Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Husband’s Kids are Spoiled Brats!”

This is my second marriage after being a single parent of two children for thirty years. My children now are 44 and 43. My husband’s kids are twins, 43, and a 35-year-old — all girls. They are very dependent on their mother and seem to always get their way. My husband mostly worked during their marriage, and his ex-wife more or less reared the children. I know he was unfaithful to her, and after 20 years of marriage they divorced. (I was not the problem). We have been married now for 13 years.

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.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

91 comments… add one
  • avatar

    bethany June 11, 2014, 9:26 am

    Not directly related to the LW’s problem, but I’m curious about how other people (like over the age of 25) handle their parents paying for stuff. I’m almost 33, married, have a decent job and have been financially independent for about 10 years. Every now and then my parents will slip me $20 for gas/train money when I come to visit, and if we go out to dinner they always pay. I took my dad to a wine tasting class for Christmas, and he almost managed to pay for that, too. When we’ve traveled together I have paid for my flights, but usually they pay for everything else. I don’t expect them to pay for me, but at this point I just kind of assume they will…?
    My mom has made comments in passing about how her friends’ adult children expect money, and have needed a lot of help financially along the way, and I guess she figures that since my brother and I haven’t expected/’demanded’ much over the years that it’s ok to treat us?

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    • avatar

      ktfran June 11, 2014, 9:33 am

      My parents, sis’s and I operate the same way. My parents usually pay for dinners out, and if we go on family trips, they pick up the lodging bill. But, I pay my way to get to the vacation. Sometimes, my middle sister and I will pick up a dinner or lunch out. I usually buy more of the alcohol, because I drink more than anyone else and I have discerning tastes. Sometimes, my parents will ask if I need cab money home, I take Amtrak to see them and it doesn’t get back to Chicago until 10, so I cab it. Sometimes I take it, other times I don’t. So yeah, we’re pretty similar.

      Now, I have adult cousins with great jobs and their parents still pick up the tab, like a lot. We’re talking plane tickets and all. It’s a little ridiculous, but whatever, I guess it’s their money.

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    • avatar

      lets_be_honest June 11, 2014, 9:34 am

      I think there’s a big difference between having your parents support you financially on a somewhat regular basis and your parents treating you to dinner or trips. My dad is at a point where he can afford to treat us to things and enjoys doing so. He’s never helped me pay bills or anything, but yea, pays for most dinners out and has taken us on trips. He likes that and enjoys taking family trips. I don’t think its weird or spoiling.
      I look forward to treating people to things and hopefully can treat my adult kid and her family to trips one day.

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      • avatar

        bethany June 11, 2014, 9:46 am

        My parents paid for my rent/groceries in college, and made my student loan payments (less than $100/mo) for about 6 months after I graduated. But, I’ve had a job since I was 15, and I never ASKED them to do that stuff… They just did it.

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        lets_be_honest June 11, 2014, 9:48 am

        Sorry, by supporting on a regular basis, I meant more “adult” children, like we are now, not college students or whatever.

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    • shanshantastic

      shanshantastic June 11, 2014, 9:37 am

      I’ll bite. My in-laws pay every time we go out, except the one time (her birthday) that I managed to grab the check before it got to the table. They also pretty consistently pick up things that we need and have lent us money when we needed some help. It has made me uncomfortable but we had a big conversation about it and my MIL explained that it’s just “what they do” – they want to help the people they love and all they want in return is acknowledgement for it. So I’ve set some boundaries that make it easier for us to handle (like asking before bringing something over) and otherwise am just learning to accept it.

      My mom and grandma do the same thing, but the difference is that they’ve also *needed* help before and we’ve been able to give back. And I think you’re right about your mom’s thinking that not asking for it sort of makes it better to give it to you – my grandma has said as much right to my face. 🙂

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      • shanshantastic

        shanshantastic June 11, 2014, 9:39 am

        And I realize I sort of sound like a brat up there myself. I’m grateful that our family is willing and able to be so generous. I’ve always had a very complicated relationship with money and things and being self-sufficient which is why it makes me uncomfortable. But I appreciate how lucky we really are.

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      • Nookie

        Nookie June 11, 2014, 10:26 am

        I’m the same as you with ‘asserting my independence!’ I don’t think I could accept the money that the Cockney gets from his mom, but they have a different relationship.

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    • Amanda

      Amanda June 11, 2014, 9:38 am

      That’s kind of how it is for me. One time I was out with my mom and I needed to quick buy just a few groceries and she paid for them. When I told her thank you, but I didn’t need her to do that she told me that since I was all grown up and moved out it still made her feel needed.

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      • avatar

        bethany June 11, 2014, 9:48 am

        That’s a nice way to think about it. I know my mom loves it when she can still “mother” me, so it probably makes her feel good.

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      • avatar

        ktfran June 11, 2014, 9:53 am

        I think from what we are all describing, all of our families feel that way. Ditto to the way amanda described it!

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      • Kate B.

        Kate B. June 11, 2014, 3:00 pm

        My mom buys me groceries once in a while. She says the same thing: it makes her feel needed. Once a mom, always a mom, I guess. I sometimes call her when I get sick and she comes and takes care of me. When I hurt my leg so bad I couldn’t walk, she did all my shopping and my laundry, too. She wouldn’t take a penny from me.

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      • avatar

        bethany June 11, 2014, 4:32 pm

        The last time I went home my mom sent me back with a huge pack of toilet paper from Costco! WTH?!

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    • CatsMeow

      CatsMeow June 11, 2014, 9:41 am

      My parents are the same. They always pay for dinners out and stuff like that. Since I’m in school right now, my dad has paid for our vacations to visit him (including flight) but said that when I graduate, he’ll continue to pay for everything but the flight. (I kept TRYING to pay for stuff and he wouldn’t even let me!)

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    • GatorGirl

      GatorGirl June 11, 2014, 9:44 am

      This is pretty much how we function. 99% of the time they pick up the tab for everything we do together, but they won’t have it any other way. GGuy’s parents especially are much more financially comfortable then we are, and I think they enjoy treating us when we’re together. We always offer to pay, but it’s almost always refused.
      .
      I too think there is a big difference in a parent offering to “treat” their child to a dinner or trip, and a parent who is providing daily financial support for their kid.

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      • GatorGirl

        GatorGirl June 11, 2014, 9:47 am

        Oh, my parents paid for our flights to come to my brothers graduation. But it was either that or we literally couldn’t afford to come. But that’s the only time in…8 years? I’ve needed help.

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      • avatar

        ktfran June 11, 2014, 9:51 am

        My mom just bought my bridesmaid dress for my middle sis’s wedding. I think she did it because my lil sis, the one with two girls, doesn’t have a lot of extra money and my mom wanted to help her out, so she picked up mine too. I felt a little uncomfortable, but I figured hey, why not?
        .
        All of us do spend a little more on the little lil sis’s family, just because we want to and we love them and we want them to be able to do things they normally couldn’t afford. We have to do so though so it doesn’t look like a handout. And it’s not. But we do have to be careful. It’s a fine line.

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      • GatorGirl

        GatorGirl June 11, 2014, 9:54 am

        I think the key is that it’s not every single day. Helping your kid out when they need it, or you want to treat them, does not equal spoiling them.

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      • avatar

        ktfran June 11, 2014, 9:59 am

        Agreed.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest June 11, 2014, 9:56 am

        This is a good point too. Its likely dad wants to spend time on vacations with his kids. If the only way he can do that is by paying for them (maybe they can’t afford it, maybe they can, but prioritize other things to spend their money on), then why shouldn’t he? He benefits just as much as them.

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    • lemongrass

      lemongrass June 11, 2014, 10:07 am

      My parents mostly pick up the tab at restaurants but they don’t pay for things like my ticket to a show we are going to see. My dad gave me a few hundred for groceries when I was in college but beyond that I haven’t received any help from them. Raising independent kids was really important to them.

      My inlaws are the complete opposite. They pay for everything, even if I run to the store to pick up some milk my mil insists I take her debit card. They have been incredibly generous with us, big gifts and taking us shopping. It does make me uncomfortable at times because while I love it (of course) I don’t want to take advantage of them. I let them know how I feel and they assure me they do it because they want to, not because they feel we need it. They want their kids to have the things they couldn’t.

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      • avatar

        snoopy128 June 11, 2014, 11:39 am

        Oh man, you sound so similar to me!
        My parents paid for my rent/groceries in college. They pick up the tab when we all eat together etc. They are so set on raising independent children. Shopping trips with my mom literally just means we shop side by side (unlike many of my friends, for whom it means mommy pays).

        On the other hand, my bf’s parents like to spoil him/us. They pay for our flights to visit (and even for me to surprise him) because I wouldn’t have the money anyways (yay Master’s degree). When we are with them and shopping his mom always tries to pay for some of my clothing, I’ve learned to accept it and make it one smaller thing. I’ve had to learn that they really enjoy treating others, but I’ve also had to draw my boundaries with what I am/am not comfortable with.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest June 11, 2014, 11:43 am

        I think you can raise independent kids while still treating them to vacations/dinners once in a while.

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      • avatar

        snoopy128 June 11, 2014, 11:53 am

        I agree. It’s a fine balance and I enjoy seeing how others work it out differently. I would say even though my bf’s parents like to treat him a LOT, he is still very independent and good at draw financial boundaries with him.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest June 11, 2014, 11:57 am

        I hope that’s how Lil turns out. It definitely is a fine balance and I struggle with it.

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      • lemongrass

        lemongrass June 11, 2014, 12:39 pm

        Yes you can! We are very independent and so is mr. Grass’ middle sister. The oldest is completely dependent on others however. She doesn’t even realize the size of favours she just expects people to do for her.

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      • avatar

        snoopy128 June 11, 2014, 6:48 pm

        You can do it!
        I think I had my first bank account at age 8.
        I had an allowance at 10 for general stuff
        At 13 we calculated what my parents and I spent on me clothing wise and going out wise + what money I made and I got an allowance from which I paid for my stuff. I had to come up with a number that was reasonable and explain why.
        Until 18 I had to give my parents 1/2 of what I made from working/ babysitting etc, and put it in a savings account.

        I really learned a lot about balancing a budget, planning based on what money you have and saving from that regime. I was so sad when I had to give up the bank card I’ve had since I was 8

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    • Nookie

      Nookie June 11, 2014, 10:16 am

      Parents are real funny like that.
      .
      The Cockney’s mom is in a pretty good financial situation and always pays for dinner, etc. And when we last visited her, she paid for half our train fare! At first I found it awkward but now I realise she likes doing it and try to get out of the way. Free dinner, yes please! But I always try to get her something small back, like I bought her a broach she had her eyes on for about a fiver which I think she appreciated.
      .
      Now I know my parents’ situation is different and they’ve taken a bit of a knock with my mother going part time. But I was flabbergasted when I paid for lunch with my mother and I one day but when I offered half the bill the next time, she took it! That might sound entitled but maybe I thought my mother wouldn’t be that tight fisted. I shouldn’t have offered in hindsight.

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      SpaceySteph June 11, 2014, 10:39 am

      When my parents come to visit us, they pay for dinners out and entertainment. When we go to visit them, the same (although we do pay for our own travel expenses). Before I had a guest room, they would stay at a hotel. Before I had a second car, they would rent one if they came during the work week.
      Sometimes I feel odd about it… I mean they’ve been doing it my whole life obviously, but now that I’m 27 and have a paying job and a husband and a house, I could definitely pick up the bill once in a while? But.. my grandparents are the same way to this day, with my dad and aunt who are in their 50s, so I guess it’s just how things go in our family. And I’m of course very lucky that they can all afford it.

      If does feel weird with my husbands parents because when they come to visit, we pay for most of the meals (both groceries and dinner out) and they’ll usually say one night that they want to treat us to dinner. I guess I’m just so used to the “parents pay” paradigm that it weirds me out. Even though it shouldn’t… maybe I’m a spoiled brat too?

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    • Kate B.

      Kate B. June 11, 2014, 10:41 am

      My parents give me money all the time. Sometimes it’s just $5, or $20, but when we all go to Reno every year for the air races, my father insists on paying for everything, except my air fare. They recently helped my buy a new car because I just couldn’t do it on my own and the necessity was there. (I really struggled with that one. I feel at my age I should be able to handle it. They told me they were doing it to give them peace of mind because my old car was literally on the verge of leaving me on the road somewhere and was getting too expensive to maintain.) I don’t mind the little stuff, because it genuinely makes them happy. They consider it part of being parents. The fact is, they have more money to spend than I do and this is how they choose to spend it.

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      • avatar

        Simonthegrey June 11, 2014, 3:35 pm

        Last year, when The Ginger and I went on our honeymoon, my car’s alternator started acting up (it was a roadtrip to visit my grandmother, who died a few months later, because it was important to me that he get to meet her). We paid for the initial repair, but it didn’t really solve the problem. Fast forward 3 months, the car won’t start; Dad drove an hour to where I live to take a look at it, took the battery to get it tested, realized that the (new) alternator was overheating and melting wires, and had me call to tow it to the dealer. The new alternator apparently had the same defect as the old one, in addition to having been not an official Honda one. So I had the dealer do the work even though it was much more expensive. My dad told me he wanted to pay for some of the repair, because between the wedding and honeymoon I was basically broke. We had paid for the wedding ourselves and kept it as simple as we could, but it still added up. I agreed reluctantly to let him pay half. He ended up writing me a check for the whole amount, and I felt guilty but I accepted it.

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      • avatar

        stickelet June 11, 2014, 5:12 pm

        My mom has bought me tires twice when I really needed them and couldn’t afford them. Once was in the winter, when I was home over Christmas, but lived in Cleveland and the winter that year was pretty bad. I came back in the summer and worked the cost of the tires off in labor by doing yard work for me to the rate of $10 an hour. Then she recently bought me two new tires when I got a flat, and paid to have them rotated as well. That time I could afford it, but she insisted. Moms (and dads) are great.

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    • othy

      othy June 11, 2014, 11:03 am

      My parents live far away, and one of us (sometimes both of us) have to travel to see each other. I’ll pay for my own fare to get to them (be it at their house or in a different state to see whatever relative we’re seeing) and my hotel (if needed, generally I’ll crash with the family member we’re visiting). They will usually pay for most of the dinners we get, but I’ll treat one meal of the trip.

      Even though I usually pay for my way, my older brother simply can’t afford it. He works full time and his wife is a stay-at-home mom (she was working fast food before the kid, but she wouldn’t make enough to pay for day care if she went back to work). They barely scrape by as-is. So my parents know that if they want to see them, they either have to fly them out or fly to visit them. We’re all flying to my brother’s house for my niece’s second birthday this month. I can’t wait!

      With my in-laws, we treat more often than not. My in-laws have struggled a bit financially. My FIL was laid off 4-5 times over his career, and struggled with being ‘over qualified’ when finding new work. When he was laid off again at 62, he just said screw it and ‘retired’. Even though my MIL makes more than I do, they have a lot of catching up to do in terms of retirement funding. So, more often than not, we pick up the tab when we take them out. It usually depends on who does the inviting. If they invite us, we usually go to their house for dinner. If we invite them, we go to a restaurant and we pick up the tab.

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    • avatar

      Que_Syrah June 11, 2014, 11:25 am

      My parents had some job issues (took MAJOR paycuts–like 80%) and are struggling. It’s gotten to the point, though, that they/I assume I’ll pay–even if they invite me to do something. I’m doing okay financially, but can’t afford to pay for everything all the time so I stopped going. It kinda really sucks.

      I don’t expect them to pay for things! I just want to do things that don’t cost money. Whenever I bring it up, though, they say ‘oh, we’ll pay!’ and then… I feel like I have to pick up the check.

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    • Portia

      Portia June 11, 2014, 11:44 am

      This is a really interesting discussion! My parents generally pay for any travel to visit them (which is more important after they moved from a place I could get to on a $200 plane ride to a place that requires a minimum $400 plane ride) or family functions (weddings and stuff) or family vacations. They also insist on footing the bill for housing, plus they try to pay for literally everything while I’m there (although I can sometimes sneak a few things in) and usually my mom will try to slip me a few 20’s under some guise (cab money, lunches with my sister, anything where I won’t turn her down because it always makes me feel a little awkward). But I’ve been living on a very small grad student income for the past 6 years, so I’m not sure what specifically will change once I get a real job, but I’m sure they’d still pay for meals and probably visiting them unless I really want to take a stand on that.
      .
      I do know a lot of the trust fund types whose parents bankroll basically everything and the kids encourage it, which is why I think my instinct is to refuse any sort of financial assistance from them. But there’s a huge difference between taking advantage of your parents and being ok with them treating you on reasonable things that also make them happy to help you with. Now, getting bigger sums of money from your parents unsolicited, that’s a much more contentious topic (for both me and Bassanio), but we also know we’re privileged to have that be even a slight issue and we’ve both put our foot down a few times, but I’m not going to get into that…

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      • avatar

        Simonthegrey June 11, 2014, 3:38 pm

        My parents don’t do the slip-money thing so much, but my roommate and I have a small jewelry business. We got started making gifts for people and later began to sell, and so we still make gifts. Both our moms insist on paying for anything they want from us, even though we would be happy to make a gift of it (it really is just a hobby for us).

        My grandma used to do the slip-money thing, when I would go to visit her. “Go pick up some milk; here’s $20” and when I would get back with the change she would tell me to keep it. It’s funny, I’m not mercenary, but I miss that…not that I miss the money, but I miss the way she was delighted at being able to “treat”. She had grown up very poor; she and my grandpa were never rich, but they were comfortable, and her philosophy was that money is to be given/used, not hoarded.

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        stickelet June 11, 2014, 5:17 pm

        When I was in college, one of my grandma’s sent me a letter every month my sophomore year with $5 or $10 and it always said to treat myself to a hot fudge sundae. She had pretty much nothing at that time and it was really sweet.

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    • avatar

      sms841 June 11, 2014, 1:17 pm

      My parents tend to pay for almost anything when I’m with them. When I visit, my mom and I usually go outlet shopping and she often won’t let me pay for most of my things. She’ll also buy extra groceries so that I’ll take them with me, and either she or my dad usually give me gas money for the ride home. My mom jokes that it’s a bribe to make sure I keep coming to visit her, but I agree with whoever else said that it seems like she enjoys feeling as though she’s still taking care of us even though we’re out of the house.

      My parents are also paying for a family trip this year for a week at the shore. This is the first year we’re doing this and my brothers and I were all hesitant to agree since it’s such an expensive trip that we could never afford ourselves. My parents rationalized it by saying they were paying for the house, they get to see the kids and grandkids for the week, and then we’re responsible for everything once we get there (you’re on your own for breakfast and lunch, every kid is responsible to buy or make dinner for at least one night, etc.).

      I do feel a little guilty at times but I know my parents have the money to do it and that they enjoy spending their money on their kids. I feel very lucky that they do these things for us and I know that they are there to help if I ever had a financial emergency that I couldn’t get out of on my own.

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        bethany June 11, 2014, 4:37 pm

        I agree- I feel really lucky that they like to do things for me, and I know, without a doubt that if anything serious ever came up and I really, really needed financial assistance, I could ask, and I’m sure they would help me in a second. Not that I think don’t need savings or anything, but it’s nice knowing that they’re a back up for the back up.

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      AmyP June 11, 2014, 1:56 pm

      On my side of the family, my parents and grandparents just about always pay for our meals when we visit. That’s family tradition, and I expect to do the same for my adult kids. If we travel together (which has happened a couple times), my parents cover the hotel room. We cover our plane tickets to visit them.

      On my husband’s side of the family, his parents pay for plane tickets and other transportation expenses when we visit and our expenses when we are with them. It’s really hard to pay for ANYTHING in front of them, which can be a pain (for instance, the time we tried to take MIL and FIL out to dinner for her birthday as her gift and FIL insisted on paying).

      We haven’t asked for any funds or help since we’ve been married, but we have gotten help with this and that (extra medical expenses, etc.).

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest June 11, 2014, 2:04 pm

        Do any of your families have to fight to pay? We do this ridiculous routine every time we go to a restaurant practically where you sneak off to give your card to the waitress before anyone else does. Its turned into a game kind of. My grandma will actually get pissed off over it if you beat her. My uncle actually called a restaurant the day before our reservations to be the first to pay. I beat my brother once by finding out the hotel he was staying in, what time his dinner was and calling to pay. They sent a bottle of wine to the table with a note saying something like, “haha loser, I win. Meals on me.” They probably thought I was crazy.

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      • Portia

        Portia June 11, 2014, 2:21 pm

        This totally happens in my family! But it’s usually my mom and her dad or my dad and his sister, not everyone. And when me and Bassanio’s families go out together, there is an epic war for the check, but my mom is usually the sneakiest about it and gets her card to whoever’s waiting on us way before it makes it to the table. Bassanio tries to pay with my parents and always loses, but he still tries. It’s cute.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest June 11, 2014, 2:27 pm

        We visited my grandma recently and Peter snuck to pay the check and she was seriously angry. After she had treated us to everything all week and I said we wanted to take her to dinner as a thank you. We fought for 2 days over that, she finally relented and we go to the restaurant and she goes “btw, this is now considered your birthday dinner, so its my treat.” Wtf grandma? Reframing dinner purposes. haha

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      • Portia

        Portia June 11, 2014, 2:35 pm

        Your grandma sounds like an awesome lady! Makes me miss my own bubbe, she totally would have done that.

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      • lemongrass

        lemongrass June 11, 2014, 4:04 pm

        One time we went out to eat with my dad and mr. Grass’ mom and she snuck away to pay the bill. My dad was shocked and told her she “wasn’t allowed” to do that.

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    • avatar

      rachel June 11, 2014, 3:42 pm

      Man, I don’t wanna sound like an ass, but I’m kinda jealous of all of you. Turns out growing up poor has other effects that ripple into adulthood. I’m the one that treats my mom when I visit her, because, well, there’s no other choice.

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      • avatar

        bethany June 11, 2014, 4:41 pm

        Sorry Rachel 🙁

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        rachel June 11, 2014, 5:26 pm

        Oh, you don’t have to apologize, I didn’t think you were like bragging or anything. It’s just surprising I guess to see that so many people have this experience still.

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      AKchic June 11, 2014, 5:55 pm

      If my mom or stepdad pay for anything for me/my kids, I end up paying for something for them. Surprises the hell out of them every time I pick up the tab at dinner, but they are appreciative.

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    • avatar

      Betsy June 12, 2014, 9:41 am

      I love this sidebar! My husband and I are 36 and both have pretty well paying jobs. When we are out with his parents, they pay. His mom says his dad would be upset if we did (I doubt that, but it’s not my argument to make). With my parents, we had a rule that we would pay when they came to visit us and they would pay when we were up there. That works maaaaybe 40% of the time, with my dad grabbing for the check before we can the other times. I feel terrible about it, our income is way higher than theirs, but our cost of living is also higher. When I was younger and my mom and I would go shopping, she would often buy me a shirt or something small. That hasn’t happened in years, but I just mentioned to her that I need to go shopping (for maternity clothes – yikes!) and she said I should spend $100 from her. I said no way, she should save that money to buy cute baby things!

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  • avatar

    lets_be_honest June 11, 2014, 9:30 am

    So your husband takes his adult children on some family vacations? What a jerkkkk!
    (She didn’t say all vacations, just that they have been on vacations with them which I think is pretty normal.)

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      lets_be_honest June 11, 2014, 9:47 am

      I’ll add that unless he can’t afford this stuff, you should be supporting your husband while he tries to maintain a good relationship with his children. That’s a wonderful thing and it pisses me off that anyone wouldn’t support that.

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      • GatorGirl

        GatorGirl June 11, 2014, 9:49 am

        That was my only thought…if the dad was putting taking care of his kids financially before his own financial health, that I would be upset about. Otherwise, if he’s got the money…LET IT GO! He spoils his kids. So what? Surely this was known before you married 13 (!!!) years ago.

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    peachy June 11, 2014, 9:39 am

    Errrr…you are the brat?
    After 13 years of marriage, haven’t you cottoned onto the fact that whatever dynamic has been there between your husband and his daughters for the past 43 years is never going to change? The one causing trouble here is you by mixing in on third-hand conversations that you only know about by gossip, competing with an ex-wife who has been long gone, and comparing your children (not perfect but good) with his children (also not perfect but just as good to someone who actually cares about them).
    Between you and the daughters pecking and scrapping, I feel sorry for your husband. Give him a break, let him fight his own battles when they come up, and strive to be more pleasant to all these other women who are not going anywhere.

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    • avatar

      ktfran June 11, 2014, 9:41 am

      Ooh, I like this, a lot. Also, LW, WWS!

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    • avatar

      MsMisery June 11, 2014, 12:44 pm

      Peachy, I like the cut of your jib.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest June 11, 2014, 12:47 pm

        Cut of your jib? never heard that before. Is it like Jive Turkey?

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        AKchic June 11, 2014, 5:57 pm

        If I remember rightly, it’s a sailing metaphor.

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      • avatar

        MsMisery June 12, 2014, 12:44 pm

        Haha, yeah, I just like it because it sounds old-timey.

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  • avatar

    Essie June 11, 2014, 9:59 am

    I just….don’t even know where to start. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a foot-stamping tantrum in letter form. I presume you knew he had children before you married him? And an ex-wife? And you had a pretty good idea of how all the various interrelationships worked?

    Then why did you marry him? Seriously? Did you think he’d completely change his relationship with his daughters once he said “I do” with you? Did you think the mother of his children would vanish from your lives just because he married someone else?

    And what on earth gives you the right to say that your stepdaughter shouldn’t invite HER MOTHER to her own family reunion? You know what? It still is his ex-wife’s family. She is related to them through her children. Like it or not, she is part of YOUR family. I have to give your stepdaughter points for not telling you to stuff it.

    As for his paying for vacations for his daughters, you have a right to be in on that decision if it impacts your shared finances significantly. As for the rest of it, you have two choices. You can be gracious and accepting of your stepchildren’s mother, and you can treat your husband and children as the adults that they are, and be proud of the fact that your husband has such a great relationship with his kids even after he and their mother split.

    Or, you can try to shove the girls’ mother out of your lives, and have a hissy-fit because she dares to go to a family reunion, and continue to try to micromanage the lives and relationships of your husband and his grown children.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph June 11, 2014, 10:45 am

      I totally agree on the family reunion and thought that was very odd that the LW had a problem with that. The husband and his ex-wife were married for 20 years and had 3 children together. She’s absolutely a part of the family.

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki June 11, 2014, 11:51 am

        My ex-stepmother really hated that my mom was always (and still is) considered part of my dad’s family, even though they’ve been divorced for like 25 years now. My dad’s family never liked my stepmother but my mom pretty much grew up with them so she’s always been family to them.

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      • Lady_Red

        Red_Lady June 11, 2014, 8:36 pm

        We usually have a few exes at our family reunions. I think it’s pretty nice that people can still get along. Even if you’re no longer married, having children together creates a family connection. Granted, we have a huge family. It might be more awkward if the family reunion only consisted of, like 15 people

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  • avatar

    Lily in NYC June 11, 2014, 10:11 am

    Wow, OP. There’s a lot here that I’m not even going to bother answering because it’s almost impossible to get through to people who are so self-centered (and selfish!). But I can’t help laughing that you are so upset about some random comment you overheard considering you badmouth everyone around you. You seem more than happy to talk shit about your stepdaughters, so why isn’t it ok for someone to speak their opinions of your husband out loud? Drama drama drama, and all of it caused by you. I feel sorry for the ex-wife!
    This is one of those letters where I would LOVE to see the stepdaughters and ex write in with their side of the story.

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    • avatar

      bethany June 11, 2014, 10:24 am

      You’re so right about the drama! Just because you overhear a comment someone makes doesn’t mean that you have to engage them or turn it into a “thing”. There’s a thing called “letting it go”, and people who thrive on drama can’t seem to understand that concept.

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      • avatar

        ktfran June 11, 2014, 10:31 am

        You have to sing “let it go” while typing. It’s so much more fun. People should watch more Disney movies.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest June 11, 2014, 10:35 am

        Lol, beat me to it. Have you guys seen Honest Trailer? Peter showed me the one for Lion King. Its hysterical.

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph June 11, 2014, 11:02 am

    Anyone else bothered by the LW’s use of stepmom? I mean, if I can do math correctly, she married this guy when his kids were already fully grown adults (I guess maybe the youngest was still in college?) and it’s not really her job to mother them or raise them.
    It’s almost like she thinks their “spoiled” behavior is something that its her problem to fix as their stepmother, which it really really isn’t.
    Couple that with the outrage that the ex-wife (who was married to her husband for 20 years and raised their children pretty much by herself while he worked and cheated all the time) was invited to the family reunion when she’s “not family” and I’d say this LW is trying a little too hard to be “new mommy” to some grown ass people.

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    • call-me-hobo

      call-me-hobo June 11, 2014, 11:09 am

      DINGDINGDINGDING

      I think we found the root of the problem here, folks. Good job, Steph!

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    • avatar

      lets_be_honest June 11, 2014, 11:12 am

      My “stepmom” didn’t raise me at all, but I still call her that. I guess its just easier than “my dad’s wife,” which I guess I do use sometimes.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph June 11, 2014, 11:19 am

        I guess “stepmom” alone isn’t such a terrible thing… it is an easy shorthand for that woman married to my father who didn’t give birth to me.
        But self-identifying as it in this letter, and the related “mothering” she’s trying to do just makes it seem odd.
        You’re not their step-mother, nor their actual mother, you are an adult woman who has only known them as other adult women. Act like adult women.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest June 11, 2014, 11:21 am

        Oh yea, I totally see your point with that. Good pick up!

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      • avatar

        stickelet June 11, 2014, 5:34 pm

        My parents divorced when I was 21 and my mom remarried when I was 26. I adamantly refused to call her husband my step dad for a while, because I agreed that he didn’t raise me, there was no ‘dad’ part involved. But the verbage got annoying and I gave in, but more important, my stepdad does treat me as one of his own, even though I am now 31. He fixes things for me, I can call him in an emergency, he does a lot of dad type stuff.

        Maybe this woman is just trying to ‘mother’ her step kids and she’s not doing a great job at it.

        Bottom line is I think it’s good she refers to herself as stepmother, but she’s not the best stepmother ever

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    • GatorGirl

      GatorGirl June 11, 2014, 11:20 am

      Yeah, it doesn’t bother me. And I definitely think the guidance from a parent (biological or otherwise) can continue way later into life.

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      • call-me-hobo

        call-me-hobo June 11, 2014, 11:34 am

        But you wouldn’t feel stifled or offended if the woman your dad married started trying to parent you at age 30? When you had kids of your own? I don’t think she’s guiding as much as she is bitching about them.

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        lets_be_honest June 11, 2014, 11:38 am

        I don’t think she’s guiding as much as she is bitching about them. YUPPP.
        But I do agree with GG, just not applied to this LW. My parents still give me advice, and my stepparents do too.

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      • GatorGirl

        GatorGirl June 11, 2014, 11:52 am

        Well, I don’t think she is trying to parent. She appears to be trying to control her husband and just complain.
        .
        And no, I wouldn’t be offended if a new partner of a parents tried to offer me some guidance. We all need guidance at different points in our life. (But, she’s not doing that. she’s bitching.)

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    • avatar

      Lucy June 11, 2014, 6:11 pm

      Hmmmm, I don’t know. My stepchildren were adults when I married their father, and they still refer to me as their stepmother. Of course, I’ve never really tried to “mom” them; it’s more a matter of convenience, I think.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark June 11, 2014, 11:26 am

    Yes, you are wrong, LW. More to the point, you made a lousy case against them. Recap: you wrote mean-spirited paragraph after mean-spirited paragraph and the only person who comes across here as a spoiled brat is you…

    Think about it.

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  • avatar

    lets_be_honest June 11, 2014, 11:47 am

    My grandpa, who has alzheimers, still gives me a $1 just about every time I see him “for ice cream.” The cutest!

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    • othy

      othy June 11, 2014, 11:54 am

      This is darling.

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    • call-me-hobo

      call-me-hobo June 11, 2014, 12:00 pm

      LBH- I think you have the cutest family ever- Between lil’ and the cupcakes and this… Are you going to tell me your great-grandmother was a bunny?

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest June 11, 2014, 12:03 pm

        Haha, thanks! How did you know?!?

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  • katie

    katie June 11, 2014, 12:01 pm

    wow, so, LW, im just gonna say it: you sound like a total bitch. a total, absolute bitch, the reason that the stereotype of “evil stepmom” exists.
    .
    the only thing that you should have a say in is how your finances with your husband are divided- and that is only if you guys do have combined finances where you make those decisions jointly anyway. but alllll the other stuff? jesus, get over yourself. stop being such a petty drama queen.

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  • iwannatalktosampson

    iwannatalktosampson June 11, 2014, 12:22 pm

    You know what evil step-mom stories always make me think about? I’m pretty sure if my parents got divorced, and my dad got remarried, his new wife might not like me either. We have the same blunt sense of humor and he always pays for my shit when we’re together and I would invite my mom (assuming my dad hadn’t already) to all of his family reunions because his family loves her, and I can’t imagine that changing whether or not they got divorced.
    .
    I don’t agree that in-laws become your own family as a rule. But often times they do. My mom has been married to my dad for over 30 yeas and in his life for almost 40. So she’s not just his wife. She’s my cousins’ aunt and my grandma’s daughter and she’s just a part of the whole crew. That doesn’t change. Maybe for short marriages it might. But after 30+ years? No way. I would shun anyone that spoke poorly of my mom on his side of the family.

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  • avatar

    BadTina June 11, 2014, 12:24 pm

    LW, if you’re reading these comments, I want to say that you don’t strike me as a bad person, but I do hope you take to heart Wendy’s and the other commenters’ advice.

    “Expressing concerns” and “standing up for” people in the way you described reads more to me like bitching and gossiping. Try taking a break from doing those things. Next time the girls do something that concerns you, try this: blink three times, and force your brain to change the subject. I recommend taking a moment to appreciate Brad Pitt or the latest season of Orange is the New Black, but obviously it’s up to you. For real, the bitching about each other’s kids thing is a marriage ender. If you want to stay married to this man, you have GOT to learn to keep your opinion of his kids to yourself, and visa versa. (Unless they’re doing something like holding up liquor stores or beating their children)

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  • avatar

    Sue Jones June 11, 2014, 1:31 pm

    Every family is different and has different means. My family (meaning my parents when they were alive) would fly everyone in for visits and to weddings, etc. because we were all raising families and they had a lot more money. My in-laws would do that, plus fly us all in for all expense trips to Mexico and things like that. We would never have afforded trips like that on our own as working parents busy with kids and all of their expenses. But my parents and in-laws also took their own vacations. As for the ex-wife, my husband’s ex wife went to my father in law’s funeral in California. It was fine. You need to get a grip and realize that she is still a part of the larger extended family. It also sounds like your husband was the main reason for divorce with his infidelity. Civility and being laid back about his ex will win you more points in the long run. A lot of grown children cannot afford those sorts of vacations so if your husband wants his kids to go, and he is willing to pay, it should not be a problem. As long as you are not going into debt to fund these trips, mellow out!

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    • avatar

      Sue Jones June 11, 2014, 2:10 pm

      And I must say that when my mother was alive and still able to get around well and I was in my 30’s, she would still take me clothes shopping. And pay for everything. I was much better dressed then than I am now. Even now, with my mother gone, clothes shopping just isn’t the same and I tend to do it only by necessity whereas before, with her, it was almost recreational. I just don’t shop much and tend to buy solids, classic, and dark colored things with a cool scarf to dress it up and I wear things for years…. I think she would be disappointed that I don’t dress as well anymore…

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        lets_be_honest June 11, 2014, 2:16 pm

        This makes me want to give you a hug! I say go to a store that has a free buyer and splurge for the day in the name of your mom!

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      • Portia

        Portia June 11, 2014, 2:33 pm

        Aww, Sue, that’s such a sweet memory of your mom! I agree with LBH, do a shopping day in her honor. My mom loves shopping with me too and treating. I’m one of those people that keeps most clothes around for 5-10 years, so I never really need anything, but she’d always find something for me.

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  • avatar

    Lucy June 11, 2014, 6:13 pm

    LW – there’s only one spoiled brat in this situation, and it’s the person who took the time to write down their extended temper tantrum and send it to DW. I don’t expect any of the commenters are going to get through to you, because selfish and self-absorbed is nearly impossible to fix at your age. But you are completely, 100% wrong in this situation, so don’t fuck up your marriage by trying to get your way here.

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