Notes From a Single Mom: Should You Be Friendly With the Ex’s Girlfriend?

Lynn Armitage

Houston, we have a problem. Her name is Carolyn.

Carolyn is my ex-husband’s girlfriend. They live together with her two pre-teens and most likely, they’ll marry.  I’m OK with that part. You know what they say: One woman’s junk is another woman’s treasure.

No surprise, Carolyn and I don’t get along. We’re playing our respective roles flawlessly, just as nature intended: She loathes the ex-wife; I disdain my likely replacement. Funny thing is, we don’t even know each other.

“It’s a turf issue,” explains Michael G. Webb, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Newport Beach, California. “It’s easy for each to go into battle mode . . . the mother to become very protective of her children and the girlfriend to become very protective of her new partner and their lives.”

OK, I understand the dynamic. But did I mention I was thinner than her?

What’s really frustrating is that this woman, with whom I have no relationship whatsoever (we’ve spoken three words to each other in three years, and one isn’t publishable), is having a major influence on my daughters’ lives.

First off, she’s making them fat. My kids used to come home from a weekend at their dad’s house with bags of candy lovingly supplied by Carolyn. An obvious bribe, but it worked. Before long, I started hearing, “Carolyn makes good pancakes,” and “We baked brownies with Carolyn.” Within six months, my daughters doubled in girth. Every time I packed their bags for weekend visits, it felt like I was sending them out to pasture. My attempts at serving healthy food became fruitless—pun intended. I’ve had to teach my daughters to just say “no” to French fries.

To add insult to injury, she did the unthinkable and chopped off their long, golden locks without consulting me. “She crossed a major boundary. As a mother, you were violated,” sides Webb in this turf war. But he warns, “Don’t use this situation to build up more anger and resentment. Instead, try to work with her and the ex in establishing common guidelines.”

Guidelines? OK, Carolyns of the world, listen up! Don’t be threatened by us ex-wives. We’re not your enemies. We want your relationships with our exes to work out because we don’t want them crawling back to us. All we ask is that you love our kids. Be patient, be kind. Don’t yell at them when they shuffle their feet because the noise irritates you. Understand that it’s a difficult situation for them, too.

And please don’t rob us of those special moments we’re entitled to as mothers. We want to be the ones who pierce their ears, cut their hair, tell them about sex and share the heartache of a first crush. Remember, we’re their mothers, not you.

Webb claims it’s important for us to get along with these “Carolyns” because our children will benefit. “You don’t have to like her. You just have to have a working relationship and a common goal—the children’s best interests.”

Actually, I’m grateful that Carolyn professes to love my girls. Her heart seems to be in the right place.

But what’s really comforting—and gives me great peace of mind—is knowing that no matter what happens between us, good or bad, I’ll always be prettier.


For some reason, Lynn Armitage, a freelance writer in Northern California, is craving a bowl of milk. She is an enrolled member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, and welcomes your feedback at:

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carolynmartell's picture
Submitted by carolynmartell on
Lynn, I love your candor, the next thing I have to say is my name, "Carolyn" and nooooo!!! I am not the other woman, ha. I am well up in age and to old to be involved in such a triangulated relationship of this nature, Thank You Creator!!! Although today my family has been at the mercy of an ex-daughter in law who has resorted to the ancient old devices of scheming, cheating, manipulation and retaliation. The ex-daughter in law has even resorted to showing up at my eldest son's favorite Tavern purely to show off her new flavor of the month. My family and my son have not seen my youngest grandson son since last October, nice! A cruel antic and device to hurt my adult son. I have a difficult time with why women so heartlessly turn to such vengeful behaviors it is so demeaning to females. Many females have a different streak up their back, if you know what I mean?! We females of late date have no clue of just what "sisterhood" is all about?! As a Case Manager/Family Specialist in the field I have seen such cruelty and competitiveness in the field. A Director that did everything within her power to ruin my reputation because the attention was no longer being directed her way. And Professional females stabbing each other in the back purely out of jealousy and to inch their way to the top. I grew tired of this resigned and went back to school to obtain my Masters in clinical Psychology/Art therapy. Hopefully, my going into private practice will curtail some of the B.S..... I am a Chippewa, an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain tribe located in Belcourt North Dakota. Thank You for sharing! Fondly, Carolyn, sooo sorry about the name,LOL

lynnarm's picture
Submitted by lynnarm on
Carolyn, Don't worry -- I won't hold anything against you for your name. After all, it has my name in it, right? LOL! You sound so wise and so mature. Enlightened, even. Someday, I will get there, too. Your daughter-in-law seems like a real piece of work. She's obviously hurt and in lashing-out mode. Hopefully, she will wise up sooner than later and realize the damage she is causing to her own son. Stay strong, and let her vengeful fire burn out. It will, eventually. I am sorry to hear about yor experience with the colleague who tried to ruin you. I had a similar experience, whereby my best friend -- who I tipped off to the job at our company to begin with -- ended up stabbing our mentor in the back, and stole his job. Then she did the same thing to me. Now she's president of the company. In her mind, I am sure she thinks the ends justify the means. But we know it doesn't. The good news is, we were both smart enough to turn the other cheek and walk away from a poisonous situation. So happy you landed very solidly on your feet!