Q. A few years ago, I married a wonderful, thoughtful, caring man. It was a second marriage for both of us. When we were dating, everything seemed to be perfect. His two sons are grown and out of the house, and he has two teenage girls still at home. My son was so excited to have brothers and sisters. I truly believed our families could mesh.
The big problem is, we cannot have the family together because his children are completely rude. When my son comes over or walks into the room, his children refuse to acknowledge his existence. They won’t talk to him.
I have spoken with my husband about this numerous times, and he makes excuses for them. My son is very hurt, and it is hard on me. His children’s inconsiderate treatment of my son is driving a wedge between us. My son no longer wishes to attend family functions, because no one will speak to him except me.
LOST AND CONFUSED IN TEXAS
A. Your husband should have put the kibosh on this treatment when it first started. His children don’t have to like your son, but they should treat him with respect, the same way they would like to be treated. It is unconscionable that he allows this to continue. Tell him to put his spine back in and insist that his children behave with decency before it destroys your marriage. Also check the National Stepfamily Resource Center (stepfamilies.info) to see whether there is a support group in your area.
Q. My husband and I have been together for nine years. His parents are divorced. His mother has always made me feel welcome, but I have never been comfortable around my father-in-law. He is cold and doesn’t acknowledge me. I am less than thrilled when we have to go to his house.
Is it acceptable for me to simply bow out of the picture? My husband and kids can spend time with my father-in-law, but I’d rather not. I find it painful to be around him. How do I communicate this without causing a rift?
A. Some people give the impression of being remote, when in reality, they are socially awkward. Your father-in-law may care very much, but doesn’t know how to show it, so he appears aloof. Since he is family and his major flaw is coldness, not meanness, we’d suggest putting up with it when you can. That means seeing Dad once every third visit or so. That should be enough to maintain the relationship, while still giving you some respite.
Q. You printed a letter from “Naive in the Midwest,’’ whose 70-something friend suddenly began propositioning the other (married) women in his social group. It was threatening their friendship of many years. Thank you for suggesting that she tell his wife to get him to a doctor because such behavior could indicate a stroke or dementia.
Late in life, my father began making odd sexual comments, telling off-color jokes and sending my siblings and me inappropriate birthday cards. Only after he died of a massive stroke did we learn he had been suffering small strokes for quite a while. Seeing his doctor may save their friendship - and his life.
ALSO IN THE MIDWEST
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