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Advice | Ask Amy: My husband’s adult children have never accepted me


dear amy: My husband and I have been married for 10 years. We each have two adult children from previous marriages. My children love and accept my husband as family. My husband’s children have never accepted me.

I met their father years after their parents divorced, so I was in no way the cause of their breakup. An example of their behavior towards me is when they come to visit every Christmas at Christmas, they bring their father a Christmas present and wish him a Merry Christmas while ignoring me completely. I sit there in disbelief.

I’ve talked to my husband about my feelings, but it’s not really helping. He says his family is dysfunctional. What should I do?

Hurt: Your husband’s astute observation is that his family is dysfunctional. I assume you’re thinking, “That’s right, Einstein.” But an accurate description is not a solution.

Your husband seems to passively watch as his children humiliate you – and in your own home. You also seem to have lost your own voice. His kids clearly want to be in a relationship with him, so he needs to make it clear to them that he won’t tolerate this rudeness towards you. If he had done this at the beginning of your relationship, they might have been retrained by now.

You have asked what to do about their behavior.

You have absolutely nothing to lose, and so you could take advantage of this post-holiday period to email them both and say, “I’ve been married to your dad for 10 years.” I had no part in the breakdown of your parents’ marriage, which happened before he and I met. I am sorry that I have tolerated your rudeness towards me for ten years. I would like to have a positive relationship with you, but at the very least I expect you to be polite to me when you are a guest in our house.

dear amy: My 98-year-old father passed away recently. At the funeral, our longtime business partner (and friend of the family) of 45 years wouldn’t shake hands with my son’s friend. My son had to introduce his friend twice before our family friend finally shook his hand.

I’ve always suspected he’s homophobic, though he’s never said anything out loud. I didn’t witness the interaction, but I know how disrespectful my son felt. It was an added anxiety to an already stressful day.

And of course I am outraged and want to reach out to the friend of the family and question him about this blatant bigotry. He usually seems friendly and considerate, in all other interactions.

My question to you is, how should I react/deal with a close business associate and family friend who is engaging in behavior that I believe needs warning? I am considering emailing him but would like your advice.

incensed: I can think of a number of legitimate reasons (other than homophobia) why someone might choose not to shake someone else’s hand, but your son clearly interpreted this choice as arising from homophobia – and so should you.

If you keep harping on this, you should contact your friend, tell him what your son told you, tell him that this upsets you, and ask for an explanation. He might tell you that he didn’t hear your son’s introduction, or that he’s reluctant to shake hands these days for fear of dropping by or catching an illness.

You should accept any explanation he has offered, with the understanding that you have already expressed your dismay about it.

dear amy: Thanks for the comic relief with all the questions about brides forcing wedding guests to dress a certain way.

Nearly 59 years ago, I walked down the aisle to start a life with my husband. We were in our late teens. Opponents thought we were doomed from the start. Even my parents didn’t agree with my choice to get married. I paid for my own modest church wedding.

Looking at the amateur photos later, I caught a glimpse of the reverend’s wife in curlers. She thought there would be a need for a witness to this “teenage wedding.” (The church was full.) We are still married, and I still laugh at that memory.

My advice is that guests “come as you are” and be supportive.

Bride: These crazy questions would be downright funny, if they weren’t so oppressively sad.

© 2023 by Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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