If your ex is remarried, you know that co-parenting means bringing another person in the loop. If your ex is not remarried, but is in a relationship with another person, you are likely feeling the inevitable dread that comes from knowing that co-parenting means bringing in someone else, someone you had no say in bringing in. What's worse is if you're dealing with someone who wants to control how often you and your ex talk, what you talk about, and whether or not you talk.
If you're dealing with this person, there are a few different ways to handle the situation while still maintaining your dignity, your pride, and your parenting power - without going crazy.
Step One: Respond when communicated to
If the new stepparent (or stepparent to be) is trying to call, text, or email you telling you something they think needs to be changed, you should always respond. If you choose to ignore them, they will feel more in control of the situation and will simply stop communicating with you. My recommendation is to respond and create your boundaries in a positive way. You can use the phrase, "I appreciate your concern regarding (Ex's name) and my kids and I would like to get to the point where I respect your opinions on raising them, but that will take time and trust needs to be earned, first. I'm happy to co-parent with (Ex's name) and look forward to hearing from him/her on this topic. In the meantime, enjoy being a friend in the kids' lives, I'm sure you already know how wonderful they are." I believe in being upfront, I believe in being honest, but I don't believe in being rude or difficult. The phrase given here is honest, opens the door for a relationship to be built (which benefits the children), but creates healthy boundaries.
Step Two: Contact your ex
If your ex is on board with his/her partner taking over communication, there isn't a lot that you can do short of going to court over it, but you can document and continue to try and work with your ex. Think about it from their perspective. If you had an already difficult co-parenting relationship, how much easier would it be for them to push the co-parenting off onto their partner so they don't have to deal with it? You know your ex better than anyone, so reach out to him/her on a level that will get through rather than a level that will get back at them. Re-word the phrase above and use it with your ex. Keep the door of communication open for the sake of your children.
Step Three: Take care of you
It feels like manipulation, doesn't it? It feels like your ex is doing this on purpose just to make you mad. It feels like it's just another way that they are trying to one-up you and control you. I get it. It's an awful feeling that fills you with rage and makes you want to make their lives just as miserable, if not more miserable. It's an 'I'll show them!' mindset. Here's the thing. That's an acceptable feeling to have, but you know it's not an acceptable way to react. Doing so would a) make you the same as your ex; b) create an environment where you and your ex constantly try to out-do the other; c) make it harder for your children. As good as it would feel to do, don't to it. Go to your support network and vent, exercise, listen to music, journal, meditate, watch a funny movie - do something that will allow you to feel the emotion, then let it go so you can be the better one, not the bitter one.
Step Four: Make the best of the situation
You always have options. Write those down, consider which would be the best for your children, which would be the best financially, and which would be the best for your lives until your children are grown. If you decide court is the best option - great! Go for it! If you decide court is no guarantee, it's too expensive, and makes life difficult for your children - I completely understand and commend you! What can you do to make the best of the reality you're facing so you can get through the next however many years until your children are grown? (There is always help available for you.) If you're somewhere in the middle, I get that, too. The point is that you're facing reality and doing what you can to make the best of it.
Just when you think the divorce process is over and you can finally start to heal, your ex brings in a new person and you have a whole new set of emotions to manage. You're not in it alone. Comment below and tell us what you've done to manage.