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At holiday time, stepcouples often have the “opportunity” to see their ex-spouses. For some this is fine and even pleasant, but for others it triggers strong emotions: sadness, fear, anger, jealousy, resentment and others. Maybe it’s been a long time since you saw your ex or maybe you saw him last week. You may be facing a 10 minute child pickup or a 3 hour celebration meal and gift exchange. The amount of time doesn’t matter. It still pushes buttons for many people!

To those people who are dreading these encounters and need help dealing emotionally: Let’s face it! You have feelings about this person and you don’t know what will happen when you see him. How will she look? Were you really married to him? Will he be sober? What will the new spouse be like? And lastly, can you handle it all?

The answer is YES, you can. You HAVE TO for yourself and for the kids. You can start by drawing a strong boundary between you and your ex. Accept that while it’s uncomfortable, there are ways for you to handle the pressure.

Some helpful tips:

  • Take care of yourself and prepare yourself emotionally so you can bring your best to the table.
  • You don’t have to be perfect. Be yourself – that’s good enough. Provide a handshake and a smile. Treat the ex with respect, as he’s the biological parent to your children.
  • If an argument arises, try not to escalate it. Don’t fight fire with fire especially in front of the kids. Alcohol tends to excite anger, so keep it to a minimum.
  • Think and breathe. These are excellent ways to control your anxieties. Remember you can only control yourself, not anyone else. The better you handle yourself the more comfortable your children will be.
  • Find a way to enjoy some aspects of the moment and feel proud of how you’re handling it. Lighten up; a sense of humor helps.

At the end of the day, it’s over for now. You did fine, and you can pat yourself on the back. And move on…until next time.

How do you control and conduct yourself around your ex?

Susan Wisdom LPC
December 2007

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