You will be hard-pressed to find a woman who has not started a new relationship and wondered, “should I tell my ex?” This moral dilemma troubles everyone from adolescent girls around a lunch table to women sipping wine in their golden years. If your past relationships ended with any kind of court involvement, then this question becomes even more complex. I have had this question time and time again, both from friends and from clients. I have found that the response I give depends greatly on what their goals are. Here is my practical advice for what to tell your ex about your new relationship.
If you share a child with your ex, it is in the best interests of everyone that you maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship. This means that you need to think about it from a co-parenting perspective.
If you are dating someone with no intention of them meeting your kids in the near future, then say nothing. You have no co-parenting reason to share the information with your ex. Any information that does not relate to co-parenting can be easily misconstrued and result in drama. In my world, drama means that you could end up back in court for no good reason at all.
If you have a new significant other who is going to be involved in your child’s life, then you should discuss that with your ex. Tell them about this new person, the nature of your relationship (dating, engaged, etc.), and how you expect your kids to be involved with them. Be honest, frank, and stick to the point. Other than the nature of your relationship with them, keep everything else focused on the kids and not on yourself.
Keep in mind that when a potential step-parent comes on the scene, tensions are inevitable. What causes the tension – jealousy, grief, anger at losing you – is way beyond my pay grade. All I know is that your ex is likely to have some kind of reaction. Do not let your own emotions get caught up in their reaction, especially their initial reaction. Remember that you do not need their permission to see or marry someone else.
Many women get caught up in new relationships with people who they think will be better parents than their ex. This may or may not be true. Remember, though, that no matter who comes into your life, you and your ex are the only parents of your child, and those boundaries cannot get blurred no matter how much happier you are with someone new.
When talking to your ex, address issues regarding parenting and nothing else. Give them the courtesy of being involved with this new person in your child’s life. Think about how you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed, and do that.
If you want to stay friends with your ex, then just follow your gut when it comes to telling them about someone new.
Interact with your ex like you would any of your other friends. If you want to tell them, then go for it. If you want to keep it private, then that’s okay, too. Someone who is a friend, and only a friend, should be happy when you share your happiness with them.
Many women have come to me with a new relationship wanting to make their ex jealous. This concerns me when it happens while that woman is still in court getting divorced from her ex. It is not a healthy attitude to have, and while I understand how good it may feel to give them the emotional jab, it really does not end well for anyone – in or out of the courtroom.
My honest lawyer friend answer is this: don’t do it.
If jealousy is your only motive, then take a deep look into the mirror at the person you are, and ask if that is the person you truly want to be.
About Social Media…
What’s interesting from where I sit is the controversy around learning things on social media. This is how a lot of people communicate, and yet also how a lot of people expect not to connect with an ex.
I have had women come to me upset that their ex told them something privately saying, “he was clearly rubbing it in my face.”
Other times, they are upset because they learned something from a social media post and said, “he was clearly rubbing it in my face.”
When it comes to social media, I think we all need to dial it back a notch and loosen up. It is clear that everyone sees social media differently. If following your ex on social media is going to get you riled up, then you can stop checking in on them that way.
When YOU are the one with news to share, make sure you act in accordance with your goals. If you do that, then how they react has nothing to do with you.
Navigating a relationship with your ex can be hard, especially after a divorce or custody dispute. To talk with a lawyer in Missouri about what to tell your ex, click here to book a coaching session with Rachna Lien at The Lien Law Firm, LLC.