By Petro Thamm, owner and founder of Good Night Child Sleep Consultancy.
Part Two of Petro Thamm’s Divorce Survival Guide is directed at the ex-husbands and the new women in the lives …
To the ex-husbands:
- Your ex-wife, no matter how timid or weak she might seem, will become a roaring lioness if you try to stand between her and her children.
- Give her some credit at times. She is (most likely) being a single parent, having to either get a job or work hard(er) at the one she has. She’s building a new life too and a simple “thank you for being a good mother to our kids” will be deeply appreciated.
- Forgive her emotions. We are women. We have PMS. We cry and scream. You probably knew and experienced this during your marriage anyway. Simply accept the fact that we are not always going to be logical and level-headed and forgive us our emotional outbursts. Consider that your actions may have something to do with it at times and try to keep the relationship between you and your children’s mother as kind as possible.
- You didn’t agree with everything while you were married, so accept the fact that you won’t agree with everything now that you’re divorced. Allow her to have her own opinion. Respect her role as the primary caregiver of your children and stop competing for “parent of the year”. There is no such thing as a perfect parent.
- Allow her space when the kids are with you. She probably wants to phone them because she is missing them. Don’t always assume she is trying to pry or badmouth you. Give her the benefit of the doubt. Communicate. She is not trying to be controlling; in most cases her intentions come from having a deep love for your children.
“It’s important to give the ex-wife some grace; respect her as a woman and try to see that she is doing the best she can.”
To the new girlfriends:
- Have bucket loads of empathy for the situation you’ve decided to part of. You are dating the man who was married to someone else. It’s possible that you’re sleeping in her old bed and on her sheets, drinking from cups she probably bought, and hearing stories she’s probably heard many times before.
- Remember that the love you are feeling for Mr Right at this moment was the same love she felt for your Mr Right in a past moment. She also had “romance” in the first year. Everything also seemed perfect for her in the beginning.
- If you are not a mother or divorcee yourself, don’t ever think you know how it feels. You don’t. Period. It’s important to give the ex-wife some grace; respect her as a woman and try to see that she is doing the best she can.
- The ex-wife does not want to hear how you are the one. She’ll likely tolerate comments that sound like this: “What a great time we had!” and “I’m fitting in well with the family!” but try not cross too many emotional boundaries too soon. The ex-wife does not need to see soppy heart eyes for your husband; she needs to see a smart, savvy, respectful individual who does not want to make the divorce any more difficult than it already is.
- Remember that every story has two sides. There is Mr Right’s version of the divorce and there’s the ex-wife’s version – and somewhere in the middle is the truth. It is expected that you will choose the side of Mr Right, but try to keep perspective that no woman puts herself through the ordeals of divorce for no reason.
- Show some respect if you are in a position where you need to provide care for her children. There is nothing more threatening to a woman than her position as mother being usurped. Allow her the space to have the authority over her kids and ask useful questions about diet, bedtimes, likes and dislikes, school and afterschool activities if the opportunity arises.
- Watch closely how Mr Right communicates with ex-wife. Ultimately, over time, this is the way he will treat you. If he is less than respectful or a bad communicator with his ex-wife but a great one with you – this should tell you something. If he is treating her with respect, grace and forgiveness, it’s a sign of good character, which bodes well for you.
- The ex-wife is going through a major life change too. If she is kind to you – appreciate it. She is likely grinding her teeth while doing it and is spending a great deal of energy to not hate you. Try to get to know her while keeping solid boundaries. If you are able to have a good relationship, the kids will thrive – and this is the main priority for both Mr Right and the ex-wife.
- Make sure that Mr Right’s kids know that you respect their mother. This message will get back to the ex-wife and believe me, you want her respect as you move along in your relationship with Mr Right and his children.
- Don’t think you will ever understand or love Mr Right’s children as your own. You won’t. It is different to care and love for other people’s children – and that is okay.
Divorce Survival Guide: Part One