Here is my situation. I’m 6 months divorced from my wife of 15 years. We have 4 kids, ages 5,7,9, and 11 (yes, we planned well). Long story short, for the last 4 years of our marriage, I found myself repeatedly giving her free time to “play tennis” and go out with her friends. I stayed home and kept the role as the responsible adult, trusting that I was doing the right thing for my wife and kids. So then I find that for at least 8 months, she’d been cheating.
For the sake of my sanity and the kids, I gave her the speedy and “amicable” divorce she wanted and we opted to not tell the kids their mom cheated. We now share joint physical and legal custody of the kids. Six months later, she has already introduced our kids to her affair partner on multiple occasions (who is not yet even divorced himself).
When I questioned her judgement and timing of this, her defense was that he was introduced casually as a “friend”. I went as far as to seek the advice from a child psychologist, who sat down with both of us and basically said it was indeed too soon for the kids to be introduced, but since their mom was clearly going to do it anyway, I should agree to a visitation limit. We agreed to 2 times per month for 3 months, then to reevaluate based on how the kids were doing.
Now the married boyfriend is angry with my interference and wants to be around my kids more and more (out for dinner, going to movies, family trips, etc.) As far as I know, they are sticking to the agreement, but do I trust them? No. I’m fed up with both of them at this point. Especially tired of hearing from my kids how mom’s “friend” did this or said that.
I totally understand the need to avoid trashing the other parent (both my ex and I can work well with co-parenting), but should I have to put up with him forcing himself into their lives a) so soon after our divorce and b) without my kids even knowing the truth of what the two of them did and who they really are?
I am still trying to be the grown up and protect my kids, but everybody had their limits. Any advice would be appreciated.
So, you did the “amiable” divorce and didn’t tell your kids that the marriage ended over mom’s cheating. And now you’re pissed. You ate the shit sandwich of Not Telling for the Good of the Children, and she did not return the favor with Don’t Introduce the Boyfriend for the Good of the Children.
Are you surprised? Let me guess. Her not keeping promises and then unilaterally changing the terms of agreements to suit herself was a character issue you dealt with in your marriage. So what makes you think NOW she’s going to change? Because she cares so much about hurting the kids? She cheated on the father of her four children and then she broke up their home for kibbles. Were you expecting maturity and selflessness?
You’ve got two problems here — and they’re interrelated. Problem number one — your kids don’t know why you guys got divorced. You don’t speak of it. Problem number two — into this information vacuum is introduced Mom’s Very Available Guy Friend. A married, adult man who apparently really wants to be around four children under age 11. Dinner, movies, “family” trips, etc.
No wonder you’re mad. The kids can probably connect the dots and you’re colluding with the cheater’s narrative. Unfortunately, we don’t have a time machine where you can go back to that divorce settlement and put the infidelity in there and put in provisions for visitation with new partners. (Not that it’s enforceable. We’ll get to that in a moment. But at least you’d have some documentation of her breaking a court order should this shit escalate.)
Here’s what you can do.
1.) Give up on being Divorce Police. Marriage police sucks, but divorce police sucks worse. If you’ve ever tried to monitor the comings and goings of a cheater, and accepted the futility of their You’re-Not-the-Boss-of-Me game of whack-a-mole? Consider that you lived with this person and failed to control their behavior when married. Divorced? things just got exponentially more difficult. LET GO of the shit your ex does. LET IT GO. Unless it’s illegal, or endangers the kids lives, or poses imminent harm? The courts do. not. care.
By all means, document everything. (You may be back in court anyway, so document and time stamp all the times she welches out on an agreement and fails to consider the Best Interest of the Children.) But consider that enforcing orders or creating new ones is very costly and very financially draining. You cannot control fuckwits. Focus on what you do control — YOU. I know this advice feels very unjust, and I’ve spent 15 years chewing on the same leather strap of unfairness to keep from screaming. But it’s the truth. And it sucks.
2.) Be the sane parent. Here’s what you DO control — keeping your side of the street clean. You share joint and legal custody — you got half, which is better than a lot of guy chumps get. Be the consistent, attentive, show-up parent. Keep your ear to the ground about how the kids are doing. Let them know you are there for them.
My guess is that Mr. Married Guy isn’t going to be around forever. His fervent interest in family life is not the usual infidelity scenario. The way this usually plays out is cheater wife gets her divorce and Married Guy throws her under the bus, and she discovers that the single-mother-of-four stock doesn’t trade that highly in the dating world.
Now the married boyfriend is angry with my interference and wants to be around my kids more and more…
And you should care that he’s angry… why?
I bet the “interference” beef is coming from your ex — and fact is, she LOVES it. It’s triangulation and kibbles. So LET GO. Don’t show one iota of interest in her dating life. Maintain strict boundaries of no contact unless it involves the kids, and do that communication with scheduling software.
Here’s something else you can do — on the off chance this guy’s interest in four young children is nefarious — teach them about boundaries and what to do if an adult every touches them inappropriately. We should all have this conversation with our kids, not just the divorced and co-parenting with fuckwits contingency.
Keep the lines of communication open with the kids. But also know that it’s okay to have boundaries with them on what Mommy’s Special Friend is up to. At this age — change the subject, divert, distract. You don’t have to listen to every single detail about Disney time together. (I realize I’m asking you to do a balancing act between being open and shutting them down about Mr. Friend. It’s tough stuff.)
Model strength and resilience — even when you don’t feel it at first. It WILL come.
3.) Untangle “trash talking” from speaking the truth. The kids aren’t dumb. I’m sure they’ve figured out that mom moves on awfully quickly. And frankly, they were probably introduced to Mommy’s Special Friend(s) before the divorce was ever final. My advice here is to tell the kids about infidelity in age appropriate ways without editorializing (i.e., “mom is a slut.”) I think gaslighting children is wrong, and they deserve to know why the divorce happened.
I realize in some places truth telling could be considered “alienation.” Talk to your lawyer about this. If it were me? And my cheating ex-wife gave me shit for telling four kids why mommy and daddy broke up? I’d introduce my highly documented dossier of broken agreements and child psychology reports on introducing children to affair partners, and ask if she really wants to go head-to-head on that in court?
All4thekids, I’m NOT advocating trash talking. I’m advocating REALITY. If the kids ask if Mr. Friend is the reason you’re divorced? Yes. Mom was dating while married. But don’t slop your grief on the kids. Let them know you’re there for them and on top of your parenting job.
Truth telling is not revenge for her boyfriend introduction. Living in the truth is better than eating shit sandwiches and pronouncing them “amiable.” Be authentic with your kids. Let them know you’ll always shoot straight with them. That IS protecting them, because spackle starts at home. Don’t raise another generation of chumps.
Hang in there. Coparenting with fuckwits and their affair partners is incredibly difficult stuff. ((Hugs))