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Question

I have been divorced for 20 years. The pain inflicted on me still stays with me after 20 years. I had to manage my two young children with a low income by myself with occasional threats from him. There was zero father love from him plus emotionally poisoning the children with lies about me.

One of my sons is getting married in a few months. My son is going to invite my ex-husband to the wedding and have him sit at the same table with me. I have told my son I am not attending if his father is attending. My son got annoyed and said I am threatening him and having a pity party. I’m terribly upset and feeling sense of betrayal.

I spent years raising my children having to sacrifice my best years, devoting everything to them, and now it’s all down the drain. I realize I have no support and my children do not understand the pain that was so deep. Please help. I have no one to turn to.

Answer 

I recognize that none of this is fair. You put in all of the hard work raising your son into a man and then your ex-husband gets to swoop in and receive recognition as the father. No one will know the real story and it will be painful for you to watch the hypocrisy.

Obviously, your son can’t understand what this is like for you. He doesn’t even know the full story. All he knows is that he wants the two people who gave him life at the same wedding to celebrate this important milestone in his life.

You sacrificed a lot for your kids while you were raising them in your home. As painful as this is to say, I need you to see that the sacrifice doesn’t stop once they leave the home. They are still your children and they still need you to sacrifice for them. I realize it’s a lot to ask because you really want them to understand what you’ve done for them all of these years.

You don’t want to lose the part of you that is capable of love and goodness. Betrayal can easily strip you of those qualities. The bitterness can overtake you. However, it doesn’t have to. Protect the part of you that is still capable of gratitude, goodness, and love. It doesn’t mean throw away your boundaries with your ex-husband. It means that you allow your love for your son to overpower any resentment and acrimony you feel toward your ex-husband.

Your son needs you to put aside your hurt and bitterness for one evening so you can show up as the mother that he honors and loves. I know it’s painful to have the uninvolved father at the same table as you. You know the truth about the situation, as does your son. His father wasn’t available to him growing up.

You don’t have to defend or prove anything. Your sacrifices and legacy are written in the hearts and minds of your children. You can show up that evening knowing that you were the one who was there for them all of those lonely days and nights. This is a deep satisfaction that only you will feel. His father will feel something different. He might lie to himself and others pretending that he was more involved in his son’s life. Stay in the truth and the light and you will have peace.

This won’t be the last time that your ex-husband shows up at family events. When there are grandchildren, parties, and other gathering times, you will have to face him. He can’t hurt you. You have succeeded in raising your children and launching them into the world.

If it helps you feel more comfortable, ask your son to seat you separately from his father at the table. You might even bring a friend to keep you company so you don’t have to feel so vulnerable. Do what you need to do so the night can be a success. Go and claim your rightful place as the mother who did something difficult and magnificent by giving your life for your children.

 

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com

 About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:
Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT