Divorced Parents Getting Along

Updated on June 06, 2012
S.R. asks from Milwaukee, WI
19 answers

My parents have been divorced for almost 30 years. My mom is remarried for about 25 years and my dad never remarried and is happy as can be. My dad lived in a different state until the last year. He's getting older and wanted to be with his children and grandchildren. He drove up to visit and stayed with each of us nbefore he lived here. So he's always been a part of our lives. The problem is when it comes to family gatherings my step dad is refusing to attend. My mother missed my sons graduation because he decided last minute that they could not go. he threatened to divorce her if she went. There is no reason at all for him to be jealous of my dad because they don't have any feelings toward each other but he feels like my real dad is taking his place now that he lives here. I am going to see a therapist to assist with these issues because it is very hard for us children to learn values to use in our own lives with our children and dads/stepfathers. I am learning what not to do if anything! I feel bad for my mom and she asked that we have seperate parties for our kids but there's 13 grandchildren in the family so it's hard enough to get everyone together more less have 2 parties for every bday,holiday and graduation. Im sure my therapist will help me out with ways to deal with this but I was wondering if any of you have experienced this and how to deal with it so our children have a chance to be with all of their grandparents for happy occassions.

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answers from Norfolk on

My sister and I came to the conclusion that we will not make special arrangements for our step-parents' unfounded jealousy. We have an event and invite all the parents. Whoever wants to come does, whoever doesn't doesn't. It is not your problem whatsoever, and I can tell you that once you stop worrying about it, life is good!

It's too bad that your Mom won't come to these events on her own. But it is something she and her husband need to work out. Don't let their odd life choices affect you or your children.

If you think it will make you feel better, then I suggest you and your siblings sit down with your Mom and Stepdad, and reassure him how much his presence is appreciated and missed. But also assert that you will not be making special accommodations for his insecurities. The rest is up to them. Best of luck to your family!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I suggest that this is a problem your mother has to work thru. I suggest you make plans and do things just as you want to do them. It is impossible to try to please just one person.

Yes, it does hurt tremendously. If your mother were writing this, I'd suggest that she go to the family events by herself. Call his bluff. Or if he's serious, why would she want to be held slave by her husband. He's being terribly immature. I'm guessing he controls her in many ways.

Bottom line, this is a problem that you cannot change. It's really your mother's problem. Good that you're doing counseling because it does directly affect you.

I wonder if you could arrange times, not necessarily full family events, but times she can visit with your children with just you and your children. Give her grandma time separate from the family events.

My daughter and my cousin's husband will not be at the same event together. I spend time with each without the other. We have family events separately. I go to my daughter's house for Christmas on Christmas and I go to my cousin's on a different day. Or for lesser holidays perhaps divide the day.

I suggest that you mother can do the same thing. She can decide to accept whatever time is available. She is making the choice here and it's not your responsibility to rearrange your life to fit her choices.

I also suggest that his is not your parents not getting along. It's your mother's husband not getting along. He's being unreasonable and I do wonder why she would want to sacrifice family time to be with him. But, again, it's her choice and not your responsibility.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Eugene on

They get to choose. Your step-dad gets to choose not to come to family gatherings. Your mom gets to choose whether to stay home with him or go by herself and risk a divorce. If they choose not to come, it's up to them to make other arrangements to see their grandchildren or have a separate party because they won't attend the regular one with everyone else.

I feel bad for your mom, too. But maybe this is what it takes for her to realize how unhealthy her marriage is. Her husband sounds like a piece of work.

Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful. Even if all the grandparents can't come together, your children can still experience happy occassions.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Your mom is the one who needs a therapist, not you. She is being controlled by her husband. After 25 years of marriage she should be free to attend family functions with or without him.
If he's threatening to divorce her over this then there is something very wrong. I hope your mom is eventually able to stand up to him and enjoy her family again :(

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

It is your mother and her husband who need therapy. He really is the one withe the issue here.

Your mother needs to learn to stand up to him and say, this our family and we will be going together or I will go alone. She is not responsible for his insecurity here

I hope in this, therapy you learn to just let them deal with this and not get pulled into it. I do totally understand. My stepfather pulled this and my mother told him he could pout at home alone, or he could suck it up and join us in having fun.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

You are in a difficult position. Your step-father really owns this problem, and is making your family life miserable. It sounds as though HE is the one who needs the counseling. My former spouse and I go to the same family gatherings with our respective significant others frequently; for the kids' sake. Both of our children are grown, but I know that it still means a lot to them that all involved in the family attend. Perhaps your step-father feels competitive with your father. In any case, his immaturity is hurting you and the children. Continue to go to counseling. You may be able to work this out. Don't give up! Best of luck to you!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dover on

Your stepdad is being ridiculous. Unless your dad is actively pursuing your mom (or vice versa) then he needs to get over himself. As for him deciding not to go to your son's graduation, your mother should have told him that he could stay home but she was attending...shame on her too.

My parents have been separated since before my birth and divorced shortly after. Dad remarried before I was a year old. Things were not always good between them when I was younger but they are all always invited to family get togethers, special events. They come or not but they always behave. My grandparents were both remarried by the time I was born too...they used to not attend if the other was attending (but they were being stubborn and childish)...I invite them too, if they choose not to attend it is truly their loss. My son's father and I have been divorced for close to 17 years, he is always invited to anything for our son and even helped us move (his wife's call, not his).

**I just wanted to add that if your stepdad is putting his petty jealousy over his relationship with your mom, you, your kids it would seem that being part of your family isn't really that important to him. Your dad is you dad and just as your step-dad can never truly replace your dad, the same is true vice versa. They are two different people and their relationship with everyone is different too.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Sounds to me like you are taking responsibility for your Mom and step-father's problems. This is NOT your issue. Its his and your mother's. If they want to behave in this manner, that is on them.

I would invite everyone. I would NOT hold separate parties. If your mom says something to you about this, I would say "look, this is my dad, he is invited as are you and step dad. If that is a problem, I'm sorry but I will not pick who can and cannot come. Nor, will take the added cost of separate parties. Its your choice, Mom, however, if you decide to not come, you will be disappointing your grandchild and that is not acceptable to me." Put it right back on her.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Tell your mother to tell Stepfather to grow up. I have a Stepfather like that and I am certain this is why they didn't come to my son's wedding. Not because my dad would be there, HE died in 2001, but because my stepfamily might be. They have missed other functions, too and I discussed it with my husband and are pretty sure that is why. Your mother seems more verbal about it and truthful, mine sadly just lies, but why should you have separate parties? It is true, there is no example of loyal family and my children were hurt. My son chose to not go to my mother's eightieth birthday party and truthfully, although I am sad, I don't blame him.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

One of my BFFs in-laws are divorced. Her FIL has been married to his "new" wife LONGER than he was to wife #1. Guess what? Wife #1 STILL can't move on--again -- not her kids issue to "fix" -- it's HER issue to fix. With therapy if necessary.

Here's my take on it. Invite everyone to everything.
This is not your issue.
You don't need to hold separate events. NO WAY. Again--THEIR issue.
If your mom lacks the spine to attend alone without her pout-pout face husband, then she's going to miss out on a lot of events, isn't she?
What she's asking is unfair.

They need to grow up and deal.
Especially your stepfather. (And actually, I'm shocked that ANYTHING would keep a grandma away from an even like that!)

It was all "OK" when your dad was geographically unavailable, now that he's near--your stepfather is acting like a baby. Your mom is acting like she's a 5 year old.

We don't get to dictate the world we live in as far as the behavior of others.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I really don't think you need counseling but your mother in her husband. That's crazy a grown man that has been with her for 25 years is acting like this. I guess some men are very insecure no matter what the age or how long they have been with someone.

there is no way I would cater to them but I would tell my mother, if you feel you cannot come because dad is here, then you can have a separate day with the kids, but I'm not throwing two parties.

I think the therapist will tell you to not enable the situation and draw strong lines, and don't cave.

Sorry you have to go through this, more sorry for the grandkids because adults can't get along... what message does that sound. They are not going to like her husband, and if she doesn't talk to him, she's going to miss out on their life. They are only young for so long...

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

This is not really your issue. Your mother should see a therapist to deal with her husband.

What YOU can do is tell your mother that you are no longer going to put up with your step-father's immature behavior. Tell her that both of them will always be included in family gatherings, but that your father is also a part of your family and will be included as well. You cannot double up everything to cater to one man's insecurity. Tell your stepfather the same thing. If you have a good relationship with him and love him, remind him of this. You can love more than one person at a time. This man that he needs to grow the F up and be a mature and polite person. It's been 25 years.

Your primary family is your husband and kids, etc. They come first and don't need to deal with the stupid drama. Teach them that stepdad's manipulation is not appropriate and shouldn't be catered to. Love him, but refuse to play this game.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Davenport on

I would probably have this type of issue too, if my FIL and step-MIL lived closer, my MIL would probably refuse to come to parties if they were coming. She did this once where they happened to be in town for my Duaghter's birthday, everyone was invited, and FIL and Step-MIL were staying with us at our house, where the party was, so MIL called and said she would really prefer we have 2 parties so che could attend after he had gone home to TN. Well, I told her she was welcome to attend THE PARTY, or come over on her own another day and see the grandkids, but I was not having 2 whole parties. Luckily FIL lives 8 hours away, so there is rarely a conflict - they have been divorced for 25 years at least, and she can't deal (although she has been remarried for 22 years?!) with being around him - and it is not like he acts like a jerk to her or anything.

My parents have been divorced "only" 12 years, and they get along fine at family parties - becasue they realize the party is ABOUT the Person/Child it is being thrown FOR, not all about them, so the focus is on the guest of honor, not their issues. That said, I wouldn't do something like throw a party FOR my mom and invite my dad to it, or his side of the family either - BUT when itis for me, or my kids, who are related to both sides, everyone is invited and expected to act like ADULTS, not childish little brats. I am sure this is party of why MIL has an issue with this - becasue she thinks EVERYTHING is about HER (she's very dramatic and self involved), and can't shift her focus to the person the party is FOR....maybe your Step Dad is like that, too.

Both sets of divorced parents and their 2nd spouses/my dad's girlfriend came to our wedding (my parents had only been divorced 2 years at that point, after 28 years of marriage), as did DH's estranged Sister, But we DID talk to the "troublemakers" ahead of time (mostly SIL and MIL) and told them they better mind their manners, because ANYONE involved in any verbal or physical altercation would be ejected/removed from the wedding/reception, no matter who you are, or who started it. I had both my mom and dad walk me down the aisle. Luckily everyone came and everyone behaved; and it was a beautiful day for us.

I would say sit them down - your mom and step dad since they really seem to be the issue - and tell them you are not having 2 parties for every occassion, period. Everyone related to the person the party is for, will be invited, and it would be nice for the kids/grandkids, if their parents/grandparents would come and mind their manners and put the focus on the the children, instead of their petty issues. If they choose not to go, it is their loss and the kids WILL notice, make no mistake about that.

I would say good for you and for going to therapy, it may help you set up appropriate boundries and figure out ways to react to your step dad's tactics - you might wanna suggest to your mom that she/they need to go to therapy too. I would say that if your step dad is acting like this now, he has been like this in some way the whole time they have been married, your dad being nearby has just made it worse/stronger. It has definitely been long enough, and they are grown ups and should be able to deal with getting along for a couple hours for a family party.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I'm sorry that you are having to deal with this. I wonder how he would respond to having your mother's children address this with him. Kudos to you for asking a therapist for help.

My SS recently graduated high school. His mother hosted a party in his honor at her house (the house that my husband used to live in). I was there, and so were some of my family members. I looked at this senior year as a pet project between his biological parents. This was their moment, and I didn't mind being in the background. Maybe your stepfather is dreading the idea of stepping back a little and making room for your father. I've noticed that a man tends to want to be the only man (husband, father) around, where a woman can co-exist more readily with a bio-mom. A man prefers that the bio-dad just be out of the picture, so he doesn't have to figure out his place but can just jump in and take charge. Even these many years later, it seems that your stepfather suffers from some of this and just hasn't had it challenged before. This is likely how he would have responded in the beginning to the same situation, but he never had to deal with it. We don't know until something happens just how it will make us feel.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Rapid City on

Your stepfather sounds controlling and insecure. I would go directly to him and tell him that if he doesn't want to come to the parties that is fine, but he should never insist your mother chose between him and you and your children. Tell him to grow up and deal with it so the grandkids don't have to have their times ruined by his insecurities. I am pretty outspoken so I wouldn't have a problem telling him that.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

The Step-Father... needs a Therapist.
Not you.
And maybe your Mom.
Your Mom is being controlled by her current Husband.
He is alienating her and threatening her with divorce, if she partakes in FAMILY occasions.
The thing is, everyone has a life, before having gotten married. Your Step-Dad has to grow up and realize this.
He CANNOT alienate EVERYONE... just because he is controlling/jealous/insecure.

It is RIDICULOUS TO HAVE SEPARATE PARTIES, just for your Mom and your Step Dad.
As you said, there are 13 grandchildren.

You are not responsible... for your Step-Dad's mental issues.
I don't see why you have to see a Therapist, just to learn how to appease this cantankerous selfish man.

Your Mom... has to get Therapy. She is married to an over controlling selfish man who is alienating her from her own family.
Your Step Dad, cannot... control the entire family.
That is ridiculous.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

It honestly sound like your mom and step dad are the ones who need to see the councilor not you about dealing with this. To me you mom needs to go to what ever she wants to do. Ex's can get along.

My sister in law and brother in law (my husband's siblings) are married to a sister and brother. Their mom left their dad when the kids were young and decided she didn't like men anymore. It's probably at least 30 years later. The mother, significant other and father all live in the same house. They stayed friends for the kids and grand kids and now that they are older and have fixed incomes they decided this was best. But they have always gotten along.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Lakeland on

It sounds like your step father needs to get a grip and get over being jealous. This is your father and he has a right to be at family functions. It has been 30 years since the divorce so there is no reason for him to act this way.
I would explain to him that he and your dad are both a part of your lives. It’s not like you are asking them to be best friends and hangout all the time. You and your siblings should not have to have two of anything. Your mother should come even if he doesn’t, it’s not fair for her to miss out.



answers from Seattle on

Of course you love your dad... But your stepfather may have real and valid reasons to never share air with him again that we're never shared with you (like raping your mom, giving her an in curable disease, hurting you kids when you were too little to remember, abusing your mother, etc.). Things that aren't shared with children to protect them, and never make it into adult conversation 10-20-30 years later. But offenses that are, to some people utterly unforgivable.

Or it COULD be as 'simple', as your bio father has been off in another state for 30 years, but the moment he decides to be a part of, your stepfather gets dropped like a rock in favor for your biological father.

Or worse, a combo of the above. That your SD can't be in the same place without being at risk of killing the man (or at the very least ruining a happy event), but your biodad is the one who is the 'chosen one'.

Everyone here is a grown up. But that doesn't mean it's the grandparents who only have to act like it. Meaning just because he's your father doesn't mean SD has to a) Like him or b) even tolerate being in the same house with him as he would have had to were you still a kid. You can BOTH be grownups. He can respect you wanting to see your biodad, and you can respect that he cannot tolerate the man for whatever reason and still keep your SD in your life instead of having it be all about what you want.

If this man was good to you, and raised you, and has always been there for you... He's HURTING right now. Enough that it's divorce worthy after 25 years of marriage. Help him.

Does this mean you do double the events? Probably not. But everyone is grown now. At least go talk with him. Imagine shoe on the other foot, and it's your kids choosing someone over you. Don't go in trying to get him to see x,y,z... Go in trying to understand, and being willing to listen.

And then, maybe a compromise can be reached once you're both able to respect each others needs. Sounds like SD already is? By not coming to a gathering and ruining it. But by respecting your need to see your bio dad, SD seems to be getting shafted. Dropped.

As a kid it was my parent's responsibility to protect me. As a grownup, it's our responsibility to protect each other. When my mum is HURTING, it's not about me right then. It's about a person I live dearly, a human person with faults, in pain. I can't always make the pain better, but I can live on her and be there for her in a hard time. And STILL the bloody idiot tries to protect me. But I'm grown, now. I can handle the truth. I may not like it, but I can handle it.

Granted your SD could just be a jerk you're grateful to see the back of... But if not? Turnabout is fair play. My parents were there for me, and are... And I'm there for them.

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