Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Ask Natalie: Ex-wife wants to throw a big Thanksgiving party with your kids in attendance? Husband cheated and now wants to make amends … while blaming you for the affair?

DEAR NATALIE: My fiancé’s ex-wife has their kids for Thanksgiving and we are supposed to get them the day after, but now I don’t know if we should. She is having a big Thanksgiving party, and we have told her that we don’t want the kids around all of those people with COVID-19 raging on. She doesn’t seem to care. We are concerned that either one of the kids will get sick or--at the very least--be carriers and then infect someone else. How do we deal with this without causing World War Three? —HOLIDAY MESS

DEAR HOLIDAY MESS: This is a really tough one because of the delicate dynamics of blended families. On the one hand, you could ask to switch days with her and have the kids at your house for the holiday. You could then send them over to her house a day or two after Thanksgiving. But if the ex-wife was exposed to COVID at the party, it won’t make much of a difference if she’s around her children one or two days after. You could also ask her to self-quarantine with her children for two weeks after Thanksgiving. But, considering how she doesn’t seem to care about COVID, why would she be willing to do something that she’ll most likely perceive as extreme? The other option is to tell her that you are willing to have the kids stay with you on Thanksgiving and for a few weeks after to make sure she doesn’t have any symptoms. This isn’t full proof, either. Really, the only safe choice is to cancel Thanksgiving gatherings and just have Thanksgiving with the immediate family. This really speaks to the larger narrative of people not being willing to think outside themselves. The seeds of self-centeredness have been sown from the top down. All that you can do is protect your family as best you can. If that means talking with your fiancé about trying to have the kids out of that environment for the holiday, then do it. This is a public safety issue. She risks her kids not being able to be around their father for at least two weeks after this holiday because of her irresponsible decision. Is that what she really wants?   

DEAR NATALIE: My husband and I have recently separated. We were together almost 10 years and married for six when I discovered he has been having an affair. I am devastated. He told me he cheated because I had “let myself go” after we had our baby two years ago. He is right. I found myself overwhelmed and put myself last. What’s worse, we were trying to have a second child when I found out about his affair. So, I feel hopeless, helpless and defeated. He’s now trying to win me back, but I feel terrible about what happened between us. Do you think I should work on our marriage knowing that we have a small child or should I give up? And on top of it all, we are in the middle of the holiday season and a pandemic. I’m not exactly sure about how I feel about leaving right now. —OVERWHELMED MOM

DEAR OVERWHELMED MOM: I am so sorry you that are experiencing such pain and heartache right now. I’m sure you are not alone in feeling trapped in a relationship that you are unsure of continuing during this challenging time. What concerns me about your husband’s affair is the flippant attitude he displayed when you confronted him. “You let yourself go,” is a mean-spirited and cruel thing to say to a vulnerable new mom. Writing that “you agree” only reinforces the idea that he has said hurtful things before. I’m so sorry that you are experiencing verbal abuse and that you have a husband who has disrespected the sanctity of your marriage. Knowing all of that, it is hard for me to suggest that you try and work things out with him. But if you believe that he would really be open to going to therapy with you and on his own, then there could be a sliver of hope for your marriage. I suggest that you go to therapy on your own, regardless, as well. It would be an opportunity for you to work through some of the things that he has done and said to you. Once you have a better sense of self, you might be able to make a decision that honors and uplifts you.

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