Another question from www.allexperts.com from a woman named Wendy. Poor Wendy … read on … and DO tell me what YOU think …
Subject: The children’s relationship with a soon-to-be ex
Question: Dear Doctor Becky,
My ex and I have two daughters they are now 7 and 9. Our divorce has been final for over two years, my ex was married again in November of 2008, he is now going through another divorce and planning on marrying again as soon as his divorce is final. His new fiance lives on the other side of the country and an old high school friend. The girls have met her a few times in the past and have had a full day play date with his new fiance recently. That aside he is demanding an absolute cut off of contact with his soon to be ex. She loves the girls and they love her. She was their mother for over a year. At the advice of a child psychologist I agreed to assist in slowly "weaning" them off step-mom time, and that the visits would be supervised by me for a while and then the only contact would be e-mail or phone and then eventually no contact. After one supervised visit I felt like the odd man out, there was not negative talk about the girls dad…there was so many other things talk about, and the girls soon to be ex step mom (STBESM) is a child psychologist, doctor level. So a month later, after the girls cried themselves to sleep and called their STBESM saying they wanted a play date; I scheduled a play date I stayed for about 10-15 minutes and then they all went off to CPK for lunch. Two hours later I met them and we sat for 20 more minutes then off we went. The girls were happy and everything was fine. Once they got to their dad’s and told him he went ballistic and has now forbid them from ever talking to their STBESM when they are with him again. I understand he wishes to get on with his life and start his next marriage but I worry terribly about what this will do to the girls. I think they need time to end their ties to their STBESM. I feel like we are dealing with two separate issues here and he just can’t see that. What do I do now? How do I proceed to allow the girls closure, respect their dad, not build abandonment issues, anxiety and just to do the right thing?
Answer: Hi Wendy,
My how divorce can weave a tangled mess … what could be a neatly wound up ball of yarn ends up hopelessly snarled, snagged and stuck. And who does it hurt? The kids, of course.
I feel badly that you have to co-parent with this moron of a dad. If I was working with your husband I would instruct him to stop being so selfish and fearful, and to step up and do what it is loving — which is to allow his children the space to love their (former) step mom. What do we teach our kids when we "wean" them off of people who are important to them and who cause them no harm? (It’s so awful to ponder that I think I won’t do it.) Because of geography, I would imagine that in time the kids will wean naturally from the step mom … if so, fine, if not, let them stay in touch for goodness’ sake.
But, from reading your letter, I imagine selfishness is part of who this man is. Why else would he march so many women through his girl’s lives? This, and not allowing them to stay in contact with his ex, will teach them not to attach to important people who come along. By the time they start hanging with the newest one they’ll have the attitude, "Why bother?" It’s all so sad.
If I were you, I would throw out what the psychologist said about weaning them — that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard — as if they are animals or objects and not humans. When the kids are with you, allow them "normal" contact with STBESM … unsupervised visits, phone calls, etc. When they are with their dad, he unfortunately may screw them up any way he likes, so long as it is not considered child abuse. Thankfully he has no say over what the kids do when they are with you, so long as it is not harmful to them.
In an ideal world you and your ex could negotiate and work this out, but he doesn’t sound like someone who compromises. All this acrimony will certainly damage the kids, and for that, shame on him. Your children need as much love, support, and caring as they can get, and should not have to feel guilty about who they love.
I hope this helps — good luck!