Q: I have been divorced three times. There were extenuating circumstances with each one, from infidelity to simply not caring for my child, but the truth remains, I have been divorced three times. My oldest daughter, who is now well into her 30s, saw it all and makes it very difficult for me to date. She dislikes everyone for some reason and with the Holidays coming up, I feel like I’m juggling family members. I’m in my 60s, and I’d like to invite my “boyfriend” to Thanksgiving, but I’m sure my daughter will make a scene. What’s good ex-etiquette?
A: It’s time for your daughter to grow up. I understand that both kids and parents may not like each other’s choices in partners, but ultimately, it’s not their choice. Making it difficult to interact with a parent or child’s new partner puts family members in the position of having to choose — or dread interaction. Both make the holidays unbearable.
Good ex-etiquette dictates if you want to be around a family member for Thanksgiving, but you hate his or her partner, you don’t badmouth (ex-etiquette rule No. 3), you are not spiteful or hold grudges (ex-etiquette rules 5 and 6), you use empathy in your interactions (ex-etiquette rule No. 7), you are honest (Ex-etiquette rule No. 8), you respect the host or hostess (rule No. 9), and you look for the compromise (ex-etiquette rule No. 10). No where does it say you should be self-righteous, resentf, rude, judgmental, or give someone a hard time just because you don’t approve of their presence. If you want to be around the family member, rejoice in their company. Treating their choice of partner rudely accomplishes nothing and makes what little time you have with the beloved family member uncomfortable. The mature approach is to figure out the best way to utilize your time with the family member, not let your animosity for a partner choice interfere with celebration.
What if there is a legitimate reason behind the complaint? The choice of partner uses foul language or has a drinking or drug problem and acts inappropriately around the children in attendance? In that case, a heart-to-heart with the family member prior to the visit in the name of the children who will be present would be appropriate, but not because you just plain don’t like their choice. “I understand you will most likely want to bring Louise, but please ask her to monitor her drinking. It makes us all very uncomfortable if she gets drunk — particularly around the kids.”
Then, if the behavior continues, said partner is not respecting the host or hostess’ home (ex-etiquette rule No. 9). That is a basis on which to ask the family member to leave their choice at home.
What if, as in your case, a guest (your daughter) is acting disrespectfully to another guest in your home? If this behavior is based purely on whim, not on the new partner’s poor behavior, then your daughter would be the one who would be acting disrespectfully. Make your boundaries clear or the behavior will continue.
Often, when parents take a stand, the child feels as if the parent is choosing their partner over them, when that is not the case. The parent is choosing good behavior, period. And, that’s good ex-etiquette.
— Tribune Content Agency