“My Girlfriend is Spending Christmas Morning With Her Ex and I’m Not Invited”

My girlfriend, “Mary,” has an 8-year-old daughter with her ex-husband whom she’s been divorced from for three years, and I have a daughter, 14 years old. I keep a good relationship with my daughter’s mom for the sake of my daughter, and so I totally understand the importance of that. Lately, Mary and I have been having some issues because of how I feel about the extent of her relationship with her ex.

Mary’s ex has their daughter every other weekend and drops her back off at Mary’s house every other Sunday at 8:30. When he drops her off, he brings her in and puts her to bed and then wants to hang for sometimes an hour or two until 10:30-11:00 after their daughter has gone to bed. Mary tells me this is what they have to do to maintain their friendship. If she says anything to him, he then gets all pissed off and they end up in some long-heated conversation.

Mary’s ex has their daughter on Christmas Eve and will drop her off that night. He then comes back Christmas morning for just the three of them to open presents together. I also have my daughter on Christmas Eve and drop her off at her mom’s Christmas morning. I asked Mary if I could come straight there after dropping off my daughter and was told to wait because she doesn’t know how long her ex will be there. I then told her I don’t feel like it’s right that I have to sit at home and wait for her ex to leave in order to come over or that I have to leave her house on Sundays and then he shows up after that to just hang out after their daughter goes to bed.

Then she tells me that every year on their daughter’s birthday the three of them — just the three of them — go to Disneyland (her ex and her daughter share a birthday), and Mary asked me if I am going to have a problem with that. Well, I kinda do; I don’t think that’s right and I feel like that’s disrespectful.

Again, I totally understand the whole keeping things good between her and her ex, but I think their hanging out alone after her daughter goes to bed as well as a day at Disneyland as a family is all a little too much. I honestly think that if I were to take a day to hang out with my ex and my daughter at Disneyland, as though we were still a family, I would feel I was being disrespectful to Mary.

Please give me your input on this. — Feeling Disrespected

I agree with you that all this alone time and exclusive family time between Mary and her ex seems a bit much. I would have a problem with it if I were dating someone who spent so much time with an ex. But I also don’t think it’s “wrong,” per se. Apparently, it’s what works for Mary and her ex (and their daughter). It doesn’t work for you, though, and it’s absolutely fair of you to express your discomfort. It’s rude that you have been told you can’t come over Christmas morning until her ex leaves, and that you have to leave early on Sundays so Mary’s ex can hang out with her one-on-one for one or two hours.

You have every right to tell Mary how disrespected you feel. You have every right to ask her to be included more and for her to limit her one-on-one time with her ex because you are uncomfortable with it (I mean, at least she could be including you more often!). If she’s afraid doing so will cause her ex to explode, you might suggest she find a mediator to have on hand, and to re-visit the terms of their custody agreement.

It sounds like you’ve started expressing your concerns, but I would be very explicit if you haven’t yet, and let her know in no uncertain terms exactly how you’re feeling. If she makes zero attempt to change things to better meet your needs and to show you and your relationship some respect, I would take the hint that you and your feelings are not a priority to her. It sounds like your relationship is fairly new — like this is the first holiday season you’ve been with her and maybe you haven’t yet been with her through her daughter’s birthday so she’s warning you ahead of time how it’s celebrated; maybe this is one of her first serious relationships post-divorce and she’s still trying to figure out how to navigate the different dynamics without offending anyone. Be sensitive to the juggling act while still maintaining your own boundaries. I think you will have a clearer idea in a month or two where you stand with Mary. If she continues to disregard you and your feelings, I’d move on.


Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

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


  1. I get the feeling your girlfriend is scared of her ex? Does she enjoy the time they spend together, or does she just want to please her ex out of fear?

    1. Northern Star says:

      Yeah, I agree. Mary doesn’t seem to “want” her ex to hang out—she says he gets angry if she tries to send him home early. Unless she’s lying or something?

      The Sunday night ritual is bizarre, and if it doesn’t change, the LW should move on. I wouldn’t by OK with that kind of arrangement.

    2. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

      I was just thinking that the ex sounds kinda controlling and manipulative. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mary doesn’t like all the extra time together but does it to appease the him.

    3. Yes. LW needs to find out if she’s afraid of this ex. The more information he gets, the easier it will be to figure out his next move.

  2. So I think this comes down to how long you have been in the relationship. If it’s been a couple of months, then you really have no right to request them to change what they are doing, if it’s closer to you a year you might have a better argument there. But it sounds like Mary wants to keep everything as simple and sane as possible for her daughter, and right now that doesn’t include you in there family plans.

    The exhusband does sound controlling, and maybe insane it seems like Mary doesn’t want to rock the boat, because she doesn’t want to start a big argument with the daughter around. It’s crazy that he has to hang out for an extra couple of hours after the daughter goes to sleep on a Sunday night. The Disney thing sounds normal to me since they share a birthday, but I would think eventually you would be part of that, maybe just not the first birthday she has while you too are dating.

    1. Northern Star says:

      I disagree—he can certainly ask for changes before he leaves Mary (since it sounds like an untenable situation to me). At least let her know WHY he’s outta there. Let her decide if keeping her ex happy is worth losing her new guy.

  3. ele4phant says:

    I’m of two minds here.

    On the one hand, I can certainly understand that you are uncomfortable with *just* how much time they spend together, and it does seem a little concerning that Mary seems afraid of her ex (or at the very least has no interest in enforcing boundaries and is just going to go along with whatever he dictates).

    HOWEVER, it also seems a bit premature for you to be inserting yourself into this family (and her into yours). If this your first holiday season together, is it really appropriate for you to be with her daughter on Christmas morning (regardless of whether the ex is there or not?) Is it really appropriate yet for you to be at her house late at night (overnight?) when her young daughter is there (regardless of whether or not the ex is hanging out)? Is it really appropriate yet for you to be weighing in on her parenting decisions (regardless of whether or not what she and her ex have come up with is atypical)?

    I would say Wendy gives good advice, but really, I think you need to have a little more skin in the game before you have a right to actively impose your opinions on her family arrangements.

  4. LW – I agree with Wendy. These things are warning signs but not MOA…yet. The big question is how long you have been in this relationship and what she plans on doing moving forward.

    So I know many co parents that do different things for holidays and birthdays as an exclusive family unit for the kids. essentially it is “We don’t love each other but we both love you” mentality. The christmas morning and birthday thing seems good. The sunday evening thing would need some probing. I would ask her where she sees your relationship going and where you fit into that plan. Good luck.

  5. convexexed says:

    Yeah, that is beyond what’s necessary for maintaining good co-parenting relationships and communication. A regular phone call, email, or quick chat during child exchange time is more conventional than hanging out alone at night for hours. If he has the daughter 4 days out of the month, he is not the primary custody parent, and (I know I may get some disagreement on this), probably is not involved in the daily logistical decisions and changes in his daughter’s life like he would be if they had 50-50 and shared primary custody. 50-50 custody simply requires more regular communication/collaboration/decision-sharing than every-other-weekend. I’m not saying a parent with less custody should or does take less interest, or couldn’t possibly come up with hours worth of discussions about the child-raising, but his limited custody COMBINED with the late hours and the need for the two of them to be absolutely alone for hours at a time is weird. My own rule of thumb is that night time alone time is for intimate, close friendships—even if she is staying friends with her ex, he should be downgraded from a nighttime hanging out alone friend to a daytime with the possibility of witnesses friend. I mean, they did divorce, did they not? They can still be a family in the sense of sharing a kid and putting that first, but they are no longer be a family in the sense that once the kid’s asleep, they get to hang out alone and no one else is invited.
    Ultimately, it’s on Mary to figure out her ex, but if he is a controlling, manipulative, or difficult person, it’s best to address the situation before it becomes a routine with years standing. I say this as someone whose live-in partner has 50-50 custody with a volatile ex. If you cater to their whims/unreasonable at the start, it’s very hard to change things later. It’s better to establish your boundaries sooner if possible. If it seems that the ex is not a safe person, and Mary is frightened, that’s an even stronger reason for her to find backup through the courts, professionals, and her support group to change the dynamic. The daughter is 8; ten more years is a long time to live under the terms of a controlling ex who wants to isolate you from your new support system.
    This is a new relationship, from the sounds of it, so there’s not a whole lot you can do besides trying to determine if Mary feels threatened, and if so, offer your support and assistance.
    Or, if it turns out this is her preferred way to co-parent, regardless of your feelings, I would personally MOA. If I could go back in time, before my feelings got too deep in my current situation, I would run at the first sign of a co-parent ex who says jump and everybody in the room has to jump. What I wouldn’t do is just wait and see without stating your discomfort and getting some clarity from Mary on how she sees the situation and how she sees it progressing.

  6. I think you need to pick your battles. And that battle is the Sunday night hangout.

    A little girl getting to spend her birthday at Disneyland with both parents is great for her. Same with Christmas. It’s nice that both parents get these experiences with their daughter, too. She’s not going to want to go to Disneyland with mom and dad for every bday so it’s good they are soaking up these moments while they can. Also it sounds like Mary told you pretty up front that this was their tradition and asked if you had a problem. So that to me says this is a condition of staying with her and if you’re going to have a problem with 2 people amicably coparenting their kid on her birthday then you probably should nope on out of there.

    But the hanging out on Sunday nights is weird, so that’s the battle I’d fight. Tell Mary this bothers you and why, and also maybe ask some probing questions about why she feels like she has to accommodate it and whether there are some boundaries she can start to enforce there. Idk, maybe be like “gotta go to bed, early day” at like 9:30, and shoo him out. (But then 930 is my actual bedtime so…)

    1. I’m late to this party, but I agree with this. I don’t see anything inherently offensive or rude about not inviting him to Christmas Day with the ex and the kid, or anything wrong with going to Disneyland together as a family for her birthday. These seem to be things they’re doing for the daughter’s benefit. From the daughter’s perspective, they’re hanging out as a family because her parents are her family. Why shouldn’t she get to spend time with her family together if her parents are able to give that to her a few times per year?

      Also, I get the feeling LW would feel less slighted by Disneyland if the ex didn’t share his birthday with the daughter.

      All that said, the Sunday night hang-outs alone are weird and I wouldn’t be okay with them. LW’s girlfriend seems to be agreeing to them to keep the peace. So I agree that this is what LW should be trying to get to the root of and trying to change.

      And if she can’t or doesn’t want to change the status quo, and LW can’t accept it… time to move on!

  7. dinoceros says:

    It sounds like her ex is a jerk who she tries to appease by spending time with him. I’m not sure if it’s just that she tries to avoid him acting rude and spiteful or if he was ever abusive in any form. If this were a situation where she appeared to be enjoying time with him, that would be different, but based on your description, she has just resigned herself to doing it to keep the peace.

    This is how she’s chosen to parent and live her life. If you don’t feel you can accept it, then break up. Maybe if the ex gets a new partner, he’ll go away. Maybe he won’t. This isn’t the kind of situation that you can give her an ultimatum on and expect to get your way. Even if you tell her it bothers you and she cares about that, it’s still not clear whether she can make those changes without experiencing a lot of blowback from her ex. Welcome to life as a woman, where you can’t necessarily tell your angry ex to go away without experiencing his wrath. (And no, I’m not saying that’s the case for all men, but it is in some cases.)

  8. Anonymous says:

    Yes, you are right, it is too much, but you can’t really impose anything here. You don’t live with her, she can do what she wants after all. About Christmas, if it is your first holiday as partners, I would let it go. You can see each other the 25th evening, so you are not waiting for the OK call at noon, that is humiliating for you.
    Sunday evening: unacceptable and over the top. If they are divorced, he has nothing to do at her place. Disneyland: fine. You probably shouldn’t focus on that mess right now. You have no right on her, don’t start being yourself controlling. The more your relationship will grow, the more you can let her realise what goes beyond boundaries. And if one day you live together, then it is over with this good night ritual. Take it step by step, don’t focus on this guy. She perhaps does that out of guilt regarding him and the child about the divorce. Don’t rush her and it will evolve.

    1. Anonymous says:


      I’m giving odds that “anonymous” here is either the culprit, or someone similar.

      Bets? …

      No one?

      Ya seem to have missed 1 very important “right” he has here. Which is to tell her to go fuck herself, followed by nothing ever again.

  9. So basically sounds like she hasn’t told the ex she has a new boyfriend because she’s aware he still has feelings for her and that’s why he’s hanging round when he drops off the kid and is planning Disneyworld trips and why your not welcome at Xmas… I don’t think it’s okay… being friendly with your ex is essential, holidaying alone with them and dressing it up as the child’s best interests is a bit ridiculous, if you’ve got a new boyfriend it’s called moving on, don’t move on if you or your partner or your child isn’t ready .. if you want this kind of set up maybe it’s best to introduce your ex at the same time as the child seeing as your new partners expected to have a relationship with your ex as well that is beyond the ‘normal’ boundaries.

  10. If all is so innocent why would there be a problem in the first place? If I were LW I would be very straightforward about my feelings regarding this whole EX situation with understanding about the child involved and all but it’s would be me or the EX!

  11. Bittergaymark says:

    Who cares about a dreary years old letter? Let’s all talk instead about the dreamy guy in the Santa hat who utterly rules the selected stock photo…

  12. Hi, I just went through a similar Christmas scenario. Except the daughter, of my girlfriend of 4 years, is 27 and still living at home. He was over and they watched football together. I doubt the daughter is into football. We texted each other as normal as ever while he was there. She picks him up and drops him off at his place. He doesn’t drive, I’ve not probed the details why. The have been divorced for almost 20 years. I’ve not been invited over much less watch a football game. I get the feeling the daughter controls what goes on in her house. There is so much more into my situation than this so I won’t get into it further, but here’s my take on yours:
    I see the dilemma about the two hours after the child goes to sleep is way too much. I can’t help but think she wants him there and may still be garnishing feelings for him. Controlling or not, they are divorced.

    1. Bittergaymark says:

      You sound very insecure.

  13. Why specifically do you say that? Perhaps your insight into the situation may help me through.

    1. Does she never invite you over, or she just didn’t on Christmas?

      Im curious to know the “lot more” to your situation. If this is only a matter of the three of them having a Christmas tradition, maybe it’s something you could learn to live with. But it sounds like that’s not all that’s going on here.

      1. But I mean, in general, if your girlfriend is 20 years divorced, and you’ve been dating 4 years and not progressed to living together, or even spending major holidays together, maybe it’s time to move on.

  14. Thanks for replying Kate.
    I’ll start by saying I’m 50 and she’s 57. I’ve never been invited over. I was in her house one time when her daughter wasn’t home. We were headed to an event so we didn’t stay long. Went in another time to look at their front door that had a gap problem. Oh, I carried Christmas presents I bought them into her house, kissed her then left. Never officially met her daughter.

    She doesn’t come over to my house. Save the couple times we were partying and wanted to have relations at the end of the night, twice. I’ll tally up the “relations” times, 9, and mostly only if we’re drinking. I’ll admit my home wasn’t very tidy the few times she was there.
    I used to be able to “park” with her in the beginning, but no longer(these few times are added in the 9). She tells me to not start what I can’t finish if I begin kissing her passionately when we are parked. To be perfectly honest, she’s said plainly in no uncertain words that I’m not at all endowed. I’m completely aware that if a woman has enjoyed a gifted male, that’s hard to forget I imagine. Trust me, this honesty and realization isn’t easy to stomach, nor speak of publicly, sanely.

    I haven’t met any of her family. No one. Initially she was insistent we tell no one about our relationship at work since we sort of work together. There’s two companies in the same building that share facilities. Two separate sections of the same building. We work for two different companies. She’s still insistent on keeping it quiet. “It’s nobodies business” is her reason. I have told someone and let her know I did. She was indeed irked, but it didn’t break us up. She initially told me she told her bestie we were dating but she insists that was different. She later told her we stopped seeing each other.
    We see each other almost every day at work. We talk on the phone at breaks and on Lunch most days. This is the only time I will get calls from her. Sometimes I call, sometimes she calls me. This may be a factor, she works 14.5 hours M-F but lately she’s had off on Fridays.
    She works a second job that allows us to see each other for usually an hour when she’s there. Two, maybe three times a week. We sit in my car, eat supper, watch Netflix or just talk. She says she will quit the second job soon. What struck me funny was when she asked me “What are YOU going to do when I quit?”. I can’t help but think she’s perfectly ok not seeing me when she does decide to quit. That’ll basically end meeting during her hour lunch break.

    I don’t get calls on the weekends from her. Not too long ago I called her on a Sunday and I got a text asking why I’m calling. I wanted to surprise her with some cake I bought. She did reluctantly come out. Eventually through the conversation she mellowed out and we kissed before I left.

    I will be perfectly honest on my end, I used to get pretty drunk on some weekend nights. I would text her about how pissed I was she kept me at arms length. That maybe she was cheating. That we don’t see each other enough. Curse words always elevates those kinds of conversations. I never called her names though. Making up was always followed by flowers and apologies.

    Hopefully I covered the most salient points as fair and true as possible. Thanks again for replying initially Kate.

    1. Thanks for all that detail. You need to get out of this situation. What are the reasons you think you’re settling for this kind of treatment? Do you see that this woman has absolutely no respect for you, and actually has contempt? That she’s hiding you, either because she is still married/has another primary relationship or because she’s embarrassed? That she gives you scraps of her time? That this isn’t a real relationship? I know it can be hard to see. People on here told me I wasn’t in a real relationship before I broke up with my boyfriend years ago. They were right, but if you have any sort of routine with someone it can feel to you like a relationship. I get that. But this is really really bad, dude. She keeps you a secret, insults you, shows you she doesn’t really care, wont have sex with you, and you’re sticking around. Why?

      1. Obviously I don’t know and could be wrong, but her behavior suggests to me that she’s in another relationship where she gets some or most of her needs met, but she struck up a thing with a guy at work (you) in order to have some kind of excitement, companionship, and validation that she maybe was missing. Or possibly she was “off” with her husband or boyfriend when she became involved with you, and then it went back “on.” And now she’s basically over it and trying to extricate herself from this thing with you. She’s not having sex with you because she’s getting intimacy somewhere else. She may be afraid if she breaks it off completely, you’ll go rogue and blow her cover. So she keeps meeting you on her lunch hour. This is already over, and you should just tell her it’s not working for you and you’ll be moving on.

      2. Another reason she’s not having sex with you is that it allows her to tell herself she’s not cheating on her main guy, so she doesn’t have to feel like such a bad person. Excusing this by telling you you’re “not endowed” is an absolutely egregiously fucked up thing to say. If someone insults you that way, they have no regard for your feelings whatsoever and you should dump them.

  15. She became very squirrelly when I asked about her time on Sunday. She texted me about a program that was on yesterday suggesting I too watch it. It was the All Madden rerun from Saturday. She’s a freak for football so I find that hard to believe. I told her it was a rerun and she said she forgot about it. Impossible, it was advertised every other commercial break. It started at 7 and ran until 8:30. Point is, she took her ex home at 8:45. I’m guessing that that time was not used for family time with her daughter and he. I told her it wasn’t like her to miss something like that. I got a text back about a shell in a burger article.
    I think she still wants her ex husband around for romps of this type and he’s the one satisfying her needs. She’s very independent. So side bars are really all she wants
    I want to see her tonight at her second job and get this out in the open. Not exactly sure how I’ll get into it. Maybe start by saying that I really love her but there are things I need cleared up. Thanks so much for helping me see things more vividly Kate. I really do appreciate your input.

    1. What’s your end game for this conversation? She treats you like crap, which is all the reason you need to break this thing off. It sounds like you’re saying that if she gave you a satisfactory explanation for never seeing you outside of her lunch break. youd be okay. Or if she tells you she has other relationships. Like, really, is there anything she could say that would make you feel good about this?

  16. Honestly, I’m not sure. Scares me to tears thinking this will end. I saw her last night and said I’d love her more next year, keeping with the seasons mood. I asked her if she would with me. “That’s a stupid thing to say” was my response. Keep in mind I have all of these thoughts running through my head about this arrangement which I agree is completely wrong. I want to know for certain from her own words that this is a busted thing she’s just having fun with. I think knowing for sure she’s had other physical relationships will help me let go that much easier. Or maybe I’m off my rocker for even wanting any kind of explanation for this macabre relationship.

    1. You’re not off your rocker, but your expectations are too high for getting any truth or closure from her. I mean, maybe she actually would just tell you she has someone else… it’s possible, since she seems to give not one shit what you think. But I think it’s more likely she wants to keep that a secret so you won’t make trouble for her. I can tell you I never came clean with guys I was messing around on.

      Whatever response she does or doesn’t give you, I don’t think it should have an bearing on what you do. You need to walk away from this, regardless.

    2. anonymousse says:

      She’s not going to be truthful with you, and needing that to move on isn’t necessary. You know you aren’t getting what you want, what you deserve. That’s all you need to know.

  17. There’s nothing for you in this ‘relationship’. Whatever you had has been dead for a while. There really is no such thing as getting closure from a final discussion. From what you’ve written, you know all you need to know. MOA. Don’t look back.

  18. What you say makes perfect sense. A couple years back we were arguing and she had said things were too repetitive and too much the same. Also, one time saying to me she was surprised we were still together and if we were ever to break up I would get over it.
    I bought her daughter a large makeup box this Christmas. She told me her daughter thought it was too big, then explained she didn’t need it. I don’t think she gave it to her at all. I suggested today she tell her daughter to sell it on her site. Of course I just got excuses why she can’t although she most definitely can. Through the subtleties of the text conversation, I let her know I know her daughters account name. I don’t mean any malice or ill will, but if what you say is true, me not rocking her comfy boat, she should be feeling pretty sorry I know it. I imagine her stomach is doing cartwheels.
    I want to reach out to her daughter and let her know she missed out on some presents due to her Mothers clandestine charades. To ask for them and get them. That’s not her fault. I truly want her to have them.
    Since I really believe it’s her ex she’s having sex with, I may as well inform him too. Of course since he has no job, car or house, it’ll be easy for her to manipulate him. But no man likes to be cheated on. She’ll have some shitty times to go through. He’ll probably move back in eventually.
    Blow her cover? No my intention is to make sure healing can occur not only for me (ALOT for me) but the others around her she’s been deceiving. This sounds like a sickness she’s suffering from. While there may not be a cure for her, she still needs a shot in the arm.

    1. anonymousse says:

      She had sex in your car with you because she couldn’t take you home. I think you know exactly why you aren’t invited, why you are a secret. You want to pretend you’ve been fooled, but have you? She’s never given you any reason to think she cared or that you mattered to her, in the way you tell it. She’s never invited you into her life all that much and you say it’s been years. So please, back away from her without the dramatics and book an appointment with a therapist.

      You are just as much a willing participant as she was. She did not pull wool over your eyes and pretend you were really in a relationship with her.

      1. I agree, she has been giving you very clear signs all along of how you stand. Just walk away with your pride. What is the point of being all, I know who your daughter is?

    2. Robert, doing all this “outing” is a very bad idea. Nothing good ever comes from that. Kate has given you some very good advice, as have others. You’re four years in; nothing she says will be trustworthy. It’s time to walk away and cut your losses. Leave it all behind. Not every situation can have closure. (Trust me, I know.) And while it may be part of your thoughts forever, fighting through this is so not worth it. (Again, I know. I’m 63 and have been living for a long time with the loss of an important relationship, but it was not worth it. After 5 years, I knew it was over, and had actually never started!) Time to find respect for yourself and walk away. No further explanations needed. You can do this and you know you need to. Good luck.

  19. Jaded Dude says:

    Hey guys, I am in a similar situation…
    Regrettably, I have realized that the person is just not available whatever their justification for having their ex around. Thankfully, after biatching about the situation for most of 2023 which led to things not being fun at all, I just came to terms with the fact that I cannot control what she chooses to do with her ex – she is an adult – I mean sure we are screwing and sure her bigger son knows of me and has met me, and sure she got me decent Christmas gifts a few days ago – but the bottom line is that I needed to focus on the only thing that I could control which was me and achieving my goals…if you don’t believe that you are a prize and set standards for yourself bro then you’ll fall for every sad story…look at the stories of Sampson and Adam int he bible…if they had been assertive and not allowed themselves to be manipulated they would have never fallen as they did…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *