Dear Annie: Two years ago, I walked away from a 28-year marriage. A year after my divorce was final, I began seeing an old family friend. My ex-husband has decided that the only possible reason for why I left him is another man, because in his humble opinion, he was perfect during our marriage. I have told him over and over the reasons why I left, but he doesn’t hear a word I say.
The problem is, we share grandchildren. My grandson is having a birthday soon, and my ex has given our daughter explicit orders that I am not to bring my new boyfriend. The birthday party is being held at my daughter’s house, and she called and asked me to come alone so as not to cause any problems.
My daughter understands that her father is being unreasonable, but he is their father, and they love him. One of my sons actually confronted my ex about this before, and my ex didn’t speak to him for months. He told our son that he was taking my side by accepting my boyfriend.
I live with my boyfriend, and my ex has a live-in girlfriend whom he plans to bring to the birthday party. I am heartbroken that my ex is treating his children this way and even more upset that my kids won’t stand up for themselves or for me. I fear this will never end. What happens when our still-single son gets married?
My boyfriend has no problem stepping aside, but I know his feelings are hurt. I don’t want this type of behavior to cause a rift with my kids. This is making me physically ill. Should I not go to the party? I don’t want to play into my ex’s control issues. — Heartbroken Mom in Connecticut
Dear Connecticut: Your children must call Dad’s bluff, or he will continue to marginalize you and any partner you have. This is a power play to control all of you. Unfortunately, you cannot force your children to risk the relationship by showing backbone. Whether or not to attend these functions is up to you. A child’s birthday party is not as big of a deal as a son’s wedding. Pick your battles.
Dear Annie: I am 18 and a senior in high school. My ex-boyfriend and I dated on and off for about two years before we broke up 10 months ago. We are still close friends and have some feelings for each other, but there are reasons why we can’t currently be together.
I am starting to like a guy who is three years younger and two grades below me. But I don’t know if he likes me. Should I pursue him? What about my ex-boyfriend who is still my best friend? — Conflicted and Confused in the Northwest
Dear Conflicted: Are you planning to get back together with your ex at some point in the near future? If so, pursuing another guy may make that more difficult. But if the relationship with the ex is over, you are free to pursue anyone. However, the new guy is 15. While he may be flattered by your interest, he’s too young to become involved with a senior. And if there is sex, you could be in legal trouble. Please set your sights elsewhere.
Dear Annie: I think you missed an important possibility when answering “Frustrated Dad,” whose college-graduate son plays video games all day.
If his son plays games the vast majority of the day, he could well be addicted. When addictions take over, work and relationships are all tossed by the wayside. He retreats from the real world because his reality is in his computer.
Dad should absolutely insist that he go to a therapist trained in addictions. Drive him there, or pay for his gas – whatever it takes. It is a long, hard road back, but it can be done. — Happier Mom
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.