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Suzanne, Mental Health Professional
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 919
Experience:  LCSW, RN. Mental Health, Relationship & Parenting issues.EMDR, Hypnosis.
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How do I gently tell my grown daughter that I do not want to

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How do I gently tell my grown daughter that I do not want to spend Thanksgiving with my ex husband of 25+ years? She invited me first to spend with her and her family. Then called and left a message that she wants to also have her dad there and would I "mind if the two visits overlap by a day so we can all have a nice Thanksgiving dinner together". I do not want to spend ANY time with the man who made my life miserable for so long. I understand what she wants and why, but if she knew the details she wouldn't be so quick to want to throw us together. I need some advice on how to handle the situation.

More background information:  Her dad cheated on me, belittled me, destroyed any self confidence I had.  When I became pregnant with my daughter he said "So, are you going to keep IT"?  It.  And now that he is a recovering alcoholic who burned through all of his retirement (he is only 60 but hasn't worked in 10 years except at menial jobs) he all of a sudden is the "prodigal father".  He left after the divorce.  Our kids were 6 and 10.  I raised them to adulthood.  If I wanted more child support (while he is off vacationing in the Bahamas and playing blackjack at $25 a hand) he would threaten to call Children's Services and say I was sexually abusing them.  He knew I would never put my kids through that.  But of course, all his two kids see is the loving "pop pop" to the grandkids.  I know him better than that.  He is broke, basically homeless, counting on them for plane tickets to visit and plays the perfect grandpa.  Because my daughter and her husband are successful....and he sees them as a MEAL TICKET.  He has them all snowed.  But not me.

Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Suzanne replied 5 years ago.
Thanks for bringing your question to JustAnswer.

It makes perfect sense why you would not want to spend another minute of your time with this man. A daughter grown enough to be hostess for Thanksgiving is old enough to be told a gentle version of the truth--he hurt you, and while you respect that he is her father and needs to spend time with her, you have no wish to be forced to interact with him. Tell her you understand that she wishes that everyone being together would make things right for a "nice dinner together"--but that in fact, it would ruin your holiday and your peace of mind.

Offer to alternate the holidays--one year he goes for Thanksgiving and you go for Christmas, and the next year, it alternates.

Worry less about hurting her feelings and more about having an authentic relationship in which you both honor each others feelings. Going and making believe that everything is fine isn't doing a favor to anyone. Try to have a conversation with her in the near future where you quietly and calmly express your desire not to see him. If you give in, then she'll feel free to invite him to all the future holidays as well
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I could use some help in how to start that conversation. I just don't know "what" to say to her. I am civil every time I have to be around him and bite my tongue when I want to hit him over the head and tell him to stop sponging off of his children. I have invited him to my home for Christmas on occasion because he inevitably shows up for the holidays (oh, and Father's Day...never misses that one) and I would feel like a real heel for making him sit at my son's house (he lives in my town, my daughter 3 hours away) while we have a nice meal and celebration at mine. I feel so GUILTY because they both look at me like I am petty and bitchy while he comes off being the one shrugging his shoulders going "well, beats me why she doesn't want to be around me". You are correct that if I give in she will feel free to want Christmas together next. Why does it bother me so much that I come off being the spoiler when he is MORE than willing to spend as much time around me as possible? He snickers with them over how unreasonable I am and has really engratiated him with my son-in-law. My daughter in law, on the other hand, can't stand him and saw right through him. She hates it when he comes to visit and says the only time he shows my grandson any attention is when someone else is around to witness it. I think both of my kids have real issues with their father taking off and living his own life while I finished raising them. My daughter is "perfect" and my son is 100 pounds overweight. Coincidence? I don't think so.
Expert:  Suzanne replied 5 years ago.
It's particularly unfair that you're being characterized as the 'bad guy' after all the effort you've put into protecting them from the real reasons the marriage broke up...and that's why it eats you up. Anyone would feel that way in your shoes.

Talk to at a time when you have her full attention (her kids asleep, etc). Tell her you need to have a heart to heart talk with her about something important. Set a serious tone. Tell her something to the effect of -- While you were growing up, I protected you from what was really going on in the marriage because I always wanted you to have a good relationship with your dad. It wouldn't be appropriate for me to tell you the details, but you need to know that he hurt me in very significant ways that are very painful to remember. Seeing him brings back all that hurt and humiliation, and it's impossible for me to relax with him around. I'm not asking you to not see him, but I am asking you to have some understanding of why it hurts so much to see him act like nothing ever happened, and to have to interact with him on holidays. I need you to figure out a way to see us at separate times on the holidays.

But you do, I'm afraid, need to be more consistent. Don't invite him to your home at Christmas. If you want to stop having contact, make it across the board, or it won't be fair to ask your daughter to make other arrangements--and then have you "cave in" at other times. Perhaps a few sessions with a therapist would be worthwhile to help you work out why you still would 'feel like a heel' for excluding him from your home.
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