By: Len Stauffenger
Dr. Laura and I are in agreement that the kids come first, particularly in a divorce. If you are brewing over a family affair and wondering if you should invite your ex, please think through your decision with the children as the first basis for a yes or a no.
Ask yourself questions from as many angles as you can. Will he or she be bringing a date? Are the children comfortable with his new date? How will it affect you? Will you just glow with delight seeing him or her with a new partner? What might be some good reasons for not inviting him to attend the affair? Have you spoken to the parents, grandparents or in-laws involved? What is their input? Have you asked your children how they’d feel if your ex attended? Was it positive? Negative? I personally think that if you are inviting your ex to a holiday dinner or even to your wedding, you would be wise to look at this from all the angles. It would be rude not to invite the new person in your ex’s wife. Divorce interaction protocol does bring up some uncomfortable, emotional situations, so please don’t make a snap decision without a full look.
Another aspect of considering your children in inviting your ex to an event is the lesson wrapped up in becoming mature over this. We all have former relationships. We’ll all have future relationships. You want to act in a non-combative, collaborative way and you will be teaching your children to discipline their emotions and use reason when you make a decision. Tell your children all the things you looked at before you reached a decision and don’t hesitate to share with them that it pulled you in several uncomfortable directions. This is a superb learning opportunity.
It’s hard to sidestep a decision that involves more than just you. They just are complicated, but then, you are so capable. This kind of decision creates feelings that are emotionally challenging as well, because none of us likes to be in a situation or place someone else in a situation where their feelings will get hurt. No one like to feel hurt, and being in a room with your ex would bring all the old feelings back – both those that feel good and those that feel uncomfortable.
Have you considered how your ex might feel being invited to attend a function with a family to which he/she no longer is a part? If he/she does attend, you can consider who he might feel most comfortable talking with and seat him beside that person and away from someone who might be a touch more uncomfortable.
I think a rule of thumb is to have heart to heart discussions with the majority of people who are going to be involved and get their input. His/her attendance for some occasions would be arbitrary, and for others, like a child’s wedding, might be mandatory, say, in the case of inviting ex-grandparents to child’s wedding.
If the event involves your ex because the two of you are co-parenting, then at a minimum let your ex know about the event even if he isn’t invited. That’s only fair.
I know I didn’t provide any absolute answers. What I provided were considerations, because I think you’re capable of resolving this for yourself. It will strengthen your sense of self-worth and I’d like that for you. When a divorce enters into a family and children are part of the equation, it’s always a source of unfolding more character. Divorce is never fun, but the blessing that are intrinsic to it are undeniable.
About the Author
In his book “Getting Over It: Wisdom for Divorced Parents,” Len Stauffenger shares his simple wisdom gleaned from his divorce with his daughters and with you. Len is a Success Coach and an Attorney.