The ex-wife was creating chaos in Brittney and Mike's relationship. The ex phoned about the kids at all hours. Texted repeatedly if she didn't get an instant response. Demanded that the couple drop what they were doing to take the kids, with no advance notice. Threatened to withhold the kids if she didn't get her way. Even tried to poison the kids against Brittney.
It was ugly and creating big problems for the newly engaged couple. Mostly because Brittney never knew when the next call, text, or conflict would come, sucking Mike back into the drama with his ex-wife and emotionally abandoning Brittney repeatedly each day. She was hurting and fed up with how much of their time was spent talking about all the crazy the ex-wife brought into their lives. She wanted to live her life with Mike, have the kids on a schedule, and in time, develop her own, positive relationship with them. She was sick and tired of their lives being at the beck-and-call of Mike's ex-wife. Brittney was nearing her breaking point, wondering if she could or even wanted to put up with a lifetime with all this drama. Then she and Mike tried these two things:
1. Schedule a weekly kid call.
Mike and the mother of his children scheduled a standing phone call every Sunday afternoon to discuss the kids' needs pick-ups, games, doctor appointments, visits, playdates, overnights. This way, the interactions between the exes were more contained within the appointed time, not spilling over unpredictably into Brittney and Mike's life. It helped create more structure in everyone's lives.
2. Refer to the ex-wife "Jack and Anna's Mom."
This helped define the role Mike's ex-wife plays in Brittney and Mike's everyday life. It helped strengthen their new and growing famly system. And it makes room for Brittney to become Mike's wife.
When Brittney and Mike made these two changes, the ex-wife drama dialed way down. Clarifing the relationships and setting time boundaries on interactions created more peace and predictability in their own relationship. A good thing for everyone involved. Even the ex.
*Allison Moir-Smith, MA, is a bridal counselor, creator of How Brides-To-Be REALLY Feel videos, and author of Emotionally Engaged: A Bride's Guide to Surviving the "Happiest" Time of Her Life. *