Question: Dear Luise: My wife invites her ex-husband over for Christmas morning before the kids wake up, so he can watch his two with their presents and have breakfast. Last year was our first Christmas together and he was there. I felt out of place. It was awkward. Christmas is coming again and he will be here in the morning, bright and early. I just don’t like it. I feel awkward and out of place in my own home. I told my wife how I feel about it and she got mad at me. I just wanted to have a nice family Christmas. Am I wrong for feeling this way about having my wife’s ex-husband over for Christmas morning? J.
Answer: Dear J.: Did the two of you discuss the invitation to her “ex” before she put it out there, or did she just make a unilateral decision and proceed without your input? If that’s what happened, she needs to back up and enter into a discussion with you. You are a couple and you get to interact with her about it. You also get to have a vote regarding the outcome.
I can see both sides of this issue and I’m sure you can, too. Christmas is mostly for kids and she wants a sense of solidarity for hers with both birth parents present. The other side of that is she and her “ex” didn’t make it and they aren’t married, so that’s not very realistic. It might even seem confusing to the kids and lessen your impact on the household.
My “ex” and his wife, (who was once a factor in our divorce two decades ago), get together with my husband and me every once in a while. However, it is never on a holiday and it is always in some neutral place like a restaurant. We have all been considered in this arrangement and we all like to go. That’s the big thing…it has to work for everyone involved. They are not a part of our family occasions with kids, grandkids and great grand kids…and we are not included in theirs. We have all moved on. Once in a blue moon everyone shows up, like when my grandson graduated from law school and again when he married, but that doesn’t happen very often. New rituals are formed when new relationships occur. New loyalties surface out of mutual respect.
You are not without rights in this matter. If your wife won’t consider changing her stand, you can go visit your parents at Christmas or take a solo vacation. You do not have to be an observer in what feels like a shut-out, Christmas ritual, if you aren’t comfortable.
Again, let me say that communication is where this needs to go. Her anger isn’t offering any solution. She is in a new marriage and she is discounting that to some degree in favor of pleasing her kids and her “ex.” There are other ways to address this issue but I don’t know your logistics. Would it be possible, for instance, for your wife to take their kids over to his place for an early Christmas Eve ritual? They might love having TWO Christmases! Then you could have Christmas morning at home with your little family in tact. Brainstorm together. Your feelings need to be factored into the equation. You aren’t the Invisible Man.
If need be, go to a counselor about this. It’s probably too late this year…so, take a trip if you have a mind to and then let her know that you want to work through it with her, not be told how it’s going to be, next year. Blessings, Luise