Q: I remarried two years ago. I have been working quite well with my husband's ex-wife, but we just hit a roadblock over the holidays and would like your take on things. Last year the holidays were easier to navigate because my kids schedule matched my husband's kids' schedule, but this year there were all sorts of changes that had to be made which made for some tense times. I suggested a three-way text -- my husband's ex, my husband, and me-but his ex said absolutely not. She then texted my husband saying she wanted all negotiations to be "between you and I," which he forwarded to me. At their son's soccer game later that afternoon she was sweet as pie, which made me think it was all fake. It feels like we are going backwards. What's good ex-etiquette?
A: First, slow down a little bit. Just because she wants to back off doesn't mean the sky is falling. Relationships are fluid and have an ebb and flow to them. At the time you suggested the talk she was facing the stress of the holidays (as were you) and she was probably done with conversation and concessions and just wanted to deal with the kids' dad. A conversation, of course, will be helpful, but the suggestion may have been too much at the time.
For the record, Ex-etiquette for parents rule #4 is, "Parents make the rules; bonusparents support them. This is the only rule of the Ten Rules of Good Ex-etiquette for Parents that has a caveat attached. When the bonusparent has children of their own, then additional coordination is necessary -- which is what you were trying to do -- but it's all about tact and timing. If she's texting "you and I" to her ex I would guess she's feeling out of control, and to be honest, rarely do exes see the predicament their ex's new partner might be in when they must juggle their kids' schedules with their bonuskids' schedule. Ironically, that's one of the reasons my bonusfamily at some point during the holiday visited the kids' other parent. As long as each parent saw their child at some point, life was good. The "This Christmas is yours" got too much for the kids, quite frankly, and we heard about it. All that back and forth was very stressful. As the kids got older and traveling to other parts of the state became necessary, we stuck to a stricter schedule, but if everyone was in town, it was open house for both homes.
You have been doing this bonusfamily experiment for a very short time in bonusfamily years. My suggestion is to let your husband take the lead for a while. He sees firsthand the need to coordinate efforts, and at this point, he's everyone's friend. You may just have to hang back until the ex relaxes, so breathe and be patient. Each response does not have to be a crisis, nor do you have to react to each bump in the road. You know your situation is better than most. Even entertaining a three-way text indicates to me, and hopefully to Mom, that your desire to get along and coordinate efforts is genuine. You are all way ahead of the game. Good for you! And, good for all the kids involved. That's good ex-etiquette.
(Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of "Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation," and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Email her at the Ex-Etiquette website www.exetiquette.com at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
(c)2020 Jann Blackstone
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