Divorce Advice: Dealing With Your Ex at Family Celebrations

By Jackie Pilossoph, Editor-in-chief, Divorced Girl Smiling, Love Essentially columnist and author

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.

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Jackie Pilossoph

Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

Divorce is a journey. Live it with grace, courage and gratitude. Peace and joy are on the way! Jackie Pilossoph is the creator and Editor-In-Chief of Divorced Girl Smiling. The author of the novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationships advice column, “Love Essentially”, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press and the Chicago Tribune online. Additionally, she is a Huffington Post contributor. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University.

10 Responses to “Divorce Advice: Dealing With Your Ex at Family Celebrations”

  1. Jim

    Hello… I have a real quick question I just got divorced in 02/18. I was told by my lawyer about getting my name back and he said there was really nothing he could do about it. I was reading and articular about a husband and wife and he was fighting about the last name and I guess she had a chose either give it up and use her maiden name or use his name for a cost a month. Is this true for Illinois??

    Reply
  2. Pat

    My husband and I are in our second marriage now for 23 years. We have attended our children’s weddings and now grandchildren’s birthday parties. Attending birthday parties are very stressful because of my husband’s exes dirty looks and her side of the family’s whispering and joking behind our backs. We feel like we are on a stage and everyone is watching us for entertainment rather than being their for the child. We are to the point that we would rather not go to the family parties but instead have a special day with our grandchild and take them somewhere we can celebrate their birthday just us. Our daughter is furious about it. We are at a point in our lives that we need to eliminate stress. Is it so horrible to have our own special celebration? We also feel by doing so it can bring our relationship with our grandchild stronger. Please help us.

    Reply
    • Jackie Pilossoph

      Isn’t it sad that after 23 years, the pettiness just continues?? I think you need to remove yourself from the toxicity. In other words, just dismiss them. Dont engage, don’t react, just pretend like they aren’t there. Just be polite, and focus on your kids and grandchildren. Don’t let pettiness take away from something so wonderful. It’s not easy, but just try to have a different attitude about them–like they just don’t matter. Because they don’t.

      Reply
  3. Emma K.

    Hi,

    When I met my now husband, he was already divorced for 6 years and his kids were already adults. However, when we got married, his kids still did not accept me, especially his eldest daughter. A year after we got married, his eldest daughter got married and a year after gave birth to a son. During the christening and photo session, I was not asked to join the photo session. They had a family picture as if my husband and his ex are still together. I felt bad and felt that I was an outsider. I told that to my husband after and he said he too felt so bad and awkward (he was the one who divorced his ex wife and can’t stand her) but he was doing it for his daughter. I thought to myself that he should have asked me to join the photo and let me stand by his side because we are already one. Am I right in my thoughts? I really felt so bad and thought that my husband did not stand up for me. I was trying to control my tears all throughout the christening. This time, we’re going to the christening again of his daughter’s second baby and I don’t feel like going. Please advice.

    Reply
    • Jackie Pilossoph

      I’m so sorry you are going through this. You have every right to feel bad and I feel disgusted with the kids. How thoughtless. You poor thing. Here’s the thing about your husband. I’m sure he felt terrible about the photos, but he probalby feels extremely guilty for getting divorced–only because of his kids. And sadly, (and while it isn’t right) that guilt will probably never go away. The kids sound really selfish and not thoughtful. My advice to you is to be strong and hold your head up high. You are his WIFE!!! Don’t be mean, but be confident and classy. Act like a leader, like you have every right to be there. And don’t let those kids bother you. they are just thinking of themselves and they are protecting their mother. It’s not personal. They would act like that with any woman your dad married. xoxoxo

      Reply
  4. John

    Hi I was married over20 years my wife and I divorced after a very intense breakup. I was forced to leave the house. My wife dragged me through the courts and turned the kids against me. Few years on and the kids are now talking to me, however I do not get asked or invited to any family functions. My family will always get involved with my children when they call. My ex seems to have poisoned them and they are in fear of doing anything different. They have the last 9 years with her at Christmas and New year, and birthday parties.
    It’s soul destroying and cuts to my core that I for over 20 years looked after, cooked and earned to keep the family and kids. I know believe my ex suffers from narracistic and personality disorders of some sort. Who would do that sort of thing through spite. Denying not only me a relationship with the kids and vice versa.

    Reply
    • Jackie Pilossoph

      Im so so sorry for your situation and I hear you. I know other people who have gone through what you are. YOu hang in there and just keep being the best dad you can be. I am so disgusted by your ex’s behavior. It’s evil and selfish and very self-centered. She must have had some deep-seeded resentment and hatred that she decided to put onto you in the most hurtful way possible. She will have to work out what she did with God. You just keep living your life and loving your children. You will be fine. xoxo

      Reply

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