Q. My ex had an affair and we divorced as a result. It was humiliating when he married the woman, and not long after I met her ex for coffee. We married a year later. So, essentially, we’ve traded partners. My ex is incredibly manipulative and has badmouthed me so badly that my husband’s middle school aged daughter won’t set foot in our home. He’s made it look like we were the ones who had the affair and the girls despise me. I try to be accepting and do special things for her on her birthday and around the holidays, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Should I continue? What’s good ex-etiquette?
A. I would never tell anyone to just give up, particularly if they are doing their best to follow the rules of good ex-etiquette—and you are by “Not holding grudges” and “Not being spiteful” (Ex-etiquette for parents rules #5 and 6) You’re doing the best you can—and that’s difficult when all you want to do is come right out and tell his daughter that her dad is the liar. But, you have to ask yourself how will that make things better? At this point, will your husband’s daughter siding with you and your husband be better than the status quo? For you, maybe. But, since she deserves both of her parents to be active in her life, she is the loser any way you look at it.
My suggestion is to continue to do exactly what you are doing. You could look for paybacks, plot and plan, and get your revenge, but the danger in doing that is that it may not even phase his daughter and your devotion to getting revenge may be the demise of your current marriage. If all you think about, all you talk about, is stopping your ex and swaying your husband’s daughter to your side, there will be little room to build the love and devotion your marriage needs to flourish. Your kindness is a positive example and even if your husband’s daughter doesn’t see it at this point, your husband does.
Some feel that you should never discuss an affair with the children, however, as you can see, if the information is not presented properly, it can cause huge problems. Although too much information can also be detrimental, rather than the need to set the record straight, it may be more productive to concentrate on the love your husband has for his daughter. Make sure SHE knows THAT will never waiver.
While the following may not be helpful in all situations, I often suggest you use the word “mistaken” to describe an ex’s misinformation.
For example, “Mom said you left us because of Janeen.”
Your comment could then be: “Your mother is mistaken. I met Janeen a year after your mother and I split up.” No need to editorialize further. You have found a way to state the truth without calling mom a liar. “No badmouthing!” (Ex-etiquette for parents rule #3. ) 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.