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