My Boyfriend, His Kids, and His Ex - Part 5, the finale! | Two HappyHomes Inc.

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My Boyfriend, His Kids, and His Ex - Part 5, the finale!

“How do I know if my boyfriend still has feelings for his ex?”

In the first four parts of this series on co-parenting and dating, we considered the implications and challenges inherent in questions such as “Why does my boyfriend put his child before me?” This is one of the most popular queries we receive on Though the questions are gender-specific, our responses are not.  In this final installment in the series, we consider another frequently-asked reader question.

“How do I know if my boyfriend still has feelings for his ex?”
While anyone could have the concerns reflected in this question, when a co-parent is involved, there’s another layer of complexity.  The average person doesn’t routinely have as much contact with their ex as a co-parent does.  And not only are co-parents in regular contact, but they are interacting for a very personal reason: raising children. 
The fear on the part of some who date co-parents is this: If they keep spending time together with the kids, getting along better than they did when they were married, they may decide to try again to make it work.  Given this anxiety, no wonder some people are more secure dating a co-parent who is constantly battling with his ex.
When we separated, we committed to vacationing together with our kids once a year as a way to impress upon them that we’re still a family, albeit across two separate households.  One spring, when Mike’s then-girlfriend (now-wife) Sherry told her family and friends that we were going camping with the kids, they cautioned her to brace herself for our inevitable reconciliation. They were convinced that one of us would trip over a tent stake, fall into the other’s arms and rekindle a romance.  Okay…so perhaps they didn’t think anything that contrived and dramatic would happened, but that’s just how implausible the reconciliation scenario sounded to us.
Similarly, before Deesha remarried, some men she dated believed that Mike lived around the corner because we still had lingering feelings for each other.  They couldn’t fathom that a divorced father would simply want to live a short distance from his children’s other home, and that his co-parent would welcome this.
Congeniality between co-parents can be threatening to a new partner.  Things get really complicated the dating co-parent didn’t want the divorce, or if the ex-spouse didn’t want the divorce, flirts with or makes other overtures toward the co-parent, or now regrets the divorce.  These dynamics can understandably plant seeds of doubt in the mind of the new partner: Are they really over each other?  Would she leave me and go back to him, if he were willing?  Will he eventually give in to her advances?
While there are co-parenting exes who do reconcile or who have “ex sex,” it shouldn’t be presumed that co-parents who are cooperative are destined to end up reconnecting.  Sometimes, a person dating a co-parent has fears about this.  But instead of owning these fears and anything else that’s making them feel insecure about the relationship, they pressure the dating co-parent to allay their concerns by being less than civil toward his ex. One extreme example of this we’ve seen is when a co-parenting dad forces his ex to communicate about the children exclusively through his girlfriend or wife.
Certainly there are better ways to respond to a new partner’s fears.  Take an honest look at your co-parenting partnership: Are there good, respectful boundaries in place?  Do you still have feelings for your ex that you need to work through? Are you making room in your personal life for a new partner?  Are there changes you can make to reassure your partner of your commitment to him, while continuing to be a cooperative co-parent?
That said, dating a co-parent isn’t for everyone. Co-parents come with kids and usually an ex in tow. This may be a hard pill for some to swallow. As the saying goes: “If it don’t fit, don’t force it.”


Deesha Philyaw and Michael Thomas are the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based founders of and co-authors of the forthcoming book Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Children Thrive After Divorce (New Harbinger, 2013).


Excellent as usual! I really appreciate how you write honestly about the intersection between dating and co-parenting. Thanks for your continued thoughtfulness.
So what do you do when its "my husband his kid his ex and our soon to be daughter"? What do i do when he gives her a generous amount of child support and would give her more if i didnt protest but then says he can't afford our child? Are my child and I doomed to always get his ex wife's hand me downs when it comes to him?