Ask Ellie: For lasting marriage, be honest about needs, wants

Advice columnist EllieDear Ellie: Three years ago my second husband and I bought a large home in a beautiful neighbuorhood with top-rated schools for our newly-blended family. We planned to live there until our kids (three under age 14) went to college, then get a home in a tropical locale.

Yet despite initial joy, the magic quickly faded. My daughter attended the local school. My step-son stayed at his school across town. I loved the house but my husband wanted to split all household expenses and not spend any money decorating.

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He said that he actually didn’t like our area and wished we’d purchased elsewhere, despite his saying the opposite when house-hunting. His son didn’t like the house either — “too fancy” and big.

My husband quickly reminded me of his desire to plan for retirement (despite our having three kids under age 14) and was frustrated that I wasn’t interested.

We separated almost a year ago, sold the house and moved quickly to divorce. My ex knew I was hell-bent to stay in the neighbourhood for my daughter’s schooling. He said he wanted to move into a condo.

We moved out in silence and haven’t spoken since.

I then learned that he’d rented the house I’d rented when we dated. I thought this was weird but logical for him to be close to his son’s school.

I bought a townhouse in my daughter’s school catchment a couple of blocks away from the “family home” we’d sold. However, the day I got the keys, I saw my ex’s cars in the driveway of a large house around the corner. He had no ties in our neighbourhood and could move anywhere within an hour of his son’s school.

Why did he move into areas where I’ve been and now am? I feel the risk of my kids and I running into him. I’m deflated that I’m still not fully free of him and he’s showing off.

We didn’t end things well. A therapist said that he’s emotionally challenged/unavailable. Much of our marriage was one-sided and cold (having to pay me equalization angered him).

My first ex was emotionally abusive and this feels the same. I have no desire/reason for any contact and can’t understand why my ex is tracing my steps? I need to understand to get my power back.

Divorced but Not Distanced

Some factors in your second marriage have collided into a “perfect storm” of mutual dislike.

You wanted a beautiful house, great area, plus a future tropical home. He bought in, then worried over costs and retirement. Result? You jointly bought a home that you’d love and he’d resent.

You also had entirely different long-range goals which you only discussed after marriage.

Whatever the therapist said about him, you need to also learn more about yourself to “get your power back.”

That includes your sense of self-worth and independence, and that you’re a free agent entitled to live peacefully where you choose. And he, too, can live peacefully where he chooses. If he is just “showing off,” ignore his neighbourhood presence, keep your dislike private, avoid him but just nod politely at his son if you cross paths.

“Peacefully” is the needed warning here. IF your ex engages in any harassment, shadowing, unsolicited contact with you or anything else that frightens/disturbs you or your children, you need to have a lawyer send him a legal notice to desist, and also contact police.

Feedback: More parenting books from readers on raising well-adjusted children:

Reader 1: Choice Theory by Dr. William Glasser. He focuses on relationships. Seeking help with my son, it changed all my relationships.”

Reader 2: “I’m a Social Worker and mom, recently gifted an excellent reading/author list for parents wanting to parent more consciously, mindfully:

Raising a Secure Child: Circle of Security by K. Hoffman et al. is excellent, discusses how to parent using attachment theory.

Connected Parenting by Jennifer Kolari RSW, MSW has really good emotional focused content.

The Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, is very helpful to understand temperament.

I’m currently into Dr. Shefali Tsabary and her work The Awakened Family: How to Raise Empowered, Resilient, And Conscious Children & The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children.

I 100 % recommend child psychiatrist Dr. Dan Siegal who studies Interpersonal Neurobiology. One of his most well-regarded books is: The Whole-Brain Child.

Ellie’s tip of the day

Marriage only has a chance at “together forever” if both parties are honest and open about their needs/wants, and any preconceived future plans.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

Follow @ellieadvice.

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