Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Stepkids Don’t Respect Me”

I’ve been a stepmom — and wife — for thirteen years. When my stepkids complain to my husband about me, he defends them. He claims he defends me, but it simply isn’t true. I’m tired of being second. My one stepdaughter is notorious for complaining to him knowing he’s on her side. Once she took a lotion of mine, and so I wrote her a note asking her to please ask before using my things. She showed my husband the note, and then she said to him: “She makes me feel unwelcome,” which made him get really mad at me.

My stepkids are all grown and on their own, but my one stepdaughter lives in our rental property right next door. She comes over to do her laundry, use our Wifi, get band-aids, etc. Well, recently we had to get a new router and, of course, a new password. My stepdaughters were over (on different days) and they commented that they couldn’t get on Wifi. My husband told them to ask me, but of course they wouldn’t do that. After his conversation with them, he got very defensive of them and mad at me. I won’t just give them the password, but if they asked I would put it in their electronic devices. He says I make them feel unwelcome.

I’ve given and given to the kids — provided insurance, gone to every concert, etc. I decided I was stressed and didn’t attend my stepdaughter’s senior awards night. Boy, did I hear about it. Yet my other stepdaughter had an awards night this past spring and her mom didn’t show up. Did her mom get attacked? Criticized? Chewed up? Nope. My stepdaughter didn’t want to hurt her mom’s feelings — and yet I get yelled at.

I’m tired of the lack of respect.

I’ve read that stepkids often displace their anger and hurt onto the stepparent, but then when the stepparent doesn’t feel supported by her spouse either, it really makes things difficult. I don’t care to be around my stepkids. My husband has said that he’s worried about my relationship with them, but he’s done nothing to encourage it — quite the opposite. Suggestions? – Not an Evil Stepmother

I feel your resentment loud and clear. I’m sure your stepkids do, too. My God, do you sound petty. Your stepdaughter used your lotion and rather than saying, “Hey, I noticed you used my lotion. It’s ok if you use my things occasionally, but I need you to show respect by asking first,” you write her a note?! Did you fold it in the shape of a diamond and pass it to her in the hallway, too? That’s just so…passive-aggressive and juvenile. Come on, you’re a grown woman. Your teenage daughter had an awards night at school, and you decided you were “too stressed” to go? Wow, that was really shitty of you. It was a special night. You made it about you because you feel you don’t get enough appreciation and validation from your stepchildren. It’s ok to feel the way you do — probably even justified — but to use a kid’s special night to express those feelings is incredibly immature and mean-spirited. That your stepdaughters’ mother skipped an awards night doesn’t make it right for you to do it, too. Imagine how they both both feel that both of their mother-figures have better things to do than to celebrate an important night for them. It’s stuff like that that will make a teenager act out. If you can’t get positive attention for achievements and good behavior, maybe you can get attention for bad behavior… (almost sounds like a page out of your book).

Come on, grow up. You want more respect and appreciation? Fucking ask for it then. Tell your husband and tell his kids that you are feeling taken for granted and unappreciated and that your feelings are hurt. Don’t write stupid, petty little notes when they use your lotion. Are you feeling like the adult stepkids need to stop using your laundry, Wifi, and medicine cabinet as their personal drugstore? I totally get that! Speak up, then — assert yourself! Tell your husband you want better boundaries. Maybe there are certain times of the day or week for which you can agree that the kids can come over and do laundry, or maybe you don’t want them doing laundry at your home at all. You are allowed to express that — first to your husband, and then, if you can agree on boundaries, express those boundaries clearly, together, to the step-kids. If they’ve always used the Wifi at your place and then you change the password, the onus in kind of on you to tell them that. To change it and NOT tell them it’s changed when you know damn well they’re trying to get online is basically the same as saying, “Nanny, nanny, boo, boo!”

You want to know why you aren’t being supported by your spouse? Because you’re acting like a child. I wouldn’t support a spouse who acted so petty with my kids, either. Get it together and stop being passive. Tell your husband how you’re feeling, tell him you need his support, tell your stepkids you need their respect – their respect of your privacy, of your personal belongings, and of the time and love you’ve invested in them. And, in turn, you need to respect them. Respect that they are people, too — they have feelings that get hurt, they can feel under-appreciated and undervalued, and they want love and support, too. When you treat them with obvious disdain, and blow off their special occasions because you’re feeling vengeful, it hurts them. Acknowledge that you’ve been wrong, apologize for the hurt feelings you’ve caused, and express — in a loving and gentle way — where they have fallen short with you, and I really think these relationships can be salvaged and can grow. But if that’s not what you want, well, that’s a topic you need to have with a shrink and probably your husband right before he files for divorce. I can’t imagine staying married to someone who resents my kids as much as you seem to resent your husband’s and who has no interest in maintaining a good relationship with them.

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

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

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

36 comments… add one
  • avatar

    LisforLeslie September 25, 2017, 8:14 am

    I thought the lotion thing was petty; still, I was in your corner until you wrote that you won’t give out the Wifi password – but you’ll enter it into their devices. What the ever living nonsense is that? You’re treating them like they’re 4 years old then getting mad when they go to their father like 4 year olds.

    If I had to deal with that nonsense, I’d shut you out as much as possible too. Grow the fuck up woman.

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      ktfran September 25, 2017, 8:24 am

      Agreed. Actually, all three of the examples the LW offered of being disrespected are, IDK, wow! They’re super petty and no wonder she and the stepchildren don’t get a long.

      For the life of me, I can’t figure out why you wouldn’t give out the password, but had to enter it. And the note… this is not 2nd grade homeroom. Be a grownup and use your words and voice. Also, the awards ceremony. You’re telling them that you don’t like them. Of course they’re more forgiving of their mom. She’s their mom! You’re not… so you have to try a little harder.

      I think you have some work to do on yourself then I think it’s on you to try to repair the relationship with your husband and his children. Wendy offered good suggestions on how to do that.

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      • othy

        othy September 26, 2017, 9:46 am

        I won’t tell my FIL my password, because my wifi password includes the word fuck. So I tell him there are a lot of strange characters in it so it’s easier for me to type it. Other than that, it’s just being petty.

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      Janelle September 25, 2017, 9:21 am

      Ya what does it matter if they know the password rather than it being entered by you. The note for the lotion was immature but it sounds like everything she does is.

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    Ashley September 25, 2017, 8:36 am

    I was kind of with you till the wifi thing, that is so ridiculous why wouldn’t you just give them the password unless you were going for the controlling manipulative look?

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    Ale September 25, 2017, 9:06 am

    Yeah, the password thing. Petty af.
    Sounds like changing the password was made entirely on purpose so they had to ask you for it and you could, looking over them from your big throne, tell them no. You can get a new router and put the SAME password, I’ve done it a million times. But you wanted them to ask you for it and you wanted to have the power to tell them no.
    Take a look at yourself LW. And then ask for respect. You are doing everything on purpose. No wonder your kids don’t like you, they can feel that.

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    • avatar

      Fyodor September 25, 2017, 9:40 am

      Sometimes, if it comes from your ISP, the password is preconfigured with the router. The LW wouldn’t necessarily know how to change it. I agree that making them beg and putting it in herself is obnoxious and petty.

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      • avatar

        Janelle September 25, 2017, 9:46 am

        I was thinking this. I know my mother couldn’t change it. That being said, it isn’t a missle launch code. She’s being so petty.

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    Janelle September 25, 2017, 9:50 am

    Oh and if the WiFi thing bothers her so much how about having them install internet in the property next door. It is reasonable to say “you are 25, live in our property so it’s time to contribute to your bills”. Plus I couldn’t live without internet in my personal space.

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  • avatar

    TheHizzy September 25, 2017, 10:16 am

    Coming from someone with future step-kids who are older, so I didn’t go through the teen phases with all of them, you’re the freaking adult. Talk to your husband, get on the same team. Understand why he defends his kids on some points. Stop being petty. Being a parent (even a step-parent) is a thankless job.

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    • avatar

      Fyodor September 25, 2017, 10:54 am

      This is one of the inherent extra challenges that step-parents face. Children are often horrible and it’s harder to find the reserves to put up with it, if they aren’t yours (or at least not in the same way).

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  • avatar

    Miss MJ September 25, 2017, 10:43 am

    I mean, I get that it’s probably very frustrating to have adult kids coming over all the time to do laundry, use the wifi and take random toiletries. That shit would drive me nuts.

    I think the LW could eliminate a lot of the feeling of constant intrusion into her home by installing a washer/dryer and wifi in the house that she and her husband own that the adult kids are currently renting and upping the rent if appropriate to cover the costs. If they’re not hanging at the LW’s house doing laundry or using wifi, it’s less likely that they will regularly be using her medicine cabinet as a personal CVS.

    Plus, without the adult kids in her house all the time mooching, there might be enough space for absence to let the LW’s heart grow fonder here.

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    • avatar

      LisforLeslie September 25, 2017, 11:17 am

      Yeah, I could see that being a bit of a pain in the ass. But perhaps the daughter watches their house when they go on vacation. Maybe she has an entry level job and could use a little financial help now and then. All we know is that the daughter goes over to do her laundry. Maybe during that time she watches TV with her dad as a weekly get together.

      I’m not saying these girls are perfect. But it doesn’t sound like they’re running roughshod over the household, coming over and leaving with a box full of cleaning supplies.

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  • avatar

    Kate September 25, 2017, 11:55 am

    Great advice! I had a stepmom who did stuff like this, the wifi business a such a classic power/manipulation move. Like, the stepdaughters can only have the wifi if she’s the one to give it to them and she gets to withhold the actual password to exert her authority. Its just making something way harder than it should be to force people into feeling obligated to you. And if this is the stuff she thinks are slights against her, can you imagine the stuff she’s left out that she’s done?

    A similar example I remember when I was a teenager was one time when my stepmom saw I didn’t have sunglasses and wanted to buy me some when we were at a store. I kept saying no thank you because I was uncomfortable with her doing that since I didn’t know her very well at the time. She kept pushing and pushing until it became obvious I would be insulting her to not let her do it, so I picked out the cheapest pair I could find. Then when she buys them and starts to hands them to me, she jerks the sunglasses back and says “now say thank you to me”. I threw those glasses in the first dumpster I could find. She didn’t want me to thank her (which I would have done without her prompt) she wanted me to OWE her. She was also looking for a situation where she could complain to my dad that I wasn’t grateful because she HAD to tell me to thank her and that she’s the one trying in this relationship. That happened a lot.

    Like with my stepmom, it is so clearly obvious that this stepmom is jealous that the relationship her husband has with his daughters is stronger than hers is with him, and that by trying to push the daughters away (the stupid note, missing the awards, the WiFi) she’s only making her marriage worse and her husband side with his daughters more.

    If she actually wanted to fix this situation, she’d try to get to know the girls, make them feel welcome around her, and show them the appreciation and vulnerability that comes with a good relationship. Her husband in turn would be so touched by the effort, that he would side with her on small household stuff because he would know she is putting in the effort where it counts.

    It isn’t hard to care about people and have them care about you, you just have to give up the stupid powerplays and be authentic and kind.

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  • avatar

    Sarah September 25, 2017, 12:51 pm

    I do feel for her. I don’t think she wants to be a stepmother. She knew when she married him that he had kids, but probably didn’t realize what that would entail.

    Lotion incident– giving a note was petty, but I get not wanting to have others use your personal items. WWS– assert your boundaries.

    Laundry: She is an adult. Is there a laundromat nearby she could use instead?

    WiFi: Okay for guests to use if they have come over anyway, but I wouldn’t want people to come over just for that. I agree with the poster that they should install WiFi in the rental property and charge accordingly. Also, is she not wanting to share the pw so they can continueto leech off of her WiFi next door in the rental property without actually paying for it?

    Getting bandaids– Would annoy me too.

    Awards ceremonies, etc– Maybe she did not have her own kids because she didn’t want this responsibility. But then she married someone with kids!

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    Mimi September 25, 2017, 2:31 pm

    LW, this power-struggle is so classic: bratty adult (ehem) stepchildren who have likely been manipulating their dad since you’ve known them, the father who just lies down to whatever they say because he feels guilty and you, struggling without having the skills to negotiate a treacherous path between them. Not sure why Wendy came down on you like a ton of bricks, I thought your WiFi password thing was more an attempt to place a boundary, any boundary, and have your voice heard more than anything else. Here’s the thing: we can’t do anything to make other people change – we can only change ourselves. So, assuming you want to stay in your marriage, it is time to get some counseling to understand why you are in this place in your life, plus read books, take a parenting class, etc. and learn the skills you need to be clear on who you are, what you want, what you will accept and where/when to draw a line – for your own sanity and self-respect. The whole little drama can’t go on as it has for years once you have equipped yourself with new perspectives and some useful relationship tools because you won’t be playing the game the same way any more. The work to be done is yours so good luck!

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy September 25, 2017, 4:15 pm

      At least one of the step kids had a awards night at school this past spring, so not quite an adult, and the stepmother skipped another stepdaughter’s senior awards night because she “decided she was too stressed.” So… who is acting bratty again? The kids in high school or the grown adult who skips award ceremonies and writes passive aggressive notes when a teenager uses her lotion?

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  • avatar

    dinoceros September 25, 2017, 5:02 pm

    I read your first three sentences and I was ready to be super empathetic. But the examples you gave didn’t seem, to me, to back up the extreme resentment you describe. Did you just choose bad examples? It’s hard to really judge this situation because we can’t see what all has transpired over 13 years. I don’t know what your tone is when you talk to them, how things are compared with earlier, etc. You remind me of my stepmom in a way, and one of the things I have felt about her was that she would probably not be the way she is if she had had her own children. Because she would have given up on caring on all the tiny details. I think sometimes that’s parents react differently to kids than stepparents do. My stepmom got mad at my little cousin for asking for a second dessert and then not finishing it. Most people who had raised small children would have known that was probably going to happen and would not care that much. But your stepkids are adults, so what is my point? I think that both of you are at fault. I think they can feel your resentment radiating out toward them, and while part of it is because they may do obnoxious things, I imagine some of it is because you just got hung up on tiny details that wouldn’t have mattered to their biological parents.

    The other thought I had while reading this is that when someone describes a situation that has ostensibly been happening for 13 years, it also limits my empathy. Why? Because it doesn’t sound like this situation happened overnight, and if you had issues with how your husband handled his relationship with you and your relationship with the kids and his relationship with the kids, then you had to know it would continue or get worse when you got married.

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  • avatar

    Brise September 25, 2017, 5:45 pm

    I feel a lot of hostility in your letter regarding your stepchildren. Why do you focus so much on little things? I would expect to get the wifi access when I am at my parents or my parents in law, and I can’t imagine them doing this themselves on my devices. I have a suggestion: try to be cool. Leave the control. Just accept your stepchildren in the picture, and at your place if they live in the same property. You can discuss with your husband, and perhaps with them, how they can be more independent and more respectful of your privacy (specific days for laundry, their own machines and so on). But you will feel much better if you focus on the “like you” signs, and not the “dislike you all”. Anyway, they will become more and more independent, as they will evolve in their life. A good parent supports their kid’s independence.

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  • avatar

    carolann September 25, 2017, 8:47 pm

    I agree with Mimi. I think the step kids are kinda bratty and try to cause issue between stepmom and dad, although all the situations are minor.
    As far as the awards thing, she mentioned that Mom doesn’t get as much grief when she misses stuff.
    As far as the lotion I wouldn’t have made a big deal or said anything (or left a note) unless it was Le mer or something and if it was a big deal it would be put up where no one could get in it. I have a locking wardrobe I put my expensive stuff in because my LO loves to get into my bathroom stuff which is a pain because much of it is special order and it is also dangerous.
    The wifi is another thing… I don’t feel she is obligated to share the wifi (especially if they are charged by how much data they use) nor do I think the rents should pay to install internet in their rental unit. She is an adult, not helpless and can call to order it herself. Most landlords do not have tenants internet turned on, I never did. Many companies charge to install if they don’t have diy kits they send. She should be able to figure it out. Plus many cell plans have wifi hotspot included up to a certain amount of gigs, mine does. Our family plan has 8 gigs per line.

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    • avatar

      ktfran September 25, 2017, 8:58 pm

      Yikes! You seriously wouldn’t share your wifi password with your children? Or let them do laundry at your house if needed?

      If the LW didn’t want to deal with teenage or adult children, she shouldn’t have married a man who had children. It’s really that simple.

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      • avatar

        Ashley September 25, 2017, 11:04 pm

        Maybe it’s a generational thing but if I’m spending a couple of hours at a friend’s house I expect the password to their wifi. Like previous generations it would be rude not to offer a drink, now it’s your password. I automatically connect at my sisters, and there is like a 1% chance this is because of data usage. This is wifi, not her phone. It doesn’t cost her any more for them to use it while they’re there, and if she has such a problem with it get at the rental house and make her pay. Or say you can only come over 6-9 in the evenings. It’s not unreasonable to expect people to stay out of your private space a time certain times, what is unreasonable is pulling stupid power plays like having to enter the password yourself.

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      • avatar

        MissDre September 26, 2017, 6:21 am

        Yeah, I find these comments about the kids being bratty because they come over to do some laundry and ask for the wifi pretty strange. Maybe we’re missing some context.

        Are the kids lazy entitled assholes who refuse to get a job or go to school or do anything in life, and expect mom and dad to foot the bill? Or do they work minimum wage jobs while putting themselves through school?

        I can’t imagine my mom not offering to help me out when I was young. I worked hard, I tried to get good grades, I paid my own rent. My mom couldn’t help me out financially but she ALWAYS wanted to help me out at home when she could.

        She would INVITE me to come over and do laundry. Mom to me: “Is your washer ok? Is it big enough to wash your duvet? No? Oh, come on over and do a load, I’ll put on the coffee!” And we’d hang out.

        When my brother came home from college to visit, she was so excited to pack him a care package of some grocery items and toiletries that he might need.

        When I go over to my mom’s house now, I like to use her big jacuuzi bath tub and she’s so excited to show me all of the bath soaps and lotions she’s got. Mom to me: “Did you try this rose scented one? Oh it’s so nice isn’t it! How was your bath?” She couldn’t care less if I went through all the lotions and picked the nice one. She’d me HAPPY for me that I tried it and liked it.

        I dunno, my mom always wanted to do whatever she could to help me out when I was young and trying hard to get on my own two feet.

        So unless these young daughters are seriously doing nothing for themselves in lives and expecting daddy to pick up the pieces… this idea that the kids are bratty for coming over to do a load of laundry baffles me.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy September 26, 2017, 6:31 am

        I totally agree, Dre. It baffles me, too!

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      • avatar

        Sarah September 26, 2017, 7:01 am

        I don’t think she sees herself in the parental role. And if that is the case, I sympathize with her with respect to things like the awards ceremony (she doesn’t feel the joy that comes from seeing your child succeed, so this is just one more boring thing in life she doesn’t want to have to do). In fact, to her it is probably only something actual parents have to do, especially if she doesn’t actually serve as a parental figure in their lives.

        The laundry issue– to be fair, the kids are mostly all adults so the the LW has no obligation to provide free laundry services.

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        Vathena September 26, 2017, 7:09 am

        Maybe so, but she’s been with their father for 13 years, so the child with the awards ceremony would have been 4-5 years old when they got together. If she can’t embrace a quasi-parental role in their lives after being around since they were in kindergarten, that’s pretty cold.

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      • avatar

        ktfran September 26, 2017, 7:25 am

        Dre summed up nicely what I was feeling.

        @sarah, That’s fine that she doesn’t see herself in a parental role, but her husband obviously is a parent and doesn’t mind helping out his adult children. She never said she was doing their laundry, only that they use the washer and dryer. I’m sorry, but if I had a choice between spending a couple hours at a laundromat or walking next door to my dad’s house, I’d choose my dad every single time.

        Idk, do all the people who are saying these daughters are in the wrong and taking advantage not have good relationships with your parents?

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        LisforLeslie September 26, 2017, 8:06 am

        If the adult daughter wasn’t working she would have mentioned it as part of the list of crimes. It’s clear this woman has hit BEC with the kids.

        @Ashley – it’s not generational. I visit my mom, sister, cousin, friend – I’m going to ask for the wifi password. Especially if I’m there overnight.

        And as for the Mom’s getting a pass; she may have had something work related or accepted an invite to a wedding for all we know (It happens, my cousin married on a Tuesday). It doesn’t sound like the mom just up and said “I just can’t even!” and bailed on the event. She may have also presented the kid with super-star pancakes, an iTunes gift card, or whatever to make up for it.

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    Sarah September 26, 2017, 12:01 pm

    @ktfran– when you go to a laundromat, you use their machines and pay and do your own laundry! I wouldn’t expect to get free laundry services for life without contributing some money (for the water/electricity/inconvenience). The occasional laundry load– sure, maybe. I also think awards ceremonies are overrated.

    I have a great relationship with my parents and my parents never skipped an awards ceremony. My parents would probably turn down my money today if I lived next door and if I offered to pay to use their laundry. (We didn’t grow up with a ton of money so my advice stems from that desire to contribute as much as possible.)

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  • avatar

    StepMom September 27, 2017, 7:30 am

    Wendy, you are waaaay off base here.

    Please stop being such a bitch towards frustrated stepmothers. Sometimes kids are assholes. Sometimes you don’t like your stepkids, and it’s ok. You don’t have to judge stepmothers so harshly, you know. We are just women who are in a difficult situation, and we don’t need more blame just because we are struggling.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy September 27, 2017, 9:18 am

      #PersecutionComplex

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    • avatar

      Kate September 27, 2017, 10:04 am

      StepMom, aren’t you glad people don’t walk into your place of business and call you a bitch while you’re doing your job? I am!

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    • avatar

      wobster109 September 27, 2017, 10:25 am

      Hey LW, I get that you’re frustrated, but you’re writing in for advice, so expect to be told to change. Sometimes people are assholes, but what kind of relationship will you have with your husband if you really believe “your kids are assholes”? That’s a broad, one-dimensional label that’s appropriate for the acquaintance you see once a month. It’s no way to interact with your husbands children!

      Also, it’s not “ok” to dislike your stepkids. It’s understandable, and it’s not necessarily anyone’s fault, and it’s commonplace, and it’s very human. But it’s not “ok”. It’s unfortunate and sad and makes everyone tense. So although it’s common and understandable, it’s something you should work on, because it makes life difficult for all of you.

      Try to see their good side, even if you have to really reach here. Do they love their father? Do they make time to see him even when busy? Are they supportive of their friends? Passionate about photography? Praise them for that. Talk to them about what they like – TV shows, their hobbies, etc. Even if they lacrosse and you don’t know the rules, show interest. Maybe they won’t want to explain it to you, but you don’t lose anything by trying. Compliment them on something they’re working hard on. Get to know them as people.

      These are your husband’s kids. You’ll all breathe easier if you see them as unique, flawed but basically good people, rather than slapping a one-dimensional “asshole” label on them.

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      dinoceros September 27, 2017, 10:39 am

      If you want to vent and people to just tell you you’re right and the kids are bad, then go to your friends. If you actually want advice on how to resolve the problem, then you have to accept that it’s going to involve YOU making a change. Why? Because you can’t force someone else to change their behavior. The only behavior you can change is yours. But based on your attitude, I suspect you don’t actually want to resolve the issue.

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      Vathena September 27, 2017, 11:04 am

      Another great example of someone who shouldn’t have married a person with children. Also another great example of someone who was probably counting the days until the children turned 18, as if they magically disappear upon becoming legal adults. They’re his children, FOR LIFE. Maybe they complain that you don’t welcome them because you DON’T.

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      • avatar

        ktfran September 27, 2017, 12:13 pm

        THIS!

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