dear Gallant Girl,
hello gallant girl! i read your blog yesterday and loved all the advice you gave that girl who wrote to you about her cousin. i was sitting in my apartment obsessing over this drama i’ve been going through for almost a year now and then I saw that post come through my feed and i thought “i will write gallant girl!” lol
OK so here’s my problem……..
i have been with my boyfriend klaus for 10 and a half months. we are very in love and we are talking about getting married and starting a family someday soon when i graduate (dudley beauty college). were basically engaged. he has a child from another relationship (they were never married). his son’s mother is very jealous of me and my relationship with Klaus and her son! she hardly lets his son around me. she constantly talks negatively about my boyfriend and i on face book and twitter. she blames me for their breakup when they were broken up a pretty long time before we even met! this is annoying by iteself. what bothers me the most is that my boyfriend just rolls his eyes and says she’s making a fool of herself and to ignore it. i do ignore her but i don’t understand why he doesn’t put his foot down! she is trashing me on the internet to her friends and he doesn’t defend me. she talks to his family and tells them all this stuff that is only half true and then exaggerates the rest to stay in favor with them. she is trying to ruin my reputation about things that she knows aren’t true and he just shrugs and says not to worry about it “she’s just a angry person”. i worry that it will always be this way and she will always be telling us what to do and when to do it and that he will never put an end to it. he acts like it’s no big deal but it could be if it doesn’t end! it’s already been almost a year and it already is getting old.
what do you think? am i overreacting? should i worry that this will never change for us?
22 years old
washington, district of columbia
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Dear Gallant Girl Angie,
Well, this is a tough one — as it is — but, the good news is that it does not have to be! Let’s break it down into the obvious categories and then we can address strategies, okay?
No. 1 — Trying situations like this can put strain on even the healthiest and most loving relationships. Plain and simple, it’s nettlesome when there are so many different people involved and they’re all on a different page in the blended book. Nevertheless, you and your “Basically Fiancé” are one unit. The two of you must get on the same page because you two have your own story to write now, and you two are the adults in this budding family. Nothing anyone from the outside can do or say can intrude on that unless you let them. What goes on inside your unit is what matters. Everything else is noise, so long as it’s not an unlawful violation or you are worried about your safety.
The two of you need to save your energy for the things that *do* need to be reconciled, and that is that his ex does not come between either of your relationships with the child involved. You both need to sit down and TALK about what you both want and need, and you need to not stop communicating until you both understand each other’s ‘why’ and come to a healthy compromise with a succinct plan of action. As his son’s father, your fiancé has equal rights and say in how all of you co-parent, so he needs to be considerate and sympathetic to all parties, but also firm — this is with all of you. As your future spouse, he should also stand up for you and set boundaries as to how you are treated. If his ex cannot honor those boundaries and show you common courtesy, and come to accept that this is her new normal, than there are many options that family court will be willing to provide and lay out for all of you in detail through a court mandated custodial agreement. I truly like to see blended families work together without putting such rigid formalities on what’s supposed to be a supportive parenting system for the child’s benefit, but if one or both parents can’t comply, this is how that gets resolved. For now, start by only paying attention to the things that are of importance, and not someone’s ill will on social media. I wouldn’t concern yourself about your fiancé’s family taking sides, either; most people see right through that kind of outburst and vinegary trash talk. So long as you’re being your honest-to-goodness self, his family will learn to love you for you no matter who tries to besmirch their impression of you or your name.
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No. 2 — It sounds like your fiancé potentially knows the woman you’re both dealing with in a way you can’t fully understand, and he has her number, so to speak. He might not have the wrong idea in not feeding her activity of malice and manipulativeness. I don’t know how long they were together, but it could be that the conduct she’s displaying now is the precise reason he left the relationship. He needs to explain himself better and elaborate more so that you can be enlightened into the reasons behind the approach he’s taking with her. However, he MUST advocate for both you and his son because the two of you are his family now. No one wins when one or more parents use their children as pawns. No matter how his son’s mother feels about you, she cannot use that to tarnish their child’s wellbeing. Your fiancé DEFINITELY needs to establish some consistency and security for his son; that is crucial. Likewise, as his son’s future stepmother, if the two of you have evidence that his ex is slandering you publicly, or to combined family members, he should also lay down boundaries for her to abide by with proof of documentation. (Not only do people talk, but people share. I am sure this is partly how you’re privy to all of this information. Save those things, back them up, print out multiple copies, store them in a xylophone folder and file them away for safekeeping. Even if you never need them (and let’s hope that you don’t!), this is my advice to you.) Freedom of speech, unfortunately, does not restrict malicious people from spewing their vitriol, though, I’m sorry to say.
For you: I can completely understand how unnerving it must be to know someone is out there spreading falsities or half-truths about you and your life — so I hear ya, sister! — but, you used the word “obsessing” to describe how this has been affecting you. If you have been checking her Facebook page and Twitter account to see what she’s been saying about you, this is a good place to start in helping to remedy the impact of her poor behavior… What if you start by stopping that ritualistic practice? That is just feeding her preoccupation with more preoccupation, and it’s hindering you from ceasing to hyper-focus on it. Without an audience, these personality types eventually flame out and move along to another center of attention. If she knows that she can’t ruffle you or your fiancé’s feathers, she’ll lose her flock because they will begin to see her for her true colors while she’s trying to paint yours black. BUT, this is not about her; this is about you and your fiancé. She should not remotely be a focal point in your growing love and family. She has no place there unless you give her one. Whenever you feel that pull to pull up one of her social media sources, just remember that this is what she wants when she shares mean spirited things about you or your fiancé. Give her the chance to get bored with being a cyberbully. If what she has to say is important enough to her, she will say it to your face and you can deal with it then, directly, as this is how this kind of browbeating should be done instead of by way of sophomoric backstabbing.
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No. 3 — There’s no doubt that your fiance’s ex is behaving badly. And sadly, your fiancé is right, because she IS “making a fool of herself” (I am sure she will regret it one day quite soon). Yet, even though talking negatively about people on social media who are not there to defend themselves is very immature and uncouth, most of the time these actions are rooted in hurt. My guess is that this woman is disguising her heartache in rancor and spite. Revenge is a character flaw, but if you can bring yourself to put yourself in her shoes, and to show your “foe” some compassion, this might help your combined family in the future. If you’re going to marry this man, have children with this man, and be a positive addition to this man’s son’s life, than you must look at the big picture instead of the here and now. 10.5 months seems like a long time to you after all the two of you have been through, but to this woman, it might still be very fresh. I am sure she’s finally digesting that he’s moved on for good, and there’s a real good chance that until he met you, she had a glimmer of hope that he would come back to her and their son. Right now, I would be willing to bet that her enmity toward you is that she sees you as the door that shut in her hope’s face. Hopefully, for all of you — including her! — she will see that that door had shut long before you entered his life. Time has a way of making these current obstacles feel far away someday.
Try to realize that even though she’s making it about you right now, that it is not. Try to remember this every time you catch wind of another discrimination against/about you. Try to come up with a timeline with your fiancé of the pace you are willing to take for everyone’s sake, and then set definitive dates for when you are going to insist on change taking place for the betterment of the whole family unit. Do not take any abuse directed directly to you or outrageous absurdity, but deal with those things in a rational way when others are being unreasonable. Do not react to any attempts to bully you or defame you because that’s her goal and you are above that, but make sure that she understands there is a limit to how far she can go before you take different measures, and that when dealing with YOU and your fiancé, she has no other choice than to treat you with respect. In other words, be patient with her process, respect her as a mother and human, have compassion when you can, and establish solid boundaries when you can’t. Your fiancé needs to do the same, for both himself and for you. Most of all, you ALL need to be doing this for your son!
I can tell you… Being a stepparent is a privilege, not a right (even when it is a fact). Right now, you need to work very hard at tempering this mother’s journey — no matter how she’s behaving — as well as being faithful to your own. Your relationship with this child will happen naturally over time, but at this phase, doing your best to foster a healthy working relationship with his mother is the starting focal point. The second priority is to nurture a sense of security in the child by just easing into your relationship with him one day at a time. It is most critical that he knows that you accept him, love him, and that he’s always welcome in your home and life. There are many ways to do this gently for him and respectfully to his mother. If you start off too strong, this could backfire on building a strong foundation for all of you as you get accustomed to your new lives. As the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day. I know that you are eager to start building your “Pantheon of Parent Bond”, but the best preserved of all ancient Roman buildings did not become that reinforced overnight OR in 10.5 months, and maintaining that solid structure has taken a lot of work and labor since 126 AD. One granite column at a time, Gallant Girl!
Good luck, Angie! Hurt, anger, jealousy, resentment, worry and fear are powerful emotions that can turn people into strangers to themselves. They can also be misplaced and attached to the wrong person or problem. Be wary of those who cave to those emotions and can’t maintain their integrity, but all you can do is wait for them to reclaim their dignity as they see that life doesn’t have to be as complicated as they’re making it. And, if your fiancé’s ex can’t do that for herself, I hope she’ll do it for her child without demonizing the people he needs and wants to be in his life. All YOU can do is keep going in the right direction no matter how many wrong turns others are making, or how wrong anyone else is acting. I hope everyone finds their way eventually! Go GALLANT!
— Heather Angelika
Founder/Owner of Gallant Girls