Dear Amy: Over a decade ago, I escaped an extremely emotionally and sometimes physically abusive partner and proceeded to raise kind, compassionate, and successful children on my own.
Now in adulthood, all but one has established a relationship with this pretty much absent parent, who now wants to stage a get-together that includes my new spouse and myself.
tap here to see other videos from our team.
I use the word “stage,” as my ex has continued to demonstrate manipulative behaviour that has hurt me and my children.
They have succeeded in creating quite a wedge between me and my middle child. They love to create scenarios where they are in control, and they know me well enough to push my buttons.
While I have the strength not to show anything but a pleasant reaction, it hurts to be near them.
I do not want to go to this get-together but feel pressured. My children see it as a step forward for all of us to heal and be a big and happy family.
I have done my best not to disparage my ex. If I don’t go, the ex will use my refusal to make me look bad. If I do go, I will endure my past trauma being stirred up again, while my ex gets to look good. What should I do?
– Been There, Not Doing That
Dear Been There: One benefit of a breakup is being spared “get togethers” with the ex.
Many exes can manage happy, peaceful and inclusive family events, but for others (such as yourself), breakup is a liberation from having to be in your ex’s presence.
You should encourage your children to maintain whatever relationship they want to have with their other parent, but you should also explain to them that being someone’s child is vastly different from being someone’s ex. Your kids might find an understandable equivalent if you asked them if they would enjoy bringing their most painful breakup partner to a fun dinner with you and your spouse, all in the name of celebrating a happy reconciliation.
Your children need to understand that the way things are now (both of their parents in your separate spheres) is as close as you are ever going to get to being that “big happy family,” and that as far as you are concerned, that’s a pretty good result.
Always maintain a careful equanimity concerning your ex, but don’t cave. Manipulators love getting a rise out of people (it’s ammo!).
So steady on, no wobbles.
Dear Amy: My girlfriend (age 54) thinks it childish to introduce me as her boyfriend, and she doesn’t think I should introduce her as my girlfriend.
I’ve met all her family and most of her friends, and she has met mine.
We take many trips together and stay at each other’s houses weekly. We are intertwined quite nicely and communicate beautifully.
I totally disagree with her regarding this manner of address.
It’s certainly not a deal breaker, even though it offends me.
I’d respect and would like your opinion on this matter.
– Disappointed on the Cape
Dear Disappointed: Your question is a little unclear about what the actual issue is. If your SO (significant other) doesn’t want to be referred to as your “girlfriend” because she doesn’t want for people to see that you are in a committed, exclusive relationship, then that’s a serious relationship question that you two should discuss.
However, I can completely understand why a 54-year-old woman would not want to be referred to as a “girlfriend.” Far from being flirty and youthful, the term “girl” actually makes some grown women feel ancient (I assume being referred to as a “boy” might strike some men the same way).
I used to take issue with the term “partner” to describe a committed love relationship, but I’ve come around. Would this work for you two?
Dear Amy: I can completely relate to “Not Savvy.”
I too once had regular interaction with a person I did not like, but I couldn’t determine why I felt that way.
One day he said, “You don’t like me, do you?”
I paused and plunged in with, “Yes, you are right, and I am sorry. I can’t figure out why I feel this way. It makes no sense, you are great, yet I can’t get past my feelings.”
It turned out to be beneficial for both of us, as we now “knew” each other and didn’t have to pretend. In fact, this mutual honesty made us more comfortable.
Dear Tam: You showed a very “savvy” side.