05/05/2011 11:30 am ET | Updated Jul 05, 2011

What You Can't Control Post-Divorce

The decision to divorce wasn't an easy one, but unless there's abuse or some other horrific situation it really shouldn't be, especially if you have kids. Still, once you've exhausted all other options to salvage a marriage, once you know that divorce is the only path, the best thing you can do is make sure that whatever you do will be in your kids' best interest (beyond, obviously, staying together).

In my case, we decided to mediate -- I'd like to say we were mature enough not to get nasty and vindictive, but in all honesty we probably were just cheap. We tackled the custody thing well -- 50-50 -- as well as holidays, the house, the car, the "stuff." I thought we had things pretty much under control.

But control is a slippery slope. It's often a big issue in marriage, and guess who typically "wears the pants"? For more than two out of every three couples "women are the CEOs of their households, and their husbands are more like employees," according to social psychologist Carin Rubenstein, who interviewed more than 1,500 men and women for her book "The Superior Wife Syndrome".

Until you split, that is. Just like in any relationship, there's just so much that falls under your control when you divorce, and quite a few things that don't.

The unexpected drop over

After post-divorce dating for a while, you finally meet someone you want to see naked and in your bed. And so there you are in post-coital bliss on a Saturday morning on a weekend the kids are with their dad ... and the front door opens. It's your kid; he forgot his baseball glove and practice is in 15 minutes. You can hear your ex-hubby's car humming outside.

Talk about an awkward situation! And yet, those sorts of things happen a lot. Exes often forget (or maybe can't stand the idea) that you have a life of your own now, and there are such things as boundaries and courtesies, like calling and asking if it's okay before stopping over to pick something up or drop something off. And, making sure they get an answer -- and that the answer is yes. The technology is there; getting an ex to use it is another thing.

But sometimes, it's your kids who are oblivious to your private life. If they're old enough to drop by on their own, you have to be very clear about unannounced visits. And, if they're old enough to understand, stating matter-of-fact that they might walk in on something they really don't want to see usually does the trick; there isn't much kids want to know about their parents' romantic lives.

What goes on "over there"

The call came on a weeknight around dinner time. "Can you put cooked chicken back in a bowl that it was marinating in?" My heart sank as I asked my son, "What do you think?"


"It's not a good idea."

"I'll tell dad that."

It wasn't the first time I had glimpses into things at my boys' father's house that I wasn't too happy about, but typically they weren't anything horrendous enough to kill them (although in this case, it -- "it" being salmonella -- might have). But whether or not you know what's going on "over there," you don't have any control over it.

Homework, bedtime, chores, meals, TV and Facebook time, discipline -- whatever you may have once taken care of is now solely in their father's hands when the kids are with him; same when they're with their mother. If you fought or disagreed about those things as a couple, you can be sure your ex is still doing things that will piss you off. You'll just have to accept that the rules "over there" are different than yours. If you have a cordial relationship with your ex, you might be able to make some suggestions, but I wouldn't count on him or her paying much attention.

What the ex says about you

Anytime a relationship breaks up, there's his version of the truth, her version of the truth and the actual truth, which is probably somewhere in between. Go on a few dates post-divorce and you'll believe all ex-wives are psycho; at least that's what you'll hear from the guy sitting across the table from you. Very few of us speak kindly about our former spouses and quite a lot say downright mean and spiteful things. After all, if he or she was all that great we'd probably still be married.

I don't say anything mean about the man I was married to and the father of my kids but, hey -- he cheated and he lied. That should probably be sufficient info. I have no idea what he says about me, however, and what he tells others about what broke up our marriage. For all I know, his girlfriends think I'm one of those psycho exes. I'm not, but unless he's outright slandering or libeling me, I don't really have much say in the matter.

And, that can lead to some comical situations. Exes can be built-in "outs." Evidently, I once single-handedly ruined a romantic weekend getaway, which was interesting because it was a weekend the boys were with me anyway. Guess the ex wasn't too interested in going away with his girlfriend at the time and I was a convenient excuse; "I begged her to switch dates, but she refused! What can I do?" or some version of that.

All of which proves there are lots of things you can't control post-divorce, but some things you can, like lying. This time, it wasn't to me.