This coming Saturday, the 14th of May, my daughter is graduating from college. She’s worked hard, and deserves a good day, and I will strive my best to do so. However, the cheating ex wife will be there, of course. And even though it’s well over two years since the divorce and I have moved on, this is the first “social” occasion I will have had to deal with her for the sake of my children.
My daughter informs me that her and her mother have purchased some food for after the first graduation ceremony (like most colleges, there’s a large ceremony at the stadium, followed by a later, smaller ceremony in a hall for her specific college).
On the one hand, I’m looking forward to celebrating with my daughter, on the other hand I dread the thought of being in the same zip code, let alone the same room, with the cheating ex. As you would expect, I’ve had a thousand thoughts, read dozens of sites, and I’m no closer to understanding what is really the right action in this circumstance.
I want to give no signal that I’m okay with my ex, that I do want her to keep her distance, but at the same time, do not wish to burden my kids with “the past.” It is the past, but it’s also the continued crap I’ll have to deal with for the sake of my kids. I guess what I’m after is a strategy. Keep my mouth shut? Walk away from conversation? Simply find a way to be distant? Keep to myself with my girlfriend and her son?
You often say, “We ACT our values.” I love and respect my children, and I’m proud of my daughter (she’s not just getting a degree, it’s an incredibly difficult degree and in the sciences to boot). However, I’m not willing to be a pawn for the horrid ex to prove to the world everything is okay. So I’m pretty sure posing for pictures with the ex and my daughter is out of bounds for me. But I’d like to know what general guidelines you would encourage me and other in similar situations to follow?
What’s your advice? What’s the proper etiquette in these situations?
It’s a college graduation, not a referendum on infidelity. You treat your ex like the stranger that she is. A stranger you don’t find terribly interesting or have anything in common with. That’s the truth of it.
I know there is more truth — that she fucked you over in the most intimate and horrible of ways. You have every right to not want to be in the same zip code with her ever again. But when you breed with a fuckwit there are a few high occasions in which you have to show up together and deal — weddings and graduations. I’m sorry, this is one of those suck it up events.
A brief aside on the co-existing with the ex issue — I said HIGH OCCASIONS. You do NOT have to conspiciously consciously uncouple for children’s birthdays, Aunt Hazel’s hip surgery, or 8th grade choral concerts. I’ll leave it to you to determine the hierarchy of your occasions, but my point is these are RARE occasions. Especially after your children are grown.
You’re a loving father who would take a bullet for his daughter. Consider the ex your bullet. Make this day about your daughter and her accomplishments. Take the bullet.
You still think of your ex as a bullet?! That’s not very meh! That’s not very moved on! I think you’re bitter and scorned!
Look, I consider myself very meh. I would still rather pluck out my own spleen with salad tongs than be trapped in a small room with either ex.
Would I do it for my son though? Yes.
Strategies? Here’s a few.
1.) You’re entitled to some boundaries. You don’t want to take a picture with the ex? Politely defer. Offer to take the pictures. Excuse yourself and run to the bathroom. Smile and say how horribly unphotogenic you are. I’m sure other chumps can weigh in on this one. I don’t know how close you are to your daughter, but I’d probably warn her ahead of time so there are no awkward surprises. I have a dear friend who is a wedding photographer and the “don’t photograph mom and dad together” request comes up all the time.
2.) You’re having an AWESOME day. Fake it until you make it, Scott. While you’re enforcing those boundaries of no pictures together or we’re best buddies! small talk, you are super duper pleasant. Watch some youtube videos on how to endure cocktail parties. Channel the most vapid part of your soul. Discuss the weather, compliment the canapés, feign interest in floral arrangements.
I promise you, your cheating ex is far more unnerved by your presence and that of your girlfriend than you are of her. Just be cool and above it, because hey — you ARE cool — you did nothing wrong — and you ARE above it — your life is better for having dumped a cheater.
3.) Divert, distract, digress. About those cocktail parties — ever been saddled with someone really dull to talk with? If you’re a chump, you sit there dutifully listening to some windbag natter on about metallurgy or WTFever. If you’re a person with boundaries, you politely listen for a bit, suss pretty quickly that this is a monologue in search of an audience, and politely excuse yourself. I want you to be a person with boundaries. If your ex has the nerve to approach you and act like you’re BEST FRIENDS, you let her natter on for a few moments, smile the smile you reserve for the afflicted, and divert, distract, or digress.
Divert — “Oh look, there’s Bob! Haven’t seen him in ages!” Distract — “Hey, look! They just set out the brownies!” Digress — “Metallurgy is an absolutely fascinating topic. Excuse me, I’m off to go get a drink.”
Keep it light, Scott. Shower praise and warm fuzzies on your daughter and your girlfriend. Ignore the rest.
Speaking of your girlfriend, she’s the one I feel truly sorry for. You’d take a bullet for your daughter, okay. She’s taking a bullet for you being trapped at an event with your ex. I’m sure she’s going to look smoking hot. Notice. Reward her. Have fun.