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.