Holiday Party Custody Battles

by admin on December 10, 2012

Today’s blog post is unusual in that we get to read both sides of this dilemma at the same time.   I did edit these two submissions to change the names of all involved for consistency between the two.

Story one:

I met Phil about 9 years ago when I started working at my current job. He works in a different department and is older than me but was good friends with my cube-mate and I thought he was funny. We became really good friends over the years and, when his wife divorced him our friendship grew even more and we are now engaged to be married. Because of how some people think that our relationship started, which isn’t true, we’ve lost some friends but gained some other really good ones.

Phil’s ex and I do not speak, at all, unless we have to. She calls me as ‘the mistress’ in conversation with Phil, just to get him upset. I will admit that she doesn’t say anything bad about us to their two kids, so that’s something. And she and Phil work very hard to be friendly when the kids are around, which is something else.

Two weeks ago, really good friends of ours had a holiday party. They wanted to have it early enough that people would be able to come, so they scheduled it for the weekend after Thanksgiving. Phil and I had custody of his two kids that weekend and our friends told us to bring them, so we did.

We had been there for a while and the kids were playing in another room when Phil’s ex-wife walked into the house!!!! It turns out that she is dating our friend’s step-brother and he brought her with him to meet the family. The kids knew, IMMEDIATELY, that their mother was there and kept making comments about how nice it was that all of us were in the same place for once, which was cute and sort of painful, at the same time. The ex said hello to Phil and I when she walked in, even taking the time to hug my fiance. Then she obviously avoided talking to us from that point forward, moving from room to room to stay away from us. It was awkward and awful when it should have been fun just because she was there.

After everyone ate, I went in to help my friend with the dishes only to find the ex standing at the sink, chatting with some people in the kitchen, including her new boyfriend. I went over and offered to help, instead, thinking that I would get to spend some time with my friends, finally, as she was sure to leave the room. Instead, she sat down at the table and continued to talk to them all while I stood at the sink washing dishes.

Then, our youngest child came into the kitchen and he was excited. He ran past me and to his mother, saying something about his older brother and trying to pull her out of the room. While I tried to get him to calm down and tell me what was going on, the ex snuck out a different door and down the hall to where the kids were to find out for herself. The older boy had cut his arm on a toy and needed a band-aid, but she looked so panicked that Phil went with her while I held onto the younger child, Little Guy. Then, Little Guy decided to throw a tantrum, probably because his mother was there, and Phil had to come help me calm him down. Once he got a band-aid, the older child decided to come out and do a bit of yelling, as well, and then finally Mommy swooped in like a hero, calmed everyone down and then refused to speak to me, at all. She and her date left right after that.

After that, the kids were cranky, and the party was sort of over, so Phil and I packed up and left, too. I felt so bad for my friends that their party was ruined! After discussing it, Phil and I decided that he needed to stand up to her and explain that the polite thing would have been for her to have left, once she realized that we were already there as invited guests, to avoid the sort of mess that happened. Of course, when he did that, she told him that I was the one that was immature and impolite and refused to acknowledge that he was right.

In the future, any gatherings that we have with that particular couple, I am going to ask first if his brother and the ex are going to be there and, if they are, I’m going to sadly decline the invitation or ask them to only invite us to things where they won’t be.

(You might get a letter from the ex, too. Phil told her that I was going to ask you for your opinion and she said she couldn’t wait to see it and that she might give you her version, too, so that you could ‘properly decide’.)   1204-12

And now the ex wife’s side of the story:

Background: My ex, Phil, and I have been divorced for more than 3 years. He has been in a relationship with another woman, Melanie, for 6 years. Yes, there is some causality there.

Our relationship is civil, even friendly, when dealing with matters relating to our two beautiful children. Melanie does not speak to me, at all, and Phil does an admirable job of never putting us on the same patch of land if it can be avoided. Of course, the 2 or 3 times that it couldn’t be avoided, she dedicated herself to the task of making sure that everyone in the room, including the kids, knew that he belongs to HER, now, which is silly and defensive and completely understandable. Trust issues abound.

In the years since our divorce, Phil has explained our split to family and friends as me being “controlling” because I wanted to “choose his friends”, notably, Melanie. The list of things that he says that I am guilty of is long and odd and has no actual basis in reality and all serve as an excuse, in his eyes, for him to have engaged in his extramarital “friendship”. His family, of whom I was and am very fond, were initially stuck in the middle but, over time have, of course, stayed on his side of the “fence”, so to speak, which is also completely understandable. When I see them, we are all very cordial with one another but there is no communication outside of the occasional holiday drop off or chance meeting in the grocery store. I have no idea what they ACTUALLY think of the whole situation and tend to think that they believe him, which is out of my control.

End of background.

I recently began dating an extremely lovely gentleman by the name of Richard Irish (his last name becomes important later). Richard, himself, comes from a blended family, twice over, and has sisters and brothers and step-brothers and a half sister. He speaks of them all often and glowingly and I had been looking forward to meeting them. Initially, as we are both divorced, we took things quite slowly and spent our limited time together getting to know one another and adventuring together, just the two of us. Last month, we decided to take the “this is getting serious” plunge and introduce one another to our children, which went better than we could have even hoped for. The kids are all similar ages and had a great time playing games, running around and telling stories about Mom and Dad.

With the holidays upon us, we each have a bunch of invitations to answer both personally and professionally. The weekend after Thanksgiving, he had been invited to one of his brothers’ homes for a family get together and asked me if I would join him which, of course, I did. We arrived at his brother’s house at the same time as his sister and another brother and introductions were made in front of the house. His brother is employed in sales and is one of those fellows that immediately offers his hand and full name in greeting. Upon hearing his (step)brother’s name, John Italian, I had a little mental start as his last name is not only not the same as Richard’s, which was to be expected, but it’s also not a very common name and one I know well as a good friend and colleague of Phil and Melanie’s has the same, uncommon last name.

I shrugged the possibility off as both unlikely and unimportant and we continued into the house to meet the rest of Richard’s large family. Coats and hellos and the dog barking as we walked in and suddenly there was a small person wrapped around my legs. My younger son, 8 years old, was there!! I turned around, baffled, and came face to face with my older son, 10 years old, as well! Richard looked as confused as I did, until I saw that his (step)brother, John Italian was, indeed, the same person who is close, personal friends with my ex-husband and his fiancé. This party was at John’s house and he had invited Phil and Melanie and the kids, not knowing, at all, that there was any connection between them and Richard’s new girlfriend.

We said our hellos and Phil and I exchanged an ironic look and an awkward hug and then endeavored to give each other a wide berth for the remainder of the afternoon. I asked Richard, early on, if I should, perhaps, bow out and he wouldn’t hear of it. I had a lovely time with Richard’s entire family and loved the fact that my own kids were there, as well, to show them off a little bit. John and I ended up in the kitchen for a bit, talking, as he had some concerns about me dating his brother considering some of the things that he had heard about me from Melanie. I told him that there were three sides to every story and that I would be happy to talk to him about anything that he wanted to talk about, but I wondered if that moment was the right one and he agreed so we made a date for coffee later in the week. Shortly thereafter, Melanie came into the kitchen to get something and saw me helping John’s wife do the dishes while a few of us chatted. She came over to the sink and, without a word, took the sponge from my hand and told me that it was “her turn” to hang with her “dearest friends on the planet”. Not wanting to cause a scene, I wiped my hands, backed away from the sink and started to leave the room. John and Richard, sitting at the table, immediately made room for me there and asked me to sit down with them so that they could finish their story, so I did. Several times, Melanie went out of her way to lean over or around me, awkwardly. I said nothing about it, made no faces – I HATE scenes and I ESPECIALLY hated the idea of THIS scene in THIS place with THESE people.

My little guy came running breathlessly into the kitchen at this point yelling, “Mommy! Mommy!” I stood up and he started to speak at warp speed about his brother and a cut while pulling me out of the kitchen. As he passed behind Melanie, she stepped back from the sink, grabbed his hand from mine and told me, “I’ll take care of it, they’re on my time, now. Sit.” He told her that he wanted Mommy to fix it and tried to pull away from her. She knelt down and started to give him a speech about the difference between ‘Mommy Time’ and ‘Daddy and Melanie Time’, while all that I could think about was “his brother and a cut” so I stepped out of the kitchen through another door and went in search of my older son. As I passed by Phil, he saw the look on my face and asked what was wrong and I told him and we both ventured to the playroom where the kids were playing games to find Big Guy sitting there with a fairly large cut on his forearm, bleeding heavily, having fallen back on a toy with a sharp edge. At this point, I could hear Little Guy having a meltdown in the kitchen and, as Big Guy wanted me to fix his cut, Phil squeezed my arm and told me that he would handle Little Guy and left the room.

There was quite a brouhaha in the kitchen while I was in the bathroom and John’s wife came in to check on us, practically in tears about the wound. I told her to please not worry about the cut, it happens, little boys roughhouse, it wasn’t mortal and she shouldn’t feel so bad. Upon finishing up in the bathroom, though, she wouldn’t let me leave as we could still hear raised voices in the kitchen. Melanie, evidently, insisted to Little Guy that when he’s on ‘Daddy and Melanie Time’ that he can ONLY ask them for help, no matter who else is around and he has to let only them handle it. Little Guy told her that he wanted Mommy to help because Mommy was the best at fixing cuts. They both insisted on their own point of view and Richard, John and Phil all had to get involved to convince Melanie to back off and let Little Guy go. The continued raised voices in the kitchen were, evidently, a new tirade about the inappropriateness of me being present at the party, me butting in on her and Phil’s time, me swooping in to rescue a situation that they were perfectly capable of handling, etc. I stood patiently in the bathroom with John’s wife, waiting for the argument to end. It was the first time that I heard, first hand, exactly how awful and horrible a person I am and have been for years and years. I was hoping against hope that my kids were too engaged, again, to be listening to it, in any case. John’s wife just held my hand and patted my arm and apologized every few minutes.

And then Big Guy was heard, in the kitchen, telling Melanie that if she didn’t have anything nice to say that she shouldn’t say anything at all and that she absolutely wasn’t allowed to say bad things about Mommy when Mommy didn’t do anything wrong. Little Guy followed that up with, “You’re a bad, bad lady!”

I finally exited the bathroom, at that point, against John’s wife’s protest. I sat down on the floor between my two boys and did my best to explain that everyone just wants to take care of them and do the best thing for them and we were scared about Big Guy’s cut so everyone got a little bit crazy and we needed to calm down, say we’re sorry and move on. I was SEETHING inside but letting the boys know that wasn’t going to help anything, at all, at that point. Phil pushed Melanie to apologize and I encouraged the boys to accept it and everyone moved off into their own corners, not feeling at all better but having given it a go.

I looked at Richard and asked him if we could leave and he went to gather our coats. Phil was murmuring to Melanie and she finally looked at me to say something. I put my hand up and told her that I was meeting all of these folks for the first time and my kids were there and I did not trust myself not to make a scene right then and there, so I would prefer to leave without any further conversation between us. She responded that they were her kids, too, now and I was going to have to learn to deal with that. Richard wrapped my coat around my shoulders, turned me around and we left before I tried to kill her or said another word.

The next evening, when bringing the boys back to me, Phil asked why I had stayed when I knew that it would cause so much turmoil. I told him that I stayed because I was hoping that my relationship with this man who was actually RELATED to the other people at the party was actually going somewhere and because I presumed, 3-6 years later, that the three of us could be adults and there would be no turmoil and because, once I walked in, had I walked back out, the boys would have been disappointed and asked a thousand questions that no one wants to answer yet. He told me that it would have been easier if I had just left and let Richard enjoy the party with them. I told him that he was entitled to his opinion.

This is long enough, so suffice it to say that there has been more discussion about it, since then, with the boys and while they are still a bit cool to Melanie, they are no longer demanding that she not be around. Richard and I are doing well and John and I had a lovely coffee.

Should I have left as soon as I realized the awkward circumstances? Phil still insists that that’s the only way to avoid this situation in the future, should it ever come up again. I told him that I left HIM for that reason and that his fiancée needs to grow up. 1204-12

Isn’t it fascinating to actually hear both sides of a dilemma?  This unique situation did confirm to me that it is possible to get to the nitty gritty issues without ever hearing the other side,  however.  I had already reached conclusions and my opinion based solely on the first submission I had received which was the stepmom, Melanie’s story.   Receiving the ex-wife’s submission merely confirmed my initial thoughts.   So here goes….

There are three major rules in play in this situation.

1.  Children are never, ever, EVER to be used as pawns in adult games and conflicts.  There are no caveats to this, no exemptions.  You don’t hide behind the children, don’t use them to be your mouthpiece, don’t manipulate them in order to achieve control over another adult, you don’t draw them into the fray as an ally, and the list goes on.   Children should never be used as the “battleground” over which adults choose to fight.

2.  One question often repeated by me on this site and one I believe everyone should be use to assess motivations is, “Who is being served by this?”  A lot of etiquette dilemmas could be avoided if people thought to ask this question of themselves.  If you are serving your own agendas, you are probably wading into dire Etiquette Hell straits and need to back out before you really screw it up.

3.   The third rule deals specifically with hospitality so I’ll save that for a little later.

Stepmom Melanie admits that Ex-wife/Mom, “doesn’t say anything bad about us to their two kids”, which is far more decent than most divorced parents.  Ex-wife/Mom is serving her kids, and indirectly her ex-husband and his fiancee, by not poisoning their minds to serve her own agenda.  Whether they trust and fall in love with their soon-to-be step mom will rise or fall solely on Stepmom’s own behavior.

The children became the battleground when Stepmom Melanie initiated an “avoidable mess” regarding the ADULT issue of how children are to be shared by literally restraining Little Guy from getting help from his primary caregiver, his mother.   Moms in general are the more nurturing parent and it stands to reason that if something is amiss, a child will go to the parent that has the most input in their lives which in this case is Ex-wife/Mom.  If we ask the question, “Who is being served?”, of this situation, clearly the child is being served when he seeks comfort and help from his primary parent.   Stepmom Melanie betrayed her own agenda to serve herself when she turned a minor crisis into an opportunity to enforce her fiance’s custody of his children.  If you had backed away and let Mom and Dad handle the problem, all would have been over within 10 minutes with peace reigning in the host’s house.   There was a whole lot of adult drama and angst about a few minutes of parental custody “vagueness” in the midst of a minor emergency that was completely unnecessary.

I am somewhat baffled as to how Stepmom/Melanie can call Little Guy and Big Guy “ours” when it is highly unlikely the judge awarded shared custody to a mother and father and his fiancee.   Bearing the title of “fiancee” or even “wife” does not bestow upon a person the rights and privileges of having a child’s trust and affection.  It is completely unrealistic to believe that a child, in a situation he considers an emergency, should not go directly to his mother but rather mentally remember which parent has legal custody at the moment and choose that parent.  In other words Melanie, you took up your fiance’s offense about custody issues and in the world of etiquette there isn’t a whole lot of grace extended to you.   You will have a happier future marriage and relationship with your stepkids and even their mother if you fade into the background on these matters.  If Phil is not willing to address custody issues he may have with his wife or chooses to not address it in the midst of a crisis, you are not helping matters being his mouthpiece.   Step back and think, “Who is being served”?, and if the answer is, “The children are best being serving”, you won’t go wrong.

A warning to Ex-wife/Mom.  I noticed how, in this story, you used the children as your mouthpiece to really drive home the point of how poorly you view Melanie.   The kids may have said as you reported and believe Melanie to be a wicked witch but they are still too young to understand the consequences of their words and you reporting their behavior to others exposes their indiscretions and does plant in listeners’ minds a picture that you may think is unflattering to Melanie but I would also council is unflattering to your kids and you.   I sincerely hope you are not doing this in real life as this would be an example of misusing children as allies in an adult conflict.

And finally, to the issue of hospitality and shared custody…

A host decides who he or she would like to invite into their home or wedding or any other function they happen to be hosting.  A guest has no business whatsoever influencing the guest list or adding to it or working surreptitiously behind the scenes to discourage other guests from attending.   If you feel you cannot be civil for a few hours, then by all means YOU decline the invitation.   Here on Ehell, we are all about taking responsibility for your own actions since one cannot be responsible nor change the actions of others.  Calling the host to imply an ultimatum that its either you or the other guest is beyond rude and again, serves who?   You!   You’ve put the host in the incredibly awkward position of having to take sides in your stupid divorce wars all because you cannot grow up and learn to act like civil adults.   The host’s home, or where it is they have chosen to host their shindig, is neutral ground in the personal wars.   Truces must be made and kept, peace accords honored on neutral ground.  That means you learn to act like civil, decent, respectable guests in your host’s home.  There is a time and place for serious discussions and a holiday party is not one of them.

My father divorced my mother long after the kids had grown and left home but he was a true gentleman who behaved with utmost decorum and civility on the occasions where he and Mom were in attendance at family functions.   I still remember with fondness the memory of he and Mom dancing together at my niece’s wedding as they both put aside any differences they had to make the wedding all about their granddaughter.  They talked pleasantly and even laughed a few times during the dance and afterwards went to their separate tables.   My Dad never behaved in a way that encouraged the taking of sides in the divorce and to this day, I consider that a gift.  What is the legacy you are leaving your children? What memories are you giving your children?

Should Ex-Wife have left when she realized her ex-husband and his fiancee were also at the party?   Hospitality is not a game wherein the first guest to arrive stakes out his/her territory and the spouse that arrives later loses and must leave.   Again, this is using the host’s home as a battleground and what will result is a perpetual contest to see who can get to a party first.    The decision as to whether to stay or leave lies solely with the person who believes he/she themselves cannot or will not behave civilly.   There are always caveats to certain rules and I can imagine there are situations where the other guest will, no doubt, make a scene thus compelling you to leave for the peace of all.  But if one acts with maturity, civility and graciousness in these situations, it becomes glaringly obvious which guest is the real troublemaking dramatist and one has to believe that their invitations will dry up while yours increase.   As a frequent hostess, you best believe I would “catch on” as to who was actually the instigator of the drama and boot them from future guests lists.

So, Phil, if you believe you or your fiancee cannot behave in a civil, respectful manner in your host’s home while your ex-wife is in attendance, then by all means please decline the invitation or leave.  It is completely unacceptable to suggest that Ex-wife’s date, Richard, can stay at the party while she must depart.  Why not you stay and Melanie goes home?    Both women have acknowledged that you and Ex-wife work hard to be civil for the sake of the children and the logical conclusion I reach is that Melanie is the dramatic fly in the ointment.    I’m going to be even harsher than your ex-wife and counsel you to consider whether you are concerned by the fact that your youngest son got used in some stupid tug of war over custody by Melanie that had more to do about her insecurities than concern for the child.   I have no idea if this has been a pattern of behavior or if it is the first time but if this type of behavior continues, you have a serious dilemma on your hands.   Because your children’s wellbeing and their relationships with you may be sacrificed on the altar of someone else’s agendas, ego and self-esteem and that would be a tragedy.

Btw, the commentary section of this blog post will not be used as another battleground between the two parties.

{ 163 comments… read them below or add one }

Mariam67 December 10, 2012 at 3:26 am

The first thing that bugged me was Melanie saying ex-wife should have left when she saw they were there. Why? She was invited too.

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Damn Yankee December 10, 2012 at 3:54 am

I hope for your sakes that the kids are too young to really retain what’s going on. I remember my parents having it out at a band concert in upper elementary, and I still, to this day, recall it as one of the most mortifying experience of my life. That stuff sticks with a kid, and when you’re yelling at them about manners, it doesn’t really give you a leg to stand on.

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Marozia December 10, 2012 at 4:16 am

You all deserve each other. You all put yourselves in this position and I don’t feel sorry for you at all. Obviously acting like ‘adults’ didn’t help the situation. Melanie & Phil, next time you are invited, check to see if ex-wife & friend are going to be there and then you either have the option to back out or make an excuse not to go.
Ex-wife & friend, if you are going, the same thing, back out/make excuse not to go.
I have a feeling these ‘friends’ are making things worse, too, as they know your histories. Not only that, the children are picking up on this and playing you both off. DON’T BE MANIPULATED.
Goodness sake, you are all relatively intelligent people. Stop letting this happen!!!!

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sv December 10, 2012 at 4:52 am

Melanie – “Our youngest child”? I have no doubt that you love your fiancee’s children, but they belong to him and his ex wife whether you like it or not. Although you will undoubtedly be a major force in their lives the ex wife is their mother, and will always be their mother. You will win no love and affection from them by forcing them to choosee between the two of you, no matter who’s custody time it is.

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Corlia December 10, 2012 at 5:38 am

Etiquette wise I agree with Admin, but let me be honest Melanie. If it was me you physically restrained my little child from when he/she is crying for me; the momma bear in me would’ve made me want to punch you. Having ‘custody’ does not make you the mother even if she wasn’t supposed to be there.

It does not seem that Melanie are in touch with the children at all. Are you ‘parenting’ and nurturing the children or just demanding respect and obedience? Do you know anything about bonding? Resentment from the children are natural, no matter how your relationship with their father started and I see no empathy from your actions.

To the mother, keep faith that things can get better. Please try not to keep stock of what the children are saying about Melanie or use it against her. Also do not be afraid to take your children for counselling if you see that they are not handling it well. It will give them tools to handle situations that seem unfair. God bless.

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Margo December 10, 2012 at 5:42 am

Mariam – that got me, too. Why should ex-wife have left? She was a guest just as much as Phil & Melanie were, and if Phil or Melanie couldn’t cope with being in the house if she was there, they had the option of making a discreet exit themselves (giving their apologies, and a reason unconnected with ex-wife’s presence, to their hosts)

I disagree slightly with Admin’s comments about Melanie calling the children ‘ours’ and the issues over who is, or isn’t the main caregiver – families are complex and step-parents can be just as important as blood-relations, but given that ‘Melanie’ *herself* says “youngest child […] ran past me and to his mother, saying something about his older brother and trying to pull her out of the room. While I tried to get him to calm down and tell me what was going on..” it’s clear that on this occasion, the child went to his mother, and there was absolutely no reason why she could not have let his mother deal with it.

I think regarding this specific incident, Melanie is wrong and Ex-Wife is right. Also, If it is correct hat Melanie tried to lay down the law about whether the children with with her & Phil or with Mom that day, that was also inappropriate. The kids had made it clear they thought it was nice having both their parents in the same place for one, the adult thing to do would have been for all 3 grown-ups involved to have been civil to one another.

It sounds as though Melanie deliberately chose to go into the kitchen and put herself into group where ex-wife already was – and then to expect ex-wife to leave. I think this is the same as the original arrival – if *Melanie* didn’t want to be in the same room / at the same party as ex, she could chose to leave. She doesn’t get to run Ex-Wife out of the room/party.

However, if it is true that Ex-Wife refers to Melanie as “The Mistress” to her ex husband (or anyone else) she is also in the wrong. However, that is the only thing which I can see that ExWife has done wrong (and I wonder, in context, whether that is a current thing, or whether it’s something which happened once or twice when the separation was in its early days…)

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b December 10, 2012 at 5:57 am

This just reminds me that memories are more determined by beliefs and emotions than most people think…

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Tasryn December 10, 2012 at 6:09 am

Am I the only one that felt a bit sorry for Melanie in this story? I was a bit put off by the bitter ex wife’s description of Melanie’s relationship with Phil. The whole subtext of it was “Slut!”. The ex feels bitter about an affair that may never have taken place and although it’s claimed that she isn’t poisoning her kids view of Melanie, her tone suggests otherwise. Also, I get a distinct impression that a few of the lost friends Melanie refers to may have something to do with the ex wife. Did Melanie overstep by preventing the child from going to his mom? Absolutely. Should the ex wife be forced to leave because Melanie was there? No, of course not. But I really did not like the tone of the admin’s response. She even suggested that Melanie leave the event so Phil and his ex could remain at the event. Doesn’t the admin get that Melanie’s whole insecurity stems from the fact that because of how her relationship with Phil started that people don’t feel like her relationship is legitimate? Her leaving the party would only exacerbate that situation. Why should Melanie have to leave her fiance’s side? She is in a relationship with him so why should she have to leave social gatherings and pretend like she isn’t with him? Also, why chastise her about calling the kids her kids. I think it’s wonderful she feels a sense of responsibility for them and that is more important than legal arrangements. Yes the kids in turn do not have to feel she is a mother in any way to them. But there is nothing wrong with her thinking of them as at least partly her children if she is involved in raising them while they are with her and Phil. Admin’s whole attitude toward Melanie is absolutely tone deaf. Melanie was wrong to try to assert Phil’s parenthood rights over the child when he wanted his mother and she would have been wise to step back and allow the parents to sort that situation out. But chastising her for being a parent to these children when they live with her (therefore they are her kids) and telling her she should leave events to make other people feel better is just plain wrong.

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Not Amused December 10, 2012 at 6:45 am

Melanie needs to understand that she will NEVER take the place of mother to those children. She has got to stop assuming that she has a right to push her way into the position of “Mom” just because she has a relationship with their father. She does, however, have the chance of becoming a beloved friend and mentor to them if she would stop being so selfish. She held a small child back from his momma when he was upset and worried because it was her “turn” at custody?!! Who does that?

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David December 10, 2012 at 7:06 am

The admin is spot on. No one but Richard comes out of this smelling like a rose.

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postalslave December 10, 2012 at 7:13 am

I find it hard to take either side at face value. Obviously both parties have their own agendas. I wish there was a third party account of what happened. I have a feeling that story would be far different than both stories shared today.

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delislice December 10, 2012 at 7:15 am

Wow. I gotta say, my sympathies are with the ex on this one, largely because of Melanie’s behavior. Melanie decided it was all about her when the ex wouldn’t leave the kitchen… and, far worse, Melanie pitched a fit about the kids going to _their mom_ with an injury.

“This is Daddy and Melanie time, so only Daddy and Melanie can tend to your injury”?

Really?

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Mel December 10, 2012 at 7:16 am

When I was reading the first letter, I was quite struck by how defensive the letter writer sounded. I picked up on some unnecessary angst over the washing of dishes and sharing of space. Then I read the second letter and was completely appalled by how Melanie was more concerned about custody than a bleeding older child. If my younger child told me about a bleeding sibling, I know my mind would be conjuring up all sorts of disaster. I would not be able to sit there and think of how Melanie would be upset about custody time. My first priority would be to assess the severity of the injury, kiss the boy and make it go away.

Melanie, if you are reading this, please, please get some help for your insecurities. Do not project it onto the Ex, or your partner, or, worse, the kids. I do not see why you would use the words “snuck out a different door” unless you were thinking that the Ex is not allowed to see her oldest injured child because it was “your” time. This is completely and utterly unreasonable. No sane and caring mother will ignore her injured child. No one is questioning your ability to care for these kids. This is not about you. This was about her precious son who is bleeding in some part of the house, and another precious child who is crying because he is scared and upset that his brother is hurt.

And why ahould she have to leave the party because you are there to avoid all the unnecesary conflict? Honestly, I think some part of you actually wanted some drama to let off your insecurities and rationalise your dislike for her.

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Lo December 10, 2012 at 8:10 am

Honestly the bit that bothered me the most in terms of etiquette:

“John and I ended up in the kitchen for a bit, talking, as he had some concerns about me dating his brother considering some of the things that he had heard about me from Melanie.”

Minor credit to John for being upfront about his biased opinion but wouldn’t it have been better simply not to take another person’s word for something if they’re spreading rumours about someone else? What gives him the right to call you out for a “talk” about it? Why not just let him get to know you and see that you’re not the person you’ve been made out to be? You don’t owe him a chat over coffee to allay his fears. He shouldn’t be listening to gossip in the first place. This bothered me so much. It’s one thing to warn someone that someone is spreading malicious rumours about them once you’ve gotten to know them and quite another to immediately voice your “concerns” to someone you’ve just met about their behaviour based only on someone else’s opinion.

Since you both sent a story in with the purpose of figuring out who was “right” I asssume you’re reading this so here’s my two cents. Therapy is wonderful. Third party mediation is wonderful. You all need to find someone who will sit down and talk to the three of you, an objective professional who will help you to figure out boundaries for the benefit of all parties and, most importantly, the kids. If the three of you can get into a room and leave your baggage at the door long enough to talk about this like civilized adults you will be able to communicate with minimal drama so each person can get their needs met and feel more comfortable should this situation ever arise again. Miscommunication accounts for the majority of the problems in this story.

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Bint December 10, 2012 at 8:10 am

I can’t believe Melanie thought the kid shouldn’t have gone to his mother! And ‘ours? She isn’t a stepparent, she’s their father’s fiancee. Her nerve lost her any sympathy whatsoever, and the idea the ex-wife should leave because she was there is unbelievable. ‘She should have left the room’! Why on earth should she do any such thing? How dare you?

Nobody is perfect in this but the girlfriend comes off worst.

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--Lia December 10, 2012 at 8:19 am

The admin has done such a good job of covering the issues that I won’t repeat what she’s said. I will note that both LWs seem to think that whether or not Melanie was the cause of the divorce is important. It’s not. Well, I’m sure it was at the time, and I’m not condoning cheating, but that’s a lot more than an etiquette issue. My point is that Melanie makes a big deal out of starting her letter with the notice that she and Phil were just friends before the divorce and that their friendship grew into a romantic relationship after it. The mother makes a big deal out of starting her letter with the notice that Phil and Melanie were in a relationship 3 years before the divorce. She uses the term “causality.” It’s as though Melanie thinks that the fact that she was blameless in the divorce then makes her right now. The mother thinks that because Melanie was the “other woman” then makes her at fault now. All that’s really irrelevant to how they treat each other at parties.

I also note the difference in whether the boy’s injury was a tiny scratch that needed a band-aid or a cut that was bleeding heavily. Hey, when you’re 8-10 years old, you don’t have much sense about what’s serious and what’s not. At that age, everything is an emergency. Note to Melanie: Look up the difference between “deciding to throw a tantrum” and a little kid crying out of reaction to frustration and stress.

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Melissa December 10, 2012 at 8:32 am

I think Admin had it spot on and I also drew the same conclusions from the first letter without reading the ex-wife’s side of the story. I think Melanie needs to calm down and stop trying to cause dramatic flare ups. A lot of times, perception is reality. If many people (the friends they lost over their relationship) and the ex-wife all believe the relationship to have begun prior to the divorce, they may have a point.

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Mary December 10, 2012 at 8:36 am

I have a feeling that both sides are twisting the truth of the situation. For example, I really don’t think that Melanie forcibly removed the sponge from ex’s hand but I am sure that it didn’t happen exactly as Melanie put it.
Personally I don’t believe either version and think that the real story is s combination of both stories.

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Roslyn December 10, 2012 at 8:40 am

I think above all these stories remind us that no matter how we feel we behave, there is another version seen by another person’s perspective.

Even if we think we are doing the right thing the other person thinks we are a snotty, evil bitch.

Wow. The new fiance left a LOT out of the story, she was definitely swinging it her way. She had better go into this new relationship knowing that she M*U*S*T include the ex-wife, his family and the children and behave accordingly. Just because you are the new Mrs. So-in-So does not mean that the first Mrs. So-in-So no longer exists. It is now up to you to support and encourage the healthy relationship with the children’s father and their mother as well. Even if you have to eat your words and step back, do what is right for the kids. Period.

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Sarah December 10, 2012 at 8:40 am

I am not a violent person. I’ve bit my tongue and held my temper in incredibly difficult situations. If someone EVER pulled my upset kid away from me and implied that I couldn’t help because it wasn’t my time or something stupid like that, I’d really have to fight to keep from slapping them across the face and rescuing my child from their stupidity. I’d try, since that’s not a good example, but that impulse would be there. This doesn’t include, of course, a teacher, daycare provider, or grandparent trying to distract my kid so I can leave. This is someone telling my upset kid that he can’t get help from him mom.

Melanie, a better way to handle this would be to say, “Here Little Man, are you okay? Why don’t you stay here for a cuddle (or for a snack if the kid was past cuddle age), so your mom and your dad can go help your brother?” Calm him down, let him know that the other adults are going to help his brother, tell him he was good and brave to run for help… THAT’S how you bond and make a kid want to come to you.

Oh, and this situation shouldn’t have caused drama and ruined a party. Kids will have tantrums. Kids will get cuts. Neither of those things will ruin a party. Adults yelling at each other and putting unfair pressure on the kids? THAT will.

And it is completely unreasonable to expect a parent not to respond when a child is hurt. You say you care about these two boys. If you saw one fall when it wasn’t “your” time (really, your husbands, but we’ll move on) and the boy scraped his knee, would you try to comfort him, or would you say “tough luck, it’s not my time”? If a child you care about is hurt, you respond, even if it isn’t your custody time.

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Cat December 10, 2012 at 8:44 am

I have two words for all these people-grow up! You were married and had two children. It didn’t work out between you two and you have both found someone else to be happy with in life. Fine.
You are having your own little civil war and the battlefield you have chosen is your children. They may grow up hating all of you if you don’t learn to play nicely together.
You get to be at the same party at the same time. Greet each other, enjoy yourselves, and be cordial when you happen to meet in groups.
Kid gets hurt-Mom tends to emotional side and Fiance goes and gets a band-aide. Learn to work together where the children are concerned. One woman taking the kids hand’s and the other taking his feet and both pulling in opposite directions is not the way to handle it.
It doesn’t matter who did what to whom in the past. You don’t get to call each other names or to bully one another now or in the future. The marriage is over. This “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” business is going to leave you all blind and toothless.

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Saucygirl December 10, 2012 at 8:59 am

Phil, I hope you really think about admins caution of the type of person Melanie is and hers and yours relationship with your kids. My father married a Melanie – his wife can’t be in a room with my mom without causing a scene. The stories I could tell about the events she has ruined with her theatrics! Including at my sisters wedding were she screamed at my dad, my sister (the bride) and others when my sister had the “nerve” to want a picture of herself at her wedding with her parents. And as we got her older her jealousy of us and the time spent with us started. Her behaviour is truly ghastly, and his letting her get away with it (as you are phil, by even entertaining the thought that you should have “ownership” of this couple and their party) has really effected our relationship and my respect for him. They have been married 25+ years and I haven’t spoken to her for the last thirteen of them. Which means he hasn’t spent a holiday or any decent time with me, and now his granddaughter. Your kids are young now, and your exwife and you can still insist on apologies and making them spend time with you. But they know what is happening, they are forming opinions, and in a few very short years, they will have control of how they want their relationship with you and Melanie to be. So if you want a good one with them, you need to stop the drama and the crazy, either by standing up to Melanie when she is clearly in the wrong, or by walking away from her. Good luck! It is not a fun position to be in. But losing your kids will be a much worse position.

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clairedelune December 10, 2012 at 9:11 am

Could not agree more with Admin, and especially wish to say, re: point 3 (about hospitality), that this is what bothered me most about Melanie’s side of the story–I can’t imagine why the ex-wife should have felt the slightest obligation to leave the party, rather than Melanie and Phil realizing that they should be able to be under the same roof as ex-wife without everyone melting down completely.

One thing that did bother me re: ex-wife was bit about this coffee date with Richard’s brother, John. Why is John presuming to vet his adult brother’s relationships, why is ex-wife playing along with this request to justify herself to him, and what was going to be accomplished at this coffee date outside of passing along her version of a private story, and stoking the fires of gossip?

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Huh December 10, 2012 at 9:16 am

I’m both an ex-wife and a fiancee with a stepkid. (And one side of the stories sounds a bit like my situation.) And I have a lot of friends that are dealing with the issue of blended families as well.

I really think that if you are in a situation where both biological parents are in attendance, then biological parents take presidence. Not to say that if child is crying/bleeding out in front of you, you ignore them and tell them to go find their mom/dad, but if they are yelling for Mom/Dad and they are right there, then Mom/Dad attends to them. Think of it like this: You are at the playground with a friend and their child. Their child falls down in front of the both of you and scuffs their knee and starts crying. It would be odd if YOU swooped in there and comforted them and their own parent is sitting right there!

In both tellings of the story, the kid bypassed stepmom and went for mom. Sorry stepmom, you are NOT needed at that moment. Frankly, if one of my kids got hurt and the other kid was trying to pull me out of the room to attend to them and MY FIANCE was trying to take over, he and I would be having a VERY frank discussion later.

Trying to insist that either ex not be there if the other side is invited, is insanely CHILDISH. All I can say to that, to BOTH sides, is SUCK IT UP. Be a man/woman and act like an adult. You don’t have to chat with each other and be best friends, just be polite.

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Rap December 10, 2012 at 9:28 am

Eh, I’m not ready to paint the ex wife as mostly innocent. Forgive me but the whole rigamorale about how she had plenty of dirt to tell stepbrother John about Melissa but would wait until later makes me suspicious that she wasn’t the silent spectator she’s claiming to be.

Also, I’m curious what Phil’s opinion was since the “Daddy and Melanie time” and “Mommy Time” issue is one I’ve heard before – while Ex-Wife’s intentions may genuinely have been innocent (though there’s some hints she knew the potential was there for paths to cross) the way this is described is that Phil is not the custodial parent and only gets to see his kids on assigned weekends. On his assigned weekend to be a parent, he takes his kids to something fun where he and the new partner can be parents and Oh Look Who’s Here – Mommy is “accidently” invading Daddy’s Time. You would be surprised how often these “accidents” happen with some couples.

I’m sure John got a bitter earful at the lovely coffee as well.

My

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Mrs. Lovett December 10, 2012 at 9:29 am

Melanie, as the future step-mother to these children, you will be a major part of their lives, and I’m sure you will be very important to them. I hope you are good to them and that they love you. However, the sooner you accept that you are their step-mother and not their actual mother who raised them from birth and who seems to be their primary custodian, the better your relationship with them and with Phil’s ex will be. If you tried to lecture the children about “your time” and “ex-wife’s time”, that was completely inappropriate and unfair to everyone involved. A distressed child will generally go to a parent for help and comfort, and it was totally natural for Little Guy to go to his mother. He also could very well have gone to Phil. Of the three of you, I’m sorry to say that you, Melanie, will probably be their last choice. It’s probably nothing personal, and you should never take it personally, but their parents have been in their lives for much longer than you have and there is a natural dynamic that’s probably pretty much set in concrete now. It’s time to accept this and live with it, not try to interfere with it. Interfering will probably only cause trust issues and hurt feelings which could damage your relationship with Phil’s kids, and I know you wouldn’t want that.

I also notice an interesting double-standard going on at this party. Melanie feels that ex should have left when she saw Phil and Melanie already at the party, which is not fair. However, when ex is already in a room, helping with dishes and chatting with friends, and Melanie enters after, she still feels that ex should leave. In both cases, no matter who arrives first, Melanie feels she is justified in staying and expects the ex to clear out for Melanie and Phil’s comfort.

I have to agree with admin on all points. I hope all of the adults involved seriously examine their motives and can learn to be civil to each other. I’m definitely not suggesting that everyone needs to be chummy or make efforts to spend time together, but be mature and cordial when you are forced to interact. Remember that because there are kids involved, you will be in each other’s lives forever, so find a way to deal with it by not getting defensive or territorial. I wish all of you the best of luck in your challenging but important relationships with each other.

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livvy17 December 10, 2012 at 9:31 am

@ Melanie – Phil’s kids aren’t yours, unless THEY choose to be. If you insist upon acting more like a power-hungry prison guard, that’s how they are going to see you. If you act like someone who loves them, and wants the best for them, they might start to think of you as a second mother. It’s really up to you.

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Tracy December 10, 2012 at 9:39 am

Neither story rings true to me. I only believe about half of each of them. However, the one thing that is told the same way in both stories is the fact that an upset child ran to his mother for help, and someone else tried to stop him. And that is just plain wrong.

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Elizabeth December 10, 2012 at 9:49 am

Melanie, they are not your children. The reference to ‘our’ is completely inappropriate. Back off and let the parents be the parents.

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Laura Payne December 10, 2012 at 9:51 am

As a mother and a step-parent, I believe it’s quite obvious that Melanie doesn’t have biological children of her own. ANY parent will know that a child will naturally go to their biological mother before their soon-to-be step-mother. Doesn’t mean anything about YOU, and it certainly doesn’t mean you couldn’t handle it on your own, had mom not been there.

As far as Melanie referring to the kids as “ours,” I have said this about my own step-children in situations where we’ve all been together, referring to the entire group (6) as “our children,” as in my husband’s children and my children.

I do hope that all parties involved learn to always keep the children first in every situation.

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Phoebe161 December 10, 2012 at 9:56 am

Admin is so right: NEVER EVER use the kids as weapons! Everyone loses when you do. The kids will figure out on their own if a parent / step-parent is wonderful or horrible (or something in-between) without your help. Grow up, because the kids needs parents (real and step), not adults acting like un-mannered children.

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Abby December 10, 2012 at 9:57 am

I actually didn’t even read the ex wife’s side of the story- because I was appalled enough by Melanie already. If she manages to sound like an entitled jerk while telling her own side of the story, I can’t even imagine how she’ll sound when it’s the ex speaking.

So, basically, Melanie takes issue with her fiance’s ex being at the party, being in the room Melanie wants to be in, and rushing to her child’s aid. Melanie sounds ridiculously selfish, immature, and entitled, and probably has no business being a parent or step parent at this point. My sympathies are with the ex wife. I’d feel sorry for the husband, but hey, you get what you pay for. My advice for him would be to run.

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Amber December 10, 2012 at 9:58 am

I’m with you, admin, on the etiquette of the issue. If everyone had acted like grownups, and left the kids out of the adult issues, the party would have been awkward but acceptable.

But boy, do I wish I had just one more, slightly more neutral point of view. Ex Wife’s description of Melanie is rather disrespectful, and Melanie and Phil’s relationship beginnings wouldn’t be the first time I’ve witnessed friends eventually becoming lovers AFTER a relationship ends, yet still being accused of cheating. And Melanie obviously left out a good portion of the story of the temper tantrum, while also showing some serious insecurities in her own letter about Mom taking charge of the situation.

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Sarah December 10, 2012 at 10:08 am

Tasryn, nope, I don’t feel sorry for Melanie. Yes, insecurity sucks. But the admin didn’t tell her to leave because she was insecure. She said that if Melanie couldn’t be an adult (and expecting the exwife to leave the room or the party, and pulling a kid who wants his mom away from his mom are examples of not being an adult), then she should leave. Melanie’s allowed to feel insecure. She’s allowed to be a bit silly and possesive by giving her husband lots of kisses or clinging to his hand. She’s NOT allowed to assume that the ex-wife will leave the room or the party. She’s not allowed to pull a kid away from his mom and try to handle it, just because mom isn’t “supposed” to be there.

Yup, calling her “the mistress” is wrong. And yes, the ex is clearly not a fan of Melanie’s, and it’s appropriate to let her know that comes across in the letter, and that for the sake of her kids she should watch her tone and actions so as not to make it harder for them. But I absolutely do not feel bad for her. And I do NOT feel she was told to leave events to make hthe other letter writer feel better. The admin said that if the adults couldn’t act like adults during events, then they shouldn’t go, and that the person who left wasn’t chosen based on a “first come” sort of basis. Just from Melanie’s letter, even without the ex-wife’s, I felt like a lot of the issue was from Melanie.

Oh, and the mocking tone about being scared, even though the cut just needed a band-aid? WRONG. Maybe the dad wanted to check in on his kid, even if it just needed a band-aid, even if mom was there. How terrible, he cares so much for his kids that he acts like a parent in the same room as his ex-wife. And how dare a mom be scared and worried before the cut is cleaned up and fully inspected. What a horrible woman. Working with her ex to clean and band-aid a cut and comfort a kid… obviously terrible. That statement got a BIG eye roll from me. Guess what, Melanie– when a kid is hurt, even if it seems mild, you worry until it’s treated. As long as she’s not screaming hysterically and demanding an ambulance for a minor cut, it’s okay. It’s okay for her to ‘look worried’. REALLY. Get over it.

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JustMe December 10, 2012 at 10:08 am

Letters like these & all the posters saying Melanie isn’t a “real” parent are why I tell every young person I know to never, never get into a relationship with a person with children. Go on a few dates, have some wild sex, maybe go on a trip or two but stay away from anything long term. It’s just not worth the hassle.

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MrsK December 10, 2012 at 10:10 am

My mouth just dropped…did she actually try to prevent the child from going to his own mother?? If mom new boyfriend tried to prevent the child from going to his father I am sure there would have been a catastrophic scene!
It sounds like the person who is overly controlling in htis is actually “Melanie”. I dont care who’s custody time it was. She needs to grow up and realize that those children will always love their mother more. Grow up and get over it. Trying to force herself on them is going to get her nowhere. “Melanie” sounds completly insecure, I also noticed that both parties said that she was a “close friend” while he was still married.Well would Melanie be so gung ho about Phil fostering a new close friendhip with another female co worker right now? I dont think so, because she knows what it can lead to. Her insecurity is absolutely coming into play and the children are suffering

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MinnieMouse December 10, 2012 at 10:17 am

As a mother of two boys of my own, I can tell you that even if I left my husband (for whatever reason), and he subsequently got engaged to a woman who was the most loving and nurturing and big-hearted human in the world, and she tried to pull my upset child away from coming to me for help and comfort, there would be some question as to her motives. Furthermore, if that woman later defended her actions by informing me that my babies, who I bore and birthed and raised to that point, were now “hers” as well by virtue of some custody agreement I have with my ex-husband, she probably would have gotten punched in the throat.

I applaud Mom for handling the situation the best way she could by going to care for her older son, and then staying out of the way of the kitchen even though her younger son was clearly becoming increasingly upset. I don’t think I could have stayed out of it for that long. And if I were you, I would have been so proud of my older son standing up to Melanie and teaching her that if she couldn’t say anything nice she shouldn’t say anything at all, and defending you. Despite whatever happened between you and Phil, he has clearly helped to raise his sons to respect and love their mother. Your older son should not have had to step up, but that he did is the sign of a good man in the making.

Melanie, I wish you happiness with your new family, and I hope that you will become a loved and valued member of the parenting team that will be formed for these boys. If you have children of your own one day, maybe then you will understand where you’ve gotten it wrong in this situation. Until then, you can’t go around thinking yourself to be the equal of the boys’ mother in any respect. The fact that you are in their father’s bed, even his heart, doesn’t give you rights to their love or preference over their true mother, not matter whose weekend it is.

And Phil, I get that you have to stand by your woman and you’re juggling a difficult situation. But she’s making you look stupid. Your ex definitely shouldn’t have had to leave the party, and you were silly to go and tell her that.

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Stacey Frith-Smith December 10, 2012 at 10:20 am

Perhaps the drama that unfolded is the result of many bad made by the adults along the way. The history of the relationship between Phil and Melanie and the history of the ex with Phil are germane precisely because the drive the attitudes that drive the drams. So, back to the basics. Keep your hands to yourself. Keep a civil tongue in your head. Keep your family business private. Be kind to the children and to your hosts. Don’t drag others into your drams and anxiety. Don’t try to control the behavior of other adults. Don’t interfere between a parent and their child. Don’t interfere between a spouse and their ex. Don’t be loud, dramatic, obnoxious, vindictive or physically aggressive. Don’t compete, even passively, with the roles and positions of others in the lives of your friends, family, children and broader sphere. And for the love of all that’s civil, please desist from attempts that are oblique or direct to live your life as if you are on a disastrous and crisis driven reality television show.

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Miss Werewolf December 10, 2012 at 10:26 am

I was a child of a situation like this. A word of advice, ex-wife, you may not speak ill of your ex-husband and his fiance, but the kids will hear everything you say apart from them. People talk. My mother and father were civil around each other when I was present, but I knew all the insults they said about each other, and my father’s girlfriend. I don’t know why other people enjoyed telling a scared and depressed child all about how their mother hates her father’s girlfriend, but either way, it had some pretty serious consequences. It took a long time for me to accept my father’s girlfriend, when she reached out to me in a very kind way. It made my home life very stressful and unpleasant, and I was blamed for my discomfort by both parents. I tried to spend as much time as I could away from home… at my friend’s house, school, or extracurriculars, in a desperate attempt not to deal with home. I was well into my teenage years by the time I decided to tune my mother out for that particular subject, and I was finally able to relax at home and have a pleasant relationship with all of my parents.
Of course, my situation was not exacerbated by a Melanie type trying to enforce custody, my dad’s girlfriend would have never done that. Melanie, please don’t do that, the kids won’t trust you. What helped with me, was that my dad’s girlfriend would occasionally reach out to me to see if I wanted to open up, but when I didn’t, she would hold her tongue and hang back. Eventually I realized that she had never wronged me, and she was not trying to be my mother, so she became a friend and confidante, which is very helpful to have as a teenager. I was very sad when she and my father broke up.
There can be a solution that helps your children. A lot of my own suffering could have been avoided if my parents avoided drama like yours. Please do this for your children, they deserve to be happy at home.

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Carol December 10, 2012 at 10:27 am

I think the one thing we can learn from this is that no one ever thinks they are the bad-guy. Everyone justifies their behaviour to put themselves in the right, it’s human nature.

The Rashomon nature of this post is good, because one can try to parse out the truth. I agree a 3rd party version of the events would help.

I see in Melanie a woman who, mistress or no, was the sympathetic ear to Phil while his marriage was ending, wherein the wife was cast in the role of villian.

To the Ex Wife, I’m sure that she saw Melanie as this woman her husband was attracted to while he was still in the marriage. I’m sure the ex-wife noticed the attraction between Phil and Melanie in the early days, even if it wasn’t ever acted upon, and therefore cast Melanie in the role as home-wrecker.

I don’t think the relationship will ever improve until they stop seeing each other as the enemy, and try to broker some sort of peace. If you had than maybe you could have worked together to help the children, instead of turning it into a battleground.

I think being a step-parent is difficult. You have to find the line between loving the children like your own and knowing that they aren’t.

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Natalie December 10, 2012 at 10:33 am

The Ex wife was right when she said there are three sides to every story: yours, mine and the truth. Sadly, I don’t think we can infer the truth from either account here. All parties involved need to grow up and leave the children out of it. Unless it is a case of immediate danger, a simple “Can we please talk about this later?” will suffice instead of confrontation.
I feel most sorry for the hostess. I hope she doesn’t invite any of you back for a long while.

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KiKi December 10, 2012 at 10:34 am

Once again, Admin is spot on! I can tell Melanie is defensive and insecure about her relationship with Phil. Though they may not have been in an intimate relationship when he was married, they were still in an emotional one. One that may have put additional strain on an already rocky marriage (just guessing here by what I’ve read). She’s lost friends over her new relationship phase with Phil. Obviously, others probably saw what may be considered an “emotional affair” by their friends and his [ex]wife (very common among close workplace colleagues).

However, the people who have lost in this situation are the children. What’s done is done as far as the marriage is concerned. They were probably having other problems which culminated in the divorce (I don’t want anyone to think that I’m blaming Melanie or her relationship with Phil for the divorce). The main problem is that these grown ups are refusing to act like it. It’s obvious that ex-wife still holds some resentment towards Melanie because she blames her for the dissolution of her marriage. It’s also obvious that Melanie is insecure and defensive. These people need to get over it for the children’s sake! If that means counseling, then that’s what it means. If that means forcing them all to sit down and accept the new arrangment, then that’s what it means. Don’t put the children through anymore scenes like this one. It’ll only serve to hurt them, which I don’t think any of them really and truly want to do.

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Spuck December 10, 2012 at 10:37 am

Since both ladies are willing to share their story together on a blog wouldn’t their time be better spent seeing a councilor or going to some organization about working with blended families? Instead of relying on the internet to decide who is right and who is wrong.

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AMC December 10, 2012 at 10:50 am

The whole background of the divorce is a moot point. Whether there was an affair or not doesn’t matter. The points everyone can agree on are: 1) There was a divorce, 2) Phil & Ex-Wife do their best to be civil for the kids’ sake despite bad blood between Ex-Wife and Melanie, 3) All three people and kids got unexpectedly invited to the same party and one of the kids got hurt. Awkwardness ensued.
No, Ex-Wife does not have to turn around and leave the party. She has as much right to be there as Melanie and Phil, even in the same room. If Melanie and Phil can’t act like adults and deal with it, they’re welcome to leave.
The rest I’m taking with a spoonfull of salt.
Relationships in blended families can be very complicated, so it’s hard to comment on how the situation with the kids should have been handled. However, as Admin said, if all three adults are focussed on the childrens’ best interests as opposed to their own, there’s no reason this situation with the injury and tantrum shouldn’t have been resolved in short order.

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2browneyes4 December 10, 2012 at 11:10 am

I did not have to read Ex-Wife’s letter to know that Melanie has some real insecurity issues and has tried to assert herself in some not-so-smart ways: 1. thinking that Ex-Wife should leave the party; 2. “asserting herself” in the kitchen to try to force Ex-Wife to leave; and 3. restraining a kid from seeking help from his mom.

Whether or not Melanie was a cause of the divorce, the fact that she is insecure about other people’s perceptions about the situation leads to me to wonder. At any rate, the situation is cliche: a divorced couple and a suddenly new relationship and innocent children involved.

I have been to both many formal and informal functions where, for some reason or another, there has been pre-existing turmoil or some other unsettling association with another attendee. I have found the best thing to do is to greet the person and move on. If I encounter the person, I say “Hello, Eliza” with no attitude but with a smile and I move on. I think Ex-Wife attempted to do that. Even Melanie wrote that Ex-Wife gave her and Phil plenty of room. If Melanie was uncomfortable, she should have left. Phil should have followed her out if he had a problem with it.

Although I saw the error of Melanie’s ways in going into the kitchen where Ex-Wife was before I read Ex-Wife’s letter, I think it’s very telling that Melanie did not describe the incident entirely. According to Melanie, she “went over and offered to help … thinking that I would get to spend some time with my friends … as she was sure to leave the room. Instead, she sat down at the table and continued to talk …” However, according to Ex-Wife, she “took the sponge from my hand and told me that it was “her turn” to hang with her “dearest friends on the planet”.” How immature!! Why should Ex-Wife leave a room just because Melanie entered it?? I think Melanie hung herself on that one alone!! If I were the host, I would feel that I was being put in the middle of a tug-of-war power struggle, and, based on that I’d never extend an invitation to Phil and Melanie again.

It does not sound like Melanie has children, and she is kidding herself if she thinks that, in any situation, the children will seek her in an emergency when their mom is available. Mom is just that: MOM!! Melanie is not their caretaker and the kids do not see her as such. Melanie is also under the impression that Ex-Wife is answerable to her. Melanie wrote “the ex snuck out a different door and down the hall” as if the Ex has to sneak anywhere!! Ex-Wife was going to attend to her son and does not need the permission of Melanie, Phil or the host to do so!! Melanie put herself in a dangerous situation by restraining the younger son, because I agree with an earlier poster that said that doing that type of thing would have definitely incited a whole different type of conflict. I think Ex-Wife was superb by not knocking Melanie’s block off just for that.

Also, it’s telling that while Melanie said the younger son “came into the kitchen and he was excited. He ran past me and to his mother, saying something about his older brother and trying to pull her out of the room. While I tried to get him to calm down and tell me what was going on,” Ex-Wife is familiar enough with the kids to understand that the younger son “started to speak at warp speed about his brother and a cut.” Mom understood enough to know that the older son had probably been cut and needed help while Melanie was trying to assert her own authority while still trying to figure out what was going on. Clearly, Melanie is not as equipped as Ex-Wife to handle the kids.

Melanie needs to grow up, or move on to another relationship because the children and Ex-Wife are Phil’s for life, and Ex-Wife will not and should not EVER feel like she has to leave because Queen Melanie is present or “sneak” to do anything just because poor Melanie does not want her to.

Melanie did write something that I will applaud her for: ” I am going to ask first if his brother and the ex are going to be there and, if they are, I’m going to sadly decline the invitation”. Thatta girl, Melanie!! Do the right thing!!

Considering the circumstances, I think Mom did great.

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Gena December 10, 2012 at 11:11 am

When I divorced, there were plenty of bitter feelings between me and my ex. However, I did my best to make sure that other people were not dragged into this. For example, if someone told me to remind my ex that it was his turn to run the concession stand, I did so. I didn’t make them feel bad by insisting that I can’t speak to him, etc.

In other words, the fact that Phil and his ex are in the same room shouldn’t have to cause the whole party to be ruined.

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Gabrielle December 10, 2012 at 11:13 am

Melanie comes across to me as a very immature person. She has a lot to learn about parenting and being in an adult relationship. You need to put aside your petty, territorial behavior (towards your fiance’s kids and your adult friends)! You have absolutely no business getting in the middle of a child and his mother. Loose the ego and learn to do what is in the best interest if the children, not your own.

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Rebecca December 10, 2012 at 11:17 am

I didn’t even need to read the second letter to form my opinions. Melanie has to learn that she won’t win the respect and attention of her friends or future stepchildren by demanding it, insinuating herself, and forcing out those she perceives as rivals. People, especially children, love people who are good and kind and who love them. She needs to remember that all love takes time to develop, and that people can love more than one person at a time.

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Angela December 10, 2012 at 11:24 am

While the whole backstory doesn’t make anyone look angelic, the situation at the party puts Melanie in a very bad light. This was an opportunity for the adults to work together and help the kids understand that their safety and needs are a priority, but it didn’t work out that way. “Mommy swooped in like a hero [and] calmed everyone down”? That is a mommy’s job and Melanie should have worked with her, not against her.

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Mel K December 10, 2012 at 11:34 am

So here are two grown women refusing to speak to one another at a party, an ex-husband/fiancee carrying stories from one to the other, and two factions using the kids in their battle with one another. These people need family therapy now.

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