Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Morning Quickies: “My In-Laws Still Invite My Husband’s Ex-Wife to Family Events”

I have been married to my husband for eleven years and, since the beginning of our marriage, my husband’s family has insisted on inviting his ex-wife to different family functions. We do not get along with her and she tried to cause problems early in our marriage. Despite our request to his family over and over again that they not invite her, she is still invited and my in-laws don’t understand what the problem is. We went a few years without speaking to his family because of this issue, but recently they did it again. It blows my mind because she is not even a relative anymore and they would rather have us not show up than to not invite her. My husband has a son with this woman, but their son is an adult now and sometimes even he doesn’t attend the family events. Is it wrong to cut these people out of our lives? I am so hurt and disgusted that they find her so much more important than me. What the hell should I do, Wendy? — Disregarded Daughter-in-Law

Stop attending the family events. Clearly, your in-laws don’t care if you’re there or not, and you don’t mention your husband putting any pressure on you to attend, so why bother going? Life’s too short for this drama. If your husband wants to maintain a relationship with his family though, you should try to respect that and not stand in his way, despite how hurt you may be by the way they treat you (and, by extension, him). You ask about cutting ties with these people, and, while there’s no reason you should feel the need to show up where you aren’t respected or even wanted, cutting ties from your own family is complicated. If your husband isn’t ready to make that step, give him the space and support he needs to figure out the best way to maintain contact with these people. That he went years without speaking to his family because they wouldn’t stop inviting his ex to family functions says a lot about his loyalty to you. Please remember that should he decide to continue attending family events that you may decide to skip.

I’m a young woman in a healthy relationship. I have an incredible sex life and enjoy kinkier things, and yet, I am very upset about how the media portrays women. My fiancé and I went through our movie collection the other day, and at least fifty to sixty DVDs contained strip clubs, nudity, porn scenes, etc. It makes me so uncomfortable that women are constantly objectified that I sometimes have panic attacks. I am not worried about my partner cheating or finding someone else attractive, but it disgusts me that everyone is OK that this is just the way things are now. How can I relax about this and let go? How does someone who is such a freak in bed randomly find something so commonplace this offensive? Women being seen in this light is nothing new, but I think about it often. What’s wrong with me? — A Woman in this Light

 
Do young people still really have collections of DVDs? Maybe that’s the issue here. Why don’t you get rid of them? Maybe the idea of that collection being in your home is what’s bugging you. And maybe it’s not that “everyone” is OK with the objectification of women that’s eating you up, but the idea that your boyfriend is seemingly OK with it. Maybe you see these DVDs in your home full of women being objectified and you wonder if he looks at you the same way. Does he see you as a woman enjoying and owning her sexuality, or does he see you through the male gaze — as a woman whose sexuality exists for his enjoyment and nothing more? That might make me feel a little panicky, too, if I worried about the way my partner saw and experienced me/ my sexuality. Talk to your fiancé about this. Make sure you know in your heart that he sees and loves and respects all of you. Make sure he respects women in general.

As for how other men view women — that’s a fight we will continue having for a long time. But we aren’t going to win important battles that advance equality by panicking in the corner over images of women in strip clubs. I mean, come on. Be stronger than that. We women are stronger than that. We’re going to win battles by discussing our concerns about inequality with our male allies, by running for political office and electing female leaders, and by raising our children to respect all people, regardless of sex, race, and sexual identity. Instead of letting a patriarchal system that degrades women emotionally debilitate you, funnel your outrage into fuel and use it to fight back. We’re not going to get anywhere if women like you let a collection of DVDs slow them down.

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

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

30 comments… add one
  • avatar

    MoeP June 5, 2017, 9:34 am

    #1 I get the strange sense that if you were to ask the HUSBAND about the issue, he might have a very different take in it. She uses the word “we” a lot when she really seems to mean “me”. While it is disrespectful to invite an ex to events like this, the husband might not have talked to his family, etc. more because his WIFE gets so upset and he just wants to do what is easiest. This just doesn’t seem like SUCH a huge deal that it warrants never speaking to the entire family again.

    #2: I agree that this letter seems strange. That women are objectified is nothing new, both in cinema and in “real life”. Even those who work their whole lives to improve the role of women in society often see such a movie and they might feel angry or they might simply see it as an illustration of something they already know, but to get a panic attack over it seems like…there is soemthing more going on here.

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  • avatar

    Janelle June 5, 2017, 10:01 am

    LW2: I don’t get this. So don’t watch it, buy it. Like anything else if you don’t agree with something don’t engage in it. That being said this is a severe reaction. I’ve never felt objectified in my life because I don’t place thought or value in that opinion.

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    • avatar

      csp June 5, 2017, 10:38 am

      Right, LW, you vote on the media with your dollars. Don’t engage, don’t buy and go spend money at the theaters for movies you support. Go see wonder woman then buy Hidden Figures on DVD.

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      • avatar

        csp June 5, 2017, 12:18 pm

        Also, look up the Bechdel Test for movies. That helps a little.

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  • Cleopatra Jones

    Cleopatra Jones June 5, 2017, 10:10 am

    While it is disrespectful to invite an ex to events like this…
    I don’t agree with this. When my brother divorced his first wife, we were all very sad. The relationship that he had with his ex is different than the relationship we have with her. She’s still invited to family stuff, and we are all still good friends. Just because they’re not together anymore doesn’t mean we still can’t have her in our lives (his siblings).
    .
    And if his current wife made a stink about the ex being invited to our events, she would be dis-invited to future stuff. The current wife can dictate to her husband who he has in his life but she will NOT tell me who I can have as part of my life & or at my hosted events.
    .
    LW really needs to get over this. The ex being invited to family events is not a slight towards her, it’s including someone who is still considered an intimate family friend to family/friend stuff.

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    • Cleopatra Jones

      Cleopatra Jones June 5, 2017, 10:11 am

      That was in response to MoeP.

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    • avatar

      LisforLeslie June 5, 2017, 10:22 am

      Overall I agree, just because a couple divorced, doesn’t necessarily mean that all family ties need to be cut. I can see some examples where I wouldn’t be eager to invite the ex: abuse, cheating, is an ass, etc. But if the divorce wasn’t due to her issues and were due to his issues, I can see why the family might want to show their support. Or it could be that she had primary custody and if they wanted time with the kid, they invited her and now that’s simply part of the routine even though the kid is grown.

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    • bagge72

      bagge72 June 5, 2017, 10:32 am

      and you would have the same reaction, if your brother came up to you, and asked you to stop inviting her to family events, and his reasons where that he doesn’t get a long with her? That’s the situation here. The brother asked them to stop, and they keep doing it. As much as I thought I liked somebody, I would stop liking somebody if they treated my family member like crap.

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      • Cleopatra Jones

        Cleopatra Jones June 5, 2017, 10:43 am

        True. I think I’m railing against the idea that no exes ever should be invited to family stuff because the new wife doesn’t want her around.
        My brother has a son by a different woman (they never married), and I would never invite that bish to anything. I hate her. When I see her around town, I go the other way. Their son is an adult, and we talk/see him often but the mom…ugh, can’t stand her!

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      • avatar

        LisforLeslie June 5, 2017, 11:16 am

        It would highly depend on the people involved and to a degree the circumstances. If my step brother divorced his wife – hell she wasn’t welcome in my father’s house while they were married and he was alive. So her, not so much.

        If my sibling cheated on their spouse – well then I’m not necessarily going to take my sibling’s side. Not saying that’s what happened here but it’s an example of where I might not be inclined to put my sibling’s stupid behavior first and might extend a long term olive branch to the ex.

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    • avatar

      KisskissXO June 5, 2017, 10:47 am

      I have been in this exact situation where his ex was unpleasant, causing drama and meddling and yet some family members couldn’t comprehend not inviting her. Let me tell you it VERY uncomfortable for both me and him. Family should always come first.

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    • avatar

      K June 5, 2017, 10:50 am

      Does your brother get along with his ex? In the LW’s case, it sounds like the husband doesn’t. If his family really wants to still see the ex, they could do it outside of official family events, so as to not make the husband and LW feel uncomfortable.

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    • avatar

      Fyodor June 5, 2017, 12:20 pm

      Vehemently agree! You don’t (A) get to govern who other people socialize and (B) have an entitlement to an existence that is free of contact from either your exes or your spouses . They can invite who they want and aren’t obligated to shield you from contact with the ex.

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  • GertietheDino

    GertietheDino June 5, 2017, 10:25 am

    I would agree if the ex-wife hadn’t tried to interfere in their relationship early on. That is, unless it started when they were still married.

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    • avatar

      Fyodor June 5, 2017, 12:21 pm

      She said “cause problems” which is pretty vague and could mean a lot of things coming from this lady.

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  • avatar

    Northern Star June 5, 2017, 10:33 am

    LW 1: You stopped speaking to his family for several YEARS? If the ex actually keeps in regular friendly contact, no wonder they like her better than you/your husband. If you don’t want to go to family events, don’t go. Let your husband make his own choices, though.

    LW 2: Get rid of the DVDs that you don’t want in your house. How hard is that? Your reaction to a theoretical problem that doesn’t affect you in any way is so over-the-top that I wonder what your real problem is.

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  • bagge72

    bagge72 June 5, 2017, 10:36 am

    LW2: How did the DVD’s get in your house in the first place if you had such issues with it? If they were his, do you have a problem with his view on the way the women in the movies are portrayed now that you know he has all of these DVD’s?

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    • avatar

      LisforLeslie June 5, 2017, 11:19 am

      My take was OP#2 was becoming “woke” if that’s the right term here. In Cannes Jessica Chastain was a judge and said that the roles for women across all of the films was simply woeful. Those kinds of realizations – where one film may not be so bad but the collective gasp of how women are portrayed in a number of films can be overwhelming. And let’s face it – many straight guys just don’t keep a copy of Private Benjamin or Steel Magnolias in their collections.

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover June 5, 2017, 11:39 am

        Yeah, I got the impression that they’re just “normal” movie DVDs, but she realized how badly women get portrayed in general across them. I could see that, in a man’s DVD collection. Like you say, he’s not going to have a lot of “women’s” movies to sort of offset the ones where the women are just eye-candy. So if they spend the evening relaxing and watching movies from that collection, yeah, I can see how it could get to her. Over and over, seeing women sidelined, with no movies where they’re the focus. My advice would be to buy your own movies and add those in to break it up, or switch to watching TV, where women’s roles tend to have a lot more depth.

        Also, as I was writing this, I realized how messed up it is that yeah, there are probably tons of men out there without even one movie where women are treated as equals. And that’s completely normal. I don’t know how things are going to change when that’s the case. It’s a tough fight, for sure.

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      • avatar

        csp June 5, 2017, 12:11 pm

        agreed. There are a bunch of movies I used to love that are pretty gross. Like “Revenge of the Nerds”. it makes me pretty uncomfortable now and I used to love it.

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  • avatar

    MMR June 5, 2017, 10:52 am

    LW1 – I can understand that you don’t want to be around her, but your approach seems severe. Not talking to his family for YEARS because of this (because of just this? nothing else?) is over the top. I’m also wondering what type of “family function” she was invited to most recently. It would be one thing if she was coming to Christmas dinner without the son and there were only 8 people invited, but if they hosted a big backyard BBQ and she was invited, that seems more acceptable.

    If his family was close to her when she was married to your husband, can’t you see how they would still consider the mother of their grandson to be family? I think the bottom line here is that while you don’t have to like her being invited, you still need to respect their decision to invite who ever they want into their home. Like Wendy said, you can choose not to see them as often, or only see them when you’re sure she won’t be there, but an all-out, family-shattering cut-off won’t make his family sympathize with you, and is more likely to open a rift between you and your husband.

    LW2 – Like everyone else is saying, I understand why you’re upset about how society treats women, but I don’t understand the panic attacks. Do you suffer from anxiety? Does your bf watch movies that make you uncomfortable on a regular basis? It sounds like you need therapy (and possibly medication) to help you calibrate your response to this, or identify the real cause of your stress.

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  • avatar

    Fyodor June 5, 2017, 11:02 am

    If LW2 is getting panic attacks over portrayals of women in movies she should see a therapist. Really, if you’re getting panic attacks over anything you should see a therapist.

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    • avatar

      RedroverRedrover June 5, 2017, 11:40 am

      True. Panic attacks are not something you should be just trying to live with. You need to get that sorted out.

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    • avatar

      Fyodor June 5, 2017, 12:10 pm

      I’ll just add, that having suffered from anxiety issues before, the triggers really do seem compelling at the time and may even be so, but it’s the anxiety itself which is debilitating you.

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  • avatar

    Ron June 5, 2017, 11:34 am

    Second the need for a therapist. Wendy had a very compassionate answer and it certainly is worth testing whether getting rid of the DVDs solves the problem, but the panic attacks are a very abnormal, extreme reaction. And no, this isn’t just a matter of analyzing the roles of women in film and deciding they are insufficiently broad.

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  • Portia

    Portia June 5, 2017, 11:35 am

    So LW1’s husband has a kid with his ex, and the kid is an adult now, but probably was a kid when they divorced. In that case, it makes a lot of sense why the family kept inviting her at the time rather than totally cut her out, which could very easily alienate the child or minimize the time the family got with the kid. What doesn’t make sense to me is why if the family has had a seemingly good relationship with the ex for years, why would the kid growing up lead to them cutting her out? There are plenty of reasons to keep up a good relationship with the non-relational parent of a grandkid, even as an adult, and it seems like only two reasons not to – the LW and her husband.

    I think this is a case of, you don’t get to decide for other people who they spend time with and who they invite to social events. And also, it’s time to get over whatever drama happened 10 years ago (problems early on in the marriage)…

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    • avatar

      csp June 5, 2017, 12:13 pm

      I think that is the thing. They aren’t seeing the Ex as and exwife but the grandson’s mother.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark June 5, 2017, 1:58 pm

    Christ. What is this? The SNOWFLAKE edition of DW? My advice to both LWs is the same.
    .
    Oh grow the fuck up.
    .
    Honestly? I don’t know what’s more pathetic… not being able to be at an event with a spouses ex — or literally having panic attacks because you own dvds of films in which there is a strip club scene. Pathetic. Just sad.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros June 5, 2017, 6:06 pm

    LW1: I have to disagree with the advice to cut them off UNLESS the ex and/or his family treats you poorly when she’s there. If you really truly can’t handle being in the same room with her, then yeah, I guess stop going. But I think you also need to look at it from their perspective. I get that their kid is now an adult, but if they spent his entire childhood forming this familial bond with her, it’s understandable they wouldn’t just ditch her on his 18th birthday. And I have to admit that if I got an ultimatum, I probably would do the same thing they did. I’d say maybe not go to every event, since it upsets you, but cutting them off seems like a little much.

    LW2: The part that is a little odd to me is that you don’t really frame this in terms of your relationship, but just society. Are you that upset that society objectifies women, or are you upset that you perceive your boyfriend to do it? Because there’s lot of things that I find disgusting about society, but I just deal with it because there’s no other option. If that’s what bothers you, then I think therapy might be helpful. If it’s actually the application to your personal life (things your boyfriend says or does), then you need to be honest with yourself about that. Regardless, therapy might be helpful because panic attacks are not a normal part of life. They need some sort of response.

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  • avatar

    Mary Brown November 15, 2018, 5:39 pm

    #1

    I’m both a Bio Mom and a StepMom, so I can see both sides of this situation. Mutual respect and boundaries are essential here. Before my husband even asked me on a date, my ex and I had already put in place healthy boundaries for the sake of our son, who is now an adult.

    For all of our son’s significant milestones and celebrations, we all come together and thankfully there is no tension. I always make a point of conversing more with my ex’s new wife than I do with my ex. It wasn’t always like this but eventually we all came to accept the situation. At our son’s confirmation, I invited my ex’s new wife to the ceremony and the celebration afterwards, much to my parents anger. They didn’t even want my ex there, let alone his new wife. It was difficult for me but definitely helped me to heal and move on.

    Our son is now 24 and goes between the two families feeling no guilt or feeling torn to choose. He loves both of us and his new stepparents. If he one day gets married, there will be no problem with me if he invites his stepmother’s family to his wedding also. Putting our differences behind us has helped our son immensely and both his father and I have benefitted from that aswell.

    Where we draw the line though is each other’s family events. I do not go to my ex’s family’s celebrations. This is not due to acrimony but to respect the role that his new wife occupies. She is now his parents daughter-in-law and his siblings sister-in-law. She deserves to be able to forge her own place in her husband’s family. While I am still their grandson’s mother, I am no longer a member of their family per se. I believe that my ex deserves to be at his family events, without me present. Afterall, they were his family long before I came on the scene. He is their son and brother first, he comes first. If my ex were to die, I would not attend his funeral unless invited by his wife and even then, I would not sit with the family, just pay my respects and leave.

    I read about so much bitterness regarding divorce and remarriage, it is so sad. My husband’s ex is treated as family but I’m not, even though I am the daughter-in-law and the sister-in-law. I was not the cause of my husband’s breakup with the mother of his children. They split up nine years before we got together but I am treated like ‘the other woman’ or ‘mistress’. My husband was not even married to his ex, they lived together for 11 years and had a son (now 27) and a daughter (now 24). His ex was still invited to his brother and sister-in-law’s house on a regular basis, where she refused to shake my hand or even speak to me. My husband had words with his brother about this as he was not even asked or informed that his ex would be present. We arrived to find his ex already there.

    When my father-in-law died, my husband’s ex sat next to him in the pew at the invitation of my husband’s sister-in-law and I was left sittng a few rows behind, like I was any other person attending the funeral. After that, my husband stood up to his family and told them that I was no longer to be treated like an outsider and given the respect that I deserve as his wife.

    Respecting each other’s turf goes a long way. I am not saying to treat ex-partners with contempt or hostility but please give us new wives and husbands the courtesy we deserve.

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