So your new spouse has kids. This means their co-parent is now part of your life. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. You could even be friendly towards your step child's other parent. You want to have a good relationship with your step child's parent. This way, your relationship with your spouse and step children can thrive. Just follow this guide to having a healthy relationship with your step child's parent--if you spend time with your stepchild(ren). If your spouse is cutoff from their child, or being cutoff, you can still follow this guide, however your spouse will ultimately have to seek the support themselves if they want to repair the relationship and co-parenting dynamic. That is their job, not yours.... more on that in another post.
1. Befriend, Not Be-Foe
When the time suits, communicate! You don't want to distance yourself from your spouse's co-parent, you want to make sure you set the precedent of being cordial, friendly, and on the same team: team kids! You don't need to actively go out of your way in be in frequent communication with the co-parent. You do, however, want to facilitate or engage when the opportunity presents itself.
2. Establish Ground Rules
Often, if there's a problem with an ex spouse, it's because they worry that you are going to replace them as a parent. This rarely has anything to do with wanting to get back together with your spouse. Go into the meeting telling your spouse's co-parent how you think they have done a great job as a parent.
Let the co-parent know that you're not looking to replace them, nor could you ever. Delve into questions about the kids. For example, if there are any medical issues, like an allergy, discuss how you would handle that. Find out if there are certain events that they would prefer you not attend for the child, like parent/teacher conferences.
3. Make Sure the Ex is in the Loop
Be sure your spouse's co-parent is aware ahead of time that you will be attending an event. Even with the ground rules, it's good to make it known you'll be there to avoid any confrontation. Don't take offense if the co-parent says you can't come. Just ask yourself what benefit will you be to a child in a place where you're not welcome.
4. Don't Get Shut Out
As much as you don't want to step on any toes, you don't want to become a doormat either. If you are feeling purposely left out, talk to your spouse about this first. If they can't resolve the problem, then you might have to figure it out with the co-parent. Just make sure you don't do it in front of the children. Lay down the law. Going back to number 2, re-establish those ground rules.
6. Be the Bigger Person
No matter how unkind your spouse's ex might be, don't let it get to you. Do not stoop to their level. It's not going to resolve anything. All it's going to do is make the child resent you. No one wins that way.
You might not be able to be 'best buds' with your spouse's co-parent, but you can make it easier by not playing into the games your spouse's co-parent is trying to play. Ultimately, your goal is to make you, your spouse, and their children happy. The best way you can do that is by not getting involved in games of jealousy. Check out our free e-book here for more tips!