When Brother is the Third Wheel



Dear Dharma,

How do I get my brother and my ex-husband to back off on parenting my child?

While I’m committed to co-parenting with my son’s father, we seldom see eye to eye on anything – hence the divorce. We are civil enough in front of our son, but my ex does something that drives me crazy. If he disagrees with me on a parenting issue, he runs to my brother for support and backup.

They developed a good friendship over the course of our marriage and I don’t care that they remain friends. I do care that they both gang up on me about parenting issues. I believe in rules and boundaries, and of course, space for privacy and making ones’ own decisions to some extent.

Both believe in a friendship-only style of parenting with no rules, lax boundaries, and letting the kid rule the roost.

Parenting is hard. Co-parenting is harder. How do I keep parenting between my ex and me and cut out the third wheel without damaging our fragile relationships? I’d like to keep getting invited to Thanksgiving dinner, after all.

P.S. A sit down with them both about this only resulted in them calling me “crazy and controlling.”


In a Parenting Love Triangle

Dear Triangle,

I’ll bet you’re expecting Dharma to say that the person you need to deal with here is your ex… because the easiest thing would be if he would stop pulling your brother into the fray and creating sides where they need not exist.

However, their bromance is going to trump any request you make along those lines, and you will be left with the title of Crazy and Controlling.  Nothing good there to work with, right?

Instead, it’s your brother you need to “handle”, and it goes something like this.

The next time he spouts off on what he and your ex think you could be doing better as a parent, listen politely until he’s done (which will be hard, but do it anyway) and then in the most calm voice you’ve ever used, let him know how much you appreciate his interest and love for your son, but going forward, you are going to deal with all parenting issues directly and only with the child’s father. (Don’t use his name – you need to make the clear distinction of role, not the personal relationships.)

He’ll cut you off and tell you why that’s stupid, and then you will repeat the message, this time ending it with, “So tell me what you had for lunch today!” and a big smile.

This needs to become your mantra each and every time your brother gets involved where he shouldn’t.  It’s going to take patience on your part, and you’ll likely have to sit through a tantrum or two as your brother adjusts to this new way of the world, but once he realizes his words and his involvement have no effect, I really think he’ll tire of it.



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Categories: Advice, conflict, Family

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