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“Should I Tell My Dad About My Mom’s Remarriage?”

I am in my late 20s and a little over a year ago my parents divorced after 40 years of marriage. I am fine with it although it’s weird. The problem is that my mom has a new man whom she’s trying to insert into our lives. She has pretty much ambushed each of her children into meeting this man. (Like, she shows up with him without asking or telling anyone.) Anyway, my bigger concern is that she says that she is going to marry this man, but doesn’t know if she will tell anyone she did. I feel like as her children we have a right to know this information when it happens and the right to decide what is best in terms of contact with our potential step-dad. And don’t get me wrong, he is an extremely nice guy so that’s not an issue. My other concern is with my dad. I live in the same city as him, and I feel like if my mom does get remarried he has the right to know, especially if this changes anything in their divorce settlement. If she refuses to tell my dad about getting remarried, should I tell him? — Caught in the Middle


First of all, let’s talk about you being “fine” with your parents’ divorce after 40 years of marriage. Are you sure you’re really okay with it? I mean, more power to you if you are, but if it were me, and my parents, who have been married almost 38 years, got divorced, I think it would take me more than a year to truly adjust to the new state of things, including Mom having a new boyfriend. In fact, I’d probably be pretty weirded out by it, to be honest. And I suspect you may have similar feelings, if only because if this guy is “extremely nice,” as you say, why would you be so concerned about deciding the terms of contact you want to have with him? Why would it bother you so much when your mom shows up with him? If we were talking about, let’s say you sister instead of your mother, would it really be all that strange if she showed up to an event or special occasion with her significant other in tow? Isn’t it just expected that adults in relationships usually bring their “plus ones” to socials outings?

But if your mother is literally showing up at your doorstep unannounced with her new boyfriend, that’s something else, isn’t it? And it makes me wonder if she’s doing that because she feels it’s the only way you’d ever meet her new guy, in which case, that says something about your family dynamics post-divorce as well. And if she can feel how resistant you are to the sudden change in your family and to the idea of her dating a new man, it’s no wonder she might not feel welcomed to share news with you or your siblings of a potential marriage. And that’s a shame. Because whatever went on in her marriage to your dad is between them. They’ve finished raising you and your siblings, and obviously decided that they weren’t getting enough from each other anymore to be happy. For all you know, their divorce was a long time coming. And now it seems your mother has found happiness after what was likely a painful experience. That’s a good thing. That’s a very good thing. To find someone at her age — someone “extremely nice” — she thinks she might like to spend the last act of her life with after perhaps years of unhappiness with someone else (you don’t just end a 40 year marriage because you had a rough couple of months) is a very special thing indeed.

I guess what I’m saying is, do what you need to do to find — or at least fake — happiness for her. Go to therapy if that will help. Talk it out with your siblings if that will bring a sense of closure. Mourn the passing of time and grieve over the death of your parents’ marriage, and then pull yourself together and be happy for your mom, because I’m guessing she poured herself into being a good wife and a good mother for many, many years — making lots of personal sacrifices along the way to raise happy children, and now it’s her turn to do something for herself. So, try to find some place in your heart that feels glad she’s found a nice guy who makes her feel good. Try to get to know this man; he doesn’t have to be a father figure — you don’t need one — but maybe he can be a friend eventually. And feel grateful that the woman you love so much who has done a lot for you is in a good place right now — at a time that had potential to not be so good.

As for telling your father about your mom’s possible remarriage, I personally think you should, if only because it’s pretty big news to keep secret indefinitely. But don’t do it to spite your mother. Tell your father only after you’ve given yourself time to adjust to the news and to find that bit of happiness I hope you’re able to tap into for your mom. If there’s a chance your mother’s remarriage could change her divorce settlement, then of course, you father has a right to know — legally and morally, and you’d be saving your mother a lot of trouble if you — or one of your siblings — convinced her to tell your him herself. I really do think it will be easier for her to open up if she feels she has the support and blessing of her children. So, dig deep if you have to, but know that your mom finding the love of a good man is definitely worth celebrating, even if it means pushing some of your own baggage aside.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

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avatar Jessica April 11, 2011, 3:36 pm

I found this really hard to follow….

But..
I mean, people say ‘i’m going to marry so and so” all the time.. doesn’t mean it’s true. I’d definitely mention to your dad that your mom is dating someone. No need to say they’re getting married if they aren’t even engaged yet.

becboo84 BecBoo84 April 11, 2011, 3:37 pm

Perhaps the LW’s difficulty with all of this is the quickness of it all. It’s not just her parents of 40+ years getting divorced, but that her mother has seemingly moved on from it all so quickly.

avatar Jessica April 11, 2011, 3:40 pm

yeah, good point. i didn’t really consider that. i can’t imagine being ok with it ever actually lol.

avatar Maracuya April 11, 2011, 3:46 pm

…but she knows that marrying a guy within a year of parting ways from a 40-year-marriage won’t be seen in a great light. You don’t hide something you’re proud of.

avatar Fairhaired Child April 11, 2011, 4:31 pm

“You don’t hide something you’re proud of.”

This. Very well put!

avatar PFG-SCR April 11, 2011, 5:58 pm

She might hide it to spare her ex-husband any more hurt and/or to continue to receive spousal support.

avatar Maracuya April 11, 2011, 6:04 pm

I agree that she might be doing it to spare her ex-husband’s feelings, but people usually feel worse when they’ve found out information has been withheld from them. Like most commenters said, their marriage didn’t fall apart overnight and was probably long over before the papers were signed.

She’s an adult and she should be entitled to get married to whomever she wants (an extremely nice guy, for instance.) I don’t think her daughter would be wrong in talking with her mother about the subject.

avatar Lindsay April 11, 2011, 4:08 pm

I can see why it would be weird if the mom started bringing her boyfriend around without telling anyone she was dating. Particularly this soon after a divorce. But if it happens repeatedly, it can’t be that much of a surprise anymore when he shows up. Sometimes when people divorce and start dating, they don’t understand how to do it, especially in regard to their children and families. She may assume that because you’re an adult, it’s not as delicate a situation, or if you’ve been expressing to her that you’re totally fine, then she may not see a problem.

avatar phillyD April 11, 2011, 4:12 pm

I ended an 18 year marriage and within a year that I’m completely serious with and would absolutely consider marying. My marriage was over years before our divorce, and by the time the divorce was final (which is itself a relief), I had already mourned my marriage, had learned from my mistakes and was ready to move on without an additional extended period of getting over things.

The point is, no one knows the parents relationship but them. This could have been something both mom and dad had already knew was coming years ago, but stayed together for the kids.

So bravo to the mom – it’s hard enough to find someone you really love – even better if you can do it when you get a second chance!

avatar honeybeenicki April 11, 2011, 4:25 pm

I’m guessing this situation is similar to yours. Many times marriages end long before there’s a divorce. My husband was married for about 7 years and with his ex for something like 12 years (since they were teenagers). Their marriage was over after the first 1 or 2 years of marriage, but they attempted the “stay together for the kids” idea and it didn’t work. They got married for the kids hoping it would get better and ultimately it did not (never does).

So, I definitely agree that it is likely LW’s mother is over the divorce because the marriage has been over for awhile without the divorce. Generally, a 40 year marriage doesn’t just abruptly end. And you’re right… no one truly knows what went on in the marriage except the 2 people involved.

I also agree with Wendy that LW needs to examine her own feelings about the divorce, because it does seem pretty obvious she isn’t over it. Even as an adult, a parent’s divorce can be very difficult to handle.

avatar Fidget_eep April 11, 2011, 4:27 pm

I don’t know why you got a thumbs down, but you said what I was thinking. Only the two people married know the true state of affairs and the LW never said what the 40+ year marriage was like, just that it ended. For so many people the marriage is over long before the final papers are signed. The fact that the LW was concerned about the divorce settlement concerned me to be honest. It almost sounds as if she feels closer to her dad than her mom, and feels weird about the sudden dating or moving on with life. I think that the children need to take a step back and a deep breath and let their parents be real people too.

avatar Zel April 11, 2011, 5:18 pm

phillyD, you are preaching to the choir here!

My parents separated when I was 16 after 23 years of marriage, and it had been over for a while, too. When my mom brought her boyfriend around a couple months later, my sisters and I were just happy for her. It’s one thing to grieve for the dissolution of your parents marriage, but it’s another thing entirely to expect your feelings to be catered to. After all, parents are people with needs too, and especially as adults, we should be able to understand and respect that. Parents divorcing is not something they do to us, it’s something they do for themselves. Sure, it affects our lives, but anyone old enough to read this site should be mature enough to see past their own feelings and respect the desires of their parents without guilt tripping them for it.

Not to mention, happy parents are just so much better to be around! :)

avatar PhillyD April 12, 2011, 11:02 am

“It’s one thing to grieve for the dissolution of your parents marriage, but it’s another thing entirely to expect your feelings to be catered to.”

Exactly! You stated this so elegantly!

avatar elisabeth April 11, 2011, 4:17 pm

I just wanted to add one small thing, piggybacking off of Wendy’s advice. If your mom does remarry, then, If/when you do tell your dad, don’t do it behind your mom’s back. Tell her you’re telling him. She might be upset, but I’d rather do that sort of thing out in the open that have to tell your dad and add the, “but don’t tell her I told you!” clause.

avatar cdobbs April 11, 2011, 4:24 pm

Its been over a year since the divorce, so I don’t get what the big deal is? You should be happy for your mom finding someone who obviously makes her happy (and is a nice guy). As far as telling your dad, if there is financial reasons, he definetly has the right to know if and when his ex wife remarries. I think the mom has the obligation to tell him.

avatar SGMcG April 11, 2011, 4:33 pm

My husband’s parents divorced while he was in his third year of college. He was initially shocked by it, but he “accepted” the situation. However, a part of him still feels that their marriage was a success since they never fought – although I contend my in-laws had the divorce because they just never communicated, good or bad. It took me saying a flippish remark about his parents and their relationship and his explosive reaction to what I said to make him step back and evaluate his parents’ marriage in another light.

LW, I think you need to step back and truly evaluate how you feel about the situation. I think you’re mainly struggling with two things 1) How you feel about the sudden end of your parents’ marriage (you probably didn’t forsee it – I know my husband didn’t) and 2) Where your loyalties should lie. I don’t think you should even consider the latter until you fully explore the former. This should involve a discussion with your mom alone, or your dad alone or with them together, or with someone not involved with the situation – like a therapist.

Hopefully LW, you will realize upon having these discussions that what’s true for the young child with divorcing parents still applies for the young adult with divorcing parents – you know your Mom and Dad are STILL your Mom and Dad. They may be divorcing each other, but they’re not divorcing YOU. You can still be loyal to both your parents and you don’t have to choose sides between them as long as you are being loyal to YOU.

avatar LennyBee April 11, 2011, 6:03 pm

Adding on to what everyone else has said, I would also suggest to stop thinking of your mom’s boyfriend as a future potential step-dad. My parents divorced when I was young, and once I moved out of the house, I stopped thinking of my mom’s boyfriends as potential step-dads, because they’re really not anymore. He won’t be a father figure, he won’t help raise you, he won’t be in your life on a day-to-day basis, and you won’t ever live with him. He’s really just your mom’s partner, the person who makes her happy.

I’d suggest trying to separate yourself from this issue. Accept that her boyfriend will be around for some events and be as gracious and welcoming as you can be, and ask your mom for an occasional girl’s day (brunch, shopping, whatever you enjoy doing together), so you don’t always have to share her. Your mom may not feel the need to ambush you if she knows that sometimes her boyfriend is welcome. After all, your mom probably isn’t trying to insert her new man into your life so much as she’s trying to integrate him into her own life, and part of that is knowing that she doesn’t have to keep him away from her family.

avatar PFG-SCR April 11, 2011, 6:18 pm

I read this letter a bit different – the LW doesn’t seem to have an issue that her mother has moved on, but she’s being honest about the awkwardness that can happen in these situations. Even though she is an adult with her own life, her parent’s divorce still has an impact on her and her life, and not just at the holidays. I don’t think admitting this is immature or indicative of her having an issue with it – it’s just how she (and many other adult children of divorce) feels.

To the LW, I would try to avoid taking sides. I would try to avoid getting in the middle with your mom and dad by “tattling” on your mom to your dad. Let your mom know that you’re happy for her (and your dad if/when he’s dating), but also remind her that even though he’s no longer her husband, he’s still your dad.

avatar SpyGlassez April 11, 2011, 6:36 pm

I also wonder if part of the awkwardness comes from the mother referring to her boyfriend as “future step-father” or him trying to assume a step-fatherly roll in the adult children’s lives.

avatar Citypretty April 11, 2011, 7:01 pm

This letter tears at my heart… I had a similar situation with my mom:

Two weeks after I moved into the dorms for my Frosh year,and after 20 years of marriage my mom moved out of the house… saying she just needed time and she’d move back in in no time.
Two months later, I got a call from her on her way out of town: “I love you, but I’m moving to Seattle with Bob” (I had no idea who Bob was, turns out he was her high school sweetheart).

She left it up to me to tell my Dad…. the hardest conversation I have ever had. He had no idea she was leaving or that she had found someone new. Hell, he had no idea she wasn’t coming home. But he needed to be told.

It took two years, but we were eventually okay with each other again. I love her and know she needs to be happy. I am proud of her for following her heart and truly believe that she married the right man and the divorce was the right thing to happen.

However…. I am still not ready to meet this man, and I am afraid she is going to surprise me with it despite the fact I have told her I’m not ready.
Someday I will be fine meeting him, but not yet.
This has recently caused a huge argument, she says I’m selfish and heartless for not wanting to meet him. That I don’t care about her feelings and only care about my dad’s.

Ugh. LW, I feel your pain! I wish you luck, tell your father and be honest with both of them….

avatar Elle April 11, 2011, 8:06 pm

Citypretty, your mom is so selfish – not for following her heart, but for putting you in the middle of her separation from your dad. You can’t put that kind of responsibility on your child… I don’t have children, but as a child myself, I can’t imagine having one of my parents ask me to do that… No wonder you’re not ready to meet him. Don’t feel guilty about that, no matter what! If your mother ever asks you again, tell her she owes you (a big) one, and that she’s lucky you are even talking to her…

Citypretty, no matter what your mom says, you are not selfish, and you are not heartless. Your mother completely disregarded your feelings and ignored any possible long-term consequences when she asked you to break up with your dad for her. What she did to you is so unfair, I wish I knew who she was, so I could put some sense into her!!!

At the end of the day, though, she’s still your mom. But guess what: you are an adult now, and you get to make some of the rules too! And if the rules mean you don’t get to meet the new guy, then that’s how it’s going to be. Stand your ground with your mom.

*e-hugs*

Heather Heather April 11, 2011, 8:27 pm

Holy hell citypretty, totally agree with Elle here. that’s so heartbreaking.

avatar moonflowers April 11, 2011, 11:22 pm

One characteristic of selfish people is that when other people deny them something, they often retaliate by accusing the denier of being selfish, even though the demand they’re making is plainly unreasonable. I’m so sorry you’re in such a situation. Be firm and never feel obligated to give in when you’re not comfortable with something.

avatar CollegeCat April 11, 2011, 8:17 pm

I found this answer and a lot of the comments kind of condescending.

First everyone says the letter writer couldn’t possibly be over the divorce. Next the divorce was between her parents and its not her business. Which is it?

Maybe the letter writer knew her parents were unhappy and suspected a divorce was coming for years. If so that doesn’t mean she can’t still want limited contact with this knew guy or be afraid that her mom is moving too fast. Seeing your parents apart is one thing, seeing them with someone else is completely different (especially if she is not forewarned)!

I think she should tell her dad AND express her feelings to her mom. Why lie or fake it? Just b/c she tells her mom she is concerned doesn’t mean she can’t still support her as a daughter.

avatar Jessica April 11, 2011, 8:46 pm

My parents divorced when I was a newborn, and two years later my mom remarried my now step-father (been together for 18 years now). They didn’t tell a soul about the marriage, except for her sister, my then thirteen year old brother, and two of their best friends. It was just a tiny wedding, and the reason they did it like that was because they knew everyone would want to come if they told anyone they were going to get married. Needless to say, they didn’t tell my dad about it till after the fact. I still don’t know what his reaction was, but I’m sure he was hurt. I think that was why he didn’t tell anyone when he got remarried twice (including us kids) and didn’t even invite us to the wedding..he just told us a week before.

But I think you should tell him. It will kill him if he doesn’t know till afterward, I’m sure. Plus, who knows, maybe this is just her way of trying to move on from your father..by going down the alter (or talking of it) again.

avatar EC was here April 12, 2011, 10:16 am

My parents have been married for 37 years. It was the second marriage for both of them. They were married when my mothers parents were out of town on vacation. My Grandfather hated my Dad and didn’t acknowledge him up until the day my gf died. At that time, my parents had been married over 20 years. I couldn’t imagine my parents getting a divorce now. I think it would break my heart to think of my parents being with another SO. It would be one thing if one of them had passed away (another thing I don’t want to imagine) and started dating someone else. I look at my parents marriage as something of a success, they were only separated 2 times during their marriage and both of them were for less than 6 months. My parents have never mentioned divorce and I hope they keep it that way.
My in-laws are divorced and my FIL remarried when my husband was around 13 and my MIL has never remarried. The entire time I’ve known her (11 years) she hasn’t even dated anyone. I’d love to see her meet and possibly marry a nice man one day. She deserves happiness.
In regards to the LW, I can understand your pain. I would be hard to see your parents dating someone else, and even talking about marriage. Some men would be stand-offish and want nothing to do with being a “step-dad” and other men would be controlling and possibly even demanding of your mothers time. I’ve seen both sides in my friends divorced parents.

avatar jena April 12, 2011, 2:57 pm

I think the part that irked me most about this letter was the fact that the LW thinks she has “The Right” to know anything — her father, sure, due to legal issues and what not, and I could see where the LW would think it’s her right to know what’s going on, but plain and simple it kind of isn’t. Maybe I’ve just been watching too much “Six Feet Under” lately, but the LW is an adult in her late 20s, I’m guessing her mom is somewhere between 48-65, making her also very much an adult — it’s none of the LW’s business what her mother does or whom she dates/marries… She doesn’t really owe the LW anything in terms of her new boyfriend or information regarding him.

avatar sarolabelle April 12, 2011, 3:16 pm

I’m not sure the letter writer has much of a clue about the law. Because you can’t get married legally to anyone else until you reach a divorce settlement….

avatar Kate April 12, 2011, 5:01 pm

It may not be her “right”, but I can certainly understand why the LW feels the way she does. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to know what your parents are doing, especially since it sounds like she has a good relationship with her mother. In addition, the mother can’t expect her kids to just immediately accept a new person into their lives. It takes time.

avatar AKchic April 13, 2011, 3:31 pm

Interesting all around. I get the vibe that the siblings have not wanted to meet the new beau in Mom’s life yet, and honestly, if they are all adults, isn’t that their right? Why is it okay for Mom to show up unannounced, uninvited and with an unknown guest? Were this a neighbor in the apartment building, we would be vilifying that person up and down as a deplorably rude human being who needs to have boundaries firmly placed in front of them.
We don’t know what happened to cause the marriage between Mom and Dad to end. We don’t know if the divorce was dirty and bitter or clean, quick and easy. Whether there was a trial separation prior to the divorce, whether there was property disputes, alimony issues, etc.
The LW said that Mom has claimed she is going to marry the man. She didn’t say whether Mom has said it in front of the beau in question or not. If she did, then we can assume that there are actual plans in the works. If not, then I would assume that it is a cry for attention and acceptance of the new guy, which she feels she is not getting, for whatever reason.

The only way to get Mom to stop showing up unannounced like that is to either tell her that if she does show up she will not be allowed in, or, pull the “I’m busy/leaving” routine. She comes over and you are “just leaving” to go somewhere or “it’s not a good time” because you are “studying” or “bathing” or “going to bed” or my personal favorite “am entertaining a ‘friend’”. Emphasis on friend, of course.
Next time she claims she is going to get married without telling anyone, congratulate her guy and ask them where to send flowers after the event.

But yes, letting your Dad know is a good idea. Many women DO get remarried and keep their old last name in order to continue getting alimony they are no longer legally allowed to receive.