Carolyn Hax: She doesn’t want her ex’s fiancée to attend their children’s events

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Carolyn Hax is absent. The following first appeared on March 8, 2009.

Dear Caroline: A few years ago, I initiated a separation/divorce. Just a few months after I left, my husband started dating. This really upset me and I spent the next year trying to get over what I saw as his betrayal of our hopefully “friendly” divorce.

Now our divorce is final, and I don’t want his fiancee to attend our children’s events. I want him to be with me and show our children that we can still be friends, because the divorce was very difficult for them. It makes me uncomfortable to have that woman there. The children asked their father not to bring him because it bothers me, but he did not comply.

I refuse to attend if she is there, and I am tired of missing my own children’s activities (three teenagers)!

Shouldn’t she find something else to do? Just because they live together doesn’t mean she has to take care of family matters. How can I show them this?

Three is a crowd: Why is it your ex’s burden to “show our kids that we can still be friends”? Why can’t you You model of maturity, accepting his new relationship?

You know – the relationship he started after leaving him?

(We interrupt this tip to point out that keyboards hurt the forehead more than forehead hurts keyboards.)

Even when it’s you who chose to leave, it can be shocking to feel erased and replaced. I understand. I also realize that you could have had a very good reason for leaving, such as neglect or other abuse. Initiating divorce does not inoculate you against raw feelings.

Nevertheless, the day you left was the last day you had a say in his love life. And while reasonable people might debate the timing and aggressiveness of introducing exes and kids to new friends, she’s essentially contracted to be your kids’ stepmom. She is family.

You argue that your children asked their father not to bring his fiancée. I imagine you did it to demonstrate his insensitivity or stubbornness (and I’ll get to that in a moment).

However, your argument has the unintended consequence of revealing that your kids aren’t themselves against the bride: they’re upset because you’re upset. The divorce was – again, your words – “very difficult for them”, but you put a lot of pressure on them by boycotting their events and forcing them to defend you. You’re tricking them into taking sides, perhaps the most stressful thing to ask kids about divorce.

You probably think your ex is the one forcing the issue. But you and he have your own homes now. If he agreed to leave his fiancée at home, he would grant you control of his house. Something I would advise against.

If you want to show your children something precious, show them a mother who makes the mature decision to take responsibility for her own life and her choices. If you want an amicable divorce, then be amicable. If you want to see your children’s events, go to events. If you want your children to heal, make an effort to heal yourself. It’s time to stop blaming.

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