Hi Mrs T,
I have a blended family with my husband; we have been happily married for 6 years, and have 3 children together. I also have 1 child from a previous relationship, which ended about 9 years ago, and my husband has 2 children with his ex-partner, which ended around 7 years ago. Neither my husband or I were married to our ex-partners. We both have shared custody of our respective children, so our home is always full of lively fun. At first, the children found it a bit difficult to get used to the change, but after the first year or two, we somehow managed to bind them in deep friendship with each other. So all is well on that front.
As it is in these situations, both of us have difficulties with each of our ex-partners. But we continually made compromises for the sake of our children, trying hard not to make them feel any worse about mummy and daddy not being together anymore. As time went by we had to put our foot down a few times with our ex-partners, and draw a line in the sand to create certain boundaries, because there was too much disruption occurring. Half the time we didn’t know if we were coming or going due to both of our ex-partners constantly moving the goal posts.
We have always strived to stay friendly with both of them, although at times it was through gritted teeth! But for some time now, my husband’s ex has been invading our personal space, uninvited, when we have no choice but to be in the same location, such as sports, or extended family events. She barges into personal space and conversations; it’s really starting to drive me nuts, and I fear I’m going to lose my temper with her. I feel she uses her position as the children’s mother to control us. I really don’t know what to do, or how to handle it because we don’t want his 2 children with her to feel any discord we may have with their mum.
I need your advice on this one Mrs T!!!
Mrs. T’s response
Goodness me, you surly are a busy bee; juggling all those children, a husband, and the ex-partners of you both. I don’t know how you manage it all and stay sane. It appears you’ve done a great job so far, but I hear you as you explain your most current ‘fly in the ointment’ situation, which is clouding the happy family life you and your husband have worked so hard to build. Your complaint is so very common among blended families. It is commonplace, in most societies in the world, for children to be raised by step parents. Which leads me nicely to a beautifully poignant and wise African saying.
IT TAKES A WHOLE VILLAGE TO RAISE ONE CHILD
What a wonderful ethos. Within each village, the people experience all the human dynamics of any society, which includes people falling out with one another. But, one thing they all agree on is the importance of children to the community as a whole. So, how does that translate into our lives today?
A full-sized blended family could initially have at its core, six parents/step parents
The two of you, your ex-partners, and each of their current partners. Now here’s where it becomes really complicated for the children. if your ex-partners’ new partners also have children, you can add to the list their ex-partners too. If you think that’s complicated and hard to follow, add to the equation that the two extra step parents have ex-partners with children, and so on. All interacting with some of the children at any given point. Having to deal with the politics of Christmas, birthdays, holidays, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and mutual friends of an extended family can cause many of the extended parental group to have a mini breakdown.
I want you to consider the children for a moment. How on earth can they be expected to achieve a balanced mind when they are trying to figure out these extended relationships, and where they fit into it all. The expectations are overwhelming. All they want to do is be kids and be loved. Which brings me back to that wise African saying. Translated into todays modern family dynamics it would read:
IT TAKES THE WHOLE EXTENDED, BLENDED FAMILY TO RAISE THE CHILDREN
So it’s fruitful for all the adults involved to be ‘Team Children’ but to maintain personal independence as separate units.
But what does that mean to you and the situation with your husband’s ex?
There will have to be boundaries within each household in the effort to give the children as much stability as humanly possible. If something is out of balance it will disrupt the equilibrium and create chaos. Order must be restored. In your case, you will need to arrange a meet with your husband’s ex. Write down the terms and conditions you want in going forward. Set the boundaries which best suits you within your married family unit. Be firm, but not mean. It needs to be made absolutely clear to your husband’s ex, that although they share children together, it is not a license for her to enter your marriage at will. She is not a part of your married unit, and can only enter into that unit, in any way or form, if invited. She cannot interact in a familiar/personal way with your husband, outside of the physical and emotional needs of their children. That includes communication by phone, email, or social media, or just hanging out. They are no longer in that intimate place in life, and she needs to move on and take a step back. There is a big difference between being friendly, and being friends.
Your marriage is none of her business
In much the same way that any relationship she has, has nothing to do with the both of you; unless of course, there is a physical or emotional abuse of the children. She also can NOT; buy him personal gifts for special occasions. His children can do that, but not her. She can NOT call him to wish him a happy birthday, Fathers Day, or Merry Christmas, only his children have that right to be intimate with him. She can NOT, at any school, family, or seasonal celebration where he or both of you are in attendance, have any personal interaction unless invited to do so. Make it clear to her that these things are not open to negotiation. The emotional well being of your family unit is above her need to be a part of it on any personal level.
I hope you can resolve the situation. it sounds like you and your husband have already overcome many of the obstacles which come from creating a blended family. this is just the next phase. We would love to know the outcome. So please feel comfortable to write and update us. It will help others in your situation who will read your post.
Warm regards and good luck,