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Should my new partner meet my ex-wife / ex-husband?

The answer to this is going to depend on your own personal situation, so will be unique to you – and will undoubtedly be less of an issue if children aren’t involved. However, there are some things to consider. Is there willingness or a desire on both sides to meet? Do they need to meet? If they do meet, are there likely to be things that will be contentious that you need to prepare for?


Even if a separate meeting hasn’t taken place, there are some events where they will naturally both be present at, for example family funerals, or events to do with the children e.g. school plays. It’s important to gauge how both parties are likely to handle this. On one side, your new partner might be very happy to meet and interact with, and even build a relationship with your ex-spouse. This may be for the sake of harmony, the children, or because the family is very close knit and it’s going to be awkward if both are present at family occasions, not to have a relationship. On the other hand, your ex-partner may be reluctant to meet your new partner for whatever reason. They may feel resentment toward them, or feel that a meeting is unnecessary or likely to cause them emotional distress – especially if the previous relationship has not long ended. And of course the opposite applies – it may be that your new partner doesn’t want to meet, but your ex does perhaps they wish to meet the person who will be spending a lot of time around their children.


Some important things to remember:

Any meeting outside of ‘bumping into one another’ at a family gathering for example, should be mutually desired. Any coaxing to try and bring these people together on either side could cause further resentment, anxiety or hostility. If you are the one pushing for this, consider your motives - many relationships continue very successfully without the new partner ever meeting the previous one, and you shouldn’t feel like you are the bridge between the two individuals – they are grown ups and not likely to take kindly to being pushed together!


Even if both parties are happy to meet one another, a great degree of tact is essential. If your new partner has met the children already, him / her ‘helpfully’ commenting that little Harry seems a bit too shy and would likely benefit from a place in nursery to his mum or dad, is obviously not going to go down well! By the same token, your ex-partner referring to old family holidays during the meeting is not going to make your new partner feel particularly welcome. These are both extreme examples of course, but easily done, particularly if both people are nervous / anxious prior to meeting.


Your role is not to manage the interaction, but to some extent you will be needed to facilitate to help put both people at ease. Try and introduce neutral topics that aren’t likely to antagonise either person. Arrive at the meeting with your new partner – if for example you are attending school play, then arrive as a couple and don’t expect your new partner to meet you there. It’s important that the dynamics are as appropriate as possible. By the same token, your ex is not going to appreciate witnessing extensive PDAs with your new partner…


These considerations are important when children are involved in the new family dynamics. The more positive your ex and new partners’ mutual relationship, the more healthy the environment around your children will be. So, it stands to reason that whether or not they meet, you will want both parties to refer to the other one as positively (or neutrally if positivity is too hard!) as possible, from the start.

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Jun 21, 2023

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