"It may be time for a bit of bluff-calling, saying that you’re sorry, but you can’t attend without your partner"

Dear Virginia,

I divorced my wife 15 years ago, leaving her for another woman, whom I will be marrying this autumn. My wife blames my new partner entirely, and although she coped with her being present at my daughter’s wedding, she has insisted that my son – who’s getting married next month – doesn’t ask her to his wedding. My son says it will just cause too much tension. My children get on fine with my partner. My son will be very upset if I don’t attend, and I’ll be very upset if I must go without my partner. How do we resolve this?

Yours sincerely, Rodney

Virginia says

This seems a mad situation, particularly if your ex-wife has already managed to attend your daughter’s wedding with your partner present without having a complete nervous breakdown.

It may be time for a bit of bluff-calling, saying that you’re sorry, but you can’t attend without your partner. Say that she would feel it to be a tremendous slap in the face considering that she came to the last wedding with no mishap, and that she and your son are perfectly friendly on all other occasions. Your son may just be trying it on, trying to wriggle out of facing up to pressure from his mother.

He should stand up for himself and say that he wants his mother and father present, with whatever partners they have. And he should tell his mother that if she had got married again, wouldn’t she be horrified at being asked to leave her husband at home? Or he could suggest you split the event. You go to the wedding with your partner and then go home, leaving her to the drinks and reception. Or, of course, vice versa. I bet your wife would hate that plan – but she could hardly deny that it was completely reasonable, particularly if she were allowed to choose which half she attended. 

And where is your daughter in all this? How did she manage to pull off this coup during such a social minefield? Did she have a special method that she used to get your ex-wife to agree to come to her wedding?

Now, you could write your ex-wife a letter. It would have to be carefully worded because she’s obviously angry, wounded and irrational. But you could say how much you all appreciated the fact that, at your daughter’s wedding, you were all able to be in the same room together. It was due to her generosity of spirit, blah blah. You could also say that she is putting your son in a very difficult position by making these demands. He doesn’t want to hurt either of you, and wouldn’t it be charitable, just for a day, to put aside your differences simply for the sake of your boy?

I’m sure you have mutual friends, too, who could help put the squeeze on your ex-wife. There must be godparents who could start leaning on her, or uncles or aunts who are more detached.

Perhaps you could suggest (indirectly, of course) that one of your mutual male friends escort her to the wedding so that she doesn’t feel all on her own – which could be a bit grim if she imagines you and your new partner all lovey-dovey the other side of the room, while she’s just hanging about like a gooseberry.

I suspect that your wife will, if you apply enough pressure from all sides, give in in the end. She just wants to cause you as much grief and pain as she can at the moment – and then be hailed as the saintly martyr when she caves in.

Readers say...

You’re being selfish

I think it is time you start thinking of other people. Your (former) wife, understandably, does not want your partner to attend the wedding. Why should she have to “cope” with your partner’s presence a second time? Your son does not want your partner to attend, yet he very much wants you to be there. How upset will he be if you don’t go because your feelings are hurt? More importantly, have you actually asked your partner what she feels? I rather suspect that, if she is aware of the views of your son and former wife, she would not want to be present anyhow, and yet she will respect your decision to go. She can remain at home, with your ego safe in the knowledge that you have made a positive decision relatively quickly, as opposed to the 15 years it has taken you to decide to marry her.

John Bain

by email

Stop making it hard for them all

Fifteen years ago, you decided that you would break the solemn vows you exchanged with your ex-wife when you married her, even though she had remained true to hers. This caused her a huge amount of pain and distress, and put your children in a very difficult position. They love you because you are their father, but they don’t like what you did to their mother. They may seem to have coped with this, but at the cost of a great deal of stress and emotional upheaval. You are deeply in denial, both of the distress your selfish actions have caused and of the basic wrongness of what you did.

You will not really be able to resolve this until you start to see things from your ex-wife’s point of view, and stop using your children as pawns in the power games you are still playing against her. However, if you managed to do this, that could set you on the path to becoming a better husband for your wife-to-be, with whom you will again shortly be exchanging solemn vows.

Andrew Craig

Hartlepool

This should be your son’s choice

It is your son’s wedding, so his wishes should be paramount. So prepare yourself to be very upset and attend his wedding without your partner. The fact that you are about to marry her after 15 years is irrelevant. When you do, you must invite your son and his wife, to demonstrate that you have grown up.

Malcolm Howard

Banstead, Surrey

Next week's dilemma

My husband buys and sells things on eBay as a hobby. On the whole, he makes a profit, which is very useful. The problem is that he buys far more than he sells. He spends all the time on his computer getting “bargains” and then they pile up in our garage gathering dust. I could cope with this but now the garage is full and the junk is starting to invade our house. The dining room is starting to fill up. My husband says why not, because we never use it anyway – but I’m starting to feel angry and overwhelmed with my house being taken over by junk. What can I do?

Yours sincerely,

Betka

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