My ex and I had a terrible marriage and have been divorced for more than 20 years. We’re both remarried and haven’t spoken in a long time. Recently, he told a family member that he wanted to apologize and be friends for our child’s sake. All is forgiven for the past, and I passed that along, but he still wants to reach out. Without actually communicating, how do I make it clear I have no interest in communicating with my ex? -Go Away Ex
I wonder if you should leave just a tiny bit of space for communication for two reasons.
One: He might simply want to know that his apology made it to you. Perhaps it’s part of a therapeutic process, and although you have the right not to listen, I do wonder why you can’t simply tell him directly that “all is forgiven” like you told me.
Two: Although your child is presumably grown, there might be future events where interaction is necessary — weddings, shared grandchildren, health or financial issues with your descendants. You don’t need to be friends, but a complete silent treatment is hard to justify. Directly accept his apology, and go from there.
Shelter, with a side of sabotage
I lost my apartment and job and got pregnant, so I moved home with my parents four years ago. I’m back at work full time, but my mom has a habit of undermining my authority — I’ll be making dinner and she’ll give fast food to my child even though I say not to. It’s disrespectful to me and reinforces that it’s OK not to listen to what Mommy says. I’ve spoken to my parents about it, but it keeps happening. -Doing My Best
In the short term, realize that this power struggle likely has layers of complicated emotions under it. Pick your battles, and make specific, respectful requests: “Mom, I’d like to cook a nice dinner Wednesday. Can we plan on eating it together?” Try to empathize with emotions that might be driving her behavior: jealousy, confusion over her role, resentment, fatigue. Find non-financial means to give back — your parents have clearly given a lot — and ways to give her some power in her own special relationship with your child, which she might feel is under attack.
And in the long term? Keep saving, because if things don’t get better, your own roof will provide the ultimate freedom.
Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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