Ask Amy: Divorced mom fears she’s meeting turkeys

December 24, 2013

Dear Amy:

My ex-husband and I divorced two years ago, after 15 years of marriage. We have two teenagers. His divorce from his first wife was very acrimonious, and I watched my parents go through a brutal divorce years ago.

We both decided to put the kids first and treat each other with respect. We communicate almost daily on parenting issues and attend major events in our kids’ lives together; whoever has the kids for birthdays and holidays invites the other parent to participate.

If we were childless we would have gone our separate ways, but we both value the other as a parent and want our kids to feel the family core is intact. His girlfriend doesn’t seem to have a problem with this, but the few guys I have dated have expressed concern that there must be something romantic going on.

I have told each of these guys at the beginning of the relationship that my ex and I are active co-parents, but it’s not as if we have any physical interaction or private jokes when we get together. We never meet alone, and our focus is entirely on the kids. However, my dates seem to feel I must “want it both ways” and the relationship doesn’t work out.

Am I just meeting turkeys, or do I need to distance myself from parental interaction with my ex so my dates are not so intimidated?

Disheartened

This is your life, and ideally you will find a partner who accepts the totality of your life — as is. Your dates might not be turkeys, but they are making unfounded assumptions.

You need only ask yourself how you would feel if you became involved with someone who had a relationship with his ex-spouse as close as you have with yours. If you’d be completely unthreatened by that kind of closeness between other former couples, then you’re good. There is someone out there for you, but you haven’t met him yet.

Dear Amy:

I am a 30-year-old man. My wife and I just purchased our first home.

Recently, my mother started returning some of the craft projects I made for my parents when I was very young. At Thanksgiving, she gave me a turkey crudely made of colored construction paper from first grade and a Pilgrim’s hat I made in second grade.

At the time, I told her I was not interested in having these things returned to me and added that I would likely just throw them away. She asked why I would do such a thing, because some of them were so “good.”

Returning from an out-of-town trip today, my wife and I were greeted by more of my holiday-themed elementary-school crafts spread throughout our home. (My mother checked on our cats while we were away.)

According to my mom, I should display these things as decorations in my own house. But I think that’s weird. I don’t have kids and don’t have any emotional attachment to the objects. I resent her returning them to me (combined with shaming me for considering throwing them out). What should I do?

Not a Child

You seem to be hyperaware of your adulthood, and so now you should act like an adult.

I assume background tension exists and there is (perhaps) a history of your mother not respecting boundaries. But this is not necessarily a malicious act on her part, and you could easily change the dynamic by acting like a mature human being.

Make sure your spouse has no interest in these childhood art projects. You should do whatever you want with these leftover objects (including setting a bonfire in your new back yard) and ask your mom not to decorate your house while you are away.

Dear Readers:

I hope every reader wakes up tomorrow to a better and more peaceful world, transformed through generosity and wishes granted, and that everyone will take the time to be a better and more attentive family member and neighbor.

I hope that every child wakes up tomorrow with a new book on the bed, along with a loving family member who will read it with him or her. This is all I want for Christmas.

Amy’s column appears seven days a week at www.washingtonpost.com/advice. Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

by the Chicago Tribune

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