You can't control post-divorce dating and that's okay.
You may like Gwyneth Paltrow as a lifestyle guru (or not) but don't choose her as your post-divorce model. If the report is true that she's trying to keep Chris from having their kids around his new, younger girlfriend, or even mentioning J. Law's name around them, it's silly at best. Not that I blame her for wanting to control her children's exposure to new relationships, but this sort of micromanaging is unwarranted.
These are the reasons to relinquish control over your ex's relationships post-divorce:
1. The Person. Unless a person is dangerous or clearly a bad influence—they come around your kids drunk, high or advocating illegal activities—you're going to have to step aside. While you would hope your ex exercises good judgment, their judgment will probably be about the same as it was when you were married, for better or for worse.
2. The Relationship. It doesn't matter whether your ex is involved with the person they're going to marry next month. You can suggest to them that "my plan is not to expose the kids to a new relationship unless I'm pretty sure it's going to be long-term and I hope you'll consider doing the same," but you don't get to decide whether your kids meet this person, or the next ten people.
3. Reciprocity. If you're going to try to control your ex, remember: what goes around, comes around, right back to you. Do you really want your ex telling you whether your kids can meet the people you're dating, and when? I didn't think so.
4. Influence. Your relationship with your kids and how well you communicate with them has a huge impact on what they think about the world and relationships. You exposed your children to your moral and ethical beliefs before the divorce, and you continue to do so after the divorce. Your spouse dating someone of questionable merit and your kids meeting one or more of these dates is only going to be one drop in the ocean of your kids' life experiences. Don't make it into more than it is.
5. Trust. Kids are pretty smart. They can tell if their parents are happy or unhappy. They can figure out if the choices their parents make are sensible or ridiculous. I've had many adult clients explain that their step-parent is young enough to be a peer either with derision, because it was beyond absurd, or acceptance, because it was actually a good choice. Trust your kids to figure out the truth.
6. Reactivity. When upsetting things occur involving your kids, consider whether your reaction is really about your kids or more about yourself. Your ex dating someone younger, more attractive, more accomplished or all of the above hurts, but it doesn't have to keep hurting. You are still the same beautiful, intelligent, exceptional person that you were yesterday and will be tomorrow. And your kids know it.
7. Sanity. Your sanity depends on taking charge where you can and letting go of the things you cannot change. Your ex's choices about dating are among the things you cannot change or control.
More important than your ex's new fling is whether they honor agreements you've made, involving things like visitation, support and education. When you're faced with an uncomfortable choice your ex makes, use your coping skills—vent to friends, take deep breaths, or do something that relaxes or distracts you. Then decide if it's really big enough to try to manage, or if you're sweating the small stuff. If it's the small stuff, your conscious uncoupling might need a little work.
Judith Tutin, PhD, ACC, is a licensed psychologist and certified life coach. She is the author of The Post-Divorce Survival Guide. Tools for Your Journey. Connect with her at drjudithtutin.com where you can request a free coaching call.