How to Handle the Remarriage of an Ex Spouse

Four Parts:Reacting to the NewsRelating to the New SpousePutting Your Children FirstDealing with Your Own Emotions

The remarriage of an ex-husband or ex-wife often brings mixed emotions. If you still have feelings for your ex, you may find yourself feeling jealous and hurt. If you harbor ill feelings for your ex, you may feel anger and resentment. If there are children involved, you may feel somewhat threatened by the new step-parent who will be involved in your children’s lives. Regardless of what feelings your ex-spouse’s new marriage brings, it is important to establish a healthy perspective on your spouse's remarriage in order to move forward.

Part 1
Reacting to the News

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    Congratulate your ex-spouse when he or she tells you the news. The announcement of your ex's plans to remarry is likely as uncomfortable and fraught with mixed feelings for your ex as it is for you.
    • While the news may come as a surprise, do not make negative comments or ask intrusive questions. Thank your ex-spouse for letting you know and leave it at that.
    • Remember, the two of you are no longer in a relationship and, unless you have kids, your ex is not obligated to keep you informed about his or her personal life.[1] It is a sign of healthy trust between you that your ex has told you the news. Be sure that you don't make a comment (or even a surprised or confused facial expression) that could compromise the relationship you have built.[2]
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    Consider sending a card or buying a small gift. It is customary to celebrate the news of a friend or family member's engagement, so why should it be different because it is your ex-spouse?
    • If you have an amicable relationship, or especially if you have children together, it might help to get the new marriage relationship off on the right foot if you pick out a simple card of congratulations, and simply write "Wishing you all the best!" Or consider a small gift, like a bottle of wine or a gift basket for their new home. Heartfelt congratulations means a lot.
    • If you do not have a good relationship with your ex, or if you think the new spouse is the type who would become jealous, you might skip a card or gift.
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    Avoid making negative comments to your ex.[3] Rather than badmouthing the new marriage or new spouse, focus your attention on more positive things in your life.[4]
    • It is healthy and right that your ex should find love and remarry. Even if you have not yet moved on, your spouse has a right to move forward with life.
    • You should also avoid making negative comments about your ex in front of your children, if you have them. Research shows that children who have positive, healthy relationships with both parents after a divorce have higher wellbeing than kids whose parents don’t get along.[5]
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    Ignore any attempts by your ex to push your buttons. Sometimes relationships with exes are not healthy, and one person may try to use situations like this to emotionally manipulate the other. It is not unheard of for exes to make comments about how much better the new spouse is at fulfilling his or her needs, or how much better the new spouse looks, or cooks, or listens, etc.
    • If you find yourself feeling as if your ex-spouse is purposely rubbing the new marriage in your face or reveling in how miserable he or she thinks the new marriage makes you feel, remind yourself of how childish that is of him or her. In fact, it is a sign of immaturity and an inability on your spouse's part to let go of past hurts between the two of you.
    • Be the bigger person by wishing your ex the best and doing your best to not revisit the topic. If your ex insists on discussing the new marriage or making comparisons, ask politely that he or she stop, and if nothing changes, you may have to reconsider future contact with this person. In situations where you must communicate for the sake of children you share with your ex, counseling may be the only option.
    • If you find yourself getting flustered, take a break and give yourself a little pep talk. Try using some reassurance statements, such as “This is upsetting, but I know how to deal with it” or “I don’t need to get into an argument about this.” You can also try some “relaxation reminders,” such as telling yourself “Remember to take a deep breath and relax” or “I can stay calm through this.”[6]
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    Keep things in perspective. Focus on your own life, not your ex-spouse and his new spouse.
    • There are few relationships more intimate than the marriage relationship, so it is natural that you would have ambivalent feelings about the new marriage and spouse. Do not make little issues into bigger ones just because of your ill feelings about your ex-spouse's new wife or husband.[7] There are so many wonderful things you can think about and do rather than focus on negative feelings about your ex-spouse's new marriage.

Part 2
Relating to the New Spouse

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    Don't hate your ex's new spouse automatically. Because of the intimacy that you once shared with your ex, it can be hard to feel anything but jealousy or resentment for the new spouse, simply because he or she is the new husband or wife.
    • Automatically judging the new spouse is unfair, and could prevent you from building a friendship. After all, you both fell in love with the same person, so you probably have many things in common. Try to get to know him or her better if you can. This will only help make the situation easier for everyone involved.
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    Be fair and honest. If you do not like the new spouse, be honest with yourself about why. Is it just jealousy on your part, anger, resentment, or do you have a legitimate reason?
    • If you have a history of not getting along, what part did you play in the conflict between the two of you? If you find your dislike of the new spouse is due to your own insecurities or shortcomings, do whatever you can to overcome those feelings.
    • Of course, it is possible that you have a legitimate reason for disliking this new spouse, for example, if this person is responsible for the dissolution of your marriage because of an affair. In that case, it’s important to recognize that others make their own choices, and you are not responsible for what this person has done.
    • Reading books on the subject, talking things out with family or friends, or attending counseling are all positive ways to overcome your negative feelings. The key is to stop the vicious cycle and work on positive change.
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    Smile and say hello to your ex’s new spouse. Be polite and cordial if you ever find yourself face to face with them. There is no need to say anything else or to partake in superficial chit chat. The key is to be polite and not rude, even if you're feeling absolutely miserable inside.
    • The new spouse is probably feeling the same feelings about you that you are feeling about him or her: a little jealousy, a little uncertainty, and a lot of eagerness to impress. Remember, he or she knows that you once had a very intimate relationship with the person that they now love. If the new spouse is insecure at all, it can be very hard for them to see you as anything but a threat to their relationship.
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    Avoid interacting with the new spouse if you truly cannot get along. Ignore any attempts made by the new spouse to communicate with you if it is hostile in any way. Always remember that you cannot control the behavior of others, but you can control your own behavior.
    • In many relationships, there is no reason for you to force a friendship between yourself and the new spouse. However, if you have children together and you and your ex are committed to co-parenting, you may wish to consider how to integrate the new spouse into your co-parenting philosophy.

Part 3
Putting Your Children First

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    Keep negative opinions to yourself. Questioning your children or badmouthing the new spouse in their presence can be very harmful. Your children are just innocent bystanders.[8]
    • The number one trait of positive parenting in a situation of divorce is putting your children first. You may need to bite your tongue if you feel like saying bad things about your ex or his or her new spouse. Making negative comments or interrogating the children will only make you look jealous or petty and cause your children to feel uncomfortable and confused.
    • If you do or say things that cause your children to believe that you dislike or distrust the new spouse, they also may be inclined to resist establishing a relationship with their new stepparent or lie to you about their interactions with him or her. This would not be fair to your children.
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    Help your children bond with and establish a healthy relationship with your ex’s new spouse. Assuming that the new stepparent is a sincere person who means well and cares for your children, do what you can to encourage and support their relationship.[9] This will help alleviate any feelings of guilt or betrayal your children may experience when they spend time with or have fun with their new stepparent.
    • Some ideas for practical ways to build a relationship involve inviting the new stepparent to family functions and holidays, buying thoughtful and personal gifts on birthdays or Christmas, and encouraging your child to find shared interests to explore with the new stepparent(for instance, if they both love art, they could take a sculpting class together, or if they both love fashion, the new stepparent could help with back to school shopping).
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    Remember that no one will ever replace you as your child’s mother or father. Although your ex’s new spouse may be labeled as a “stepparent,” this does not mean they are taking over your role as a mother or a father.
    • The bond you have with your children can never be broken, no matter how close your children are with the new stepparent.
    • Instead, try to see their relationship with their stepparent as a chance to amplify the amount of love and support they receive in their lives as they grow. The more adults love and care for a child, the better off the child will be.
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    Listen to your children. This change in family dynamics will undoubtedly cause mixed emotions, many of which they are too young to understand. They need you to be understanding, nonjudgmental, and reliable through this time of change.[10]
    • Accept their feelings as valid, whether they feel joy, anger, worry, jealousy, or a combination of these and other feelings. All of these feelings are normal and ok.
    • You can accept their feelings as valid and still try to help them balance any negative feelings they may have about this change or about the new spouse by pointing out positive aspects. Let them know that the situation is just as awkward for the new stepparent as it is for them and everyone needs time to adjust. If children see that you are calm and okay with everything, this will help them to feel at ease and better able to adjust to the new situation.
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    Address any problems or concerns with your ex-spouse. Rather than confronting the stepparent about parenting concerns, it is best to let your ex deal with the situation if possible.
    • If necessary, call a family meeting with your ex-spouse and your children so that everyone can give their input and discuss the problem and possible solutions. Sometimes children will say negative things about the new stepparent to you but not to the other parent. Having the children discuss things out in the open with both parents together may reveal that the children have been telling you one story and an entirely different story to the other parent. This is quite common among children of divorce.
    • Encourage your children to always be respectful of their new stepparent and to discuss any problems they have directly with the other parent so that he or she can address the issue with their new spouse.

Part 4
Dealing with Your Own Emotions

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    Accept your own reaction as normal and valid. Just like your children, you are likely to feel a range of emotions at the news of your ex's remarriage. Feelings from anger, to relief, to jealousy, to happiness are all normal. [11]
    • Allow yourself to feel your emotions fully. In some ways, the new marriage symbolizes the last nail in the coffin of your relationship with your spouse, and the myriad emotions you are feeling reflect the similarity between your ex's remarriage and the experience of grieving a death of a loved one. Let yourself mourn.
    • Vent in private, in a journal or to a friend, but keep your emotions in check when you're with your ex or the new spouse. It is not necessary to burden them or to create awkwardness in your relationship, and exploding in anger or sadness will not have any positive consequences.
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    Ask for support. The remarriage of an ex can be a long, emotionally taxing road, and you may find that you need someone to talk to. Research suggests that people who have a strong support network are better able to handle the stresses of divorce and remarriage. [12]
    • Ask a trusted friend or mentor. Someone who is a good listener, who is rational and gives great advice, and who won't judge you or tell you ex things you have said is a good choice. It also helps if the friend has been through a similar situation, so that they know what you are feeling.
    • Sometimes you may find that you need to talk to someone, but have no one in your life that fits the description of a trusted confidant. Consider professional counseling. Many insurance plans will pay for visits with a licensed therapist or psychologist. Ask your friends or acquaintances for referrals, or read reviews online to find a good one. Alternatively, if you are a member of a church or faith based group, many have counselors on staff.
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    Focus on you. Now that your ex has fully and completely moved on from your relationship with one another, it is time for you to do the same. Even if you have remarried, use this time to focus on your own life rather than the lost relationship with your ex. Embracing change and opportunity can help you fully move on. [13]
    • Set new goals for things you'd like to accomplish in the coming year. Perhaps try a new sport, or pick up a new craft or art form. Maybe you'd like to try ballroom dancing, or rock climbing, or modeling. By enlarging your own life and goals, you can take your focus off of your ex's life and put it squarely on your own, which is right where it belongs.


  • Having uncomfortable feelings about an ex-spouse’s new marriage is quite normal. In time, those feelings will lessen and you will adjust to the change. In the meantime, commit to taking the high road by refraining from making negative comments. Focus on you and your life. If you have children, commit to being the best parent you can be to your children. Don’t give your power to your ex-spouse. Instead, use your power to move forward and live the rewarding life you deserve.

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Categories: Relationship Issues