They cheated on us together and we’re dating. Hax readers give advice.


We asked readers to channel their inner Carolyn Hax and answer this question. Some of the best responses are below.

Dear Carolyn: I’m dating a man after we both got divorced. Our exes had an affair and are still together. They’re angry and combative with us without even knowing about our relationship. I’ve also been told my ex’s girlfriend doesn’t know that I even know the affair happened or that they’re together. That’s where things get sticky.

My partner and I would like to communicate to our exes that we’re together before we introduce our kids to the idea. We’re just not sure how. While we did nothing wrong, we realize this is unusual and will probably shock our exes. I’d like to reach out to the whole group via email and ask for a face-to-face meeting. That will blow the lid off any lies my ex told his girlfriend about what I know, but I’d love it if we could all learn to be cordial toward each other for the kids’ sake.

The alternative is for each of us to text our exes individually and tell them that way, which seems to impersonal. (Having a 1:1 in-person meeting with my own ex is not something I’m comfortable with.) Do you think there is any good way to approach this topic with high-conflict exes?

Soap Opera: How do each of you usually communicate with your exes, particularly about the children? Whatever that method is, it is probably the best for this, too. Phone, email and text all work.

I think the scheduled meeting between the four of you gives them more power over your relationship than you should accept. The only appropriate input they have is best wishes, which sounds unlikely. So tell them, “Hey, I’ve started seeing Partner, so the kids are probably going to see us together now and then. Just letting you know.”

Soap Opera: The direct answer is no, there is no good way to approach this topic with your high-conflict exes. Sorry to burst your bubble, but lowering those expectations would be a good first step for you. It seems what you’re really hoping to accomplish — creating as supportive and healthy an environment for your kids as possible — does not require any of the explosive conversations you are contemplating.

Create a nurturing environment for your kids by modeling good behavior and by showing and telling your kids the positive qualities that made you choose to date this new person, not the fact that your new boyfriend is their dad’s mistress’s ex. Why lead with that? The thing you think you can accomplish — managing your ex’s behavior and tempering what you already know will be an unpleasant reaction — is not going to happen. He may decide to spin a narrative that you’re dating this new person to get back at him when he finds out. If so, the best evidence to contradict the narrative would be what your kids know from their own eyes and ears.

Stop trying to micromanage everyone else’s behaviors and reactions, and focus on your own. Those are the ones you can control and managing them well will be the best thing you can do for you and your kids.

Soap Opera: I suggest you tell your children together before telling the exes. Your children are the ones who are directly affected by this relationship. Plus, if you tell the exes first then you give them the opportunity to tell your children and provide a narrative about your relationship. A friend’s ex told her children she was engaged before she could, and they were so hurt. Do not entrust your lying, cheating ex with any information they can spin.

Family first then the exes on a “need to know” basis. You don’t owe them anything more than that — you’re giving them a heads-up in the interest of co-parenting your children, not for any other reason.

Soap Opera: I can’t shake the impression when reading this letter that you really want to one up your ex by creating a scenario where they are caught off-guard, past lies are thrown back in their faces and a potential rift is created in that relationship.

I understand the impulse to want to feel retribution for past wrongs, but if the intent here is really to move forward to a place of positive co-parenting and an amicable relationship between the couples, then you need to be honest about your (at minimum mixed) motivations. Regardless of how the news is delivered, this will come through and impact how the news is received and the grace with which you’re all able to move forward.

Every week, we ask readers to answer a question submitted to Carolyn Hax’s live chat or email. Read the latest installment here. New questions are typically posted on Fridays, with a Monday deadline for submissions. Responses are anonymous unless you choose to identify yourself and are edited for length and clarity.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button