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Stuck in a difficult position with brother and ex-wife - could really do with some advice. V long I'm afraid.

(25 Posts)
itsalwaysthequietones Mon 10-Aug-09 12:46:57

OK, as briefly as poss:
- older brother left his wife 2.5 years ago, he said they'd been having problems for ages but she said it came as a complete surprise. they have a daughter together who was 20 months at the time. He walked out on Xmas Eve. V soon afterwards he started seeing someone else (someone he'd been working very closely with before the split.) He didn't tell us for about a year but we guessed. By the time he told us officially, they were living together. We (and I imagine his ex-wife) assume he'd been seeing this person while still married or at least she'd been instrumental in him leaving.
- I've done everything in my power to stay v good friends with his ex and when we visit that part of the world I stay with her because my bro has a 1-bed-flat and no room for me & family, while she has a house. More importantly, she invited us and is v keen to maintain the relationship/help her daughter to keep ties with her aunt/cousin (my DD) so it seemed the right thing to accept. Also, my brother initially said he didn't want anyone in his family to meet his new partner so staying with his ex gave us greater opportunities to see my niece. My brother has always been fine with this although I've checked with him on each occasion that it's still ok. His ex has no contact with the rest of my family (parents etc) and actively dislikes them.

- skip forward a couple of years, my bro is trying to negotiate for his daughter to live with him and his partner 3 days a week, rather than 2. His ex initially agreed to this but has now changed her mind and it's all got quite nasty. We're going up to visit in a couple of weeks and I'd arranged to stay with her. He has now said he wants me to make other arrangements because she's being so unreasonable about shared custody. I think me pulling out of staying with her will only make the situation worse and even more of a divide will be created between our family and hers, which can only be a bad thing. I'm really reluctant to call and change plans because I'll have to explain why.

I guess the fundamental problem is that for all my brother says about how reasonable he's been and how unreasonable she's been, I think he's treated her really badly and I'm not surprised she's upset/angry. Also, if my husband left me and went to set up home with someone else then expected me to hand over my child for 3 days a week I'd really fight it. But then again I know she can be really quite a difficult person to live with and I don't want to be disloyal to my brother.

So, what the hell do I do? What would you do?

wilkos Mon 10-Aug-09 12:49:51

do what you were going to do - stay with her.

calmly explain to your brother that you staying with her is a total non issue as its convenient and will allow your dd's to spend some time together

stick up for yourself woman! grin

bronze Mon 10-Aug-09 12:50:46

don't get dragged into their squabbles. Go as normal for the children

wilkos Mon 10-Aug-09 12:52:25

one more thing - don't let him drag you into the general bad feeling. he is trying to point score and to be brutally honest, sounds like a bit of an arse


itsalwaysthequietones Mon 10-Aug-09 12:52:41

thanks ladies, that's v helpful. Suspect it won't go down very well and he emailed me to say he'd make other arrangements while we were up there so that the two girls can spend time together. Thought I'd just say we'd already made arrangements for this time but will think again before the next trip.

tiredoftherain Mon 10-Aug-09 12:52:44

TBH I probably wouldn't go on this visit at all. I'd make an excuse why not, so I wouldn't have to make the decision between the two of them. I bet your support has meant a lot to her, and she's clearly gone out of her way to maintain the relationship with you.
It sounds like emotions are running really high at the moment, you obviously have sympathies and loyalties on both sides, and whatever you decide right now, you run the risk of been drawn into something which really isn't anything to do with you, and possibly even risk losing contact with one side.
Could you postpone your visit until this blows over a little?

randomtask Mon 10-Aug-09 12:53:49

I'd tell your brother that you're trying to keep his childs ties with your family going and that it won't work if you stay somewhere else. She'll decide you've 'taken sides' and then it'll be another thing in court against him.

He made his bed so he should lie in it plus, it's not your battle. You're doing what's right for the most important people, the children.

Good luck.

itsalwaysthequietones Mon 10-Aug-09 12:54:15

cheers, wilkos. I've thought that myself at times grin but he is my brother...

The bad feeling is on both sides. She was yelling down the phone at him last night and their DD was in the room with her so it'll be heard to completely avoid the subject with them both but I'll do my best

tiredoftherain Mon 10-Aug-09 12:55:01

Having now read other posts, I think they're right, you should probably do what you have been doing, and just make it clear that you won't be drawn into this dispute. Good luck..!

beanieb Mon 10-Aug-09 12:55:33

I think you should continue to stay with her if she still wants you to but refuse to get into any conversations with either if them about their custody battle. It's not fair on you and it's not fair on your brother.

Or could you this time book a room nearby? That way you remain on neutral ground and won't feel like you are being disloyal?

From what you have said it does sound like his behaviour towards her has been fairly unreasonable. Maybe you need to tell him (Face to face?) that you do not want to be disloyal and you are not choosing her over him but that you are her friend and you can understand why she would be fighting the change in custody and then just tell him not to involve you in any of the game-playing as you are just going to continue the way you always have.

CarGirl Mon 10-Aug-09 12:57:03

I was going to suggest what you've already said.

Say on this occasion the arrangements have already been made and that you think changing them will make the situation worse for him but next time you will discuss it with him prior to making arrangements.

itsalwaysthequietones Mon 10-Aug-09 12:57:17

tiredof - would absolutely cancel trip if it were possible but it's tied in with our summer holiday. We've rented a cottage in Scotland specifically so that we can catch with family (my sister is up there too) and we're stopping off near them on the way, would be v difficult to change plans at this point.

random - yup, exactly. She already hates the rest of my family so I really don't want to fall off the radar as well, I'm really the last link that my niece has with our side of the family unless everything gets conducted through my brother, which will be tricky given the custody issues going on at the mo

itsalwaysthequietones Mon 10-Aug-09 13:01:51

beanie - think I'll go with the 'room nearby' option next time (although by then they'll be four of us so the price does start to rocket) - have tried to discuss the situation with him before but we had a big falling out about it just after they'd split up and he seems to take anything I say about it as me being judgemental. He's been very 'rational' with her about it from the start, sending her lots of research about the benefits of children splitting time w/ their parents and trying not to get embroiled in arguments etc but if I were in her shoes that would drive me insane, she probably just wants to have a normal chat with him rather than him sending her informed articles as if they'd never been married. She tends to get far more angry/upset about it than he does but then so would I.

anniemac Mon 10-Aug-09 14:04:01

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anniemac Mon 10-Aug-09 14:07:55

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itsalwaysthequietones Mon 10-Aug-09 14:12:14

Cheers, Annie,

To be fair, she has never once tried to talk to me about her relationship with my brother since our very first conversations after they split up. I emailed to check she was alright and she said it had come as a complete surprise but since then she's not so much as raised an eyebrow about him in our company. She's even babysat while I went out to meet him for a drink/dinner. They don't have any plans to go down the formal divorce root - they'd both agreed that would be bad for their DD so I'm really hoping they will work something out between the, potentially with a bit of external arbitration help.

My brother has been good about me seeing her but partly it was in his interests at that point because he was keen for her to feel that someone from his side of the family had made an effort with her.

I've emailed him to suggest we talk about it this week but also said to him that I'm concerned me cancelling will actually make things worse i.e. she'll know he's behind it and feel even more antagonistic towards him. I also said we'd make sure in future that we stayed elsewhere.

We could find somewhere cheap nearby but my impression is he doesn't want me seeing his ex at all now and just wants me to see my niece through him.

itsalwaysthequietones Mon 10-Aug-09 14:14:52

Sorry Annie, didn't see second post. Not to worried about the actual cost, it's more the implications of it in terms of cutting off from my SIL altogether (because I think that's the impace it'll have).

Have tried v hard (and succeeded for the most part) not to get involved except for a couple of occasions where I've sat with my brother while he talked about it all and tried not to comment. As I said, SIL never mentions it though I guess there's a first for everything.

anniemac Mon 10-Aug-09 15:28:20

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itsalwaysthequietones Mon 10-Aug-09 15:35:05

thanks so much, Annie. It's really on my mind. Am trying to concentrate on work but keep worrying about how my brother's dealing with my email (which was written terribly tactfully and sensitively) - the last thing I want to do is fall out with him. V hard to keep everyone happy.

lilacclaire Mon 10-Aug-09 15:37:20

I would just say that you will be sticking to your original plans now and in the future and you are in no uncertain terms getting involved in any of their disputes on either side.

I would be quite annoyed at him trying to drag me into it tbh, it really has nothing to do with you.

itsalwaysthequietones Mon 10-Aug-09 15:42:03

Cheers, lilac - I suppose I'm just worried that it appears that I'm somehow not supporting 'my family' by maintaining my relationship with her when he would prefer me to sever ties. It's hard to just let go of people just because your family do but then I guess my brother just doesn't get why I wouldn't put him first. Don't really think the rest of my family get it either.

anniemac Mon 10-Aug-09 16:12:47

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IneedacleanerIamalazyslattern Mon 10-Aug-09 17:42:18

I had a similar situation with my own sister.
She is 9 years older than me and married pretty young no children (apart from me lol) and left her husband when I was 18.
The thing was I was sooo young when they got together that he was like a big brother to me. She never liked the fact that we were still in touch and eventually under "family loyalty" I dropped contact. To this day I wish I hadn't it is such a shame. Yes they weren't apart but he was family to me in the same way i'd imagine your sil is to you.

I can totally understand the family loyalty thing but there are a few complicated relationships in my own family that have so made me realise that it's somwtimes something you really live to regret.

You are obviously at the very least very friendly with SIL so why change your plans? Why stop going there to stay? It would be such a shame for things to end up badly becuase your brother wants you to take sides in an arguement that isn't yours.
She has done nothing to you and seems to really be trying to keep your ties for the dc's sake and probably because she still looks on you as her family too.

FluffyBunnyGoneBad Mon 10-Aug-09 17:47:40

Just because he's your brother you don't have to agree with everything he's done.
The children are the most important people here, not him or his ex. It's not taking anyone's side.

itsalwaysthequietones Mon 10-Aug-09 19:29:57

Ineedacleaner - helpful to hear about someone else's experience but sorry about your BIL. I wouldn't say my SIL feels like family in quite the same way, in some ways it's quite hard keeping in touch with her because we both have to be so careful not to say anything that will upset the other. We just try to avoid all mention of my family basically! Having said that I'm very glad to be in touch with her, I think she's really had a tough time through all of this, though obviously there's two sides to every story and she has played a part as well. And as you say and Fluffy both say, it's about the DCs - I want my DD to have a good relationship with her cousin and I don't want my niece to grow up thinking none of us cared about her Mother's feelings in all of this.

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