Ex-etiquette: Future status of 'former' bonus mom?

Jann Blackstone, Tribune News Service on

Published in Lifestyles

Q: I am in a new relationship. I also have a son from my first marriage. My ex-wife (second marriage) and I raised my son together for 6 years. We split up 2 years ago, but she is still in my son’s life and spends a few hours with him every week. My new partner is resentful of even the smallest amount of time my son spends with her and demands that I no longer allow my son to see or have anything to do with her. Should I end my son’s relationship with his former bonus mom in order to make my new partner happy? What’s good ex-etiquette?

A: If you have to end a relationship, you may want to think about ending it with someone who asks you to consider her needs over the needs of your child. You see, I didn’t hear anything about you perpetuating the relationship with your ex — it’s your son who continues to be close.

So, your partner’s jealousy is misdirected. Unfortunately, it may be difficult for her to tell the difference. The root of jealousy when you are in the midst of it is sometimes difficult to discern. Problem is, any partner who asks you to end your child’s contact with a past partner when that past partner and child have developed a supportive, loving relationship, may be settling themselves up for failure—and you need to consider if they are the right choice for a partner. Granted, without encouragement, the relationship between your child and former partner may slow down on its own, but it’s certainly not up to your new partner to demand it.

Now for your part. Make sure you aren’t doing anything to contribute to your new partner’s insecurity. She must understand that that the reason you continue to interact with your ex is that you are supporting your child’s relationship with her. Divorce is hard enough on kids. Maintaining positive relationships with former partners helps children with the transition.


Truth be told, a new partner trying to prevent interaction rarely prevents past partner reconciliation. It does, however, put lots of stress on something that’s new and fragile—and when pressure is applied to something fragile, it usually breaks.

Plus, if your child knows your new partner is behind his not being able to see his bonus mom, it could undermine any relationship your new partner is trying to build with your son. Children have enough love to go around—it’s the adults who complicate things.

Finally, a note about “bonus.” You referenced your ex-wife as your son’s former bonus mom. If your son and his bonus mom continue to have a loving relationship, he doesn’t have to stop calling her bonus mom once you break up. Although I am no longer married to my bonus kids’ dad, they are still my bonus kids. Bonus describes how you feel about someone. Use the term as long as you like. That’s good ex-etiquette.

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