Family

What Can You Do When Communication Breaks Down Between Exes *and* New Partners?

Southern Charm's Kathryn C. Dennis and Ashley Jacobs get into it. And it's bad.

The Southern Charm finale is all about the drama between Kathryn C. Dennis and Ashley Jacobs, who calls Kathryn an “egg donor” and a “baby mama” just because she no longer with the father of her children, and Ashley is. Oh boy. 

Earlier in the season, things had reached (another) breaking point between the two ladies when Kathryn threw a birthday party for her son, Saint, 2, full of finger painting and presents, but, oops, left Ashley off the guest list. And, while vacationing in Hilton Head, South Carolina, Ashley had questioned Kathryn’s parenting skills, calling her a bad mom. Hard to believe but, yes, things have gotten even worse. The two can’t even communicate, never mind become friends.

When a new partner and an ex can’t get along (when there are kids involved), it’s a bad look for everybody. Adults should be the adults. But since that’s not always the case, and name calling and bad feelings about people happen, there are some things you can do to keep your cool. Because let’s face it, if the adults can’t get along for the sake of the kids, everybody’s screwed.

Therapist Rachel Stapleton has written extensively about how to deal with an ex’s high drama — or the new partner’s problems.

"Accept the fact you cannot control [this person]. She may (albeit unfortunate, immature, and unfair to the children) choose to continue to act in a dramatic manner, but know that you do not have to respond in a dramatic way, nor do you have to participate,” she writes in a guide for stepmoms.

“The first step is to recognize who and what you are dealing with. Any time two people with kids get divorced, there are going to be some squabbles over the years. Minor, and even a few major, disagreements are completely normal. Do not expect your husband and his ex to co-parent in perfect harmony all the time. Do, however, expect that there will be no cussing, name calling, threats, withholding the children, or banging on your door for no apparent reason,” she says, adding that you have to get on the same page as your ex (at least about the kids), find like-minded women and stepmom support groups, don’t personally communicate with the ex or partner if it’s too awful, and never answer anything you don’t have to. Leave the rest up to the law, she says.

Always, always put the kids first, says a report on Responsible Divorce, and “visualize the type of relationship you want to have.”

“Do you see yourself arguing with her? Do you just want to smack her because she makes you so mad? Then you will continue to resent her and therefore continue to argue. You have to want to get along with each other. Sounds simple, but it is really the essence of the whole thing. People who want to get along make allowances to do so. People who don't want to get along, don’t…You do not have to be friends. Look for common ground and only discuss problems you need to solve. If the kids are the common ground, that's what you talk about. You do not have to go shopping together.”

Therapist Tamara Green tells Personal Space don’t compete with your partner’s ex.

"That is a recipe for disaster. Be their champion instead," she advises. "Say reassuring things like, 'I know your mother/father cares about you very much.' Be clear about roles with the kids, 'I’m not your mother/father, but I deeply care about you.' Be clear about boundaries and honor the united front that your partner and his ex have (or should have) as parents. Do not take sides or positions. Encourage your partner to work out parenting issues with the ex as much as possible. This helps to reduce confusion for everyone involved. Even if the ex hates your guts, always be neutral, courteous and kind. Operating from integrity always proves beneficial in the long run."

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