Today, blended families continue to be more and more common and, as a result, relationships with children, former partners and in-laws have become a lot more complicated.  While it may be possible to minimize contact with some people in the extended family, it can be next to impossible to avoid your significant other’s ex, especially if they share custody.

Some exes make things a lot tougher than they have to be and situations have to be handled delicately. Here are some suggestions for navigating these, sometimes treacherous, waters.

Don’t Get in the Middle

Your husband and his ex had a relationship long before you came along and it’s best to respect that boundary.  Don’t get in the middle of their fights, decisions and interactions, particularly when it comes to making decisions about their children.  Yes, you are now a big part of their lives but, ultimately, they should be the ones to work out any disputes.

Pick Your Battles

There will be many things that will irritate and upset you as part of a blended family but you shouldn’t complain about everything.  Of course, there are some areas that are worth exploring – abuse, neglect and direct interference with your relationship.  In those situations, it’s wise to choose a method of addressing it that is appropriate (which, sadly, could involve reporting the situation to the authorities).

Set Your Boundaries

Sometimes, there’s a feeling that, as the second (or third or fourth, etc…) wife, you somehow are less important than the first one.  As a result, you could allow yourself to be treated in a way that is unreasonable. Do not be a doormat.  Set healthy boundaries without being abrasive.  For example, your husband’s ex might ask him to repair a leaky faucet or call him late at night just to talk.  Depending on the situation, those might be inappropriate requests.  If something makes you uncomfortable, speak up.

Keep the Kids Out of It

For whatever reason, women sometimes opt to use their children as a pawn. Turning your relationship with innocent kids into a competition is extremely unhealthy and immature.   Never ever put them in the middle of your disputes, never ever put them in a position where they have to pick one parent over another, and never ever trash talk their mother in front of them.

Respect Her Wishes

This might be very hard for some people but it is important to respect the wishes of your stepchildren’s other parent.  You might have a set of rules for your own kids but your husband and his ex have to decide what’s best for the children they share.  Your role is to respect those decisions and not undermine their parents’ authority.

Choosing to become part of a blended family is a major commitment and should not be taken lightly.  Before jumping into the situation, ask yourself if you truly are up to the task and, if you have doubts, address them before moving forward.  Your husband’s ex will always be a part of the family when children are involved and, if you feel you can’t get along with her, you might have to move on.