My husband and I have been separated for nine months; our divorce will be final soon. We share joint custody of our two children. The problem: Whenever we’re together, usually at events where the kids are also present (like parent-teacher meetings or visiting day at camp), he won’t speak to me or even make eye contact with me. He will only communicate with me by text. It’s embarrassing for me to have him act this way in front of others. I’m also worried that his behavior creates stress for our children, who are already stressed about the divorce. Any advice?
It sounds as if your estranged husband is still (pick one!) too angry, hurt or guilty about your breakup to see beyond himself. This happens sometimes. I’m sorry for your embarrassment and the occasional awkwardness for camp counselors and schoolteachers. But mostly I am worried about your children.
Right now, they are learning a terrible lesson in abandonment in the wake of broken relationships. My concern is that they will come to emulate your ex’s silent treatment or fear it mightily in their own relationships. Unfortunately, your husband probably isn’t open to hearing constructive criticism from you now, and text messages are too blunt for conveying it, anyway.
Ask him to join you at a counseling session that’s focused on co-parenting. If he refuses, ask your lawyer to request a court-ordered session. If you get into a room with him and a therapist, don’t say one word about your feelings. Who did what to whom is irrelevant now; your children are the sole basis of your relationship.
Stay laser focused on negotiating more positive experiences for them. This requires that you and your husband be respectful to each other when you are together and avoid knocking the other when you are apart. It may be hard to pull this off, but it’s essential for your kids’ well-being.
I’ll Pay for the Wheels
A friend was having some repairs done on his bike and asked if he could borrow my father’s spare bike. My father agreed. Unfortunately, the bike was stolen while it was locked to a bike rack at my friend’s place. My father is upset and wants a replacement bike. But my friend thinks he’s only responsible for paying the value of the stolen bike. Should I cover the gap?
Sometimes intermediaries can be helpful. (I’m thinking of a dashing advice columnist!) But often we just get in the way. Step back from this conflict with your wallet in tow, and encourage the principals to work it out directly. Running interference often lets people take harder positions than they normally would.
As guidance: Your father is entitled to a used bike comparable to the one that was stolen. I have no idea how thriving the secondhand market is in your area. If your father and friend can find one on the internet (eBay and Craigslist are full of listings) or at a bike shop, your friend should pay for it. If not, he should pay the reasonable value of the stolen bike. It’s not a perfect solution, but we assume risk when we borrow and also when we lend.
We Should Get a Prayer Room, No?
I work for a great company that goes out of its way for its employees’ comfort. Lately, I’ve noticed a young Muslim woman praying in an area of the ladies restroom that’s a little separate, but still part of the restroom. I know the company would find her a more suitable place if she asked for one. Am I O.K. saying something to her about this, or should I assume that she’s a grown woman who can look out for herself?
Put me down as “yes” to both parts of your question. You should assume (and behave) as if the young woman can see to her own needs. You should also feel free to say a kind word to her, ask if she is comfortable praying in the restroom and venture your opinion that the company would find her a nicer spot if she asked. My only “no” here involves your speaking to anyone else in the company about this. That is the young woman’s call.
I Saved the Date. Where’s My Invite?
I received a save the date email to my friend’s 40th birthday party from the party’s host. A few weeks later, another friend, who received the same save the date email, received an actual invitation, also by email. But I never received the invitation. Should I ask the host if I’m still invited, simply show up, or does this mean I’ve been uninvited?
It’s not easy to give a party without a glitch or two. But it would be extremely bad form to exclude you from the guest list after asking you to save the date. So, unless you’ve recently become a Real Housewife, or you’re embroiled in a blood feud with the host or honoree, assume that you’re still invited.
In the interest of accurate head count, call or write the host: “I received your ‘save the date’ email but never received an invitation. I look forward to attending. May I have the details, please?” Party on!
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.