Q: My ex-husband is about to remarry and has refused to invite our children. I have begged, pleaded, threatened, made suggestions, done everything I can think of -- but he remains steadfast, and our daughters were told by his partner that they are not to be invited.
My daughters are devastated and feel that they could not be more unwanted by him. They have done nothing to provoke this. How can I make this better? I am so hurt on their behalf but am trying to support their feelings rather than show my own.
A: The only thing you can do to "make this better'' is to help your daughters see that the decision not to invite them to the wedding is not their fault. It's not uncommon for kids to blame themselves for something like this, and this sort of perceived rejection may affect them for years. Now, if your daughters acted unpredictably in social situations, then someone might not want them to attend for fear they would disrupt the wedding -- but that's not what you are telling us. If this is simply a choice, there's nothing you can do other than tell your ex that this huge mistake will come back to haunt him. Don't bad-mouth him or his fiancee -- that may come back to haunt you.
Since his fiancee was the one to let your daughters know they weren't invited, we suspect she's the one behind the decision. Of course, your ex is going along with it, but the motivation behind not inviting your daughters could very well be an attempt to erase your ex's past.
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We've seen this many times before: The new partner has an old-school marriage expectation, but his or her love has a past, complete with kids. The new partner doesn't want any distraction from their relationship, and any kids produced from the new marriage are considered the ``real'' kids. The others are irritants who will eventually go away if ignored long enough. Of course, this is about the lowest thing a new partner could do.
The primary rule to good Ex-Etiquette is, "Put the children first.'' It doesn't designate whose children; it applies to all children affected by the divorce and, in this case, remarriage. Your kids can't be blamed for your choices. They deserve as much protection as you can give them.
We have also worked with couples who chose not to invite the kids because the kids did not approve of the wedding. That's a clear sign that there is some unfinished business that has not been addressed. Take care of it before you tie the knot.