real life

"I thought I'd bonded with my partner's ex. Then she texted me calling me 'disgusting'."

There’s nothing comfortable about forming a relationship with your partner’s ex or being the ex and having a relationship with the new girlfriend, especially when kids are involved. Yemi Penn explains how she’s navigated it over the years. 

‘Disgusting’ and ‘fluff’ are the words my partner’s ex-wife used to describe me when she first learnt of our relationship. It hurt, and a part of me wanted to retaliate, but I didn’t. Instead, I tried to remember what it was like to be that woman, hurt that the father of my child had moved on.

Being on the receiving end of the insults reminded me of a time 13 years ago when my daughter’s father and I separated. His version of events was that he left because he needed space, my version was that he left us and then there is the real version, that I guess no one will ever know. It created wounds so deep for both of us that we destroyed each other.

When he re-partnered with someone else, it wasn’t easy. Lord knows I had thoughts that if spoken out loud would have created more wounds. If I chose to now retaliate with venom to my current partner’s ex, that would make me a hypocrite.

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After the separation from my daughter’s father, it took me almost a decade to nurse the wounds of separation and then separate from my victim story. Without doing this work I would have continued to villainise my daughter’s father, when in fact we both played a role in the demise of our relationship.

I eventually moved on and had my son with a new partner. I subsequently separated from his father, and I made every effort to ensure the relationship with my son’s dad was much better than the relationship I had with my daughter’s father. When my son’s dad re-partnered, I made the decision to silence my ego and haul my arse to therapy. 

I cleaned my trauma and continue to everyday so that I would have a great relationship not just with the father of my child, but the step-mother to my child as she effectively became a vital champion for our son.

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My son’s stepmother is amazing, her dedication and priority to co-parenting our son is high and I will forever be grateful to her for that. There isn’t a need to be each other’s best friend but there is a genuine want to cultivate nothing but love for each other and the children we bring into the world. The choice to consciously co-parent must be just that, conscious… otherwise it becomes a battlefield of recycled hurt and pain. 

So, I’ve had the experience of being the hurt, victimised ex, and I’ve had the experience of being the ex who has a friendship with the new partner. And yet I couldn’t shake the sadness that this woman, my partner’s ex, would reduce me to words of the lowest vibration. How much hurt can she be going through?

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When my current partner and I got together, and his ex was using those terms ‘disgusting’ and ‘fluff’ to describe me, I knew I had to manage my own expectations and take action. 

So, we got on the phone. We had a two-hour long conversation, we laughed, shared some of our insecurities and dare I say it, we bonded. 

But, 18 months after that conversation, things have gone south. The random text message of abuse when we were seen walking on the beach, social media trolling and attack on my mothering style compared to hers. I can’t think of a more unnatural way for women to be with each other. 

I know the saying well ‘hurt people, hurt people’ and so to manage these feelings, I try to watch these moments as an observer, which allows me to detach myself from the pain.

The truth is, we wouldn’t all choose to have our partner’s ex in our lives, and we wouldn’t choose to be friends with our ex’s new partner. 

But when kids are involved, we’re often left with no choice. 

So, we have to muddle through somehow and I’ve found the best way to manage these difficult relationships is to exude empathy in the hope that one day when she’s ready I will be too.

You can keep up with Yemi Penn on her website or Instagram.

Feature Imae: Supplied/ Mamamia. 

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