Q. Two years ago, my husband left me for the “other woman” and is now married to her. For our children’s sake, I continue to invite him to events at my home like the kids’ birthday parties and Christmas present-opening.
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This year, when I asked my ex-husband to come over for one occasion, he asked if his new wife was also invited. I told him she was not welcome in my home.
Should I invite this woman into my home just because my ex-husband married her? Longer term, what kind of relationship am I expected to have with her?
A. Two years isn’t a very long time. It sounds like you are being a good egg about this situation. You have put your children’s needs above your own, and I applaud you for that. You have invited their father for all the occasions that kids want and need him there for.
As is often the case, when a spouse cheats, they want to absolve themselves from feeling guilty and blameworthy. Often, they try to push their attitude on the former spouse, claiming the situation turned out fine and everyone is happy with it.
I am guessing you had a bad marriage. Obviously, it would have been better for your husband to seek a divorce before cheating on you. But he didn’t.
After only two years, his betrayal probably feels very raw. It isn’t as though a decade has passed and you have somebody new in your life, in which case it would probably be easier for you to host this “other woman” in your home.
It’s perfectly reasonable to tell your former husband that, for the time being, it's just too soon for you. It’s unhealthy for everyone if you grit your teeth and entertain this woman while you seethe with resentment. He is welcome to come by himself, or not.
Still, you don’t want the children’s father to stay away altogether because you feel awkward or miserable about including his new wife in family occasions.
So hopefully, your ex-husband will be man enough to place the children’s needs above his own, and will tell his new wife that he will have to go alone for some occasions.
If your ex-husband isn’t altogether agreeable, he might be more amenable to a trade-off. You might get him to come over alone for the kids’ birthdays but stay away for holidays. Or you might get him on Christmas Eve but not on Christmas morning. Or he might make it alone to school events but skip events at your home.
Longer term, this kind of thing is an evolution. There are no rules for the kind of relationship you “should” have with the “other woman.” You might make peace with the situation by accepting and tolerating her, but there is nothing to say you need love and embrace her — or hate and despise her.
As you move on with your life, especially if you ultimately find someone else, her presence might not hold the same valence for you.
Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: There is no etiquette book for how to behave when it comes to the person your spouse cheated on you with. Negotiate as best you can for the sake of the children.
Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to TODAY. Her latest book is “Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie.” She is also the author of “Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts,” which helps parents deal with preschoolers’ questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, www.drgailsaltz.com.
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