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Challenged Need Advice

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I have been divorced for 5 years and was married for thirteen years. I need some direct and honest feedback. 

Overall, I am proud of the way that my immediate family, my ex-spouse and I have handled everything, especially when it comes to the children. My ex-spouse and I celebrate the children's birthdays together and include all extended family. We attend the kids sporting events and school activities together (as opposed to sitting on separate ends of the field) and together welcome extended family members on both sides to join us. We share the occasional meal or a movie together (my kids, ex-spouse and myself). We are flexible with each other regarding giving the other parent time with the kids when there is a special occasion with the other family. We handle the holidays well (even though I generally cant remember who had what time with the kids during the prior years holiday's - I trust my ex to remember who had who and when and we plan accordingly). Heck, we are even contemplating taking the kids on a vacation together (separate sleeping arrangements of course). This would really make the kids happy and honestly I would look forward to it too, while being a little cautious at the same time.

So, overall, I am happy with things. Grateful even.

However, I still feel that there are boundaries that are being crossed that I am not comfortable with. 

I have stated to my family that when we have a special "family event" that it be done without my ex-spouse. That is just how I feel. Not sure I have a great reason for it....it is just what I am comfortable with. There are reasons were got divorced. Even though I have clearly communicated this boundary, it has not been followed. 

I am not invited to my ex-spouses family events. That is not a problem and not the reason that I do not want my ex-spouse to attend my own family's events. There are no pay back issues. In fact, I don't like being around my ex in-laws. But I tolerate them (slightly) for the kids sake.

There are specific examples of why I think boundaries are being crossed. I had a cousin visit from overseas and they were staying with my parents for a couple of days (about two miles from where I live and in the same neighborhood as my ex-spouse....a convenient arrangement). My immediate family planned to have a special get together and dinner to celebrate my cousins visit that was to occur during my ex-spouses time with the kids. As is normal for either of us to do, I sent my ex-spouse a text asking if I could have the kids for a few hours to attend the event with me. The response text was "your mom/dad invited me too so they can come when I do....Are you OK with that? If not I understand."

Frankly, when I read the text I was disappointed and a little angry. Not at my ex-spouse (they had done nothing wrong) but with my parents for a number of reasons. My parents did not speak with me about it first (although they TOLD me they had invited my ex after I sent the text to my ex and received the reply). Truth be told, I don't think my parents should even be asking me that in the first place - I have clearly stated my stance on the matter. I also looked a little.....how do I say it....a little foolish (and possibly inconsiderate) for requesting the kids only and not knowing my ex had also been invited. My parents did not follow my stated wishes. yeah.....I know.....I cannot control what others do.

When my ex texted me if it was "OK with that", I did not respond to that question in my return text. I just said that I would meet them at my parents place. I felt that it should not have been something that was "dumped" in my lap in the first place and possibly look like a bad person to everyone involved. If I said "no, I am not OK with that" I felt like it would potentially cause some bad blood given the opportunity for my ex to think things over as time went on. Like I said, overall things are good and I don't want to ruin that. I did feel like I was walking a bit of a tight rope and needed to be careful in my response. This "issue" is between me and my immediate family and does not involve my ex-spouse.

This is not the only instance where this type of thing has happened. I once witnessed my mom/dad walk up to my ex-spouse and state they would be "honored" if my ex-spouse would attend a different family event. Honored? Really? It is bad enough (in my opinion) that they will not "honor" my request, but to treat my ex-spouse as some sort of dignitary?...that just seems a little differential and a little odd (but then again maybe I am being a little over dramatic in my description here).

There have also been instances where holiday plans were discussed (who celebrates with who on dates and times) without my involvement. The fact that everyone feels that it is appropriate to do this after a divorce is in and of itself a concern to me. But that is on both my parents and my ex-wife...I cant single out my parents on that one, but they are a participating party. Just another example......

I think you get the picture. 

Do I think my parents are generally TRYING to do their best under imperfect circumstances? Yes. Do I think my parents are consciously trying to undermine me? No. Do I think they should honor my stated request? Yes. Do I think they act with the best of intentions. Well.....yes for the most part. Am I afraid of hurting my parents by repeatedly stating my request? Yes (I do think they sense that I am put off by these situations - that is a problem that I worry about). Do I think they, for the most part, want to simply be courteous and friendly? Yes. Do I suspect that my parents are a little afraid of the possibility that if they do not do what they perceive that my ex wants that time with the grandchildren will somehow be limited? Well..Yes. 

This last point is an understandable concern (if it is indeed a concern). But given the fact that my ex-spouse and I freely account for special occasions and do our best to make the kids available to each other kind of negates that fear. This flexibility is not something that is hidden. It is a demonstrated fact to everyone. And we have joint custody. They don't HAVE to invite my ex-spouse to get what they want (time with grand kids) if indeed that is playing into things.

Possibly related to this and maybe a little off topic, I think it is worth noting that my parents did go well out of their way to make my ex-spouse feel a part of the family. They continue to do that and maybe overcompensate due to fear. They are genuinely nice people with a lot of class. But I don't think I ever saw things by my ex reciprocated other than a picture book of a trip to disney world as a present. Sure my ex-spouse did things like help with the dishes after dinner, but we all did that. Conversely, I think I set a good example. In the beginning, I treated her immediate family to a very nice dinner and took them to a beach property I owned. I genuinely enjoyed doing that, but it was never reciprocated that I can remember. I wasn't looking for something lavish or even really thought about it much; just something would have been nice. They just seemed to take and not give back. So I stopped. I guess it just runs in the family. That may have fed into a certain amount of insecurity on my parents part. Then again this may be just over analysis and psychobable on my part.

The bottom line is this. I want the opportunity to fully experience private family gatherings without my ex-spouse involved. While we all get along well and I am happy (and grateful) with things overall, there are reasons that we are divorced and that is an unfortunate fact. Ugliness has unfortunately raised it head a couple of times during weak moments since the divorce. I would like to think I forgive, but realistically I cannot forget.

So my questions are the following:

1. Is my line of reasoning as it relates to these examples is a little too rigid?

2. Am I being too rigid given the fact that my ex-spouse is still considered the Aunt of my nieces and nephews?

3. Should I just be grateful for how things are overall and just let things slide (at least in respect to the examples I have given)? Should I not even consider repeating the request from here on out?....I dont think so...

4. Am I giving mixed signals by accepting the attendance of my ex-spouse, who is the god-parent to one of my nieces, to that specific niece's birthdays? After much thought and discussion, I came to the conclusion that this is just the right thing to do. Would the other nieces and nephews be hurt if my ex-spouse attended one nieces birthday and not their own?.......my gosh this gets complicated. But I guess that is the nature of the beast.

5. Am I over thinking things?

I know this was long. Thanks for your patience. Looking forward to hearing from you.

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Dear Challenged,

I hear where you are coming from and you make many valid points. Your feelings are understandable. I don't think it would be unreasonable to request some family events do not include your ex-spouse. I can understand your parents and even extended family and yourself putting aside your differences for the children's sake. But I'm also sure the family will understand if there are times he can't come or if you don't want him to come to those events. At least, I hope so.

Take care and I hope others will have more to add.

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