Question: Our marriage of over 20 years broke up 25 years ago. My problem is that even though we have two children together, and they were teens when my husband left to be with another woman, he wants nothing to do with me. Although I forgave him a long time ago, he still does everything he can to avoid me. Our granddaughter recently had a birthday party and he wouldn’t go because I was going to be there. I guess, in short, I really have hurt feelings.
There’s no way I can talk him out of his “attitude” because he won’t talk to me. Even though years have passed, I still have difficulty not thinking about this and feeling sad. Any suggestions?
~ Sad Ex-wife
Dear Sad Ex-wife,
What a shame your ex-husband hasn’t been able to transition to a friendly or at least mutually respectful post-divorce relationship with you. It must put a strain on your children and grandchildren to have to worry about which of you they can expect at functions. My first thought is that he may still feel guilty over the breakup and doesn’t want to face you. If your ex is still with the woman he left you for she might object to being around you and also be ashamed of their earlier behavior.
On the other hand, he may see the past differently and not think he was at fault and in need of forgiveness. He might resent you for feeling wronged. If you have remarried or have a significant other your ex might even have some jealous feelings he doesn’t know how to deal with so he avoids the whole situation. Since he refuses to discuss it you may never know why he continues to avoid you after being divorced longer than you two were married.
There must have been mutual attraction at the beginning of your relationship and you have a lot of history together as well as the two children so I understand your sadness. You may have to just accept that your ex is unable to cope with being around you. As long as you’ve let your progeny know you’re happy to be cordial to your ex and willing to attend the same events, I don’t think there is much else you do to move forward. I hope you can continue to enjoy your children and grandchildren and not be too sad over something you can’t change.
Sharon Weisman, Atheist/Agnostic/Secular humanist/Free thinker
Dear Sad Ex-wife,
I am so sorry to hear about your situation. It is certainly a sad state of affairs when someone cuts family out of their life, especially when they share children and so much history. However, the only person you can control is you.
Ultimately, you cannot force or cajole your ex-husband into being a part of your life if that is not his will. Further, if it is his desire to stay away, you should respect that for your sake as much as his.
My advice to you is threefold. There are actions you can take to alleviate sadness, one of which you have already taken. You have forgiven him. Forgiving him for his transgressions as well as for keeping away, for not talking to you, for removing you from his life, will allow you to truly accept the situation and heal.
Second, you must realize he is in pain as well to act as he does and have compassion for him. You can and will be upset with him, which is completely understandable, but holding a grudge does not serve you at all.
Offering forgiveness and compassion may seem like you are giving something to someone they don’t deserve. But this is as much or more for you. It will heal your heart.
Finally, and most importantly, stop thinking you can change his mind and focus on caring for yourself and your family. Leave your ex-husband to do what he feels comfortable doing. Making too much of an effort to communicate with him may ultimately make things worse. You can and should keep him in the loop with regards to family events and life cycles. Include him on invite lists and, if he decides to attend something, be as kind as you can. With luck, he may eventually soften and reestablish a relationship of some sort. However, there is no guarantee and you must realize there may be nothing you can do to change the situation.
If he chooses to remain distant, you will still feel sadness. I am not suggesting that feeling will go away immediately. Accept it, confront it, admit that you will feel sad for a while and that is okay. However, doing these three things – forgiving as you have done, offering compassion and moving on – will bring you closure and eventually lead you to happiness again.
Joshua Lewis Berg
QUESTION: Our grandson, the eldest of three, graduates from high school this coming June and, because of his excellent grades, he has several options for college. He has selected a college back east and his mother, our daughter-in-law, is trying to talk him out of it because she doesn’t want him to be that far away from home. His father supports him in attending the college of his choice. This has created an uncomfortable situation because we, as grandparents, support him attending the college of his choice as well.
Suggestions that will help us have a reasonable, harmonious conversation with our grandson’s mother are welcome.
~ Supportive Grandparents
Dear Supportive Grandparents,
I’m a mom, and I can understand the concern of the mother not wanting her son to be far away from home. And I realized as a mom when I had to put my baby in childcare and go back to work that I was the birth mother and that it does take a village to raise a child. Understanding the mother’s concerns is a good start to her opening up to accepting that she has raised a smart person. Knowing he is capable of making good choices for his life because of her parenting might also help alleviate her concerns. It certainly will be an adjustment, and her son can help with the adjustment by staying in touch frequently with his parents and visiting when he can. Also the parents can plan visits to see where he will be and what he will be doing.
Rather than arguing or trying to convince her, just listening and understanding another person’s feelings can cause a win-win for everyone. Praising her for the way she has raised her child to be his own person and for his wanting to step out into the world of great possibilities could help her mentally and emotionally move away from any fears of the unknown (being separated, things bad happening, etc.). When you allow your children to make their own choices and learn from them (good or bad choices) they learn to be strong, responsible, productive, happy people. Speak of delightful anticipation of what great things are to come for his future (and who knows – his success could help support his family in the future!).
Put love in the center of these dynamics and things will turn around. Love never fails, in any situation. Congratulations on the success of your grandson’s future.
Laney Clevenger White, Religious Science Practitioner
Dear Supportive Grandparents,
Your grandchildren are very lucky to have loving grandparents like you who are deeply concerned about their well-being. Choosing the right college is a key decision in a young person’s life involving many factors such as academic programs, type of campus, ability to handle life on their own, family finances, etc. However, my first and foremost suggestion for a fruitful discussion is to recognize your boundaries as grandparents. Taking sides with your son on an issue between the parents and their child will be a source of great discomfort for your daughter-in-law. Your involvement can further exasperate the situation and be detrimental to your son’s family making a sound and harmonious decision on their private deliberations.
God has given each generation specific parental responsibilities in the context of a loving and supportive extended family. Enjoy the joyous perch of grandparenting to love and spoil your grandchildren without the responsibility of tough choices that come with being a parent.
Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge