Sunday, January 21, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Tell Me About It: Graduation sets up a battle of the exes

Carolyn Hax is on leave. This column ran previously.

Q: My daughter "Brooke" is a senior in high school. Her mother and I have been separated six years and divorced for three. We maintain a cordial relationship and I am allowed great visitation.

I have had a girlfriend for 18 months, "Michelle." We plan on moving in together in April, and I fully expect to invite her to Brooke's graduation ceremony and a party I am hosting and paying for. My ex-wife adamantly states I cannot bring my girlfriend. I think she may use her position as the parent who lives with my daughter to influence Brooke to agree. I don't think Brooke cares. She has met my girlfriend many times and spent the night at her house.

How do I handle this situation? Am I being unreasonable?

M.

A: No. Divorced couples who remain connected as co-parents eventually have to accept each other's new partners, for the kids' sake if nothing else: They need to see you both let go of grudges, even the legitimate ones.

Because this is your daughter's celebration, not yours, and because your ex-wife's adamance suggests unhealed wounds, the decent move is to try peacemaking first.

Have you asked why your ex is so insistent?: "May I ask why the strong objection?"

Then listen. Give empathy a chance.

Then, assuming you don't get the answer you want from your ex, you drop it: "I'll let this rest, and try seeing it from your perspective. I hope you'll do the same for me." Then use these months to be the model of cooperation vs. I'm-right exasperation.

Or, a compromise: Don't bring Michelle and be clear it's the only time you'll exclude. Why? Because a kid's rite of passage is a lousy time for parents to road-test their contentious, new-partner reality for the first time. You'll still be right next time.

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