It's a fact that's both uncomfortable and inevitable: your ex's new life apart from you will at some point include a girlfriend. As Circle of Moms members who've been through this transition have shared, your best move is to be prepared. To help you anticipate the ways your children and your custody arrangement might be impacted, here are their suggestions for key questions to consider, and ideas on how to answer them.
Can She Discipline Your Children?
If you and your ex agree not to use spanking as a form of discipline, then his new girlfriend must be clear on these rules as well. A Circle of Moms member named Tiffany says she was furious when her ex's girlfriend spanked her son. While she agrees that her son needed to be disciplined (he kicked the girlfriend), she thinks it should've been handled by her ex or by his mother, who was also present.
In some cases, a new partner is strictly forbidden from disciplining the kids at all. Deidre's new husband, for example, is not permitted to discipline her kids, to whom he is step-father, and nor can her ex's new wife. All of the adults in this family have agreed to abide by this rule, and Deidre says it's working well.
Another member, Sarah, makes the case that a split couple should limit discipline to non-physical forms, such as time-outs, because this keeps the lines more clear with a new partner. She feels that if someone other than your ex is allowed to discipline, then physical punishment is not appropriate, and this should be made clear to all parties who will be spending time with your kids.
Can She Care for Your Kids When Your Ex is Traveling?
Elizabeth's ex has to be away on business for five weeks and wants her to leave their kids with his girlfriend on his usual custody days. Elizabeth is reluctant, and many Circle of Moms members agree that she should not feel obligated to comply. Samantha, for example, points out that the ex's girlfriend is having a relationship with him, not Elizabeth. In other words, when setting boundaries it's important to keep in mind that the custody arrangement is between the formerly married pair and does not include a third party.
How Do Your Kids Feel About Her?
Jessica P. advises moms to be open to the idea that their ex's new relationship can benefit their kids. If yours are old enough, talk to them directly to see how they feel about the new girlfriend. If possible, try to observe them together. Does she treat them lovingly and with respect? Does she seem genuinely interested in their schoolwork, hobbies, and friends? Felicia C.'s kids have reported that they like their dad's new girlfriend, and while this can be a threatening discovery, she reminds moms that they have a unique spot in their kids' lives, and always will.
What Happens When They Move in Together?
Jennifer's recent ex has a new girlfriend — and they're planning to move in together. She fears this arrangement will set a bad example for her kids, who visit him often. Although you can request legally that the couple not share a bedroom when the kids are present, as a member named Marica proposes, this may prove to be a fruitless move. Many people live together before getting married today, and, says Michelle, there's little point in trying to control what your ex does in his own home.
Friendly But Firm Boundaries
Once you know how you feel about these issues, it's time to try to come to an agreement about the ground rules by talking with your ex. As difficult as it may be to interact peacefully, Circle of Moms members say that having this difficult conversation early on will save you heartache later. And many moms, including Candace F., advice talk over legal action; saying it will save you time, money, and heartache in the long run.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.