Let’s say your new spouse has been married before–and their ex dislikes you. All you want is a peaceful existence with your new family, but their ex does whatever they can to make your life more difficult. How do you handle that situation?
When one or both spouses are married for the second time, it’s not unusual for an ex to be in the picture. That’s especially true if you’re co-parenting children. If your spouse has children with their ex, then naturally, you’ll have to interact with the ex on some level.
However, sometimes, an ex-spouse can make your life more difficult than it needs to be. (This can also be true for extended family members, if not ex spouses!) You might not have any control over whether you have to interact with this person from time to time. But, it’s possible to establish some clear boundaries to preserve your peace.
When Distance Isn’t an Option
Your spouse loves you. But, just like in any marriage, they might have brought people with them that don’t feel the same way about you. If they have an ex-spouse or someone on their side of the family that doesn’t particularly like you, this can feel unnerving.
Unfortunately, some relationships demand that you spend time with people who may not care for you. Raising stepchildren with your spouse necessitates interacting with their other parent from time to time. Being in a family with some difficult individuals means you’ll have to see them at the occasional family function.
The important thing is knowing exactly where you stand with this person and accepting it for what it is. You can’t make someone like you or treat you differently. However, you can limit their opportunities to put you in a bad situation.
Establishing Healthy Boundaries With Your Spouse’s Ex (or an In-Law)
When it’s not an option to create distance between yourself and your spouse’s ex, there are some healthy boundaries that you can establish. Boundaries can create a greater sense of safety for yourself and your marriage. So what might that look like?
For example, you may ask that you never be left alone with your spouse’s ex. First, communicate this expectation to your spouse in a loving way. You could try something like, “I understand that (name) is the childrens’ (mother/father), but I don’t feel comfortable being alone with them. You will need to be available during those interactions to ensure they’re as healthy as possible for everyone involved.”
On the other hand, you could potentially suggest limiting the amount of time you spend around this person instead. Maybe you can tolerate this person for shorter periods of time. If that’s the case, have a specific time limit in mind, inform your spouse of the boundary, and stick to it.
Focus on Your Marriage and Parenting
Above all, you and your spouse need to focus on your communication, your trust, and your parenting. You need to form a united front together. Don’t allow an ex spouse or family member to triangulate your communication or place a wedge between the two of you.
We wrote Saving Your Second Marriage Before It Starts as a road map for couples embarking on a second marriage. Whether you’re just starting out in your new marriage or a few years down the road, this is a resource that could help you tremendously. You can learn more about it here.
Does your spouse have an ex you interact with regularly? How have you worked together to keep those interactions as healthy as possible? Let us know in the comments.