I vividly remember the pounding in my chest, lump in my throat, and mind racing with insecurities when I was meeting the ex-wife the first time.
We were headed to pick up Krista, my husband/then-boyfriend’s daughter, across town at her mom’s boyfriend’s martial arts competition, and after saying “Hello” to me, his ex-wife didn’t say another word or even look in my direction again.
Meeting the ex (or vice versa, meeting your ex’s new partner!) is an incredibly awkward and uncomfortable situation… but with a few tips, you will feel prepared and calm, ready to tackle the first meeting with grace.
10 Tips for Meeting the Ex-Wife the First Time
1. No Expectations
Head into meeting the ex-wife without any expectations of the outcome. There’s truly no way to predict how she will receive your presence in your children’s lives.
You could be the Mother Teresa of stepmothers, and the ex-wife may still be cold and standoffish. And remember, if she’s cautious of those involved in her children’s lives, that’s a good thing!
Plus, if you walk away with a neutral to good experience, your lack of expectations upfront will cause you to feel like the first meeting was a success!
2. Dress Appropriately
Meeting the ex-wife the first time is truly not the time to flaunt what you’ve got.
This means, no super revealing clothing, no T-shirts with pointed graphics like “New and Improved” or “Bonus Mom”, or generally sloppy clothing choices.
Show up as your best self for this important day. Don’t allow your appearance to say anything other than “I’m a fully capable stepparent and co-parent.”
3. Be Respectful
The most important thing you can do when meeting the ex-wife is to treat her with kindness and respect.
No matter what you have heard, no matter what you think about her, no matter what has happened, no matter what.
You want to always hold your head high and know you aren’t contributing to any tension or co-parenting drama. By acting respectfully, you are ensuring you’re not part of the problem.
4. Check Your Mindset
Are you walking into meeting the ex-wife with an “us vs. her” mentality? If so, check that at the door!
You’re not on opposite teams; you’re all on Team Stepkid. It’s not mom vs. dad or stepmom vs. mom. There’s room for everyone in your stepchild’s cheering section.
When you work together, everyone is less stressed, more productive, and happier! Even if you can’t get along well enough to co-parent, parallel parenting is a solid option that still doesn’t have the two homes working against each other.
This mindset is simply counterproductive.
5. Introduce Yourself
If you seem to be hitting it off, go ahead and tell her about your passions, your family (if you also have kids), and give her insight on your stepparenting philosophy.
How do you contribute to her children’s lives? Make her feel comfortable with you, if you can.
And remember, if she’s not ready for the olive branch, that’s okay, too!
6. Listen About Her
Allow her to talk about herself and hear what makes her tick. Understanding her motivations, passions, and her bond with her children will help you in your stepmom role.
The better you understand her, the better you’ll be able to communicate and, hopefully, co-parent.
7. Ask Questions
If you’re given the opportunity to ask questions upon meeting the ex-wife, do it!
Is there anything we can do to help you? Is there anything we’re doing that’s affecting you? Are you open to us communicating down the road or do you prefer to communicate only with your ex? Would you like to receive pictures when the kids are with us?
Open the lines of communication! Let her know you’re interested in working with her and not against her.
8. Offer Compliments
Another way to help her begin to trust you and tear down some of those walls is to offer a sincere compliment.
There are so many different things you could compliment: her parenting style or how much she loves her children, how involved she is in her child’s life, how stylish she dresses her children, or even superficial things like her hair, clothes, or shoes.
Women love receiving compliments, and we don’t hear them enough! Give her a compliment (that you truly believe!) and it will affect her perception of you, I’m sure of it.
9. Practice Empathy
It’s important to keep perspective when you’re meeting the ex-wife. When you’re accustomed to seeing your child every day and then you start to share custody, it’s heartbreaking. You miss your child each day she’s not with you.
Add in the exponentially more complex plot twist of another woman who will be influencing your child when she’s at her other parent’s home? That’s a lot to handle for a divorced mom.
Allow her time, patience, and empathy as she comes to terms with this new normal for her family.
10. Just Breathe
I know how stressful it can be meeting the ex-wife the first time. Just remember to breathe! You haven’t set any expectations for this meeting, so go with the flow.
Stop running through a thousand “What if?” scenarios in your head, stop asking your partner all about her personality, stop stressing about the meeting.
Everything is going to work out exactly as it’s supposed to. You’ve got this!
Meeting the ex-wife is a big step in your relationship, and it should be taken seriously as such.
But looking back, it’s a milestone I hardly consider in my stepmomming journey. That first meeting isn’t indicative at all of the relationship I now have with my stepdaughter’s mom.
Yes, you want to put your best foot forward. But rest assured, this one day does not define your future.
P.S. Are you meeting the ex-wife before meeting your boyfriend’s children? We have lots of great tips for that first meeting too!