Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My New Husband Wants to Invite His Ex to Our Wedding Reception”

We got married a month ago and want to throw a party for friends and family since we eloped with just our kids. It’s a second marriage for both of us and we wanted to keep our shindig low key, with about thirty-forty people.

The issue: Ny hubby wants to invite his ex and her husband, while I have no interest in inviting mine. I’d rather have neither side as I want this to be about us, as we deal with our exes daily in many other things. It’s not like he’s BFFs with his ex-wife at all. I’ve tried to talk to him about it, and he feels like, because they gave us a small gift, they need to be included, whereas I think he wants to include them because he doesn’t want to disappoint his kids in not having their mom there. When we discussed this, he ended up hearing me out but then said, “OK, let’s just celebrate with your family only. If we invite friends, then we need to invite the exes.”

I wanted to do this for us, not because I needed to celebrate with my family. If we invite his ex, then to be fair to my kids I’ll invite my ex as I wouldn’t want them to feel like I left their dad out. Now I just don’t want to do it at all. What are your thoughts? — Just for Us

My thoughts are that this party isn’t about you as much as you say/think it is. Your elopement was about you (and your kids). The party is about the small community around you who support you and your kids. I think it’s nice that your husband wants to include his ex and her husband, especially for the reason you believe he wants them to be there: for his kids to feel good about having their mother there. Having both exes (and all the parents of your children and step-children) in attendance also sends the message to the kids that they and their needs are important, that the adults are present to support them and to co-parent together harmoniously. To me, that seems as important to celebrate as anything else.

Your elopement was about you and your husband and your children. You chose to elope to focus on your small family unit and the life you were beginning together. Let the party be about the support around your family unit and about sending a clear message to your children about the priority you make them in your life. Having exes there — exes that you get along with and with whom you are co-parenting — seems a small price to pay to establish (or re-establish) inclusivity for the people who care for, love, and support your family the most. But if it truly does feel like too big a price to pay, then I agree that you should just skip the party. It sounds like having a party where you don’t invite exes is going to disappoint your stepchildren, your husband, and potentially your own kids, and I don’t see the point in starting your new marriage on that foot.

My partner and I have been together for about thirty years. He likes saving or collecting things like tools, films, gadgets, etc., and it’s gotten to the point where he has filled two rooms to the brim with stuff he says he will need but hardly uses. He realizes that he can’t cope with the stuff he has but doesn’t want to throw it away. We are soon to have work done on the house, but I feel embarrassed by the two rooms he filled with his junk. My daughter went into the attic and told me it’s full in there too. He tries to blame me by saying I’ve been in the rooms and messed them up. What a load of rubbish. All the work we need to get done in the house gets delayed or not done because of him. What can I do? I am so frustrated, and I could cry sometimes. — Tired of the Hoarding

 
Your partner says he doesn’t want to “throw away” his stuff, but what about selling it or giving it away? Would he be open to that? If so, I would suggest taking a few days — maybe a week? — to help him go through the two rooms and attic full of stuff and pare things down to fit into one of those three spaces, and get rid of the rest (garage sale, Goodwill, posting on a freecycle-type site, giving away to family and friends). Then you’ll need to figure out what to do with the other two space so that he doesn’t start filling them up again. If you have too much space on your hands, maybe it’s time to downsize to a small home so that he’s not tempted to keep filling empty rooms with junk. It would also be less home for you to work on. (You might even consider moving to a rental home or a retirement home where maintenance is taken care of for you and you no longer have to worry or argue about work being delayed or not getting done.) If you think your partner may actually have a hoarding disorder — like he can’t control the impulse to hoard — you should encourage him to see a doctor. Hoarding is a disorder that can be treated, and it can also be the symptom of other treatable disorders.

If none of these steps work, you may want to consider moving into your own space.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​dearwendy.com.

33 comments… add one
  • Cleopatra Jones

    Cleopatra Jones August 22, 2017, 9:09 am

    LW#1–WWS.
    Also remember that the relationship that your husband has with his ex is not the same relationship that you have with your ex. Just because you want a limited interaction with your ex doesn’t mean he feels the same way.
    And honestly, inviting them will cost you absolutely nothing. Nothing! As they may not even attend your wedding party.

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    va-in-ny August 22, 2017, 9:39 am

    LW2 – Your husband might not be a hoarder, like, in the diagnosed sense, but there is definitely a problem here. My first thought when I read your letter was that your husband places emotional attachment to things. My dad did this. To other people, it was junk… but to him, it meant something. Sometimes it was sentimental (“That was my mother’s!”), and other times, it was an attachment with a directive (“Once I fix it up, it will be worth a lot of money!”).

    My advice is to change your approach. Understand that it’s not always easy just to throw everything out or sell it. If you counter him with the “You’re ruining our space! I can’t take it anymore! I’m just going to throw it all out when you’re away!” approach, he’s going to recoil and hold on tighter. Start slow and go through things with him. Make a plan TOGETHER on what you can do with it. “Whoa – look at these gadgets! How cool! I bet that the science program at the local camp could do fun things with this stuff!”….. sets into the donate pile…..

    It will be a slow process, but doable. Just be sure that you’re not shaming him in the process, because that can make things a whole lot worse. And please don’t go in and throw out stuff without him knowing. That can bring out a lot of unsavory feelings.

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      RedRoverRedRover August 22, 2017, 9:41 am

      Yeah, this makes a lot of sense. I’m pretty sure my mom’s a hoarder – maybe not full-on, but she does hang onto things. She’s fine giving them away to us, but she won’t just throw them away. And it stems from when she was a kid and her mom would just go through and get rid of her stuff. Never do that, it can really mess with someone’s psyche.

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    SpaceySteph August 22, 2017, 9:49 am

    “My thoughts are that this party isn’t about you as much as you say/think it is. Your elopement was about you (and your kids). The party is about the small community around you who support you and your kids.”
    I agree 100% with this. You chose the elopement, so you’ve already had the day that is All About You. Meanwhile, the other parent of your children and the other parent of your husband’s children ARE part of your family, forever, like it or not. Here’s an opportunity to show your children that you don’t expect your new husband to replace their dad, and to show your stepchildren that you don’t want to replace their mom. Amicably co-parenting is the best gift you can give your children.

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    CanadaGoose August 22, 2017, 11:52 am

    LW2, you have a tough road ahead. My FIL hoarded papers enough to fill two large rooms several feet high. Even a flood that destroyed them didn’t curtail the tendency and he re-accumulated them. People have to want to change, as the need to keep things is often a compulsion resulting from some earlier deprivation.

    My mother has filled three homes to the brim (two simultaneously). No amount of reasoning, begging her not to buy stuff etc. helped. However, I have been able to winnow it down dramatically by offering something she wants: a move to my city to be near her grandkids. It’s still hell on wheels, but if you can find something your husband really wants that you can use the rooms for (home theatre? workshop?) maybe he’ll be ok about letting things go. Good luck!

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    wobster109 August 22, 2017, 1:00 pm

    LW1 – I think you’re being selfish. You want the party all your way. You and your husband are both throwing the party together, yes? Then you don’t get to unilaterally decide on your own what it’s about. You both have visions for what the party is about, so work with him and come to a compromise.

    This means you each figure out what’s important to you. It sounds like he wants 1) to be polite to people who gave gifts, and 2) to make his kids feel supported. It sounds like what you want is 1) to not deal with exes, and 2) to celebrate with friends. I’m not saying you’re wrong! Dealing with exes is stressful, I get it. Maybe your exes are more stressful than his. What you want is all valid, but how can you meet both your wishes?

    Maybe you celebrate with only family, no friends, like he suggested. Maybe you and him go hang out with your friends and leave the kids with a babysitter. Maybe you have his exes there but not yours. And yes, maybe this means you don’t get to have it 100% your way. That’s partnership.

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    • Moneypenny

      Moneypenny August 22, 2017, 1:51 pm

      I agree with you on the LW being selfish. This party isn’t all about her. And her husband’s reasoning to have his ex there seems perfectly reasonable!

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    • avatar

      Emmy August 23, 2017, 2:26 pm

      I mean, some people’s definitions even of “no friends only family”, might well include *your children and step-children’s parents*.

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  • Moneypenny

    Moneypenny August 22, 2017, 1:50 pm

    Regarding LW2, I see some of my dad in this guy’s behavior. He and my mom have been working on cleaning out their attic and some of their belongings- stuff accumulates after 30 years in the same house!- and they’ve been doing a good job. However my dad gets very resistant to getting rid of stuff that he’s sentimental about. It took weeks to get him to agree to get rid of an old (older than me) camping tent, and when he realized it was deteriorating and smelled bad, he relented. My mom wanted to get rid of an old roto-tiller and some other heavy equipment that is just sitting on the side of the house. She asked my dad to look up some info on 1800-got-junk (pricing, etc), and he came back and said it would be $$$ and you couldn’t cancel ahead of time if you needed to, and made it into this big deal. My mom went and called herself since she didn’t believe him, and none of what he said was even true. He’s also accused my mom of wanting to throw away “all of his stuff,” which isn’t the case at all.
    Needless to say, I can kind understand where this LW is coming from.

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  • avatar

    MMR August 22, 2017, 2:04 pm

    I disagree. The party is definitely about the couple. The whole point of the party is to celebrate their marriage. However, if inviting the exes will make the kids happy, I think they should be invited.
    I don’t think inviting vs not inviting will (or should) have any impact on the co-parenting relationships. It’s about giving the kids the opportunity to see their whole family together and celebrating.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph August 22, 2017, 4:16 pm

      I generally disagree that any wedding aside from an elopement is about just the couple. I mean it is *about* the couple, but its also about the guests… otherwise why have guests?
      The me me me school of wedding planning is exactly the thing that leads to bridezillas and $15,000 wedding dresses and insanity like expecting people to gift you enough cash to cover their plate. A wedding is about two families becoming one, about all the people in your village coming together. In this case, the LW’s family includes the exes… they will always be related through their shared children.

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      • avatar

        Northern Star August 22, 2017, 8:51 pm

        I think not wanting an ex at a super smal, intimate party is a pretty far cry from a bridezilla. This wedding isn’t about the ex AT ALL. So why is her presence so terribly important? If the kids need her there to be on board, these two people shouldn’t have gotten married, period.

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        saneinca August 23, 2017, 11:07 am

        I am totally with you NS.

        It is weird that the husband is insisting on something that makes his wife uncomfortable at their own party.

        There will be other occasions to invite the ex-wife. Their child’s graduation party, may be a Christmas or thanksgiving meal

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    dinoceros August 22, 2017, 2:20 pm

    LW1: I don’t really agree that if your husband invites his ex, your kids will feel left out. It’s not like having your parent at your other parent’s wedding reception is something that all kids dream of. I remember get-togethers with my stepmom’s family where my cousin’s dad (so my step-aunt’s ex husband) came to celebrate. It’s not like I ever felt like “Oh, their dad is here…how sad for me that my mom is at this event that has nothing to do with her.” I think realistically it’s just a little silly to think that their entire childhood, their relationship with their other parent is going to be exactly the same. There’s going to be times where some of the kids get to do something the others don’t, etc. I think you’re saying your ex has to come because you feel like it’s unfair to you to put up with an ex if he doesn’t have to, but I think this is just a blip on the radar. Not worth canceling the party over.

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  • avatar

    Pam Mieth August 22, 2017, 6:20 pm

    For LW2, depending on the husband’s age, it could be a sign of dementia. My mom held onto every scrap of paper, small gadget, etc. and it wasn’t until much later I realized what the problem was. I wish I had realized sooner and not argued with her so much about that and many other things I thought she was just being unreasonably “difficult” about.

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  • avatar

    Northern Star August 22, 2017, 8:48 pm

    I don’t actually agree with anyone here. I don’t understand why the exes “have” to be invited to a small (30 people is SMALL) party that is celebrating a new marriage. I don’t see why the kids would be “disappointed” that their mother wasn’t invited, since it is easily explained thusly: some parties are for certain reasons, and this one is for Dad and stepmom’s marriage. Mom and stepdad have their own parties for their own reasons, too. There is no reason the ex should feel left out- why would she even feel entitled to go? And if other family and friends are there, there is no reason for the kids to need Mom there as well. Must she be invited to every single gathering this couple ever has?

    However, since hubby had laid his ultimatum, the choice is to either invite the ex or not have the party. Sucks. I think you’ll be resentful either way, sadly.

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    • avatar

      ktfran August 22, 2017, 9:00 pm

      The husband didn’t lay the ultimatum. The LW did. He tried to compromise and say let’s just do immediate family. She’s the one that said no party at all then.

      Unless we read different letters, I didn’t read anywhere that the ex felt entitled that she attend the party.

      I’m of the mindset that it’s better to be more inclusive than exclusive. If you’re on good terms with your ex and have kids together, what’s the harm? The world is shitty enough as is and the more people on your side that you can turn to, the better.

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      • avatar

        Northern Star August 22, 2017, 9:16 pm

        It seems me that a counter of “no friends at all, then, if we don’t invite my ex” is a pretty harsh statement. And I would love to understand the logic: if it’s family only, the kids won’t miss their mom- but if we invite some friends, too, they will. What sense does that make?

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        ktfran August 23, 2017, 7:37 am

        No, she’s blowing it up. He offered a fair compromise and she said it’s either my way or nothing at all. That’s not a good way to handle life.

        Maybe he still considers his ex a friend. She’s not family, but a friend. So if he invites several friends, he wants that one friend too. Why is that so difficult? Why does it matter that they were once married? They obviously loved one another enough to procreate. Just because marriage didn’t work out, doesn’t mean they can’t still be friends. I honestly feel sorry for people who take such a hard line stance against such matters. How sad.

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      Fyodor August 22, 2017, 9:26 pm

      I think that (A) absent some good reason not to, he should be able to invite the people he wants to the event. I think that even without kids, he’s entitled to have her there. (B) I agree with Wendy that the symbolism of showing that they’re still a family even with the new marriage, is valuable to the kids.

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      • avatar

        Bittergaymark August 22, 2017, 9:28 pm

        AGREED! ^^^^

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        Northern Star August 22, 2017, 9:44 pm

        Well, they should definitely go with the “family only, no ex wife” choice that the husband is totes cool with, then…

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        saneinca August 25, 2017, 11:17 am

        That the husband is more focused on inviting the ex rather than making his current wife happy with her wedding reception tells me where his priorities lie. This is so not a good way to start their marriage.

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        Ron August 25, 2017, 11:51 am

        Huh? Caving to an irrational demand is just absolutely what he’s required to do, or else he’s a selfish ass? What he is requesting is totally reasonable and in the best interest of his kids. Her reaction is either pathologically jealous or very controlling. This reception is for both of them. She doesn’t own the invite list.

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark August 25, 2017, 12:47 pm

        Yeah. The irrational and inreasonable one here is NOT the husband…

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      • avatar

        ele4phant August 25, 2017, 2:34 pm

        I’m empathetic to the LW that she would be uncomfortable with exes around, but you lost me at “her” wedding reception.

        This is not “her” reception, it’s theirs. And they need to work together on it (and their whole marriage). He’s offered some compromises, she’s the one that is my way or nothing.

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      ele4phant August 23, 2017, 11:51 am

      I guess I just don’t understand what the big deal is.

      The husband married the LW. He has children with his ex-wife, he wants to include them in celebrating his new marriage and presenting a united front for the children. Do they *need* it? I don’t know, but it’s certainly a lovely gesture, and one that the husband wants to make.

      I guess I can understand emotionally how this might bother the LW, but I think ultimately if she’s rational, this shouldn’t be a threat to her new marriage and relationship.

      I think she should probe why this ultimately bothers her. Does she not like the ex-wife? Well, that’s too bad, because she’s going to be in their lives, forever. Excluding her from one day isn’t going to fix that problem for her. Is she jealous or threatened? Again, that’s a problem that’s going to be there; this one day won’t fix it. Is she worried about how other people might perceive it? Well, she should stop worrying about what outsiders think of their relationship and family.

      At the end of the day, she married a man who has a good relationship with his ex-wife, and is going to want to include her in stuff. Today it’s the reception, tomorrow maybe it’s Christmas or family reunions. Will the LW have issues with that?

      If she’s not comfortable with the ex-wife being so present, she shouldn’t have married this guy. It’s clear that her being around was going to be part of the package.

      She’s not a bad person if she isn’t comfortable with the arrangement, but the arrangement was set before she came along, so that means then he’s guy was the wrong guy for her. Kind of like someone marrying someone who has kids, and but you’re not a kid-person. Sorry, but it’s a package deal. Embrace it all with grace, or move on so you both can find someone that is a better fit.

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    Bittergaymark August 22, 2017, 9:22 pm

    To me LW1 is needlessly creating fucking drama where none need exist. Insecurity is so FUCKING exhausting. Really. That’s all I have to say here about this.

    LW2). Yikes. This sounds like a hoarder situation. Try Wendy’s advice — but really? More professional help may be required, sadly. Good luck.

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  • avatar

    Northern Star August 22, 2017, 9:46 pm

    It would be helpful for all the people who invited their ex spouses to their tiny wedding receptions to chime in, I think. I want to know how it went.

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      Fyodor August 23, 2017, 1:02 pm

      I had my last serious ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend come to my mid-sized (65 person) wedding . She and her boyfriend actually stayed in our apartment the night of the wedding to sit our dog. Good time had by all.

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  • avatar

    carolann August 23, 2017, 1:15 am

    I completely understand why LW 1 doesn’t want exes at their party. I can understand her not wanting to socialize with them. Especially if she already has to deal with them regularly. My husband and I were lucky in that both of our first marriages were short and both of our exes moved away to another state. (Both of them moved to the same state in the same area, we used to joke that they should get together) We each have one child the same age. We were able to arrange visits without ever really dealing with the exes much. (I have never even met his ex wife, he would pick up my stepson from his moms when he came to visit or meet the ex part way betwen our neighboring states)and he only saw my ex a few times when dropping off my daughter when ex came to see her, after that she flew to stay with him during the summer etc) One time his Mom asked us to a party she was giving that she invited the ex he said “no thanks Mom, if I wanted to hang out with her I wouldn’t have divorced her”. I guess it is nice that people can share custody and co parent regularly, but I would never want to socialize with my ex and he wouldn’t me either. The kids never questioned it or had a problem with it that we know of.

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    PDXGirl August 23, 2017, 4:09 pm

    FWIW, for LW#1. I’m the kid of divorced parents who lived by the ‘you do your thing, I’ll do mine philosophy’. IMO It’s worth including the other parents from the beginning. Since my families – and yes it’s like I have two families who don’t particularly care for each other- never mixed it’s much harder than it has to be for occasions that did require mingling – like mine and my siblings’ weddings, kids parties, etc… Particularly if your kids (inclusively) might internalize this divide and start to worry about how to manage both sets parents feelings. I think kids can use all the love and support they can get. And helping all your kids feel like there’s one team that’s in their corner, rather than opposing teams, is worth it.

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    Ron August 23, 2017, 4:38 pm

    I may be wrong, but I get the impression that LW doesn’t want her ex at the reception and feels that if her husband’s ex is present that she’ll have to explain to her kids why she chose to exclude her ex. That also is a problem that she is going to have to learn to deal with over time, since they must co-parent.

    LW needs to consider how controlling it is to dictate which of her husbands friends are acceptable. This is a small reception, but it isn’t an intimate sit-down dinner among two or three couples. Her husband is allowed to count his ex among his closest friends. That’s great for his kids. It shouldn’t be a source of insecurity. People can be great as friends and bad as spouses. The husband’s ex has a new partner, so if jealousy is the cause of not wanting his ex present, that is something husband should take as a huge red flag, meaning she basically doesn’t trust him and will never trust him to have female friends.

    The husband’s compromise is fair. If he isn’t allowed to decide whom his bestfriends are and invite them to the reception, then better to avoid the issue by not inviting friends.

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