My ex pushed me out of the family

Dear Meredith,

I was married for 23 years. It was not a good marriage. I helped to raise two stepsons and had good relationships with their mothers. My ex and I had two of our own children. It was a very busy household full of homework, football practice, and navigating the pickup and drop-offs for many kids. I actually was responsible for 99 percent of it because my ex could not get away from work.

Our divorce was awful. I was going through major family trauma (including a parent being diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer), and right in the middle of this, my ex asked me to leave. We had been having a lot of issues.

I left and began to work on myself. I rode my bike everywhere. I read books and listened to music. I just was enjoying my life and figuring out who I was. My kids didn't want to have anything to do with me (they were in high school and college at this point). I went to therapy, joined a church. I was hurting a lot. I did fall in love.

I met the love of my life and two years later, we own a home and a dog. My big issue is that my own boys still will not have anything to do with me because my ex sets the narrative. I text and call. I'm not overbearing. Crickets, chirp chirp. I paid for my oldest to go to college by working a few jobs. He didn't want me to attend his ceremony because he didn't want his dad to be hurt. His dad has a girlfriend, for Pete's sake.

I don't know what to do anymore – how to deal with an ex who has pushed me away from my family. My ex feels proud of the alienation. I pray about this all the time, but my heart is broken. Do you have advice for me? I need to heal and wait patiently, but sometimes there are days where I just don’t think that I can make it.

– Hurt

Some of this (the parenting stuff) is out of Love Letters territory, but you do seem to be asking how to navigate a relationship with an ex who wants you out of the picture. It's difficult to give advice here – I don't know your ex's point of view, why he asked you to leave, etc. But here's what I do know:

So often, people aren't clear about what they want. In your case, does your ex know how much you’d like to have access to the family? Does he know how things have changed for you? You can ask if he'll get together with you to have an honest conversation about what went down and how he can help you connect with your kids. I mean, I don't know if he's willing to assist, but at the very least you can find out whether he's really proud of keeping you away. It’d be great to have this kind of talk in family therapy, but if not, a coffee shop will do.

I'd also say that even though it sounds like you were going through a lot when you left the house – and that you did so much work on yourself (with great results!) – it removed you from the routine. You were no longer present to oversee, remind, and participate. It might take a while for your family to reset roles. It does take patience. Please know, on a bad day, that it's just one day. Things always change.

– Meredith

Readers? How do you connect with family if an ex is in the way?