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Back from the fevered hinterlands

December 8, 2010

Hi again. I haven’t written here for a while, partly because for the last week I’ve been at the mercy of a surprisingly tenacious flu. Apart from that, however, I confess that I go through stretches when I don’t want to remember I’m divorced, let alone write about it. Especially during the holiday season, which is supposed to stand for everything that divorce isn’t. Instead, I sometimes like to let 2006-09 lapse into the mist of my dying mind and convince myself that I just happen to have these two great mini-roommates who kick my ass at Wii Dogfight and make forts from my sofa cushions.

Reader Kate’s comment, however, on Moxie’s post about how we divide and conquer the Holiday Season, brought up one of my biggest concerns about our co-parenting situation: the next significant other(s). It’s not that I don’t want Moxie to find someone who will put up with her give her the love she deserves. It’s just that even though our co-parenting thing might be going OK right now, it seems like a fragile ecosystem that could be overrun by anything—like, say, the introduction of another animal.

I guess I’m particularly skittish about this because of the trouble my parents have had with New Animals over the years. Some re-marriages have worked out just great, but others have been travesties. The worst example involves my Uncle Pete, who for decades was the brother my mom never had. Pete was married to my mom’s sister, who died ten years ago. After my aunt’s death, Pete was the last family my mom had, so their friendship was particularly important to her. They didn’t live near each other, but they spoke often—especially on my aunt’s birthday, when they’d call and regale each other with stories to keep her memory alive.

And then came Tina.

When Tina came into Pete’s life, we were happy for him. She seemed nice enough. But after they got married, she dug her talons in and flew him off to a cliffside aerie and decided their new life together was to be all about the two of them, at the expense of everyone else. She filters all conversations with him and doesn’t like it when anyone associated with his former wife calls—including his children. Even though my mom gets to talk with Pete every once in a while when Tina’s out of the house, he’s largely out of my mom’s life. And I can’t decide which is more disturbing: that Tina would demand this of him, or that Pete would acquiesce to it.

So much of co-parenting is coping with specifically delineated control over your kids. You have to build faith in the other co-parent and recognize that faith can’t exist without vulnerability. And thinking about a new person infiltrating the other household without your input and suddenly influencing your ex, your kids, and your life strikes me as more than just stretching your vulnerability to the max. That’s just an opportunity for straight-up vexation without representation.

Sometimes it works out just fine, and sometimes the Tinas of the world decide to take over your ecosystem and remodel it to suit themselves. We’ll see what happens.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. December 8, 2010 2:10 pm

    I think the fact that you two talk to each other about the what ifs makes it less likely that one of you will take up with a Tina.

    You both genuinely seem to want to have a good parenting relationship with your kids and with each other. I’m sure that that desire will survive dating.

  2. P&P permalink
    December 8, 2010 2:40 pm

    I don’t agree with Tina wanting limited contact with his children, I can understand the feeling of “competing” with the memory of a loved or an amicable relationship with an ex. In fact, I bailed on a relationship with a man who had an overly friendly relationship with his ex and expected me to be part of the gang as well. The rule of “love me, love my relationship baggage” can be too much if there aren’t boundaries in place.

    I’m not saying it’s healthy to hate your ex or forget about your deceased spouse, but I do think putting limits on how much you past relationships into your current one is vital to building a healthy future together.

    • LOD permalink*
      December 10, 2010 1:32 pm

      My situation is different, obviously, because my kids are young. But right now, there is no “boundary” between my past life and my present one. Telling someone I’m my kids’ father first and your boyfriend second is a tough sell, but for now, it’s the truth.

  3. Jessica permalink
    December 8, 2010 3:47 pm

    My husband used to go over to his ex’s house EARLY on Christmas morning so they could both be there when the kids woke up and experience the wonder of Santa every year. Which was nice. It was somewhat uncomfortable for him when she got remarried and Christmas morning suddenly included his ex wife’s new husband and his 3 kids. But then she got divorced again.

    Then we got engaged. So she invited both of us over for Christmas morning. It was pretty awkward, but we all sucked it up for the kids. HOWEVER, this was not something I was going to be interested in continuing when we had our own kids. How much sense would it make for us to pack our kid up to go to Daddy’s Ex-Wife’s House for Christmas morning?

    Anyway, this never came to a head because the following year my husband’s ex decided that we (my husband and I) “needed to start our own traditions” and so now my step-kids come over early-to mid morning and just have the wonder of Santa twice. 🙂

    I guess my point is that you don’t have to be an insensitive Tina type newcomer to shake up the holiday routine.

  4. askmoxie permalink*
    December 8, 2010 6:14 pm

    LOD, I’ve been so sorry about what happened with Uncle Pete ever since you told me about it. Your poor mom. And Uncle Pete was always so kind to me. I guess loneliness can be a strange motivator.

    I wonder if Tina realizes that what she did was force her husband into waiting until she leaves the house to call another woman.

    Mind like water…

  5. Julie permalink
    December 8, 2010 11:36 pm

    This is essentially what my father did to us – married what seemed to be a wonderful woman, who literally turned on us the minute the ink on the marriage license was dry. She didn’t want our dad to have anything to do with us, would listen in on all phone conversations he had with our mom about custody decisions, and finally convinced him to move out of state so that he wouldn’t be able to see us regularly. Ultimately, he dropped out of our lives for about 15 years, and it wasn’t until he finally divorced her that we began contact again, after I had graduated from college. In recent conversations with him about what happened on his end, he admitted that she worked hard to keep us out of his life, that she wanted to forget that he HAD been married before with two children…and he told me that he thought at the time he was doing the right thing. All the buzz out there was how important it is to put your marriage first, to cherish that relationship above all others, and he thought that was his first and foremost obligation. What he neglected to realize (and sadly, I think many people who have divorced neglect to realize) is that if you are divorced (with children) and remarried, your *first* obligation is to your children. I’m not saying make your new spouse sit in the backseat for everything, but I’m saying that any new spouse worth having will encourage your relationship with your children, offer time and space for that relationship to be nurtured, and understand that they are not just marrying you, but also marrying your children – and to some extent – your ex spouse as well. For where the children go, their parents go. Both of them. I think it takes a pretty special person to sign on for that – and I think it takes a significant amount of time to determine whether someone is capable of accepting all of that – *really* accepting it and not just paying lip service. It’s easy to talk the talk, but sometimes incredibly difficult and frustrating to walk the walk.

  6. Trope permalink
    December 9, 2010 2:15 am

    Well, I think introducing another animal does always shake up and distress the pack, and there’s no denying it. But the amount of stress in it really will (because it’s gonna happen) finally depend on you and Moxie and what you are comfortable with. When my father got married, we all went over to his new wife’s ex-husband’s family home for their wedding reception. And had a fabulous time, really. It will be so much easier to navigate those nuances as the kids get older.

    The ultimate responsibility for maintaining contact depends on the two of you… not so much on the Tina of the new relationship, but the Pete. From the (hugely limited, filtered, public, best case scenario) things you’ve written, I think you’ll be able to talk it out. Or blog it out.

  7. Chrissy permalink
    December 9, 2010 11:31 am

    When do people start realizing that it is all about the kids?

    I am dealing with a STBX w/a new girlfriend who was part of the impetus of our marriage finally breaking. Happily (yet with a bit of animosity) she loves my girls. And that actually is the problem. She is spoiling them, doting on them, and also making snide remarks to them about what a bad person I am. And ‘dear ole’ Dad’ does nothing to preserve the relationship between the girls and me. I am doing my best to encourage the relationship between them and their father, and my tongue is swollen beyond recognition from biting it so as not to slam the homewrecker every chance I get.

    What advice can you give to help me deal with the vindictive girlfriend, who is actually angry at me for wanting to work on my 13 year marriage and not just hand him over to her?

    • Jessica permalink
      December 9, 2010 1:23 pm

      “When do people start realizing that it is all about the kids? ”

      Sadly, I think some people never do. My parents for example.

  8. ShackleMeNot permalink
    December 9, 2010 12:23 pm

    LOD, good post.

    My divorce was finalized on Monday. My wedding anniversary would have been on Tuesday. Add this timing to the rapidly approaching holidays and it’s a tough season.

    I focus on my son and being a great dad. I know that I need to deal with the emotions of the loss of my marriage and having a life that is radically different from where I thought I’d be a few years ago, but when is a good time to do that?

    I’m definitely not to the point where I want to think about adding new cast members to this drama. If/when my ex gets a new boyfriend, I can see the complications of the changing dynamic for our co-parenting. It’s not a time I’m looking forward to.

  9. December 14, 2010 8:07 pm

    One would hope that because the ex spouses genuinely *want* things to go smoothly that it would. Sadly, that isn’t the case. No matter how “friendly” a divorce is, the fact is you split up because you disagree about at least some fundamental values and/or priorities. My ex and I had/have one of the more amicable divorces ever and I am continually shocked by some of his choices. I never, ever would have believed that he would date someone (for four years!) as narcissistic and unwilling to open her heart to the daughter that he adores.

    The great news is that they broke up, and just in time for the holidays! Whoohoo! Now I can only hope that he finds someone who realizes how wonderful he is presicely *because* he maintains a friendly, cooperative co-parenting relationship with his (happily remarried) ex-wife.

  10. Anna permalink
    December 16, 2010 9:51 pm

    I am continually amazed at how often this dynamic plays out…the divorced dad who remarries a woman who sees his children as a threat and asks him (in ways subtle and/or direct) to abandon them in favor of her. I see it with friends, with my husband’s family (my stepmother-in-law actually went so far as to get my f-i-l to bequeath 50% more of his estate to their daughter than to his children with his ex-wife). Why are so many women so jealous and insecure? And why are so many men so complicit?

  11. Tara permalink
    January 1, 2011 11:49 am

    “So much of co-parenting is coping with specifically delineated control over your kids”????

    I heard about your blog, interested to check it out – after reading this one I will not be returning.

    Let me guess why you and your wife divorced….differing parenting styles on the list?

    Best luck with your intervention.

    • askmoxie permalink*
      January 1, 2011 11:54 am

      Wow, Tara. Way to miss the whole point of LOD’s post. And what “intervention”? Are we even reading the same blog?

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