Q: I have been divorced for 17 years. His mother was the driving force behind our divorce. She hurt me in so many ways, it's hard to list.
A problem recently came up with my son; he is 25 and has made some terrible choices. My former in-laws have turned their backs on him. Because of this, and all that my former mother-in-law has done to me, I wrote her a letter. I poured out the hurt that I have carried over the years, but I am afraid to send it. She will share it with her children, maybe even my children. What's good ex-etiquette?
A: I get it — you've carried this pain for years and now the person who has hurt you is trying to hurt your son.
But before you have a confrontation, you must ask yourself what your ultimate goal is and what is the most productive way to achieve that goal. A letter is a great way to get all that frustration out, but leave it on the page and then throw it away. Will it help your son if you mail it? Will it bring you satisfaction? You're second-guessing your actions because what is at the core of your behavior is hurt and revenge.
The 10 rules of good ex-etiquette were designed to help people deal with feeling out of control, angry and vengeful. There's a reason why I included, "Don't hold grudges" and "Don't be spiteful." Grudges fester; they keep you stuck in the past. Holding grudges and spiteful actions will not allow you to put your children first or allow you to negotiate in good faith in the best interest of your children.
It's time (actually, long past time) to get some counseling with the goal of working on forgiveness and exploring ways to feel less like a victim. That's good ex-etiquette.
Jann Blackstone is the founder of Bonus Families.