Life After Divorce

Family celebrating one of many post-divorce special occasions.

What do you do about special occasions like birthdays when you get divorced?

Let’s take a look at this question from a couple of different angles. First, let’s see what you can expect to be different. Next, let’s dig into the question of which ones you should still celebrate. Finally, let’s talk about how you celebrate these occasions.

So, what can you expect to be different about birthdays when you are separated and divorced? Most likely, you’ll celebrate fewer of your former in-law’s birthdays than when you were married. It’s also common that former spouses no longer celebrate each other’s birthdays. However, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, former spouses will still contact each other on their birthdays. This is especially common when they have children together. You can expect that the way you’ll celebrate these occasions will change too.

Let’s dig into the question of which birthdays make sense for you to continue to celebrate when you’re separated and divorced. Many people have positive, healthy relationships with former in-laws and continue to celebrate birthdays with them. Notice the phrase, “positive, healthy relationships”. I don’t condone continuing to send your former mother-in-law a birthday card because you feel guilty or because you’re hoping that she’ll plead your case and help you get back together with your former spouse. However, if you have a positive, healthy relationship with her, then, yeah, go ahead and call or send her a card for her birthday. So what if you have children with your former spouse and you don’t have a positive, healthy relationship with your former mother-in-law? I believe that it’s your former spouse’s responsibility to help your children remember and celebrate their grandmother’s birthday and not yours. On the other hand, you may want to help your children remember their other parent’s birthday especially if they’re too young to remember it on their own.

Next, how do you celebrate? The fact is that EVERYTHING changes when you get divorced. You might not be celebrating special occasions with your former spouse any longer. Yes, that would mean that your kids will probably get to have 2 birthday celebrations – lucky them!. It may also mean that people you and your spouse know in common may not feel comfortable inviting both of you to special occasions any longer. The thing to remember is that who other people invite to celebrate their special occasions is all about them and not about you. So if you’d still like to acknowledge someone’s birthday, but you’re not invited to the party, go ahead and send them a card or give them a call IF you have a “positive, healthy relationship” with them.

The bottom line with respect to special occasions is to continue to celebrate the ones that truly are special to you and support you children in celebrating the special occasions that are special to them.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Evaluate the special occasions you have in your calendar. Make sure to eliminate the ones that are not associated with positive, healthy relationships in your life. However, make sure you keep your ex-spouse’s birthday in your calendar until your children are old enough to remember it for themselves.

If you don’t have any special occasions in your calendar because your ex-spouse always took care of that for you, make a list of the positive, healthy relationships in your life and find out when those people have birthdays. Make sure you do the same for your children.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or email me directly for a free consultation at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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