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To call or not to call ex's new boyfriend

March 2007

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 understand and appreciate your concern, but I think it's OK to contact your ex's boyfriend's ex-wife. After all, her kindergartener will likely spend time with your ex, and she's probably just as (justifiably) curious as you are as to what goes on when she's not around.

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


You are clearly a kind and thoughtful dad. You are even giving your ex the benefit of the doubt. But these are your kids and they are around someone you don't know. If it were me I would cough up the money and hire a PI to get as much information as possible. You could bump into or directly approach the other ex but, hey, you don't know her either and she could be a total psychopath. Best of luck - I hope your situation turns out for the best. - anon
Oooh. I can jsut imagine the opening line...''Hey! What a coincidence! I undersand that your ex is living with my ex! Waht a small world. Our kids should get together for a play date here in Berkeley some time, co they don't have to go all the way to Santa Cruz to hang out with each other!'' Just too potentially wierd. I recommend against it. But I would try to satiate my own curiosity and figure out who the kids is and who their mom is. Try to figure it out at the next social event at school. Shouldn't be too hard. And then once you get to know them a little bit at school, you'll have a better feel for if you can ask about her ex. You can also try a ZabaSearch on him on the web. Anon
Of course you have good intentions...but DON'T! Simply MYOB. He will figure out the truth eventually. You'll simply be viewed as the ''bad guy'' jealous of his ''ex girl!'' He's going to be loyal to her ''right now'' before he's loyal to you...and of course she's going to paint a different picture of herself and deny everything you say, so conserve your energy and let it go. She's not worth it! Life is simply too short for so much drama! Don't Do It
I am an ex and a Mom of two girls. I am sure you will get many opinions here but I would call. If someone were to call me I would answer and be honest (fortunately I only have good things to say about my ex as a Dad). Where a child's - any child's - safty is concerned (and I am not talking about swats on the bottom)you can find a way to politely introduce the circumstances by which you are asking and ask. If she becomes offended, then that's her problem, you can console yourself that you were being a good Parent and watching out for your kids. Not afraid to ask on behalf of my kids
Rather than contacting an ex of your wife's new boyfriend, I would trust your instinct about your wife's behaviour based on her previous track record. You state that you have total custody of your children and that she is in violation of her order not to have other men spend the night in the same home with she and your children. Go back to court immediately and report her. Hire a private dectitive to take pictures...do whatever you need to do to officially document her violation of the orders imposed. You are the sane person that your children are depending upon to keep them safe and out of harms way. And with different men coming in and out of the house, you are placing your children in a situation that could quickly become very sadly abusive in an instant. A PI will be able to turn up dirt (like ex offenses) or your wife's court ordered viloation quickly, more than heresay from some ex. who may not be totally candid with you in the first place. The money will be beans compared to having your children compromised. anon.
Knowing that the new boyfriend's child is at the same school as yours, I would ask around at school about who the mother is and put myself in a position to meet her, or even him if he's doing the pick ups. I don't think there is anything wrong with knowing the adults in your kids lives'. With your ex's history, it seems the responsible thing to do. You are their advocate afterall. anon

Never-ending Trouble with Boyfriends Ex Wife

Oct 2006

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.
Hopeful


I married one of these. Unless you can make him understand that A) Ex's behavior and his non-response to it are completely unnacceptable to you, B) Ex knows the trouble she's causing and relishes it, and C) Ex will continue this until he stands up on his hind legs and barks NO MORE real loud, your life with him will be hell.

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 relate to your frustration, but from a slightly different perspective. It is my ex who can't move on and who causes problems. It's been over 3 years, and I'm in a new relationship, but my ex won't let go and uses every opportunity to throw a monkey wrench into the mix. It's mortifying to have an ex who seems so juvenile and disturbed. It's also frustrating when his antics cause us to have to change plans, etc.

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


Becoming friends with ex and his new wife?

June 2006

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


Years ago I had a similar experience to yours, except without kids in the mix. My husband left me for a co-worker, who he eventually married. I never thought I would be friends with his new partner, towards whom I felt nothing but rage and resentment, but I did hang on for a long time to the illusion that it was a good idea for my husband and I to remain friends, even though every contact I had with him reminded me of the most painful experience in my life. It took a lot of time and therapy for me to realize that this made no sense. So I would say that there is no way for you to honestly be happy friends with your ex and his new partner at the same time as you are feeling strong (and totally warranted) negative feelings towards them. Any friendship you tried to build right now would be based on denial and deceit, and I don't see how that could be beneficial to your child. I would just concentrate on providing your child with a positive experience of having multiple families. I would guess that at some point in the future there will be times when the two families come together (graduations, etc), and those will be times when you can demonstrate gracious and friendly behavior without creating an elaborate ongoing fantasy of false harmony. Wishing you all the best, anon
Divorced a year? It's way too soon for this. You are clearly too conflicted and confused about your feelings to generate a healthy relationship with your ex and his wife. Personally, I would not expend therapy dollars to meet with her at this time, though maybe it would be good for you to do some therapy on it on your own.

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.


Why would you want to become friends with her? I'm a stepmom, married to a man who had a child by someone he was never married to. At times, the mom and I have had a more than cordial relationship. In fact, I used to hope that we could become friends. But, her residual feelings have created a relationship that, at this point, can never be repaired. I think that your intentions are good. I think your heart is in the right place. But, at this point, I feel that it's best to just move forward with parenting your child and living your lives separately. I applaud you for your efforts, but there is just wayyyyy too much baggage there - yours and hers, and your ex's, for that matter. Just focus on your child anonymous
I think it's great that you are trying to make the relationships work for the sake of your child. Reason's for the divorce aside, I think it's possible for you to come to terms with your feelings and have a respectful, if not enjoyable relationship with your ex's wife, with regard to the caregiving of your son.

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


You need to put aside your negativity and now focus on co- parenting for your son's sake. Every time the negativity creeps up (like when you see them) you need to imagine your son. If you can keep a positive relationship with them, that would be the greatest gift to your child. I am disgusted with my ex, but I always keep my negativity in check and to myself, because it only hurts my son if I show it (plus it does no one any good to show it, you said you have a new life now, so leave these feelings in the past or keep them to discuss with your therapist).If you need to have a therapist present to start your co-parenting, than by all means do so-just stay focused on your goal- to parent the best you can! Years from now you will be proud of yourself and your son will have more self-esteem and be better adjusted! Sara
Well, A year doesn't seem so long to be over all your anger. Your vision is good and can happen, but it might not be time yet. When I got divorced and my ex started right away living with someone we both knew (also his friend first), we had a phone conversation about it, she and I. I told her straight up that I didn't feel jealous, that I didn't want to be with him, and was glad that he found someone to make him happy. He will hopefully be a better father if he's happy. She worried that I might think she was trying to be our daughter's mother. I told her I was glad that there was someone else in my daughter's life who cared about her. It's been 10 years now and we are really comfortable with each other and talk more than I do with my ex. I like her and we have things in common. The relationship between me and him is not very good. He's a very complicated person, and we must just get under each other's skin (hence the divorce!). At different times we have all be there for my daughter when she's needed it, but it has been a roller coaster. If you are dealing with sane and sober people you might make your vision a reality! Right now I'm counting the years that I don't have to deal with him anymore. Sad, but true. anon
I would like to respond to you as a daughter who witnessed the damage adultery inflicted on her mother and by extension the remaining family.

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


Check out http://www.bonusfamilies.com/ You might find the kind of support you're looking for there anon
I think it would be great for you all if you ultimately have a cordial relationship, with the common ground being the healthy care of your son. Your son will definitely benefit from parents who are not at each other's throats and can communicate effectively. However, from your post it really sounds like you're still very, very angry, and it sounds like what you want to do first is tell them (and especially her) how angry you are.

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 was a dismayed to see the moralistic use of the word ''adultery'' in one response to your posting, so I had to write in. While I agree that you may never want to have a friendship with either your ex- or his new partner, both of whom betrayed your trust, I think it is too easy to label people as ''sinners'' and simply dismiss them as such. The person who wrote in to urge you to do so experienced adultery in her family as a child, and she seems, I'm afraid, not to have grown beyond that moment. Religious/moralistic righteousness allows people to maintain a childlike outrage rather than delving into grayer areas. My father also had an affair, and even my mother, who was devastated by his betrayal, understood that he had some real needs that were not being met in the marriage. When I told her with extreme trepidation that I had had an affair (yes, I'm an adultress, sew an ''A'' on my chest) she understood immediately that I never would have done so if I hadn't been starved for affection and love and deeply confused. Hester's sister
I don't think your crazy at all! I think it's great that you and the step mother are reaching out to each other and thinking of what's best for your child. Which is to have all his parents around him. That time was going to come evenutally. You were going to need to all be there for graduations,possibly a school play or game, probably school dances and eventually probably a wedding and the birth of a grandchild. Why not sooner?

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


I am living proof that this can happen!

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


How to Get Ex-Spouse to go toCo-Parent Counseling

April 2005

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


Lie, and tell him that yes, he is a great dad, but that going to the counseling is for your CHILD's benefit, noone else's. Phrase a question to say something like ''Wouldn't you do anything you had to do, in order to give your son the very best? I know you resent me, and that's okay, but this is not about you or me. It's about us being bigger than the problems we had together and doing something that benefits our son, even if we don't personally enjoy it.'' Then also mention in there that co-parenting counseling will help you two to be consistent, and help YOUR parenting skills (and roll your eyes while you type it, so you feel better). anon
im sorry, i dont have any advice for you - its just when i read your post, i was compelled to respond because it sounds like my situation, only at the beginning stages. ive recently separated, and am thinking about next steps. i would love for you to contact the moderator if you are interested in talking- anon
My short answer is this: If your very young child comes home and tells you ''Daddy says mommy is a bitch'' and ''I hate daddy because he says mean things about you'' is pretty strong stuff. I'd consult a lawyer and try to keep Daddy away as much as possible.

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 risk.
-- My son's father is crazy, too


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