Everyone has unique thoughts when it comes to how we view COVID, and what safety measures we feel we need to take. It’s important to remember to respect each person’s opinions, and not to judge on someone’s comfort level or lack of comfort when it comes to things like going to the grocery store, traveling, or even wearing a mask at home. But what happens if you are divorced and the two of you have very different levels of comfort when it comes to the Coronavirus? Well, that’s when it’s time to consider having a COVID talk with the ex.
Here is what’s going on with one reader:
Basically, I am careful wearing a mask, washing hands, etc. But inside my home I don’t wear one. But, if someone comes by with the mail or a delivery or to fix something, I’ll have one on but then I seem to feel comfortable and take it off after a while.
My daughter told her dad I’m not being careful and he said, “I’d hate to have to choose between my ‘original children’ and my new family if she’s not being careful. Susan is pregnant you know…”
Basically, he’s implying that if I’m not careful and my daughter catches it from me and gives it to him who gives it to his preggers girlfriend and the unborn baby dies, it’s my fault. At least that was the message I got. Because when I got home yesterday both my kids were in the house wearing masks —supposedly to protect themselves from me.
Here is my advice, along with why this reader really needs to have a COVID talk with the ex:
First, congratulations to you on taking the steps to keep you, your family, and others healthy. Wearing a mask in one’s home isn’t expected unless you have a reason to believe that you’ve been infected or that others have been infected. Is your ex-husband expecting you and your children to have a mask on at all times? If so, that is an unreasonable request. Are you not wearing a mask when work people or others are coming into your home? If not, this might be a reasonable request.
The Need for the COVID Talk With The Ex
Second, something major is missing from your question: Have you had the COVID talk with the ex? What I mean is, have the two of you discussed in detail your expectations of each other around issues related to co-parenting during a pandemic? It doesn’t sound like it and if you don’t do that, you are likely to run into issues like this quite frequently, and your children will be caught in the middle. Now is the time for you to have the COVID talk with the ex.
What are the expectations for each of you around:
Masks, social distancing, seeing friends, hand washing, temperature taking, having people in the home, COVID testing, and much more.
Each of you needs to state, without accusation or judgment, exactly what your expectations are for each other and the children. Once you’ve done so, you both get to decide if you will honor those expectations. If you will or if you won’t is up to each of you, however, clearly explaining that to the other is crucial to your future relationship as a family.
Communicating through your children is unacceptable in every way and harmful to your children. He should not be asking them if you are being safe and they should not be reporting back to either of you. Their job is to go smoothly and effortlessly between your house and his house and to know the rules and expectations of each home.
Once you have the COVID talk with the ex…
Once you have shared your expectations with each other, then decide what works and what doesn’t and say so. If his expectation is that you wear a mask at all times and you are unwilling to do so in your own home, say so. He can then decide what he will do with that information.
Do not placate him by saying you will do something and then not do it. It is better to set the limits for yourself, your children, and him and then let him decide what he wants to do with that. If he chooses to not see his children, that is his choice and then you can decide how you want to proceed from there.
Do not buy into or engage in passive aggressive behavior. Stay clear, assertive, and honest.
Third, it seems that you took some words from your husband (through your daughter) to an extreme and unnatural conclusion. Did your ex-husband say that he will blame you if his girlfriend’s baby dies? If not, why torture yourself to this extreme and unsaid conclusion? Stick to the facts and only get those facts directly from your ex-husband and not your children or anyone else. If he is suggesting that you would be responsible, that’s ridiculous and that’s on him. Don’t engage around nonsense like that. Stick to the facts.
Here’s one way that you could approach him on the topic: “Ex, these are some challenging times with a pandemic and a new baby on the way for you. It would make sense for you to be concerned about whether our children might be carrying the virus and what that means for you, your girlfriend, and the baby. This seems like the perfect time for us to get clarity around our expectations of each other and the children related to staying safe during this time and making sure that our children get excellent time with both of us. Let’s share what makes us most comfortable and then agree to how we will move forward in whatever we agree to.”
Finally, although you don’t say so, this must all be really challenging for you to have your ex with a girlfriend and a new baby on the way. When we get married, we certainly don’t picture it ending in divorce and a new baby for the ex with someone else. Throw in a pandemic and sharing your children with him under these circumstances and I can only imagine that you’re experiencing quite a few emotions. Stay strong, Mama! You’ve got this. Co-parenting is hard enough without another baby on the way and a pandemic to boot. Things will get better and easier as time goes on.
Lisa Kaplin, Psy. D., CPC is a professional certified life and executive coach, psychologist, and professional speaker. She helps people tackle that “One day I’ll do this and then I’ll be happy” goal, today. You can reach Lisa at Lisa@lisakaplin.com or lisakaplin.com