I’m a gay father of a six-year-old son. I came out four years ago, and his mother and I remain best friends. My parents wish to keep my ex-wife involved in family gatherings, even when my partner is there. I am caught in the middle, trying to ensure my partner is okay with my ex-wife being there, and making sure that my ex-wife doesn’t feel excluded from my family for my son’s sake. I’m generally okay with both of them being included, but I don’t know if it should continue forever. Should we lessen the occasions to ease confusion with others?
Ease confusion for whom? Your son? Your parents? Your wife?
It sounds to me like the person who is most concerned about any confusion is you — torn between your partner and “best friend.” You make no mention of how your son reacts in these situations, and really, that is the person whose feelings must be top priority in making this decision.
If your parents are including your former wife because she is the mother of their grandchild and they still consider her part of the family, that’s great. Grandchildren everywhere should be so lucky to have grandparents who don’t expect kids to choose loyalties after a divorce. However, if your parents include her as a cover-up or to maintain their denial, then it needs to stop. Do your parents recognize your partner at these gatherings as your “partner”? If not, and they are in denial, making sure your former wife is present is a reminder of your “heterosexual” past that they pretend hasn’t changed — and they are trying to convince themselves that your partner is “just a friend.”
Sound extreme? Do not underestimate family denial.
What is the general tone at these gatherings? If these are fake nicey-nice events that everyone attends out of obligation “for his sake,” you are not doing your child any favors. He is seeing right through the facade and internalizing the tension and resentment.
However, if everyone is genuinely enjoying themselves, let your son enjoy being part of a post-divorce family that actually gets along. You can relax about being a peacekeeper and let all the grown-ups extend and accept invitations as they wish.
More about dealing with extended family in LGBT families is included in “Family-Defining Moments,” a chapter in Abigail Garner’s book, Families Like Mine.