The problem is my ex’s girlfriend, “Brandy” (they have been dating about 1 1/2 years and live together). On the few occasions that I have talked to her, we had gotten along fine and had some nice conversations. So a few weeks ago I asked if she’d like to join me and Betsy to go shopping for a dress for her first school dance (this dance was really important to Betsy – it’s all she talked about for a month!). Apparently this somehow offended Brandy and she said that it was completely inappropriate for me to ask. I even heard that she’s bad-mouthing me about it to mutual people we know. I thought I was being nice.
I should also mention that I am very happily re-married and only call my ex about once a week to discuss Betsy’s schedule (so, I’m not the psycho-bitter ex-wife type).
As the ex-wife, did I overstep? Was it wrong of me to ask? Or since the girlfriend is 10 years younger, is it a maturity thing? Since my ex and my husband get along well, I was really hoping that we all could be friends (or at least somewhat friendly) for Betsy’s sake, but now I’m thinking that might not be possible. Any advice? – The Trying to be friendly ex
No, you did not overstep any boundaries; you were just trying to be nice. Perhaps you could have run the invite past your ex just to make sure he was okay with the idea of his girlfriend hanging out with his ex-wife, but I’m sure you imagined it wasn’t any big deal and wanted to treat Brandy as the adult you thought she was. At worst, you put Brandy in an awkward position of shopping with her boyfriend’s ex-wife, but any woman with an ounce of maturity and a hope that things work out between her and the man she’s dating would want to have an amicable relationship with the mother of his child — especially if he has an amicable relationship with her. And if she really felt so awkward about accepting your invite, all she had to do was politely decline. She could have easily made up some excuse and you wouldn’t have been the wiser and no feelings would have been hurt. Instead, she made you feel like you did something wrong — you didn’t — and then bad-mouthed you to mutual friends. She’s a loser. Let’s just hope your ex comes to the same conclusion soon and you won’t have to worry about her being in your life.
Until then, your priority is to keep your relationship with your ex amicable for the sake of your daughter, Betsy. Accept that you and your husband probably won’t be having double dates with your ex and Brandy. That doesn’t mean you can’t be cordial when you see her in passing or at special occasions (a school play, your daughter’s birthday, etc.). Don’t go out of your way to include Brandy in your life, but don’t go out of your way to make things any more awkward than she already has. I would also resist any temptation you may have to apologize or reach out to this woman to smooth things over. She sounds like the kind of person who will take the best of intentions and misinterpret them, twisting words around to support her skewed viewpoint. Don’t give her any more ammunition to use against you. Just let sleeping dogs lie.
With any luck, your ex will eventually move on from this woman. But if he doesn’t and you find that she will be in your life, however indirectly, for the foreseeable future, remember that your top priority is the well-being of your daughter. If she has a good relationship with Brandy, great (even if you don’t). If she doesn’t have a good relationship with her, then talk to your ex about your concern. If your daughter’s spending 50% of her time at your ex’s home, then she needs to be able to get along with the woman in his life. But it’s your ex’s responsibility first and foremost to make that happen if it isn’t happening naturally, so let him worry about it. If more than a few months go by and things don’t improve, then you can be more assertive in reaching out to Brandy yourself. Just remember that everything you say and do will have repercussions, so proceed with caution. It’s wonderful that you and your ex have been able to co-parent so well together, despite being divorced. Don’t let this insecure woman ruin what you’ve worked hard to achieve.