Ex-Etiquette

Q: My ex and I have been divorced for eight years. After a few growing pains, we've done pretty well in co-parenting. My 17-year-old son is graduating and would like to have one big family celebration. I, however, do not want a joint celebration. My family cannot tolerate the day with my ex-husband. I'm fine with it, but my father, who has been ill, still holds a grudge. My dad and mother can't move past things done and said years ago. This is upsetting my son and his father (my ex). What do I do?

A: Of course, you always try to be sensitive to others' feelings when planning a special occasion, but when you start to omit guests or alter the guest of honor's wishes for what extended family and friends want, that's a warning that it's time to take a look at your reasoning and consider making changes.

We are not surprised that your parents suggest you shun your ex. Celebrating together after a divorce is not the way they were raised. In their day, once divorced, Mom got custody, Dad paid child support and received visitation. Divorced parents fought for years. No one talked, or they certainly never made decisions together. But that is their life, not yours. You say you co-parent 'pretty well.' You have to match the parenting plan you have chosen for your son with the rules you live by. That means you may have to stand up to Mom and Dad and explain that you love them and appreciate their allegiance, but your son has been brought up to respect his father and you're doing what he has requested for his celebration. Time for Grandma and Grandpa to join the program for the sake of their grandchild.

We understand that Grandpa's been ill, and like your son, you respect your father; but he's also been holding a grudge for years, and that's not good ex-etiquette. And most studies you can read says grudges cause stress, and stress can make you sick.

The child has obviously moved past the drama and wants a stress-free life that includes all his loved ones. As host and hostess, your ex and you have the final say.

Jann Blackstone-Ford, M.A., and her husband's ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, are the founders of Bonus Families (bonusfamilies.com).