Your Questions Answered

28 10 2008

In general, I get along terrifically with my fiancé’s children, but their mother has boundary issues that cause problems. Whenever one of the children perceives that I am doing something that their mother did before or still does now (sorting objects at our home for garage sale, making birthday cakes, sewing a jacket, snuggling in front of a movie or fixing their hair for an event), they will tell her about it casually in their daily phone call, then she calls my fiancé and complains to him. Sometimes she even tells the children that they should feel uncomfortable about it (we used to snuggle all the time, but now seldom do). My fiancé has told her that she’s crossing a boundary and that I’m not trying to replace her-just running our home and loving them-but how do we handle this one with the children? The mother (who wanted the divorce in the first place) can’t seem to make the transition appropriately. And I can’t imagine telling the children not to say anything to their mom. That seems wrong. Is this something we just have to wait out?  

Your instincts to not talk to the children about their mother are right on. If you did talk about her to them, your relationships would get messy fast because the kids will be forced to be in the middle and will certainly feel loyal to their mother. The best thing you can do is continue to show them affection while sending positive messages to the kids about their mother every time they bring something up. (This is difficult!!)
 
Meanwhile, your fiancé is doing the right thing by continually talking to his ex about how this hurts the kids. She is actually going to damage her children by not allowing them to have a relationship with their father and making them feel guilty about liking you. Sometimes this kind of behavior goes away as time passes and the ex feels more comfortable and less jealous. Sometimes it does not. Hopefully she will understand that as their mother it doesn’t matter what else happens in her children’s lives, she will always be their mother. Perhaps this could be a soothing message from Dad to his ex.
 
If there is a way to slip Mom information, there is a wonderful book that tells how this kind of thing affects children: Between Two Worlds by Elizabeth Marquardt. If you do feel you need to address Mom’s behavior at some point with the kids, it absolutely has to come from Dad. Not you. As the outsider, you will get blamed. This is certainly a challenging situation. It sounds like you’re doing all the right things. Just keep to the high road and hopefully she will come around. Keep in mind that ultimately it will be the children who will have to deal with the dynamics in the family. They will decide for themselves what is true, and your generous and loving actions may speak to them louder than their mother’s insecurity. Good luck!

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