Editor’s note: The following column was previously published in 2017.
Dear Annie: About two years ago, my wife of 20 years, “Cynthia,” and I divorced. Our two children are grown and out of the house. Our divorce was very civil; no one cheated or was abused. We didn’t even use lawyers.
About four months after the divorce, I met another woman, “Beth.” Having already had my cry, I decided to give it a shot. Now, a year and a half later, we’re engaged.
The problem is that Cynthia doesn’t really have a family other than mine. My sister and the rest of my family are sympathetic to Cynthia and want to include her. I don’t mind being around her, but the awkwardness comes in when Beth and Cynthia both attend.
Beth understands that it’s unavoidable during big occasions, such as weddings and funerals, but she feels that it isn’t normal for Cynthia to be around for our casual family gatherings, which are more frequent. She feels that once people divorce, they should start to move on with their lives and shouldn’t hang around an ex’s family gatherings.
I’m very torn. I want Beth to attend these events. However, if I asked Cynthia to stop being around so much, it might get back to my family, and then Beth and I would be deemed as spoilers in the family.
Is Beth having anxiety over nothing, or should I talk to my ex? – Ex In or Ex Out
Dear Ex In or Ex Out: Your ex-wife was a part of your family for 20 years, and that bond doesn’t disappear once the ink dries on the divorce papers. It’s understandable that she wants to stay in touch with her former in-laws, and it’s understandable they want to include her. But it’s important that your fiancee really get to know and love your family, and she’s having a difficult time doing so with your ex-wife around.
Rather than disinvite Cynthia, talk to your family members about your concern and plan additional outings with just them and Beth. Once Beth feels more settled and secure with her place in the family, it will be easier for her to relax at family gatherings even when Cynthia is there.
Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.