Dealing with husband's ex wife's request
January 13, 2017 9:03 AM   Subscribe

My husband's ex wife is incredibly high conflict. I do not personally have any interaction with her at all due to her ongoing abuse and stalking behavior. We share children with her so she continues to be in our lives. She just sent me a friendly email asking for the recipe for a food that my stepson likes. Should I ignore or give her what she's asking for?

I don't really want to go into detail about the ex wife's behavior, but it has been very antagonistic towards both my husband and me for several years.

When she wants something from my husband (usually money or a favor but sometimes just attention), her general MO is to act there is no history of conflict and be super friendly. When she has met her objective, she immediately goes back to high conflict mode, which usually escalates for a couple of days.

I've been left out of this game until today. She sent me an email (we have been very careful to withhold my contact information due to some stalking behavior, so just getting an email is a little distressing) asking for a recipe. The tone is one I would expect from my best friend.

So here is my dilemma, and I would love some advice. 1) My guy says that this is just a manipulation/drama thing. 2) If I don't give it to her, she WILL tell my step son that I am withholding this from him because I am selfish, don't care about him, etc. 3) She is ostensibly asking for this recipe because SK8 really wants it. He is a kid with a lot of food issues, and I DO want him to have it if he wants it. OTOH, it is kind of a special thing for he and I to make this recipe together. I suspect that she got wind of this and that's actually why she wants it, so she can make it NOT a special thing.

I don't want to be unreasonable, and I don't want to be a bitch. I also don't want to get sucked into drama and conflict.
posted by LittleMissCranky to Human Relations (55 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think your chances of being sucked into drama and conflict will be maximised by ignoring her email and not sending the recipe. I would send a very brief courteous reply, enclosing the recipe and copying in your husband; if she follows up in any weird way, he can take over so that you don't need to interact with her further.
posted by Aravis76 at 9:08 AM on January 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

In other circumstances I would say give her the recipe. In these circumstances I strongly suggest you ignore her request as though you never received it. You did not give her your email address so like any other unsolicited email, it must have gone into your spam folder, or maybe she has the wrong address after all.

Let her bring it up with your husband or stepson, and they can give her the recipe or not, as they see fit. Don't let her in.
posted by headnsouth at 9:10 AM on January 13, 2017 [72 favorites]

OTOH, it is kind of a special thing for he and I to make this recipe together. I suspect that she got wind of this and that's actually why she wants it, so she can make it NOT a special thing.

I wouldn't put too much effort into this line of thought. True or not, it's only going to make you angry.

I'd print out the recipe or write it old fashioned style on a little card and send it with the kiddo next time he's with his mom.
posted by phunniemee at 9:10 AM on January 13, 2017 [74 favorites]

I'm a stepmom, I get it. Your stepson is the important one here. Either print out the recipe and send it with him when he goes, or if it's necessary sooner than that, have your husband send it so you stay out of the email chain.

There are places where you don't want to compromise because giving in can lead to consequences - this isn't one of them. Even if she takes "your" thing and finds a way to do a better Disney-fied version of making it and suddenly your stepson would rather make it with her than with you - which would hurt like hell - it's still in his best interests, and it still comes from your recipe, and that's what he'll remember.

Kids pay attention. Try to see the bright side, which you would get if there were no divorce drama: He likes this recipe, your sending it is giving him a taste of your home he can enjoy when he's not with you.
posted by Mchelly at 9:16 AM on January 13, 2017 [23 favorites]

Ignore it. Do not give her the recipe in any manner. If she brings it up say you must have missed it. Continue all communication through established lines.

You cannot negotiate with terrorists.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:17 AM on January 13, 2017 [18 favorites]

If it were me I'd send the recipe but modify it slightly so it's never going to be as good as the way you make it.
posted by bondcliff at 9:18 AM on January 13, 2017 [52 favorites]

Seconding headnsouth. If you never gave her your email address, you really don't want to do anything that confirms for her that this is a way to get through to you. That includes sending the recipe via your husband or stepson - ANY sort of response from you is going to reinforce the idea that she can email you.

This isn't a request for life-saving medicine that only you can provide your stepson. Let her ask your husband or stepson if she really needs this recipe.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:18 AM on January 13, 2017 [15 favorites]

Does she know for sure she has the right email address? What if you replied with a fake "address not found" bounce-back error message?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:19 AM on January 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

When they go low, we go high. Give it to her. (But yeah, write it out and give it to the kid to give to her.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:20 AM on January 13, 2017 [11 favorites]

yes write it out and have the kid or dad give it to her.
i wouldn't add any other notes or messages.
just tell the kid--

"hey, your mom wanted this recipe for you--please take it to her.
posted by calgirl at 9:26 AM on January 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Ask your son if he would like to eat this food at her house as well.

If he says yes, give him the recipe to take over there.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:28 AM on January 13, 2017 [26 favorites]

I'm with roomthreeseventeen on this. Maybe he doesn't want her to make it. Maybe she is manipulating him, too.

I don't know how you find out without making him a pawn in the game though. You would have to phrase the conversation pretty carefully.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:34 AM on January 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

(we have been very careful to withhold my contact information due to some stalking behavior, so just getting an email is a little distressing)

this is an AHA NOW I HAVE YOUR EMAIL ploy

do not respond to the email, do not send a fake bounceback message, do not communicate anything that will get back to her as confirmation that you received the email

if she wants the recipe she can ask your husband through an established communication channel. if you value your sanity do not open up a new one for her.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:41 AM on January 13, 2017 [107 favorites]

It looks like you've kept your relationship with the ex at a certain and acceptable level. I would say, stay at that level. Don't reply via email. This maybe a one-off exception and you can send a note via your husband.

Bigger picture here maybe to address what's the acceptable level for your child's present and future; events like graduations, milestones, etc. (Not saying you haven't handled the question already.)
posted by mountainblue at 9:44 AM on January 13, 2017

The email is spam. Treat accordingly.

If she is that type, she will tell step son negative things whether or not you respond. Ignore all communications that are not through your husband. Do not involve the kid. Kids are not messengers for coparents.
posted by zennie at 9:48 AM on January 13, 2017 [13 favorites]

Seconding "ask your son" and if he wants it, print/write it and give it to him. This is a beautiful workaround that gives you both plausible denial w/r/t stepmom's "aha!!! I can haz ur email!!!" and soothing your own conscience w/r/t your son's needs.
posted by fraula at 9:51 AM on January 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

Born & raised with high conflict people, you have two options ignore this & play the I never got your email card. Or give the recipe to your Stepson to take next time he goes, let him know that you now how much he likes it so you thought it would be nice for him to be able to make with his Mum. Checking with him that it's something he actually wants to do.

If you take the wind out of her sails like that, she'll lose interest in making it with him quick enough as son will most likely mention that LittleMissCranky does it this way or whatever, because no recipe comes out exactly the same when another person makes it. By willingly giving it & making it no big deal you remove her "power" in the situation & make your stepson happy.

Whatever she does will not take away from the special time you have with your stepson.

Before you do any of that put her email on delete/spam/blocked list.
posted by wwax at 10:32 AM on January 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

I would go for a two step approach
1. She is not supposed to be getting touch with you via email. Pretend the email went into your spam folder and you never saw it. In fact, add a filter so all future emails from her to you do go into the trash. Do not reply, do not admit that you even saw it.

2. If she complains to the boy that you won't share and he tells you, tell him, "You know step mom and I don't communicate directly. If she wants anything for me, she can ask your dad and he'll let me know. But how about you? Would it be nice for me for you if I give to her?" If he says yes, say "Stepmom is really supposed to talk to your dad about these things, but you can talk to me any time. I'd be happy to make a copy of the recipe for you." If he says no, say "OK, I won't worry about it then" (So now you look like the good person by giving it freely when the right person asks and she is wrong because she didn't follow the rules. Do not tell the kid that you saw the email - don't lie, but don't admit to it either - as of today it no longer exists!)

That you are enforcing the boundaries around communication while still expressing your love and care for the kid.

If kid is too young to be carrying messages, then you won't even hear about not responding unless she complains to your ex and then he can tell her "Ask me, not my partner"
posted by metahawk at 10:47 AM on January 13, 2017 [11 favorites]

Also, don't ask your son. First it admits that you got the email and second it puts him in the middle. If she complains to the kid, she is putting him in the middle and you can help him get out of it by reminding him that there are channels for step-mom to do this but also by being gracious and giving it him if he wants it.
posted by metahawk at 10:50 AM on January 13, 2017 [10 favorites]

People here are responding as though this is a normal ex asking about the recipe. This is not a normal ex and this is not about the recipe. This is about making inappropriate contact with you. She is not supposed to have your email.

She is playing on your friendly instincts, shared by most here--be nice, it's just a recipe, be the bigger person, think of your poor child, set a good example--but it's a ploy to draw you into direct contact with her. Responding (even via husband or son) means she's succeeded. Stalking behavior, you say? This is textbook.

If she is in contact with your husband and truly needs the recipe, she can ask him. That's how I know it's not about the recipe.
posted by kapers at 11:04 AM on January 13, 2017 [59 favorites]

Send it with all good will.

At one level, the very fact that your stepson let her know how much he likes this thing that you make is a risky declaration on his part that he loves you too, and a bid to get her to accept you.

That she took it up is a gesture of peace and reconciliation, and offers a chance to make everyone's life easier -- and happier.
posted by jamjam at 11:04 AM on January 13, 2017

Also, your husband should change his email and social media passwords, as should you.

Abuse and stalking behavior is what you said. If anyone I knew to be an abusive stalker who was not supposed to have my email emailed me out of the blue I would not even consider responding regardless of whether the content was a litany of insults or a request to help their sick kitten or an offer for a million dollars.
posted by kapers at 11:12 AM on January 13, 2017 [17 favorites]

If you didn't personally give her your email address, then you NEVER saw that email. If it's really about some recipe, or lost shoe, or homework assignment, or whatever, and it's really really really that important, then she can try again...through the appropriate channels(!).
Do not be tempted to 'take the high road'. Crazy will take the high road, the low road, and the road it just bulldozed through the middle of town. For your sanity and safety, make NO roads accessible. SHUT IT DOWN.
(My best friend has the same ex and I have seen first-hand how this plays out. The only way to win is not to play)
posted by sexyrobot at 11:44 AM on January 13, 2017 [29 favorites]

Nah, reply to her with the recipe, then block her email address and move on with your life.
posted by disconnect at 11:47 AM on January 13, 2017

I think you should print it up and sent it with the Kiddo.

Your husband's ex-wife has engineered one of those situations where there's no way that you can reasonably refuse*. Kudos to her. The best you can do, without becoming the bad guy here is to pretend that you never got the email.

BUT... assuming you and your husband are doing a good job of keeping Kiddo insulated from the drama, I would bet that Kiddo didn't realize why it would be a problem to pass along your email address to his birth-mother when she asked for it. And if she got it from him, and it seems to be non-functional, then he gets pulled into the whole thing with accusations of not giving her the right address, etc., etc.

So, if the goals are to do what's best for Kiddo, and to minimize contact with the Ex, I think the optimal solution would be to give him the recipe to take with him to her place. I'd let him know that she asked for it though.

Yes, it provides confirmation that she has a working email address for you, right now. But there's nothing that says that you need to respond to the next email, or the one after that. Normal people get new email addresses all the time, and there's no way that she can get all het up about you not being responsive without looking like the crazy one.

To the extent that you see her as an adversary and this as a zero-sum game**, having the strength to do this thing is proof that you've already won.

*I get your feelings about it being your "special" thing, but a kid with dietary issues shouldn't be missing opportunities to eat things he likes. And you know what, you and Kiddo will find other special things, because you are playing an active part in raising him.
**I'm not saying that you do or you don't. But I know that I might, in the same situation.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:49 AM on January 13, 2017

NO NO NO NO NO do not respond to stalking behavior. Finding your contact info without asking you for it is not okay. Ignore it. I'm sorry she's doing this to you.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:50 AM on January 13, 2017 [16 favorites]

Do not respond to the email and block her email address or send her emails directly to a folder you never read in case you need them later.

She is phishing and any response will be used to hurt you (and your stepchild) later.
posted by winna at 12:02 PM on January 13, 2017 [14 favorites]

Ignore her. This sounds like a tactic my mom would use, innocent looking on the outside with a malevolent center. LISTEN to your guy, he knows her tactics best, if he says it's drama, it very likely is.
posted by Dr. Twist at 12:09 PM on January 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

Teach son how to make it on his own, and he can teach her.
posted by rhizome at 12:17 PM on January 13, 2017 [4 favorites]


I agree this is a "Gotcha! I have your email Address!!"

If you acknowledge or respond in any way you will never stop hearing from her. Screenshot the email and put it in the "Stalker Folder" where you document her abuse. Swear your spouse to secrecy if you've already told him. Say NOTHING to your step son. Cross your fingers and pray.


I like TheEndOfInvention's idea to send a fake response, but only if you know how to disguise the isp info (or whatever that is) in the header of all emails that gives info about origin. Otherwise, delete and move on. Just letting you know the fake response worked for me. If you have a friend that is tech savvy and can do this fake reply from a different server/device than yours, try it!
posted by jbenben at 12:23 PM on January 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

The only thing that stops me from categorically telling you to trash the email and pretend it never existed is... did she get your email address out of your stepson? Does he know it and does he know he's not "supposed" to share it with her?

I wouldn't want him put in the middle in that way either.
posted by lydhre at 12:27 PM on January 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

Ignore it. Don't engage. She can't prove that you got the email. As suggested above, set up a rule in your mail system so that anything she sends you goes into spam or a special folder that you ignore.

It would be one thing if this was the only possible way for her to communicate to your family. She wants to drag you into the drama; don't let her. This isn't about going high, this is about protecting yourself and your family. If your stepson wants to make that with his mom, he can ask you for the recipe directly. And don't ask him about it either, because that's dragging him into it.

His mom, if this is all about her, can ask your husband. Step away from this turd. That it appears to be a friendly turd is beside the point. You never gave her your address, she does not have permission to contact you, you are not obligated to respond to a communication from someone who is not your friend or a colleague or a police officer or whomever.

You already know this woman is a huge pain in the ass so ignore the email and any messages that follow. Make that folder so all future messages disappear and then don't worry about it. This is called self-care and it is a good thing. It does not harm your family to enforce limits for your own emotional health, it helps your family. So don't respond to her, don't drag the son into it, just ignore and keep on keeping on. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 12:43 PM on January 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

To be honest, the lack of consensus here is kind of reassuring, since it makes me feel like I am being neither unreasonable nor a total sucker. So, thanks!

To answer a few things, my stepson is 8 and is definitely not the one who gave her my email address. He doesn't have dietary issues per se, he's just extremely picky.

One of my big concerns is that if I don't give her the stupid recipe (which, by the way, is the first freaking google hit for "homemade pizza dough recipe") is that the next play will be telling my stepson to ask me to give it to her. In which case I have upped the ante and then will still be super manipulated, but now our son has to be put in the middle (which she is a big fan of doing).

Thanks a lot for all the comments...I really appreciate it.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 12:50 PM on January 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

As Mom whose ex- told the step-mom that I was evil and crazy: Thanks for being a terrific step-mom. Thank you for putting step-kid 1st. Thank you for avoiding drama. Your step-kid will grow up and recognize that you played a valuable part in his life, and you will likely have a true friend.
posted by theora55 at 12:50 PM on January 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

> People here are responding as though this is a normal ex asking about the recipe. This is not a normal ex and this is not about the recipe. This is about making inappropriate contact with you. She is not supposed to have your email.

Repeated for emphasis. People who are saying "Just send the recipe, what's the big deal" do not seem to be aware of what's going on. This is not about the recipe. Do what you feel is best, but do not let yourself be guilted or railroaded into being in direct contact with this person.
posted by languagehat at 12:55 PM on January 13, 2017 [15 favorites]

I really have to take issue with the idea that the Ex is a stalker. I understand having a toxic Ex in the picture, and all the havoc that can cause. But there are ways and times when you fight back, and this - EVEN IF it's meant as a thin edge of the wedge to open communications outside what's acceptable - is just not a place to go scorched earth over. You can send a recipe through your stepson or his father, and his father can (and should) follow up with a "Do not use that email again." There are no bad guys in that interaction. Any subsequent email from her gets trashed, or block email now. But ignoring it or pretending it's fake or fighting about it means you are the one creating drama, even if you're right.

I worry that it's putting the kid in the middle by asking what he wants - depending on how fraught the relationship between both houses is, it could be setting him up to feel like there's a right and wrong answer -- over a recipe. That Ex might never even make. I just don't see what you gain in the long term just to stand on principle over something innocuous. If there were no kids involved it would be different.

It sounds from the question like there are multiple kids involved here. Ex is going to be in your lives for decades. It doesn't end after graduation, because there will be college visits home and weddings and grandkids and every visit will involve negotiations. The relationship with the Ex may never get better. But it also might - and the only way it will is to keep taking the high road when it is possible. This is one of those times where it is possible. if she tries again after being told no, that's when you lock down.

Drama invites more drama. If she doesn't actually want the recipe, doing nothing will work. I get that. But if she does, she will keep trying and/or you will be made the bad guy and who needs that? What does that gain you?

Your sanity as the outside player is what's most important. No interaction with the Ex. This one got through the transom, and that shouldn't happen - assuming your husband agrees, he can handle the request and put a stop to it happening again (if he doesn't agree, you need more help than just this issue). And if she tries again, you can block and ignore with a good conscience.

That's all I've got. I've been doing the stepmom thing for about a decade now and it's the hardest thing I've ever done. I have a lot of friends who are also stepmoms, and if there's anything that's universal between us, it's that if you want to be in for the long haul, you put the kids first, take the high road, and let the bio parents be the ones who get their hands dirty.
posted by Mchelly at 12:55 PM on January 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

This recipe will not be the one thing that stops her from putting her son in the middle or painting you as a bitch. Those are her poor choices and not your fault. This will only open a direct line to you, which you said you do not want. Has that changed?

It'll just be something else next time. You can't stop the crazy train but you can avoid hopping aboard.

Let her ask the son for the recipe and he can be the one to say "let's google it." She obviously knows how to use the internet. This is not about the recipe, she will put him in the middle regardless of what you do here because as you already say, she does this.

I really have to take issue with the idea that the Ex is a stalker.
That idea didn't come from the responses. Those are OP's own words and I believe them.
posted by kapers at 1:06 PM on January 13, 2017 [15 favorites]

I believe her too. But there's a difference between stalker-like behavior, and actually being a stalker. She has a reason to be in the OP's life, like it or not. There is no 'going no-contact' possible in the larger world. All you can do is damage control. As the extra parent in a war, you actually get to choose whether or not to get your hands dirty. If everything you do is going to create a problem, the best course of action is to do the thing you would want done if you were the kid.

OP sends the recipe through a third party along with message that that's not acceptable -
Worst case scenario is more emails, which she blocks. No new avenue of communication is established.
Best case scenario is the kid gets the food at both houses and is grateful

OP doesn't send the recipe at all / pretends she didn't get email and simply blocks -
Best case scenario is status quo. Still drama, ex will find a new trick.
Worst case scenario is the Ex tells kid that she asked for the recipe and OP wouldn't give it. If kid asks OP why she didn't send, all OP can say is "it's complicated." Or some damage-control version of "here it is," while back-pedalling. Or telling kid it's his responsibility to carry messages from Ex to you, which, no. Ex wins, kid is resentful, your relationship with kid is what gets hurt.

Kids only realize their parents were the bad guy in hindsight as adults, and rarely then. It is way easier to blame the stepparents. It's not winnable.
posted by Mchelly at 1:23 PM on January 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is not about the recipe. This is about the email. She picked something that would put you in this position and play on your kid and your feelings about this activity and whether or not you should respond. This is not a neutral email from her.

Save the email for documentation. Do not respond or let on that you received it in any way. She can fucking Google her own pizza dough, there's only like 4 ingredients. This is 100% a power play.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:30 PM on January 13, 2017 [15 favorites]

The highest drama thing you can do right now is give her the recipe. Go ahead. See what happens.
posted by jessca84 at 2:46 PM on January 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

In light of your update OP, I change my recommendation to: Ignore the email. Just act like you never received it.

One of my big concerns is that if I don't give her the stupid recipe (which, by the way, is the first freaking google hit for "homemade pizza dough recipe") is that the next play will be telling my stepson to ask me to give it to her.

I think that this is less of a concern than you are making it, because even if stepson gets "put in the middle" by having to ask you for it, you'll just print it off for him and zero drama will ensue.

The only way that drama results is if stepson asks you and you say No. As I commented above, I can't see a reasonable way for you to say No to this request if it comes through your stepson, unless you and your husband have already attempted to establish boundaries stating that Ex wife is not allowed to contact you through Kiddo.

Maybe, Ex wife will use this wedge ("I can ask Kiddo to ask LMC for things!") to make less reasonable requests in the future, but I think you should cross those bridges when you get there.
posted by sparklemotion at 3:14 PM on January 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

This is so tricky (and she knows it), but if you respond via email, or in any way acknowledge you got the message (husband/paper copy, etc.), your email address will officially become The Way To Contact The New Wife and you will be on the hook. She will use it to circumvent the kid's dad and that's a whole new set of problems, potentially much worse than whether the kid gets this food today or not and whether he blames you. Frankly, I'm suspicious that this is NOT a recipe request so much as a test of your email address and willingness to use it as a medium to communicate with her.
posted by Knowyournuts at 3:24 PM on January 13, 2017 [13 favorites]

I don't know how much 8 year olds like food repetition, but you might be able to short-circuit this whole thing by always making your pizza for dinner the night before he goes to visit his mom.
posted by rhizome at 3:44 PM on January 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

To be honest, the lack of consensus here is kind of reassuring, since it makes me feel like I am being neither unreasonable nor a total sucker.

This. See, she's making you doubt and question yourself. This is what manipulative narcissists do. To trap you in their drama. Avoid.
posted by sexyrobot at 3:46 PM on January 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

I'd bet you anything that this woman will put 1000x more effort into sending dramatic emails than she will into making pizza for your stepson.

Do not acknowledge that she sent you the email. In fact, this is a good reminder to shore up your internet security. If she complains to your husband or stepson, print out the recipe and give it to stepson to bring with him next time he visits. She doesn't really care about the recipe, so skip the drama and let her have it.
posted by fox problems at 4:08 PM on January 13, 2017 [8 favorites]

Who cares if she asks your stepson for the recipe?! That would be something normal for her to do!

This is about you and your email. Ignore the email, claim you never got it. If the stepson asks for the recipe, print it out. That's fine and normal.
posted by jbenben at 4:29 PM on January 13, 2017 [12 favorites]

Given everything you've said here, that email reads to me as a fish to confirm that she does indeed have your email address correct, since she didn't get it from you. DO NOT RESPOND. You never got an email from her, you have no idea what she's talking about. If she complains to the kiddo, and he mentions it to you or Dad, you can both respond with something along the lines of, "Huh, we didn't get an email. *shrug* Do you want the recipe to take with you next time you go over?"

Whatever you do, never give her evidence that she got your email right. Seriously.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 4:58 PM on January 13, 2017 [10 favorites]

Nthing the suggestion that you do not respond to the email or acknowledge it in any way. This isn't about the recipe, it's about violating boundaries and wreaking havoc for your family. Keep making the recipe with your stepson, if the ex uses an appropriate communication channel to make the request then send a copy with the kiddo on the next visit. If she puts kiddo in the middle, make sure he knows he did nothing wrong and that he's loved, and let your husband handle the part where homegirl gets told very firmly that that shit will not fly going forward.

Do not give her an inch, she will take a yard and scream holy hell while she's doing it.
posted by palomar at 6:36 PM on January 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

If your kids' school(s) or healthcare provider(s) or coaches or ______ have that email address as a contact for you, she may have snagged it from there. She can see their complete files whenever, or could have even called up to 'make sure' the office had the right information. If you really want to have zero direct response to the email, but worry about sour comments being made to your son, mention in conversation (either with him, or, better yet, to your husband while son's clearly listening) how glitchy your email has gotten, and that you really need to find a different provider.

If son pipes up with, "Oh, so that's what happened! Mom said..." then Dad's line is, well, your mother knows she can always reach me for anything concerning you, she has all my contact information. If son mentions she wanted that specific recipe? You say, as you did above, it's just the first google hit for "homemade pizza dough recipe" and you're glad he enjoys it. (If you and his dad agree on this, maybe say how much you like making the dough with him, and spending that time together.) (Regardless, you must know it can still be your special thing, even if he's having it at her house.)

I agree with everyone else that making this as friction-free for the kids while still being protective of your family and yourself is the goal. If you're not in family counseling, maybe that's an avenue to pursue. This is a years-long saga, and the one son you mention is only 8.
posted by furtive_jackanapes at 7:18 PM on January 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Next time he is with you, make the recipe together and get him to write it down as you make it (it's fun! my Oma taught me how to make waffles that way) so he has the recipe for himself - if he wants pizza when he's with his mom then he can hand over the recipe himself, and it will be in his own handwriting. So you guys have fun making it together, she can get the recipe, and there is no proof that you had anything to do with it, she doesn't get confirmation that she has your email address.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:50 AM on January 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

(1) I would trust your husband on this. What does he recommend?
(2) You can't control this. I don't know how bad the impact is if she badmouths you; is it likely to happen, if not now, some other time? Given what you wrote, I doubt going along this one time will prevent all badmouthing in the future. Can you demonstrate that you love and care for your son in other ways, so her vindictiveness is less likely to stick?
(3) Him having something he wants a couple of times at her place might not be as important as you guys having an overall healthier and safer relationship. If he wants it you can definitely just make it for him while you have him. I think this might not be as high a priority as the other elements in this situation, especially given it's a preference and not something like a food allergy.

It might be tempting to think that if you can do the right thing or say the right words or make the right approach, everything will work out and she'll start to act in a more reasonable way. But her norm so far is not to act reasonable, so I'd trust that's what's happening here and not try to engage her as you would someone who acts in a predictable and healthy way.

You sound like a caring person who has your son's best interests in mind, and you hope that she is, too, and I wonder if you are defaulting to the way you'd engage with other people. I had a situation like that and got burned multiple times before realizing the other person just wasn't... other people. It can be hard, when you assume the best of others and are used to social interactions working a certain way, to remember that's not what's happening in this case.

You have to have some way to engage over the years that your son is being co-parented, so taking the time now to set the terms may help you in the long run. Think long-term patterns, not one-time, urgent emergency. I think the tyranny of the urgent may be one way she's going to try to get you entangled.

I would either respond with the recipe and at the same time tell her that you are going to make all other email from her go to the trash, so you won't be replying. Or perhaps you'd say that you're going to set your inbox to accept email only from certain senders, which means she won't be able to reach you via a second email she might set up. Perhaps you send all non-safelist emails to a folder which your husband checks.

Or, you could just ignore it (and set her emails to go to a separate folder that you keep for evidence but don't check yourself).

Work to give her less power in your thinking and processing, as much as you can, and separate yourself from her games.
posted by ramenopres at 7:13 AM on January 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

your email address will officially become The Way To Contact The New Wife and you will be on the hook. She will use it to circumvent the kid's dad

That. Nth this isn't about the recipe, it's about opening a communication channel around your husband for future (mis)use. She will use it to ask you things she knows your husband doesn't want, try to play you against him, send you rants that he otherwise would screen out of your awareness, and generally try to create a split in your unified front.

The communication method is your husband. Rather than ignore the email, I would send back a single short and sweet "please don't contact me directly - if you have a non-emergency request or question then contact [husband]". (Not "I won't give it to you" - it's not about the recipe. You might give it to her, if she requests it properly.) Then filter her to the trash folder.
posted by ctmf at 12:01 PM on January 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

One of my big concerns is that if I don't give her the stupid recipe (which, by the way, is the first freaking google hit for "homemade pizza dough recipe") is that the next play will be telling my stepson to ask me to give it to her. In which case I have upped the ante and then will still be super manipulated, but now our son has to be put in the middle (which she is a big fan of doing).

If she asks you for anything through a child, make it clear to the child that it's for mom and dad to discuss requests between adults, and not the child's place to relay messages. Don't explain further to the child. Then, don't respond to mom. Dissuade from attempts at communication through a child by making it ineffective. It's really not the child's place, especially in the age of text messages. Ideally nobody should be sending messages through children -- not mom to dad, dad to mom, or mom to stepmom. It's not like there's a lack of opportunity for the coparents to communicate with one another.
posted by zennie at 1:27 PM on January 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

What zennie said above, a thousand times. You ignore her email, anything requested via their son gets a call or email from his father that requests should be communicated to him (dad) by her (mom). Good luck. You sound like a good stepmom.
posted by cyndigo at 2:30 PM on January 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Wait, it's not a rare recipe, it's the top of the google list? Make sure your son knows it's there, and even though you have it memorized, make it with the website open. Tell him "Okay, we're making pizza for dinner, but today the cool thing is, I'm going to show you how you can make this pizza anywhere you go, so you can even make it at your mom's house if you want" and show him what to google and what the webpage looks like. Then if she gives him any "that woman didn't give me the recipe" he can google it for her.

Psychologically, this also gives you an advantage in the "our special thing" department, because you will release it to him as it being a general thing and it's the making it with you part that's special, not the food, since you gave it to him to take it (and you) with him anywhere. She asks for his special recipe and he says "duh, here it is on google" = no points to her.
posted by aimedwander at 9:14 AM on January 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

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