Ex Still in the Picture
Dear Annie: About two years ago, my wife of 20 years, "Cynthia," and I divorced. Our two children are grown and out of the house. Our divorce wasn't the norm; we did it without a lawyer or mediator. Everything was civil; no one cheated or was abused. I think we both just changed over time.
About four months after the divorce, I met another woman, "Beth." Having already had my cry, I decided to give it a shot. Long story short, we were great for each other, and now, a year and a half later, we're engaged.
The problem is that Cynthia doesn't really have a family other than mine. My sister and the rest of my family are sympathetic to Cynthia and want to include her. I don't mind being around her, but the awkwardness comes in when Beth and Cynthia attend the same family events. Beth understands that it's unavoidable during big occasions, such as weddings and funerals. But she feels that it isn't normal for Cynthia to be around for our casual family gatherings, which are more frequent. She feels that once people divorce, they should start to move on with their lives and shouldn't hang around an ex's family gatherings.
I'm very torn. I want Beth to attend these events. However, if I asked Cynthia to stop being around so much, it might get back to my family, and then Beth and I would be deemed as spoilers in the family. But she may already be seen as an outcast by excluding herself from these gatherings.
Is Beth having anxiety over nothing, or should I ask my ex not to be around so much? -- Ex In or Ex Out
Dear Ex In or Ex Out: Your ex-wife was a part of your family for 20 years, and that bond doesn't disappear once the ink dries on the divorce papers. It's understandable that she wants to stay in touch with her former in-laws, and it's understandable that they want to include her. But it's important that your fiancee really get to know and love your family, and she's having a hard time doing so with your ex-wife around. Rather than disinvite Cynthia, talk to your family members about your concern and plan additional outings with just them and Beth. Once Beth feels more settled and secure with her place in the family, it will be easier for her to relax at family gatherings, even when Cynthia is there.
Dear Annie: My husband and I own a boat that takes tourists on short trips. Three years ago, he fell in love with the only woman on board. When I realized something was up, I said, "If she is so wonderful, what is stopping you from being with her?" Without hesitation, he said, "The age difference."
I have not been able to stop thinking about that every day for the past three years. I am becoming upset even writing this to you. She is not interested in him. I guess he is old enough to be her father. But what if he meets someone his own age? I think I'd better see my lawyer. What do you think? Should we get a divorce? -- Seasick
Dear Seasick: I can't tell you whether you should get a divorce based on your letter. But I can tell you that you can't keep living this way. One comment has been eating away at you for three years, and you need to put a stop to that before it swallows you whole. Have you tried talking to your husband? It's possible his comment was a joke, albeit a mean one. In any case, I'd strongly recommend a few sessions of marriage counseling so you can open up the lines of communication.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.