Dear Dr. Jann: If my ex wants to invite his live-in girlfriend to my son’s Junior High graduation ceremony, isn’t it common courtesy to at least inform me about his intentions? I found out about it through my son. I don’t know her, never spoke with her and she’s living with my ex for several years now. I told my ex that the least he could have done is tell me about it. I would have liked it even better if she’d introduced herself to me. Angrily I told my ex not to take her. Please advise.
Dr. Jann says: Under the circumstances you have described, it was your ex’s responsibility to set up the meeting — not hers. Actually, before she moved in, your ex should have called you, told you that his relationship with her had progressed to the point that she’s moving in and “in the best interest of the children,” he would like to initiate a meeting so all could maintain a degree of cordiality in front of the kids.
Now to answer your direct question… what does your son want? It’s his graduation. If he has a relationship with her, he probably wants her to go. But, if you haven’t spoken to her, he may be juggling some allegiance issues — “If I invite her, mom might get angry.” Perfect example of how avoiding the situation might have been the answer for the adults, but not the kids. It puts them in the middle — you even said it, “I found out about it through my son.” Shame on all of you for putting him in that position.
At this point I suggest adults meet before the ceremony. Find a comfortable public place — coffee, for example, and do your best to set your differences aside. This will take the edge off of a sudden meeting on a day that’s supposed to be a congratulatory day for your son. When you see each other at the graduation it can be about your son and his accomplishment, not about her meeting “the ex” or you, meeting your ex’s partner.
Life after a break-up isn’t easy — especially if the break up is not amicable (most aren’t) and it puts us in all sorts of situations that we would like to avoid. But, initiating positive interaction — even if it only superficial, for the sake of the kids, isn’t something that can be put on the back burner. Fix this now so you don’t have to write to us about what to do at your son’s high school graduation. Time heals wounds, but it also flies.