Ask Amy: Must divorced couples remain friends?
Dear Amy: For several years I had been unhappy with my husband’s defensiveness and the hair trigger irritability he had displayed since our younger days (we are both in our early 70s), but I decided to stick with him after he was diagnosed with a potentially debilitating condition.
After being soundly berated for unjust reasons (such as the look on my face), I pulled away but still made nice dinners, exchanged ideas about books, watched movies together, etc.
He announced that he was going to start “dating.” He told me that in fact he had already signed up for an online matching site.
I told him that in that case I wanted a divorce, and no I wasn’t interested in working on salvaging the marriage.
To my surprise, he met someone almost immediately, and yet still expected me to live cordially with him. He acted as if this was his right.
The situation was extremely stressful, and I wanted him to leave the home immediately. After six months, he finally moved out.
The divorce was finalized recently and now he expects me to be his friend, which I have no intention of doing.
Our adult children feel distant from him for their own reasons.
Now he feels lonely and blames me for the situation.
I’m happier being on my own, but feel confused about how to have stronger boundaries, even though he had no empathy for me, especially during the months when he refused to move out. His health is still good, so that isn’t an issue.
Do I have any responsibility toward him?
Am I too empathetic? I feel like a fool. — Foolish
Dear Foolish: Your divorce severed your legal and emotional obligations toward your ex-husband. If this is truly what you want, even temporarily, then you certainly have the right to cut all ties with him.
If he had wanted to stay friends with you, perhaps he should have treated you more like a friend during that time when you needed his friendship the very most, as the marriage was ending.
Some wise couples actually manage to do this, even when they are parting.
The most urgent and important reason for couples to maintain a cordial (and/or friendly) relationship with one another post-divorce is to protect the emotional connection with the children you share.
Your children are adults, and they can try to maintain their own emotional ties with their father, moving forward.
Your ex-husband’s loneliness is his own burden to manage. He’ll have to figure out how to do this, without you as a companion and crutch. Your job now is to decide on what you want. You could convey your boundaries by explaining them (“I gave this relationship my all, for many years. Now I’m done,”) and then adhering to these boundaries by refusing to be manipulated.
In time, you two may relax into a friendlier relationship, but your own role in any relationship with him will be up to you.
Dear Amy: My 50-year-old sister has been divorced for 15 years.
She recently met a very nice man who moved in with her after a week and proposed last week (two months later).
They are now planning a wedding sometime around Christmas.
We are in a state with rising COVID cases and decreasing hospital beds. I’m anxious about bringing my family to attend her wedding.
She maintains that it’s my decision whether to attend.
It will be in her large home with 30 or so guests.
I hate to miss her wedding and I hate to disappoint her and my parents, who all seem to have limited COVID caution or care, but it seems irresponsible during a pandemic.
I’m certain there will be no social distancing or masks. What should I do? — The Cautious Sister
Dear Cautious: Your sister is giving you an out. Take it.
You should ask if the couple would be willing to livestream their wedding via Facetime or another app. All it would take is a connection, and a phone set up on a tripod.
Dear Amy: “Three Daughters” were worried about their widower-dad’s current partner.
They should contact a trusts and estates attorney to discuss what actions they can take to prevent the new woman from exerting undo influence, and to undo what might have already been done.
They need to do this immediately while their father is still unmarried.
Once he is married, the new spouse is afforded much greater standing than children in estate matters. — Steve
Dear Steve: Thank you!