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Continue relationship with ex's family for child's sake

| Monday, June 14, 2010

Question: My divorce will be final in a couple of months, and my ex-wife is involved seriously with a man who never has been married. He seems like a nice guy, and treats our 7-year-old daughter great, however, he does not understand why I want to continue a relationship with my ex's family. I was part of that family for almost 10 years and care for them greatly. He continues to give my ex a hard time, and has no understanding of my feelings or my need to continue to see these people. I want us all to get along and I need good advice.

Answer: OK, we agree with you, but for a very different reason than the one you've stated. And, for the record, you both are being a little selfish. You are looking only at your own point of view and not at the big picture, so let's step back for a second and look at the true motivation behind why you should continue interaction with your ex-in-laws -- and it's not because you were part of the family for 10 years. The true reason you should continue to stay in touch with ex-in-laws is to support your child's relationship with them. The people you will miss so much are your relatives through marriage, and that changes with divorce, But your child is related to them by blood and that never will change. They are your daughter's grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and that continues no matter what. That's the relationship that needs to be reinforced.

Taking this into account, the amount of time you hang around their home might need to be altered so that it doesn't appear you are there just to aggravate your ex's new spouse. It's understandable that he is intimidated by your presence, but it might be something he has to get used to, within reason. When divorced parents take an active role in co-parenting, it puts exes and new partners in contact with each other. If jealousy has been is a problem in the past, marrying someone with kids might not be a good idea.

That said, make sure you are allowing your ex and her new spouse to have their private family time. Wait to be invited. It might help if everyone realizes this is not an either/or situation. The ex-in laws do not have to pick one of you. You can maintain a past relationship while he builds one for the future. There is room for everyone.

Jann Blackstone-Ford, Ph.D., and her husband's ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, authors of "Ex-Etiquette for Parents," are the founders of Bonus Families .

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