Family socializing with ex spouse


#1

I have been divorced for 4 years. It was and is very painful for me to go through the divorce after 19 years of marriage. Basically my wife gave up on me, was unfaithful and did not want to work on saving the marriage. My family has always had a good relationship with my ex spouse. My family currently stays in contact with her and has invited her to visit / vacation with them, which sometimes includes her bringing along her boyfriend. The boyfriend was in her life when I was trying to reconcile with my unwilling wife. Honestly I now feel betrayed by my family when they socialize with my ex spouse and I feel they should not invite her over for visits, dinners, lengthy stays etc. I have shared this feeling with my family, however, they feel I should just simply get over the hurt feelings and move on. It hasn't been that easy. Am I off base for feeling this way? Should I set aside my pain and feel ok with my parents and siblings spending time with my ex spouse? I do pray for my ex spouse and pray for the grace to forgive her, however, it seems another thing for my family to keep up the relationship when she chose to end it with me. Please be candid.


#2

You really are in a tough spot. All of you are right and all of you are wrong. It is impossible to expect your family to carry on with their lives and consider how you feel and it is hard to believe your break-up was all on your wife. I definitely feel for you and pray that you are able to get over your divorce and get on with your life. It is not healthy for you to be so caught up on something that will never be fixed. Be sure you are praying for yourself!

Peace brother!


#3

Please be candid? I think I'd ask my brothers which of their ex-girlfriends and the guys those women ditched them for they'd like me to invite to our next family vacation. Hey, why not date and marry one of those women yourself, and ask your ever-so-gracious ditched brother to be the best man? Maybe your sister would like to be the maid of honor when you marry some woman who abandoned her friendship in search of "better" friends?

Tell them to add a marriage and nineteen years, and ask themselves how long it would take them to "get over it". It might be different if you and your ex had mutually concluded that your attempt at marriage was an invalid, a doomed mistake from the start: that is to say, if you were still a friend of hers yourself. As it is, you were unwillingly dumped after nearly 20 years of marriage. That is a horse of a different color. Besides, how can they fail to see that it is rude not to spare you tales of the friendships they maintain with people who want nothing to do with you,* especially *your ex-wife? How thoughtless can you get?

It is fine if they want to be cordial, it is understandable that they might want to keep up some semblance of a friendship that they've also had for all those years, too, but they still must not forget that this woman walked out on their brother. Including the new man* instead of you goes over the top. Including both the new man *and you would nearly be sadistic. Why not just come out and say to your face that they wish they had been your in-laws and her immediate family, and not the other way around? "Oh, we don't mean that! You're blowing this out of proportion!" Oh, really? I had a hard time telling, what with all the empathy about my situation you're expressing. (**Empathy: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this. Gee sis, you ought to try it some time.)

Incidentally, I've broken up with a guy and have had his family blame the whole thing on him and want to be friends with me. I had dumped the guy because he got a girlfriend on the side, so I can't say they were wrong that he was at fault, but I still found it very sad. I would not want in-laws who were so disloyal to my husband. So even if you made some monumental mistakes, and unless they had told you for years and years that you needed to treat her better and you ignored them until it was too late, I think your family is out of line. If they thought so and kept their mouths shut, well, they can take some credit for losing a sister-in-law that they liked.

Having said that: you can't control them. There is nothing to keep them from keeping a friendship with her. Still, there is nothing keeping you from saying that it hurts your feelings every time you hear about how much fun they have with the woman who was your best friend, but has since decided she doesn't want to be your wife anymore. Feel free to give them a reminder of that every time the topic of socializing with her comes up. If they don't wise up enough to stop, maybe they'll at least find the bare amount of sense and sensitivity required to shut up about it.

Feel free to tell them I said so.

Also, remember as you work on forgiving your ex-spouse that forgiving does not mean excusing inexcusable behavior. It does not mean reconciliation of a friendship when their has been divorce in a marriage. It means harboring no ill will toward the person who wronged you.

We ought to hope that all our enemies and those who did us harm repent and wind up with us in heaven. If a broken friendship cannot be fixed, though, we aren't expected to be happy that our family takes them on their vacations.

PS If you are still on good terms with your ex and if you think she would be sympathetic if she knew your feelings, you might talk to her about it. She might not realize that you have a problem with the situation. If she has been at all vindictive or expressed contempt for you when you split, forget that tack. If she maintains that you are a fine man, just not one she could continue to live with, she might take her new guy and find other friends. In her place, I certainly would. For a person with empathy, it is a no-brainer.


#4

You don't mention if there are children involved.


#5

I can understand not wanting to cut off contact with someone they loved as part of the family for 19 years, but considering the circumstances of your divorce I think it is extremely insensitive for them to continue to not just have lots of contact with her but also invite her on vacation and have the boyfriend who helped break up your marriage come along too. Wow. That left me pretty speechless. I do not think you are off base at all for feeling the way you do.
The situation is a little different if you have children, and after 19 years it's likely that you do. No matter what happens she will forever be the mother of their grandchildren and being friendly with her might be the only way they can prevent her from never letting them see your kids.


#6

i agree with charlotte


#7

[quote="dconklin, post:2, topic:210159"]
...It is impossible to expect your family to carry on with their lives and consider how you feel...

[/quote]

Why? If you can't expect your blood relatives to consider how you feel, from whom do you expect that?

There is one woman on the planet that this guy wants them not to include on family vacations. Even if the marriage broke up purely because of his idiocy, even if the woman was friends with family members before the marriage, it is not too much to ask. He is their brother. This was not a mutually-agreeable break-up! After nearly 20 years of marriage, she rejected their brother. In doing so, she left their family! *Why should they not be expected to take that into account? And they include the new boyfriend, too? *What are they thinking?!?

They should avoid mentioning it when they have contact with her, if nothing else. You don't talk about great gatherings from which the person your talking to was excluded--and if his ex is there with another man, believe me, he was excluded, even if he had taken a place at the table--enjoyed with friends who have rejected him. It's just rude.


#8

Thank you for the lengthy response. When my sister invited my ex and her boyfriend to their house for a week’s visit, the boyfriend was actually still married. I told her what a terrible example it was setting for my children who then saw their mother sleeping with a man she wasn’t married to. I do have 4 children and my sister said she wanted to visit my children. She lives in another state. I told her she should visit them through me and she would not have misunderstood how that hurt me for her to invite them. It has since put a strain on our relationship and we’ve not really spoken in a year. I know that’s wrong but I just can’t seem to get over the feeling of betrayal. I deal with the feelings of rejection from my ex and then it gets compounded. I found out today my parents are having my ex and our children over for dinner tomorrow. I let my Mom know I thought it was wrong and she should have just invited the children over. She said she’s sorry I feel that way.

I’m trying to carry my cross. I’m certainly not free of fault for the marriage failing but I just can’t put myself in my family’s shoes and see myself associating with an ex of theirs. Just a clarification on the vacation, while on vacation my ex took her boyfriend and our children and stayed with my sister for a week.

Life is too short to hold a grudge against my family, but this seems over the top for me. God doesn’t give us more than we can handle and my constant prayer is for God to bring me where he wants me to be. I must be open to the possibility that this is another opportunity for spiritual growth. It is comforting, however, to hear other people understand what I am saying and feeling. My current spouse, remarried one year, has been very supportive and loving and also can not see the any appropriateness in this level of family socializing with my ex spouse.


#9

My initial thought is to establish boundaries with the family, especially since they chose not to consider your feelings. If they want to spend time with your ex, then it will be without you until you have healed emotionally. I would invite them to make the choice now, so you can decide what to do with your life. You or her. If they choose her, then, I would make myself scarce and unavailable, and work on asking God to help heal me. If, at some point in the future, you feel healed enough to deal with it, then okay. Otherwise, not.


#10

Have you lost custody? If not, get those kids over to spend some time with your family. If you have, then of course your mother doesn’t mean to harm you by tolerating your ex in order to see her grandchildren. If it is about socializing with them, and not about socializing with your ex-wife, let your parents see your kids.

Also, you might ask your mom what your ex has been telling the family about the divorce. She may have been telling them you have not been fair in supporting her materially, in order to get them to put some pressure on you. If this happened, they could have changed their view of you without choosing to say anything to you–in their mind, “staying out of it”, but in truth believing rumors without letting you defend yourself.

Nevertheless, if you’ve treated your wife badly and your family sees that as mistreatment of the children, they may be punishing you for it. (Passive-aggressively, of course. Isn’t that the way loving families usually perpetrate their violence?)

Seriously, though, if your family is not in the habit of talking about personal issues, there may be more of a lack of forgiveness going on here than just yours. If they’re angry with you about the divorce, then hurting you by how they treat your ex-wife may not be something they have any interest in avoiding. If you’re getting counselling, you may want to raise this possiblity with your counsellor.


#11

Scooby, I like your suggestion and will give that serious thought. Like I said before life is short and I don't want to do something I'll regret later. What would Jesus do in this situation I ask myself.


#12

Whatever you do, don’t bring your current wife’s view of the situation in when you talk to your family about this. You don’t want this disagreement to affect their feelings toward her. That you have an opinion about the situation is good enough. If your feelings and the normal guidelines of common courtesy don’t convince them, she isn’t going to.


#13

[quote="acseagle, post:8, topic:210159"]
Thank you for the lengthy response. When my sister invited my ex and her boyfriend to their house for a week's visit, the boyfriend was actually still married. I told her what a terrible example it was setting for my children who then saw their mother sleeping with a man she wasn't married to. I do have 4 children and my sister said she wanted to visit my children. She lives in another state. I told her she should visit them through me and she would not have misunderstood how that hurt me for her to invite them. It has since put a strain on our relationship and we've not really spoken in a year. I know that's wrong but I just can't seem to get over the feeling of betrayal. I deal with the feelings of rejection from my ex and then it gets compounded. I found out today my parents are having my ex and our children over for dinner tomorrow. I let my Mom know I thought it was wrong and she should have just invited the children over. She said she's sorry I feel that way.

I'm trying to carry my cross. I'm certainly not free of fault for the marriage failing but I just can't put myself in my family's shoes and see myself associating with an ex of theirs. Just a clarification on the vacation, while on vacation my ex took her boyfriend and our children and stayed with my sister for a week.

Life is too short to hold a grudge against my family, but this seems over the top for me. God doesn't give us more than we can handle and my constant prayer is for God to bring me where he wants me to be. I must be open to the possibility that this is another opportunity for spiritual growth. It is comforting, however, to hear other people understand what I am saying and feeling. My current spouse, remarried one year, has been very supportive and loving and also can not see the any appropriateness in this level of family socializing with my ex spouse.

[/quote]

Well I would say what your sister did was very inappropiate. Its one thing if she invited your ex and your children, but to include the new boyfriend who was still married?? That is immoral and she should have had better sense with children staying in the house, any children not just yours.

But your mom inviting your ex and the children to dinner? That sounds reasonable to me. It shows to your children that family members can be charitable, even after a divorce and that your mom still loves her once former daughter in law. I think it sets a good example for your children.


#14

I have the standard visitation. Unfortunately because I now live 3 hours away I don’t see them very often. My ex often tells me the kids can’t make it because of this or that on my once a month weekend. The this or that is usually sports and I tell her it’s my decision what they attend on my weekend. Unfortunately, I’m then viewed as the bad guy if I force them to come and miss a game or a dance or something else.

I don’t think my family harbors negative feelings against me ref the divorce. The reasons were very public. My parents were living with me while they were building a house when my wife’s affair became public. She was working, of all places, as a secretary at the catholic school where all 4 of our children attended and she had the affair with the principal. They were both fired when I told the priest about it. The poor kids, all of a sudden their mom and principal no longer work at their school and there was no way to keep that quiet.

My Dad commented to my Mom one time that my ex didn’t do anyting to him insinuating they shouldn’t treat her any different. I don’t want them to be anything but cordial to her and she is their grandchildren’s mother but inviting her over for dinner hurts.


#15

[quote="acseagle, post:11, topic:210159"]
Scooby, I like your suggestion and will give that serious thought. Like I said before life is short and I don't want to do something I'll regret later. What would Jesus do in this situation I ask myself.

[/quote]

I think Jesus did not beat around the bush. He could tell people when they weren't being fair:
"Then to what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another, 'We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.' For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine, and you said, 'He is possessed by a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, 'Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' But wisdom is vindicated by all her children." Luke 7: 31-35

Although I wouldn't go to a get-together if it required close contact with an ex-fiance, let alone an ex-spouse, I don't know that I'd play the "me or her" card, particularly not if it is "her and your nephews/grandchildren or me". In that case, the kids will win your family's affection, and they'll leave you to come around when you so choose, instead of waiting for the kids' childhoods to fly away before you do. Your children are your family's flesh and blood, too, and I suspect that your kids are 125% of why your family chooses to be around your ex at all.

You should be upfront that you understandably have a hard time being around or hearing about the man she had in the wings when she left you. That's a deep wound, and they should respect that it doesn't need any more salt rubbed in it than it already has had. Since they know how you feel about your ex-wife being with a man not her husband in the presence of your kids, particularly the man she's with now, at least see that your relatives have very little control over that situation. Not that they should accept it, but since they feel they can't do anything about it, if nothing else ask them to agree that you won't ask about him, and they'll not tell about him.


#16

[quote="acseagle, post:14, topic:210159"]
I have the standard visitation. Unfortunately because I now live 3 hours away I don't see them very often. My ex often tells me the kids can't make it because of this or that on my once a month weekend. The this or that is usually sports and I tell her it's my decision what they attend on my weekend. Unfortunately, I'm then viewed as the bad guy if I force them to come and miss a game or a dance or something else.

I don't think my family harbors negative feelings against me ref the divorce. The reasons were very public. My parents were living with me while they were building a house when my wife's affair became public. She was working, of all places, as a secretary at the catholic school where all 4 of our children attended and she had the affair with the principal. They were both fired when I told the priest about it. The poor kids, all of a sudden their mom and principal no longer work at their school and there was no way to keep that quiet.

My Dad commented to my Mom one time that my ex didn't do anyting to him insinuating they shouldn't treat her any different. I don't want them to be anything but cordial to her and she is their grandchildren's mother but inviting her over for dinner hurts.

[/quote]

Your dad's comment is incredible. His daughter-in-law has an affair with the prinicipal of a Catholic grade school, and that is nothing to him. Amazing.

Oy, vey, these things get complicated.

She may not be doing it out of any ill will towards you, but rather in order to accomodate your kids' passion for their sports, but what your wife is doing to your visitation rights is wrong. Refuse to accept it. The sports thing can be worked around, if you are creative. Do that. It is so important to your kids that you make heroic efforts when it is necessary, so you can be with them. Ask your kids where they want you to be for your weekend with them, and do that. Make the weekend about you doing what they want, as long as you get the time with them. Or maybe drive down for one day twice a month, instead of two days once a month. Whatever it takes. They will never forget that your visits with them were, in your mind, primarily for their benefit, not yours.

When it happens that they can't be 3 hours from home, find a way to be there. Maybe you and your wife can split the cost of getting her a hotel so that you can have your visitation at their house. Otherwise, she can give you enough notice that you can take a different weekend. Better yet, if your parents live near enough to your ex, take the kids to their house and spend the visitation at your kids' grandparents when the kids have a tournament to go to. Whatever. But you deserve to have time with your kids and they deserve to have it with you...the entire weekend, without her, not just the day times. You deserve to be the one going to some of their tournaments. Even if all you can manage is to stay in a hotel and have the daytimes with them, though, do that.

They need you to do that. That you want to travel that extra mile will mean so much to them. I have a family member who went through a divorce, and their dad missed a lot of their visitations. It really hurt them. Tell them that you were willing to miss"once in awhile", but that "once in awhile" has become far too often for you. Bend over backwards to make that happen, but make that happen. Make sure you get to make up the lost days you're owed, too.

Oh, and be sure to take your current wife, when you can, if she's willing. She is the one who actually is your parents' DIL now, after all. Your kids don't have to be close to her, but they do need a relationship with her, and understanding of her, and an ability to talk to her. I do not want to be macabre, but your deathbed is not the time for your kids and your wife to get to know each other.


#17

Thank you EasterJoy. I know I need to set aside what I think is "fair" and go out of my way to see the kids. It's a constant struggle. I also know that I'll know them as adults alot longer than as kids.


#18

[quote="acseagle, post:14, topic:210159"]

My Dad commented to my Mom one time that my ex didn't do anyting to him insinuating they shouldn't treat her any different. I don't want them to be anything but cordial to her and she is their grandchildren's mother but inviting her over for dinner hurts.

[/quote]

I wouldn't have another thing to do with my father if he said this until he apologized and ended contact with your ex.

Same thing with sister.

Go back to your lawyer if she is disobeying custody.

Blood is supposed to be thicker than water and cheating ex-wives with no morals.


#19

Since she has custody and you often don’t even get them on the weekends of your visitation, they might just be going along with her requests in order to visit with your children. They didn’t ask for the divorce. The kids didn’t ask for the divorce. It stinks.

In-law relations can be difficult even when the couple is together. Pointing out the bad moral behavior to the mother of their grand-children and nephews/neices that they wish to remain in contact with would likely cost them access to those children.

I understand why this situation would upset you. It would upset me too. But I would find it more upsetting if I couldn’t see my children on a daily basis. I don’t know the reasons why you live three hours away from them. Do you have any family members living closer to where your children are and can you and your children stay with them on the weekends when you have visitation? Is there any way you can possibly arrange to live closer to your children?

I know you didn’t come here to talk about living far away from your children and not getting regular visitation because of their activities, but that stands out to me as a much bigger problem. As I see this, it sounds like your family is trying to spend time with your children. It would probably be much better for you and your children if you spent more time with them too. :slight_smile:


#20

Acseagle,

Ouch. As a revert to the Church, and as a business owner, I have to say....Catholics are so unbelievably rude. Stupid rude. The door greeters at our Church rarely open a door to help my Dad and I (he's in a wheelchair) through the entrance. Big heavy wooden door without a handicap button.

Are your Mom and Dad Catholic?

IMO, your Mom and Dad, inviting your ex-wife and her boyfriend (who was present during the your separation) on vacation - knowing that you will also be there.... After 19 years of marriage to this woman. Over the top - insensitive to your situation.

I didn't read through all the posts, so I don't know if you mentioned if your marriage was able to be annuled.

I don't know what else to tell you, except that God is definately giving you a trial.

Did you need a greater understanding of forgiveness and forebearance?

Oh, wow.

I just read,

"I don't think my family harbors negative feelings against me ref the divorce. The reasons were very public. My parents were living with me while they were building a house when my wife's affair became public. She was working, of all places, as a secretary at the catholic school where all 4 of our children attended and she had the affair with the principal. They were both fired when I told the priest about it. The poor kids, all of a sudden their mom and principal no longer work at their school and there was no way to keep that quiet.

I don't know what to say to help you, except that I'm praying for you.

How old are your Mom and Dad? Too old to spank ;)

I'm really sorry.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.