Ex-etiquette: Enabling dependence, or simply helping take care of kids?

Jann Blackstone, Tribune News Service on

Published in Lifestyles

Q. We pay child support and all med/dental bills, even though my husband’s ex is supposed to pay half. She says she can’t afford it. So she and my husband made a deal that she will just pay co-pays when she takes the kids to the doctor or dentist. I know she has a job. She works at Ross when the kids are at school. But, we are getting notifications that co-pays are not being paid, and now they are coming after us. I don’t believe she can’t afford co-pays! Isn't there a limit to enabling her dependency on my husband? Plus, when we ask for a little extra time with the kids, she makes it very difficult. I want to take a stand! She needs to do her part. Am I wrong? What’s good ex-etiquette?

A. Technically, of course not. But if she doesn’t have it, she doesn’t have it. The job you described may pay only a portion of what is needed. And in this day and age, it’s not surprising that she’s low on funds.

My first question would be, has dad talked to her about this particular aspect of non-payment? If the answer is yes and she still can’t afford even co-pays, it may be time to put your animosity aside for the kid’s sake.

If you can't afford it, then you already have your answer. But it sounds like you feel she is taking advantage of your husband. And that is an indicator that you may need to stand back and reevaluate your stance.

I will tell you something I have learned: The more generous you can be with your partner’s kids, the more grateful and loving your partner will be — especially if it appears that their ex is not holding up their end of the bargain.

If you follow this column, you know about the 10 Rules of Good Ex-Etiquette. Rule No. 7 is, “Put yourself in the other’s shoes.”

He's got his ex dictating how much time he can spend with his kids, and he has the woman he loves dictating what's fair to give his kids.


Imagine being under the same circumstances, and your partner takes you aside and says, "I love you and I can see how stressed you are. What can we do to make your children's life better?"

How would you react?

Need I say more?

Good Ex-Etiquette Rule No. 9 is “Respect each other’s turf.” That’s a nice way of saying, “You can’t control an ex.” (Yours or anyone else’s.)

Your story sounds like something neither you nor your husband can change right now. For your own sanity, you have to decide if picking up the slack for the kids’ mom is really enabling her to be dependent, or simply helping to take care of your husband’s children.

Like so many things in bonusfamily life, the answer to this problem may simply lie in how you look at it. That’s good ex-etiquette.

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