I admit, thirty-five years ago, I wasn’t a natural fit into my husband’s family. I never thought of myself as a big personality, but my downstate New Yorker-self felt loud and flippantly expressive compared to my reserved, Central New York in-laws. It took practice in restraint and some deep breaths to lower my energy (not necessarily a bad thing) so as not scare off the natives. Eventually, I settled into a comfortable place within the family dynamic and I’ve missed being a part of it since my divorce.

I’ve also missed friends’ weddings — ones where my ex-husband received an invitation (with a plus one), but not me. So when I opened the invitation to a niece’s wedding, I immediately (and maybe a bit defiantly) RSVPd “yes,”despite knowing he and his girlfriend would be there, as well.

That didn’t mean I wasn’t without anxiety. It’d be difficult enough navigating the weekend around my ex and his much younger companion. But what if it’d been too long and things were awkward with his family like those early days? I expressed my concern to my kids, “maybe my presence will make others uncomfortable. Maybe they wouldn’t know how to act around me.”

“I think everyone will be excited to see you, Mom,” my daughter assured me.

I decided I’d risk any weirdness knowing I belonged there more than her. I took comfort in knowing I would enjoy myself more without having to be with him.

I secured an AirBnB for me and the kids, rented a car, and asked one of his other nieces if she needed a ride upstate.

Yes!, she texted immediately. Road trip!! 🚗

Before the welcome party Friday night, I took some deep breaths to lower my energy and my expectations. As soon as I stepped out the car, I heard my name yelled out from a passing minivan. It stopped a few feet away and from the passenger-side, out jumped my sister-in-law — the mother-of-the-bride — one of the most reserved of the bunch, jogging over to me with her arms outstretched, a big smile on her face. The pent-up nervousness released from my body as I embraced her. Three hundred miles from my apartment in Manhattan, I felt at home.

Inside, my brother-in-law rocked me in a bear hug. His daughter ran over to me and did the same.

“I am so impressed by you,” she said into my ear, while shifting her eyes to the corner where my ex-husband and his girlfriend held court. “You know you’re my role model? I read every one of your blog posts,” referring to my essays on Better After 50. Two more nieces, in their early 30s, said the same about my blogs.

“You know that photo book you made?” asked a nephew-in-law. “I used it to learn everyone’s names.”

“Aunt Ginny,” a nephew called to me, pulling on my elbow. “I want you to meet my fiancé.” Then my other sister-in-law quietly asked, “what did you think of his fiancé?”

“You are everyone’s favorite,” Mike, a second nephew-in-law said. “You know that, right?”

This I was not expecting. The best I had hoped for was being my usual effusive self, catching-up, dancing, and enthusiastically inviting people to visit me in Manhattan — “I have an extra bedroom!” Frankly, I was joyously overwhelmed by the love I received.

While standing with the bride, I introduced myself to her new husband. “I’m Ginny, Sarah’s…” I turned to her. “What do I call myself?”

“My aunt,” she said. “You will always be my aunt.”

Finally, it was obvious to me. After all of these years, I most definitely fit into my ex-husband’s family, and always will.

Not Married to Him Anymore, But Still a Part of his Family was last modified: by

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