A refreshingly mature, well-composed letter that reads like a how-to manual in its full cognizance of the nuanced trials that await complex family dynamics post-divorce with children, Tina Plantamura’s open letter to the newcomer to her expanding family (she is remarried) is sensible, sensitive and rational. One passage stands out as particularly the hallmark of all three aforementioned adjectives:
This might sound weird, but I’m so excited about you. My sons will see a side of their father that they don’t even know they missed. They’ll witness the kind of happiness that blooms from the excitement, joy and mystery that comes with a new relationship. They’ll see their father beaming with hope. They’ll hear him laugh (too much and too loud, as they’ve reported to us) and speak with a new charm in his voice. And because they love and admire him, all of these things will make them happier, too.
A healthier response about relationship healing and moving on I have never seen in over twenty years of divorces I’ve navigated; although, I did not often get to see the aftermath, the farther down the road recovery phase of my clients. Most divorces with new significant others, especially those who were part of the divorce causes–and there are always multiple causes–were complicated by yet another person’s agenda and sensibilities to consider. Generally, the path from conclusion to fresh start was far more difficult with outsiders to the divorcing family.
While Plantamura is optimistic about the relationship her sons will develop with the addressee of this letter and attempts to reassure her that the connection she and her ex (the new boyfriend) have is solely the children, both of those emotional and potentially volatile components of the newly emerging “family” are often insurmountably difficult to surrender.
Most mothers jealously guard their possessory interests in their children, emotional, behavioral, and instructional, interests that could easily be threatened by an outsider/insider mothering figure. For instance, being their father’s girlfriend, she inevitably will require, may even demand, a modicum of respect from her lover’s children. She may imagine a future with this family and want to establish and ensure her place as adult and potential permanent roommate. If she lives with him even part time, that demand may be even more insistent. And the longer the relationship persists, the likelier the intrusion on the mother’s coveted role as advisor, consoler, and role model. Disagreements are likely to surface.
Also, the connection two people have with respect to their children is unique, something the girlfriend will never have regarding those children who affect her life, individually and with her husband. Jealousy and friction are foreseeable no matter how warm the welcome and sincere the assurance and encouragement by an ex.
All in all, skepticism aside, I enjoyed the idyllic embrace of this letter and even if only a stated intention of good will and hope, it serves as inspiration for those willing to accept responsibility for raising healthy children as well as for their own happiness.
6 Replies to ““An Open Letter to My Ex-Husband’s New Girlfriend””
She has a much more generous and forgiving heart than I have. When my husband left for another woman, I hated her even though we had never met. The thought of her having anything to do with the children, left me sick inside. Her very name made me want to vomit. I guess I’m not very enlightened (or forgiving).
I have to concur Sharon is like most I’ve known. They utterly despise the new girl friend. I would say if I were the girlfriend and read that letter I would think who is this dork? I’m sleeping with her husband, no wonder he left that dippy bitch.
Let me put it this way, I had a crazy ass girl friend with an ex husband she despised, had remarried. She put it this way, “He’s a bastard, but he was my bastard,….”. Seemed to be the essence of all I had heard from other women in the same boat.
Like being torn in two. Sorry girls, I empathize.
I admire the writer’s ability to rise above her own insecurities or possessor interests. Maybe it’s because she is remarried. She might not feel the same had she not found someone else and her ex had.
Sharon, I think you are more the rule and the writer is more the exception. I know for myself I would have a very difficult time to lay my feelings aside and let bygones be bygones or to accept my children being influenced and shared by someone else.
There is nothing in this letter that says either spouse cheated (unless I missed it), so that eliminates a lot of bad blood. Personally, I think “Tina” sounds like a bit of a control freak, but maybe that’s just me. It is like she is saying too much, some of it is totally unnecessary, like she is speaking to a child (maybe the new girlfriend is very young?). When my parents divorced, my mother was the mature one who had to send her two little daughters off with a stranger. She let the cards fall where they may as she was strong in her relationship with us. Unfortunately, the situation catapulted my sister’s severe separation anxiety and eventual mental illness diagnosis. My new “step mom” who has been my step mom for about 45 years now was the one with the big chip on her shoulder. She is the one who fell in love with a married man who had two small children. She threw a party for herself the day she had been married to my father longer than my mother had (and she told me she did). She also topped my mom’s two children with my Dad by having seven with him. It is not always the ex-wife who is the bitter one. Another interesting post, always thought provoking.
Thanks for throwing some light on the subject with your specific perspective, KrazyCat. I too got the feeling that the new girlfriend may have been young; nevertheless, it’s true that all too often the new girlfriend or eventual second (or third) wife is the one who feels possessive and the need to prove something to everyone involved. I have seen all sides of this equation: two ex-spouses+kids+new spouse/significant other(s)=complex. It sure brings out the strengths and weaknesses of each affected individual’s adaptability.