Q. My wife doesn’t discipline her sons and when I say something I’m yelled at to not get involved. I’m afraid it’s the end of our relationship if I open my mouth. I feel uncomfortable in my own home and I find myself looking for stress relief with other women. I feel guilty, but my wife will not listen to me and her kids run the house. What’s good ex-etiquette?
A. Well, she’s not your ex now, but she will be if you BOTH don’t get this under control. I understand feeling as if you can’t say anything and the need for stress relief, but the choice of other women is a little weak. Truthfully, however, your predicament isn’t much different than any get-yourself-relief choice, like alcohol or drugs. First it’s a relief from the problem – then it becomes the problem. Exercise is a safer bet, but overdoing that can become a problem as well.
Prior to discussing good ex-etiquette, we’re going to have to backtrack a little. On the Bonus Families website, www.bonusfamilies.com, there is an article called “The Before Exercise.” It’s a guide for those who have children and are moving in together or getting married. It asks specific questions and helps new partners mold the kind of relationship they want with each other and with each other’s kids BEFORE they move in together. Without having that conversation, you are in danger of falling into a familiar trap – swept away by the romance of it all, you move in together quickly with no plan or designated responsibilities, plus no way to resolve conflict when conflicts arise. That puts your new relationship on extremely weak footing, making for very frustrated partners and children. Frustration translates into short-tempered responses, sarcasm, loss of intimacy, and ultimately, the desire for a diversion. Sound familiar?
Now, fast forward to your question, what’s good ex-etiquette? Good Ex-etiquette for Parents Rule No. 4, “Parents make the rules, bonusparents uphold them,” is really a guide for disciplining bonuschildren. Unless some other plan is in place, bonusparents should really take the parents’ disciplinary lead. You said mom has no plan, and that makes it even more necessary to have a conversation about what she sees as appropriate consequences in specific situations. That will be your opportunity to offer your insight.
Finally, since you both have let things go so far, you have more issues to address than just your wife’s lack of discipline. It may be more productive to have these conversations with the help of a therapist. He or she will help you stay on track and hopefully do the work you’ll need to in order to make this all work. Refer to the “Rules of Good Ex-etiquette for Parents” for help:
• Put the children first.
• Ask for help if you need it.
• Don’t badmouth
• Parents make the rules, bonusparents uphold them.
• Don’t be spiteful.
• Don’t hold grudges.
• Use empathy when problem solving.
• Be honest and straightforward.
• Respect each other’s turf
• Look for the compromise.