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Dear Chump Lady, Do I have to invite my ex to the party?

Hi Chump Lady,

My ex-wife cheated many times and finally moved in with her affair partner 6 years ago. Our divorce was final 2 1/2 years ago. We were together for 25 years (married for 8) and raised two children (well, I raised them and she showed up from time to time). We were a same sex couple and I gave birth to both kids.

I have been No Contact with my ex for several years now. Our son is getting married next June and I am throwing a lavish engagement party for him and his fiancé in August (he is my only son). I am planning everything and paying for the whole event. I have invited all my family members including extended family, friends and anyone else I can think to invite.

My son said he would like me to invite my ex to the party. I told him she was not invited as I have no desire to see her (plus she will totally ruin my fun). This engagement party came about because my son said I cannot invite people to the wedding (they have a strict list of 100 people), but I could have a separate gathering of my choosing. Since I am hosting the party, I get to make the guest list.

My daughter told me today my ex is upset that she is excluded from the party. She wants to feel included in all the wedding planning and feels this is part of the wedding festivities. She apparently thinks we should be amicable for special once-in-a-lifetime events that affect our kids.

Mind you, she is hosting a bridal shower at her house with the bride’s mom and I was not invited. I am hosting my own bridal shower by taking my mom, sisters, niece and daughter to NYC to spend time with my future daughter-in-law (that is where they currently live). Never in a million years would I want to be invited to her bridal shower in the new house I paid for through the divorce settlement (and alimony) that she moved her affair partner into!

I am being portrayed as the villain once again as that is her typical MO (she is the ultimate blame shifter and never takes responsibility for her choices and decisions). My daughter thinks I am being vindictive by not inviting her and wants us all to just get along. She says I should put this all behind, forgive her and move on. Apparently that means including her in family things that I plan (and pay for) that include my adult children.

I explained to my daughter that my ex should have thought through all the possible ramifications before she blew up our family. She could have just left, filed for divorce and then started dating. She chose a different path. She made her choice, now I get to make mine. I did the Pick Me Dance for a couple of years and my ex enjoyed every minute of it. She kept me close enough to get her daily kibble fix, until I finally had enough. I am 100% no contact with her and she doesn’t like it. She puts the kids in the middle and has a pity party.

So my question is — am I being unreasonable by not including her in the wedding festivities? Should I take the high road in this instance for the sake of the kids (they are 28 and 26)? I absolutely do not want to be with her anymore and have zero desire to even see her. She and her affair partner are invited to the wedding, so I will have eat that shit sandwich. She is telling my daughter she doesn’t want to come to the wedding because she is being excluded from other things. I think that is horrible to say to your daughter, especially knowing it will get back to our son. That is her typical pattern of manipulation, making herself out to be a victim. (Our daughter’s birthday was last week. She didn’t get her a present or a card and told her it was because she didn’t get her anything on her birthday, so she didn’t think they were doing that anymore).

I am the sane parent and I care what my children think of me. I really don’t want them to think I am being a jerk to their other mother and would like them to see things from my perspective. Should I invite her? I am curious as to your opinion.


Dear Kathy,

My opinion is — your party, your guest list. If your son accepts a lavish engagement party, he must accept your guest list. After all, you are accepting HIS guest list to his wedding — you don’t get to invite anyone.

Divorce means you aren’t family any more. That’s the reality. The reality doesn’t change on special occasions. It’s not Brigadoon — Happy Intact Family doesn’t appear in the mist and then retreat for 200 years. Your ex shat on her family, and she doesn’t get it back for photo ops.

Some may think that’s churlish, but I think there are plenty of classy ways to celebrate your child’s nuptials that don’t include having your ex and her affair partner at your private party.

My daughter told me today my ex is upset that she is excluded from the party.

Tell your daughter that your ex-wife’s upset is not your concern. You are the mom FORMERLY known as Chump. You may have pick me danced before, but you don’t pick me dance now. Your ex-wife’s “hurt feelings” are as relevant to your life as drunk Aunt Martha’s disapproval of the floral arrangements.

She wants to feel included in all the wedding planning and feels this is part of the wedding festivities.

And people in hell want a cool drink of water.

She may want and feel things, that doesn’t mean you’re obliged to give them to her. It’s not spite, it’s a boundary.

Also, you’re paying for this party and where I come from anyway, that matters. When I first got married (young and stupid), my grandmother sat me down and said “Tracy, when your mother got married, I said ‘Jeri, I’m paying for this and you’ll do it my way. And your mother has waited 25 years to have the wedding she’s always wanted. So, you’re doing it HER way.'”

Okay… maybe that’s a little dysfunctional. But my grandmother had a point. You want an opinion? Pay for it yourself.

My daughter thinks I am being vindictive by not inviting her and wants us all to just get along.

Does your daughter think your ex is vindictive by not inviting you to the party she’s throwing?

I’m channeling my grandmother here — is your daughter paying for this? What she thinks doesn’t matter. If she’s that offended, she can turn down a trip to NYC.

Everyone sounds more than a bit spoiled here. Your only obligation, as I see it, is to be graciously present at your son’s wedding. To not shriek, or publicly snub, or vomit on anyone’s shoes. But show up with your game face at the wedding and beam with happiness at your son’s joy. That’s IT. Paying the bar tab for your ex and her girlfriend? NOT REQUIRED.

She says I should put this all behind, forgive her and move on.

You don’t need to defend yourself to your daughter. You had a boundary. Enforce it, she doesn’t have to like it.

You HAVE put this all behind you — you’re divorced from your ex. Forgiveness — whatever that looks like to you — is NONE of your daughter’s business. And “moving on” does not mean feigning friendship with an abusive ex. It means gaining a life.

It sounds like your daughter has some Conscious Uncoupling idea of what divorced life should look like. That’s nice. My mom has an idea about what I should look like. (Better hair, thinner, with lipstick.) Tragically, we do not get the family we ordered. All those ideal family members are on back order. Let me know when they come in. I have a son who is a libertarian.

She is telling my daughter she doesn’t want to come to the wedding because she is being excluded from other things.

Okay. Awesome. Stay home.

(I seriously doubt that would happen, because wedding drama kibbles are the best kibbles there are, plus ice swans. She won’t want to miss it.)

She’s triangulating with your daughter… and whatever. You have a boundary.

If it makes you feel any better, I ran this scenario past my friend Jennifer Lindberg who is a fabulous Austin wedding photographer. (Like, she gets in Martha Stewart and Town and Country… she’s super amazing, and if you want to look like a million bucks, call her). She’s been to a bazillion weddings and the separate party thing, separate wedding portraits is totally the NORM among divorced parents of a marrying couple.

“Sometimes the kids insist on taking a picture with the parents together — and the parents look miserable.”

Her advice?

“Stand firm! Separate lives. No fiction.”

It makes for bad wedding pictures — and bad parties.

Ask Chump Lady

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  • I concur, she blew up your life and now she still wants to have a say and not have people say, “Wow, you must have been a real bitch to Kathy for her to feel she had to exclude you, because Kathy is rad”. Don’t apologise, don’t explain, play it cool and let your daughter know that you’re okay with her other Mom not inviting you to the other bridal shower, you’re sure it’s not personal, and this is the same thing in reverse. You’re the mom and she’s the daughter, not sure if she’s been a bit manipulated and brainswashed by your ex but you can set her straight without having to say too much, just simply by saying no, it’s not happening. Chump lady’s right on.

    • THANK YOU. Kids don’t run the show. (Especially at 26 and 28). My son disinvited his mother from his wedding because of her shenanigans (suing him over grandma’s will, among other things). Happiest day of my life!!

    • I think you need to have a talk with your daughter about manipulation and triangulation. It’s her brother’s wedding for heaven’s sake! She doesn’t need to be in the middle.

      On your son, I think what you told him is perfectly fine. She’s invited to the wedding and that’s all the drama you should be expected to handle.

      And, good job Mom!

    • Wow. Amazing response to this wonderful parent. Boundaries are such an issue with my family lol. And so grateful you asked a photographer of weddings about what she sees all the time. Yes!!!

    • WORD. Cheaters have no boundaries, hence, cheating.

      Let the master’s degree class in boundaries in real time begin.

      In my own life, before my wedding my mother nagged me to invite her boyfriend, who had trashed my boundaries in a very painful family-shattering way after I explicitly told him that if he took said actions I would never speak to him ever again. He actually told me, “I don’t care how you feel.” Then he went and took said actions.
      I told my mother that if she didn’t quit nagging me, she wouldn’t be able to come either.

      He didn’t come. My mother did. They broke up for the 40th and final time not long after. I was so glad I held the boundary.

      I kept my word and have not since spoken to him, even to answer notes he sent me requesting to meet and apologize.

      We teach people how to treat us, and it’s time Chump Nation teaches the world about the consequential boundaries of cheating.

      PS…I am not surprised by the self-centered cluelessness of the ex-wife in this story, but I still feel slack-jawed outrage at cheaters’ complete and utter lack of awareness for the staggering enormous lifelong damage that they cause and surprise shown when the victims respond normally to it.

      • “Let the master’s degree class in boundaries in real time begin.”

        “I still feel slack-jawed outrage at cheaters’ complete and utter lack of awareness for the staggering enormous lifelong damage that they cause and surprise shown when the victims respond normally to it.”

        Right on Velvet. Those two statements of yours bookend the chump experience. Arguably, if any of us chumps had proper boundaries instilled from birth, we may never have attracted and then either chosen or been chosen by a cheater.

        Consent is a key feature of a boundary. And that goes for all things including that we get to say how we want to be treated and how we need to protect ourselves.

        It does not mean we sign up to future connings, including manipulations, nor playing nice to protect other people’s feelings.

        Those are not, and never were, our responsibility.

  • Kathy,

    Stand firm. Your daughter and your ex do not get to set your boundaries; you do. I went through this with my youngest. She tried the hardest to maintain some ties with my Ex cheater. He lied, cheated, and financially abused us. He abandoned his daughters with nothing but a few phone calls over the years. Zero financial help, zero visitation (although the court had given him some). But she kept trying. She called him. She invited him to stuff. He never showed unless it was a major photo op. In 20 years he showed up twice. Her graduation and her wedding. He insisted on walking her down the aisle or he told her he wouldn’t come. An emotionally abusive bastard right up to the present. At her high school graduation she asked if I would invite him and his AP turned spouse to the graduation party I was hosting and, yes, paid for. I said “no,” She used all the lines on me that your daughter did. I said, “Look, you wouldn’t ask a rape or robbery victim to host their attacker at a party because another person wants everything to just be polite, would you?” No? “Then don’t ask me to pay to have my abuser sitting at the same table as me, laughing and joking, like everything is cool.” I told her to arrange a separate dinner with her dad. I would not be at all offended if she wanted to have dinner with him on another night. I completely understood if she wanted to celebrate with him. She asked again when it was her wedding. This time she used the “MY special day” line. I gave the exact same reply and added that she seemed awfully concerned about the abuser and his feelings and not at all concerned about mine. I told her that was fine, I was a big girl and could take care of myself. Part of taking care of myself meant setting and keeping my own boundaries. She could associate with him and his wife-stress all she wanted. He’s her father and she was allowed to maintain whatever relationship she wanted with him. I was also commensurately allowed to not have any kind of relationship with him. I would not entertain my abuser. She was welcome to invite them to her wedding, but I was not picking up their bar and restaurant tab nor enduring their presence at a party that I was paying for. I stood my ground and I am glad I did. She has since admitted to me that she hounded me because he was pressuring her and she was afraid he wouldn’t come if he didn’t get his way. Children often defer/protect the absent/abusive parent because they KNOW that parent’s time/attention has strings attached and might be withdrawn at any moment. Do not play along in that sick dynamic. Show your children that they can stand up to manipulative people. In the last several years she has never again mentioned him. If he made any appearance after the birth of her son, I never heard about it. And that’s the way I like it. My daughter and I are very close and I know that she knows I love her and can be relied upon. She knows I am honest and trustworthy. Part of how she knows that is that she has seen that my morals and ethics are not situational. They are steadfast.

    • “my morals and ethics are not situational. They are steadfast.”

      Great post jojobee with a fabulous perspective that can only be brought about by time. I’m going to remember the above quote as we have multiple graduations and weddings on the two year horizon.

    • Excellent response! LW should just hand it to her daughter and say, “no more discussions about this”! When my oldest daughter married, it was my X’s brother who tried to cause all kinds of problems, including insisting he should walk daughter down the aisle (X was not physically able to do so). Ugh, no, not gonna happen. Mind you, BIL had done exactly nothing to help raise my daughter, barely knew her, and did not contribute in any way to the wedding, but hey, he wanted his day in the sun.

      My son-in-law showed what an amazing man he is in that moment. Without allowing room for any argument, he calmly told ex BIL that I was the one who had done the hard work of raising my daughter and that he and my daughter had long ago asked me to honor them by taking on this “task”. Yes, my daughter could easily have spoken for herself, but he was willing to be labeled the bad guy for not giving in to this outrageous demand. In that moment, I saw him quietly become a husband and I saw her love him for it.

      During the reception, BIL drunkenly wandered around the dance floor, hitting on every woman, regardless of age, marital status or level of reciprocal interest. I laughed when more than one guest asked me if he was a wedding crasher. Yes, he was that out of place. My worries that he was going to ruin daughter’s special day dissolved into laughter at this fool’s efforts to get attention. We weren’t laughing with him, we were laughing at him.

      Kathy’s X is also looking for attention. She wants to be the center of attention on what should most decidedly not be her day. If Kathy does not stand firm in her decision to not include her X in an event Kathy is paying for, she will find herself dreading what should be a happy occasion. No means no, without further discussion!

    • “,…my morals and ethics are not situational. They are steadfast.”

      Hear, Hear!! Jojobee you have given me a beautiful outline of how to handle the future quinceanera, graduations and wedding that my daughter will have. You are amazing! Thank you! 🙂

    • jojobee,

      I am joining in the list of ‘fans’ for your line about morals and ethics.

      I am still new and navigating all this stuff and my grown childrens’ responses to situations and the timing of today’s post couldn’t be more perfect since I just had a blow-out with one of my children who insisted that I commence talking to his father. He was enraged that I wouldn’t comply with his demands and my response, “It is too painful for me to talk to him,” was met with the stone cold stare followed with a few more choice words from him before he made a quick retreat out of the room unlike a hit and run driver.

      I was left standing there furious and flustered because I felt like I didn’t have a good line to toss back at him. I don’t think quickly enough when under attack especially when I am not expecting to be attacked. I realize now that I ended up tossing out that ‘soft’ line in hopes that he will ‘get it’, see that his father is a FW and then hoping that the conversation would end on a more companionable note.

      I take notes when I read things here so that I can use what I am learning in times of ‘need’. Sometimes I have my ducks in a row and can meet an uncomfortable situation head on without slipping into default mode wherein my reasoning powers are over-ruled by my emotions which are still running high in ‘flight’ mode. My ‘fight or flight’ responses work exceptionally well due to lots of chances to practice these past 2 years. I must admit that my ‘flight’ response is the one that shows up the most in most situations still but ‘fight’ is beginning to make its appearance on occasion so I have hope.

      Your line is one I have made note of since is it succinct and one that can be repeated without any further ado. Leaves no wiggle room for argument. Period.

      I hate that I can’t come up with stuff like this on my own and feel so stupid when I get blind-sighted although I am learning I will get another chance at some point so I have to be patient with myself.

      This one child is a challenge and is reeling from all of this too as it slowly sinks in. I see his anger as his attempts to keep the horrible truth at bay – his father is a serial cheater and none of us knew it until first Dd ay 2 years ago. ( I was married for 30 years and chumped for about a year doing pick-me dancing before I woke up.) Up until that time he was the ‘ideal’ dad so I have tried to exercise restraint when talking my son about any of this.

      My tactic has been to keep my mouth shut unless he wants to talk. He clearly is too volitale to talk about things at this point which became painfully clear this past weekend when I tried to broach the topic after his blow up. My attempts went over like a lead balloon but I now have a better understanding of where he stands and where I need to stand up for myself and you have provided me with the words to do just that.

      To the original poster: Thank you for sending in your dilemma and I am sorry I have no words of advice because I haven’t mastered much along the lines of what your are seeking here. I feel as though I am sitting in the same boat you are although no weddings etc in sight as of yet. My boat has no oars. I come here searching for them and hope someday the the small boat I am sitting it will be transformed into an ocean liner and I will be able to part the waters with complete ease.

      • I am sorry your son is angry w/ you. It’s safe to be angry w/ you — you’re the sane parent. Your son wants his dream family back. Not gonna happen. Probably makes him even madder if his siblings are like “FFS (for f**k’s sake) give it a rest, leave Mom be, Dad’s a weasel.” WAG (wild-ass guess), about 95% chance he’ll get it eventually. Could take years.

        • Nemo,

          Thanks for this. ‘Could take years’. Ugh. But I know you are right. Being compassionate and setting and maintaining boundaries is my constant challenge these days. It is a comfort to know that I am not alone in they endeavour.

          What has happened to me and my children has brought up my past wherein my father abandoned us too. We all took it out on our mom – poor soul. She died years and years ago – before I ‘got it’. Now I do and I see what happened to her through new eyes and I have huge regrets that she died before I was able to let her know how much I appreciated her steadfastness. She never wavered. Never bad-mouthed her abuser. Was always there for all of us – there were 5 of us. She was a hell of a woman but back then, especially during my teenage years, I had her made out as a weak and pathetic woman and I felt embarrassed that she was my mother. Teenage brains are really something to be very afraid of!

          Taking my own past into consideration I have to accept that I may not live long enough either to see my son ‘get it’. Then I remind myself it isn’t about me. I want his happiness – none of my children deserved what they got and it came at such a hard time in all of their lives as they are all in the midst of striking out on their own – wham, slam, bam in one fell swoop.

          Such cruelty. I have been forced to practice patience under duress 🙂

          Practice makes perfect so some day……

          Thanks for your words of encouragement.

          Much appreciated.

          • Ouch. This must feel like karma to you. The weasels smite 2 generations.

            Let me guess: your mom was kind and soft-spoken. Her hair, makeup, clothes — her style in general — did not meet your standards. She was at times frazzled, what with working so hard to keep things together.

            To the young and foolish, kindness = weakness. Poverty (loss of status of “intact family,” loss of stuff in general, having to move to in w/ grandparents, et bloody cetera) is SO SO embarrassing! Your little mind decided to never, ever be a frumpy loser like Mom. Plus, sane parent. So unfair, how the chump has to eat it.

            Your mom was indeed one hell of a woman. She is in heaven. You can tell her, “I’m sorry, Mom. I get it now. Please forgive me.” That will help you forgive yourself. Most Christians believe you can ask those in heaven to pray for us. In moments of crisis, a brief call will do: “Mom, help!”

            You don’t have to be Christian. Even the Jedi believe this. “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi!” Skeptics do mind work along these lines. It’s called integrating the megrims, or something.

            • Thank you Nemo for your kind, compassionate words.

              I do talk to her on a regular basis and it gives me comfort to believe that she ‘gets it’. Truth be told, I think she got it all those years ago – it is me who had to ‘get it’.

              My memories of her and how she never let us down. Never threatened to leave us. Always had food on the table for us. Always a spit polished house to come home to and she was riddled through and through with rheumatoid arthritis.

              My aunt tells me stories about her courage to stand up to him and say ‘no’. He wanted an ornament. He wanted status. He wanted her to entertain for the people he wanted to impress….she finally faced him and said, ‘no’; a short word that I now know is a complete sentence in and by itself.

              And yes, I NEVER wanted to be like her and now I marvel at her and knowing what my aunt has told me keeps me soldering on with my head held high. If she could do it with dignity – then so can I though she outshines me with her self-control and her dignity. To my mother the word ‘shut up’ up was just about the worst thing anyone could say. My vocabulary has gotten very colorful and violent at times these past few years 🙂 I think she approves.

              Thanks again.

    • ‘Morals and ethics are not situational; they are steadfast’. Jojobee – thank you for these words! They describe in a sentence the way I have been trying, like many of us on here, to live my life post Cheater!
      This whole post and the replies are really empowering! I survived my son’s wedding 2 years ago and boundaries were the thing that got me through! I still get upset at the thought of my family being decimated and the thought of future events and how we deal with them but the advice from CN, rules every time!!

  • Your ex is USING the kids to triangulate, and as weapons to get under your skin. It’s your sons wedding, he can invite who he likes. It’s YOUR party, you can invite who YOU like.

    Brush it off with Meh. Let her attempt drama, play victim, whine to everyone. Not your concern.

    You care for your kids, and their feelings. She is USING that. Normal people don’t cry about not being CENTRAL to every wedding activity, certainly not when it’s not their wedding! It’s not hers or your wedding. It’s HIS.

    Focus on him. Be straight forward with him about why you want to celebrate his special day, WITHOUT her. Then get on and enjoy it. Don’t let this silly attempt to drag you back to her being central throw you.

    Have a wonderful party with those you love & let her squirm that she’s not central!

    • Exactly Onethingeveryday! Normal people do NOT have to be central at every stage of every event, especially someone else’s events. Kathy can point that out to her daughter. This is Kathy’s part given to honor her son and his bride. It is not about EX. She is still allowed to have her boundaries despite what third party people might think.

  • I only read 2 paragraphs before I was sure of my response. Cite the times you have not been involved, your feelings matter and you are completely within your rights in the circumstances to feel like you do.
    It’s up to you who you do or don’t invite, absolutely.

    Stand firm and I am sure you have 1,000,000 examples of how this was hardly a conscious uncoupling situation but an abusive one by any means.

  • “Your ex is USING the kids to triangulate, and as weapons to get under your skin”.

    Exactly, why do these assholes all do this?

    Mine won’t pay the child support but tries to be the great Dad by offering trips to my son. Funny, no my son does not want to go to Disneyland with your whore and her two little girls, he is almost 17 idiot.

    Now trying to bribe him with a Whistler bike competition that I made happen and took him on years ago. He has no ideas of his own but decided to steal my ideas, plans and things I have already done. Psycho!!!!

  • I think my kids wanted us to “play nice” after the divorce because “poor dad, you know”, but I never gave in. Told them exactly WHY (and they should have known why to be honest) and it has worked out ok now. At oldest’s wedding two years ago I refused to go out for a drink with them beforehand, nor have anything to do with him at the wedding, although I was civil when spoken to. At youngest’s wedding on 4th July this year nobody even tried to get me anywhere near him. Again I was civil to him and it was ok. But Schmoopie!!! Oh my God, weirder than weird. Stand your ground and don’t let your kids and your ex bamboozle you. Oh, and enjoy that wedding!

  • the response to your children – and I would include them both in a face time or in-person or however you communicate – is this:

    Here’s the thing guys, for many years I have done pretty much everything and that was great. I chose you, I love you unconditionally and forever, but the fact remains, I chose unwisely in a life partner and because I love you, she will always be peripherally in my world, though I wish it weren’t so. However, I am hosting and paying for a party that I am beyond thrilled about and thus I get to pick the guest list, as you do for your wedding, and as your other parent does for the party she is hosting, and I’m not on that list, which is absolutely fine and as it should be because we are not friends. When someone lies and betrays and does it repeatedly, the trust is gone and any friendship can never work. That is a boundary. Being civil and courteous is still required, but I have already paid for a huge, huge number of your other parent’s meals and I will not ever be paying for another one and that is final.

    I sincerely hope you can both learn the difference between being civil and neutral and non-combative towards others and having to make nice with people who abuse you. That is a valuable lesson. I always have your back, I always have, always will. Thank you for understanding and I cannot wait for the party and the wedding!

    • I was cheated on but my situation is different, so perhaps easier. I was completely stressed out about it for months but it turned out well.

      My third child graduated from college in May. We are from the west coast and her college is on the east coast. Background: I confronted my ex about his affair the summer before my daughter graduated from high school, exactly four years ago. He claimed the year-long affair had ended but I knew it hadn’t (and, as it turns out, it was still going on for 3 months past the time he started dating his now new wife. She doesn’t know it but she’s already been cheated on).

      I don’t care who he had the affair with – my vows were with him – and now that he’s married I’m sure that AP is out of the picture (his new wife has a lot of money and is a very outwardly successful shiny object so I’m sure he’ll behave from now on). His AP lives out of state and is married with three young sons. She didn’t want to divorce to be with my ex (she comes from a Catholic family) so no one know about her affair – and it’s creepy that I know more of who she really is than her own parents, brother, husband, sons.

      Because extended family was traveling a long distance before a one-time event there was minimal time, just a weekend, to host a party with her college friends, a family dinner, and the graduation itself. My attitude was that this is my daughter’s graduation and it’s all about her. Everyone was to be there for her accomplishments; it’s not about me and it’s not about her dad. Most importantly, this was her last chance to be with her college friends in her college town.

      This is the really sad thing (in hindsight, kind of funny). Her dad insisted that he wanted his own family dinner, as if he’s trying to make some statement that he can’t be seen with me (because his affair is my fault? who knows how his narcissistic mind works). I told my daughter that (1) the graduation dinner is about her, and she deserves all her family surrounding and celebrating her, (2) if she has to have two family dinners it takes away from her grad parties and events, (3) if she chooses to go with her dad’s wish for a separate family dinner – if she’s not strong enough to stand up to him – I will still love her unconditionally, (4) when you get married, does this mean you have to have two separate rehearsal dinners and two separate weddings?

      So as it turns out, my daughter told her dad he could have a separate event (I get it – it’s easier to keep the angry parent quiet). My ex and his new wife and his extended family didn’t come to the family dinner, which was a blast. My daughter didn’t have time for a separate event for him. On the face of it, I should be the one who wanted a separate dinner because I’m the one who was cheated on, I’m the one who’s alone and doesn’t have a new partner to lean on. But I’m the mature one, not the coward who has never been alone (he was overlapping me with his AP, overlapping his AP with his new wife). I’m happy, I made sure I looked good the entire weekend, and I am proud of myself for putting my daughter first.

      The months of anticipation for the event was awful. But being happy and living ethically turned out to be the best revenge.

      • I agree Dudette – the months of anticipation are awful but holding head high and having fun in spite of Cheater is on reflection very empowering!

    • This is good advice. I like the suggestion about saying it’s fine that chump isn’t invited to the cheater-hosted bridal shower. It strikes at the heart of the fallacy perpetuating this nonsense situation. The daughter thinks chumpmom is being vindictive because she’s upset she’s not invited to the shower. But if chumpmom doesn’t want to see cheatermom, she has no reason to feel vindictive about that. She doesn’t want to go. The bridal shower has nothing to do with WHY chumpmom doesn’t want to invite cheatermom to the engagement party; it’s just part of an explanation for why it’s totally fine and reasonable to not invite cheatermom, because that’s the standard that’s already been set.

      I think this is a delicate situation that chumpmom should be able to get through successfully so long as she takes lots of deep breaths and tries to avoid reacting emotionally to any of the kibble traps being set for her. I think that in any situation like this where there are disagreements among different generations and people outside the romantic/sexual relationship triangle it’s useful to read through Harriet Lerner’s book The Dance of Intimacy. There is good advice in there about how to step outside triangulation traps, particularly when they involve people who aren’t narcissists but just aren’t understanding where you’re coming from when they react in an unhelpful way to your boundaries.

  • The one person’s opinion not mentioned (or did I miss it?) is your son’s!!!
    Aside from everything divorce and ex related, this is your son’s wedding. This may be a good time to explain to your daughter that this is not her event, it wasn’t her divorce and it isn’t her money. Sounds like she’s at a point in her life where that would be a useful lesson.

    I went through a very similar situation when one of my kids got married.

    The good news is you probably won’t even realize your ex is at the wedding because you will be having too much fun yourself. I will bet you know most of the bride and grooms’s friends and other family. The anticipation will probably be far worse than the actual event.

    I had an engagement party (my dime) and I controlled the guest list. The mother of the bride made the shower and she made the guest list – none of the ex’s family was invited to that either.
    He made a dinner and it was just the brides extended family and the ex’s extended family. There was zero question that I was expected to be included!

    Long way of saying that it’s your party and you get to control the guest list and this is NOT your daughter’s (ie – a person who is NOT the bride or groom) call.

    I also got the same speech when I got married. The details were all left up to my mom!

    • Oops, meant to say that there was zero question that I would not be invited to the dinner the ex made. Not my party and not my place to be there.

      As far as walking down the aisle, I didn’t want the ex to walk down the aisle but my child told me how important it was to my child and would I please agree to that for him. In my faith, not parents walk their child down the aisle. As the sane, loving parent I did agree albeit grudgingly. I obsessed over it for a long time in advance. The reality was that I didn’t event notice the ex on the other side of my child. The photos tell the real story. My child and I with arms linked, smiling at each other and smiling at a private joke as we walked down the aisle. The ex was there but could have been a flower pot as far as we were concerned.

    • I agree. Why is the daughter making all the demands about her brother’s wedding?! It’s not her call. The tricky thing about these situations is not that we don’t know who’s in the right / wrong but what to do with the fallout if you call it. Kathy, you’re afraid of your daughter’s reaction if you hold your boundary, afraid you’ll get the blame if she makes a scene over it. Go to your Son and his fiancee, talk to them, explain how you feel to them. Explain your boundary to them. Then talk to your daughter remembering that this is not her call here.

  • Thank you so much for this letter and response. I’m not there yet with my children, ages 15 and 16, but one day will have to face the situation and you’ve just answered all the questions I have.

    My only concern is if he were to come, what’s a my daughter changes her mind about him and wants him to walk her down the aisle, I can tell him the whore is not invited correct? Remind him, your children want nothing to do with her, will not be forced into a blended family nor will they go to her home for visitation.

    You are always right when you say they suck.

    Finding the idea of no contact in reading your book has been a blessing to me.

    • I have not told my children they COULD NOT invite their dad’s OWife to events. I explained very clearly to them that I would not be present at any event to which they chose to invite her and I would be fine with that. I was very clear that I had always been expected to suck up and deal with unpleasant things when I was married to their father but we are no longer married and I get to decide with whom I am willing to socialize. I made the (poor) decision to choose their Dad at one point so I understand there will be certain special occasions where he and I might cross paths and I accept that. However, I did not choose for him to cheat on me and I did not choose for his OWife to insinuate herself into our marriage (and our divorce) so I am under no obligation to choose to be at any event where she is present. I was clear that I would not be angry or upset if they chose to invite him with her because I would be making a personal choice not to attend. And besides, I reminded them, my feelings are mine to manage. None of my kids like the OWife; consequently they usually tell him he can come to visit but he can’t bring her and none of these situations even involve me. Suffice it to say, he doesn’t see them very often because she controls the purse strings and she resents that his adult children don’t like her and won’t pretend to like her. Shrug. Life is tough; it’s even tougher when you’re stupid.

    • I’m not in favor of disinviting a child’s parent to a wedding. That’s the child’s choice. I’m against having an ex at your *own. private. party* — a totally different kettle of fish.

      • At the time my daughter was planning her wedding, my Ex was involved in the first affair that was known to me, although it was not his first affair. It never occurred to me that he shouldn’t be present at the wedding, although at the time she didn’t want to invite him. I told her it was her wedding and that it wasn’t my call and she should decide what was best for her and that I would be fine either way. By the time the actual wedding rolled around we were in “wreckonciliation” so everything went off without a hitch.

        When she had her first child, Ex was involved with OWife and had initiated divorced proceedings. He was scheduled to be off from work the week the baby was due and he the choice to remain in town and await the birth of the baby or to visit OWife (she was then OW) in a different state. OW was insistent that he should visit her. When my daughter went into labor, he was with OW/OWife and I was in no/low contact mode and I did not call him. I wasn’t in labor, my daughter was and I was where I was supposed to be. She elected on her own not to call him as she decided he made the choice for where he wanted to be and it wasn’t with her. I did inquire if she wanted him to know and she told me if he actually cared about her or the baby, he wouldn’t have left town. He called and left me a scathing voice message for not calling him. Sorry, not sorry.

        I want my children’s happiness and how they choose to arrive at and navigate the road to that happiness is up to them. I provide assistance where I can. What I don’t want to do ever again is provide an example of accommodation that is toxic and enables toxic people. Been there, done that, not doing it again. I’m far enough out from the cheating and the marriage that Cheater Ex’s presence or absence is irrelevant. I do have hard line with OW/OWife because she’s a loon and the only history between us is her attempting to repeatedly insinuate herself into my marriage until she was successful. GTFOH.

      • I have been coparenting with a fuckwit for three years and am now going no contact. I do not want to throw another birthday party for my kids with my ex. I have been doing this since separation “for the sake of the kids” but I just can’t stand dealing with him, and making my poor friends and family interact with him awkwardly. Any advice on telling a 10 yr old and twelve yr old no? The next bday is in October, my son is turning 13, and his Dad has custody that day.

        • Just tell your son “Your birthday is on Dad’s time this year, so you can celebrate with him, because when you get back here (first weekend of your custody), I want to celebrate your birthday by taking you and sibling to do______(insert special fun activity an hour or two’s drive away).” Once a precedent is set for a separate party the first time, it can become the norm easily. The reason to make the activity a ways away is it allows you to have an excuse for not all doing it together on the actual day of the birthday itself as there wouldn’t be time with the added drive.

  • I wonder why it is ok for the ex to throw a bridal shower and not invite Kathy? That is exactly the question I would ask my children if I were in a situation like this.

    • I also don’t know why the ex would want to go?! I’m sure a lot of Kathy’s friends know the truth and probably hate or can’t stand her ex. Why would you want to go to an event that you would not feel welcomed at. Drama, I suppose. Stand your ground Kathy. Your party will be more enjoyable for everyone without the tension. Enjoy YOUR event and congratulations to you and your son.

      I feel sorry for your daughter. Your ex shouldn’t put her in this position. Maybe one day she’ll see your ex for the manipulating person she is and will have enough.

      • My ex ….5 years after we split asked my kids to get an invite to my 50th birthday party ….my new husband to be was as dumbfounded as i was …..the disordered are unbelievable!

    • I’d be careful of that one, because the Ex might decide to invite Kathy, just to show how magnanimous she is, and to try to force Kathy’s hand.

      This is about KATHY’s choices and boundaries.

      For this kind of thing, I always find it helpful to set my boundaries, give my reasons, then change the subject. If people bring it up again, I can say, gently, that I’ve already said everything I have to say about that, and don’t want to discuss it further.

      With my kids especially, I make sure to really listen and show I’ve understood their point of view. That doesn’t change the fact that I disagree, though.

      • It does indeed open up the possibility of the Ex inviting Kathy, but I doubt it would happen.

        When I was in therapy, “I wonder” was a phrase my therapist gave me to respond to my ex over ridiculous demands he was making. I wonder why it’s okay for this and not that, etc. etc. What I learned is that people who are always making demands hate it when that phrase is used. They just grumble ” I wonder” and storm off.

  • It’s ok for the kids to love her. You’re not required to.
    You’re spending your hard earned on a nice event for your child.
    You, simultaneously, are modelling boundaries and appropriate behaviour for your grown children.
    That’s rarely popular in the moment but it is the right thing to do and sets the stage for years to come.
    I hope it all settles down for you.
    But you’ve got this. With grace and dignity, you’ll enjoy your son’s wedding and you will show people through that grace how they’re allowed to treat you.

  • This is a shit sandwich for sure. I’m sorry you are in this position. I will likely be the only one saying this, but when I read things like this I jsut remember how stressful my own wedding was because of all the drama on my exe’s side of the family.

    Do your son and future DiL even want this party? We did a lot to appease my MiL as she wanted to do all this extra stuff because our wedding was small and she couldn’t invite everyone she wanted to. It caused a lot of tension between us in the run up to the wedding. What should have been a joyful time was filled with a lot of fighting, tears and frustration between the two of us. His mother was blissfully unaware of this as her focus was on having what she’d always pictured rather than what we wanted, and of proving various points to various people.

    The stress of our wedding was the cause of a lot of fights during our marriage. Clearly there were other issues or I wouldn’t be posting here, but I was angry at him for not standing up to his mother, and when we looked back in the day the family drama leading up to it was what we remembered and talked about the most. It also seriously damaged my relationship with my MiL.

    I think the most important thing to remember is that these will be the memories your son and his wife carry with them throughout their marriage. It’s clear they are accommodating your wishes, this may be the time to meet them half way.

    That’s just my view from the other side of the fence.

  • What the hell? Your kids don’t get to spend your money and be in charge of the guest list.

    Particularly at 21+.

    Continue to be the Sane Parent. Entitled Ex-Wife is doing her same old shit, only this time daughter chooses to do the dance. You are under no obligation to join in the conga line.

    Dearest Daughter – She cheated. We divorced. We are having separate parties to which the other person is not invited. That’s how it goes. I’m not discussing this any further with you. I love you.

  • Any advice for watching your SO get railroaded by his daughters at their weddings? He’s guiltable apparently. He says other divorced couples play nice and he will too. His daughter fed him that I think, she scolds him all the time.

    • NoMo,you can express your concern that his getting scolded and doing things he doesn’t want to because of guilt is not healthy for either him or his diaghters. It might be helpful to encourage him to see a therapist to work on how he wants to deal with this stuff. But it’s also possible that he’s OK with the arrangements his daughters are asking for.

      In either case, say your piece, then step back and stay out of it. His relationship with his daughters is his to manage.

  • I’d respond to all daughter’s requests for more nice-making with “daughter, when you are cheated on by your spouse you can choose exactly how much or little time you spend with them in the future. But this was my spouse, and my life, so it’s my decision, and you need to respect that.”

    If son brings it up, say “tell you what, if [fiance] ever cheats on you and leaves you for the other man/woman, I won’t demand you invite her over for your Christmas dinner, and you don’t demand I invite my cheating ex over for my parties, deal?”

    For complaints that this party in particular is unfair, say “now you know that’s not true. I’m throwing my engagement party that she isn’t invited to, she’s throwing her shower that I’m not invited to, and we’re both showing up at the wedding. Stop creating an issue where there isn’t one.”

  • Kathy, I support 100% what Chump Lady says.

    My son got married in another country, he and his wife paid for 90% of the party. Son felt morally obliged to invite FF (fuckwit father), but made a point that FF did not come to civil ceremony. I also made a speach for the couple at the party, FF did not (just sat with a shit-eating grin while I spoke, I saw the pictures).

    This setup still ruined the party for me. FF breezed in as though we were the best lovers, can you believe it?! Thankfully my son wasn’t around when I told FF to fuck off. We certainly did NOT take pictures together.

    FF’s kibble supply was bone dry at that party, but I was exhausted from just knowing he was there and being happy for my son. I AM very happy for him, my DIL is lovely and kind.

    So NOT inviting ex to engagement party is a small price to pay for the shit sandwich you will be eating att wedding.

    Have loads of fun at YOUR party and tell your kids Chump Nation backs your decision.

    • Yep, not looking forward to potential future wedding drama. My STBX asshole ruined my son’s graduation by acting like a delusional arrogant prick – he dominated conversation with people I was close to and then sat beside us at commencement (which I had been clear that I did not want ). STBX is of the mind “we’ll always be a family” ugh no who wants to be family with someone who betrays you and treats you like garbage. The problem is that there is a lot of pressure on kids to play along with cheater as they are often manipulative arrogant jerks.

  • I didn’t get to read all of the comments, but so much good advice here. Your feelings matter. Period.

    At my wedding to the ex, my MIL was feeling like she wasn’t getting enough people to invite, so she insisted that she invite some distant cousins that I had never met (I had been with my ex for 15 years at that point). They ended up calling me Michelle in the wedding video (not my name) and I never saw them again after that.

    I know this is not related to your situation, but my point is that people don’t act normally when it comes to events like this and they start being unreasonable.

    Do not let your ex be at your party. It will 100% guarantee ruin it.

    • Lols my exes uncle was compere at the wedding and repeatedly called me by another name until my maid of honour interrupted him with my actual name- I’d known him and his partner for years and we’d socialised together on many occasions, I’d sent Christmas cards etc. unbelievable.

  • It’s time to sit down with your adult kids, and, calmly and rationally explain several concepts:

    1. Triangulation. Explain that when Person 1 has a beef with Person 2, she should take it up with Person 2 directly, not use the kids (grown or otherwise) as a communication device. The principle here is “don’t be a 3rd party in other peoples’ relationships. Don’t carry water for other people.
    2. Manipulation. When Person 1 goads other people into being a mouthpiece for their beef with Person 2, that’s manipulation.
    3. The choice to be “no contact” with an X is not about punishing the X or being vindictive. It’s about healing and moving on with life without the baggage of betrayal, including being dragged into manipulation and drama.
    4. Your X’s attempts to manipulate you through the kids prove the point that no contact was the right decision.
    5. This event is not the wedding, which DS is planning and about which you have no complaint about the guest list, which includes X and the new GF. This event is a party which you are giving for your family and friends to celebrate the wedding among people who cannot attend the wedding. Period. Make the point the X can certainly throw her own party.

    That’s for the kids. Now for you: You sa.y “I really don’t want them to think I am being a jerk to their other mother and would like them to see things from my perspective.”

    You can’t control what other people think. You can’t prevent them from being manipulated. You aren’t being a “jerk to their other mother.” You are living your life without her participation. That was HER choice, initially. Don’t give away your power and your right to set reasonable boundaries because of what your kids might think. THEY ARE BEING MANIPULATED. And they have no idea what intimate betrayal involves–neither the pain of it nor what’s needed to heal.

    In terms of wanting them “to see things from [your] perspective,” that’s pretty much what your X is doing, right? So you two are in a tug of war for who the kids will agree with. Whose perspective they “should” take.

    There can’t be a tug of war if you drop the rope. This is such an easy fix, but it may take a few years for it to pay off. Tell the kids: “There are 4 people who have different perspectives here: DD, DS, X and you. The kids will never see a divorce the same way as their parents do. I would never expect you to take sides against X for what she did. I respect your right to have a relationship with her. In return, I expect you to respect my feelings about what happened to me and my right to have no relationship with someone who hurt me deeply. If I won’t do it to you, I won’t take it from you. In this case, I get that you feel pressure from X. That’s an issue you need to take up with her. This is the last conversation I will have with either of you about what she wants from me. That ship has sailed. We’ve both moved on.” Let go of the rope. She can’t play this game if you refuse to be on the other end of it.

    • “If I won’t do it to you, I won’t take it from you” is what my first therapist called the “reverse Golden Rule.” If you wouldn’t do something TO someone else, you don’t take it from them. In this case, you don’t try to control the relationship between the kids and the X, so you won’t take them trying to control your relationship with her (which is to say, no relationship). The success of that comes with deciding to never, ever interfere with what goes on between X and the kids–and to stop the kids from talking about that stuff with you.

      It occurs to me that DD is way up not only in your business but her brothers. So even if they are in their 20s, your job of raising them isn’t done yet. And both of them will have marital problems if they are busy triangulating with parents and in-laws. So this party is actually a teachable moment.

      • Thanks LAJA for taking the time to write all of this for the OP. Your clarity and simplicity has put words on the tangled neurons in my brain and given each strand an anchor. I am hoping that I can be as clear when a situation arises wherein I have to respond since now I find I mostly react – still on tender hooks when interacting with my defensive/hurt older children.

    • I agree. These kids are grown – they’re old enough for the hard talk about triangulation and staying out of other people’s business.

  • It sounds to me like our writer has already done plenty of explaining her point of view and the grown up children aren’t taking her feelings to heart. They are caught up in the middle, just like the ex wants them to be.

    I agree with those who say the person paying for the party solely determines the guest list for the party. It’s not the wedding. It’s a party. Others don’t get to self-invite. And especially if any part of it takes place in the payer’s home or personally spaces (their church, their friend’s place of business, etc.), it becomes that much more important to keep the list to trusted attendees only.

    I think this boundary setting task has reached the point of use of neutralizing discussions, like “it would be unfortunate for you, Son, if those people make the choice to miss the wedding, since it’s clearly not a necessary or relevant choice. The event I’m hosting is just a party, not the ceremony, so there is no reason every wedding invitee needs to be there. However, attendance at your wedding is a choice those people get to make, and whatever they choose is on them. I will attend your wedding, and I will be polite and cordial with all of your other guests while I am there. This party is mine to host, so I get to exclude any person I’m uncomfortable hosting. That’s what I can offer you. I hope you will accept my gift.”

    These grown up children are having a hard time accepting the ex’s consequences for her shitty actions. It’s a bit immature on their part, even for their current ages, so they hardly get to be validated when they question the maturity of cogent decision making.

    It is OK to throw an engagement party and not invite the ex. Period. You don’t have to justify it. You don’t have to spare your ex’s feelings. The grown up kids can either accept these terms or choose not to attend, but they need to commit now if they don’t want the party.

  • Thank you Chump Lady and CN for all this wonderful advice! I feel better about not inviting her and sticking to my boundaries.

    I pointed out to my daughter that I wasn’t invited to the bridal shower my ex is co-hosting with the bride’s mom (and I am TOTALLY fine with that). She said my ex isn’t co-hosting it, she is just providing her house as a place to have it since they needed somewhere to have it. She said ex isn’t doing any of the work and doesn’t even want to go (good grief, that was always her pattern of behavior!).

    Having strong boundaries and enforcing them feels really good. I had a bit of a wobble when this all first came up because it crossed my boundaries. I am back to strong boundaries now and will not give ex a second thought. It will be a kick ass party and I will have tons of fun!

    My daughter has already informed me she expects me and my ex to both walk her down the aisle at her wedding (her boyfriend recently proposed). I will be able to do that no problem because it is my daughter’s day and it will make her happy. My son’s engagement party is my day and I will do what makes me happy.

    OMG, I never thought about being asked to take wedding pictures with my ex like we are one big happy family! I’m going to have to get out ahead of that and tell my son there is no way in hell that will happen. Thanks for bringing that up Chump Lady. That could certainly create some drama at the wedding!

    Thank you again for all the wonderful comments. I appreciate this forum and all that Chump Lady does.


    • Kathy,

      I refused any photos where the ex and I were together. We walked our child down the aisle and that was all.

      Ex was given a very specific time to show up for photos. He came early. I hired an extra event planner whose only job was to keep ex away from me and my guests and on his side of the room – I paid for her all by myself. She kept him in another room until the photos were all taken.
      Then ex came outside to take photos with his children and the bride. Brides family made the choice not to be in those photos.

      He and his family were seated on the other side of the room and there was an imaginary dividing line and my personal event planner made him go back to his side whenever ex tried to come say hello to all my friends. What made him think any of them wanted to talk to him after supporting me through the horror he created?

      And I made it clear AP was not to attend ANYTHING, even the dinner he hosted. I knew her quite well for years before and during the affair. That was my boundary. If she came to anything, I wasn’t coming to the wedding. Perhaps it was wrong in the eyes of others but I was still struggling for survival and knew that was something that was more than I could handle.

      Good luck at your son’s wedding and engagement party. My advice is to prepare yourself as much as possible and then have a great time!!!!

    • Are you paying for the photography or your daughter? This might be one time to fork over cash and be the one to SIGN THE CONTRACT. Or at least tell the photographer to be prepared to edit any photos where you look like what you are – very very angry and unhappy with somebody in the photo.

      Many photographers will edit someone out when they are clearly pissed off and everyone else looks overjoyed. Not all of them will, but a good portion.

      Sorry your ex is such piece of work. I hope the weather is GLORIOUS for your daughter’s wedding and she has fun.

    • The detail that your daughter is engaged and beginning to plan her own wedding explains a lot. She seems to be using her brother’s wedding as a dry run to see how many of her happy-family-fantasies will be fulfilled when she marries and how each of her parents will react to demands. I think it is excellent that you are setting some boundaries now and that it is similarly terrific that you can muster the poise to do things like walk your daughter down the aisle with the EX if that is what she asks. Both your kids are lucky to have you as a parent! I hope your son’s wedding is a joyful day for you.

  • I am always for asking the kids what they are getting out of this drama. People do things for a reason. Find out why they think this is so important that you have to be hurt in order for them to get their way. Don’t get angry. Get curious. Have you ever said “no” to them? Now is the time. Ask questions and then say “no”.

    Btw, does she have a lot of money? People will do almost anything to stay in good with hopes of a payoff?

  • I’m dealing with the photo thing right now (daughter getting married in November).

    Ex is throwing a token amount of cash at the wedding, I’m handling ALL the logistics (flowers, centerpieces, wedding arches, place cards, signage, you name it).

    But the daughter is INSISTING on that one goddamn photo of her bio father and I on one side, groom’s married parents on the other. Total nightmare.

    I told her I’ll look like the dour wife in the American Gothic portrait….she ain’t gonna want it in her album…

    • You can say no. If what they want is a record of the parents, take two pictures. One with you and the inlaws. One with him and the inlaws.

      • When my son was married the couple took one picture with her parents and one with x and me. I stood on one side beside my son, x stood on the other side by son’s wife. It was ok

    • Don’t forget to have him seated at a different table from you. Or if you must be at the same table, he doesn’t sit next to you and preferably you can’t see him easily.

      • Since I’m doing the seating plan and place cards, he and the Twatwaffle he ran off with are seated as far away from me as possible, next to the kitchen door!

        • Muah-ha-ha! Can you have them seated next to the lavatory instead? I’d rather they endured that ambiance than getting food or drinks spilled on them. The waft of intestinal distress…

  • I’ve learned to be careful about whom I invite to my gatherings. some invitees have no problems dissing the host(ess) and worse, just causing problems during the party. You can’t do a party over.

  • I have found the expression ‘that just would not be appropriate’ a good catchall line when my children expect me to take the high road but not their father. I’ve been the Gumby in this family. And I’m over it. I have willingly given up attending events because I wouldn’t eat the shit sandwich. I don’t raise my voice. Don’t make it a crisis. Don’t threat. They now know I won’t show if they are going to force a make nice-nice social event. The thing is – my kids want me there more. And the AP seems to not want to come anymore now. I truly can’t stand his face but I don’t want to be hurtful to our children by saying that. So if I don’t want to go, I just tell them it would be inappropriate. It’s code for don’t ask that of me.

  • So relevant. Big moments are exactly when asshats create drama. Over the course of many years divorced x has been absent, except for those big occasions. Then he shows up like the sparkly actor he is, with owife on his arm, and pretends I give a damn. Graduations, weddings. He is all about appearances. He absolutely blew up our lives. Personally and Financially. Just this week he dared to show up at my home. WTF? I have been NC with him for many years, even though we have three children together. Daughter’s wedding is coming up soon and he needs the drama and triangulation with all our kids…. Healthy boundaries CN. Keep the advice coming.

    • Carol – The ex and her new spouse ARE invited to the son’s wedding. That isn’t what this letter is about.

      “I have been No Contact with my ex for several years now. Our son is getting married next June and I AM THROWING A LAVISH ENGAGEMENT PARTY for him and his fiancé in August (he is my only son). I am planning everything and paying for the whole event. I have invited all my family members including extended family, friends and anyone else I can think to invite.

      My son said he would like me to invite my ex to the party. I told him she was not invited as I have no desire to see her (plus she will totally ruin my fun). This engagement party came about because my son said I cannot invite people to the wedding (they have a strict list of 100 people), but I COULD HAVE A SEPARATE GATHERING OF MY CHOOSING. Since I am hosting the party, I get to make the guest list.”

  • Man, weddings bring out the worst shit. If I ever get married again, I’m eloping. No family, no friends, no problems.

    It seems like this engagement party is more for OP than it is for her son and his fiancé. That’s fine. She’s hosting it, she’s paying for it, and she’s making the guest list. Her son knew and agreed to that. I’m not sure he should have, if it was going to make him uncomfortable to participate in events at which one of his moms was not welcome.

    At basically every family event for years, my grandparents on my dad’s side, who have been divorced for decades, have played the “I won’t come if he’s/she’s coming” card. I don’t know if one of them was a cheater and frankly IDGAF, even after being chumped myself. It was 50 years ago, and I’m not going to choose between family members. My policy is, everybody is invited, and if they come fine, and if they don’t come fine.

    My advice to young folks is, don’t let your parents pay for your wedding if you hope to retain some kind of control of your guest list. Don’t let anybody buy the right to stress you out and contribute to drama. Have a small wedding, that you pay for, and only accept no-strings help.

    • My grandparents were divorced. He was the cheater. My grandmother would not agree to be in the same room with my grandfather. We accepted that.

      • What did accepting it mean for you? Did you have to pick which one of them to invite to family events? Did you have to exclude your grandfather from everything to ensure your grandmother’s presence?

        I won’t do that. Not my shit to unpack. They both get invited, and they can make their own grownup decision to attend or not attend.

  • I took a very firm stance on this subject right out of the gate with CL’s help. I did not and do not have joint celebrations for holidays, birthday parties, graduations, etc. Initially, I faced what you are facing. I was told by my youngest daughter that I was being unreasonable, it’s her birthday and she wants us all together, I’m being childish, I need to get past it and grow up, etc. I told her that she can most certainly enjoy a celebration with her father and his new wife (OW) that they plan for her. He made choices that have a direct impact on what was our family. His poor choices are not my problem. And that is that. Too bad, so sad.

    Don’t cave on this or you will forever be subjected to the drama. Certain big life events, like weddings present unpleasant circumstances that warrant you being in her presence. It sucks but you can get thru those.

  • Threatening not to show up for the wedding because she’s not invited to an engagement party is incredibly manipulative.

  • Funny, they discard us to go off chasing rainbows and make us feel left out and rejected. As soon as the shoe is on the other foot, however, they cry foul. How dare we leave them out? How rude. I am sure Kathy’s ex never considered her feelings when she was the one doing the rejecting. Cheaters are just empathetically challenged that way.

    When the divorce was ongoing ex said he didn’t mind me continuing to have a relationship with his family but he didn’t want to be around us at the same time. A year later I hosted a birthday party for our daughter. He was invited to that as he is her dad and she wanted him to come. His family was also invited and planned to come but had to cancel last minute due to an emergency event. Ex came to daughter’s party but only stayed for 30 minutes or so. Meanwhile I invited his family to joint us for brunch the next day instead. I wasn’t sure they were going to be able to make it until they showed up, but they did show up and we had a great time catching up and the cousins had fun playing together. It was lovely. Then they went home. A few hours later I got an angry text from Ex wondering if he had missed the invitation to have brunch with his family at my house. He was hurt and confused as to why he hadn’t been invited. I explained that he hadn’t been invited because I wasn’t sure they were going to show up until they did and because he had previously told me that he didn’t want to be around us all at the same time. Unspoken was that I wasn’t about to invite Schmoopie and I didn’t think she would be too happy to have him come without her. The part that gets me is that I actually felt guilty for not having thought to invite him. I can’t think why I felt guilty except that I felt bad about having made him feel the way he had made me feel. I guess I am still a bit of a chump when it comes to those things. I’m working on that.

    • PS. In the text he asked “have I offended you in some way?” Gosh, what could he possibly have done to offend me?

  • On the subject of photographs–there will be a zillion of them taken and you never have to see one if you don’t want to. What almost all young people want on the wedding day is a photo with their bio parents. It will take maybe 90 seconds of your life and will eliminate 100% of the “bitter bunny” talk. I don’t see the photo as a hill to die on. It might help to think of all the photos you’ve ever had taken with classmates, colleagues, teammates, etc., in which you don’t even know half the people. It’s a keepsake for you daughter or son, two people they love in one photo. That’s just my own perspective. I’ve been to weddings as a stepmother and observed that the photo shoot is awful for a million reasons. Now–sitting at the same table, in the same pew with a Schmoops, dancing together, posing for casual shots–no no nopety nope.

    • This is so on point. Important to remember that the wedding isn’t about you and your ex and the photos aren’t for you. If the kids want you to stand side by side and smile for the camera, it’s not such a big deal that anyone needs to create issues around it.

      For all the drama and money spent on those photos, what really happens to them? Gathering dust somewhere in the back of the closet for most people. All these “critical” things are really so unimportant in the grand scheme of things as life quickly rushes forward to other events, changes, etc.

      As for your party, it’s your party. Probably high time to have a sit down talk with your daughter about meddling in everyone’s business – yours, your ex’s, her brother’s. Nip that in the bud. Stirring up drama is not the best trait to carry forward in her life. I also like asking her why she is engaging in this behavior, what’s eating at her, and listening carefully and addressing it. Even adults need wise advice or a good smack upside the head from time to time.

      • The photo may take 90 seconds but then the ex has that photo for impression management forever!
        He can look at it and tell himself he was a good husband and father or he can show it to others and have them think the same.
        We aren’t a family anymore by his choosing so we won’t be a pretend family even for the time it takes to snap a photo.

  • My younger daughter graduated from Professional school. Ceremony was held at a large Symphony Hall. Ex sat right behind me. I sucked it up, but lost it when his cheater came in and sat behind me. My older daughter had a fit and said I made a scene, when in actuality who invited the cheater’s slut ? They could of sat anywhere else in the 3000 seat venue but they had to sit behind me. My mother in law, who i am on good terms with, made the scene by asking who is that lady. I knew it was his affair partner. Older daughter later had the nerve to defend her father by saying “for the record they were not dating when you were married. That i need to rise above it”. According to who’s record? She kept saying i had to get use to it for future weddings and birth arrivals. In what universe?

    • You ‘lost it’ at her grad? It’s so hard for the kids. They don’t deserve to be in these shit shows. It is their big day and all the bitterness gets dragged into it.

      • Clarification who made it a shit show? Lost it meaning I got upset. Graduate was unaware because she was fellows graduates preparing for commencement. She never knew what happened. I kept everything separate why could not he? Older Daughter made the scene by protecting ex and telling graduate what happened! Who was being the asshole!

    • Pancake, I understand your upsetness. But here is why they came and sat behind you – it is because they suck. Remember CL’s mantra “Trust that they suck”. Once that is internalized, it actually helps – because one is not horrified or upset at their behavior. They do suck. They could have sat elsewhere easily.

    • They sat behind you to unnerve and intimidate you. Finding another seat with quiet dignity and without giving any eye contact or acknowledgement to the cheating pair is the winning move here.

      These are the sorts of ambush situations that Narcs thrive on and that chumps need a pre-prepared script and/or action plan for!

      • I arrived at my son’s university grad and thankfully sat by myself with a seat with someone already behind me lol. After the grad I was told by son that there was a restaurant dinner planned right after to celebrate. I was given NO notice of this. (They acted like it was done on the fly). But I overheard someone say that reservations had been made in advance. I politely declined going. There was some fur that flew, but I refuse to be treated like this.

  • i’ve been divorced for 5 years and i have never invited my ex to anything i’ve organised for our daughter. it would be uncomfortable for me and weird for everyone else.

    don’t let your ex triangulate you with your kids. you’re the boss.

  • This column is so timely for me! In the past few days I have had to endure BOTH a dinner with my daughter, her fiance, the fiance’s parents and my ex AND a baby shower for my daughter-in-law to which I invited my ex. Although I agreed to be with my ex in both situations, it was very difficult. I literally felt like I was going to have to excuse myself to go and be sick in the bathroom during the dinner. And I fought back tears at the shower, which I hosted, when my children were in a corner being all chummy and laughing it up with their dad. I was trying to make my children happy on both occasions, as they desperately want my ex and me to be friends and tell me that he really wants that, too. BUT I barely even spoke to or even looked at my ex on these two occasions. And my children do not understand. So he is succeeding in coming across as the “bigger” person, and I am questioning my resolve and motives. So thank you for this column at this time! (And the Brigadoon reference made me spit out my coffee when I burst out laughing!!) I sat down with my 2d daughter the other night and tried to explain to her that NO CONTACT is the healthiest choice FOR ME. (I have asked if they would expect me to interact with their father if he had physically abused me.) This daughter told me that she understands my position and feelings, but I don’t think that she really does. I don’t think any one of my kids gets it. And they now seem to be feeling more sorry for HIM and rallying around him. BTW . . . my ex have been apart for 5 years and divorced for 1 year. My ex is still with the OW, and I will face her for the first time at my daughter’s wedding in September.

    Another thought . . . I have been in a happy and committed relationship for the past 3 years. So why doesn’t this make a difference?? Should I thank my ex for releasing me to find this wonderful person? Should the fact that I ended up in a happy place mean that I can be friends with and “forgive” my ex? My children — and others in my world — seem to think so. But the opposite seems to be true for me. I am becoming more angry with and disgusted by my ex over time, not less. It feels like the scales finally are falling from my eyes and that the full extent of his betrayal over 37 years and his treatment of me during divorce negotiations are finally sinking in. It was too difficult for me to truly SEE it before. But now I do.

  • This is actually not unusual – to digest and understand things over time. Some people need time to process. Don’t go into big explanations with your kids. Just that cheating is very abusive and you are willing to be polite but for your emotional health and integrity you cannot be friends. Just hold the line and get a good therapist if you have not seen one already. You are a full human being too and your feelings are valid. Do your children know he cheated?

  • I don’t know how these cheaters are able to get people to pity them, but they do. It’s amazing. It’s a weird twisted talent of being able to get into people’s brain- including their own children.

    I would just tell your children that XW “chose her own path and we are separate in all ways including this party” and be done with it. You don’t have to debate your kids about this stuff. Your X is using the kids to carry her water for her and plead her case to you. It’s abuse and you don’t have to put up with it. Just tell them “discussion over !”. Bam.

  • I guess if you’re really clear this is a party for you to celebrate your son’s marriage. If it were a party for your son then it would be odd if he didn’t have a say in it, but its not a party for him. And if it’s a party for you then your son is a guest. Hopefully he’ll have a lovely time, but he gets only the rights and responsibilities of a guest.

    What I’m saying is, you don’t get to both have your party and expect the kind of gratitude you might get if you set up a party for him.

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