Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared March 8, 2009.
Now our divorce is final, and I do not want his now-fiancee attending our children’s events. I want him to attend with me and show our kids we can still be friends, because the divorce has been very difficult for them. It makes me uncomfortable to have this woman there. The kids asked their father not to bring her because it upsets me, but he won’t comply.
I refuse to attend if she is there, and I am tired of missing out on my own kids’ (three teenagers) activities!
Shouldn’t she find something else to do? Just because they live together doesn’t mean she needs to be involved with family things. How can I get them to see this?
— Three’s a Crowd
Three’s a Crowd: Why is the burden on your ex to “show our kids we can still be friends”? Why can’t you model maturity, by accepting his new relationship?
You know — the relationship he started after you left him?
(We interrupt this advice to point out that keyboards hurt foreheads more than foreheads hurt keyboards.)
Even when you’re the one who chose to leave, it can be shocking to feel erased and replaced. I get that. I realize, too, that you could have had an excellent reason to leave, such as neglect or other mistreatment. Initiating divorce doesn’t inoculate you against raw feelings.
Nevertheless, the day you left was the last day you had any say in his love life. And although reasonable people can debate the timing and aggressiveness of introducing new mates to exes and children, she is basically under contract to become your kids’ stepmother. She is family.
You make the point that your kids have asked their father not to bring his fiancee. I imagine you did so to demonstrate his insensitivity or stubbornness (and I’ll get to him in a moment).
However, your point has the unintended consequence of revealing that your kids aren’t themselves objecting to the fiancee: They’re upset because you’re upset. The divorce has been — again, your words — “very difficult for them,” yet you are putting a great deal of pressure on them by boycotting their events and forcing them to stick up for you. You’re inducing them to take sides, perhaps the most stressful thing to ask of kids of divorce.
You’re probably thinking your ex is the one forcing the issue. But you and he have your own households now. If he were to agree to leave his fiancee at home, then he would be granting you control of his household. Something I would advise him against.
If you want to show your kids something valuable, then show them a mother who makes a mature decision to take responsibility for her own life and choices. If you want an amicable divorce, then be amicable. If you want to see your kids’ events, then go to the events. If you want your kids to heal, then make an effort to heal yourself. It’s time to stop doling out blame.
More from Carolyn Hax
From the archive:
Breaking up is hard to do. Staying in your ex’s life is torture.
Fears that a second kid would ruin their perfect life
Turning down a friend who invited herself to a birthday celebration
Man deals with assumptions about his child-free status
We saved our marriage, but our friends remain skeptical
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