The psycho insane-ness never stops around here, and I just need to vent since my SO does not want to bother to stand up for himself and I do not feel it is my place to say anything to his ex. The latest is she is trying to charge us $8 for her "time and gas" to drop her own kids off at swim lessons...lessons SHE signed them up for without consulting my SO to see what our schedule is, lessons that take place on OUR days. I happen to have a conflict on only one of those days and I asked her to take them to lessons that day myself because I figure a) she knows I'm taking care of the kids during the day on our days, b) she has been extra friendly the last few times we've seen each other, so I figured contacting her would not be offensive since she's been talking to me and c) the conflict is with my schedule, so what's the point of going through my SO who doesn't really know what my schedule is?? I tried to be nice and matter-of-fact, not bringing up she is a stupid, obnoxious #%$#%#% for scheduling lessons not only during our days, but without letting us know (she also paid for some swimming stuff that we had already paid for, so now we have to try and get our money or check back). Here is what I wrote...I thought it was reasonable. Am I crazy?
At some point I decided that for my own mental health I was going to have to let some things go. I had to decide what I was comfortable with, share that with my husband, and then let things play out however they played out. I removed myself from the process. So in your situation, I might have told my husband "I don't mind taking them to swim lessons, but I can't do it on the 11th. If [ex] can take them that morning she could drop them off at the library with me afterward, or you can pick them up at 7:45 as usual and they will just miss that week. Let me know what you guys decide." Then, because my husband struggles to remember details (or because I am overly controlling and it is part of my coping skills, whichever...) I will email him an email to send to his ex, written in his voice, which he can read, forward, re-write, ignore... whatever. It gets it out of my brain and gives him the information he needs from me.
Then I would just leave him to deal with it. He might forward the email, write a different email, argue with her about it, make a decision about which option he would take, opt to give in to her $8 demand, take time off himself... But I've given him my bottom line, which is that I can't take them to swim lessons on the 11th. Whatever he comes up with, as long as he respects my bottom line, I have to just be okay with. I have to just trust him to make a reasonable decision, even if it is different than what I would have come up with.
It took me a lot of practice and a lot of self-talk to let things go. Sometimes I have to imagine made-up scenarios about being someone's nanny or a kindly neighbor transporting someone else's child or something, anything, to trick my brain into letting it go. And it certainly didn't happen overnight. But I didn't like the person I was becoming, and it was negatively impacting my relationship with my husband, and I was allowing his ex WAY too much space in my brain. I can't control her, and I can't control their relationship, and I can't micromanage their interactions, but I can control my own behavior and my own reactions, so that is what I focused on. At the beginning it probably took at least as much energy to let go as it did to be involved, but now it has become our habit and I am MUCH less stressed by the whole thing. Yes, sometimes he makes decisions I think aren't the best ones, sometimes it feels like I am being inconvenienced unnecessarily... but so long as he respects where I draw the line for myself and the kids WE have together, I just have to accept that those decision are his to make and that he is making the best decision he can with all the information he has. If I am extra annoyed by his decision, I usually step back and take a "big picture view" and ask myself how much this 2 hours or $20 or one concession is going to matter 5 years from now... and that is usually enough to help me move past my annoyance.
Good luck. I know "let it go" is much easier said than done, but I can't adequately express what a HUGE difference it has made in my life.
Thanks. I do know what you mean and I have been trying to set some boundaries up, but it's hard. I told my SO that I'd rather he not come home every day telling me about all the ridiculous emails/texts he's received from his ex because he has his parents and brother to talk to about that stuff (as he did before I came into his life). That I only want to hear about things that affect me directly, otherwise maybe a brief weekly update on what's going on is all I need. But of course when he gets a particularly bad text or email he wants to be able to share with me how he's feeling or vent, so it's hard. Plus, I can tell when something bad has happened because he is not good at all at hiding how he is feeling and her actions greatly affect his feelings and attitude unfortunately. Of course in this case, her actions affected me directly, though your suggestion to tell him to tell her is a good one, especially me sending him a "sample" email. I've done that before. I guess I thought she was being extra friendly and maybe we could make things more friendly overall and easier, so I tried emailing her myself. obviously a mistake I won't make again.
And I understand what you mean about will this really matter five years from now. A lot of what she does will not. But I feel this will and that is why I'm so upset about it. Her making appointments and plans for the kids on our time and expecting us to just submit and comply "for the good of the children" (there's always a guilt element) is an ongoing problem and I want her to know that I will NOT submit and comply just because my SO will. So in this case I feel like if we don't start dealing with this now (as in making it clear every time she makes these plans without our input the answer will be no or at least telling her to stop!), it will still be a problem five years from now. And I know this is something my SO has to deal with, but he just won't right now or possibly ever. It just amazes me she thinks this is okay. She knows nothing about our schedule, so how could she just go and make these plans and appointments without consulting us? She does this with doctor's appointments too. She makes them for when we have the kids and sends my SO a text saying, "You have to take the kids to their doctor's appointment and take off work to do so," without discussing with him first when the appointment should be and if the kids even need it. She doesn't bother to make the appointments on her time :/
Aricha's advice is excellent. (In fact, I am laughing at how much what she describes sounds like me: composing email suggestions for my husband and having to teach myself how to detach sometimes, for my own sanity or to ensure that his ex's "issues" don't become the focal point of our marriage!)
The only thing I would add is that, when you do wind up discussing issues with your husband and deciding together how to address something, make sure you put the kids first. When dealing with an especially frustrating ex, it is easy to lose sight of that. For example, I think one of the more rotten things, for kids, about divorce is having to depend on their parents' communication, to be able to participate in normal activities. When my husband's ex still lived here, my step-son never got to participate in any activities during her parenting time that DH was involved in. DH took DSS ice skating, he liked it, so DH signed him up for Saturday lessons...but he could only go on DH's weekends. Mom signed up DSS for Cub Scouts. The den leader contacted DH to help plan some field trips. Mom withdrew DSS from scouting.
Obviously, you're not considering letting the kids miss swim lessons on "your" days, to be malicious! But it may make little difference to the kids, if the end result is "Mom signs us up for something and we can only do it when we're with her. It's not really our activity." In your husband's shoes, I wouldn't stand on principle to the point of making the kids miss any lessons. Worst case scenario, being the bigger person would cost him $8.
On the other hand, doctor's appointments are easily rescheduled, if Mom arranges them during your husband's parenting time, without consulting him about his schedule (or yours). Just call the office and reschedule for a more convenient time. If that ticks Mom off, your husband needs to tell her, "Tough. You don't want me to change appointment times? Check with me before you schedule them, if you expect me to take the kids!"...and then he needs to simply ignore any nasty responses from her. Even self-centered people can (to some extent) be "trained" to be more cooperative, if they get dissatisfying results from behaving inconsiderately. Just try to reserve standing on principle for when you're not stepping on the kids' toes...