Have you ever had an argument with your partner about his ex?
Have you ever got into it about how your partner is responding to an issue with the ex?
Has the stress that comes with navigating life with your parent’s ex ever trickled into your marriage?
Something tells me if you’re reading this post – the answer is yes.
Who am I kidding, we’ve all been there!
But here’s the thing – it doesn’t have to be that way.
It is possible to find a way to prevent the ex from impacting your relationship with your partner.
I know this because I’ve lived it.
And before all the people in my small-town start sending screen shots and saying “is she really going there” – YES, I am going there.
But not to point fingers at ANYONE – I’m just being real and saying that sometimes, this shit is hard.
I’m simply speaking the truth about something that is a reality for so many second marriages.
A few weeks back, in the midst of some stepfamily stressors that we’ve dealt with many-a-times – my husband and I had this ah-ha moment where we realized just how far we’ve come.
Stressors that used to impact our marriage no longer affect us the way that’s they used to.
Specifically, the fact that we have different opinions on how we should address these stressors, doesn’t drive a wedge between us like it once did.
We dive into this conversation on a recent podcast, “How to Keep The Ex From Impacting Your Marriage” but I thought I’d share our tips here as well, JUST in case you’re looking for a quick resource to skim.
So here are 10 tips and strategies that we’ve implemented into our marriage … to keep co-parenting stressors out of it!
1. TACKLE IT AS A TEAM
Look at stressors as YOUR problem, not your husband’s problem. You are a team. What impacts your partner, impacts you!
Darren and I have made a conscious decision to tackle things as a team. We’ve also (verbally) committed to not allowing this outside stress to drive a wedge between us.
Sometimes simply verbalizing your commitment can go a long way.
2. UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER’S PERSPECTIVE
Sometimes we don’t agree on how to handle a stressor.
Actually, it’s more than sometimes.
We often don’t agree on how to handle a stressor.
As my husband mentioned in the podcast episode, I’m a bit of a bulldog when it comes to any stress in life. I like to tackle it right away, go in hard and get it addressed. I truly am a “no bullshit kind of girl” … I got it from my dad.
Sometimes this is an asset. Other times, not so much.
My husband on the other hand, likes to mull things over. He likes to weigh the pros and cons, and see how things play out.
To be honest, to this day, his approach drives me freakin’ nuts.
This used to cause issues for us because I thought he was procrastinating. I would get so worked up that I couldn’t hear his rationale for responding the way he did.
When you find yourself in this scenario, it’s important to listen to understand and not listen to respond.
I’ll say that again…
LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND!
DON’T LISTEN TO RESPOND!
Just because I think my way is the right way (and honey, if you’re reading this – it often is)
doesn’t mean that he has to see it that way.
When I took the time to really understand his position (opposed to accusing him of procrastinating) my perspective completely changed.
Now while I may not always agree with his approach, I can respect it.
3. DON’T DISCUSS ISSUES WHEN YOU’RE EMOTIONAL
While it’s inevitable that you’ll have conversations about the stress when you’re emotional, it’s really important to come back to the table after you’ve calmed down.
The 24-hour rule is such a game changer. It’s amazing how your perspective changes when you’ve taken 24 hours to calm down. What seemed like a huge deal in the moment, may not actually be.
Emotional conversations can make matters so much worse. It’s very important to know when to table a conversation.
When it’s becoming unproductive or you can see that you’re not on the same page – table it. Acknowledge you have different opinions then walk away.
There have been so many times when I’ve looked at my husband and said, “Okay I’m pissed right now, I need to go downstairs – let’s talk about this later.”
Then we do and the conversation plays out in an entirely different way.
4. TALK ABOUT IT ON DATE NIGHT
Yes, you read that right. I know the golden rule is to not discuss the ex on date night – but we’ve found that on date nights we have our best conversations about our life together.
WE talk about our life, how things are going, what we can do better and what we want to achieve in the next little while. Inevitably, conversations about our stressors come up.
During these conversations we’re relaxed, non-emotional, sipping on cocktails talking about life.
Now don’t spend the entire night talking about all the crap – but if it does come up, take advantage of that kid-free time to have conversations about how things are going.
NOTE: IF you can’t have these conversations without getting into a heated argument, then disregard ALL OF THIS! There have been many times in our relationship when we made certain topics off limits for date night. That’s a good strategy too! It truly depends on where you’re at!
5. DON’T LET IT RUIN YOUR NIGHT
Make the commitment to not let the disagreement ruin your night. Again, this is a commitment that you need to say out loud.
Take a moment, be pissed off, walk away and then bring it back.
DO NOT allow someone on the outside to have so much power over your marriage.
Here’s something that I REALLY want people to understand – and it’s not an easy thing for many stepmoms to wrap their heads around.
If you and your partner are constantly fighting about the ex – she’s not the problem. The issue is in your marriage. You need to get better at conflict management and tackling the stressors of your life as a team.
She’s not going away. Change is on you.
Stepmoms – it is normal to feel resentful every now and again.
6. UNDERSTAND RESENTMENT IS NORMAL
I have felt resentment about the extra stress and responsibility I have from being a stepmom.
I have resented the custody schedules, and the fact that our days can be hijacked by another person or situation. I’ve resented it all.
This happened as recently as a month ago. I was sipping a glass of wine, making dinner, waiting for my husband to get home from work. I was so excited for a nice, relaxing night together and then WHAM! He walked in the door and updated me on a situation that needed to be addressed.
Our night was hijacked and I was pissed.
Here’s the thing! Everyone has their crap. Everyone has their stress. This is yours.
So be resentful, have the feelings, acknowledge them and then talk yourself out of it – it’s really unproductive to pack up and stay there.
7. AFTER A TOUGH NIGHT OR AN ARGUMENT ASK YOURSELF “HOW CAN WE DO BETTER NEXT TIME?”
I love a good post argument debrief.
In our marriage we have had countless conversations about the way we argue or the way that we approach stressors in our life.
We are constantly looking for ways to do things better next time.
Think about it – what can you and your partner do to argue better? How can you tackle stress more efficiently? How can you prevent outside stressors from impacting you the way that they have?
Make a plan. Talk about it!
Marriage is work!
A lot of freakin’ work.
It’s important that a stepmom know when it’s time to take a step back and allow your husband to take the reins.
I wrote a whole blog post about it here, but to sum it up, if your involvement is no longer productive or the stress is impacting your ability to show up as the best version of yourself – it’s time to disengage.
It takes work.
It’s not easy.
But if you’re in the trenches and feel like you’re forever arguing about the ex – please know that it IS possible to get to this point. You just have to be prepared to pick your battles, have the tough conversations and get honest with yourself about how your reactions may be contributing to the dynamic.
9. RESPECT YOUR HUSBAND’S POSITION
At the end of the day, I know it’s my husband’s call. It is. As much as I said we tackle things as a team – in these situations, the guy can trump me.
I (mostly) respect that.
Sometimes I simply wash my hands of situations and say, “this is my opinion, here’s why I think we should respond this way, but you do what you feel is best” – then I ask to be updated on a need-to-know basis.
To be honest, it’s kind of freeing!
10. ASK YOURSELF: IS THIS WORTH THE TURMOIL THAT IT’S CAUSING IN MY MARRIAGE?
If you’re still arguing and you still have tension with your partner about these outside stressors, I encourage you to ask yourself “is this worth the stress that it’s causing in my marriage? Is it worth the turmoil?”
It’s a really good way to learn to pick your battles – because chances are the answer is NO.