Ex-etiquette: Remarried mom doesn’t want Thanksgiving with ex
Question: I’ve been divorced for five years. I have two children and two bonus children from my previous marriage. They are all adults, and three of the four are married with children.
I remarried last year. We have always celebrated the holidays, particularly Thanksgiving, at my daughter’s home as a family. This included their father, even after the divorce, but, the truth is, now that I have remarried, I really don’t want to celebrate with my ex.
My husband is fine with celebrating with everyone — and they with him. It’s me. When is it OK to start celebrating without my ex? I’d like to move on.
Answer: Divorce is a huge upheaval, no matter the age of the kids, and you have faced that upheaval by trying to continue traditions that were set when you were married. That works if you can pull it off, but there is usually a time when things have to change.
The key here is how to make the change. You have already set precedent — for the past five years, you’ve celebrated with your kids and their families, even your ex, but to stop celebrating now as you always have could send up a huge red flag. Your children may see the change as prompted by your new husband, and that could sabotage their relationship and alienate them from you.
Does this mean you must celebrate the way you always have? Not necessarily. Good ex-etiquette suggests that traditions aren’t abandoned, but adjusted to meet your lifestyle. Look for ways to celebrate that integrate old traditions with something new.
Brainstorm with your kids and their families about possible alternatives. It sounds as if this was an equitable divorce — that means you may not have to consult your ex about a change, but your decision should be openly explained once made. (Ex-etiquette rule No. 8, “Be honest and straightforward.”)
Some ideas for adjusting tradition might be celebrating with your extended family (including the ex) every other year and on “off” years suggest Dad celebrate with the kids on Thanksgiving and you celebrate in your home the Friday or Saturday after the Thanksgiving holiday.
If your new husband has children, alternating the years will allow you to spend some of the holidays with them, as well. Just explain to family that you would like to establish a new tradition. For example, celebrating birthdays and special occasions, like graduations or recitals together is great, but on Thanksgiving, you would like to celebrate a little differently, and then lay out your suggestion.
Something to consider: Time helps ease the awkwardness of change. Because Thanksgiving is right around the corner, making the change this year may be difficult for the family to take. Think about changing tradition next year — and start preparing the family now.
All in all, the best ex-etiquette rule to rely on for this particular case is rule No. 10, “Compromise whenever possible.” And, remember you all love each other — that’s definitely something to be thankful for.
Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation,” and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.