Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Mom caught in middle between newly divorced daughter, her ex
Games: Hubby and I are having a family cookout. My daughter just got divorced, and although she and her ex get along well, she is still angry at his live-in brother, who indulged in some very hostile comments during the divorce. She warned me not to invite him to our cookout.
When my ex-son-in-law called to ask, I said, "I have no problem with 'John' coming, but you know 'Jane' is not going to like it." He replied, "That's okay, it's your opinion that counts."
We really want the ex to come; we love him and hate that they got divorced, plus he's always been our grillmaster. I really don't have a problem with his brother coming, as long as the (jerk) behaves himself; he really did trash my daughter.
Of course now my daughter is upset with me and framing this as a "choose between me and him"-type deal. Advice?
Carolyn: You threw her under the bus! To keep your grill guy!
If you didn't want to be the messenger, then you needed to tell your daughter directly: "I'm sorry, if you want to exclude him, then that's something you're going to have to arrange directly."
Since you tacitly agreed to the exclusion when your daughter requested it, integrity demanded that you tell your ex-son-in-law: "You are welcome, and we'd miss you terribly if you didn't come. However, your brother trashed our daughter, and he's not welcome at our home, at least not until they resolve their differences. I hope you'll understand."
For what it's worth, I wish your daughter had skipped the ultimatum and just said, "Mom, I specifically asked you not to invite the brother. I'm sorry, I won't be coming." Still, her anger is totally justified by your failure to take a principled stand.
Games again: You used the same words my daughter did: "threw me under the bus." I just texted my ex-son-in-law and said that I'd realized I wasn't comfortable with brother coming, and hoped son-in-law would still come, but I understand if he doesn't. I also told him this wasn't because my daughter asked me to; it was all me. Thanks for helping me see this more clearly.
Carolyn: You're welcome. It isn't always true that not taking a strong stance is a strong stance of its own, but that was the case here.
Games again: Okay, just so you know: My ex-son-in-law phoned my daughter and is furious. Now SHE is furious because I essentially disinvited the ex by disinviting his brother, and didn't check with her before reversing myself. I can't win no matter how principled my stand is.
Carolyn: The ex-couple are a bunch of raw nerves right now — divorce will do that — and communicating horribly, getting angry at one party and venting it on another. (Which explains the divorce, if this is their pattern.)
Please stay calm, be strong, be the grown-up. You can always win by doing the right thing, even if victory doesn't look pretty.
Anytime you agree with your daughter, back her, even if it costs you your grillmaster. Anytime you disagree with your daughter, let her know in advance that you won't back her, and why. "Principled" doesn't mean "Everyone's happy with me."