He thinks it’s a big deal, and he drops moody comments all the time. He doesn’t seem to think about the fact that you have to see your son’s dad—your son and your ex still have a relationship, and for all the bad it is still an important relationship in your son’s life. You and your ex aren’t together any more, but that doesn’t seem to be enough for your man. He’s heard enough to know you would never go back to him, but he still doesn’t trust you.
Your first reaction is that your man is being unfair. You have to see your son’s dad regularly, and with all the drop-offs and pick-ups most of the contact is brief. Doesn’t what is best for your son have greater weight than your man’s ego?
First lesson to learn: As much a lesson for you as it is for your man, his attitude is actually making things worse. Your man is being such a crank that you don’t even want him to come with you on those drop-offs and pick-ups. It is distracting and stressful, and you know he’ll always come back with something to say. Besides, it’s awkward for your son, as though he didn’t already have issues with his unconventional family setup. This makes it even more painful for you that your son see your man act that way—honestly, you don’t like seeing him that way, either. If he isn’t normally so shut off or possessive, behaving that way about your ex is the most counter-productive stance he can take.
Second lesson to learn: You have to evaluate wither your man doesn’t trust your ex, or if he doesn’t trust you. This will be a lesson in your relationship, whatever the outcome. If your man asks aggressively why you had to stay or visit so long with your ex, he doesn’t trust you. If he just busies himself with espionage, or complains about your ex without directing it at you, it’s the other guy he doesn’t trust.
Great, looks like it’s you he doesn’t trust. What can you do?
Step 1: Start by asking your man questions to understand exactly where he’s coming from. Play nice, and show him that you care. This isn’t about proving him he’s wrong—it’s about showing him he has nothing to worry about. Ask him what his biggest fear is, and help him verbalize what he’s so tightly wound about. Just saying it aloud, face to face, might help him see how possessive or paranoid he’s being.
In this step, be careful not to be dismissive. And don’t ask him any rhetorical questions like, “What’re you scared of?” Frame everything like you really want to understand his point of view.
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Step 2: Keep the conversation going. Once you’ve helped him articulate what he’s so scared of, suggest solutions and see what other solutions he had in mind. As questions like, “How can we fix this? What would help you feel better?” With several ideas on the table, you can parse through them and pick out the stuff that’s practical, doesn’t feel unfair, and will actually make a difference.
Step 3: Once you’ve identified the problem and a couple quick fixes, move to the most pressing matter: your son. Tell your man you need his help in making this situation the happiest and healthiest possible for your boy, and talk about what his behaviors have done to your son’s family life. What has your son picked up on? Reminding your man that your son’s well-being is the more important part of the picture can pressure down his jealousy and distrust with a little bit of due shame. Keeping realistic priorities in mind is important.
Step 4: Draw out some of the biggest differences between your man and your ex. Talk about them. Most jealous comes from comparing ourselves to others, so make the comparison yourself. Talk about what you need from your partner that your ex could never give, especially in the context of your son. If your man is your son’s only chance at a role model, remind him of that! After deflating his jealously with a reminder of what’s important, rebuild his confidence by reminding him why you and your boy both need him at his best.
These lessons and steps are your first line of defense if your man doesn’t trust you with your son’s dad. Seeing your son’s father will be inevitable, and so this is one of those issues that just has to get fixed. The most important component of the plan is to talk about it, so put on your best face and try to get to the heart of the matter. If your new man is all you thought of him as, he will be responsive. And for those of you that can’t actually be trusted around your son’s dad…you can only hold your man to the same standard you hold yourself.