Q: My ex and I have not been together for 11 years. We have two children, now 15 and 17. He moved out of state and married his mistress. He drove up every other weekend and also saw our kids two weeks a year. I am the one who raised them. He has now moved back and wants to be more involved. The problem is his wife; she hates me and bad-mouths me via her Facebook page. The “hated nonfrumpy new wife.” … I am very concerned about how things will go from here and have been sick and can’t stop crying due to worry. What’s good ex-etiquette?
A: Nowhere in the rules of good ex-etiquette does it say that it is OK to worry about a relationship that has been broken up for 11 years. And, if she’s been married to your ex for that long, she’s far from the new wife, though she could very well be hated and nonfrumpy. Granted, how it all happened sounds awful – he was having an affair, left his wife and kids, moved to another state and married the woman he was sneaking around with. However, 11 years have passed, and it’s time to let it go. And, let’s be honest – adults who bad-mouth each other over social media are just downright pathetic.
As a reformed worrier, let me tell you why it’s time to give it up. Worry never changes a thing. It makes you sick and does not teach your children how to properly solve problems. It teaches them to worry. Worriers have confided to me that they secretly believe their worry prepares them for the worst. Some worriers have even confessed that worrying actually holds off the badness, and if they stop worrying, that’s when the bad things will happen. Intellectually, we all know none of this is true, but worrying is a learned behavior that is difficult to give up. Most likely you learned it from your mother or father. Someone passed it on, and now you are setting that example for your kids as well. Stop it.
Though none of the rules of good ex-etiquette (you can find them on the Bonus Families website, www.bonusfamilies.com, under key word: 10 rules) address worrying, they all address proper behavior when dealing with an ex or an ex’s new partner, particularly the rules that suggest you do not act spiteful, hold grudges or bad-mouth each other, because of how it will affect your children.
If the father has decided to move back and wants to be more involved, support it. Your kids need to have both parents always, and without you saying an unkind word via Facebook or anything else, my bet is they already know who was there for them every day, helped them with their homework, dried their eyes and took care of them when they were sick.
Of particular interest to you might be ex-etiquette rule No. 9: Respect each other’s turf. Translated into practical terms, this means you can’t control what she says about you – so dry your eyes, throw your shoulders back and set an example for your children of one who survives the drama, not creates it.
Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation” and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com.