Love The Kids, But Hate The Ex?

If you've fallen in love with a single parent and also adore the kids, you might think you've hit the relationship jackpot — until the ex steps in. Follow these five strategies for minimizing the drama.

By LaDawn Black

ou have met the guy or girl of your dreams — and to your great surprise, that person's kids are just as fabulous, too! Your new love came with a bonus, and you really enjoy all of the family activities that allow you to get to know these kids better. Surely the ex will have to be just as warm, welcoming and
Teens have a unique perspective on their parents dating…
mature as they are, right? Well… no, not always. So what can you do when you love the kids, but hate the ex? Here are five tips for coping with it.

Divide in order to conquer
Early on in your relationship, you have to separate those bad vibes for the ex from the good vibes you're getting from the kids. It's so easy to confuse a difficult, conniving or jealous ex with thinking that the kids will feel or treat you the same way. Young children form their own impressions of people and can be counted on for their honest assessments about whether or not they like you — and want you around their mom or dad. Teens have a unique perspective on their parents dating because they know how to separate what they're being told from what they actually see, and often, they will be your biggest advocate in dealing with the hated ex. Older children get the difference between a parent who is truly concerned with whom the ex is dating vs. simply obsessing over the new love's presence in their lives. Remember: Just because your honey's ex accepted you, it doesn't necessarily mean that the kids won't, either.

Build up the love mileage
Kids do not disappear. If they were there when you first got together with their parent, they're more than likely going to be around for the life of your relationship. Realize that it's important to build up positive experiences and interactions with them so you can be sure you've only been a positive force in their lives. Be respectful of their feelings and opinions about the new relationship, and foster an atmosphere where their absent mom or dad can be discussed without it ever being an issue when you're around. What you're doing is creating a bank of positivity so that if the disgruntled ex decides to attack you, both the kids and your partner can quickly point out that you've been an asset and not a liability to the family's happiness.

Envision your future together as a blended family
Have a clear idea of how this blended situation with you, your partner and his or her kids will eventually come together. Discuss what's an appropriate level of affection for you two to show around the kids, your
When difficulties arise, you need to let your partner handle them.
honey's perception of the way the kids view of your relationship, and how best to neutralize situations involving the ex. Communicate with the kids in a way that says, "I am an adult, but I am not a replacement or fill-in for your parent." Make decisions and conduct yourself in a way that will make the environment feel safe if you were to eventually move in with (or marry) your partner. Kids are an issue that needs far more discussion, preparation and care than many other, less tangible things that couples consider before stepping up their commitment as a couple.

Become BFFs with the ex — or fake it 'til you make it
As much as you may be tempted to talk bad about the ex in front of the kids sometimes (or tell the world about the latest wrong he or she committed), it's best to keep those things within the family. Be positive about the ex in front of the kids — no matter what. You don't ever want any craziness or ill will to seem like it's coming from you. Make it perfectly clear to everybody involved that you respect the ex's place in each child's life, and that you are not looking to replace anyone. If possible, find an area or topic that you can talk with the ex about that's emotionally neutral and really work on the best ways to communicate with each other. If you find that communication with this person's always a battle, then remove yourself from the discussion and let your lover handle everything instead of constantly struggling with it. Whether you meet in the middle or never meet up at all, at least you've found a way to defuse a situation that can have a huge effect on the kids.

Remember that, ultimately, your partner's in control and has the final say
Always remember that the ex — however crazy, manic or unreasonable — was once in a relationship with your partner, and that an established relationship already exists between the two of them. When difficulties arise, you need to let your partner handle them. Stepping in to defend of your relationship (regardless of whether it's as the know-it-all outsider, potential step-parent or would-be peacemaker between two fighting parents) will only throw you into a situation where you lack the history and connections to be effective. When it comes to big decisions, disagreements and getting everybody on the same page, in the end, remember: that's an issue for your partner to resolve; your voice is really just white noise in the background. It's ultimately your partner's obligation to make sure that all the players in this scenario are getting a fair deal.

LaDawn Black is a relationship expert, radio personality and the author of TEASE: Steamy Short Stories. Learn more at
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