Dear Annie: In 1988, I had a wife and three beautiful children. Then my wife decided to be “liberated.” She wanted to spread her wings and be independent. She engaged me in a particularly acrimonious divorce and lived on child and spousal support until she discovered that being independent was not working for her. She remarried and moved my children hundreds of miles away, effectively excising them from my life, even though she admits I was a great father. Needless to say, I harbor considerable animosity toward her.
I’ve since remarried a wonderful woman. My children are grown and starting their own families. I recognize that I must endure the unpleasantness of having to see my ex at my children’s weddings, etc., but I never expected that my brother and sister would invite my ex to their own children’s weddings and other family functions.
I feel that because my ex divorced me, she is no longer a part of my family and should not be invited to attend family gatherings. I have made this point very clear to my siblings, along with the fact that seeing my ex causes me significant pain. Further, my new wife feels she’s being upstaged by my ex at these events. Yet, my siblings insist on including this woman.
Is it unrealistic for me to believe that when my ex divorced me, she also divorced my family? Am I expecting too much to ask that my siblings not embrace the woman who devastated my life?
— Divorced in Oregon
Dear Oregon: Sorry to say, but what your siblings do is not something you can dictate. Their children may still consider this woman to be their aunt, and their relationship to her does not include the bitterness and rancor you are hanging onto.
Please let it go. Allowing your ex to rattle you after all these years gives her power over you. You don’t have to enjoy her company, but you can work on making her presence insignificant.
Dear Annie: Two years ago, my father and his wife became irritated with me and cut me out of their lives. When I became pregnant several months later, they got back in touch because they wanted to be a part of the baby’s life.
My husband recently returned to college, and so we moved back into my mother’s house in order to save money. This angered my father and his wife, who said I am a bad mother and need to grow up. They shut me out again.
My parents have been divorced for a long time. I was never close to my father or his new family. Dad is not a particularly nice guy, but I feel I should keep in contact. Now I’m wondering whether it’s worth trying to mend this relationship, or should I just admit it’s toxic and cut my losses?
— Had Enough in Michigan
Dear Michigan: This doesn’t have to be either-or. You don’t have to turn yourself into a pretzel to stay in his good graces, but you also don’t need to cut him out entirely. Send him photos of the baby. Invite him to the birthday parties. But otherwise, limit contact and learn to ignore his criticisms.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Too Late To Try Again,” whose relative cut her off without explanation. The same thing happened to me.
I attended a family reunion in Michigan four years ago. A cousin’s wife was the organizer, and I thought she did a great job. The next year, I didn’t receive an invitation. I contacted the wife, who blocked me on Facebook. I then contacted my cousin, who said, “The invitation was probably lost.” But when it happened the next two years, I knew it was intentional.
I haven’t a clue what I did, but I’m glad I read that column. It saved me years of frustration.
— Thankful in Kansas
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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