My grown daughter insists on trying to throw her father and I together at events even though we’ve been divorced for 20 years.
The problems arises when our daughter invites both us and our spouses to lower-key events, like summer barbecues or holiday parties. She has ambushed us at least three times in the past couple of years, by making it sound to each couple like the other one won’t be there. Shame on us for falling for it after the first time.
– Stop Making Me See My Ex!
Dear Stop Making Me See My Ex,
Ouch! That can be uncomfortable. Does she know how you feel? Is it like her to be deceptive? It’s important to speak up – and then, listen up.
Invite your daughter for a one-on-one chat. Share your feelings with her. Then ask her what her feelings are. Is she afraid feelings will be hurt if she invites one of you, but not the other? Is it connected to a refusal to “choose” a side, or a parent? There can be multiple reasons or underlying feelings behind her behavior. Take the time to be a good listener, respect her feelings and be open to what might be an uncomfortable discussion. Be her safe space and assume the best of her.
If your conversation isn’t fruitful, or if, after the conversation, she continues with the same behavior, you’ll need to decide what’s most important to you. Is it to miss out on time with your daughter and her friends, or to not have to see your ex? If you opt to see her less often, you can call her after the events and ask her how it went. This should help maintain the relationship.
Please consider going to the parties anyway. Choose a seat away from your ex-spouse, focus on helping, or have one-on-one conversations with other partygoers. While being with ex-spouses can cause anxiety, or stress, you may find ways of coping that make it less uncomfortable going forward.
I hope you can resolve this with your daughter. It sounds like you are one of the lucky parents who have adult children that want to keep them close. That is a great place to build a solution that’s best for you and your daughter.