Partner's Abusive Ex and Communicating My Boundaries
August 5, 2014 9:42 AM   Subscribe

I need advice on how to explain to my partner why I wont be attending a birthday party for the child she co-parents with her emotionally abusive ex.

My partner "Jane Doe" has the unfortunate burden of co-parenting a soon to be four year old child "Jessica" with her emotionally abusive ex "Ted Lunchpail". Their child is turning four soon and the time for b-day planning has come. Although Jane originally planned on having a seperate party last night she agreed with Ted that they will be following the rules layed out in their Parenting Agreement and having a joint birthday party in which all people important to the child will attend. I would like to minimize my contact with Ted as much as possible and so have said I would not be attending this joint party. When I stated this Jane said she was hoping we could all set our differences aside and attend the event "for Jessica."
There are a few reason's for why I wont attend and they are pretty complex. Being with an abuse survivor has been and will continue to be a challenge, but it has also helped my recognize and begin to address my own boundary issues. The biggest reason I don't want to attend is because Jane has shared many of the text message conversations she's had with Ted and in some of these he has threatened to harm me as in "teach me lesson" etc. I'm sceptical that he would ever escalate things to that level but still feel the need to draw a line. I'm not interested in socializing with somebody that has threatened me, be they direct or indirect threats. I'm feeling uncomfortable and confused. Is it selfish that i feel that it's deeply unfair to be asked to ignore this boundary for something as insignificant as a four year old's 1.5 hour birthday party?
posted by peterpete to Human Relations (36 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If this person has threatened you, your partner needs to go back to court and have the parenting agreement re-evaluated. End of discussion.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:46 AM on August 5, 2014 [57 favorites]

Consider that you're not attending "for Jessica" but actually for your partner, who has to co-host a party with her emotionally abusive ex that she very likely doesn't want to have to do but has to for the well being of her child and also lawyers.

Your role in this is so that when Jane is feeling overwhelmed by Ted she can come to you and find an emotional safe space.

You obviously don't have to go if you don't want to, but it would be a kindness to your partner. It would also show Jessica that you and her mom are a team, which is something even very small children pick up on.
posted by phunniemee at 9:47 AM on August 5, 2014 [80 favorites]

It's not unreasonable for you to feel the way that you do - he passively threatened you, so you have a right to feel uncomfortable at the very least.

That said:

. . . i feel that it's deeply unfair to be asked to ignore this boundary for something as insignificant as a four year old's 1.5 hour birthday party?

Think about how your partner is feeling in all this. This four year old's party, with everyone that's important to this kid, is certainly not insignificant to your partner and her daughter. This is her trying to do something for her kid who has gone through a lot of change in her young life. And remember, your partner is the abuse survivor. She needs you there to support her. It's not necessarily fair to prioritize your semi-vague emotions over her lived experience of dealing with the asshole.
posted by Think_Long at 9:48 AM on August 5, 2014 [15 favorites]

While I normally would advocate anyone steering clear of someone who has threatened them in the past, I think you absolutely should go to this. She's been abused by this man and you want her not to have the person she loves there to support her? That just seems wrong. He's threatned you, he's abused her. Certainly this Parenting Agreement needs to be revised if this is something in it.

And I really take issue with the word insignificant. That may be how you think about it. Heck, it may even be how you think of her daughter. From some of the things you write, I'm guessing you two aren't close. That's unfortunate.

In the end, you either stick together as a family or you move the hell on. Are you a partner or not? If you can't be there to support her and she can't be there to support you, you're not really partners. You're people who may or may not live together.
posted by inturnaround at 9:56 AM on August 5, 2014 [13 favorites]

I'd suggest that you be the bigger person. Do you honestly believe that this yutz is a legitimate threat to you, or are you just standing on principle? If it's the former, for goodness sake, get a retraining order. If you're just butt-hurt because this asshole is throwing his weight around, rise above it and do it because your partner has asked you to.

This isn't a boundary issue. He's not encroaching on YOUR life, he's wanting to attend a birthday party for his daughter. There's a vast difference there.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:59 AM on August 5, 2014 [13 favorites]

Ted won't necessarily know that you're drawing a line on his behaviour, just that his mealy mouthed and cowardly posturing seem to have been a success. Your partner and her daughter on the other hand will be the ones more affected by your absence. It's sending out a less than supportive message.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 10:00 AM on August 5, 2014 [50 favorites]

The amount of time (1.5 hours) might be insignificant, but the event is certainly not at all insignificant, and if your partner or her child are people who place a lot of value on events like birthdays it may be a very, very important event for both of them.

It may or may not be unfair that you are being asked to ignore or otherwise adjust a boundary issue for this birthday party, but I would bet that acting like Jessica's 4th birthday is an insignificant occasion is going to upset and hurt your partner and her daughter, and make them both feel dismissed and devalued.

If you really cannot handle being around your partner's ex, you do not have to go, but you really, really need to stop framing the event as something that is trivial and absurd to ask you to participate in. At the very least, you need to communicate clearly to your partner and her child that you love and value them, that you would really love to be there to support them and celebrate Jessica's birthday with her, and that you're deeply sorry that you can't handle your discomfort well enough to go.

Birthdays are a big deal to little kids, and often to those kid's parents. If you care about your partner and her child, you need to show care and effort for occasions that are important to them, including birthdays, even if you don't personally think birthdays are significant.
posted by Kpele at 10:01 AM on August 5, 2014 [7 favorites]

Is it selfish that i feel that it's deeply unfair to be asked to ignore this boundary for something as insignificant as a four year old's 1.5 hour birthday party?

Read that sentence back aloud. Yes, it's selfish. You are brushing off the party as "insignificant," which it clearly—and I'm not assuming, here; you state this—is not, to other people involved. You're also front-loading your own position: it's not just unfair, it's "deeply" unfair. Generally speaking, if you feel the need to dress your position in melodramatic language, it is wise to step back and take five or ten deep breaths.

Being with an abuse survivor has been and will continue to be a challenge, but it has also helped my recognize and begin to address my own boundary issues.

If you truly have boundary issues in your past, then I'm sympathetic. But one of the challenges of navigating a relationship where both parties have issues they are overcoming is to recognize when it's time to set yours aside and focus on the other person's. It can't always be time to be sensitive to both. I realize that may sound callous, but it's reality. Interests conflict. Sometimes your partner is going to need you to be there for her, and you'll have to deliver...and tomorrow if you need to recuperate or refocus on your own stuff, then it will be her turn to help you.

There are a few reason's for why I wont attend and they are pretty complex.

I would say gently that nothing you have described here is actually complex. I think everybody in this thread understands your concerns. Even those of us saying you should attend the party aren't dismissing your concerns as foolish or irrational or dumb. To the contrary, they are perfectly logical. But they aren't complex. You might consider whether applying melodramatic framings to emotional situations is something that's healthy for you, your partner, or her child. Separately but related, I hope the derision in that "lunchpail" reference is something you keep to yourself around the house.
posted by cribcage at 10:15 AM on August 5, 2014 [20 favorites]

I'm not comfortable around X. I'll make/ get some cupcakes and ice cream for a 2nd celebration at home, because I want Kiddo to know I love them. and Kiddo, I'm not able to make it to your party at Neutral Location, but we'll have an extra bedtime story later. Not being around X is a fine idea. Having shared parties in the agreement is not a great idea, IMO, but not worth fighting over. The agreement can't require that a person who chooses not to attend show up. De-escalate this as an issue. Birthday parties for kids are swell, but I think they get overblown.
posted by theora55 at 10:17 AM on August 5, 2014

You're going to let Ted win that easily?
posted by Rock Steady at 10:25 AM on August 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

I get wanting to have boundaries, but what about enforcing this one in a way that doesn't leave you partner and her daughter alone at the mercy of the ex? You could take 2 cars to the party and if the ex threatens your safety in person, you can slip out quietly without drama. But the takeaway for the child and your partner isn't that you don't care enough to show up at all. And you are still looking out for your own well-being.
posted by cecic at 10:26 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

The biggest reason I don't want to attend is because Jane has shared many of the text message conversations she's had with Ted and in some of these he has threatened to harm me as in "teach me lesson" etc.

It's not clear from this whether Ted has been physically violent or whether he was angry at the time and just blathering, or whether it was last week or last year, but Jessica should stop sharing text messages with you -- speaking of boundaries -- and you should stop reading them. Those are private.

If he's violent, she should refer to her attorney for a review of the parenting agreement, but presumably they drew this up because they believed it was important for the child for all parents to be at Big Events, even if it was uncomfortable. I've seen a lot of people do this and I have a lot of respect for the willingness to deal with such awkwardness with a smile in order to make a kid happy.

If this guy is violent as opposed to an ordinary jerk -- that is a different story, and if there's a question, bring your phone, keep it in your pocket, and call the police if necessary. And if you really, really, really think he's violent: that child shouldn't be near him either, and that would be my first concern.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:42 AM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

I actually don't think you should go (yeah, it lets Ted "win," but if Ted decides he wants to beat the crap out of you in front of everyone because he's a fuckwad....not worth it to me), but this is a problem that is going to keep cropping up as long as you are with Jane. Every time the kid has a graduation (they graduate kindergartners these days) or any kind of "everyone has to be invited" sort of thing, you'll have to be dealing with this debate of whether or not to go. I guess you can sorta(?) get away with it as long as you are just "partners" rather than "official stepdaddy of Jessica," but the longer you're with Jane and the more committed you are and as the years go by, the worse it's gonna look.

I think you need to negotiate some kind of game plan ahead of time as to how to handle situations like this every time they come up. Like for instance, can Jane be okay with you leaving on your own if Ted is threatening you? And can the parenting agreement be reviewed?
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:45 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're planning on being a part of this kid's life in a stepdad-type capacity, you absolutely cannot let Ted smack-talk you out of attending her significant events.

If you're not seriously worried about him getting violent with you, then you need to treat him like the inconsequential blowhard he is, show up for the party, be there for your partner and her kid, and ignore Ted to the best of your ability and not let him provoke you.

If you do have concerns that Ted might follow through on that "teaching you a lesson" crap, then you should take it seriously and file for a TRO and the parenting agreement absolutely needs to be changed, and Jane should have your back on that as far as giving you copies of the texts for your filing and asking the court to revise the agreement.

Based on what you wrote, it sounds like you should just suck it up and go to the party. Jessica may or may not care that you're there, but I would think it would be important to Jane to have you there supporting her.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:05 AM on August 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

I am an abuse survivor and my current boyfriend - well, I just wouldn't dream of asking him to come to an event with my abuser there. I would feel implictly like I was violating my new boyfriend's boundaries by even asking something like that.

This also doesn't really sound like it's "about Jessica" to me - it sounds like it's about Ted. This sentence stands out to me: Although Jane originally planned on having a seperate party last night she agreed with Ted...

You don't agree "with" an abuser. You agree for an abuser. Jane is placating Ted and giving him what he wants. This is par for the course when you try to "reason" with someone who is abusive.

I would actually, were I in your shoes, say to Jane, "I do not want to attend, because I think this is about making Ted happy, and I have no interest in making Ted happy. Do you really think that he has your best interests and Jessica's best interests at heart here? Has he ever shown that he thinks about other people more than he thinks about himself?" And then let it go. She knows what is best for her, after all, just as you know what is best for you. What is best for her might feel like having the party with Ted. I don't know. What I do know is that what was best for me as an abuse survivor, and what has been best for literally every other survivor that I have known (and I've known a lot) is to limit communication and time spent with the abuser as much as humanly possible. Including not holding joint parties with the abuser even if the Parenting Agreement looks like it has enough leeway for that to happen. If it's not necessary, you don't do it.

You are not being petty by not wanting to go. You are not being selfish by saying "I don't want to placate the man who abused Jane and who has threatened to hurt me."

This party is all about Ted right now. As usual.
posted by sockermom at 11:06 AM on August 5, 2014 [16 favorites]

Is it selfish that i feel that it's deeply unfair to be asked to ignore this boundary for something as insignificant as a four year old's 1.5 hour birthday party?

posted by TestamentToGrace at 11:10 AM on August 5, 2014

You'd let your partner go to this party alone, without your support? Frankly, it sounds like you want to punish her for something.
posted by OmieWise at 11:18 AM on August 5, 2014 [11 favorites]

Whether you want it to be or not, to her this is partly about whether you've got her back. She must to walk into the lion's den, she asked you to stand beside her, and if you leave her to do it alone, she may wonder whether she can really trust you to step up when life throws something that is not "insignificant".

I'm pretty sure Ted will be on his best most charming behavior at the party, due to the adults. Keeping Up Appearances of being a good guy is probably a lot more important to him than you might realize. He might even want to be seen to be treating you well, awww, he's just such a mature grown-up big-hearted good guy!

I'd also guess that Ted's anger is not personal or about you, even when it's "about you". He's angry at his life and finds it easier to impotently shake his fist at the universe and hop and holler than to honestly examine his mistakes and culpability and fix his shit.

Use his threats and your discomfort for better custody terms. In the meantime, be the bigger man; if you want to be her partner, step up for duty.
posted by anonymisc at 11:25 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

So abusive ex continues to use abusive methods to get his way. Awesome. Or you could go support your girlfriend who will be going through a lot more mental torment than you and would like her partner to have her back.
posted by wwax at 11:28 AM on August 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

I don't understand why you are getting so much static in this thread.

Her ex threatened you and she (apparently) has done nothing about it, and then expects you to sacrifice your personal safety for a birthday party that the child is not likely to even remember?

You are completely within the realm of reasonable behavior to pass on the party, and your S/O has done you a disservice by asking you to be in the presence of someone who threatened you.
posted by DWRoelands at 11:30 AM on August 5, 2014 [9 favorites]

I'm not interested in socializing with somebody that has threatened me, be they direct or indirect threats.

Well, you don't really have to Socialize with him do you?
I'm presuming there will be other people at this party too?
Go for Jessica AND for Jane, say a pleasant but curt "hello" to Ted, and don't engage with him any more than that.

There will likely be worse ramifications for you by not attending, than by just being the bigger person, attending the party and not engaging with Ted.
posted by JenThePro at 11:51 AM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

When I was in my teens, a relative of mine borrowed an entire set of books from me and never returned them. When I tried to tell this person they owed me X amount of money because that is what it would cost to replace the entire set of books, they laughed in my face. This individual had a history of abusing me.

Shortly thereafter, I got involved with a young man whom I later married. While we were dating, as a gift, he replaced the entire set of books that my abusive relative had absconded with.

"Nothing takes the past away like the future. Nothing makes the darkness go like the light." -- Madonna.

I hope you will decide to try to handle this situation in a manner that doesn't make it all about you. Your needs and your boundaries are not unimportant but looking out for yourself also should not mean just abandoning Jane and Jessica. Please try to find some other answer that is more considerate of the needs of all concerned parties and less exclusively focused on you. Some famous person once said something like "Real justice means justice for both sides/all parties." Ted is the father of this child. Jane is the mother. I don't think I can express my feelings for how awful it sounds to me for you to be so dismissive of her child's needs without getting my comment deleted. To me, that suggests you aren't all that different from Ted. Like Ted, you apparently want something from Jane but, hey, her and her daughter's needs be damned? I just can't imagine how bitter I would be if I were her and that was your position.

Like someone else suggested, maybe it is time to talk to the courts about the threats he has made. Or maybe you can come up with another suggestion for how to handle this which does not simply amount to you washing your hands of the situation. I agree with people who are saying that Ted is basically being manipulative here.

There may be no good answer for this specific situation. By that I mean, on such short notice, it may be impossible to come up with some perfect win-win solution. But I will suggest you pick up some negotiating books -- "Getting to Yes" is good and a quick read -- and start learning to be very, very diplomatic so you can try to get there (to win-win-win solutions for you and Jane and Jessica) in the future. I don't simply mean polite. I mean polite and respectful and kind of scheming, in the way professional diplomats are. They get things done without bloodshed by looking out for the interests of their own side while also being very polite, understanding, etc and making deals. You don't succeed at that by starting from a position of vilifying the other side.

Also, let me suggest you try very hard to wrap your brain around the idea that this is not you vs Jane. Ted will win this if you keep framing it that way. This should be you and Jane vs the problem. The problem is complex and it will benefit from having as many brains cells working on it as possible. In-fighting will just burn up resources needed to resolve this constructively.

I am sorry all of you are dealing with this. But I don't agree with how you are framing this problem. I think you very much need to reframe it.
posted by Michele in California at 11:55 AM on August 5, 2014 [28 favorites]

If you feel Ted is a real threat, simply staying away from a birthday party will not protect you. You should go to the authorities and get a restraining order.

If you do not really feel Ted is a threat, and it's more that you are offended by him, that should not stand in the way of supporting and celebrating the people you love.

As another point of reference, my kid's fourth birthday part next year will be a big deal to both me and him. Much more so than my own.
posted by pizzazz at 1:53 PM on August 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

Jane isn't caving to placate Ted. She's agreeing to follow the terms laid out in their shared parenting agreement, which is a legal document that she and Ted have both signed.

You're not the only abuse survivor in this relationship, but you're the only one who can walk away from it. Jane has to continue to coparent Jessica for at least the next fourteen years--she can never just walk away from her abuser and move on with her life. This is not an "insignificant" birthday party--it's undoubtedly both important and stressful, and instead of being supportive, you're making it all about you. It doesn't sound like either of you feel that this guy is a credible threat to you, but you want to draw a line (that he'll be unaware of) and "protect yourself"?

It's not about you. It's about being a good partner, and, if you're at all involved in the coparenting of this child, being a good parent. We put ourselves out there to support the people we care about. It sounds like the only person you're interested in supporting is yourself.
posted by MeghanC at 2:08 PM on August 5, 2014 [15 favorites]

You come across as kind of selfish, yes. Your instinct is to focus on your own interests. There is a bigger picture, which is making sure Jessica is raised in a healthy, caring environment.

You should seriously think about whether you're suited for this role. You're not just going out with Jessica's mom, but you're in a relationship with Jessica and Ted, too. That's why these relationships are so complex.

I'd see a therapist familiar with this kind of situation and discuss what your role should be, how to handle Ted, and if this is even the right relationship for you.
posted by lillian.elmtree at 3:23 PM on August 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

If there were not a parenting agreement in place, I would agree with you.

But there is. So that's the reality your partner is required to work within, and so that's the reality that you are required to work within. In this instance, she's being forced to attend a party with her abuser; in this instance, a good partner would go with her to support her, as she's the most vulnerable person in this scenario (assuming there's no child abuse; it's totally arguable that her daughter is the most vulnerable person this scenario, but that still requires that you go to support and (emotionally) protect both of them).

This is a Comfort In, Dump Out situation, where your partner is the actual victim of this guy and so you need to be supporting her right now, not dumping additional problems in her lap.

Going forward, I do think it's worth seeing if the parenting agreement can be changed. Be aware, however, that abusers are often charming, and many courts will grant them more favorable custody/visitation arrangements than they deserve; many abusers also use parenting arrangements as a way to continue harassing their ex-partners. So changing the agreement may not be easy, and your partner may be perfectly justified in worrying that challenging the current arrangement will end up worse for her and her daughter. Please support her in doing what she thinks is best.
posted by jaguar at 4:31 PM on August 5, 2014 [7 favorites]

I don't mean to beat this dead horse, but I kind of will. I'm a child of divorce, whose parents remarried and then got divorced again. I am used to awkward family gatherings, if not at this level. So, I'm looking at this from Jessica's point-of-view.

If you're going to be a part of Jane's life, and therefore a part of Jessica's life, you need to be able to stand your ground and stand up for and with them.

When I stated this Jane said she was hoping we could all set our differences aside and attend the event "for Jessica."

Here's what Jane might've meant by that: "for Jessica" means you and Jane are a unified front, a positive influence for Jane; that Jessica will see that things don't have to be like how they have been; that Jessica is important to you; that Jane, mother of Jessica, abuse survivor herself, is important to you.

Not going to the event will not be taken as a reflection of your feelings on Ted; it will be taken as you not being on Jane's team.

Is it selfish that i feel that it's deeply unfair to be asked to ignore this boundary for something as insignificant as a four year old's 1.5 hour birthday party?


If your boundary is that you cannot be around the co-parent of your partner's child, then where is this relationship going to go? Jessica is so very young; there are many more years of many more events like this ahead. Will you always leave if Ted is present? Are you even planning on being there?
posted by RainyJay at 4:33 PM on August 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

I find it extremely hard to believe that there is a legitimate threat to your safety here.

I mean, speaking as someone with a stupid drunk/abusive/shitty extended family(one of whom threatened to and then ACTUALLY tried to kill me!)... So he gets drunk and decides to make a huge scene and scream at you and try and kick your ass. That is NOT your fault for attending, that's his fault for being a shit... and now you have evidence to use against him.

...Assuming you really think that would even happen. I mean did he say anything beyond "teaching you a lesson"? A lot of these kinds of guys are paper tigers. Another point is, Anyone involved in this situation who tries to shame you for coming because you'd "set him off" or whatever is a horrible person. Is that a concern of yours?

I really think this is coming from a pretty selfish place of you thinking that your partner shouldn't be spending any time for this person for any reason, and also resenting that they got to assert any control here and change the plan. When the issue was that your partner trying to make a plan that didn't involve him broke the rules of their parenting agreement. It's macho "why does he get a say" crap, seen from outside the bubble of the situation.

You can try and get that agreement altered ASAP, but i think for now you really need to just go and be there with your partner to support her having to deal with this cockbag.

And i'm writing that as someone who completely understands where you're coming from, and sympathizes i think a lot more than some of the people you've gotten replies from.

I just think you're approaching the whole boundaries issue in a flawed way by seeing this as JUST him getting control yet again. Your partner needs your support.

And i mean seriously, do you really think he's a threat? Because unless you think he's going to pull a gun on you out back, legitimately, anything stupid he does is going to work awesomely in you and your partners favor as far as extricating him from your lives. It's an absolute "give him as much rope as he needs" situation with regards to stupid threats and such.

I get why you want to take a stand against an abuser that you see as just trying to flex, but this is not the hill to die on. And in fact, i think going would work in your favor in both giving him an opportunity to fuck himself over, and being supportive of your partner. It doesn't make instant instinctual sense, but not going is fucking you over both on fronts of having to deal with more of this crap and on doing the right thing and being a team in your relationship.
posted by emptythought at 4:52 PM on August 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

Do you like this child?
Maybe it's just me, but I assumed your post was written with a streak of contempt.

A four year old doesn't see: (man assuming stepfather role) is not at my "insignificant" birthday party because of -complex reasons- ...

She sees: (man assuming stepfather role) does not like me.

So yes, I think you should put this aside for the duration of the party "for Jessica".
posted by tenaciousmoon at 5:08 PM on August 5, 2014 [6 favorites]

You have a right to your boundaries.

That said, let me share with you the mindset of an abusive shitheel.

These texts? They are about your partner. They are about making her squirm and pay and feel small in what should ideally be a place of warmth and celebration and pride. They are about making her feel afraid.

They're also about shielding this abuser's fragile ego from the reality that his ex-wife and child have moved on. After all, if he makes you afraid, you won't come, and then he doesn't have to be reminded that he failed at his marriage and that someone he loves (such as he's capable) is now with someone else. (As an added bonus, if you don't come, he gets to rub it in his ex's face that her new partner is a coward. Pure projection, of course.)

These texts are also about putting a damper on this poor kid's birthday because abusers are fundamentally narcissistic and cannot stand when anyone else gets 1.5 hours of cake and fun.

It's fine for you to have boundaries. But if you are comfortable having your partner and her four year-old kid walk into a situation which you actually think is dangerous then I think you need to re-think your relationship.

Otherwise, put on your party hat and stand beside your ex and her daughter for an hour an a half in the church basement while this jerk sits by, laughing too loudly or fidgeting in the corner by himself.

This guy is a complete coward who doesn't have the self-esteem to attend a child's birthday party without terrorizing the kid's mother. I hardly think you need to feed his self-delusion by giving him power he will never have and which, deep down, he knows he never will.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 7:20 PM on August 5, 2014 [9 favorites]

Your absolutely right, it's just a birthday party for the child.

Since the child is not yours, you have no real obligation to the child.

Obviously you have put a great deal of thought into considering your feelings and your position on this matter. The child's mother apparently wishes you would attend, however, you do not seem so inclined.

It appears you are not intimately engaged with either the child or the child's mother, so I do hope they find someone who might be interested enough to celebrate birthdays and other insignificant milestones with them despite the albatross of the abusive ex around their necks.

Feel free to stay home with your principles.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:45 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

If Ted is threatening you, then your partner should not be holding joint birthday parties with him. Simple as that. This is a continuation of the abuse and she needs to consult with her lawyer.
posted by Gray Skies at 9:01 PM on August 5, 2014

It is also worth being aware that abuse survivors who disobey parenting agreements in order to protect themselves or their children often get in trouble with the courts and lose some custody rights. It sucks, but it's reality. I really do not think she should go against the parenting agreement unless she can get a legal ok to do so.
posted by jaguar at 9:06 PM on August 5, 2014

Thank you all. Your opinions have helped me see the situation from many perspectives and from doing that i have realized there is a course of action that seems like it honours both the person i am and the person i aspire to be, and i get to take on a roll that i have thus far enjoyed very much, the caring, supportive, goofy boyfriend with hearts in his eyes.

I've also reconsidered my reasons for not wanting to attend, and it's hard to admit to myself, but I'm not worried about my physical safety, as from what i know at this point this is the type of abuser that only abuses in private. I was upset and fearful and because i wasn't spending the time with those painful feelings I found a convenient excuse to get out of the situation. I thought i was advocating for my boundaries, but i wasn't. I was upset that plans were changed to accommodate somebody who manipulates and harms the woman that i love. Also, although I've seen so much progress made by this amazing woman i let fear get the better of me, the fear that things will be like this forever.

The thing is, I love Jane, and I love Jessica, and I enjoy and am fulfilled by us as a family, even if that family includes Ted at times for the next 14+ years. If Jane's journey takes her to a point where Ted is no longer able to cause her pain, that's great, but it's not a condition of my being with her. So with this in mind the choice seems obvious. Love, acceptance, support. I'm going!
posted by peterpete at 9:51 PM on August 5, 2014 [42 favorites]

Good for you! It's easy to get triggered by our partner's issues; it's so wonderful when we're able to move out of that triggered state and into a more mindful exploration of what's really going on.
posted by jaguar at 9:55 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wow I didn't expect to read that. I think this is called 'getting real'. Congratulations! Keep it up and follow through.
posted by lillian.elmtree at 5:19 AM on August 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

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