I’m trying to raise two young teenagers, while supposedly co-parenting with my hostile ex-wife.
She’s remarried to a well-off guy (as she always dreamed), but she’s angrier than ever with me.
Our sons can’t expect any easy conversations between us, so they mostly maintain two separate lives when living one week with me, the next with her.
I have to practically plead with them sometimes to tell me what’s going on.
Example: When I told the boys my big Christmas plan for us was to go to New York for a few days, they tried to change the subject, though it’s my turn for Christmas with them.
They finally said their mother had booked from Boxing Day to New Year’s Day for a trip to Mexico with her, her husband, and his two children.
Previously, “Christmas” with either of us was always at least a two-day period, to include visiting family, as well as having Christmas Day together.
My ex won’t go to counselling with me about co-operating on arrangements, and won’t tell me any of her plans till she’s already sold the kids on them.
What can I do short of dragging us both back to court?
Still At War
She’s not the only one still holding onto bitterness from your past relationship.
She’s angry; you’re resentful. She’s controlling; you retreat into passivity.
You have a co-parenting agreement detailing access, and can ask family court for mediation to clarify it.
Yours isn’t an uncommon situation (see below) and in many jurisdictions, the re-visiting of such agreements is an acceptable, obviously needed procedure.
The court can also insist on counselling for both parties, as well as mediation.
Before either of you make your own plans without notice to the other parent, you both must accept the responsibility to discuss them with each other.
FEEDBACK Regarding the father with two daughters whose ex-wife treats him like a “deadbeat dad” (Oct. 10):
Reader – “Regarding your advice to not talk to his daughters about their parents’ disagreements.
“First, the mother has chosen to discredit the father.
“Yes, the girls have seen and are committed to their father-daughter relationship, but their faith can be rattled.
“They have a right to know the facts, as presented by him.
“These should be outlined in simple observations that demonstrate his past behaviour, and his financial reality with support commitments, making air flights not possible.
“Not to tell the daughters shows a lack of respect for their ability to understand.
“Not knowing the whole picture can create doubt about what their father’s trying to achieve, both financially and ethically.
“Children old enough to fly to visit a father, are old enough to handle some facts which may relieve and bring some needed peace of mind.”
Ellie – I appreciate your perspective and agree that children need some clarity about facts.
However, most children have a pretty good idea of what’s going on when their divorced parents air their feuds
It’s hurtful to them. They sometimes wrongly feel at fault, and even feel pressured to pretend to side with one, then the other.
Ultimately, it can make them turn against both parents.
This man’s daughters have seen their father’s commitment.
I believe that complaining to them about their mother’s unfairness would harm, rather than help, the relationship.
He should stay in close contact. Rather than fight about the cost of plane tickets for them to visit him, he can travel to them by car, bus, or train.
His presence will say everything.
FEEDBACK Regarding the response from your daughter about grieving a beloved pet (October 6):
Reader – “I lost my dear cat this past July and can relate to the words of your reader, as well as those of your daughter.
“I think we can all agree with the words of French poet, novelist, and journalist, Anatole France - “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains un-awakened.”
“From an article in Psychology Today, titled “Grieving the Loss of a Pet,” I especially found solace in the beautiful description of our pets being our "life's witness(es)" and thus deepening our grief over their loss.”
Ellie – Yes, I agree. Like a fly on the wall, they see it all, and are there for us unconditionally.
The article (in Psychology Today) answers, What makes a pet’s death so painful?
The reasons listed: the loss of unconditional love, the loss of a “protégé” and life witness, the loss of the pet’s multiple relationships (with owner, children, friends, etc.) and for some, the loss of a primary companion.
Tip of the day:
If post-divorce bitterness negates access agreements, ask for court-ordered mediation.