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Ex-Wives and Ex-Husbands
I have sole legal and physical custody of my two elementary ages kids. My ex-wife has been on and off supervised visitation, disappeared for months at a time, on and off drugs and generally shown that she does not have our kids’ needs at the forefront of her mind. One of the issues I have with the care she gives our kids is the many boyfriends she has brought into, and then out of their lives. I recently found out that not only does she have another new boyfriend spending the night at her place while the kids are there (there is a specific provision in her visitation order that disallows this) but that he has been asked to baby- sit our daughter while she (my ex) studied. This raises huge red flags for me, not only for the reasons I’ve listed but also because she recently accused one of her ex’s of molesting the toddler they have together. (A toddler) A big mess, I know. I have halted overnight visitation and we are due back in mediation and court next month.
The advice I need is this…. I found out that my ex’s new boyfriend has a kindergartener that goes to the same school as my kids (here in Berkeley). I know very little about him, other than he lives in Santa Cruz and his child and ex live in Berkeley. There is a part of me that wants to reach out to his ex, yet a bigger part of me that feels that would be inappropriate. I do not get any real information from my ex, and I’d really like to know something about the person I just found out that has been alone with my kids, though I would rather not have to hire a PI or anything like that. From past experience, I feel like I have to assume the worst about someone she is keeping company with…but, I am trying to be open to the possibility that she has changed (as she is telling me). It would be important for me to know if her boyfriend is on reduced visitation for any specific reasons, or has any violent past, which she would never tell me if it was the case. So…should I approach this woman, his ex? I don’t want to create an unholy alliance, bad mouth the ex’s together or be sneaky; I just want to have a general idea of who this guy is. But, I don’t know her from anyone else at school; I would have to call her. ( I have thought about trying to ''bump'' into her, but i dont know how to go about doing that either)How would you feel if you got a call from your ex’s- girlfriends- ex? Part of me feels like she might want to know whom her child is around on the weekends, but I wouldn’t push the information if she didn’t ask. So, what do you think oh wise parents? a concerned dad
I would use a very light approach, and if possible, let her know in advance who you are. Face-to-face is the best first encounter, I believe. For example, approach her one morning on the playground, ''Hi, I understand you're Nancy; I'm Neal; my ex- wife is dating your ex-husband, my kids Mary and Jonathan are in first and third grade here; just thought I'd say hello.''
You seem to be an aware enough person that you'll notice whether she wants to continue talking or not. Maybe just chit-chat will follow at this point, ''Oh, do you have Ms. So&So for kindergarten; how do you like her?''
If you feel that she's open for more substantive discussion, you should preface it with some of the things you've said in your BPN posting: ''I feel odd discussing this, but on the other hand, I'm sure we both want to know that our kids are comfortable when we're not around.'' ''Comfortable'' is code for ''safe'' without sounding alarmist. Good luck! I would want to know
My love has an ex that can't move on with her life. She's
controlling, seems to have knee-jerk responses to the
smallest little things, and then tries to set up ''dates'' under
the guise of ''it would be good for the daughter (8 1/2) if they
all had dinner together''. The regular bizarre behavior
intensifies when she splits up with her on again, off again
boyfriend (who even tells his friends he's with her ''for
convenience''). We've been together for just over 2 years,
and she knows I'm not going anywhere and that if anything,
things are looking like we'll be living together soon. I thought
this behavior would pass, but that doesn't seem to be the
case. Me and my best friend even saw her drive by his
apartment the other day! My boyfriend tries to make everyone
happy, and says things like ''this is why I'm with you and not
her'', or ''she must have split up with her boyfriend again''
and just generally tries to ignore her antics and just go
along with things. Their divorce has been final 1 1/2 years,
and they were separated for 5 years (after a rotten sexless
marriage of 3 years - except for her affairs). My friends think
it's hilarious - I would too perhaps if I wasn't living it. Any
thoughts would be appreciated.
My husband finally drew the line with his Ex about 3 years into
our marriage, and I wouldn't live those 3 years again for anything.
--The Middle Is A Lousy Place To Be
I wish I could shield my partner from him completely, I wish I could control his behavior. It's hard to know what to do. Taking him to court seems to get nowhere and just causes added disruption for the kids. The more I ignore it and just stay firm and don't get wrapped up in his game/perspective, the better it seems to be. I keep wishing he'd start another relationship in hopes that he'd let go of his pain -- but then maybe he's not ripe for a relationship in that state! The bottom line is, I can't control him!
My partner is gracious and doesn't tell me what to do or make a big deal of things. But he is also supportive when I get so frustrated that I need to vent, or when I ask him for advice. I try to just be upfront and honest about the facts of what are going on and how I'm feeling. For the most part, he doesn't say much, and I love him for that. I try to focus most of my energy on my ''now'' relationship and think about the ex only when I need to deal with him in relation to the kids.
I don't know if any of this helps, but I wanted to share with you
what it might feel from your boyfriend's perspective.
Embarrassed of Ex
I got divorced about a year ago. Although I wanted to divorce my ex, the end was made uglier by the fact that he had an affair, with someone who had been ''our'' friend (although his friend first). He married her almost a year ago. We have a son (7), and she's a good mom to him.
Although I'm on cordial terms with my ex, I have not seen the wife since before the affair. However, I have (crazy?) visions of our becoming a caring extended family. The problem is that at the same time I have very negative feelings about both of them. I can't imagine why I ever loved my ex - I find him borderline repulsive now, and he occasionally still treats me badly - and whenever I think about her I feel very angry. But why? I'm not jealous, I'm thrilled to be out of the marriage, the affair was understandable as our marriage was on the rocks etc (although I believe she contributed to its rockiness).
I and the wife are talking over email about seeing a therapist together (once) for the first time we meet (my idea - I will not feel safe any other way). I want to be able to talk about my anger. I am now stalling though, because of this dual consciousness: very VERY negative feelings about them both and yet wanting us all to be co-parents who can enjoy time together with the boy we have in common.
(More context: I am very happy with my new life, not bitter or depressed, in a new relationship which is so much better than the marriage they're not even in the same league. So it's not general anger - very specific to them.)
I'd love to hear stories of others going from disgust and anger to caring with ex and new wife/husband, or perhaps I need a reality check that this just can't happen Anonymous
I suggest you use the positive parts of your feelings & experience to create a very cordial and diplomatic relationship -- to build a foundation for resolving the parenting conflicts that are sure to arise in the next couple of years as your daughter approaches, and then goes through, her teens.
Friendship is about cherishing people. It's possible that someday in the pretty distant future you may be able to build such an intimate relationship with people who, for long-term better or worse, betrayed your trust. But I think at the moment what you really need is some good barriers, distance, ''space,'' whatever you want to call it, in the spirit of ''Good fences make good neighbors.'' Good luck -- L.
My personal experience is that of the ''new wife.'' I have been in a relationship with my husband for over 14 years, and we have been married for 7 of them. We have two daughters, one of our own and one from his past relationship (they were never married). We had the best possible circumstances surrounding us--that is to say, the ex partner (of my husband) and I were never at odds, but it did take about the first five years of our relationship to really be totally comfortable with one another. And I wouldn't say we are ''all one happy family,'' but we certainly do consider each other extended family and our oldest is as well adjusted as one can be having (biological) parents that aren't together. She has grown up understanding that we all get along and this I believe as been a tremendous relief for her. That said, I think it should be clear what your expectations are and how you foresee all your roles in your son's life. I think if you can manage that, and do the therapy (which it sounds like you might need even if the new wife wasn't in the picture) you will be able to eventually get over your negative feelings, which can only have a positive effect on your son! I wish you the best of luck! Stepmom that is grateful to get along
Here are three reasons why pursuing such a relationship would be unhealthy. 1. Your ex-husband's poor character. Even though your relationship was on the ''rocks'', nothing justifies infidelity. The truth is that your ex cheated, broke a marriage vow, caused unnecessary pain and estalished mistrust and feelings of betrayal. Your ex owed it to you and your CHILD to behave properly and do right by his obligations, to behave honorably. Why associate yourself with someone of questionable character?
Number 2: Your ex-husband is setting a poor example for your son. I do not advocate limiting your son's relationship with his father. But whitewashing his behavior, which you would be doing by ''cultivating'' a relationship, is going overboard. Your ex-husband, in marrying the ''affair'' woman, is showing his son that it is ''ok'' to commit adultery, to break a marriage vow, disrupt a family and go on living without any negative consequences.
Number 3: To add insult to injury, your husband continues to treat you with disrespect. Your son, even though he is only 7, is witnessing your ex's behavior and because you have made no objections, your son is learning that this behavior is ok. What may happen is that your son may take on the behavior of his father and/or begin to treat you with disrespect. (Remember you have no control of what your ex says about you to his son when you are not present.)
These three reasons are why I would not recommend you cultivate a relationship other than one that is necessary and one that ensures your place and authority in your son's life. Your ex's new wife may be ''nice,'' but she also committed adultery. Civility goes a long way and I think you will find that if you deal with the truth and stop trying to make the ending nice and neat, that your anger will subside. Living with anger can be very damaging not only to yourself but also to your son. If you can let go (by facing the truth) you can be happier and also teach your son how to deal with the bad things in life with dignity and class.
Good luck and I wish you all the best OM
I don't think that will be productive. Not that being angry is unusual, just that it's not a good way to rebuild a formal relationship, much less a friendship. I think you'd be better off going to a therapist on your own first, with the goal of being able to forgive them without their participation. Focus on your own happiness and the stability of your new life, and on positive growth for your son. Eventually the anger will dissipate some, though it may never completely go away. So the individual therapy may help you gain some tools to manage whatever anger or anxiety may pop up in the future. You can still think about a therapy meeting with her in the future, but I wouldn't do it until you're feeling more generous or forgiving in your heart. Remember, she doesn't have any responsibility for your feelings, nor any power over you. Unless you give it to her. Moving on means being thankful that it worked out the way that it did (especially since you like your life better now)and letting go of the bad stuff. Don't try to be ''friends'' until that happens. In fact, don't try to be friends. Try to be a good person toward your ex and his wife and your son, be clear that you're happy, and friendship may come out of it if you're all comfortable with that. My exes (husband and boyfriends) all think we're friends. I think I have cordial and warm relationships with them, but it's too superficial to say that we're friends, and it will never happen (though I never give up hope!)
I think the best thing you could do is let go of the anger. It isn't serving you. She doesn't have anything you want. In fact based on the way you spoke of your ex(Borderline repulsive, still abusive on occasion, in a new relationship that 100x better)it sounds like she did you a favor! I could maybe understand your anger if she was initially your friend 1st, but you said she was his friend 1st so she wasn't even really being disloyal.
I think threapy is a great idea also. I'm someone who is hugely loyal. I will often stay mad at people who betray my friends or family long after the betrayed person chooses to forgive. But I think you have the right idea here. So she may never be the person you call to confide in or get support in your personal life. But for your child not to have to split holidays between the people he loves the most in the world, how much is that worth? Good luck to you! Shelly
Ok, so my ex didn't have an affair with his current wife while we were married. But it was some very bad behavior on his part that led to our divorce. I had every reason to stay angry and bitter about him.
However, my overarching concern was for my son's welfare (he was baby when we split) Because things were so traumatic and I didn't trust myself to manage my anger, we hired a co-parenting counselor for the first few years. Her role was to be an advocate for our son and provide us with a place we could work out our conflicts and develop our new relationship as co- parents.
See, that's the rub as divorcing parents, you have to switch relationships (from spouse to coparent) without a period of total separation. It's tough.
But I came to respect and admire my ex for the father that he was and became. And when the new wife came along and loved my son dearly, well, how could I object to that?
12 years later, I'm still single, they're married and have another child. They give him things I can't, I give him things they can't. We all hang out, get along, and work together when issues come up.
I am lucky to have them (and their son) in my life. I suspect that you, too, will work through your feelings and come to appreciate them for the role they play in your child's life. I think therapy can be very helpful for this. Anon
I share halftime custody with my ex-husband of a terrific 6 year old boy. We had a difficult marriage (verbal and emotional abuse) and contentious divorce. We were ordered by the court to attend co-parenting counseling. This was the one and only place that I was able to address parenting issues and there would be some accountability to this third person. We did this for about two years. We have been out of the courts now for some time and he refuses to go back to counseling with me. By way of background, he has Narcissistic Personality Disorder exacerbated by alcoholism. I caused him great ''injury'' by leaving him 4 years ago. Every communication since then (via email since we don't talk in person or phone) is filled with blame/accusation, assertions that he is the better parent, and a whole bevy of delusion/projection/condescension. It's taken a long while but I am able to be fairly nonchalant in my reaction to this communication. However, it is impossible to have a normal conversation about sharing cost of an expense for our child, or negotiating vacation time, or getting him to do homework, or sharing the responsibility of taking our son to the dentist and doctor, etc.) He stretches the confines of our custody agreement, scultping whatever is convenient for him in any gray area. I am at wit's end. I can't use the courts to sue him to go to counseling. He hasn't done anything inappropriate in front of any witnesses (though plenty without witness). Our son is doing well in school, appears to be able to adapt to the two different cultures he is exposed to but I do have major concerns about how long my kid will do okay with the unacknowledged, un-dealt with heavy hostility from dad towards mom (At three, my son was coming home saying ''daddy says mommy is a bitch'' and a year ago he'd say stuff like, ''I hate daddy cause he says mean things about you mommy'' but I haven't heard anything like this for awhile and he does genuinely love his father). Has anyone else tried to get a co- parent into counseling so that other basic parenting and custody issues and changes can be discussed? I'd appreciate any legal or practical advice. Anonymous
Your child is only going to become angry, resentful and very confused if
this continues. You state that the father has Narcissistic Personality
-- is that diagnosed by you or a physician? If it's a real diagnosis,
and your child is telling you the nasty things the father is saying, you
do have a leg to stand on in court. You might also want to talk to your
pediatrician about this, as your child's future emotional health is at
-- My son's father is crazy, too
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