One Mother’s Day she knocked on our door and handed me a card that all of the kids had signed for me. For a split second I was touched by the thoughtfulness of the act, and I nearly forgot the years of nastiness directed at me and my husband, her ex.
It was a sweet gesture, but experience told me that I should be cautious of her motives. I wanted to believe that it came from a genuine place of appreciation and esteem, but just days before she had lectured the children about how I was not their mother and they didn’t have to listen to me.
I had watched this woman cuss out the man I love more times than I could count, try to run him over with a car, and cried for her kids because of the damage she caused them by leaving them and regularly letting them down by not taking them on her time.
I accepted the card, but except for the charmingly scrawled signatures of my step kids, it was tainted by the shadow of the ugliness she casts over our home nearly every day.
Four years later she and I briefly experimented with being friendly on social media and I tried to offer myself as a bridge between her and my husband to work out some of the parenting issues to minimize conflict. It was primarily business like and child-focused. I could call her out for things that he couldn’t without getting my head bit off (as she would do to him), and the intended message to the kids was that “we’re all in this together for you.”
During this amicable phase, she mentioned to me that we had so much in common that she wished for us to be real friends. In a Hollywood script, this probably could have turned into a beautiful moment. Women watching our movie would have probably blubbered away two boxes of tissues and eaten a pint of ice cream while watching this touching scene unfold.
The only problem, as I pointed out to her, was that at the center of our relationship was not only the four kids we both loved, but the man who was once her husband and was now mine. I reminded her that while he was dearly loved by me, she hated him. It hurt me every time she insulted my husband and trashed him to their children, and my loyalty would lie with protecting my loved one over being chummy with her.
She accepted my explanation, saying that it made sense that he represented very different things to each of us and that I couldn’t realistically go out for coffee and girl time with the same woman who caused my spouse and household daily frustration and grief.
Our status today is that we don’t even talk to or acknowledge one another. Too much water has gone under the bridge since our failed attempt at team parenting. Yesterday afternoon, for example, she dropped the kids on our front porch, unannounced and without our consent, so that she could work last night. Complete disregard for our schedule and putting the children in a potentially dangerous situation is no way to win favor with me.
I wish the children could have three “friends” equally pulling the weight of parenting, fist bumping one another for the accomplishments and happy moments of the kids, and civilly addressing conflicts in a mature manner.
Time and reality has shown me what I can really expect. Like a person whose hand has been bitten too many times by an angry dog, I am fearful of putting myself out there to be deceived and disrespected again.
Can a new wife and spouse’s ex be friends?
In some circumstances, I do believe that it is possible – and not just in Hollywood. Obviously a divorce comes about as the result of a broken relationship and dysfunction of some sort. Many of us who have been divorced can’t imagine being “friends” with our ex, so the negative feelings also carry over to new partners.
No matter what, when children are involved the parents will have to communicate and work through many details of parenting. Mature, sane, responsible, kid-focused, parents can often put aside the past in order to do what needs to be done for the kids. Maybe “friends” is stretching the reality of the relationship a bit; but, it is possible to co-parent without daily drama.
That being said, I contend that it is also possible to be friendly with your spouse’s ex or your ex’s new partner. You may never get to the level of vacationing together, calling one another just to chit chat, or doing any other activities not specifically involving the kids; but, it is possible to exercise mutual respect and appreciation for the contribution to the children’s lives without anyone being jealous, threatened, or trampled on.
For my own reasons, I cannot be friends with my husband’s ex. I wish her no harm, and I respect her right to have a full and loving relationship with the kids. I want the kids to be able to have their mother in their lives and for her to do her part in caring for them.
I am very open to an amicable relationship with my ex-husband’s new partner, when he has one. I understand that it would be hard to know that another woman would be spending a great deal of time with my kids and could have influence over them. So long as she presents a good influence over them, can be a loving support in their life, and doesn’t impede my relationship with my kids, I would welcome her presence.
Similarly, as I have no desire to be hateful toward my ex, I intend to fulfill all of my responsibilities, and have no need to disrupt his relationships or life, any new woman should, in theory, be open to a friendly tone to our interactions. I really don’t care who she is as long as she is good to my children and doesn’t cause problems for me. My ex has a right to love and be loved, and my children deserve to have a peaceful life surrounded by those who love them!