Q. I recently remarried, but I'm miserable. My husband drives me crazy, his ex-wife is psycho and his children run the show. After 3 years and 11 months, my ex has realized the error of his ways and has been calling me. He tells me he's sorry that he ran off with "that woman" and wants to go back together. I hate my life, I want to go back to my ex and I have absolutely no idea how to handle this. What's good ex-etiquette?
A. You have a lot going on, so I think it's best to take a breath and address your issues one at a time.
First, your husband drives you crazy.
He probably hasn't always driven you crazy or else you would not have married him. And, since it seems he started to drive you crazy right around the time your ex started calling again, it may be time to do a little soul-searching. If you mentally eliminate your ex from the equation, does your husband still drive you crazy? You owe it to your husband to make your judgments based on his behavior, not your ex's.
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Next, his ex-wife is psycho.
Who doesn't think their new partner's ex isn't psycho at some point? Even I thought my husband's ex was psycho, but that was before I really knew her. (After years of co-parenting the kids we eventually became very good friends.) Truth be told, once every one started to openly demonstrate respect for one another, particularly in front of the children, things changed for the better. (Ex-etiquette for parents rule No. 9: "Respect each other's turf.")
Normally, when faced with a situation as you describe, I suggest that people do the best they can to shift how they think about the ex. Refer to them as "Jared's mother" or "Jenna's father" rather than "my ex" or "my husband's ex." It's amazing how that shift depersonalizes all the animosity and changes one's perspective. However, you're saying the kids don't make you happy either, so seeing her as the mother of some kids you regard as spoiled and running the show probably just makes matters worse. Truth is, if the kids are running the show, it's because their parents are not on the same page. That's not surprising if things are as your say.
Bottom line: It sounds as if you simply moved too fast. You weren't over your ex, (you know exactly how many years and months it's been since the breakup) and you found someone who took your mind off the pain of his running off with another woman. But, in your haste to move on, you and your current husband didn't prepare for how you would properly combine your families. You were seriously disappointed. Your ex calls, says whatever he said to you, and you're thinking, "Oh my gosh, I hate this life, I want to go home."
But, before you bail on a guy with children, remember that your ex is an ex for a reason. He was a cheater. When he calls you and tells you he wants you back, he's calling someone else's wife. It doesn't sound like he's changed much. Ex-etiquette for parents rule No. 8 is" "Be honest and straightforward." That is true for your ex, of course, but more important, it starts with being honest with yourself.
(Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of "Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation," and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Email her at the Ex-Etiquette website www.exetiquette.com at firstname.lastname@example.org.)