I want to offer divorce advice to men and women who are in one of these situations:
- They have a child getting married, who is having a wedding.
- They have a grandchild on the way, which will bring showers and religious gatherings such as a briss, baptism or christening.
- They have a pre-teen having a Bar or Bat Mitzvah.
Or, even if they are simply having a little kid’s birthday party.
These and other family celebrations force a divorced couple to possibly plan the event together, to see each other at the event, and most likely interact if it’s a religious service.
If the couple has a bad relationship, and possibly feelings of anger, bitterness or resentment towards one another, one of these upcoming events can cause fear, anxiety, sadness and other difficult feelings for one or both of the divorced people. It’s a lot of pressure and it isn’t easy for most divorced people.
So you don’t think I’m standing on a soap box judging, and telling you how you should act towards your ex at a family celebration, I will tell you that I just experienced my son’s Bar Mitzvah this past weekend, an event that included my ex, his wife, stepson, parents and other family members.
I have to say, minus a table number mix up nightmare at the party, it was a perfect day, and possibly the best day of my life. And, not for one moment did I focus on the fact that I was divorced, the semi-awkwardness that might have been in the air, or any negative feelings. It was all about my son. It was HIS day. It was a celebration. It was not about me or us.
Here are 10 things to tell yourself before and during the event if you have a moment of weakness, and if you are feeling insecure or bad in any way:
- Today is my son/daughter’s day. I am going to relish in the happiness and not focus on the past.
- Everyone here is focused on my child, not my divorce.
- If my ex in-laws choose to be rude or cold to me, I will not let it bother me. That is their choice and they will have to live with their bitterness. I don’t, which is why I am going to be me, and be my kind self, no matter what.
- Regardless of all his/her issues, my ex loves our child.
- I look beautiful, I am beautiful and I am going to stand tall and proud of my child.
- I am going to grit my teeth (during the planning) and every decision I make will be made with my child’s best interest at heart.
- I would never make a scene because that would hurt my child.
- I will not drink too much because that might cause more emotion and drama.
- I feel immense gratitude for the day and nothing else, not even if my ex left me for the woman he is here with today, along with their new baby.
- I will have fun no matter what, because celebrations are precious and we should take our joy and happiness to the fullest.
Here’s the thing. When you get divorced and you have kids, you are “stuck” with your ex pretty much forever, provided your kids have children of their own. With celebrations that go from little kid birthday parties to Bar/Bat Mitzvahs to confirmations to engagement parties to showers to weddings and to events celebrating the births of their children, there is no doubt you will see your ex. How you choose to handle things is up to you. You can bring in bitterness and hostility, or you can forget about the past, be kind and courteous, and focus on the celebration going on during the present.
I personally found myself very emotional (in a good way) and as strange as it seems, I felt like my ex and his family were still family. And they are (to my kids.) I hugged them, I was kind and polite, I included them in speeches, and I just kept thinking of how happy my son was that they were there.
If you and your ex are in a really bad place and it seems like you are arch rivals, think of a family celebration as a time out, a day when the two of you are on the same team, rooting for your teammate—your kid. It’s a shame people can’t have this philosophy all the time. Some people can, but the reality is, some cannot.
But, if you can find it in your heart and manage to throw some rice or give a speech together for ONE DAY, you are not only doing something great for your kid, you will find that YOU have a better time, and you will feel gratitude and really be able to engage in the pleasure and elation of the occasion.