Dear Carolyn: My granddaughter will be having her second birthday soon, and my daughter would like me to come to the party. Reasonable request, except it is hard for me emotionally to deal with my ex.
We divorced 15 years ago after I confronted her with evidence of an affair. She confessed to three affairs in a span of five years. I suspect there was also one going on with one of my best friends. Of course there were denials and lies. She ended up marrying that friend about a year after we divorced.
At the time my daughter was 14 and I didn’t want to subject her to a custody battle, so I moved out and relocated close to her. I remarried two years later and left the area. I have since moved back to within an hour’s drive of my daughter.
When she asked if I would come to the party, I said I wasn’t in a good place emotionally to attend with my ex/her mom present and asked if we could celebrate her birthday separately. My daughter was disappointed.
I know being an adult means I should be able to put this behind me. But, it is hard for me to feel that I can be part of one big happy family, pretend nothing happened, and interact with my ex and my onetime friend. Is that an unreasonable request?
– Head or Heart
A: What is this, Suck It Up and Go Day?
Your daughter isn’t inviting you to “pretend nothing happened.” That’s a leap you made to justify not going.
Please instead take the invitation at face value. It’s appropriate that both maternal grandparents be included.
Since it wouldn’t be appropriate for those grandparents to hijack the party by hurling insults at (or pointedly ignoring) each other, please also see the invitation as motivation to find a way to be civil to your ex, and her current, that is neither forced, sarcastic nor phony.
Try this: 15 years after the fact, these two are more strangers to you than anything else. They hurt you terribly, yes, but probably through their own selfishness more than any animus toward you. Perhaps they deserve each other.
And you deserve a place at your grandkid’s party, arguably more than they do.
You don’t say whether you’ve dodged your ex all this time – surely there have been graduations, at least? – but if you have been boycotting your daughter’s milestones since the late 1990s just to avoid your ex, then please go to the nearest mirror (I’ll wait ...), look yourself in the eye, and say: “Seriously?”
Too mean. How ’bout: “I can do better.”
Specifically, you can realize you’re more capable of complicated emotional transactions than you think, and accept the invitation.
If it will help temper your dread and/or pre-empt a scene, arrange to meet your ex-wife and ex-friend for coffee beforehand so you can practice operating in genial-detachment mode. Talk about your kid, your grandkid, the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow – whatever your courage demands.
Love life mediator
Dear Carolyn: My guy friend recently told me that he has feelings for our fellow co-worker, who also is a friend. He asked me to find out if she felt the same way.
I realize I shouldn’t have agreed to talk to my friend, but I did, and now I’m faced with the unpleasant of task of telling him she isn’t interested. Should I tell him the truth, or avoid this conversation and let things happen on their own?
– Caught in the Middle
A: Thanks for this – I’ve been feeling nostalgic for sixth grade.
Please tell him the truth of your error in agreeing to mediate his love life. He can take it from there.