Q: My ex and I got along fine co-parenting our 6-year-old daughter until I remarried six months ago. My wife, who does not have children, does not want my ex and me to talk at all and requires all communication be done by text or email. She insists that she must do all the drop-offs and pickups -- or she throws a fit.
Although I want my marriage to work, I'm surprised by her attitude and worry that her controlling nature will get in the way of my co-parenting with my child's mother, not to mention our life together. What do I do?
A: You have made a common mistake that many parents make when they remarry. They forget to have that all-important conversation that makes their boundaries clear. So the new partner, intimidated by all the ex-interaction and kid concern, creates boundaries he or she thinks will prevent their partner from running off with the ex. In other words, you created this problem by not talking about what you see your ex's role to be before marrying. New partners, particularly women who have never had children, often view having a child as an almost spiritual bond between parents. That's a pretty hard act to follow.
Every family needs a leader, and right now it sounds like it's your wife. However, she doesn't have the experience or the tools to be successful. You have all the information, so get in there and set the example. Use the rules of good ex-etiquette for parents as your guide. (Find them on the Bonus Families website, www.bonusfamilies.com. Key word: 10 rules.) Of particular interest is rule No. 4: Bio parents make the rules, bonusparents uphold them.
Communicating by text or email only is a last resort for parents who can't get along. Talking openly and problem-solving in front of your child will let her know that her parents respect each other even though you are not together. That is in her best interest.
Finally, don't allow your child's mother to be your wife's rival -- because she's not. Your wife is your wife and your child's mother is your child's mother. The more these two women can work together, the better it will be for your daughter.
Dr. Jann Blackstone- Ford and her husband's ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, authors of "Ex-Etiquette for Parents," are the founders of Bonus Families.