ShareThis Page
More Lifestyles

Best plan for supporting boyfriend's teenage daughter? Don't fight with his ex.

| Friday, May 11, 2018, 3:43 p.m.

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

My boyfriend has a teenage daughter who I get along with, very well in fact. I think he's a great dad but he has to travel a lot for work, so he doesn't get as much time with her as he'd like.

Her mother is just awful. And I know that is typical new-girlfriend thinking, the ex-wife is awful, but she is. She's causing her daughter so much anxiety that she's getting sent to the school counselor. Both he and I have told the kid that if dad is away and she can't take her mother anymore, she is welcome to call me. I can take her to her dad's until he comes home. It may not come to that, but I'm worried about what will happen if I'm ever confronted with her mother. She is awful. She lies. She keeps things from her ex. The suffering she's put both her kid and her ex through is just flat-out nasty. I don't know if I'll be able to hold my tongue. She's repeatedly called me some very awful things despite the fact that we've never met face-to-face.

Any suggestions on how to keep my cool? I really want to tell this witch off.

-- Navigating the Choppy Waters

You obviously care about the daughter, and the best way to show you care is to keep your cool around her mom. Telling off “this witch” would be about you -- specifically, you'd be putting yourself at the center of the mom-daughter drama -- and it would make things so much harder for the very people you're trying to help.

You can do by far the most good here by being quiet and steady and pleasant and easy to deal with. And that includes being (as) easy (as possible) for the mom to deal with. If you find yourself face-to-face with her, be the model of calm. Do some reading on “nonviolent communication” to get an idea of how to de-escalate tense situations.

To the new girlfriend:

A word of caution: It is never the case that one former spouse is the absolute worst and the other is blameless. They chose each other for a reason, and they may have more in common than you think. I'd be very cautious about becoming part of this family.

-- Anonymous

Hm. I think it is never the case that “never” applies universally when judging what happens in private.

I can endorse the advice for caution, and awareness of two-way streets. Heartily, even.

But there are some legitimately awful people who don't show their hands until well into the relationship. The people who get suckered into marrying and/or reproducing with them have been through enough hell, and don't need or deserve to live under a cloud of suspicion ever after.

We all could stand to use due diligence in choosing our partners, and be mindful of our own tendencies to kid ourselves when forming an opinion of others' choices -- that's the closest I'm willing to get to a universal declaration on people's romantic histories.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me