My family is having Thanksgiving at my brother’s/SIL’s home. My wife and I invited her mother and brother to join us (Bro and SIL know and are overjoyed to have them).
However, we just learned a new bit of info. MIL has a “friend”, that is a former boyfriend and decades-long love interest, who had been married and is currently separated from his wife. (He and his wife are not Catholic, but he has shown an interest in converting, obtaining an annulment, and marrying MIL.) She just told my wife, out of the blue, that [the guy] will be close by that week and might be able to make it to Thanksgivign Dinner at Bro/SIL’s. :eek: :mad:
In a past conversation, wife and I made it VERY clear that until his marriage is actually annulled, we will not support, in any way, their having a romantic relationship, or one that fosters an intimate relationship between them, which could potentially work against a presumed-valid-until-proven-otherwise Marriage to his wife.
-I don’t know if Bro/SIL know he is coming and am 99.999% sure they are not aware.
-It’s not going to be at our house, so I don’t have much say in the matter. Or do I?
-If he IS there, I believe it gives scandal to our family members (all Catholic) on our account because we invited MIL, and presumably accept and support whatever guest she might bring, etc…
I’m having knee-jerk reactions (privately) left and right and I’d really appreciate some solid Catholic input here.
You and your wife could decide that you are not comfortable adding to your host’s guest list: That is, if the invitation did not imply your MIL could bring a friend, just on that account you could rightly decide not to put your host on the spot to add extra guests they’ve never said they would welcome.
If you and your wife decide that your hosts would want you to pass on information about this friend who might need somewhere to go for Thanksgiving, then do include the information about the nature of the “friendship”. Ask your hosts if this is a problem for them, because of course it is their prerogative to know about which players you are bringing to their house and to decide who is and is not welcome at their table. Thanksgiving, after all, is not a “couples” event, and having a meal with someone else’s husband is not a sin, per se. This is not like helping the couple to set up housekeeping together.
The hosts deserve to know about this kind of relationship between people you are proposing that they add as guests or who are being proposed with your knowledge. Think about it: if the tables were turned, you’d want to have the information and you’d also want to be allowed to decide yourself what to do with it, because that is your right as the host. If they choose to extend an invitation to MIL’s friend, then having dinner with a couple who is having an illicit affair is not tantamount to approving of their affair. You do owe it to your hosts to back them up if they elect not to invite this friend, though. Excepting that real married couples are to be treated as a social unit, nobody is entitled to an invitation.
Still, if you decide, it is OK to say, “No, dear MIL, this is too close to the line of encouraging an illicit relationship. I know you and X may work out in the end, maybe his first marriage was invalid, it is possible, but right now I can’t cooperate with what you’re doing because his first marriage is valid until proven otherwise. That means this is not right. No hard feelings, I hope, but this is what I have to do.”
Thank you both for the great insight so far. I just want to clarify where I may have been suggestive: MIL and “friend” are not in a sexual relationship right now and likely never were, but they DID date for decades, with Marriage always on the table, and now Marriage (between them, providing his Marriage is annulled) is definite discussion and the hope of MIL. MIL is also Catholic.
So can I just clarify? They dated for decades in the past before he went on to marry someone else, he is now separated from his wife and pursuing an annulment. There is talk of the two marrying in the case that his annulment goes through with the presumption that marriage and any kind of romantic relationship would be off the table if his annulment did not go through. They are currently neither sexually active, nor technically dating, but are both aware that they have a mutual interest in each other which they would like to develop if his annulment goes through. If all of this information is correct I guess I have a hard time seeing why you think it would be scandalous to have them both eat dinner together at your or your brothers house. Maybe I’m missing something but it sounds to me like they are actually going about this the right way. They already knew from their long history of dating that they were interested in each other, and, presumably, this interest re-surfaced whenever they came into contact again, however, they realize that he is not free to marry, so are attmepting to remain just friends until/unless he is judged as free to marry, at which time they hope to be able to finally act on the feelings/intimacy that they established between themselves well before either of them were ever married. Is this an accurate summary of events? or am I missing something?
It is up to your Brother/Sister in-law to not welcome this unexpected guest.
So many holidays are ruined because people have to pass judgment on what other people are doing in their lives. I miss the holidays when we had to put up with our crazy uncle Mike who like to keep a tube of women’s lipstick in his suite pocket. When we all put aside our differences to break bread.
Who did Jesus break bread with? Wasn’t Judas at that table? Its the Holidays. Its not like she asking to move in with you. Let me tell you. My husband lost his father(59) when he was 30. Because we did not get along with my DH brother, holidays always had to be split. We lost time with FIL because we could not tolerate my BIL for 3-4 holidays. (BTW, he stole and lied to us). Just because his sins were common knowledge, how would I like it if family disowned me for mine?
WWJD? WWPope Francis do? We are all wretched sinners. EVERYONE is welcome to Christ’s love. How are you being his instrument? How are you being his hands, feet and heart? IS IT WORTH IT?
That my friend in between you and God. My prayers are with you.
If MIL is not putting herself in a near occasion of sin, it is OK for her to be with an old flame who has left his wife and not yet found out if his previous marriage was valid. He may have good reason to separate with the bond remaining (not your business, but charity allows you to believe it possible) and when separated with the bond remaining he is not forbidden from keeping any female company until his marriage is declared invalid. Were his marriage declared valid but his separation is morally permissible, he is allowed some friendship with women not his wife.
If your in-laws are OK with adding the guest, I think your MIL is OK. It is possible she is outside the boundaries of prudence, but it is also possible that she is within them.
first of all and maybe it’s just a pet peeve, I dislike it when posters start using these abbreviations instead of names. I guess I have one thought to your long explanation and that is this, having the boyfriend of your mother in law over for thanksgiving is not making a statement that you “support” their relationship. Having them over for thanksgiving dinner is just that having them over and it is neutral. You know Jesus ate with sinners, that is prostitutes, tax collectors, etc and he was critisized for it. If the boyfriend ends up divorcing and getting an annulment and marries your mother in law then by excluding him now only creates hurt feeling for later on. I think with family, it is better to have more of a open door during big holiday meals to build relationships than exclude people which only closes doors. Having them over builds better relationship for later on and down the road. Jesus spoke to “sinners” which is all of us and Jesus did so while we were yet sinners not when we had our act together and not sinning. Jesus spoke to that women at the well who was living with someone and divorced many times. I think all you are doing is making yourself out to be a spiritual snob and in the long run you won’t win over family members with that.
With all due respect, the tone of your post is “holier than thou,” judgmental, and not very Christian. You and your wife have made it known that you do not support them being intimate outside of marriage and/or dating and getting married without an annulment from the first marriage. By telling them your stance, you’ve fulfilled your duty to “counsel the sinner” (one of the spiritual works of mercy). Now it’s up to them to do the right thing. In the mean time, you need to treat them with kindness, as Christ would.
For clarification, the boyfriend has been married twice. Once in the 1970s/80s, had a daughter (now in her 30s), then was divorced for many years. He met my MIL around 1993 and they dated on and off until about 2009, when he abruptly married this second wife. MIL states that it was a very unhappy marriage for both from the beginning.
They are NOT divorced, and they have not filed for divorce. **They are only separated. ** He has expressed that he would be willing to pursue annulment(s), but he has not done so because he is not legally divorced, which is a requirement to begin the process. His current wife has been married five times, so I am assuming that those marriages would all need to be investigated as well. I asked my wife, and she said that MIL states she believes his current wife was baptized Catholic.
MIL has stated for about a year that he is going to get divorced, he is trying to do it the cheap way without a lawyer, and that they “don’t have a marriage.” So, this man has dated my MIL on and off for decades, and my wife (now 33) has known him since she was in jr. high, so knows him quite well, and believes he is a kind and genuine person. MIL has stated that he is the love of her life, and my wife knows this is true. However, he is legally married, and the Church recognizes all marriages until proven otherwise. (Canon law 1060). He and MIL talked periodically on the phone (they live in different states) even after he got married. But about a year ago, they began talking daily. My wife states that whenever she is around her mom, she tends to receive/make multiple phone calls from/to him daily, and they always end with, “I love you,” “Ok, honey,” etc.
Our main concern is that we have four small children, and the six year old frequently asks pointed questions of new people she meets, such as “Are you married?” If he answers no, that sends the message that it’s ok to lie. I don’t want lying to be involved. That’s not ok with us. If he says yes, it sends the message that it’s ok for a married man to spend the holiday with their grandmother [because he hopes to marry her, yet is now married], and that is not ok with us either. They love, admire, and really look up to their grandmother as a strong Catholic role model. She goes to Mass with us and models the faith for them. So to have her do something like this, they will be confused and we are not comfortable with the example it will set for them while they are still young and impressionable.
Yes, I understand you have small children that ask questions and if they ask “are you married” all that needs to be said is no, we are friends which is the truth and not a lie. I think you are making a bigger deal out of this than it needs to be. Asking if people are married or not can be kinda noisy and maybe you need to teach your children that it isn’t always good to go to people they just met and ask them “are you marriage, do you have kids etc.” Sometimes and in some circumstances, those are sensitive and noisy questions. Adults can have friends of the opposite sex and if your children are young, you do not need to go into such detail with them.
I’m sorry if I upset your holiness with my abbrv’s. (Sarcasm intended.) Let’s move past this though, as true brothers in Christ. I am sorry that I got sarcastic with you.
I guess I have one thought to your long explanation and that is this, having the boyfriend of your mother in law over for thanksgiving is not making a statement that you “support” their relationship. Having them over for thanksgiving dinner is just that having them over and it is neutral. You know Jesus ate with sinners, that is prostitutes, tax collectors, etc and he was critisized for it. If the boyfriend ends up divorcing and getting an annulment and marries your mother in law then by excluding him now only creates hurt feeling for later on…only closes doors.
Possibly (about hurt feelings). But that’s not my concern. My concern is the message that I send to my children and family. I eat with sinners too, in fact I am one. What Jesus did NOT do was let people live a lie and hide their sins and sneak behind their wife’s back to spend time with a “true love” on Turkey Day. He called them out and told them to sin no more.
Having them over builds better relationship for later on and down the road.
So, you don’t think it will be cause for scandal that a married man is with my children’s grandmother and they have made it plain that they are pursuing a romantic relationship to yield in Marriage? (No sarcasm this time…I need to know this.)
Jesus spoke to “sinners” which is all of us and Jesus did so while we were yet sinners not when we had our act together and not sinning. Jesus spoke to that women at the well who was living with someone and divorced many times. I think all you are doing is making yourself out to be a spiritual snob and in the long run you won’t win over family members with that.
We aren’t talking about speaking to a sinner. We are talking about a Catholic grandmother giving a specific message to her Catholic grandchildren. Is it okay that a married man is with her in these circumstances?
When children ask me nosey questions, no matter if I do or do not wish to reply, I usually tell them, “Sweetie why don’t you go play with the other children,” or something along those lines. It isn’t your child’s business.
I have not been sarcastic in any of my posts and I never use it anyway. I think you need to teach your children not to ask noisy questions and going to up people they just met and asking if they are married etc, is being noisy. I think you are being a spiritual snob here and again that isn’t being sarcastic. We are all sinners and even being Catholic doesn’t mean we stop sinning, Even our current Pope asked for prayers and says he is a sinner. Your mother in law’s relationship with this guy is basically none of anyone business but her and this friend. what she calls him over the phone is none of your business and repeating it is just gossip. You have already expressed your views to them, now you need to drop it. The example you are setting for your children is how to be noisey, snobby and not compassionate on others and their circumstances. I would think if this guy wants to become Catholic and put his past behind him then that should be encouraged not discouraged because you think having him over for thanksgiving is going to contaminate your children. I am sure that you sin and go to confession? What do you think Jesus would do? shut doors on people because of fear?
It is completely disrespectful for this man to spend the holiday with your family rather than his wife. What kind of a husband does that? I don’t care if it’s a horrible marriage and they are separated. If he wants to spend the time with his “true love’s” family on the holidays, he ought to pursue a divorce and annulment. If he wants to come now, he ought to invite his wife to join him.
I was in this situation when my husband (no we were not separated) lied to me about where he was spending the holiday. He did not want to come to my family’s for dinner because of x,y,z. I came back home early and he was out. I tracked him down at his ex-girlfriend-turned-friend’s house. No they weren’t dating. But NO ONE told me he was invited there or was going to be there. And what really hurt was that I knew every single person at that house and no one had the guts to say to my husband “you need to go home to your wife” or “where is your wife? Invite her over.” And no one ( including my husband) called me to come over even though they had my email and phone number. No spouse should be treated like that.
Your family would be complicit by allowing him to attend without his wife, because they are STILL married. Is that the message you want to send to your kids?
Also, what kind of a husband is he going to be to your MIL if he treats his current wife so disrespectfully? He doesn’t sound like a “stand up guy” to me if he is on the phone talking with your MIL with hopes of rekindling an old flame while he is still married. Did this guy even give his current marriage a chance in the first place? Anyway, not trying to go off on a tangent, I’m just trying to give a perspective of the larger picture as I see it. Just my opinion.
First of all, I really don’t see why the fact he is not divorced matters at all. He either is or is not validly married, whether or not he receives a legal divorce changes none of that so I really don’t understand why you would emphasize that as though it makes a difference.
Secondly, while I understand the concern you have for your children, they are going to be introduced sooner or later, to the fact that life is complicated and not everyone dos the right thing all the time, especially with respect to marriage. If they discover that the situation is complicated, and/or sinful you will be there to guide their understanding of it. So if he tells them he’s married, and then they see him being clearly romantic with MIL (assuming they share PDA’s ? ) you explain to them that MIL and he believes something was wrong with the marriage and that it never really happened, but that since they have not yet found out for sure whether or not he is actually married, they shouldn’t be sharing PDA’s etc. If they do not share PDA’s then its even simpler, you just let it be with whatever answer they receive, and if he later receives an annulment you can bring in the fact that people made a mistake when they thought he was married.
Ultimately it is up to you to decide how to balance everything, whether you think it is worth damaging your relationship with your MIL for the sake of your children being a little older before they learn about the reality of divorces and annulments, but personally I think there’s a good bet that it is a better choice to allow MIL to bring her friend to thanksgiving.