Monday, December 28, 2009

Holidays With His Ex

Dear Terry:

My boyfriend of 10 months is 55, and I am 32. We have a lot in common and really enjoy each other's company. We are happy and our relationship is progressing normally; we are able to talk about everything and work through issues with respect and compassion for each other. We both feel that we are heading towards being married in the future.

My question is about the relationship he has with his ex-wife and their daughter. The daughter is 19 and goes to college on the other side of the country. He was married to her mother for over 20 years and they had an amicable divorce. In fact, they are still friends. I trust that.

But, what do you feel is an appropriate relationship for all of us to have? I don't want to spend holidays with his ex, but his daughter wants to see both her parents on holidays. My boyfriend feels torn.

Is it too much to ask that she will have to visit each parent separately? I don't have any real animosity toward the ex, I just don't want her around for every holiday. I realize that in a few years from now, once my relationship with my bf is not "new", I might feel differently about his ex being around...but right now, I'd prefer a little distance. I also have an 8-year-old son (whose father is not involved). I want to have a "family" and, honestly, I don't want that to include his ex-wife.

His daughter is certainly included (if she wants to be), but do I have a right to insist that holidays are not spent with the ex? I am very willing to spend time with the ex for functions dealing with their daughter (graduation, parties in her honor, etc.) but I think that's where the line should be drawn.
I would love your advice/suggestions! Thank you.

-Maybe Later I'll Feel Differently

Dear Maybe Later-

First off, let me apologize for responding to your question on December 28th, but since Christmas lasts until January 6th, you may still be waiting for my answer.

I completely understand that you want your first Christmas with your boyfriend to be special. Who wouldn't? You've been with the man 10 months, and you're talking about marriage.

That said, I wouldn't insist on anything with regard to his ex-wife or his daughter. They've worked out a routine that so far has worked for them, and heaven forbid the daughter interpret your understandable desire for family time as an attempt to wedge her mother out of the picture.

Instead, I would tell him, "I really admire the way you and ____________ have handled your divorce and the way you've raised _______________. I would like a little time alone with you during the holidays. Is there a way we can work that out?"

Then wait for his answer. He may need time to think it through. After all, he's had a routine that used to make everyone happy, and now he needs another plan. Would you be amenable to spending Christmas Eve but not Christmas Day with the ex? Or New Year's Day but not New Year's Eve?

The daughter goes to college far away, so she doesn't get a lot of Mom and Dad time. As she gets older and gets involved in career, relationships, and perhaps marriage and children, she may require even less (if she gets married, she'll probably be expected to spend some of the holidays with her husband's family).

Let me repeat: I do think you're being reasonable (because, really, what guy would want to hang out with your ex every holiday?), but I would take a long view here.

After all, you're the one he plans to marry.