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Heavy Meddle: How To Deal With My Embarrassing Ex Husband?

My ex is over-sharing details of our private life to my son's baseball coach. What should I do? (T Morris/flickr)
My ex is over-sharing details of our private life to my son's baseball coach. What should I do? (T Morris/flickr)
This article is more than 6 years old.

Welcome Meddleheads, to the column where your crazy meets my crazy! Please send your questions to advice@wbur.org. Right now. Not only will you immediately feel much better, you’ll also get some advice.

Hugs,
Steve

Dear Steve,

My ex husband has been emailing my son's baseball coach and the way he speaks is cringe-worthy. He uses words that are outdated, gigantic and not common knowledge. He also likes to point out that we are co-parenting, and that he is our son’s father (to make sure that no one thinks that my current husband is our son’s dad). I am private person and I don't like all of this info shared. I am dreading practice. Any advice on how to lessen the embarrassment of my ex?

PHOTO

Signed,
Embarrassed Baseball Mom

Dear EBM,

Before we move on to the serious portion of the letter, I have to confess that I’m kind of intrigued by what sort of language your ex is using in these emails. You describe him using “gigantic” “outdated” and obscure words … in talking to a baseball coach. Here’s what I’m envisioning:

To the Estimable Coach Dan,

I am setting electronic quill to parchment in ardent hope of informing you that our son, BLANK, is, in point of fact, an ambodexter, which means, as you know, that he is equipollent from both sides of the plate. For this reason, I hope you will excogigate to bat him clean-up, and that this suggestion does not appear contumelious.

I bid you Godspeed, good sir!

Signed,
BLANK’s Biological Father

Okay, enough horsing around. Your situation is serious and it sounds like a bummer. I have a few thoughts.

First, I’m not sure it makes sense to confront your ex about his use of vocabulary in an email to your son’s baseball coach. If you think he’s trying to be provocative, then bringing this up will only add fuel to the fire. And if he’s not trying to be provocative, why bother? Just ignore those emails. If they’re going to reflect badly on anyone, it will be him.

The larger and more important issue is this business of his mentioning “co-parenting.” To give your ex-husband every benefit of the doubt, maybe his intention was just to clarify the situation for your coach, to make sure that his status as a “co-parent” is recognized by this new figure in your son’s life.

But it sounds like the way he conveyed this information was more inflammatory than that. If so, it might be worth thinking about why your ex is doing this. Perhaps he’s feeling resentment about your re-marrying, or doubt about his role in your son’s life, especially with a stepfather in the picture. You know him better than anyone, so I suspect you’ve got a beat on his motives.

I do agree that emailing the coach with this extra information was probably not necessary, and that he probably chose to do so because he knows you’re a private person and that this would get under your skin.

the most important thing in this situation is that you guys work together as parents, even though you’re divorced.

At the same time, unless I’m missing something, he really isn’t disclosing “private” information about you. It’s not a secret that you guys are divorced, after all, or that you’ve remarried. This seems like something that the coach (and other parents) are going to figure out eventually — if all three of you wind up at a game, for instance. And it’s basic information that a coach should have, in case of emergency, but also so he doesn’t wrongly assume that your new husband is your son’s father. If the coach made such an assumption, it might actually upset your son. What I’m getting at is that while your divorce and remarriage may feel like intimate details, they are also the relevant context of your life.

Now, it may be that your ex has disclosed other private information, in which case I think you have every right to tell him, politely, to knock it off.

But the most important thing in this situation is that you guys work together as parents, even though you’re divorced. Because the last thing your son needs is to feel tension and hostility between his mom and dad. That’s what I’d be focused on at this point. If you feel like your ex is going to create that tension around practices or games, then I’d minimize the contact you’re going to have with him. And I’d work to ignore the forms of provocation he may put out there.

I realize this is easier said than done. But my hunch is that your ex isn’t just trying to drive you nuts. He’s trying to make sure his role as father is recognized in this new public setting. He may be going about it in an awkward, off-putting way, but his motives most likely arise from insecurity as much as malice.

If you can bring yourself to believe this, it might be easier for you to ignore his provocations and work toward building a more harmonious relationship as co-parents. And if his motives and actions do start to seem malign, then I’d advise you to avoid him in public settings.

I hope this helps,
Steve

Okay folks, now it's your turn. Did I get it right, or muck it up? Let me know in the comments section. And please do send your own question along, the more detailed the better. Even if I don't have a helpful response, chances are someone in the comments section will. Send your dilemmas via email.

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