Q. I am recently divorced. My ex-husband and I share custody of our 8-year-old daughter.
As we were working out the conditions of our divorce, my ex was cultivating a “friendship” with “Cindy,” the wife of our workout trainer. At the time, he and I were still intimate sometimes, and the divorce was looking like it would be amicable.
Cindy was seeing him regularly. She furnished his new apartment and bought him a new wardrobe. It was weird, but I didn’t think too much of it.
One day he told me he had made out with Cindy, and that he was afraid that he might end up having sex with her. I asked if Cindy’s husband knew, and my ex said no. I was really upset. I didn’t want her husband to get cheated on, and so I told him. I wasn’t very tactful.
Cindy told him that she was just a friend of my husband’s, and that I was blaming her for the divorce. Her husband decided to give everyone the “benefit of the doubt.” I was disgusted.
Now, I only interact with my ex regarding our daughter.
Recently, Cindy has been offering to baby sit our daughter when my ex picks up work during his custody times. She has also taken to buying gifts for her. I haven’t reacted when my daughter told me who is buying her these things. It is really getting to me though.
I can’t fathom why Cindy is doing this, other than to overcompensate for her behavior.
How should I handle this?
A. This episode might be teaching you some important lessons about divorce: You should not sleep with your ex while you are in the process of “working out the details.” Continued sexual intimacy does not lead to an amicable divorce — it keeps you involved with one another at a time when you should be learning how to detach from one another.
The second lesson is harder: Your now ex-husband has the right to cultivate other relationships, and unless you two agreed to a limit on friends interacting with your daughter during custody, you are both free to do so.
You seem to know “Cindy” quite well. You tried to derail the relationship with your ex by reporting it to her husband, but that didn’t work out for you.
It rankles to see another woman grow close to your child. But if these interactions are positive and benign you will have to learn to tolerate them. If you suspect that these interactions are not benign, then you should contact your lawyer. (Giving gifts to your daughter qualifies as “benign.”)
Do not discourage your daughter from developing a friendship with Cindy. The last thing you want to do is to encourage her to keep her experiences while with her father a secret, for fear of how you might react.
Q. My husband and I have been married for over 50 years. We were young, and I guess didn’t really know each other. We have little in common. I don’t have any feelings toward him.
He will do just about anything for me when I’m ill. We don’t argue. But we don’t agree on where to go and what to do on trips. He’d rather walk around while I want to be more active — sailing, hiking, skiing, and traveling the world.
At times I’ve thought of leaving, but I can’t afford to live on my own. We went to counseling many years ago, but he wasn’t into it and the counselor focused on my leaving rather than working things out.
I’m not totally unhappy, just very sad. I feel as if my life is wasted. Any suggestions for navigating this long-term relationship with my husband?
A. At the risk of echoing your long-ago counselor, I suggest that the long-term relationship you really need to work on is the one you have with yourself. You can lead a fulfilling life, even with an unfulfilling marriage.
Concentrate now on becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be.
Q. “Overworked” was a hard-working mom who confronted a household mess at the end of her workday. The mother said: “The sink is full of snacking dishes.”
Your advice: “. . . they have until 5 p.m. to lie in their own filth.”
They might be lazy, or irresponsible, or returning to childhood to be taken care of . . . but they are not pigs.
A. I think a few parents would beg to differ.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.