Welcome to my latest Safe space blogging post. I offer a safe place for parents of 10 to 25 year olds to blog openly and honestly about issues affecting their families, which may they may not feel comfortable sharing on their own blogs. It will both help them to offload and help other parents who may be going through similar situations in silence. Today I welcome a blogger who dealing with her ex’s involvement in a family wedding.
My middle son is getting married this year.
I divorced his father when he was 5. I remarried when he was 7.
Over the years, the children have stayed with their dad on alternate weekends and some of the school holidays. Maintenance was arranged between us, the house sold and we had an amicable divorce.
Over the years, their dad hasn’t had an input in where we lived, what schools the children went to or activities they’ve taken part in. When we separated, he happily handed over all parental responsibility to myself and my husband. He never attended parents’ evenings, sporting events or medical appointments. We asked him to, we gave him dates, we offered not to be there if that made him feel more comfortable, but he declined.
I’ve remained in touch and friends with my ex’s family. As they rightly pointed out, I may have divorced their brother, but I was still an aunt to their children and they are aunts and uncles to mine.
It’s worked out well, there’s no issue with my husband being part of my children’s lives and over the years we’ve encountered my ex’s family in the pub, out shopping, dropping off and collecting the children. My ex sister-in-law has been to visit us, we’ve been out for dinner with her and her husband and my nephews and nieces stayed over when they were smaller and joined their cousins on holidays.
There are no issues from my ex towards my husband, no cross words, but they’re not friends and neither should they be. But we have to deal with this upcoming wedding.
There have been funerals on both sides. Both my husband and I, along with my ex, have attended. We’ve even sat together at these events. There are Christmas cards to and from both my husband and I from his family.
But while this all goes on in relative harmony, my ex and I don’t speak. We’re civil to one another. I say hello, he just blanks me. His family will ask about my husband, I chat with them, but I’m not interested in what he’s up to.
We had a family event for the same child a few years ago, a graduation. My ex attended, as did one of his uncles, his grandmother and a cousin. It was a big venue, there were a lot of people and a lot going on. It was the first time my husband met my ex’s brother. It went okay, was civil and whilst we did spend some time with them and my son, we also found other people to chat to afterwards.
The wedding is presenting a whole different set of problems. My husband and I are going to outnumbered. I come from a small family, only one other child will be there, plus my mother, sister and her partner.
We know the bride’s family and their friends very well.
My ex is from a large family, in all there will be around 20 of them in attendance.
It will be my husband and I sitting at the top table during the reception and speeches. My son’s dad has been told he’ll be sitting with his family.
But it’s going to be awkward for me and my husband. They’re both wearing the same suits as the rest of the wedding party. Thankfully there will be no speech from either of them to contend with. There will be wedding photos but I’m speaking to the photographer to ask him not to request pictures of the bride and groom with his parents, me and my ex. Group photos I don’t mind, just not intimate shots.
After the reception and speeches, there will be an evening do, but we’re all staying in the same hotel. My son will be spending the night before the wedding my with his dad’s family. They are all arriving together. His dad is staying at his house and here lies the problem.
My son wants us to visit his house. He wants drinks and dinner with us the night before the wedding. He wants us all to be one big happy family and he doesn’t understand why my husband and I don’t want to be part of all that.
We don’t want to have breakfast together in the morning, socialise in the hotel in the evening, play happy families visiting my son’s home with his dad there.
If I’m honest, other than the actual reception, we’re feeling sidelined in favour of his dad, who he has a good relationship with, but hasn’t contributed to his life in any way after the age of 5, financially or emotionally. In adulthood, it is my son who travels frequently to see his dad, who makes all the arrangements and contact.
I know I sound a bit childish, but I’m jealous that he wants his dad to be such a big part of things. Maybe my son feels sorry for his dad as he can’t contribute towards the wedding. He can’t afford the hotel, so my son is putting him up in his home. He sees my husband as the one who raised him and supported him emotionally and financially and maybe he feels some guilt at choosing him to sit at the top table and not his dad. Maybe this is my son’s way of easing his guilt about it all.
But on the surface, all I feel is we’re being excluded from everything else. It just seems unfair that because we travel to see my son, because we can afford to pay towards the wedding and can afford our own hotel costs, that we have to take second place and it makes us feel left out.
We don’t want to play happy families. But we know we’ll have to put a big smile on our faces and just get on with it, no matter how much we feel outside our comfort zone.
I tried raising this issue with my son. He was a little defensive, told me his dad never says anything about us, accepted he wasn’t sitting at the top table and didn’t ask to stay with my son, my son offered.
His dad doesn’t say anything about it because he just goes with the flow, likes having life organised for him and at the end of the day, this is why he’s my ex.
If you are a parent of a 10 to 25 year old who feels unable to speak openly and honestly about something that is affecting your family on your own blog, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org