DEAR AMY: My husband and I married in our mid-30s after we both had a number of serious relationships. My husband was married for a few years and divorced before we started dating. We now have two great children ages 11 and 7 and I wonder: When (and how) is the best way to tell them their father was married before? He seems hesitant to do this but I think it should be a natural conversation before they find out on their own -- from an extended family member or by coming across evidence on their own. I don't think it's a big deal but something that should be out in the open and that he should be the one to tell them. I'm happy to mention that Mom also had relationships before marrying Dad! When I've asked him about it he says it can wait. I'd love your guidance on how to handle this family conversation.
Relate or Wait?
DEAR R OR W: I say "relate." Definitely. I agree with you that this should be a natural conversation and that it should be treated as another part of the fabric of mom and dad's life before kids came along.
I disagree somewhat that your husband must be the person to bring this up. He obviously finds this extremely difficult to do, and he might find it easier if you nudged the conversation along. Ask him if it's OK if you try to handle it.
Here's a scenario: The subject of divorce comes up -- let's say friends or a family member go through a breakup. You and the kids are discussing it.
You say, "Divorce can be tough, but sometimes couples break up and things work out OK. When I met Dad he was a divorced man. He got married when he was just out of college and it didn't work out so they ended their marriage." Then you toss the conversation to your husband. The kids might ask him if he has other children, what his ex-wife's name is or where she lives. He should be neutral, natural and truthful. Most important, you must both assure the kids that you two are solid and happy and not headed toward a breakup.
DEAR AMY: My fiance and I recently got engaged. About five years ago, his parents divorced when his dad announced he had been seeing someone else and was leaving. His mom has had a very difficult time with this. My fiance only sees his dad every few months despite being in the same city, although they text back and forth somewhat frequently. However, he has never liked his dad's girlfriend, since he views her as the reason for his parents' marriage ending. Soon we are going to be making guest lists and sending out invitations for the wedding. My fiance does not want his dad's girlfriend to attend, not only because he doesn't like her, but because he doesn't want to make his mom uncomfortable or cause any drama on our wedding day. I am afraid his dad might tell him that if his girlfriend isn't allowed to come, then he won't come either, and my fiance will regret his father not being there on his wedding day. Do you think it's fair to ask that his dad's girlfriend not attend our wedding?
DEAR WONDERING: This is a fairly common question (unfortunately). Because your fiance's father's girlfriend was a party to the breakup of the marriage, your fiance should ask his father to attend the wedding alone (or with another friend) on that day. The couple should do so out of respect for the feelings of the mother of the groom and to keep the relationship focus where it belongs -- on the marrying couple.
If the father and his girlfriend were married, she should be included.
DEAR AMY: I distilled your answer to "Fretting" (about two lovers' 24-year age difference) into these words: "You can overcome many things, but you cannot beat the clock. Life presents imponderable opportunities for failure. Grab your moments of grace and enjoy them while they last." These are powerful thoughts for many situations in life, and a good basis for starting the new year. I wish I did needlepoint!
DEAR FAN: Thank you.