Etiquette for exspouses and adult children

robertaleeMay 3, 2010

My husband and I divorced our respective exspouses several years ago. We have been married for close to 12 years, had respective custody of our children, raised them as a blended family beginning in their early/mid teenagerhood to adulthood, and who are now in their twenties. We do not speak to our exes, however, as the children are going through graduations and weddings we are all thrown together. Everyone has generally just ignored the other parties during the events. Our problem is that now that our children are hosting events they tell us that it is our problem and will not seperate the two families, when possible, since these are usually just 20 or so people. We have asked if we could have a short amount of time for just our family (which one of us did do with inlaws in the previous marriage). We have used the analogy of not inviting friends that you know do not get along to the same party. Basically, they say it is our problem. They have even told us that the ex would not be there, and then the ex showed up and the kids later told us they wanted to see what would happen. My husband and I could not leave as we had provided much of the food and the ex entourage showed up empty handed. We have not discussed our ex's short-comings in terms of parenting or lack of providing financial support. Does anyone have good experience or advice? And no, being "friendly" to them will not work. Been there, done that. And all divorcing parties have remarried.

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Grr, sounds like your X is a moocher. With my X, we just decide between the two of us.

I think you need to sit down with child, explain the difficultities you faced as a parent, and why you are not comfotable with X. Then I would tell Child you are APPALLED at their lying. I would also not bring any food in the future. You are not the host. Come early and leave early.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 9:14AM
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While the lying isn't acceptable, your kids have a point.
Their parents not getting along is not their problem. They should not feel torn on their important days. Continue to politely ignore one another at events.

KK's suggestion of "come early, leave early" is good one though.
Maybe there is a compromise to be found: You come early to events, and leave right after the primary festivity. Ex comes right before the primary festivity and stays later.
Then you'd only overlap during the primary festivity, which you'll likely be otherwise occupied during anyhow.

Making your kids find the solution for you, or not attending because ex will be there shows the kids that you place your own problems above their happiness.

From an adult stepchild's (and stepDIL's) perspective:
- I love that my mom's side of the family is 100% accepting of my SM (my mom passed away when I was a teen). It makes everything so peaceful for me! I realize that is different than your own situation, but just something to think about.
- I was right pissed off that my DH's SM didn't attend (or even RSVP to) my bridal shower because my DH's mother was going to be there. Then had the nerve to whine about that she "didn't get to celebrate"!! If she couldn't be bothered to put aside her own personal pettiness for one afternoon for me and our wedding, well, I guess I know where I stand on her list of priorities. (FWIW, DH's mom expressed that she wasn't 100% comfortable spending the afternoon with his SM, but that she was so excited for the shower that it "didn't even matter!")

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 9:48AM
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I agree with Ceph and KKNY. From the SK POV it really makes things peaceful if the parents can at least pretend to get along.

On the other hand, you asked nicely, and from an adult POV your adult children should be able to understand your POV.

They wanted to "see what would happen"? I'd explain to them that lying and making guests feel uncomfortable is rude. If they insist on everyone being present for every occasion I would do as KK says. Come empty handed or with a small house gift (bottle of wine), and leave early. If/when they ask what's up, explain that this is what you are comfortable with and if they want to re-visit their terms of engagement with you and X's you're more than willing to talk.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 10:07AM
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I totally understand your POV, but also understand your kids probably don't want to hold 2 parties for each holiday or event. Maybe you could decline to go to their event but offer to make some food and host the event at your home for them on another day?

I often wondered how my sis in law gets away with having holidays at her home with her mom and her dad. They are divorced and her dad married his mistress. I told my hubby if I was the ex who had been cheated on after 4 kids and 15 years of marriage there would be no flipping way you could put me at an event with the cheater and mistress. He says that the mom just deals with it and does not even pretend to be cordial to her ex. After that I noticed that they just avoid eachother and always are in different rooms.

I am having the opposite problem with my family. I invited my mom and her bf to Mother's Day breakfast with us and my dad and stepmom are hurt I did not include them. I tried telling them my mom's new bf barely knows me and dh, I don't want to make him uncomfortable by throwing my moms ex and his new wife into the mix. They were like just let him deal with it!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 10:34AM
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"And no, being "friendly" to them will not work. Been there, done that."
Then perhaps 'friendly' is not the right word, as it implies genuine warmth that you clearly do not feel, and probably comes off as fake and insincere

The word you want is 'gracious'. Be gracious. Polite, courteous, cordial, considerate, reserved, kind -- gracious. Use the type of behavior you would consider socially appropriate for esteemed leaders of a religious or political group whose views are vastly different from your own. You wouldn't be rude to them - ever, or instigate a discussion on religion or politics, knowing that could likely start a vocal disagreement, and realizing how inappropriate that would be. Every family has a family member who's in some way difficult -- be it bad breath, offensive language, endless repetitive stories. And at family gatherings, you don't exclude them -- you just unobtrusively steer clear of them. Say a pleasant word here or there when it's appropriate, then mingle-on elsewhere.

- Don't make your kids choose, take turns or play Twister with their holidays. That puts your kids between a rock and a hard place and makes you look small in their eyes. (You raised them better than that, didn't you?)

- And don't let your Exes drive you away. That's giving them way too much power over you! If they behave badly at these events, that reflects poorly on them, not on you.

- Just be there with gracious smiles, joy in your hearts and genuine love for your kids. That's your job as parents, and if you can do that -- well, that's the whole point, right?

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 12:31PM
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just be polite and well mannered and let exes to be jerks. LOL

On a serious note, if kids just do it to stir the pot then it is unacceptable but if the really enjoy having everyone together then just be polite and leave early like KK said. My DD loves to have me and ex together at events. I get along with ex but it is easier not to be at the same events. My ex loves to play "we are all one big family" game and it could be too much.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 6:46PM
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Thank you all for your insight and advice. They have given us food for thought. DH and I have worked through many things in order that our children (yours & mine, no ours) were treated equally and/or fairly by us. I guess my point is that these are happy, congratulatory occasions. (The holidays are not an issue at this point. We host them all, and if/or when they would like to do that, we would probably demure and offer an Open House on another day if our exes were to be present. The date itself is not so important as being with our children and ENJOYING them. This is very hard to do when our exes are around.) There are times when you cannot have two seperate events(weddings, baptisms, etc. where we just deal with it and sit apart). (But, PLEEAASSEE how in 3 graduation ceremonies with 40,000-50,000 people there can you run into your ex at each one!!??) However, a graduation party (which is the issue here being hosted by our daughter, the graduate - this is for her Master's - we have hosted two for her thus far in life) could have a time when one parent and family have an hour (us) and then the other parent/family could have the rest of the time. My DH also did this with his ex-inlaws and divorced parents: three Christmases which he hosted. We DO believe they (exes) are trying to intimidate us, so part of us wants to go and just ignore them. However, we would just as soon take her and my parents (They are upset because they know he did not help the kids out with college, but he always wants a part of the celebrations. Heck, once we got divorced he quit parenting. At least he was fairly regular with the cs.) out to lunch to celebrate. My dad is about to tell his granddaughter WHY he does not like my ex, and none of the reasons have to do with the divorce. And I have never shared with my parents why I divorced; these are things he did to them. We just do not understand how she thinks (or the others thought) this would be an enjoyable situation?!? At the 2 events with our son, his future in-laws(nice people) were there and were put in the middle as DH and I stayed in the kitchen or outside, while ex and family were in another room. It just does not make sense to me. We have kept our mouths shut about why we divorced and all the other things the exes have done since then. It is right to keep it that way unless one of them "hurts" one of the kids. (i.e. Identity theft, again)We just do not comprehend putting opposing factions together and expect joy and happiness to take place. It seems like they want fireworks to happen.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 1:30AM
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I think some children are in denial and want an illusion of a nuclear family so they keep on trying.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 6:09AM
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Maybe it's the years of dealing with 'work first, grieve later' and/or working with the public I've dealt with that enables me to get through some pretty miserable days once in a while, as I get older I find there's very little I can't tolerate for a few hours when it comes to family/friends.

I'm not a violent person in any way, but at my DD's wedding there would have been nothing more I'd have liked to do than smack my SIL off his feet. Instead, not a soul in the room (except he, DD, and I) knew it... I was ever so polite, smile in place... what was going on between SIL and I had nothing to do with the guest at the event and I was not about to give SIL the glee of me making a scene, calling undo attention to myself and he or giving the appearance of being a rude nasty b@tch.

Not saying it's the thing to do in your case, but for me it was a matter of taking the high road at an event that was suppose to be very 'special' for my DD. No way after all the expense, time and effort she had put into her wedding/reception was I going to let SIL make me out to be the bad guy in front of a roomfull of guest that had no clue of the backstory, the whys/hows of SIL and myself's stormy history.

So all the while he was deliberately egging me on and trying his best to get a reaction out of me (among other things including making sure I got no photos of my daughter and grandson without his smug face in them , introducing me to anyone who would stop long enough as 'MOM', and of course 'dance with Mom' was the icing on the cake for him...frickin' jerk)...I got through it and after a long soak in a bubble bath with pure relaxation afterwards, I did survive the day.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 8:03AM
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Forgive me but I only got through the first part of your last post and couldn't continue... maybe later I will go back and read the whole thing. The only thing I have to say is....

You raised a child that is currently getting their Master's degree and your concerned about having an hour at her party??? For some reason, that sounds ridiculous to me. It's HER party & if SHE wants to share it with both of HER parents and not single you out for an hour on THAT day... let it go! SHE HAS HER MASTER'S... that is something to be proud of and if you had more to do with it than her other parent, be proud. How is spending 'alone time' at her party going to change anything? If you resent hosting the party (and paying for everything), then don't. Don't offer to host it this time. Is it about who pays for the party getting to control what happens at the party?? I mean, let her have her party & enjoy it how SHE wants to... and if you want to spend time alone with her to celebrate more, take her to lunch or dinner in the near future. Give her what you WANT to give her without strings (guilt) and do so with an open heart (not thinking about what the other side will or won't do) and let go of YOUR resentments about what you feel the other parent is or isn't doing. Otherwise she may resent being a part of this tug o war and decide to keep or limit her future children from being around that.

It really is sad that she felt the need to lie or trick her parents so they would be there. That was immature & hopefully she has outgrown that way of thinking.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 9:24AM
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I was in a somewhat similar position when my adult SD graduated from law school and later passed the bar. Her mother, BM, at the time took the position that only "family" which by their definition excludes me, should be invited to the law school graduation and passing the bar parties. To make that happen both parties were held at her sister's home, SD's aunt, who of course did not invite me although DH was invited. They have had many events over the years that they have handled the same way, have it at the aunt's home who has the right to invite or not invite whom she chooses and then invite DH sans me.

I took those slights for the team and chose to not make an issue out of another obvious snub. Graduating from law school and passing the California bar exam are really big deals. DH suggested that we invite SD and her then husband to a separate dinner but I declined as I felt SD could have had me at the "family" parties. She made the choice to have her mother and father there and recreate a "nuclear" family picture that hadn't existed in many years.

I didn't fuss nor did I buy SD graduation gifts as I felt then and feel now that she had excluded me from her graduation for BM's sake. I know how you feel.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 10:37AM
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lamom ~ Shame on your husband for not standing up for you to be included. My father would have told us he won't be there if his wife is not there. It is purely RUDE! My stepmom had her good qualities & her bad... doesn't everyone? and not all of my siblings liked her, but we had enough respect for dad to consider HIS feelings! and if we slipped & tried to do something to shun her, he would not stand for it.

BTW, my mom stood there at my brothers graduation from the police academy.. beaming with pride and told my dad "WE DID A PRETTY GOOD JOB WITH HIM!" Um, my mom was drunk from the time my brother started Jr. High & had very little to do with it... my brother did what he wanted (which was not much) until he moved to my dad's after high school and dad got him working & setting goals.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 1:26PM
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Wow LAmom. Just WOW. My DH never would have gone to those parties. I wouldn't have gone to those parties. How big of you to be the better person, but what amazing lack of class some people have. Wow.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 1:49PM
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Silver, imamamommy, robertalee and all,

These people boycotted my wedding and reception because of the effect they thought being there for their dad would have on their mother. DH did go to those graduation events for his daughter and I sucked it up.

robertalee, you are not alone on having your skids, adults, snub and disrespect you. I have learned the hard way and with the help of this board to really not let some bitter, low class, confused thinking and emotions on their part ruin my life. They may always rally in some misdirected and cruel way to support the BM. The BM will probably always encourage this behavior. As easy as it is to say and as hard as it is to do, don't take it personally.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 2:19PM
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Robert, I think this can happen when parents overprotect their kids. I think without recriminations, you should just indicate why this is unacepptable. That your X would not let you get pictures shows how immature he is and why some of these solutions wont work. If there have been legal problems like identity theft, I would let child Know, good luck.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 4:05PM
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slight mistake parent, not step, should discuss with kids

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 4:38PM
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wow, how inappropriate to not invite you to graduation parties, lamom! Were you already married? i would only understand if you recently started dating...How mean of the whole family and how wrong of your DH to go without you.

I am glad we do not do graduation parties. I am surprised to hear that people do parties for getting master's degree? I never thought about it, but I guess it is OK to put up with it for the sake of the children. DD is graduating college now and does not want parties, we do have some nice stuff planned for her but no parties. We would if she wanted to.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 6:14PM
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I had a party for my Bachelor degree :) But I was the host :)

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 6:24PM
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I agree with imamommy, I think you're being ridiculous. A random weekend barbeque or something, no they should not expect you and your ex to all come over and hang out together. But a graduation party, yes, absolutely you can be in the same room at the same time. And I would say the same thing about friends who didn't get along since you use that as an analogy. Their problem not mine. What are you planning to do when there are grandkids who have birthday parties? Expect them to have separate ones for all the various incarnations of in-laws and exes? Spouses parents may be divorced too, of course. And grandparents even. And who's to say you'll like your in-laws? I do not agree with them lying to you, but I do think you're being difficult.

And lamom, actually your story is the opposites of roberta's, you were on the receiving end of the kind of thing she's trying to do. She's acting like your husband's ex and trying to put her kids in the same position your husband's ex put your stepkids; "I refuse to be around this other parent/stepparent therefore you can't invite all of us to the same party/event".

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 8:21PM
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FD, quirk,

Yes, we were married although early on when these law school graduation parties happened. The point is that the BM and her kids, my adult skids, made sure that I knew that I wasn't family.

Yes, DH was way wrong to go to those parties without me but his ex and his kids have done many things, many times to ensure that. Although this happened some years ago with the law school thing, I could see then what the real deal was and who was behind it.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 9:21PM
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OK. I guess the history in our families has defined what we believe. I never experienced my father's and mother's family together at an event. When I was raising my children with my ex before the divorce we did holidays,etc. at seperate times with my parents than his. My DH had the same; mother Xmas, father Xmas, in-laws Xmas. So this is not a new concept to our children, in fact is what they are used to.

Since the divorces we have had our holidays at noon so they could be with their other parent from 3 pm on. Now there are significant other/spouse's families. With the one that is married, the spouse's parental and materal families do not celebrate together.

So I do not believe we are being "ridiculous". It has been three generations in the making. Yep, DH and I have talked about just going along and smiling all the way. Maybe we should do this and the child will notice that it is so thick you could cut it with a knife. If that is that she/they want, then we sure as H... can buck it up (we have done it numerous times in the past when we have happened onto our exes with our children). We are not about to cause a "scene". That is why we have tried to work things out beforehand.

As far as the wedding, the bride, our future daughter-in-law, made the wedding invitations. We did not see them until we received one in the mail. My only request to my son for the wedding was not to have my ex and I stand next to each other in the receiving line or sit next to each other in church. Of course, ex had to sit directly behind us, AFTER the priest had said the children should seperate the father and mother in pew rows.

Would we make a scene at an event? NO. It is for the child. But...there can be ways to work around this beforehand. We have attempted to teach our children diplomacy; this smacks of selfishness to us on our child's part. "I do not care what you or my other parent feels"; I just want a party in my honor.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 11:04PM
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Well that's the thing, you had the luxury to chose the definitions you believed in. What you experienced and what you chose for your children doesn't translate to an automatic assumption that adult children will do the same.

Divorced or otherwise separate parents decided not to raise their children together -- without their childrens input. They also decide to remarry -- without their childrens input. They also can decide what role their new spouse plays in the childs life -- without childs input. And it goes on, new spouse gets to decide what they can/will/won't/demand the child do in regards to them (the stepparent) as they see fit.

Problem is as an adult, the stepchild can decide that something no longer works for them. And in your case, they didn't decide anything unreasonable or outlandish. If you cannot cope with sharing important invites in their life with their other parent -- than it is your problem. You need to figure out what works for you and does not infringe on adults right to celebrate how they wish. You're not the gatekeeper anymore.

IOW, I agree with Ima ;)

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 11:39PM
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I've come around. I agree with Nivea and Ima. "You're not the gatekeeper anymore."

Either suck it up or don't attend. I would talk with them about the lying and "see what happens" mentality though.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 11:28AM
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Sorry, I have sucked it up in many of these situations. It's not right or fair but as adults, the child has the right to decide how they want to handle the relationships. You have the right to not show up although I'm sure that's a right you don't want to exercise.

I agree with Silver, attend or suck it up. But, don't be a doormat, let your child know how you feel and what is wrong with how things are being handled. That way you get relief of the burden of being mistreated and they know without guessing how you feel which may or may not affect how things are handled.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 12:23PM
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