SO's Family and Mine

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2009
SO's Family and Mine
9
Wed, 12-19-2012 - 3:40pm

I have been dating a man for almost four years, and this is the third Christmas since we became "serious."   My SO is a widower with three daughters (one married and out of state). I am divorced with a son and daughter.  All our children are in their twenties except the married daughter who is in her early 30s.  We are in our late 50s, early 60s.

My SO spends every Thanksgiving in another city with his late wife's family and his daughters.  I have not been invited. I would not go because I prefer to spend Thanksgiving with my kids, but I think they could have invited me this year.  My SO and i are practically living together.  His late wife's mother has met me and was very nice, so there is no overt resentment that he has found "someone else."

Okay, so the first Christmas we were going together, his entire family (married daughter and in laws) came to town and I hardly saw him.  I think I was invited to one dinner to meet everyone and that was that.  I was a little disappointed, but we had only been serious for about eight months, so I didn't mind too much.

Last year, I invited him and his in-town (unmarried) daughters to share our Christmas Eve.  His younger daughter returned the invitation for Christmas Day and my daughter and I had dinner on Christmas Day with my SO and the two girls. (My son was invited but chose not to attend.)

This year I again invited them to spend Christmas Eve with us.  But I found out yesterday that although the younger daughter is again preparing Christmas Day dinner for her family, I am not invited.  The reason given is that she is no longer living in her father's house (she graduated from college and got an apartment last May) and that her house is too tine for "a lot of people."  I do not think that my daughter and I are "a lot of people."  I hosted dinners of six or seven people in a smaller space when I was dating my ex-husband and his parents and sister came to town.  I don't think there is a big difference between 3 or 5 people.

It hurts that my SO's daughter is making it clear that she doesn't want to include me.  I don't expect her to love me, but our relationship has been cordial so far, and if my son and daughter can accept their father in my life and our holidays, his daughters ought to be able to accept me.  It hurts also that my SO has gone along with this.  I think he should have told his daughter that he couldn't come if I wasn't invited, that it was rude to exclude me.

Hie has also chosen not to spend the night with me on Christmas Eve but to leave my house "early" so he can attend Mass with his daughters in another part of town. He could just as easily have suggested we all (me and they) go to Mass together in a church that he and I attend most Sundays when he is at my house. That makes me feel like he wants to be with them more than he wants to be with me.

Though I understand that the girls don't want to be absorbed into my family, the fact remains that if their father and I continue as we have been going, we will become an extended family that includes me and my kids as well as them.  It doesn't have to be a close family relationship, but their father shouldn't have to choose between spending time with me and spending time with them.  And I don't like the choice he is making.

My SO has offered to have a late lunch with them (their "Christmas Dinner") and then come over to spend time with me.  I realize he is trying to please everyone, but I feel so hurt that I don't particularly want to make plans with him for that day.

I don't want to be nasty about it, but I just don't like to feel that he doesn't want to bring me into his family.  I have been welcoming him into mine.

Should I say something, either directly or indirectly?

Thanks for any advice.

Dabby

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-12-2011
Wed, 12-19-2012 - 6:45pm

I think it is best to be honest and clear the air because it will continue to go on and on and next year this time you will be in the same place. Even though you are not married now you may be one day and you will have to confront the issue. You can suggest that since  his daughter's place is too small maybe she could consider moving it to your or his place so that you all can spend Xmas together.  I always spend Xmas with my family it was a tradition  before I ever met my husband and my husband and I split up our time every Xmas; we  eat dinner with my family then go to his mom's or other relatives after. But the big difference is we are both included in each other families celebration. You have to understand that families have traditions and just because you enter the picture does not mean people will readily change their traditions. But if you two are going to be together or get married that tradition needs to be changed to include  you and your family and that conversation needs take place with him and he needs to have that conversation with his kids.  If he really cares about you and your feelings he will have that conversation with his kids and try to work it out. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-08-2012
Wed, 12-19-2012 - 8:46pm

ITA with Keepingitreal, to be honest and tell your SO how you feel.

We also have family gatherings that are split up. We celebrate on the eve, so our children and their SO's can go to the other families house on xmas day.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-29-2002
Thu, 12-20-2012 - 1:01pm

My husband lost his Mom 5 years ago to Cancer.  And his Dad has since started a relationship with a new woman.  FILs Girlfriend is very nice, and DH has made an effort to get to know her.  But, he still has a hard time accepting that his Mom is no longer with us, and his Dad is now involved with someone else.

I think it is important to consider that his previous marriage did not end in divorce, and their Mother is not a present figure in their lives anymore.  It's a much different set of emotions that his Daughters and their family have. 

I do agree, you should be honest with your SO regarding how this makes you feel.  But on that same note, this might be something that is a permanent arrangement.  His Daughters lost their Mom, and that takes on a much different perspective. 

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iVillage Member
Registered: 01-22-2004
Sun, 12-23-2012 - 6:07am

Hi, not sure what is going on with your SO´s daughter but I think it is not nice to be with you on Xmas Eve and leave soon to attend to a Mass, that you are not invited.

Probably you can tell him that you changed your mind your mind about Xmas Eve, ( give an excuse) and that it would be better for him to be with her daughter, because things would be easier for him that way.

If things have changed for you this year, I think you also have the right to make changes. To be the part that is always accepting whatever others want to dish you, is not nice. I´m a firm beliver that "Actions speak louder than words".

Just my sense of it!

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2009
Thu, 12-27-2012 - 1:11pm

Thanks so much for the feedback. These situations are so difficult, and it is hard to be objective because of course I want him to want to be with me and everyone to accept everyone else.

Just to be clear,  I am not trying to interfere with their family traditions. As you say, the goal is to be included and to find a blend of traditions that work for all of us.

I am conscious that neither his grown daughters nor my grown kids are eager to be expanded into a "big happy family" that includes people of their generation that they hardly know," but I think the Christmas Day deal could have been handled differently.  I am willing to give them Thanksgiving, but we have to work out something for Christmas.  More in a later message.

Thanks again for your reply.

Dabby

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2009
Thu, 12-27-2012 - 1:15pm
Hi Happy Fifties-- I think it's okay to have gatherings that split up. I just want things to be worked out in a way that doesn't feel like I'm being excluded from their family stuff when I have included them in mine. My family has always done Xmas Eve. His family had less of a tradition of Xmas Eve, except for going to Mass. So it seemed sensible for me to do Xmas Eve as usual and work out something for the next day. I didn't mind that they wanted time alone with their dad--my daughter wanted time alone with me. I just didn't like how the invitation/lack of invitation was handled. It hurt. Further update in a later message. Thanks so much for the reply! Dabby
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2009
Thu, 12-27-2012 - 1:30pm

Anna,

Thanks for your reply.

I have to say that I honestly don't get it why it should be worse to accept a parent's new partner when your mom/dad died than when they were divorced.  A friend of mine said this to me also, but it doesn't make sense.

When a parent dies, the parent ceases to be on Earth.  The deceased loved one is remembered and mourned, but there can't be a sense that we ought to be spending time with that parent.  The kids of divorce always have to choose which parent to be with and how much time to spend with each parent and not hurt their feelings etc. When you lose a parent, that problem doesn't happen.

Yes, you always mourn the parent that is gone.  His (or her) absence is felt in all family gatherings.  But s/he couldn't be there anyway.  Your parent hasn't chosen someone else over your other parent. The parent who is left on Earth has a new partner, but no "rejection" of your mother/father is involved.  It is far less tricky, I think, than dealing with Dad (or Mom) being "alone" or with another family somewhere else while the kids spend time with the new love in Mom's( or Dad's) life.  I mean, the deceased parent is not being displaced.

So I just don't get that part of it.  From the perspective of the children--whether a parent died or the parents divorced--any new person in a parent's life is competition--it is someone else for mom/dad to love, it is someone who takes the role in the parent's life that mom/dad once did.  But I don't see how it is worse when a parent dies. It is just different.

In terms of your general point, I completely agree that we need to work out ways in which both sets of kids feel that they are not being forced to be part of a family they don't recognize as theirs.  My concern is with how to do this tactfully for everyone and not turn holidays into a tug-of-war for the parents, where we have to choose between kids and SO.  (As I'll tell in a later message, my daughter got into this "competition" when I least expected it.)

Thanks again.

Dabby

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-29-2002
Thu, 12-27-2012 - 8:05pm

It is kind of hard to explain.

There is a void that can't be filled, and often times including a new person into the mix is very emotionally complicated.

My DH loves to reminisce about his Mom as if she is still in the other room, and given that Christmas was his Mom's favorite holiday.  That does make it harder on DH. Certain traditions can't be replicated when a new person enters the equation.  It's difficult to maneuver.  If it were upto him, everything would continue exactly as it did before his Mom passed away.

I have kind of had to accept this myself, as I am more of a low key keep it simple kind of person.  But emotionally, my DH needs to go all out, go overboard on showering the kids with attention and gifts, and making the holiday about celebrating family.  Including his Mom's memory.  As much as I cringe at the receipts that accumulate and the incredible extent he goes to make everything just right.  It's important to him to such a degree, I could never ask him to change that part of our family traditions.

I can understand where it doesn't seem exactly reasonable.  But on the other hand I can also understand my DH's perspective as well.

The deceased parent may no longer be physically present, but emotionally they are present.  It's challenging enough to accept they are gone physically.  It's another challenge to create an environment that would accomodate someone that may feel uncomfortable with the spirit of the deceased still being included within the holiday traditions.

It's like if Grandma died, no one goes out to find a new grandma.  And they may even insist on maintaining some familial traditions that were prevalent to Grandma.  Maybe serving the same food, or keeping the same routine.  And talking about how Grandma may totally be appalled by Uncle Joe's new tattoo, or how much Grandma would love this year's tree.  It would be awkward, at the very least, if there was a new Grandma in the mix who is maybe "OK" with being included in the same family traditions, but does that mean that the other family members can still express freely their memories and feelings.

 

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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2009
Sat, 01-19-2013 - 1:54pm

Anna,

Sorry to take so long to reply--I had a horrible case of the flu right after Xmas and have been overwhelmed with catching up since then.

I totally get it that when someone dies there is an "absence" and a desire to carry on traditions, etc.  But that is true also when there is a divorce.  My daughter had a lot of trouble coming to terms with the fact that the family wasn't going to spend holidays and birthdays together again.   We can't keep up the same traditions because the traditions involved both her father (my ex) and me.   And the kids feel to some extent they have to take turns and be with both parents, so that affects traditions in a way that the death of a parent would not. 

 Anyway, I guess it is very subjective. If your parents divorced you probably think that is worse and if one of your parents died than perhaps you think that is worse.

As for my own situation, we ended up compromising a little--we all went to Mass after dinner.  Although going to Mass on Christmas Eve was not my tradition (I've done it once in a while, but not always) I was happy to go.

My kids did not join us--my son because he is opposed to long religious services (and this was a super-long service) and my daughter because she was feeling the symptoms of the flu that I had a couple of days later.

Thanks for the feedback.

Dabby