Angry Little Liar

14 Jul

Dear LetterBalm: My boyfriend and I have been together for two years, and we’re raising my two daughters (I’m a single mom). He and I hope to marry. We all get along very well; he’s the best man I’ve ever known, and he’s wonderful with my daughters. His ex-wife lives in the Midwest, and they have a young son who spends time with us for holidays and during the summer at our beach house. We have a lot of fun together. But when the boy returns home, he tells his mom tales about me, my housekeeping, house rules and my parenting. He says his father and I argue, we leave the kids alone in the evenings and we eat only fast-food and junk food (none of this is true). It breaks my heart to hear my boyfriend on the phone, defending me and us to his ex. He and I realize his son is doing this because he hopes his mom and dad will get back together and the “evil stepmother” will go away. What can we do to break this negative cycle?

–Not His Mom

You, your boyfriend and all the kids are in a classic conundrum. Indeed, the little boy hasn’t lost the desire for his parents to reunite. After all, he’s been shuttled between them as long as he can remember, and he isn’t about to admit that his father’s new lady is nice. Ms. L.B. suggests gently turning the tables on him. If you’re confident that you and your boyfriend are solid, and you feel you won’t be threatened by his ex, ask him to invite her to drop off their son in-person at the summer house so she can see firsthand how things are. She can stay for a weekend. It might go a long way to dispel her concerns and open a good dialog between the two women in the boy’s life. If she agrees, he should sit with his son ahead of time, keeping the conversation light:

Matthew, your mom has been concerned about some things you’ve told her about what goes on when you’re with us. Not all those things have been really what’s happened, not quite the truth, right? I know you’re feeling bad that your mom and I aren’t together anymore. And, I know that you understand this isn’t your fault at all. Both of us will always love you always, even though we won’t be together as a family. I’ve asked your mom to come with you when you come to stay at the summer house next time, so she can see how it is there and she and Iris can meet and talk and become friends. You like Iris, right? Well, she likes you, too. All of us, Iris included, want you to be safe and happy. Do you want to ask me any questions? Now, how about a big hug.

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