This one is all about dealing with difficult exes and divorce. Ask Divorce Coach is Women’s Divorce Coach’s divorce advice column. Have a question? Send it to Cindy here. It’s anonymous!
Dear Divorce Coach,
My ex-husband has been out of work since April 2020 and his behavior is really starting to concern me. He was prone to depression when we were married but always got out of bed. Now he only gets out of bed to grab the kids and rarely engages with them when he has them. I have primary custody so they don’t spend a lot of time with him, but he does have them every other weekend. The kids (9 and 8) are telling me that the whole place smells, he only gets them fast food and doesn’t enforce bedtime. I am concerned for my kids and honestly for him. What can I do?
– Worried mama
Dear Worried Mama,
I hear how concerned you are for both your kids and for your ex. It is hard to see someone stop taking care of themselves and fall into a cycle of depression, especially when this is someone you rely on to take care of your kids. You didn’t mention if you’ve tried to speak with him, but I’d encourage you to try that route first. Come from a place of compassion and point out what the kids have noticed with as little judgment as possible. See if he’s willing to get help from a therapist or psychiatrist. If he is unwilling, ask him if he feels he can care for your kids. You may need to make a tough decision about getting more time with your kids until he is able to care for them. If you feel your kids are in danger, and he is unwilling to make any changes, you may want to talk to your attorney about the custody situation. In the meantime, let your kids know that their dad is unwell right now, that he loves them and that in time you hope he will get better.
Dear Divorce Coach,
My ex-husband and I don’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to our kids spending time with his family. Since he’s gotten a new girlfriend, our son is often left with his parents for overnights. I’ve never liked his mom – she is extremely religious (and I am not) and conservative and is teaching him things that I don’t agree with. When he comes back to my house, I hear all about how he was forced to go to church, how being gay is a sin and how overblown Covid is. It makes me want to pull all my hair out. I’ve gotten into it several times with my ex but he says I’m getting worked up over nothing. What can I do?
– Grandma Hater
Dear Grandma Hater,
Unfortunately, when we get divorced and have kids, we still have to deal with our ex’s family, at least to a certain extent. When I read your comments, I’m left wondering how your son feels about all of this. Does he like going to church? Is he bummed that he doesn’t get more time with his dad? Does he like spending time with his grandparents? If you don’t know how he feels, I encourage you to find out. Depending on his age, you may encourage him to speak to his dad about his feelings. That will go a lot further than you arguing with your ex about your feelings.
Unless there is something explicit in your parenting plan about what is allowed (or not allowed), you may have to find a way to deal with some of these issues. Modeling and speaking to your son directly about your own values is one thing that is in your control. You could have a chat with your ex’s mom but I have a feeling based on what you said she’s got a pretty strong opinion that is in direct opposition to yours. If you do approach her, appeal to her mom-to-mom and ask her nicely if she’d be willing to consider holding her tongue with some of her rhetoric around your son. Dealing with difficult exes is hard work, keep your chin up!
Dear Divorce Coach,
My ex-wife has primary custody of our three kids. We got divorced three years ago and she has switched careers. She recently told me that she’s going to move of state for a better job in the Fall. I absolutely do not want her to move. I have a business here and it would be hard for me to leave my aging parents. The thought of not seeing my kids every week is devastating. I can hardly even process this. How can I get through this?
– Devasted Dad
Dear Devasted Dad,
What a difficult situation! My heart goes out to you. Since it’s not yet Fall, you have some time to think about what your options are. While it is emotionally difficult to think about, I do encourage you to take this time for both your sake and your kids’ sake and carefully contemplate each option. If you decide to stay, you could consider a travel schedule (for you or the kids) or come up with a less conventional schedule where you have the kids during the summer and/or holidays. Is it possible for you to live some months or weeks in the other location and work remotely? There are Airbnb’s that cater to such situations. If you move to where they are, what are the chances that your ex-wife will move again? What are your job prospects? Can you afford a place that your kids can stay with you? Who else can help out with your aging parents? I have probably given you enough to chew on with that. I encourage you to hire a divorce coach if you need further support through this difficult situation.