I read your stuff and like it a lot and I pray you’re up to the task for this one. See, I hate my husband’s ex. I know hate is an ugly word; I know it’s a strong word, but there is no other way to describe how I feel about this woman.
Drama is Lisa’s middle name. We can never plan anything because as soon as we do, Lisa throws a wrench in it. Last week we made plans to take their kids, Jason and Michelle, up to Boston. Well, Lisa got wind of that and pulled the old switcheroo “remembering” that she had made plans to do something with the kids that weekend. So we didn’t go and lost a ton of money having to reschedule the trip.
My husband is a nice guy and I think that’s part of the problem. I think he should have told her no, that it was his weekend with the kids. But she texts the children and tells them how much she “needs” them and they in turn beg their father to let them go be with her.
The fact that she is using the kids as pawns disgusts me, but what worries me is I find myself resenting not only Lisa, but the kids too.
Will, what do you suggest I do? I don’t want to poison an already troubled family dynamic but honestly, I don’t know how much more I can take.
Big Trouble Brewing
Here’s a quick note for anyone who’ll listen: If we become involved with a person who is already a parent, we are also then tethered to the other parent for life. In this case, although you and your husband don’t want Lisa around, your kids do, and that may mean that they want her around for next week’s ballet recital, next year’s football practices, when they’re getting dressed for prom night, when they get dressed for their weddings, or even in the birthing room when they have their own children. Yeah… that’s what “for life” means. This is something a person should really think about BEFORE they get involved with a ready-made family, but I guess it’s a little late to tell you that now, huh? So how do you get rid of Lisa all together and still keep your hubby and the kids? Well… you can’t. But with a little patience, here’s what you can do:
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW… Sometimes the only way you can win a fight is by not fighting. In this case, even if you don’t fight, you still can’t win! All you can hope for is to find a balance between getting your way all of the time and giving in to Lisa. If you force the kids to do what you want, they’ll resent you and they won’t be happy. If you force your husband to force the kids, they will resent him, and he won’t be happy. If you give in to Lisa every time, you’ll resent the kids and you won’t be happy. Your only hope is to find some middle ground, set a lawn chair on it, and open up a nice box of wine.
WHAT YOU NEED TO SAY… My uncle Charley use to say, “Turn on the lights, and watch the roaches run.” This means a couple of things. First, it means don’t eat anything Uncle Charley brings to a cook out. Second, it means the best way to beat a sneaky person is to lay the truth out in the open. Sit your husband and your children down for a family meeting and spell it out in plain English. Tell the kids (and Hubby) that everyone is going to have to start sharing and being fair to each other, including Lisa. This means that, sometimes, when Lisa wants to change everyone’s plans at the last minute, the answer will be yes, but other times the answer will be no… and that either way, the decision will be made by you and your husband, not by Lisa or by them. Explain that you’re completely willing to be fair and give in sometimes, but only if they are willing to give sometimes too, without whining and complaining. Saying this let’s them know that they’ll have to give to receive, and it also gives them a little bit of control… the control that you just took from Lisa.
WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO… Make everyone stick to the rules! Chances are your husband has caved to this woman for so long that he’s just used to it. Well, that all ends now. The next time she pulls a fast one, sit him down and discuss whether or not you should give in to it. Be fair, but firm. If YOU and HE decide that it’s best, then let the children go. But if YOU and HE decide that it’s time to put your foot down, then that ends it. Don’t let begging from the kids, texting from Lisa, or wishy-washiness from your hubby change the decision. This process won’t be fun, but once Lisa sees that the choice to stray from any normal visitation that she has is ultimately up to your husband (which means at least partially up to you, if he knows what’s good for him) it takes away her power which is the real trick to dealing with a bully which is what she is, by the way.
No one gets to be happy in this situation 100% of the time, but if you strive for balance instead of victory, then everyone gets to be happy most of the time, and that’s really the best any of us can hope for anyway. So hug your hubby, kiss the kids, and the next time you see Lisa, smile at her like you’ve been drawing moustaches on all of her pictures (you have, haven’t you?)
William Jones is originally from the tiny town of Alton, Illinois, and now lives in the tinier town of Reisterstown, Maryland. He is a happy husband and a proud father of three, and writes as a hobby, in those few moments he finds between husbanding and daddy-ing.