Dear Ellie: My husband of eight years and I have a very loving relationship. His first wife had left him after cheating with another man. Under shared custody, we’re co-parenting his son and daughter, now 16 and 14.
But his ex-wife is still sabotaging any plans we make that affect our involvement with the children.
Recently, we booked our first holiday since the start of the pandemic to visit my mother and siblings in another city for a week.
We rented a cottage in the nearby countryside for a second week. When my husband informed his ex of the dates, she fired back four days later that it was impossible, as she’s booked a holiday at that same time, for longer.
She point-blank said we’d have to cut our trip short, so that the children aren’t left alone. We’d never leave two teenagers alone for a week!
It means that we miss out on a romantic break. This isn’t the first time that she has reacted to anything that sounds special for us.
I’m furious and frustrated at her intrusions in our life. But my husband says it’s not a big deal to him because he knows that what we have together is special.
But then he added: “So, it shouldn’t be a big deal to you.”
Why not? How long do we put up with this?
Why can’t he say we’re sticking to our plan and she’s the one who’ll be responsible for her children that week?
Frustrated Second Wife
He can’t put his foot down because he knows, as you do, that his ex is an angry woman who knows she made a mistake thinking she could break up her family and still control her children’s lives. Unfortunately, that affects your life as their stepmother.
It’s a shame to miss out on a special plan but recognize this: One romantically-styled week doesn’t compare to a relationship that has mutual commitment and love every day.
However, that doesn’t fully let your husband off the hook from not acknowledging your feelings about his ex-wife’s intrusions on your plans.
Be clear that you understand that you knew when you married him that you were going to be involved with his children, and, therefore, sometimes their mother, too.
He’d undoubtedly already told you when you became close, some negative stuff about her dealings with him.
Tell him you can accept some of her intrusions a lot more easily if he empathizes with the disappointment you feel, and also openly appreciates your support for the children.
Dear Readers: It’s no surprise that various entrepreneurs reach out with their ideas about getting some promotional value from anyone with an appropriate audience. Can’t blame them because so many businesses have suffered losses during the pandemic.
While I won’t name specific publicity-seekers, my column does sometimes include suggestions to couples who feel they’re losing their connection by missing or neglecting activities they once enjoyed together.
So here are some current generalized opportunities recently suggested to me (consider these only in light of maintaining pandemic safety):
Couples’ dance classes — for example, salsa, tango, whatever (check on vaccination requirements, numbers of students at one time); boat rental for a family “bubble” outing or date-night event; and, of course, all the bright outdoor patios in many locations trying to keep restaurants accessible after financial losses during lockdowns.
Search online for more such social or family-based activities to see what’s affordable and safe in light of COVID-19 concerns.
Ellie’s tip of the day
When an ex-spouse botches plans of the happily remarried co-parent, it’s the children that matter and the couple’s relationship.
Send relationship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.