Marriage 2.0 (Don’t let your new spouse ruin your co-parenting relationship)

Getting remarried after a divorce is a big step toward moving on with your life after a painful time. It is a time of hope and renewal. It can also turn into a time of disagreement and discord with your former spouse if you aren’t careful!

The addition of a stepparent into your child’s life and into your co-parenting relationship with your former spouse can be a good thing or a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing. Much of the outcome is up to you. Depending on how your marriage ended there are bound to be some negative emotions from your former spouse which accompany your remarriage. Generally these emotions pass and do not need to interrupt your parenting relationship. What turns a few hurt feelings into a battle is most often what comes after the remarriage is complete and everyone tries to return to normal life with a new person in the mix.

A stepparent can be a wonderful addition to your child’s life. The relationship with a stepparent can be an enriching and valuable part of childhood. But there are some boundaries which a stepparent must respect in order to ease the transition. First and foremost, a stepparent must not attempt to assume a parental role. This does not mean that your new spouse is merely a visitor in your home, but it does mean that all decisions and important discussions related to your kids’ upbringing must occur only with your former spouse. The stepparent needs to kindly butt out and let the biological parents handle the important decisions of child rearing.

A second important boundary that a stepparent must respect is to always show respect. A stepparent’s view on what ended your prior marriage and who is to blame is a private discussion between you and your new spouse. It should never occur in front of, near, within earshot of or with your kids. Nothing will destroy a positive co-parenting relationship faster than the children reporting that a stepparent is speaking ill of the other parent.

Finally, it is important to discuss with the children what to call their new stepparent. A first name is often the best bet. Refrain from ever encouraging your children to call their new stepparent “Mom”, “Dad” or any version of those cherished words. It is wholly inappropriate and sends a confusing message to your children. It will also anger your co-parent and could lead you down a negative path.

Your children get one childhood. Protect it from parental strife by carefully choosing your next partner and carefully introducing that partner into your kids’ lives. Guard your co-parenting relationship with your ex-spouse very carefully as peace between parents has a huge impact on their childhood.

4 Responses to “Marriage 2.0 (Don’t let your new spouse ruin your co-parenting relationship)”

  1. January 19, 2015 at 1:25 pm, Concerned said:

    What if this exspouse has a negative, harmful history that can affect the children and yet the other parent knows this but choose to let the children be exposed to such a life because they don’t know how to handle the exspouse. Especially when the parent has committed and agreed to a relationship with the step-parent involved with the raising of the children in the lives?

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  2. May 31, 2015 at 9:17 am, Julie said:

    My husband and I came in to our marriage with children from previous marriage. Step proceed by parent makes them just as important as biological in their new family life. In no way shape or form has our family allowed biological co parenting interfere with co parenting from a step parent. As adults we set rules and standards for our children his and hers. This is our home and we stay out of previous marriage home. Co parenting to only include biological is one of the reason 72% of remarraige fails with previous children. That is harmful to everyone. What would this teach children about family dynamics?

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  3. February 09, 2017 at 6:33 pm, Nikki said:

    I finalized my divorce last summer and both myself and my ex are engaged to remarry. I have made it a point to ensure that my ex and my fiance have a good relationship and that there are clear boundaries in parenting-step-parenting roles. My ex has NOT done the same. Actually he has gone as far opposite of this as possible by not even allowing me to meet this woman. They are scheduled to marry in the summer and I am honestly concerned. My children reside with him a majority of the time and it worries me to have them living with a complete stranger. My kids have asked numerous times why we haven’t met and their relationship with this woman has changed drastically within the last few months. How damaging is this to my kids? Is there anything I can do?

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  4. July 27, 2017 at 2:21 pm, Kaitlan said:

    I wholly disagree that a stepparent should butt out of all child-rearing decisions when in a new marriage. When a person enters into a new marriage they agree to be partners in all aspects of their lives. Generally what happens with the children affects the new spouse as well. Not only that, but generally the stepparent financially, emotionally, or in other ways strongly supports their stepchildren. It is not right than that a person involved and as a part of this family has not say in childrearing with her/his partner. I agree that ultimately it is the biological parents decision, but I completely disagree they should “butt out.”

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