A visit with my ex-husband is not a pick-me-up

In case you aren’t familiar with this part of my backstory: my ex-husband Will has moved to a country far away. He was supposed to come back every two or three weekends but it was 6 weeks between his first and second visit. Now he’s not coming back until Christmas.

I went on vacation last week because Will had our son for the week. He took him to his new home for four nights. By all accounts, they had a great time. Sunday was the day for my son to come back to me.

Neither of us have cars. I lent mine to my Mom so she could go visit family, and I guess the car Will drove every day finally died and he hasn’t replaced it because, well, he doesn’t really live here right now.

Generally, we get along. There isn’t much animosity between us. But every once in a while, he makes me very angry. Usually, I’m good at saying to myself “he’s not your problem anymore” and moving on.

Our Christmas plans have been a long discussion over text and email the past couple of weeks. Will is going to be home for three weeks over the holidays and of course wants to spend as much time as possible with our son. In addition, we have to sort out the plans for Christmas eve and day. Which was a shit show at the best of times.

Last year, I had our son on Christmas eve. Christmas morning, really early, Will came to my house so we were both there when our son woke up. We all went to Will’s sisters for breakfast, then Will went back to his place for a couple of hours. He came back for dinner, where I had all of my parents (Mom, StepDad, Dad, StepMom), my kid brother, and my friend Katharine.

I thought it was a great compromise. But this year, apparently things need to change. Here’s a paraphrase of our conversations to date:

  • Him: I would like to have him Christmas Eve and Christmas morning for breakfast with my Dad. You can have him Christmas Day from lunch onwards, and the 26th.
  • Me: I would really like to see him Christmas morning before you go to your Dad’s, since it’s the most special time of day for him.
  • Him: I can bring him by?
  • Me: Can we talk about this? Why can’t I just come to your place so it’s less onerous for him?
  • Him: Because that’s not nice for me? I totally agree we want less onerous for him, but I don’t want to do a mixed Christmas. Need less onerous for me too. I’m happy to think of an idea that’s fair and this was the best I could do. If you want Christmas morning then maybe we switch around and you do eve and I take him from breakfast on? It was awful last year. I don’t want to do mixed at all. Was very crappy. I don’t want to come for dinner. It just feels weird and I don’t want to do it again.

So today, sitting in what used to be my living room, Will asked about Christmas. He informed me that he and our son were spending Christmas eve with Colleen and the girls at his house, and they were all going to his Dad’s for breakfast.

He said, point blank: “I don’t want to spend any part of Christmas with you.” When I suggested it might be important to our son for him to spend time with his family, he said “we aren’t a family anymore.” Which sure, is technically true.

It was a bad time for me to have any kind of emotional discussion. I was only an hour from wrapping up the second post I wrote on my night and morning with Andrew. I was feeling rather vulnerable. The thought of my son having a perfect new family, with two female siblings, all together and happy on Christmas eve and morning, makes me very sad. Because I will be hanging out with my Mom. Without my son. Age 41 and single.

The reality is that there is nothing I can do about it. I’m not going to be one of those divorced people who rails against a reasonable plan, because it makes me uncomfortable. Will suggested, gently, that perhaps it would be more confusing for our son for the two of us to be together on Christmas morning. I retaliated that he was very clear we weren’t married anymore.

I had a weak moment and referred to Colleen as “new mummy”. To be fair, Will did respond with “Ann, come on…Colleen isn’t ‘new mummy’. You are his only mummy. Nobody else wants the job.”

Which led us to a conversation about how my being a single parents sucks ass. He simply doesn’t get it. But, back to the perfect new family thing, it’s not too surprising.

Just before it was time to leave, our son came downstairs and cuddled on the couch with him. Will looked over at me and said:

“Would you do anything differently?”

“No. Would you?”

“No, except I would done all this five years ago. I think you would have been happier”.

I had no response to that.

0 thoughts on “A visit with my ex-husband is not a pick-me-up

  1. Will’s right, Ann. You clearly would have been happier.
    You’re still processing everything you’ve been through, but you’ll get there.
    Your friends are here for you, never forget that.

  2. Sadly this is one of the times you need to compromise when you become a single parent, you just have to to take it in turns each Xmas, nobody said its fair on either party but you aren’t a family any more so the rules change, look forward to the thought that next Christmas it will be your turn to share Christmas morning with him, I’ve been in this situation, the first Xmas is the worst.

  3. From a child’s point of view, having multiple Christmas’ is the bomb. (I speak from experience here as my parents divorced when I was very young) Also, the mixed holiday thing, not good for your kid. Just because he knows you two are divorced and not getting back together doesn’t mean seeing the two of you together won’t make him think about it when/if he sees you two spending a holiday together. Best to not even go there. (yes, still speaking from experience).

    Unfortunately the best thing for your son, will also sometimes be the best thing for your ex and of course that leaves you on the out and having to suck it up. Being a parent is by far the most selfless thing you will ever do in your life and it really bites that you won’t even get to witness all the rewards for that sacrifice. But trust me when I say your son will one day recognize all the love and effort it took to make him a priority and his life the best it could be.

    Hugs to you Ann, xo

    • Let me echo this. My parents split when I was two. My father bore a buttload of animosity toward my mother and the contention between the two was discernible when he came back into our lives (he was drafted right after the divorce and sent to Vietnam as an “old man”). Christmas didn’t entirely suck in those years, but it never felt right. It was absolutely strange in retrospect when I look at what Savannah and I have now with our family.

      Since the arrival of our first born my parents can now occupy the same room for family gatherings (it only took 31 years), so you are ahead of them. You have to give yourself some latitude with your feelings. It is so raw what you are are dealing with internally. Your husband isn’t being unreasonable and neither are you.

      Can I also recommend that your last comment to your ex be stricken from your thoughts? We (kids) can actually pick up on that feeling (I felt it when I was 5-6 from my father) when I knew there was frustration about my brother and me and these logistical arrangements.

      • My last comment to my ex? Which one are you referring to?

        I actually dont harbour any ill will at all to him or Colleen. None whatsoever. I simply would like the same thing for myself – but it is not a zero sum game.

        My parents split when I was little under way worse circumstances and were always civil and able to be around each other. Their model is my inspiration.

        • Is it apparent yet that I am having some issues today? Good Lord!

          I read this as coming from you, ““No, except I would done all this five years ago. I think you would have been happier”. I see now that it was from him.

          My apologies. 🙁

          I make no excuses form my reading comprehension (and coherent writing) challenges…but it wasn’t a good night for me.

  4. I have to agree with Tis. I too have been the child in this situation (and yes – two holidays were the bomb), but my parents kept everything separate. My ex and I lived to together for a short time after the divorce was final, and it was a bad situation gone worse – and especially for the kids. Divorce is divorce. Spending holidays together is not divorce, it is “marriage.” To borrow my attorney’s words. I know it’s difficult, I’ve been through it, and the first Christmas after divorce he had them Christmas Eve and thus in the morning. That was so hard for me (lots of tears, anxiety). But, in retrospect, I’d give up a thousand Christmas mornings to never have to be married to or spend another day with that man. Hugs to you Ann – it does get better, I promise.

  5. Oh, Ann. I’m so sorry. You are strong, but you have a lot on your plate right now. It’s no wonder you’re feeling vulnerable and in need of dedicated love and affection. I do hope things get a little easier soon. Xx

  6. ((Hugs)) to you. I am doing Christmas alone again this year and it isn’t much fun. I was spoiled in that for the first five years after my divorce, my son was here for all the holidays. Last year was the first time he left, and this year he is already gone.

    I hate to break out the new traditions line…but there it is. Of course, this is also “do as I say, not as I do” because I am still figuring this out even now.

    So really, more ((hugs)) to you.

  7. I wrote a long comment sitting in the doctor’s office but apparently the crappy cell service vanquished it. Ditto on all the other comments. You need to create new holiday rituals that have meaning for you and your son. It’s important for him to spend as much time as possible with his absentee dad as they also create new holiday traditions. I’m not saying this is easy, but you are smart & mature enough to figure it out.

    My parents divorced when I was 7 and they bickered about every holiday regardless of the custody agreement. I vowed never to do that when I got divorced. Granted, my kids are grown so we are at a different junction because our holidays are moving into the adult kid stage. Interestingly enough, I just wrote a post about Thanksgiving that goes up tomorrow.

    Follow your gut and just keep your son’s interests first and things will fall into place. As for the holidays – New Years in my neck of the woods would probably be a lot of fun for you. 😃

    • Thanks!! Yes time with his Dad is very important and he will be spending the bulk of his time with him.

      I shuttled around between parents at holidays for many years. Just wish I didnt have to do the same thing for my son, but I get why its necessary.

  8. I think it’s great that you and Will can have reasonable conversations at the heart of it being what’s best for your kiddo. And the fact that he knows you are happier not being married to the wrong man is, well it’s a gift. I know you are feeling icky and needy and in that moment but you are so sassy, smart, strong and damn sexy. You are beautiful inside and out and as others have said in comments from previous posts, you are the complete package. {hugs}

  9. Last year, I didn’t have my kids at all for Christmas. Not Xmas eve, nor Xmas day, nor Boxing day… Nada, nichts, zilch.
    But, it was a choice too: I knew this year my sister would have her kids and this way they would be able to spent Xmas day with their cousins on both parts every other year. Otherwise, it would have meant that they almost never would have seen their cousins on my side.
    Our respective families live too far away that we could share in the middle of a day, so it had to be all or nothing.
    As I commented on Maggie’s blog, I feared it enormously at first, but then it worked out OK in the end. My kids are used to getting many Xmases because Santa always left presents in everyone’s house, so whenever we made it there, they would find the presents Santa had left for them and be happy for another chance at opening presents. The only downside to this arrangement was when on Xmas morn they were with lots of cousins who had all their presents there, they couldn’t help but wonder why didn’t they get a bigger stash? But we somehow managed to navigate that hurdle too.
    It is a hard thing for you to hear, but there are two things to remember here. We all do what we feel is best for our kids and ourselves. No one is going to look after Will’s interests if it’s not Will. And if last year was too complicated for him, then I can see why he would state his needs to you. It sucks it’s not what you envisioned, but you cannot force anyone to do something for you. Let’s face it, the guy probably didn’t do it while you were married, he’s not about to start now you’re divorced!
    The best thing for you to do now is to find ways to ENJOY that holiday period, no matter what! So set your heart to enjoy the quiet evening with your mom. For me, it would be going to midnight mass, since I couldn’t do that when I was married, and my kids don’t really care for it either. It could be going caroling if that’s something that happens in your area. I once did that with the church I used to attend, it was lots of fun. It could be go to a show that you know you couldn’t attend, would your son be with you. It has to be something for YOU.
    It will probably be easier for your son if he realises that mom and dad are really not together any more. And seeing you for such a holiday, especially so early in the morning, could lead him to subconscioulsy hope there is a chance that you could reunite. And if there were ANY tension at all during that day that you would spend together, there is a good chance he would think he is the reason for the tension, and that would make it an awful Xmas for him. Not seeing you together but seeing you be more civil is probably the best thing for your son.
    Good luck figuring out how to navigate that hurdle. I’m confident you’ll find the way 🙂
    What really puzzles me is this: How long were you married to Will? Is your son older or younger than 5? This would help me better understand his last statement.

      • So it was him recognising that you would have been better off without him as soon as your son was born really…
        Did you notice a change in the relationship after his birht, or is it just that things that were only slightly bothersome when it was just you were all of a sudden becoming insufferable once your child was there?
        Like for me, him being selfish and controlling when it was about me was OK, but when it made my life as a mother more complicated, it started to really wear me out!

  10. Reading this makes me glad my kids are all relatively grown up. When I split from my first husband, he didn’t want anything to do with the family and I immediately moved with my girls to another state – so it was never an issue. But this time, everyone lives in the same town, my kids don’t want to spend time with the ex, and my ex’s parents (whom I love) want us all to be together as a family. I could tolerate my ex for a “family” dinner – but is that fair to my kids, who don’t want to be around him? On the other hand, if I tell his mother we’re not interested in spending time with them if he is in the picture, she will be crushed and he will probably get pissed off at me for rocking the boat (plus, then he can blame me some more for “coming between him and the kids”). Sigh.

      • Well, I did it. I got some blunt advice from MaggieMay that was spot on. So, I visited the in-laws last night and told them the kids and I would not be available on Thanksgiving, but we would love if the two of them would join us the Sunday prior for an early Thanksgiving dinner at my place – and that way, “You’ll have Thanksgiving available to spend with your son.” They accepted and seemed fine with it. I guess I was worrying about nothing when it came to them. I still don’t know about Doc – I’m not going to bring it up with him. If he addresses it with me, I’ll remind him we aren’t a family anymore. If he asks the kids out, then they can handle it – they are young adults now.

  11. My daughter had two Christmases a year nearly her entire life. (Her dad and I split when she was 2). On the years I had her Christmas Eve, we celebrated “Ash-mas” (her name is Ashley) and I got her home late that same evening to her dads so she would always have a Christmas morning she wasn’t being rushed out of. It wasn’t the best of circumstances, but it worked. I knew the following year would be mine. And as a poster mentioned, hey the kid gets TWO Christmases. What could be better in a kids mind? I hope you are able to work thru this where you are both happy, but most of all where your son is. 🙂

      • Actually, because her ex was always trying to manipulate and micro-manage every holiday, we had to see a counselor/mediator to help get a schedule established that he was, basically, required to adhere to. That worked really well for a number of years because anytime he wanted to change something we could just point at the document.
        All of that changed a bit when he finally got remarried and they started going places for holidays. By then, my stepson was old enough to voice his opinion on whether he wanted to travel, and we would usually leave it up to him.

        • It’s different when your kids can make their own decisions.

          I’m sorry to hear it was that bad with your wife’s ex. My mortgage broker ended up having to document who would buy the Halloween costumes. It’s terrible that it can come to that!

  12. This hits home after my recent argument with xH over Thanksgiving. I like that Will delivered his message clearly and without attack, he doesn’t want to have things a certain way. I can really appreciate this. But, I would be terribly upset to be without my kids on the morning when they are so young….it’s got to be tough to make the best decision for everyone. I wish you good luck and strength to decide the best thing. And big warm hugs too.

    • Yes, we are pretty good at working things out. It takes a BIG effort on both our parts at times, but we are committed to it, which makes a difference.

      We will switch every year but yeah, not being with him in the morning will suck. We are trying to figure out whether Santa can come to both houses, so I get a bit of that excitement as well. We’ll see.

      And hugs right back. Thank you!!

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