Social Etiquette and Good Manners/Party with Husband's Ex Wife


QUESTION: My husband's son is having a birthday party for his daughter, himself and his  Mom, my husband's ex wife. This is the 2nd year I have not been invited with the reason that their mother does not want me there. My husband has been divorced from her for 17 years. He went last year without me and I was angry. I don't  want to repeat this agian. Dose his son have the right to not include me and should my husband be going without me?

In desparate need of advice!

ANSWER: Dear Tina,

Your Stepson has the right to invite whomever he wishes to an event when he is the host. His Mom will always have a more important place in his life than you will no matter how much he loves you and that's what you signed up for when you married his Father.  He is trying to keep the peace during the party and he knows that wouldn't happen if you were present.

I suggest you don't get angry. Instead plan a special evening out with a friend at the same time as the party and accept that this type of scenario will always happen when there are Step families. You choose to be angry so you can choose not to be and go to a spa. Don't be angry at anyone-including your husband. It is the dynamic of your relationship with your husband's ex that lead to this solution in your Stepson's mind. If you want to change it, make an effort to be friends with her so she hopes you will attend the next function. If you can't be friends, wish them a happy party and go make yourself happy.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: My follow up question is how can I change my relationship with Ex-wife if she refuses to even meet me? I have done nothing wrong or inappropriate to her other than being in a relationship with her ex- husband. I have always treated her son and his family respectfully and have never discussed her in front of them. The Ex still sees all of them as a family and no outsiders should be allowed which is me? I would never attend a function without my husband nor tell him he is not welcomed so why can't we just celebrate their birthdays in a separate function and different day?

Dear Tina:

Thank you for your follow-up questions.  In a perfect situation your husband would stand up to your son and insist he include you in any family celebrations since you are now family.  To exclude you is rude and mean. As I stated before, his reasoning probably resolves around not being able to stand up to his mother who still seems to have the power in this family dynamic.  Your husband is responsible for making sure you are treated well - which he is obviously not doing.  This is the result of nothing that you did or said.  It is a result of your husband and your step-son not having the backbone to stand up to her.

I suggest you take this to your husband and suggest that you make your own celebration for your Grandson without the ex.  If he doesn't agree, I would suggest again that you realize that this type of situation is going to be repeated if your husband doesn't step up and protect you.  In that case I refer back to my original suggestion - let them go to their party and you do something nice for yourself as a type of compensation for being the proper one.

To answer your question about what to do to make friends with the ex...I have a few suggestions.

1. When appropriate, like celebratory occasions (birthdays, holidays etc.) you send a card to her with warm wishes.
2. Invite her to participate in family gatherings you arrange.
3. Write her a note of thanks for a positive result for which she is responsible.

Be the one who is overly kind and outreaching directly to her.  When a woman divorces, often times her identity as a wife or mother goes with it and there is resentment that sets in for anyone who takes her place.  It isn't exactly personal - I mean it doesn't matter who you are - it is because you exist and are currently enjoying what she still thinks as the positive parts of her relationship with your husband.  If you can find it in you to treat her like a friend, have empathy for her and to find a way to show it, you have a better chance that she will feel less threatened by you.  You might even turn into friends for real. But even if you don't, you will have taken the high road and you can feel good about that.

Social Etiquette and Good Manners

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Cynthia W. Lett


Proper manners with friends,family,colleagues,neighbors and everyone else you know.


I have been an etiquette expert teaching and consulting on the subject worldwide since 1983. I started and serve as the Executive Director of the International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals and am considered a leader in the field of etiquette and protocol training and execution. I edited "Etiquette for Dummies" and have recently written "Lett's Talk - Everyday Etiquette Dilemmas and What to Do about Them". My book, "That's So Annoying:An Etiquette Expert on the World's Most Irritating Habits And What To Do About Them" was published in 2009 and is available wherever books are sold. I taught the Business Protocol class to Master's level students at the George Washington University, Washington, DC for seven years I served as Chief of Protocol for MCI Telecommunications for three years.

International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals, ASTD, PCMA, National Speakers Association

I have been quoted over 700 times in the past 5 years worldwide. Publications include Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Washington Times, NY Times, Washington Business Journal, USA Today, Associated Press, London Times, Newsweek Japan edition, Newsweek US edition and many many more.

I am a Certified Etiquette Professional (CEP) and Certified Protocol Professional (CPP) earned by examination through ISPEP. I have a Master's degree in hospitality law and undergrad degrees in Restaurant & Hotel Management and Public Relations/Interpersonal Communications from Purdue University.

Awards and Honors
Who's Who Worldwide,Who's Who of American Women, Distinguished Darden Professor (Purdue University).

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