Question: Our son’s new wife won’t allow his kids in their home – she absolutely refuses to have anything to do with them. He was so devastated when the first wife had an affair with her boss and they got divorced – he doesn’t ever want to go through that again, so puts up with this horrible situation. It’s heartbreaking to the kids and us. Please pass on what’s good ex-etiquette. She reads your column.
Answer: If she reads the column and takes any of it to heart, I can’t imagine why she would act the way you describe. It’s so far past bad ex-etiquette, it’s difficult to understand. More than that, devastated by betrayal or not, what was your son thinking by marrying someone who didn’t like his children?
My suggestion? If your new partner doesn’t accept your children, find a new partner – fast. Although many parents fear that a breakup is not good for their children, raising them in an environment where they are not respected and loved and their parent is belittled is worse.
I often talk about the necessary preparation couples with children must make prior to marrying. I offer specific suggestions in an article that can be found on the Bonus Families website called the “Before Exercise.” It suggests that the couple sit down together and have a very serious heart-to-heart about the type of family they want to create, the kind of relationship they want to build with each other’s children and extended family, how they will handle discipline, chores, homework, and finally – possibly the most important thing – how their family will solve conflicts when they arise. In other words, get organized before they marry. If they have that conversation using Ex-Etiquette Rule No. 8, “Be honest and straightforward,” as a guide, they will know right away if someone is a good choice for a partner. If they are not, they should not get married.
What if your prospective partner lies? What if he or she told you he or she looks forward to a life with your children, but you find that’s just not true? As much as I hate breakups, that would definitely be a reason for one. If someone treats your children poorly or tries to come between you and your children, that’s breaking the primary rule of good ex-etiquette, “Put your children first.” Once you have children, your responsibility is to raise them the best you can. Choosing a partner who doesn’t like them or asks you to choose between her and your children is not “the best you can.”
Becoming a bonus family is not for everyone. It requires another set of rules. (The 10 rules of good ex-etiquette certainly help. Find them at www.bonusfamilies.com key word: ten rules ) New partners must also learn never to compare past to present, to respect each other’s history and understand that their new partner and their new partner’s children have torn allegiances. Never ask anyone to choose – not partners or children – by your actions or your words. If you do, you may be disappointed. Ultimatums are a sign that something is drastically wrong and almost always backfire.