Dear Mary: My ex-wife is making life awkward for my girlfriend
My wife and I have been separated for four years and divorced recently.
We waited for our youngest daughter to leave school to separate and it was a good decision as she got a great Leaving Cert and will graduate in June.
Her mother and I have kept up a good relationship and we have regular meetings with the children.
However, I have had a girlfriend for almost two years now and we plan to move in together in the New Year.
My ex-wife has not taken this well and has dropped nasty comments about my girlfriend destroying our family get-togethers. It came up recently that we are planning a holiday next June and I mentioned to my daughter that we (i.e. my partner and I) would need to know the date of her graduation as we want to be there to celebrate with her. When my wife heard this she went ballistic and said that under no circumstances would my partner be welcome.
I don't think it matters to my daughter as she and my partner get on very well together. I am also hosting the party after the graduation - and paying for it too. I think my wife is being totally unreasonable and behaving really badly - but how do I avoid a family row?
Mary replies: One of the inevitable problems when there is a divorced family is what to do with new partners when there is a family celebratory occasion. A rule of thumb that seems to work is if both parties have new partners then all is well, and the new partners are welcome, but if only one part of the divorced couple has somebody in his/her life then things have to be a little more circumspect.
Your new partner was not a party to your break-up so she cannot be blamed for anything by your ex-wife. You are very rightly putting your daughter's happiness to the forefront in all this. After all it is her day, she is the one who did all the studying and will deserve to celebrate and you don't want her day to be spoiled. I'm sure that your new partner would feel awful if your ex-wife were to make some sort of a scene, or snubbed her at the party. It seems to me that your best plan would be to explain to your daughter that in the interests of family harmony you will be attending the party on your own. Then, subsequently, you and your partner should your own special celebration for your daughter.
This not only shows your daughter the art of compromise - which she will need to use a lot in her life - but it will show you as being magnanimous rather than insisting on getting your own way because you are paying for the party.
You can contact Mary O’Connor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.
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