Dear Carolyn • My daughter "Brooke" is a senior in high school. Her mother and I have been separated six years and divorced for three. We maintain a cordial relationship and I am allowed great visitation with my daughter. I have had a girlfriend for 18 months, "Michelle." We plan on moving in together in April, and I fully expect to invite her to Brooke's graduation ceremony and a party I am hosting and paying for. My ex-wife adamantly states I cannot bring my girlfriend. I think she may use her position as the parent who lives with my daughter to influence Brooke to agree. I don't think Brooke cares. She has met my girlfriend many times and even spent the night at her house once. How do I handle this situation? I think it is childish for my ex-spouse to insist that the woman I will be living with, and dating for over two years by then, not come. Am I being unreasonable?
Dear M. • No. Divorced couples who remain connected as co-parents eventually have to accept each other's new partners, for the kids' sake if nothing else: They need to see you both let go of grudges, even the legitimate ones. Your cordial divorce suggests you know this, but I'll say it anyway: It's better to be decent than right. Because this is your daughter's celebration, not yours, and because your ex-wife's adamance suggests unhealed wounds, the decent move is to try peacemaking first. Have you asked why your ex is so insistent? Nonconfrontationally, by acknowledging her feelings as valid?: "I know it's difficult. I'd like to think I'd be welcoming of someone new in your life, though, if only to show Brooke I can be. May I ask why the strong objection?" Then listen. Give empathy a chance. Then, since you have time, and assuming you don't get the answer you want from your ex, you drop it: "I'll let this rest, and try seeing it from your perspective. I hope you'll do the same for me." Then use these months to be the model of cooperation vs. I'm-right exasperation. It serves your narrow purpose here, yes, and removes some incentive for your ex to manipulate Brooke. But it's also just the right thing to do.
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