Tree-Trimming Coup

6 Dec

Letterbalm Christmas Tree TrimmingDear LetterBalm: My mother has kept in touch with one of my old boyfriends, which has bothered me over the years because the relationship ended badly. He was abusive and manipulative, and he cheated on me a lot and married one of the women. Mom has an annual tree-trimming party, kind of a big deal in the family. She has invited them this year. I’ve told her that I’m not happy about this, but she and my husband say I’m making too much of it. What can I do? I know in my heart of hearts that the guy is mean and just wants to make me uncomfortable.

–Not Decking the Halls

Ms. L.B. says stop complaining because the matter is out of your hands. Yes, your mother and your husband are being monumentally obtuse and inconsiderate. But you can turn the occasion to your advantage. Go to the tree-trimming party looking your best. Be upbeat and smile. Don’t drink too much or be drawn into old arguments and be unfailingly gracious to the wife. You have a unique opportunity to be the truly bigger person. At first, this may be exhausting, but as the evening goes on, you may begin to enjoy your magnanimous role because it is the right thing to do and it subtly puts you in control. (And, if the evening goes so well that Mom wants you to have more contact with them, write to LetterBalm again, and we’ll see what we can do.) Have a few positive responses ready to put you, your life with your husband, your job and other areas of your life in the best light. Keep this in mind: You’ve moved on, and you belong there. Your ex and his wife don’t. A sampling:

  • Jason and I have taken up tennis/golf/working out together. He found us an excellent instructor. There’s something to be said for shared competition – it keeps us fit and motivated.
  • I got a new job a few months ago. The best part is, it’s more challenging and I can talk about it when I get home. Jason and I are pretty invested in each other’s work. We cheer each other on.
  • Oh, I really like being an aunt. We have a great time taking our niece to the zoo. We went to her kindergarten graduation, which was so adorable. She keeps us young.
  • We just finished Jason’s man cave in the basement. The guys gather and make all the noise in the world. I stay upstairs, listening to jazz, trying new recipes and reading books about Paris. In fact, we’ve made plans to go to Paris for our tenth anniversary. It would fulfill a real dream of ours.
  • So, Marcie, how are things with you? Are you working now? I do remember that you like to paint. Are you doing anything in that area?
  • [Only if this is true] Marcie, that’s a beautiful sweater you’re wearing, and I like what you’ve done with your hair.
  • Oh, Lex, let’s not get into that. This is an evening for good cheer.
  • Lex, we’re not going to go over old ground. All of us have moved on. Now, what do you think about the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium – the first one in decades to be played on artificial turf?/Are you still into fixing old computers?/Are you still collecting movie DVDs?
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