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Getting on with your partner's ex at Christmas

Julia Faulks / 20 December 2016

At Christmas a partner's ex can cause unwanted tension. Read our tips for handling tricky situations.

Family at Christmas

Christmas is supposed to be a time when families unite to celebrate the birth of Jesus, eat, drink and argue about what to watch on the television. When in reality, the festivities often end up being far from joyous where ex partners are concerned.

There may be a number of reasons why your partner’s ex is a sore point in your relationship. Here are some of your top gripes:

1. They are a constant presence in your life

From calling your partner to check on Christmas arrangements to sending late night texts discussing what gifts to buy, you may have every right to feel concerned that they may still hold an attachment to your partner.

Rather than sit and stew about it until you feel ill with worry, consider setting some ground rules that both you and your partner agree on. Until they hear these rules, the ex could be oblivious to the annoyance they are causing and will accept it’s time to change old habits.

“The best way forward is for you and your current partner to be a united team and have an agreed strategy with how you will deal with that person together,” says Dr Rachel Andrew, Consultant Clinical Psychologist. 

“That’s a far more empowering place to be than for you as a current partner, rather than feel you’re up against somebody’s ex partner on your own, or for your partner to feel they are stuck in the middle.”

Read our tips for dealing with jealousy in a relationship

2. You feel threatened by their relationship

Jealousy is a strong emotion and Christmas can exacerbate any underlying feelings of insecurity, especially if you have to share the dinner table with them. It’s only natural to think about the relationship they once had, but a quick reminder about why they aren’t still together can help refocus your mind.

It could be your partner’s ex is acting in a certain way to make up for their own feelings of guilt about how they parent, or even the reasons behind the relationship breakdown. You may also benefit from using mindfulness as a tool to control any negative thoughts and deep breathing or diaphragmatic exercises to help you relax.

Find out about mindfulness

3. They use emotional blackmail to get their own way

When your partner is facing the wrath of an ex, it’s natural you are going to feel protective and angry on their behalf. 

“My new husband hasn’t had his two boys on Christmas Day since their marriage ended. His ex-wife refuses to let them come for the meal because she has elderly parents and says it could be their last Christmas. Instead he sees them on Boxing Day, but it’s not really the same is it? So I get the brunt of his sadness. 

"The boys are almost adults now, so I hope they will start to make their own decisions soon. I’ve tried talking to her about it but she just slams the phone down on me,” says Sally, 59.

Dr Andrew believes it’s important to be assertive and reassure yourself you are being reasonable. “If you’re trying to talk to an ex partner to resolve an issue, but they happen to be a confrontational person, it can take a skillful conversation to get through that. 

Sometimes there’s only so much you can do – you can stand your ground about something you believe in and want to change, but the rest has to be their responsibility.”

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.