too, on some level.
The visitation guidelines, usually determined by Friend of the Court, should be followed but always with room for exceptions. If a special event is happening at the other parent’s home on a weekend when you have the kids, you should consider letting the kids go if that’s what they want. It’s not their choice to live in two different homes.
Learn to keep comments to yourself when you know that voicing them will only make your former spouse angry and will do nothing to advance or resolve an issue. Think about your former spouse from your child’s perspective, not your own. They love their mom and dad. Think about the teachers and coaches that your kids love. You are kind and thankful to them.
You have to accept and understand that your former spouse will always be a part of your life. Heal, forgive, move on, and build an amiable “business type” relationship so you don’t negatively affect your children’s important moments that should be about them, such as sporting events, graduations, weddings, etc.
It doesn’t matter how difficult it is (with the exception of abusive relationships), parents must set aside their pain, fear, and anger to collaborate with their former spouse. There is no room for power struggles or competition in a remarriage, or any marriage. The goal should be to always win at home.