Q. My ex and I have been broken-up for about seven months now. Our 17-year-old daughter has had a sort of open door policy—we understand she will be 18 in 6 months and to fight about where she lives just seems silly. Last month my ex moved in with her new boyfriend and our daughter now refuses to stay at her mother’s home. Even though she has her own room at her mother’s, she says that it’s “creepy” at her mom’s. I suspect it is because mom and boyfriend sleep in the same room, but I don’t know what to say at this juncture. What’s good ex-etiquette?
A. You have only been separated for seven months. Your daughter is still mourning your break- up, and studies tell us that she will for quite a while. Seven months ago mom and dad were living together, possibly sleeping in the same room. Now Mom and Dad have broken up. One moved out and your daughter goes back and forth between both of your homes. She has to watch her parents cope with the hurt, anger, and sadness of a break-up–while she copes with it herself.
So, in the midst of all this turmoil, her mother moves someone else in. At 17, she’s old enough to understand a break-up and old enough to know that mom and new boyfriend are having sex when the door is shut. Teens are completely “grossed out” by the thought of their parents having sex. Add the pain of the break-up, the stress of going back and forth, and this child, although almost an adult, does not want to spend time at mom’s. Explaining it like that, are you surprised she no longer wants to visit her mother? This doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to see mom at all, she may want to go out to coffee or go shopping, but stay in her new home with this new guy around all the time? No way. It’s just too much right in her face.
Bottom line, mom moved this guy in too soon. After only seven months, that single act forced your daughter to take sides. You are familiar. This new mom with this new guy is not. So, when faced with the decision to stay or go, your daughter opts to stay “home.” Plus, no one has mentioned the fact that maybe the new boyfriend has gotten too familiar for comfort. Although that wasn’t mentioned in your question, it’s something that should be explored.
From a good ex-etiquette standpoint, if you are open and honest (Ex-etiquette for Parents rule #8) with your daughter’s mother and continue to provide a stress-free safe haven for your daughter, there’s not much more you can do, save suggest Mom ask her boyfriend to leave until your daughter reaches 18 and moves out herself. If she wants to see her daughter, that might be the best plan for now. (However, I would not have suggested that if there had been more time between break-up and re-coupling and your daughter had developed a relationship with Mom’s boyfriend.) “Put the children first”. That’s good ex-etiquette
Ex-Etiquette®, runs in countless newspapers and websites all over the world. It is written by Dr. Jann Blackstone, who specializes in child custody, divorce, and stepfamily mediation. Dr. Jann is the author of seven books on divorce, remarriage, and co-parenting, specifically, Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce and Separation, and other Ex-etiquette books. Dr. Blackstone is also the founder of Bonus Families,501 c3 non-profit organization dedicated to peaceful coexistence between divorced or separated parents and their combined families.