Co-Parenting with Ex’s… and Their New Partners

Like so many people I know, my tolerance for emotional distress has been stretched to maximum capacity a number of times throughout my life. And honestly–I’m so grateful… There’s this one specific piece that has pushed my edges more than anything else. …Wait, let me put that another way—that feels like a sledgehammer in the center of my heart, and it has demanded that I stretch further than I thought possible.

And the idea is this: ….That I am going to have to share my children with another mother.


Having had a few years to really consider the possibility of “another woman” in the lives of my children, I’ve had some time to FEEL a lot. And I think the potential of someone else in a “mothering” role, in their lives, is one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever experienced.

me-lillyFrom the moment that my son was born, and then as powerfully as that first moment, when my daughter entered the world four years later, my heart exploded wide open. My entire identity became something completely new—I was an altered human being. In fact, it seemed as if the world became a different place, as soon as they each took their first breaths. There are those rare times in life that our identities and perceptions alter so dramatically. Becoming a mother is the most profound shift I have personally ever experienced. I’m guessing many of you can relate.

I know that my children can never really know how much I love them. At least until they are parents themselves. And I have to trust that my love—which is sourced from a place that is so much bigger than me—is going to hold them …through these transitions, through all of the things that I fear may damage them, due to me or to someone else.

So I remind myself that I’m not going to do it perfectly—that there really is no right or wrong, that I need to do it “well enough,” and hold them to the best of my ability throughout the journey. And that the love that surrounds us, that is going to be the foundation for how they resource their own sense of safety and being-ness in the world, is more powerful than anything.

Obviously we cannot control who our ex partners choose to support the rest of their hearts journeys, and who all will be influencing our children. We cannot have any control over how those people interact and influence these little people who inhabit almost the entirety of our hearts… Unless, of course, we are open to some dialogue, and unless we are both respecting and honoring the strength and the possibility of different perspectives, and unless we are willing to stretch ourselves. And those things are my intention and hope.

We also have to trust who our children are, and their capacity and need Nathaniel-Lillyfor feeling loved from multiple sources, and for ultimately designing their own paths as they take nourishment from the strength and support around them. We need to help our children feel a sense of community… And I believe there is huge opportunity for us, and them, in accepting the community we have, including our ex partners new partners. Because really what is the alternative?

By developing positive relationships with one another—and I’m talking authentic connection, because each one of us knows the discomfort of un-owned resentment, and our children, especially, feel when we are out of integrity—we provide safety for our children to trust, to cultivate closeness, to love and receive love, and to learn to depend on their family—their entire family—to support them.

Our kids look to us for cues in who and how to trust, and their hearts are soothed when they see us doing the work to stretch ourselves into new, supportive and authentic relationships.

Some might balk at the idea of my developing a positive co-parenting relationship a partner of my ex-husband. But let’s really look at this. If she’s in love with the man that I loved for so many years, chances are we have some things in common.

My ex-husband is holding and managing half of my children’s lives in his hands and heart, and if he chooses a woman as worthy of both his heart, as well as theirs, it is my work to open my heart as well. A woman who is willing to be a positive, loving force in the lives of my children deserves my appreciation and respect, and if she opens her heart to them, I want to support that with everything in me, because they will feel the nourishment of her love. And do you wonder if that hurts or scares me? You’re damn right it does. And it is the practice of parenting to continue to consciously stretch into all that our children need and that can serve them.

N-L2These two little people are the number one most important thing in my world. Their happiness and capacity to thrive is worth every ounce of me stretching into a better version of myself. And no matter what I have to do to authentically show up and support healthy relationships in their lives, they are worth it.

We can handle so much more than we imagine, as can our children, and even more so if each of us can understand the fabric that weaves the complexity of emotions around and between us. When we’re honest with our kids, sharing honestly what’s happening in our lives in a way that they can understand, it settles them. They feel our congruence with our inner truth.

And when they see us doing the work to cultivate resiliency and to stretch into life, rather than close ourselves off from it, they begin to embody that same strength. And what better gift can we give?

I’ve seen a beautiful quote a number of times that goes like this: “The best gift a man can give his children is to love their mother.” ~ Anonymous

I’ve always loved that.

I wonder… for the divorced family, the best gift of each parent might be to truly honor and appreciate our ex-partner, and his or her new partner!

For the Love of Your Life!me-kids