Q. Every year my ex has a Christmas party. He invites me, plus our kids—all adults, yours, mine, and ours, and all have kids of their own. We have done this for years. He hires Santa for the grandkids. It’s really fun. This year he has a new woman in his life and I wasn’t invited. As a matter of fact, I was told it would be inappropriate if I come. It seems his new girlfriend doesn’t want me at his party. My kids are very upset. I don’t care that he’s seeing someone else. What’s good ex-etiquette?
A. You don’t care that he’s seeing her, but it sounds like she cares that you’re around. Everyone being under the same roof for the holidays takes some getting used to—and if she’s new in your ex’s life, he probably hasn’t had time to explain–or, he’s chosen not to. Either way, he hasn’t made his lifestyle clear and therefore his new girlfriend is probably operating from an old school break-up mentality. She thinks exes are evil and once they’re an ex they are out of your life.
For some that’s true, but not all, and if you have co-parented for quite a while and are used to spending the holidays together with the kids, the separateness, all of a sudden, probably feels very unfair.
As a result, there are a couple things to consider:
First, the guest list is up to the host. He invites whomever he wants.
But, if you have been invited over the years and the kids and grandkids expect you, dad should have discussed your attending with his new partner. It’s up to him to educate her about his lifestyle and create appropriate boundaries. If he lets her dictate how things will work, the kids will equate a change with her entering the picture and resent her being around. Look how you feel. The kids could very well follow suit—and in the world of good ex-etiquette, the kids and grandkids come first (Ex-etiquette for parents rule #1). Allowing her to call the shots could undermine any potential relationship she has with his children and grandchildren.
This is one of the reasons I included “Parents make the rules; bonusparents uphold them” as rule #4 of the Ten Rules of good ex-etiquette for parents. When new people come into the picture, good ex-etiquette suggests they join the club, not set a new precedent. If they try to change the status quo (if it’s been working) they will have a fight on their hands and will not be accepted. By the same token, if the status quo isn’t working, a new positive role model could help the situation. Doesn’t sound like that is what’s happening here. It sounds as if this is just a case of Dad meeting someone new that he really likes close to the holidays and doesn’t want to make waves.
Good Ex-etiquette for Parents rule #8 is “Be honest and straightforward.” This rule isn’t just when dealing exes, it’s when dealing with anyone. Dad should be honest and set his boundaries—with his new girlfriend–or with you, and then by upfront with the kids so they know what to expect. That’s good ex-etiquette.
Ex-Etiquette®, runs in countless newspapers and websites all over the world. It is written by Dr. Jann Blackstone, who specializes in child custody, divorce, and stepfamily mediation. Dr. Jann is the author of seven books on divorce, remarriage, and co-parenting, specifically, Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce and Separation, and other Ex-etiquette books. Dr. Blackstone is also the founder of Bonus Families,501 c3 non-profit organization dedicated to peaceful coexistence between divorced or separated parents and their combined families.