Carolyn Hax: Staying friendly with ex-in-laws for the kid’s sake

Carolyn Hax
Columnist October 26, 2013

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

About a month ago my husband, out of nowhere, informed me that he no longer wanted to be with me, and we are now separating. I am extremely hurt and frustrated, but we are keeping things as civil as possible and have been able to negotiate our separation terms on our own.

My husband travels frequently for his job — usually two to three weeks total each month — and I’m wondering if you can provide me with some guidance as to the best way to uphold my son’s relationship with my husband’s parents through the separation and divorce. I have always had a good relationship with my in-laws. They live about an hour away from us, and in the past, I have taken our son to certain family gatherings there even if my husband was gone.

I’m wondering how to balance my own feelings of not wanting to attend these gatherings and not feeling “obligated” to do so anymore, with my desire to do what’s best for my son regarding his relationship with my husband’s parents, and with their desire to see their grandson. Should I still take my son to these family events when my husband is not here to take him, or is there a way to bow out gracefully? So far, I have politely delayed giving a definite answer to their invitation, but I know I can’t hold out forever.


(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Divorce, Grandparents and Visitation

I think that, as much as it will feel like punching yourself in the face, bringing your son to your husband’s family’s events will set an awesome example for your son.

Re: Visitation:

My sister-in-law had a similar situation and kept bringing the kids to the major events alone. Occasionally one of her ex’s siblings would offer to bring the kids to give her a break, but the kid was always there. The general consensus is she looked like the bigger person in the divorce, her kids never heard a bad thing about their mother from their father’s family and her ex didn’t look good . . . at all.

When her ex remarried, she offered his new wife the option of bringing the kids, and now we all miss her!

Anonymous

Nice validation, thanks.

Re: Visitation:

I get that it would be nice to take your son to your in-laws even if your ex isn’t there; however, it is your ex’s responsibility to use his available visitation to maintain this relationship, as well.

Anonymous 2

True. However, it’s each parent’s responsibility to do right by the child, and the reality of everyone’s circumstances decides what “right” requires — not abstract delegating.

Re: Visitation:

My husband’s ex was in much the same position. From my perspective as the new wife many years later: The children kept a relationship with their grandparents, the ex got much-needed breaks and it helped the children understand they were still loved by many and the divorce had nothing to do with them.

Anonymous 3

Re: Visitation:

Figure out who you want to be and act accordingly.

Anonymous 4

Amen.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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