Did I over-react to my ex crashing my Christmas with my step-son?

Did I over-react to my ex crashing my Christmas with my step-son?

I‘ve always pooh-poohed advice columns, so I guess it’s fitting for me to now be writing to one. I’m a guy. My ex and I split up about 7 years ago now. For the most part I’m not too angry and when I think about it I realize my anger is mostly at myself. But I digress. Our Christmas arrangements is that she gets her son (my step-son) Christmas Day and I get him that night. My step-son and I tend to go out to dinner (usually we’re not hungry and the restaurant is packed), but hey, it’s our time. We exchange gifts at the restaurant and then go to a movie.

So, I was shocked beyond belief to run into my ex at the movie my step-son and I went to see. I didn’t say anything and just fumed about it the whole movie. My step-son knew she was there too, but didn’t say anything. Anyway, I totally lost my cool later that night and now I feel like a total idiot. That was supposed to be MY time with him. It’s all I have. It’s not much but I look forward to it and I totally felt she (and her new husband) invaded our privacy. Yeah, I could have handled it better. But is there any grain of justification for my anger? I guess that’s my question. My ex crashed my Christmas time with my step-son and I flipped out. Am I off my rocker? Thanks. Bah Humbug

Nah, you’re not bonkers. Maybe losing your cool wasn’t your finest moment (I’m hoping it was at your ex rather than your step-son, who’s really the innocent party here), but you’ll do better next time. Because, chances are, there will be a next time. Exes pop up, annoyingly, at the most inopportune times – especially if you share a connection like your step-son.

Some might be thinking, hey, it was a movie theatre, it’s a free country, get over yourself. But I understand your feelings. Your time with your stepson is valuable and your ex being there burst that happiness bubble. So my answer to your question is probably one you know already, deep down: you can’t dictate what she does or says or where she goes. You can only learn to be Zen about it and not let it matter to you. I’m not saying that’s easy; some exes can push our buttons no matter how you try to rise above the toxicity of it all, but I know from the funny, articulate letter you’ve written me that you get that anyway. If it’s any consolation, I’m still learning that lesson myself, and I’m supposed to be the advice columnist.

The other thing I’m wondering about is just how much time you actually get to spend with your step-son. If it’s just a precious few hours at Christmas, I’m not surprised you’re so protective of that time. If you’d like the access to BE more regular is that something you can negotiate with your ex? Maybe if you felt like you had more one-on-one time together, the times you spend with him wouldn’t be so charged, and you wouldn’t care quite so much about whether your ex and her new husband decided to gate-crash the same movie theatre / ten-pin bowling alley / restaurant. Something to think about anyhow.

Love, reality chick


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Freelance journo, blogger, self-appointed advice-giver and co-author of Get Lucky. If you've got a dating or relationship issue, feel free to ask a question. (PS. You can also find me at The Mama Files and Letter To My Ex).

3 Comments

  1. Lola 5 years ago

    Hey, Bah Humbug, you do sound like a nice guy and we all have “buttons” that can be pushed at a moment’s notice. If you email or talk to your stepson on the phone, it would make all the difference if you told him that you didn’t get angry at him. Kids believe they’re the ones who make their parents / stepparents angry, and you would be helping both his future emotional life and your relationship with him greatly if you told him it wasn’t him who made you angry.
    Of course it wouldn’t be highly advisable to put the blame entirely on the boy’s mum, but you can always say that you enjoy catching up with him, that it’s a special time for you and that you want to keep it that way, without “interferences”. Get my drift?
    Talking to your ex to negotiate more frequent visits is also a wonderful idea. Think the whole thing through before you actually talk to her.
    I’ve got the greatest respect for men who keep in touch with their stepchildren. There are heaps of stepfathers and stepmothers out there who have been loving, supportive and influential in their stepchildren’s lives. Good on you!

  2. David 5 years ago

    Hi, this is a tricky situation for sure. My daughter is going through a similar situation altho there are no kids involved the ex seems to be popping up a lot. Dealing with anger is hard and my daughter is going to counseling which seems to help a lot.

  3. bron 5 years ago

    a bit of clarification needed here – did your ex know you were going to watch that movie? could it have been a coincidence that you were both there at the same time? Who made plans first to see that movie?
    As you said you usually take your step-son out for a meal, could she have been expecting you to do that and not be at the movie?
    BTW – kudos on keeping in touch with your step-son 😉

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