The ideal working relationship is not always easily achieved. You may find yourselves frequently fighting about the ex(es). It may be that you and your partner have moved further along emotionally than the ex (and on some issues the ex may have something to teach you).
Sometimes the ex is too much of a fixture in your life. If this feels like a problem to either you or your partner, look closely at what is going on. It may be that your Love or the ex is still not “over” the relationship. Insist that they separate. If your partner is having trouble with this, get help. A couple of sessions with a counselor may make a big difference. You are not number two just because your love and commitment came after the ex-partner's love and commitment.
It may be that you, too, are having a hard time with your own ex, if you have one. Divorcing couples go through three stages: holding on, letting go, and starting over. The ex-partners usually reach these stages at different times. That means that though you or your new partner may be way over it, your Ex may not be. Many people feel it would be easier to let go and start over if each ex didn't have to see the other. With kids, this isn't always possible—or desirable. Eek! Life is complex.
Even when the ex has died, your partner will need to complete the separation process of holding on, letting go, and starting over to fully finish the relationship.
Marie, Steve's ex, lived just a few blocks from Steve and Brenda. Miranda, Marie and Steve's daughter, shared her time between the two households. Marie was alone, and more often, Brenda would find her voice on the answering machine, asking Steve for his help with a household calamity or wanting to discuss Miranda's science homework. Steve spent a lot of time helping Marie out, and Brenda seethed.
After Miranda's birthday (where Marie joined them at a local restaurant and spent the evening reminiscing with Steve about old friends, people Brenda had never met), Brenda was so furious she put her foot down—and almost put her fist through the wall. She told Steve she felt like the “other” wife. Steve confessed that he was having a hard time saying “no” to Marie—after all, she was still alone.
Brenda and Steve needed a few sessions with a therapist before he was able to assert himself with Marie. The interesting thing is that once he stopped paying so much attention to her, Marie seemed to stop being so needy.