Many people ask me if it is a good idea — or even possible — to become friends with their ex-husband's new wife. This can be great if it happens, but basically I think it's a stretch!
We choose our friends, not our relatives, and in a sense your ex's new wife is a step-relative. While there is nothing wrong with being friends, it's pretty unusual. Friends are people who have dinner together, share thoughts and feelings, and have a strong comfort level with one another. Since she is married to the person who you used to be intimate with and then divorced — which is not friendly — sharing thoughts and feelings seems pretty unlikely!
There is, however, a need to be polite and pleasant. This is in the best interests of your kids, who have been through enough and may be having a hard time with their new stepmother. One client realized that she would have to be in the same room with her ex and his new wife at school functions and birthday parties. She was having a rough time with it. I suggested that she take a friend or two along to act as buffers, plan some pleasant conversation with the new wife, and then enjoy her friends. It made it much easier, and she could feel good about herself for modeling polite behavior for her children.
Here is another example: Marj's ex-husband was having an affair with Dee for six months before he announced that he was leaving her. Marj was devastated. How could he do this? She refused to meet her for some time, but realized when wedding plans were being made that she would have to change this. The kids seemed to like her, and Marj vowed to be pleasant to her for the sake of the children. She knew that there would be many situations where they would have to be in the same room. School events, the weekly "hand off'', and eventually graduations and weddings. The time to start acting pleasant is now. That doesn't change how she feels about her, which is much less than friendly. I give her a lot of credit, because the attitude she shows to her kids allows them to have a better relationship with their father and stepmother. Much as she would like to throttle both her ex and Dee, she lets out her frustration in her divorce recovery group and has been able to move on in her own life.
It is really important to be kind to yourself. It is quite normal to have feelings of rage towards the people who have caused you so much pain. But you need to find an outlet for those feelings or they will devour you. There are divorce support groups, counselors and therapists who work with divorce recovery. Divorce is one of the most painful things that you can go through, but there can be a better life on the other side. As your pain lessens, you will probably find it easier to be around your ex's new wife — but give yourself time to heal. You can't force friendship.
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