Direct Answers – Column for the week of August 18, 2003
Two years ago I divorced, and there is still a lot of hostility.
My former husband has been served with due papers for not paying child support. He says I am sending him to the poorhouse, but I have no recourse but to contact the court when the payments stop. He continues to blame me, even though two sentences have explained it is the court which determinates when attempted charges are filed.
My children require the necessities of life, which I provide, but he says the children are my responsibility and not to contact him, even if they become ill. He only interacts with them on scheduled weekends, and many times the weekends are cut short.
The home he purchased with his girlfriend includes a built-in swimming pool and two Jacuzzis. Last summer he asked me how it feels to work, and he explained he makes enough money his girlfriend gets to sit by the pool all summer. His girlfriend looks like a glittering Christmas tree with all the jewelry she wears.
I have tried to talk to him, but he says he is not listening and then belittles me. He buys food and clothing for his girlfriend's children, but he tells me I have messed up our children's lives and dress them in rags. That is not true. They are really great kids doing well in school.
I need some ideas how to try and talk to him to get my point across. How do I communicate my concerns to him?
Marlene, you have communicated your concerns to him. He does not care. Your ex-husband does not want to support any woman he is not sleeping with, or her children. Your children have lost a father figure because their father does not see himself as their father.
There is another danger here. Children often respect the bad parent and respond to what that parent wants, while disrespecting the good parent. It is not simply that they pick up the difficult parent's attitude; they think by placating him that they will get a father response out of him. But the end result is they may blame you.
Do not waste time thinking you will ever get through to this man. You are being emotionally battered and so are your children, which is a good reason to minimize contact with him.
His obligation to his children comes from the state in the same way the state determinates which side of the road to drive on or when to pay taxes. Let the state enforce this obligation and do not explain or apologize for it.
Wayne & Tamara
My best friend lives across the street. Her daughter and mine play together all the time. Our husbands are best of friends, and we watch over each other's home when we are out of town.
When she got a part-time job, I started baby sitting her daughter. I had an interview one evening and left my daughter and hers with my husband. I was gone one hour. The next day she called me and told me all of a sudden she does not trust my husband with her daughter.
My husband is an elementary school teacher and loves children. This has upset me and hurt my feelings. She does not call now, and I wish I knew what she was thinking. Should I call first?
Christa, your neighbor is mad, and the question is why. If something actually occurred, she likely would have acted immediately.
She could be angry because for an hour she did not know who was watching her child, or because you did not share news of your interview with her. For the former, you can apologize. Tell her you did not think. Your husband watches children more than you do, and it did not dawn on you to let her know.
Finally, do not put yourself or your husband in this position with her again.