I’m struggling right now to figure out the best way to handle a situation with my mom. For back story, I was married for three years and have been divorced for almost five years now. My ex and I do not have any children which made this, in my mind, a clean split. My mom and step-dad did not see it that way at all. My ex actually ended up living with him for almost a year after our split. I get that my ex’s family is across the country, but also for me this is painful. To me, this is my husband who responded to my concerns about growing apart and not sharing anything anymore (he was traveling 45 weeks a year at that point and catering on the weekends he was home) with a “I’m not worried. I’m sure it’ll be fine.” And he was unwilling to try counseling or work on things.
I have done counseling with this on my own and thought I was in a better place until recently. My step-dad had a medical emergency that landed him in the hospital at risk of losing multiple fingers from his dominant hand. I visited him the day after the accident and before his surgery. My mom had told me not to worry about coming which I assumed was because I live about three hours away. On my way out of the hospital room, I ran into my ex. Evidently, he was the one my mom called to come clean up after the emergency and take care of things like taking out the trash. I didn’t realize they were still that close, and she had already indicated one of their neighbors was on top of all of that stuff.
I waited a few days to email my mom about how I felt. I didn’t want to add on to an already emotional situation any more than necessary. I just said that I had thought I was ok with it, but, seeing the close, family-like relationship she still has with my ex, I’m now realizing I’m not ok with it. It also hurts, almost more, that she lies to me about it. I get that my mom thinks she’s trying to protect my feelings, but, as I’ve told her, I don’t feel protected. I feel blindsided and lied to. This type of thing has come up in a few situations with the ex before. I know I can’t tell my folks whom to spend time with or not. And I honestly thought I was over it all until this last week. But it hurts. And I don’t know if it’ll stop hurting if their behavior continues.
How do I adjust my expectations of my relationship with my mom and and step-dad? I don’t feel like this is something worth ending any relationship over, but it does affect how close I feel to them.
Thanks for any advice you can share. — Blindsided by Mom and Stepdad
You’re right — you can’t tell your parents whom they can and cannot spend time with, anymore than you can tell your ex whom he can and cannot spend time with. But you are certainly within bounds to express to all of them how uncomfortable you are with their continued relationship — how hurt and betrayed you are that the intensity and closeness of the relationship has seemingly been kept a secret from you for the last five years. And you can tell your parents that you feel their closeness with your ex, who hurt you in your marriage and whose indifference to your emotional needs was a large reason for your divorce, compromises their loyalty to you and makes you question how in tune THEY are to your emotional needs.
You can tell them all these things and then you have to accept that you cannot control how they react or whether they change their behavior at all. You are only in control of your own behavior and in expressing your needs and establishing healthy boundaries. As for adjusting your expectations of your relationship with your mom and step-dad, I think you need to decide whether you want to be informed of the status of their relationship with your ex or if you want to continue be kept in the dark if they decide to remain close with him. You can certainly ask that you always be warned if there’s a potential for a run-in with him (like you had at the hospital). And then you have to accept that, although it doesn’t feel like it, their relationship with your ex isn’t a reflection of their love for you. Their love, though, is imperfect. Because they are imperfect. Like we all are. They have failed to put your needs above their own, which is always disappointing behavior from people we care about, but especially from parents whom we believe are supposed to protect us always. They have let you down, and that really sucks.
How you move on from this is by forgiving your parents (and your ex for the role he has played in your hurt feelings). Forgive them for disappointing you. Forgive them for loving you imperfectly and for failing to protect you and failing to put your needs above their own and for making you question their loyalty to you. Forgive them for being selfish. There’s a lot of freedom in forgiveness. It clears bitterness in your heart and makes room for love and compassion. This won’t miraculously heal your relationship with your parents overnight, but it will be miraculous in its own way and its own time.
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