My issue is that he is always wanting to please “the girls.” They have been on vacations with us, which gets old after a while. Usually my husband pays for everything, which makes me mad. Two of his daughters are married and one has been married twice. I have expressed my opinion about their behavior, and my husband then brings up my children. My daughter has a college education and has her own business. My son has ADHD and struggles with life, but he has done the best he can. He does not depend on me for support. Both my children are pretty independent.
My husband has a family reunion every year now. This year his youngest daughter wants to go and have her mother come with her. I have a problem with that. I have gotten to be real close to his family and I feel it’s not his ex-wife’s family now. Do you think I am being too harsh? Also, I heard remarks her new boyfriend made about my husband to a friend of ours, and I know it must have come from her, the ex-wife. Now the youngest daughter isn’t going because I wasn’t happy about the comments made. I have a right to stand up for my husband. My husband feels he is a bad dad. I hate to say this, but I feel they were spoiled brats! Am I wrong to feel this way. — Stepmom to Spoiled Brats
Woah, there’s so much going on in your letter, I’m not even sure what your question is. Do you have a right to feel offended and upset that your husband’s ex-wife was (presumably invited) to your husband’s family reunion? Absolutely. Do you have a right to say she can’t come? Not really. I mean, you aren’t hosting the reunion, and if she’s invited and decides to go, the only decisions you are in control over are whether you will go to the reunion or not and how you’ll behave while you’re there. You can tell your husband you simply don’t feel comfortable attending a family function where his ex will be present OR you can go and try to be civil. But if the youngest daughter, who wanted her mother to come to the reunion with her, isn’t going anyway, it sounds like your husband’s ex-wife’s attendance won’t even be an issue anyway.
What will be an issue, and what has been an issue, is your relationship with your husband’s kids (and by extension, your relationship with your husband). If you have a problem with your husband inviting his adult daughters on all your vacations and paying for everything, you need to express that to him and let him know what it is that bugs you about this behavior, especially in relation to your marriage, your finances, and your future. Do you feel like you lack quality time because you don’t vacation alone together? Do you not enjoy your husband’s kids’ company? Are you concerned about your finances? Do you feel like you can’t afford to pay for your husband’s kids’ vacations? Are you worried that paying for everything will affect your retirement savings? If any of the above apply, please discuss that with your husband (well, maybe not the one about not liking the kids; I’ll get to that in a minute). If none of the above apply, consider what it is exactly that is bugging you.
If you simply don’t like your husband’s kids because you think they’re spoiled or entitled or whatever, tough luck. When we marry someone, we marry into their family, whether we like everyone they’re related to or not. Marriage sometimes means spending time with people you’d rather not spend time with. Hell, even not being married can mean that. As for your husband feeling guilty about being a bad dad, maybe he has a reason to feel that way. Maybe he WAS a bad dad — or at least a pretty absent one — and maybe over-including his kids in his life now is his way of making up for the past. But if going on too many vacations with their father and letting him pay is your step-daughters’ biggest offense, I think you’re getting off pretty easy. Consider the ex-wife who raised the three kids on her own and then was cheated on. You’re definitely the luckier wife of the two, if you ask me. (That said, you deserve to have some vacation time alone with your husband if that’s what you want, and you need to express your desire for such with your husband, framing it about what YOU want from him and your marriage and not about your opinion of his kids’ behavior).
Finally, as for some comments you heard from your husband’s ex-wife’s boyfriend through a mutual friend, you were out of line to “stand up for your husband” to anyone but the mutual friend you heard the remark from. And even then, when your husband and his ex have three kids together and your relationship with them already sounds strained, you would be wise to keep any disparaging remarks about your step-daughters’ mother private. (And so what if she said something negative about your husband to her new boyfriend? Unless it’s a flat-out lie she’s spreading around, she has a right to express an opinion to her boyfriend about an ex who cheated on her…).
I have to wonder what it is you must have said that would make your husband’s youngest daughter not even want to go to the annual family reunion anymore because, I assume, she doesn’t want to run into you. The daughters may indeed be spoiled brats, but your behavior is questionable too. If I were you, I’d issue an apology to the step-daughter you offended. And in the future, I’d prioritize a healthy relationship with your step-kids over policing your husband’s parenting decisions, unless his parenting decisions directly affect your life in a meaningful way.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.