Q: Two weeks ago, I had a small dinner party for my son's fourth birthday. I invited my mother and her fiance, my brother and his family, my sister, and a cousin and her family.
My husband and I have been separated for almost a year, and our divorce will be final in a month or two. I did not invite him to dinner, but I did tell him he would be welcome to come and have birthday cake with us. He refused, but that is not the problem.
It seems that my soon-to-be-ex-in-laws felt they should have been invited. They have repeatedly ranted and raved to members of my family about what a terrible thing I did to them. I just felt it would not be proper at this time, not to mention how awkward it would be. I didn't do it to be mean or rude; I just thought it was the correct thing to do.
How do I handle situations like this in the future? What happens if I remarry or even just have a boyfriend I would like to invite? I can't see myself with a boyfriend and my ex-in-laws all at the same dinner table.
I should add that my husband and his parents did have their own party the following week, so I can't understand why they are still screaming about mine.
With the divorce rate being what it is, I'm sure there are many people in the same situation. Please help!
A: The divorce rate being what it is, people have got to learn to get on amiably in spite of it. What bothers your former husband's parents is not that they were relegated to the status of ex-in-laws, which could explain leaving them out of many events in your life, but that they were being treated as ex-grandparents, which they are not.
Your son will always be related to these people. Special occasions in his life, such as graduations and his wedding, will always have to be shared with his father and paternal relatives.
A birthday may not be of that magnitude, but they may see it as establishing a pattern. And your son himself, when he is older, may choose to be with them, rather than you, on special days if you establish the idea that one parent gets it all.
If you did not want to invite them, you could have made it possible for your son to spend part of the day with them -- a party a week later may not mean the same thing. Or, if you think it does, you could have given your party on another date and let him spend the birthday with his grandparents.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.