Family Gatherings with My Husbands Ex-wife?

Updated on December 31, 2016
P.P. asks from Nashville, TN
27 answers

My husband's son informed us he will no longer do two family gatherings for any occasion such as Christmas/Birthday/Thanksgiving, etc...and if we want to see him and his family then we need to be at his house that will also include his mother. Am I wrong to just say "No Thank-you"? I try to stay away from drama and feel even an occasion such as Christmas will not necessarily bring out the best in everyone.

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So What Happened?

I do agree with many comments that through a year of celebrations such as Weddings, births, graduations, etc. (one time events) that it will be necessary for all to be together under one roof, but for those yearly occasions like Christmas or Thanksgiving I will keep those special to me! that includes no stress or frustration by sharing with people that want nothing to do with me or me them. The three children are all in their 30's and as a step mom I'm just that - a Step- Mom. No one asks for my opinion or what I may think on a situation and after 25 years I will no longer endure the loss of my own happiness.

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answers from Abilene on

Since he's an adult, he can choose this path if he wants. You, as another adult can choose as well.

My niece has had this most of her life. Two Christmas celebrations and now 3 because she's married. She has a 13, 12 and 7 year old. She packs them up every holiday and they travel from place to place. I know it's exhausting and recently she's told everyone she's having Christmas morning at her house. They still celebrate with everyone else and my sister is the only one who says make it easy on you we can celebrate anytime.

My thoughts are you don't have to go but you don't make it hard on his dad if he chooses to.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

It's only 1 day. I think by him making this request it just means that he would like everyone to be in the same place and be civil to one another and celebrate the family as a whole. I mean it's at his home (not hers) and why not make the effort to at least try it once. if it is completely uncomfortable he will feel that and may not make that request again. just a thought

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Cloud on

Ok so... I divorced my ex because I chose not be around him anymore because of how he treated me so I would not want to go to any functions with him there. It would be very uncomfortable. Christmas is personal to us and shouldn't be joined together. I have a brother in law who has his family at every bday party and it is uncomfortable sometimes so I choise not to always go but people do that. Christmas, Easter or Thanksgiving should not be joined with an ex. I realize it is a lot of running around or cooking for the children but they won't understand this unless they go through it themselves. My dad and step dad are very uncomfortable around each other at parties and it's been 30 years since my parents were married. Do you all not get along or do you just want to keep it special?

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answers from Pittsburgh on

It's up to your husband to decide which is more important: avoiding his ex or attending his son's celebrations. And then it's up to you to go with him or not.

The two things you cannot do are 1) insist that your stepson continue to do everything twice - how exhausting that must have been for him or 2) dictate whether or not your husband attends. That is his choice not yours, and I hope that you willingly support whatever choice he makes.

15 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I am still trying to wrap my brain around you making him have two celebrations for every event. My daughter just got married and when they do have kids I do not expect them to throw a birthday party for me to attend and then another for their dad to attend. Haven't I put them through enough with the divorce and all?

You say you stay away from drama yet you are asking us should you create drama. Makes no sense at all to me.

Looking at your what happened, I guess that explains why my husband is not just a step dad but someone my kids love and respect.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Hmm. There has to be more to this story, because based on what you have here, I would see no reason for you not to embrace a family gathering that includes everyone. It sounds like your step son is trying to reduce the drama/stress/busy-ness of the holidays by offering a good compromise, I mean he's even willing to host.

Unless there has been some sort of specific issue in the past involving his mother and your husband and/or you, I see no reason why you can't all be included and get along. It may not be ideal, and you may have to do more between holiday things so you can have one on one time with his and/or his kids, but I think you're missing out if you excuse yourself from these festivities.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Fort Myers on

Its only for a few hours. Don't make it harder on your husband by you not wanting to go. Don't make him choose between you and his son. You are predicting drama that may not happen. Suck it up and go. You don't have to do every holiday with them because it wouldn't be fair to miss out on your family.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

There doesn't need to be any drama as long as all the adults act like....well.....adults. He is not wrong for wanting to be able to have his family all together in one place and to not always want to split things up. If you refuse to go then your husbands relationship with his son may suffer and he may see him less, and that is not fair in the least. When you married a man with children from another women you had to accept that she would be a part of your lives from time to time, these are those times. If you really feel you can not attend then don't, but please don't purposely hurt your husbands relationship with his son by making it hard for him to go or by making him feel guilty for going, encourage him to go and be with his children even if you need to stay home.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

doesn't matter whether you're right or wrong. you get to pick how you spend your holiday.
since your stepson appears to be a grown man, making the best decision for his own family, i'd give him a hug of gratitude for making clear, firm boundaries.
and i would go because i'd probably want to see him and his family. you don't say why you're opposed to seeing the ex, but i myself would be able to be gracious for a day.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Well I guess your SWH answers the question. You can certainly opt out of family celebrations, I guess, but it will further cement your role as "just the step mother." If you and your husband are fine with that, then do what you want and be happy being alone or miserable or whatever.

FWIW I think your step-son's request is perfectly reasonable. When my kids are grown and if they marry and have children, it will be enough for them to balance holidays with our family and their in-laws. I wouldn't then further expect them to have separate celebrations with me and my family and my ex and his family. My ex and SD were at Christmas, and I am hosting Hanukkah for his family. We celebrate birthdays together, etc. If either of us ever has a significant other or a new spouse, they are welcome to join in whatever is planned but it would be obnoxious and immature of me to say that they need to do two celebrations with our families because my ex and I or our spouses don't get along. So grow up, or not. But don't act like your step-son is being unreasonable. Good for him for drawing a line.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

It sounds like your husband's son is fed up with the nonsense of dealing with all sides of the family. It sounds like he is trying to set boundaries for his own sanity and family. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. You can choose to go or not go. It's not as if he is asking you to do an intimate dinner with your husband's ex. It sounds like he is inviting all the family, so you should be able to be civil and minimize interactions with her. That being said, you could also offer to host a brunch at your home on another day as others have stated.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I'm the adult child of divorce both my parents are deceased. My father was one of eight children and all of his siblings have divorced at least once. Some have gone on to have second and third wives and husbands and some had children with lovers. Whenever the family gathered together for holidays or family events, it was understood that all adults were to be on their best behavior for the sake of the kids. So you would have in-laws and out-laws in the same building acting civilized. It was great for us kids to see and experience. It doesn't mean that there wasn't tension between adults it just meant that for a few hours the adults would not bring their drama.

I don't understand why you can't do the same?

It's been 25 years. Why are you allowing the ex to have that much control over your well being and happiness?

I'm also the second wife to my only husband. I have been welcomed into the home and at the table of his former in-laws and his ex's family for the sake of his son. I've carried myself like the loving, polite adult I am. No drama necessary even though his ex is literally crazy. I make certain I don't bring drama with me.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Erie on

I disagree with the others. When it comes to bridal and baby showers, graduations, and weddings, then you go and smile and be gracious with the rest of the family. But yearly gatherings such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, no I don't think you are required to attend gatherings that involve the entire family. We don't. My husband's parents are divorced and both remarried. Never have the children insisted they come together and celebrate these holidays together. Either they come to us, separately, or we go to their houses. My parents are divorced and we have the same deal, even though neither of them remarried. It's not that they don't get along (they do), it's the fact that they each have different traditions and it's awkward (at it's worst) to include everyone. I think it's a lot to ask that you to give up your own traditions and "suck it up" for the sake of his son. Sorry, but even growing up, neither if us insisted our parents be together for the holidays, that seems over the top and ridiculous. Only once did we celebrate with everyone, and that was at our house, and we only did it because we didn't have a car and couldn't travel that year, so everyone came to us. It's never been an issue to do these things separately, and we've always staggered the trips to be able to see everyone.
I suggest you plan an event at your home and invite the son, I think it's petty to ask you to do this for his sake, I'd tell him to grow up.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I'm a second wife to a man with an ex I'd rather not see. There are 2 children who were 11 and 8 when we got married. The ex will always see me as the "other woman" even though no sane person in the universe thinks that a 3rd party can break up a healthy marriage, and she left the marriage emotionally 3 years before my husband moved out. I could tell you stories... and she probably has a few herself.

Does your stepson have children? I can see that people with little kids just don't want to uproot them all the time for holidays or explain why Grandma can't be with them at the same time as Grandpa and Nana. People with kids want to stay put and have the child-free adults come to them, at least most of the time.

I don't know why you and she would resent each other - I'm sure there are plenty of stories and perhaps she is the most evil person in the world. But here's the bottom line: YOU are with her ex, and she is not. There shouldn't be a competition here, but even if there is, you've "won" and you have the good marriage.

When one of my stepdaughters got engaged, I was invited to a shower given by the mother's sister, with 60 people (yes, really), and I didn't know anyone there except the 2 women. I held my held high, put on a great outfit, and attended, being as charming as possible. When I held a shower for our friends, I gulped and invited the mother and even the same aunt. I made it the most fun I could and served the best food I could, making everyone feel comfortable. No one can believe I pulled these 2 events off, apparently, because most people wouldn't.

We don't do a lot of things together, but we certainly attended the wedding and took a backseat to my husband's ex, letting her shine. I forced (yes, forced) my husband to ask his ex-wife to dance, and I made sure the photographer got a few pictures. I told the bride that this was a wedding gift! When she had her children, we attended their christenings and took a backseat. We didn't seek attention, but we didn't hide in the background or act ashamed or like uninvited guests either. We made it as easy as possible for my stepdaughter. It was the right thing to do.

When my other stepdaughter went into a domestic violence shelter and her mother was wringing her hands and moaning, I'm the one who put together a "go bag" and a jar of inspirational sayings, bought her breakfast, filled her tank with gas and sent her off on her first steps toward safety and freedom. Her mother, who enabled this daughter's behavior/choices since she was 17 and modeled victimhood with men she was with both before and after my husband, is pretty much a mess in life. I'm the one who gets things done.

I suggest, for the sake of your marriage and your relationship with your stepson, that you hold your head high and show that you are the bigger person here. You have "her" husband, you have (I hope) a good marriage, and you have the sense of security and self-worth needed to get through it. This woman may be the most horrible person in the universe, or she may be a needy and useless wimp, but either way, she is no threat to you! If she goes low, you go high. And it will be in her son's house, and he will be in charge should she decide to do anything stupid. It won't be your problem. Go, smile, be a great stepmom, without being her best friend.

If you don't go every year, that's fine - you can spend time with other family members, just as many adult children spend one holiday with one spouse's family and the next year with the other spouse's family. But if it were me, I would not split up from my husband on a major holiday. My husband will have lunch with just one of his daughters, and that's fine. But a holiday or a birthday, that's for us together. We have plenty of times with just the kids at our house - my birthday, his birthday, Father's Day, and by and large we don't see them for every Thanksgiving or anything. This year, one daughter was with us and the other was with her mother. It's okay.

If there's something really horrible behind your story, that's something else again. We don't know your whole situation so of course you have to be the final decision maker. But if you are comparing yourself with her, don't.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Of course you shouldn't make someone have 2 celebrations for the same thing because your ego is in the way...maybe I'm missing something but that seems....odd.

So, you don't like the ex-wife, so what, not many do.

Your husband's son shouldn't have to have 2 parties for everything he wants to celebrate so your ego is appeased. To show you that you are more important or that he really does respect you.

If you are having a party for him for some reason, in your own home, then it's your party and you can invite whom you want to have. If his mother has a celebration for him you are not on her guest list either. But when it's his party he shouldn't have to have 2 different parties.

To be honest if he has a birthday party for anyone that lives in his household and he invites you he still has the right to invite anyone he wants to his home and if you don't like them it's your choice to stay home. His father should still attend though. It's his family after all.

And yes, re-reading this does sound rude but what you've been putting that son through is nothing short of that.

I get along with my ex and his wife and his mother and his entire family for the sake of my daughter. I learned to "know" them as a person instead of the role they played in my previous marriage. So I grew to know them as individuals instead of "That's my ex mother in law" or "That's my ex's wife".

I think you need to understand the son's choices are what is normal. Your thing is the abnormal. For formal occasions and parties you suck it up and go put on a nice smile and take a Valium if you need to or carry around a nice mixed drink or hum hymns to yourself if that's what it takes for you to smile and be nice on the outside.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Good for him. I think if you are not up to going then his dad should go some of the time. Surely you can suck it up for a few times a year? If not then let his dad go for a little bit and spend the occasion with him.

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answers from Portland on

The only person you can control in this situation is yourself.
You do run the chance of further isolating yourself by not attending some events, but that is, of course, your choice. Does the bad outweigh the good? Can you compartmentalize the event, that it's only a few hours out of a day and choose not to let it ruin your *entire* day? Can you find a sense of proportion for coping with this?

I find that sometimes, the expectations one has of holidays are a bit much. Some people expect them to be 'perfect'. Personally, I find the 'low expectations' option better. I go to things I really don't fully enjoy (like my husband's office party, or kid gatherings) in order to support my husband or child, to be there for *them*. Most of us do have a problematic family member or two at some events, but I figure I can handle them in small doses. Sometimes I just reply "hmmmm...." when they start spouting off. I am not required to dance their dance or to argue a point I don't agree with. *It doesn't matter.* I understand that the host is making a gracious effort to include everyone and I can reflect that back to the others with my own attitude. There are plenty of other people to talk to.

It sounds like you might need to let go of some of this anger toward your husband's ex wife that you are hanging onto. Or, maybe you are rightfully indignant at her behaviors... I don't know. I do know that putting the kids (your stepson) in the middle is the worst thing that can happen. If his mom's a piece of work, I imagine he knows it already and is trying to consolidate events to keep his own life sane.

So sad when the adults can't put their own feelings aside and be courteous and civil for the kids.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Sounds like you don't get along with the ex. I think your husband's son doesn't know how to choose which set of parents to share the day with, so he's putting it back on you all. I don't blame him. It's a pain with kids to go to different houses to visit different families. Understandable.

Personally, if I couldn't suck it up to celebrate with my husband's ex, then I would propose you host brunch at your house the 26th (or whatever day works for his son's family). Start a new tradition. Say you understand why he wants to celebrate at his home, but you'd be more comfortable this way.

Your husband should handle this of course. It doesn't have to create drama if he's just honest and gracious about it. The message will be that you don't want to share the day with his ex - so maybe creating drama that way - but that's your prerogative.

How does your husband feel about this? To me, that would be really important. If my husband wanted to go, I'd suck it up. I'd be the bigger person.

I'm not a fan of my husband's family, but I go to every celebration.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

I think most people come to a point (or at least they should) where traveling for the holidays is over and they do the holidays in their own home.
It does away with the insanity of holiday travel.
Our family mostly stays put and does phone calls to each other on the holidays.
If you don't want to go? FINE! Just call him on the day to say "Hi!" and leave it at that.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Wrong? No, do what's right for you.
Petty? Maybe. I mean, your husband WAS married and had a kid before he met and married you. That's not a surprise!
I totally get where his son is coming from, it's hectic with kids to go back and forth.
You, your husband, and your husband's ex wife need to put on your big kid pants and act like adults when in the same room.
My cousin and his first wife divorced years ago. My cousin married a year later. They ALL get together for family affairs, we invited both women to all our family weddings, they take care of each others kids. Because that's what adults do. They figure it out without being petty.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

When we had kids and would hold a family birthday party, everyone was invited. That meant all the divorced and remarried parents. They could come or not as they wished but we were not going to have separate parties. In regards to birthday parties for members of your stepson's household, I agree that there should be just one. It's his call on when & where.

A few times, I hosted a holiday and invited everyone. It was a less likely full group scenario because there were even more family sides for everyone to consider. No pressure if people couldn't make it, but a separate gathering wasn't planned with those who could not.

This year on Thanksgiving, we neither traveled nor hosted. We stayed home and had a smaller scale meal with just the four of us.

For Christmas, we traveled to see both my dad and his side of the family, and my mom and hers. That was unusual as we don't usually do both. It just happened to work out with the day, time, and locations this year.

When we do see people, it isn't always on the calendar date of the holiday. Doing Thanksgiving on a weekend day is usually better than on Thursday. We've held a Christmas gathering in January. Etc.

I wonder if your husband's son is tired of having to travel and do multiple visits, but has felt obligated to keep showing up to other people's hosted holidays. He needs to know that he can just say No Thank You and that it is fine to not do it. However, it sounds like it might be too late to do that. He's drawing a line and saying he's done with the back and forth.

It is okay to not attend something you're invited to, so long as you realize he doesn't have to attend something you invite him to either. If he's really serious that he's only doing One Thing and that's it, then you and his dad will have to decide if it is important to you to see him or not for that occasion.

If his dad wants to go, then I strongly suggest you stay at his side and go as well. Choosing otherwise would not be good for your marriage.

I saw your SWH. After 25 years of apparent unhappiness and feeling left out or marginalized as a stepmother, I don't think choosing to not attend a holiday is going to fix your problem or bring you joy. Especially if your husband chooses to go, with or without you.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I assume he has kids and is getting exhausted dragging kids to multiple sets of parents' homes for holidays. Maybe they want to begin making their own family traditions. I completely get that and think he just wants to enjoy the holidays without splitting his family time up into small pieces.
In our family, many years ago when my older sisters began having babies we decided to have our family Christmas party the saturday after Christmas. Now, nearly 30 years later, with the next generation and more babies we are almost all able to get together on the party date after Christmas. It extends the holiday season, and everyone can enjoy their own family's Christmas day however they want.
So when it comes to Christmas day or even Thanksgiving, do what you want and understand why your stepson is doing what he's doing and then create an alternative if you want.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Not every one can be the bigger person, and your step-son is counting on the fact that everyone will behave themselves. Not a risk I would necessarily take, but I don't know how strained everyone's relationship is. Why can't people trade around holidays? Do Mom/Husband for one holiday, and Dad/wife for another? Lots of people do.

The other thing is, why do people only assume they CAN get together at the holidays? Why can't you invite them over the week before Thanksgiving and they do their own Thanksgiving for the Mom at their home on the day.

It is not the actual day that is important - but the fact the family is together. However, since it is your husband's son, you will also have to follow his lead.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

Good for him and good for you.

When you first wrote this I was imagining an 8 year old making this request (then I re-read it). Since he is in his 30's he should do as he wishes. It does 'suck' driving to multiple locations on Christmas and Thanksgiving day.

If you feel like an unwanted house guest, then I think it is fair for you to go to a place you feel welcome. Maybe your husband will need to do the double location (stop by his son's house and then meet you are your location). Or your husband can stay with you by your side on Christmas and drop of gift on a planned day. I can not picture the festivities to know if this would be a major issue to the son and his family. Do you usually host and your house is no longer a place they want to go?

Growing up there were many different sides of family we would meet with and had multiple gatherings over the holidays. Maybe you can set up the Saturday before Christmas as the day to have your step son and his family over for something. It could be a gingerbread house party or some other theme that makes sense.

Yes, weddings and graduations are much different than Christmas and Thanksgiving.

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answers from Boston on

I don't agree with folk calling you a child. These are major holidays and to make the adult son will make you unhappy. Why should his happiness trump yours?



answers from New York on

I get where your stepson is coming from--his mom, his dad, her mom, her dad...blah, blah, blah...too many places to schlep his family to. Don't blame him. Very nice of him to open his home to everyone. Yes, you can turn down the invite. Why not? Not your son or grandchildren. But, they are your husband's son and grandchildren. Go, suck it up, and take the high road! If YOU chose not to participate, please do not persuade/discourage/punish your husband from participating.


answers from Phoenix on

I am remarried and so is my ex so I get this situation. Our kids are teens and I have them full time but can see this as a possibility in the future. It would not be my "ideal" situation to spend a holiday with my ex but I could deal with it. You should be able to also. You don't have to sit next to the ex wife, you just smile, wish her a merry Christmas, have some dinner and pie and call it a day. You don't have to hang out for 7 hours.

What does your husband think about this? Does he care if you stay home? I think it would be sad, although your choice, to not be included in the kids excitement on Christmas and not be in the 'family' pictures for years to come. I guess the answer is do what you want but maybe consider the kids that are still a part of your life and don't really care about the behind-the-scenes issues of adults. JMO. Good luck

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