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TherapistJen
TherapistJen, LCSW, CPC
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2813
Experience:  Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
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My wife and I are separated and on the path to a collaborative

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My wife and I are separated and on the path to a collaborative divorce.
We have two small children, a daughter who is 7 and a son who is 5.
We separated this past December. By mid-February, she was dating someone else.
By March, this individual had moved into the home. By May, he had moved his daughters from a prior marriage into the home for the summer and the house was completely reconfigured to handle more children, including my daughter losing her room. By early July, they were engaged. Mind you, our divorce is not only not final, the terms of the divorce are not even final yet.

In this process, my ex-wife has requested that I not only accept (which I do) that she is in a long-term relationship but that I approve of this relationship, to the point of where I allow my children to understand that I am fine with them developing a deep, parental like relationship with my children. My children, I believe are confused by this other individual being introduced into the situation so soon and do not understand the context of his relationship with my ex-wife and with me to the point that they are unsure of whether this new person is equally their father as I am.

I am an involved father. I have my children roughly 50% of the time and live very close to them, even though it means I have a very long commute.

I know nothing of this other individual nor do I think it really necessary that I do. I try to be cordial when I drop off and pick up my children and I limit my interactions so that they are only with my ex-wife and not with this other person. My ex-wife believes that the children have picked up on this and that it would be better for our children if I actively approved of this person. My children have asked him whether or not they should call him Daddy. I don't believe my ex-wife is doing much to clarify that this person is not their father and in fact is encouraging it. He will be attending school functions now with our kids - which I have to admit, frustrate me since I am paying for their entire private school education. But I also know there is nothing I can do about this. I would not be surprised if I am expected to accept him into parent/teacher conferences and other typical parental obligations.

If my children were older, I would be more secure that my relationship with them would be strong enough to survive this transitional period, but I believe that at their age, there is a significant risk that my bond with them could fade overtime.

Because of our situation, I am the parent who is always rushed to make it to deadlines and events - since I work 50 miles away. My ex-wife was able to maintain relationships with friends locally, where most of my friends live near my office and my kids do not have a relationship with any of these families or their children. So it appears to be more isolated from others when I am with them.

Are my concerns about the relationship my children have with this other person well founded? Would it be better for my children to see me be accepting of him and could that just lead to greater confusion about his role in relationship to them as well as their relationship to me.

CoachJenK :

Hi. Welcome. I am a Licensed Master Social Worker with more than 20 years experience working with individuals and families on a variety of issues.

Customer:

okay

CoachJenK :

I am sorry to hear of all of this...it is quite devastating to be going through this.

CoachJenK :

I think your concerns are valid but I do believe the proper balance can and should be struck

CoachJenK :

I am glad the divorce agreement hasnt been finalized because you can advocate for things within that and assert the boundaries that you believe work for you.

CoachJenK :

the first one being that he is a step father and not their Daddy...that is you and only you and so Daddy is only used for you. His first name should be used

Customer:

That is what the child specialist we met with asserted as well.

CoachJenK :

You have every right

Customer:

My ex believes that is fine, but if the children ask to call him Daddy, they should be allowed to

CoachJenK :

they wont ask unless they are told to ask. they should be told to call him by his first name

Customer:

i agree with that

CoachJenK :

I feel for you. she is not acting appropriately around this and it will lead to confusion for the kids and pulling them in ways that they dont understand.

Customer:

That is what I sense as well, particularly with my daughter who understands more of what is going on

CoachJenK :

This is a firm boundary. His name is....and that is what you call him. If he loves mommy then I am happy. You can love him too and spend great time with him.

CoachJenK :

and you can also set a boundary on what events he attends and what events you attend.

CoachJenK :

parent teacher? come on. That is you!

CoachJenK :

I am with you on this.

CoachJenK :

that is the beauty of your agreement not being final.

CoachJenK :

you can encourage the kids to be expansive and take him in and love him but you can also use the legal system to maintain the appropriate boundaries that you can both live with.

CoachJenK :

why you are forced to just sit back and accept all her rules around this is beyond me. Your daughter losing her room doesnt help with your daughter maintaining her identity.

CoachJenK :

all of this plays a part.

Customer:

I am also concerned that my daughter frequently asks questions that would indicate that she feels that if Mom and Dad can get divorced that she and I can get divorced

CoachJenK :

but yes from an encouragement standpoint I believe they will do better if you give them "permission" to like him.

Customer:

I'm not saying they can't like him

CoachJenK :

Your love sounds strong and so does your bond. I dont see that getting torn down if you keep doing all as you are.

Customer:

I'm just not sure is it my responsibility to demonstrate friendship towards him

CoachJenK :

I know you arent saying that, Im just helping with what to say. I didnt mean to offend you if I did.

Customer:

I understand being cordial, but I don't see us needing to be buddies...

Customer:

you didnt

CoachJenK :

I agree. But I might also suggest sitting down man to man with him to get to know him so you know the kind of man he is that will be with your children.

CoachJenK :

but I agree buddies is not necessary

CoachJenK :

cordial is just fine

Customer:

i have been able to get my wife to agree to two significant behavioral changes which are that only she should be involved in setting up punishment (time outs, loss of benefits) and that I am not comfortable with him being around my daughter in dressing/bathing...

Customer:

but I do feel like there should be limits on things like who attends parent conferences.

CoachJenK :

excellent and you are completely right.

Customer:

I also am not happy that their relationship progressed so quickly and that they didn't seem to take our children's mental health into account by moving so fast. It sets a precedent with me.

CoachJenK :

yes I agree too and if she is unwilling to hear what your desires are you can use your divorce agreement to push those issues through

Customer:

I was fine with her dating, but moving in (which I learned about after) and his kids moving in (also learned after) bothers me.

Customer:

If he and I were to meet - the conversation probably should be limited

Customer:

I don't think getting off specific topics would be helpful

CoachJenK :

I can understand that....it was a lot for them to have to deal with in such a short time and it is very confusing for them

CoachJenK :

yes you cant go through each thing it is more of a meet and greet to make sure you are okay with the fact that he will be living with your children.

Customer:

I'm not really sure that 'being okay" is really up for discusson

CoachJenK :

just for you to get a sense in your own skin

CoachJenK :

I might also suggest keeping the kids in touch with the child specialist during this time of transition so that they can have a place to share if they need to.

Customer:

well, I have a lot to think about. I get that this is a difficult journey and that its important to not let first reactions or judgements cloud good decision making. My first priority is my kids and their mental and physical well being. Even above my own.

CoachJenK :

and that is what makes you a wonderful father. Think it all out. write down the boundaries that are crucial for you, the ones where you might compromise, etc and go from there.

Customer:

Its interesting that you say that. My daughter's school has a child specialist that she has seen - without a real agenda in the meetings that I'm aware or an effort to work on specific skills.

CoachJenK :

thats ok...its good for her just to have a place to go if she needs to emote. No agenda needed.

Customer:

The child specialist we met with as part of the divorce process said that at our kids age, they should only meet with a specialist if they have specific areas they need to address such as "I'm having trouble not being weepy" and then she could work on that

Customer:

But she said just general meeting could be a disservice at her age.

CoachJenK :

I hear her view.

Customer:

It certainly makes things harder when the points of view are all over the place.

CoachJenK :

I know. It can be confusing. Like you, my focus is on your kids and how they are feeling now and not waiting for them to display some difficulty and then get them talking.

CoachJenK :

but yes your son is young but that is when play can be used as talk doesnt work at that age.

Customer:

well - lots to think about. Thank you

CoachJenK :

it is my pleasure. Please feel free to come back anytime.

CoachJenK :

please take a moment to click on the rating tab to offer a rating of my work. My goal is EXCELLENT and i hope I have provided you excellent support.

CoachJenK :

I thank you

CoachJenK :

as I am not credited for my work unless you offer a positive rating

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