Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Your Turn: “How Can I Get My Dad To Spend Time With Me?”

In a feature I call “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me:

I’m in the military and getting ready to deploy for six months. Before I leave, I’m spending a few days back home with my family. Two years ago my parents split up after 26 years of marriage because my father found another woman. My parents have both already remarried. My father married the woman he fell in love with and my mother seemed to find someone else right away. Visiting my mother is never a problem. She makes sure to clear her schedule to spend one-on-one time with me. On the other hand, with my father, who I was always very close with, I am lucky to even get a dinner with him alone now that he’s remarried.

When I visit and have conversations with my father, his new wife always has to get her two cents in, even sometimes interrupting my conversation to talk to my father about something completely off subject. My mother’s new husband is in no way like this. He understands there has to be “mother-daughter” time and leaves it at that. Why can’t my father’s new wife see that? I have talked to my dad about the situation but he made me feel bad in the end. I would assume he would understand how I feel knowing how close we used to be. How can I speak with my father about this situation without hurting anyone’s feelings? And I would like to get the point across so his wife can understand also. My father has now blocked many people out of his life because of his new wife including my grandmother, and I don’t want to be one of those people. — Missing Daddy Daughter Time

80 comments… add one
  • avatar

    cmarie April 20, 2011, 3:11 pm

    Calmy sit them down and explain that it is important to you that you spend one-on-one time with your father before you leave. Assure them that you have no problem spending time with the new wife (even if you do), you just need some personal time with them. Most importantly, don’t let them make you feel bad. You are doing absolutely nothing wrong and requesting time with your father is completely reasonable. That being said it’s also important to be nice to the new wife, not that you aren’t already. Even though your mother hads moved on and they’ve been together for a bit, they (she) could have some insecurity about her being accepted into the family. Perhaps she pushes to be a part of the conversation because she wants to be liked and welcomed. I understand feeling like she’s pushing you out of his life, and she very well could be, but if you want to maintain a relationship with your father it sounds like you will have to have somewhat of a relationship with his new wife. It sucks but sometime it is what it is. Now that doesn’t mean that you get to be ignored and treated disrespectfully (and interrupting someone’s conversation is disrespectful) so tell them what you would like and what you need while being sympathetic to their wishes but don’t let them (her) trample on your feelings. He is your father, will always be your father, and you deserve alone time to bond with him.

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    • avatar

      honeybeenicki April 20, 2011, 3:33 pm

      I think you picked up on the big thing – the new wife may feel like she has to push to be welcome or liked. Honestly, I agree that it is important to sit down and have this heart to heart, but I think it may be beneficial to reach out to the new wife and get to know her better and make her feel welcome in the family.

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      • landygirl

        Landy April 20, 2011, 4:37 pm

        Not to be too snarky, but the new wife is the one who caused the breakup of her parents’ marriage, so I don’t feel too bad for her.

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        TMSC April 20, 2011, 4:49 pm

        Why is the new wife getting blamed for the breakup of the marriage? The father also had a hand in it, the bigger hand, if you really think about it. It was his decision to find another woman, and to divorce the LW’s mother. Also, we have no idea any other circumstances surrounding the original marriage itself. I am not saying she is completely innocent, but it seems like “the other woman” gets blamed a lot without much regard to the men in these situations.

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        hana April 20, 2011, 5:02 pm

        Not the point of the question at all, but since you hit on it…

        I agree with you. The man should take most of the blame. He was married and had a family. The other woman should take some blame too if she knew the man was married and will probably be nervous now that he will do the same to her. If it were my dad I would be very upset about this, of course I have 0 insight beyond what the LW wrote.

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      • landygirl

        Landy April 20, 2011, 5:12 pm

        I’m torn because while I understand what you’re getting at, I don’t condone a single woman carrying on an affair with a family man. This woman seems highly controlling and insecure, to the point where she’s competing with this man’s daughter for her husband’s attention.

        I don’t condone what the father did either but I have no sympathy for the new wife.

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      • avatar

        Bellz April 20, 2011, 6:05 pm

        Don’t be so quick to judge the new wife when in reality you have no idea what the circumstances were. Like cmarie says, she probably just wants to feel accepted.

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      • landygirl

        Landy April 20, 2011, 7:09 pm

        Then maybe she should have met and married a single man with no family attached to him. If you break up a family, you must endure the consequences.

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      • avatar

        kali April 21, 2011, 1:13 pm

        OK, definitely not taking sides here, but y’all are ASSUMING that there was an affair. Perhaps dear ole Dad fell for the other woman, but did not act on it until after his divorce. She would still be the cause of the break-up but not a brazen hussy as some paint her. Just a theory. That’s probably not how it it went down, but we don’t know.

        Actually, my daughter is a similar situation and no one likes the new wife. Dad is oblivious (but he always was kind of dense.) You just have to be persistent and tell them what you need. Beyond that accept what they are able to give you. It may not be exactly what you want/need but that may be all they are capable of sharing. Parents are human too and as hard as it is to hear LW plight and to see it in my every day life, sometimes all you can do is accept where your parents are in their journey.

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      • landygirl

        Landy April 21, 2011, 2:16 pm

        No, I’m not assuming, the LW said it herself.

        “Two years ago my parents split up after 26 years of marriage because my father found another woman”

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      • avatar

        kali April 22, 2011, 12:58 am

        Yes, Landy, but that doesn’t mean anything happened. Dad could have met, fallen and yet not acted on his feelings, divorced and married Wife #2.

        It’s probably my Girl Scout background but there’s no evidence of cheating, just a wandering eye, which is bad enough.

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      • avatar

        honeybeenicki April 21, 2011, 7:35 am

        I understand your feeling that the new wife caused the breakup of the marriage and while I think if she was seeing the dad while he was still married, you are partially true; however, she was not the one IN the marriage. He was the one with a direct responsibility to his ex-wife, not her. And no matter whose fault what was, I don’t think blaming her and making her feel bad is going to bring the daughter closer to her father. Sometimes you have to bite your tongue to make peace in a family.

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        TheGirl April 21, 2011, 9:13 am

        Totally! So many bitter responses on here. Maybe it was terrible the way their family broke up. Maybe LW really is pissed and doesn’t want to say it. BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT SHE IS ASKING US TO HELP HER WITH. She wants to know how to score alone time with dad. Alienating the new wife is not going to make that happen. The only way she is going to make that happen is to ingratiate herself with the new wife. Tough love, baby, just like Wendy.

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    • EscapeHatches

      EscapeHatch April 20, 2011, 5:05 pm

      My biggest concern would be if the new wife isn’t so much pushing to be like/uncertain but is deliberate in her actions. I’ve heard many the tale of the new spouse wanting to be “all the family so-and-so needs” and therefore pushing other members of the “old family” out of the picture.

      In which case… put superglue in her chamomile and hopefully you can get through a whole conversation. Also – when someone interrupts you, firmly telling them “Charlene, you didn’t let me finish, can I get through my thought and then get back to your comment?” can be a bit brusque, but it’s very effective.

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  • avatar

    demoiselle April 20, 2011, 3:24 pm

    This seems like a tough situation, fueled by your new stepmother’s anxiety about belonging to her new family. Perhaps she’s even anxious about what you might say to your father about her if she lets you be alone together.

    This might be a situation where you can use your military service to good effect. It’s hard to argue against a child wanting (and deserving) some alone time with her father before deploying.

    Perhaps you could speak to her (and your father) on the phone in advance, making it clear that you welcome her in your family, but requesting that, in light of your service, you have a father-daughter day. You could go to the park of the zoo, have a lunch together, and so forth–just with him. Then, make sure to plan some time that includes your new stepmother as well, so she doesn’t feel cut out.

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  • avatar

    ReginaRey April 20, 2011, 3:27 pm

    I think with men in general, be they dads or boyfriends or whatever, it’s best to be as logical and direct as possible, because that’s how they tend to communicate. So something like “Dad, I’m deploying in 6 months and I’d really like to get some one-on-one father-daughter time in before I leave. I always enjoy seeing you and stepmom, but I’d also really like to be able to spend time with just you. Why don’t we do this, on this date, at this place.” Planning it all out ahead of time will probably increase the likelihood of him simply agreeing to it, and your stepmom trying to butt in.

    Also, it seems like your stepmom may be a tad controlling and easily offended when she isn’t included. I think it’s important to just keep the course – be polite but firm in your desire to do some things JUST with your dad, to foster that relationship. Good luck!

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    • becboo84

      BecBoo84 April 20, 2011, 4:16 pm

      I think your idea is perfect!

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    • avatar

      CollegeCat April 20, 2011, 5:49 pm

      The only thing I would add to this great idea is:

      “and afterward we could meet up with ______(new wife) and i can treat you both to dinner.” Then maybe the new wife will still feel included and be less likely to try and sabotage your father-daughter time. Also who can pass up a free dinner 😉

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  • avatar

    Theenemyofmyenemyisagrilledcheesesandwich April 20, 2011, 3:28 pm

    Wow, it sounds to me like there are some red-flags of abusiveness in the new wife. Isolating a person from their parent (or ex-parent in law) and children (with whom they presumably had a previously good relationship) isn’t a loving, generous act.

    On the other hand, I wonder I wonder if the second wife feels like she has something to prove, either to herself or his family. She might feel she has to prove that she is an, or the, important part of his life, and she is doing so by holding onto the father as tightly as possible. Beginning a romantic relationship with someone who is already married must create a little insecurity in the second marriage. There really isn’t proof that if the father fell in love with another woman while married to wife #1 he won’t fall in love with someone else while married to wife #2. (Now, I am absolutely not trying to pass judgment, or suggest that people don’t sometimes just fall out of love and find another person later in life to love instead. Nor am I suggesting that automatically, a relationship begun with someone who is not single doesn’t have the same chance of success.) I do think that insecurity can be internalized and expressed outwards in dominance behavior, such as the need to control topics of conversation, or less subtly, with whom and when the father spends his time away. So at best I find the new wife’s behavior immature, but trying to understand her behavior from her perspective may help you to have a relationship with her. As Cmarie said, that is probably the only way you will be able to see your father for the time being.

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  • avatar

    silver_dragon_girl April 20, 2011, 3:34 pm

    Oh dear. I know how hard this can be. When my parents were separated for a while a few years ago it was all I could do to be in the same room as my dad. I really applaud that you seem so well-adjusted and are actually making an effort to repair this relationship.

    As far as advice goes, I’m just going to reiterate what others have said: Try to sit him down and explain how you feel. You might even start with your stepmother. Ask her to go our for a “girls night” and get a drink together. Then ask her for her advice getting close to your father again. Nothing gets people on your side like asking them for advice. If you open up to her a little about it, she might be more willing to leave the two of you alone together.

    Just an idea.

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    • avatar

      honeybeenicki April 20, 2011, 3:39 pm

      Excellent idea of seeking advise from the stepmother!

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    • avatar

      JustMe April 20, 2011, 7:14 pm

      Really? Seek advice from the homewrecker? I think I’d rather stick a fork in my eye.

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      • avatar

        sarita_f April 20, 2011, 11:52 pm

        @JustMe – You don’t know the intricacies of the situation – you don’t know who pursued who, what the parents’ marriage was like, etc – you really should not be so quick to judge.

        And it pisses me off to NO END how many people blame the third party in these instances. And I’m not saying you feel this way necessarily, but it particularly pisses me off that the term ‘homewrecker’ pretty much is only used w/r/t the woman being the third party. When was the last time a man was labeled a home wrecker? Come ON – what’s good for the goose…

        The one who made the marriage vows is the ONLY one who ‘wrecked a marriage.’ The single person has not made an overt commitment to stay the hell out of that marriage. Most of the time, no one put a gun to the head of the spouse and forced them to do anything.

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        JustMe April 21, 2011, 12:54 am

        I’ll tell you what p*sses me off, those people who are so quick to point the finger at the married person, and let the other person off scott free.

        You know what, there is NO relationship so solid that someone can’t break it apart. We don’t like to think that, we like to think that any relationship that was broken up had something fundamentally wrong with it, but that is not the truth, it’s PC garbage to say otherwise.

        Relationships go through ebbs and flows because, guess what, you can’t be *on* 100% of the time for your partner. Children, sick family, career and money situations, all of these are very normal stresses that can take over the primary relationship and make us put our spouse on the backburner. It’s not fun for the spouse not having their needs met, but it’s life.

        Unless someone decides that they don’t care that this person is in a relationship, and that they want this person. Now suddenly, your husband/wife doesn’t have that intense focus on you like they did while you were dating, because, oh I don’t know, they are raising your child or caring for your sick parents, but hey, this shiny new person makes you feel young and carefree and desired, like you felt before you were married.

        And this person knows what they are doing. And because they are immoral scum, the relationship gets broken up.

        Is the married spouse wrong. Yes, very very wrong. That does not negate the fact that the other person is complete and total scum, and this whole line of, “It’s not their fault, they didn’t make vows!” is happy horsesh*t.

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        Theenemyofmyenemyisagrilledcheesesandwich April 21, 2011, 2:50 am

        Seriously? CHILLAX. Love is messy and complicated.

        There are far, far worse things in life than breaking up a marriage. Calling someone immoral scum because they potentially fell in love with the right person at the wrong time is over the line. Save that pejorative for the perpetrators of genocide.

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      • avatar

        honeybeenicki April 21, 2011, 7:39 am

        While I don’t think the “homewrecker” should be free of blame, I believe that the married person generally carries the majority of the burden because they were the one responsible for the marriage. They were the ones in the relationship and their actions caused the disolution of the marriage. However, no matter what is going on with that mess (I’m sure it happens a lot these days), LW wants to know how to get closer to her Dad again and villainizing his new wife is NOT going to help her. It will make it worse and she may never have the chance to be close to him again.

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    • avatar

      sarita_f April 21, 2011, 12:13 am

      Also, I love the recommendation to ask New Wife for suggestions – such a smart move.

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  • avatar

    ape escape April 20, 2011, 3:34 pm

    Girl, I’m so sorry. It sounds to me like your father may be having a difficult time reorganizing his life – after 26 years with the same person, and a specific family structure, I’m sure that negotiating the new family dynamics would be tricky. I think you need to sit down with both your father and his wife. She needs to be there to feel included. Be explicit about the fact that you need father-daughter time (stay away from “just like I do with Mom” as statements with “like Mom” could be all the wife focuses on, and you want her to hear your message) and perhaps even suggest some activities (“Dad, I miss when we used to go to baseball games/watch silly action movies/jam out to classic rock/etc together. Could we do that?”) Say what you feel, be specific, and don’t make any attacks (not that you would!)

    I do want to offer a word of caution. Based on the last sentence of your letter, I am a little worried that simply talking to your dad isn’t going to be enough to really get through to him. If he is *cutting others out of his life*, he may be blinded by this new woman, simply lost in the honeymoon stage, or (in the extreme case) acting under her suggestions to do so, so that she is the #1 thing in his life. Does she have kids? If not, she may not understand that to (most) remarried dads, his child will always come first. If she does understand this that’s probably why she’s threatened.

    No matter the reasons why this is happening, know above all else that it IS NOT YOUR FAULT. He may not get it, and may not spent the time with you that you need. If he disappoints you, which is a distinct possibility, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not blame yourself. It is his issue, and I couldn’t imagine it ever being your fault.

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  • avatar

    Callifax April 20, 2011, 3:37 pm

    Ah, I was in a very similar situation with my grandfather’s new wife after my grandma passed away, though my step-grandma had no interest in getting to know the family or being a part of our lives. Here’s hoping your dad’s new wife is more open-minded!

    That being said, when you talk to your dad, I’d avoid talking to him about your feelings on HER. He’s likely to get really defensive if you phrase your points through the context of the new wife. Instead, put it in the context of YOU and YOUR relationship with your dad. Say things like: “I really miss spending time with you” and “I want to be as close as we used to be” rather than “I miss spending time with you without -insert new wife’s name here-“. This way, he won’t feel like he’s being attacked, and will likely respond to your feelings more if he understands how much his absence is hurting you.

    Just my two cents!

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  • avatar

    honeybeenicki April 20, 2011, 3:38 pm

    As the stepmother who began dating a father very shortly after his separation, I have to wonder if stepmom feels left out or feels like she needs to prove something. It took me awhile to get used to “sharing” my husband (then boyfriend), but I have never stood in the way of him having one on one time with his kids (they are obviously much younger than LW is). In fact, I’ve found a great effect of encouraging one on one time with his kids is that I have, in return, received one on one time as well. Sometimes, we will just split up – either the boys together and girls together or me with his son and he with his daughter – and do something separate just to get in some good bonding time. I’m extremely close to my stepkids and love them as if they were my own, but still understand the need for them to have time with just dad.

    I wonder if new stepmom has any kids of her own or any close family. Maybe she doesn’t realize how much she really is butting in and preventing this bonding time? Or maybe she is as other people have said – controlling. Who knows.

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  • Betsy

    Betsy April 20, 2011, 3:40 pm

    I understand how difficult it is to see your father with a new woman in his life, and I wonder if you are harboring some resentment towards the woman that was seemingly the cause of your parents divorce. I can guarantee that if you are feeling it, then she and your father can both sense that. Perhaps he is upset that the people in his life can’t support him in the happiness he has found in a new love.

    He is currently trying to balance your needs with the needs of his new wife, and he is probaly at a loss of how to do this. It doesn’t justify his disregard of your feelings, but understanding this will help you communicate with your father and the only way to solve your problem is with mature communication.

    I stress *mature* because I know all-to-well how easy it is for adult women like us to fall back into the “daddy’s little girl” role. This habit can easily turn a rational conversation about you needs and wants into an emotionally charged assault that would make any man put up his defenses. So approach him with a clear head and tell him that you are happy for him and are happy to get to know his new wife but there will be plenty of time for that when you return from deployment.

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  • avatar

    TheGirl April 20, 2011, 3:41 pm

    I was going to say the same thing everyone else seems to be saying! Have a heart to heart with your father’s his new wife. Offer to spend a little one-on-one time with her as well, and pick something you know she would like to do. Let her know that you are grateful he’s found someone to love, but that you desperately need some father daughter time before you deploy.

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  • avatar

    HmC April 20, 2011, 3:43 pm

    First of all LW, a sincere thank you for your service to our country. I hope my advice doesn’t sound harsh, but the answer here seems pretty blunt to me.

    This: “…his new wife always has to get her two cents in, even sometimes interrupting my conversation to talk to my father about something completely off subject. My mother’s new husband is in no way like this. He understands there has to be “mother-daughter” time and leaves it at that. Why can’t my father’s new wife see that?”

    Sounds to me like you simply don’t like this woman. It’s not up to your father to make his wife into someone you like better. And it’s certainly not helpful to compare his new wife to your mother’s new husband. People are all different. Sometimes you will naturally get along with some better than others.

    Perhaps some (not all) of the reason you find your father’s new spouse less palatable than your mother’s new spouse might have to do with the fact that he did the leaving of your mom, after so many years, and for this other woman. So this new wife is basically a reason, if not the reason, for the divorce. That’s got to sting a little, and leave it’s mark on your impression of her.

    Your parents are grown adults. They’ve made their decisions. You don’t have to love either of their new spouses, but if you love your parents you will respect who they choose to live their lives with. If the new wife is being abusive or acting over the top mean or something with you, that’s one thing. But there’s nothing your father can do to make her more likable for you. And even if there was, why should he have to? This is who he picked, he obviously likes her the way she is. And you’re an adult, not a minor child who is going to have to be around this woman all the time or have a forced parent-daughter-like relationship with her. Be cordial and respectful. That shouldn’t be too difficult for a mature adult.

    That said, if you would like a little more one-on-one time with your father, simply tell him that. Say you don’t have much time to spend with him, and you think some one-on-one time with him would be nice. The ball is then in his court. As far as getting that point across to his wife, that’s his job, if anyone’s, not yours. And leave the fact that you like your mother’s husband out of it. Your mother and her husband have nothing to do with how you interact with your father now.

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    • avatar

      camille905 April 20, 2011, 4:11 pm

      Regardless of whether or not she likes the new wife, she deserves to have one on one time with her father ESPECIALLY since she’s about to be deployed and from which she may not return.
      Also since she previously had a very close relationship with her father it is strange to me that his behavior would change so drastically in light of her pending deployment.
      There is nothing in her letter that suggests to me that she is asking that her father make his wife change- she’s asking for understanding and to spend time with him. This is in NO WAY unreasonable.

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        Theenemyofmyenemyisagrilledcheesesandwich April 20, 2011, 4:22 pm

        I completely agree. She’s being deployed- not going on vacation. She’s taking on the risk that she will be killed in the line of duty. When my brother was deployed our family basically dropped everything in the last few weeks before he left. Yes, we did it both because we wanted to, and because we could. I can’t imagine how my parents must have felt.

        If this were newer behavior, and didn’t strictly coincide with the remarriage I would suspect that perhaps the father is having difficulty coping with the deployment. Perhaps he is dealing with his grief (and yeah, I do think that sending a family member to a war-zone feels like grief, even if they return whole) by avoidance.

        Regardless, I totally agree camille905, it is not in the least unreasonable.

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        camille905 April 20, 2011, 5:00 pm

        Exactly! My baby brother was deployed twice (and is now safely out of the army) and whenever he was about to be deployed or on leave we ALWAYS did everything we could to see him (including driving 20 hours to Florida and back in one weekend) and to help relieve his stress.
        Her father may be dealing with grief issues (I know my mother did) but if that is the case then shame on the new wife for not trying to encourage him to deal with those issues by spending time his daughter.

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        HmC April 20, 2011, 5:01 pm

        Oh, my first rash of purple thumbs!

        I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for time. She should. But I don’t think LW can force the father to do anything. From my reading of the letter, LW seemed to have a personality conflict with the new wife… mentioning her butting in with her “two cents”, and I still think that might have at least a little something to do with the wife being the reason for her parent’s divorce. We don’t always like who people pick for their partners, but abuse or really bad behavior notwithstanding, we need to accept and respect people’s decisions. And I was uncomfortable with comparisons to the mom’s new husband. Bottom line, I agree that LW should talk to her dad, but the focus should be on alone time, not her dislike for the new step mom.

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        hana April 20, 2011, 5:26 pm

        You woudn’t have any resentment if this was your family?

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        HmC April 20, 2011, 5:34 pm

        Of course I would! It would suck if my parents remarried someone I didn’t like. But I’d hope that I would focus my actions in a constructive way.

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        camille905 April 20, 2011, 5:38 pm

        Nowhere do I get the impression that the focus is on her dislike for her new stepmom- that’s what YOU are focused on. The LW writer is merely pointing out that after her dad remarried is when her lack of father daughter time started in stark contrast to the relationship they had previously.

        I’m sorry but the lack of support our troops receive is bad enough from people with differing views on the war, the current administration, etc. without having to put up with that from your own family.

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        HmC April 20, 2011, 5:48 pm

        She says her stepmother “buts in” with her “two cents” and is “off topic”. That, and the fact the she broke up LW’s marriage, makes me feel like LW dislikes the new wife personally. You don’t know this letter writer personally any more than I do, we’re all working with the same very limited information. I was simply sharing my gut/first impression, which could very well be wrong.

        I admit I have no personal experience with military life, their families, or long deployments. I’m sure that affects how I read the letter. I certainly do defer to people who come from a place of better understanding due to their own experiences.

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      • avatar

        HmC April 20, 2011, 5:50 pm

        *ahem*, broke up LW parent’s marriage, not LW’s marriage

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      • avatar

        moonflowers April 20, 2011, 8:02 pm

        Iono, butting in to conversations would be rude enough by itself for me to dislike her, homewrecker or not. LW doesn’t have to like her, but at least LW seems to respect her from what I can see in this letter.

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  • becboo84

    BecBoo84 April 20, 2011, 4:19 pm

    LW, I really have no advice that would be any different that what the other commenters have said, but I did want to give you a big THANKS for your service. Your dedication to your country is commendable!

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  • avatar

    Laurel April 20, 2011, 4:49 pm

    I openly admit my reading of this letter is influenced by my own (very negative) relationship with my step-mother, but I sincerely hope the LW’s dad snaps out of it and realizes his wife’s behavior is unhealthy. Influencing your SO to cut people out of their life (unless they are truly toxic people) is incredibly controlling and speaks to a really insecure and potentially abusive personality. The LW says that her father cut out the LW’s grandma. If she’s referring to the ex-wife’s mother that’s one thing, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the step-mom is having issues with more of the husband’s family than just the LW.

    Anyway, I don’t have a lot of advice to offer (sorry), but I can commiserate. I guess I’d just add that it’s okay to not like your step-mom. I’m not suggesting you be rude to her (that won’t help anything), but you don’t have to like her just because she married your dad.

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  • avatar

    JennyTalia April 20, 2011, 4:58 pm

    I think in the interest of time and not wanting to strain your relationship before you leave, you’ll need to force alone time with your father. Maybe book his wife a spa treatment to get her out of the house, or suggest doing a father-daughter thing that she wouldn’t enjoy (fishing, etc). Then when you are alone with him stress to him how much you miss the one-on-one time and how close you used to be and how you wish you could do it more. It might tug at his heart strings. This isn’t a great long-term solution but you will have 6 months away to truly think on how best to approach the issue for the future.

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  • avatar

    Sarah April 20, 2011, 5:03 pm

    For some reason, there is this weird possessive quality in a lot of women who marry men with daughters (my dad and his fiance included). Its like they have to prove to their spouse’s daughters that she is his favorite. Its really weird, but I’ve seen it a lot, not just from my dad and his soon to be wife. My sisters and I try to plan stuff that she will probably not want to do so that way we can still see my dad without pissing her off. I would tell you to talk to them both about having time alone with your dad, but if your stepmother is anything like mine, she will get VERY defensive and your dad will feel obligated to go to her defense instead of yours. Not only does it not accomplish anything, but it really hurts to know your dad chose this woman over you. It took years for me to understand that he was simply siding with her because she was just way more capable of making his life miserable. Because you have little time to see him, don’t talk to her, talk just to him. Make sure he knows that you are not trying to offend your stepmom, but you miss having father daughter time, just the two of you. He will understand, but hang out immediately after you talk to him, once your stepmom gets wind of it she’ll try really hard to talk him out of doing it.

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      LennyBee April 20, 2011, 6:59 pm

      I didn’t read through all the replies before I commented, and now I realize I said almost the same thing as you. I do the same thing – I suggest activities my stepmother doesn’t’ like to get time alone with my father without having to actively exclude her. There’s no point in putting my dad in the middle of such an awkward situation. And it’s been 20 years, some people are just very sensitive to being excluded.

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  • sobriquet

    sobriquet April 20, 2011, 5:18 pm

    You may just need to mourn the relationship you once had with your father and learn how to deal with you new relationship. It sucks, but sometimes that’s how life goes. I say this from lots of experience. My relationship with my father has never been the same since he remarried and started a new family 15 years ago. I have a lot of bitterness as a result. Yet, I still make an effort to spend time with him and to get to know my step-mom (who I have always had a rocky relationship with).

    My boyfriend’s father recently remarried after 20 years of being single. Now he never calls my boyfriend, rarely ever visits, and doesn’t spend time away from his wife. My boyfriend has told his dad repeatedly that he wishes he would initiate contact more, but it hasn’t made a difference. He is extremely hurt that he’s lost the great bond he used to have with his dad and I doubt that pain will go away anytime soon. Maybe as time goes on, they will be able to reestablish their relationship, but until then he knows that he has to accept the way things are now and try his hardest to see his father whenever he can.

    Maybe things will change with your father as time goes on, but don’t expect things to go back to normal- possibly ever. Relationships change… even those relationships you’ve had your entire life. It’s not fun. It’s just reality.

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    hana April 20, 2011, 5:23 pm

    This is not advice to the LW, but I noticed a lot of people saying she sounds resentful towards the step mom and possibly angry at her father. I understand the need for her to be respectful but why is it such a big deal if she is resentful (which I did not sense in the letter)?
    I would be extremely hurt and angry at my father for breaking up his marriage/our family. And he would know it. I would be disgusted with him. Now cheating is not forgivable in my family and it may be different here as I don’t know the details, but dam straight I would be upset and my father and stepmother would get a piece of my mind. I would not be rude, but how I feel would definitely be known.
    Also, I read a lot of people saying she needed to show respect, and while I agree with that, her father and SM don’t seem to be giving her any respect.
    Someone tell me why she shouldn’t feel resentful…

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      camille905 April 20, 2011, 5:40 pm

      Yeah I don’t sense resentment either……more hurt and confusion that her father doesn’t want to spend time with her.

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      EB April 21, 2011, 6:00 pm

      I think people are just trying to cover all their bases and are brainstorming any and every possible obstacle that may be impeding the LW’s attempts to reconnect with her father. The theory that the LW resents their marriage is merely hypothetical. IF that is the case, I don’t think people are saying she shouldn’t have the right to feel or act resentful, disgusted, etc.; they are merely pointing out that by voicing these feelings she runs the risk of alienating her father and stepmother (which would likely be counterproductive to securing more father-daughter time). Since time is limited, the LW might have to choose btw pretend she is accepting of a relationship(which she very well might not be) or not spending time with her father before she deploys.

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    kdog April 20, 2011, 5:35 pm

    I know this might not be helpful, or what you want to hear, but sometimes after remarrying a parent will become and remain distant from his children. I don’t have any advice on how to get that to change because it happened to me and has never been fixed.

    The reason I am writing this at all is to let you know that you deserve better, no matter what the end result with your father is. At a certain point he has to take responsibility for his actions and you need to be careful about bending yourself to get the fundamental love and respect you deserve. Your father should be begging to spend as much time as possible with you (especially since you’re being deployed).

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      kdog April 20, 2011, 5:45 pm

      I am just trying to put it out there that because I spent years and years basically beggin my father to care I finally had to accept that he wasn’t going to change, let myself be angry and begin taking care of me. Hopefully your situation will not come to that, but if it does, I hope you lose less time than I did.

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    Morgan April 20, 2011, 6:03 pm

    I think the key is plan time with Dad without excluding your stepmother. Maybe plan a day with him, and then invite her to join the two of your for dinner at the end of it? I think the is the case of the stepmother trying to make herself a part of the family that she entered in a rather awkward manner, and so you’ll have to make it clear that this is you and your dad time and not just not her time.

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    Elle April 20, 2011, 5:50 pm

    “because my father found another woman” – from the way the LW describes the reason her parents divorced, it looks like she blames the stepmom.
    There could be a couple of reasons why the stepmom insists on not letting her husband out of her sight: she feels she’s not welcomed in the family, and she doesn’t want to give anyone the chance to talk about her behind her back; or maybe she feels guilty, and thus tries to spend time with everyone to prove that she’s not that bad of a person. (Or maybe she’s controlling, but I’d like to give the LW’s dad some credit for knowing better).

    I think the LW should make it clear to the stepmom that she is welcomed in the family, and then ask dad on one-on-one time. Suggest activities that you used to do together (as in, without your mom), so that your dad wouldn’t feel compelled to ask his new wife to join. Or maybe stuff she wouldn’t agree to at all – fishing, skydiving…

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    LennyBee April 20, 2011, 6:51 pm

    A lot of the comments above seem geared toward talking to your father, but your letter says you’ve already tried that and gotten nowhere. I have a somewhat similar situation, in that my father is married to a woman with a few insecurities that manifest in her trying to dominate conversations – she doesn’t like to feel left out. In the past, I tried talking to my father about it, but it really just put him in the awkward position of trying to make two women happy who want opposite things. So, I figured out a way around it. I simply suggest to my father activities that he and I like, and she doesn’t. I don’t try to exclude her from activities she enjoys, but when I want some father-daughter time, I suggest hiking or boating, which she’s not fond of. She’s still welcome to come, but I know 90% of the time she won’t. This way, I’m not actively excluding her, and I’m still getting time alone with my father.

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    JustMe April 20, 2011, 7:26 pm

    Your father is scum and you should cut him out of your life.

    Oh, I am going to get so many down thumbs from this post, I already see it. However, as someone who has an absent dad, I can tell you the unvarnished truth, and the sooner you accept this truth, the sooner you can get on and get back to happy with your life.

    For some reason, a lot of guys go through a midlife thing. They cheat on their wives, divorce them for the other (usually younger) woman, and pretend they never have had a family before.

    It’s like they want to pretend the last few decades never happened, because if that’s the case, then they aren’t middle aged men, they are still in the prime of their lives and have the world to conquer.

    All you are doing is wasting your mental energy and emotional happiness pursuing him, begging him for attention. If he wants to see you, he knows how to get hold of you.

    So screw him and enjoy yourself with those who do love you enough that they won’t throw you away for a piece of tail.

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    • Just Max

      Just Max April 20, 2011, 8:33 pm

      I am really sorry you didn’t have your dad around, but your ‘unvarnished truth’ is not the case for everyone.

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        JustMe April 21, 2011, 12:44 am

        Granted, it’s not the truth for everyone, but when this woman says she has told her dad her feelings, and he just made her feel bad. He doesn’t stick up for her against stepmom, and this woman is being DEPLOYED, as in there is a possibility of death in her future, but he can’t get off his a** to spend alone time with her.

        Translation: this is the case for her.

        And it sucks, and it’s not right and fair, but she can either take a deep breath and accept that this happened, it’s not her fault, and now it’s time to move on, OR she can spend all her emotional energy chasing after the guy and begging him to have a relationship with her again, a relationship he has no interest in.

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        Theenemyofmyenemyisagrilledcheesesandwich April 21, 2011, 3:02 am

        This isn’t some random dude she was dating. It’s not appropriate or healthy to tell her to MOA when her father is clearly not abusive, just preoccupied, or absent, or momentarily unthinking and selfish. It must suck, A LOT. And for that my heart goes out to the LW who is facing the particularly difficult set of hardships that relate to deployment. She sounds like a reasonable, well-balanced woman- I think we should craft our advice to her with that in mind.

        I’m sorry your father was absent, and I’m sorry you clearly haven’t gotten over it. But your bitter, vicious response to her desire to continue her relationship with a father who was loving and attentive for the first 24 years of her life is wrong.

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        JustMe April 21, 2011, 11:10 am

        Again, as I told the below, told tell me what I am or am not, I don’t need your knee-jerk, jerk-off psychology. My response was in no way vicious or bitter, it was another perspective that is sometimes grounded in reality. Guess what, sometimes the dad does not want to have anything to do with the old family. It’s not bitter to state a fact. Instead of getting on me for stating what is a sad reality *in some cases*, why don’t you rake the guys that do it over the coals

        I enumerated the reasons from her letter why I felt that was a possibility in her situation.

        Am I wrong? Possibly. Only the letter writer knows the full extent of the distance her father has created.

        If, however, she reads my words and they touch a nerve in her, where she goes, “I hate to admit this, but I really think this is the case with my dad. I really wish it wasn’t, but what she says rings true,” then my advice to the LW stands. You CAN’T force someone to love you, you can’t force them to have a relationship with you. Not a romantic relationship, and sadly, not even a paternal situation.

        If this was a boyfriend, we would tell her to MOA. What I am saying, which seems to be SO controversial and by saying it makes me a bitter, bitter person, is that if you are in any relationship where they make no effort to want to be with you, blow you off, disregard you because of another person, then you shouldn’t invest time and energy into that relationship. All that does is destroy you and your sense of self worth. This includes relationships with family, including parents.

        I’m sorry, but if this dad is not concerned seeing his daughter before she is DEPLOYED (you do realize what that means, right? Or are you one of those military hating people that really doesn’t care what happens to our soldiers?) then this father doesn’t care what happens to their relationship.

        I’m telling her to protect herself *IF* she feels this is the case. I’m telling her to not let herself become emotionally devastated that a relationship has fallen apart, even though this particular relationship is with a father.

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        Sarah April 21, 2011, 11:17 am

        “I’m telling her to protect herself *IF* she feels this is the case.”

        “Your father is scum and you should cut him out of your life.”

        Yeah, I didn’t hear an *if* anywhere in that. And you sound bitter because you sound bitter, not because we all can’t comprehend your wisdom.

        “you do realize what that means, right? Or are you one of those military hating people that really doesn’t care what happens to our soldiers?”

        Don’t do that. It just makes you sound worse. And twelve.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Wendy April 21, 2011, 11:18 am

        Ok, this hostile back-and-forth needs to stop now. Everyone’s gotten to say what she wants/needs to say. Time to step away from the computer, go outside and get some fresh air. Just don’t forget to come back when you’re feeling a bit more relaxed.

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        JustMe April 21, 2011, 11:22 am

        I agree. I don’t like being personally attacked for giving an opinion. You can disagree with my opinion and tell me why, but calling me out for giving an opinion, on a site that encourages that? That should be not allowed.

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        stillalive April 21, 2011, 12:00 pm

        I think the problem was that your opinion also came in the form of a personal attack. While I understand the justifications you’ve given for wanting to be blunt, it’s clear to me (as someone who has also been in similar situations) that the LW cares very much for her father, and wants to preserve that. And that’s something that should be respected. Less charged language, avoidance of name-calling might have helped to get your point across without offending and upsetting so many people.

        /mediation

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        Theenemyofmyenemyisagrilledcheesesandwich April 21, 2011, 12:12 pm

        I’m not even going to reply to the rest, as you are incapable of reason.
        But this “’m sorry, but if this dad is not concerned seeing his daughter before she is DEPLOYED (you do realize what that means, right? Or are you one of those military hating people that really doesn’t care what happens to our soldiers?) then this father doesn’t care what happens to their relationship.” is ridiculous. My brother was deployed to Iraq. As I have stated. On this thread. Accusing my of heartlessness because I will not castigate the father and step-mother as if I were an avenging hell-demon is ridiculous. And yes, vicious.

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        JustMe April 21, 2011, 3:11 pm

        So let me get this straight – on two paragraphs worth of advice, you feel justified in psychoanalyzing me and calling me names, but should I respond in kind to you and on the same level, I’m ridiculous? Maybe you need to look back at your words and see how this started.

        What I did was give advice on a site that asks for it. The first person who responded to me disagreed with the *advice* and I responded back, defending the advice. This person didn’t call me any names, and I did not call them any names. It was a discussion of difference of opinion, that was all.

        After that though, it has been a gang pile of people calling me names, which is BS. Yet, I respond to that, and because of my responding to people calling me names, I’m the vicious one and *incapable of reason*. Yeah, right.

        My reasons for my advice are sound. Do you agree with them? Obviously not, and understandable. My advice is rather extreme and blunt. Yet sometimes, the advice I gave is perfect for a particular situation. Does the LW fit into these circumstances? I don’t know for sure – though some of the details she did give are very painful – and neither can you from the few paragraphs we have from her. At least this gives her another perspective to look at.

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        EB April 21, 2011, 7:02 pm

        I personally don’t care if your advice come from a place of “bitterness” or “liberation”. My only issue is that I find it neither constructive nor pertinent to the situation at hand.

        The LW has 6 months to resolve this situation, I would challenge you to find any licensed therapist who would endorse terminating a lifelong relationship knowing the person would have a mere 6 months to adjust and come to terms with it . Even *if* she is better off without her father in her life, now is not the time to explore that option. Personally, the last place i would want to sort out and process the emotional baggage of losing a parent would be in a combat zone.

        Finally, time is currently a precious commodity for the LW. Maybe we should consider not wasting it with suggestions that explicitly violate her wishes?

        “My father has now blocked many people out of his life because of his new wife including my grandmother, and I don’t want to be one of those people”

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      • Just Max

        Just Max April 21, 2011, 9:46 am

        I think your problem is that you did the MOA part and it is not working out for you.
        I really hope you can get through the anger at some point, and can deal with the root of it.

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      • Just Max

        Just Max April 21, 2011, 9:48 am

        *oops. Last comment was for JustMe.

        @Theenemy…. sandwich: Sorry. Your comment got thumbs up from me. 🙂

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        JustMe April 21, 2011, 10:58 am

        You have no idea what you are talking about. You don’t like my advice, so you try to amateur psychology me from 2 paragraphs? Keep your opinions about me to yourself, I am not the one who wrote in asking a question.

        This LW has a situation I’m familiar with, both from personal experience and experience with others. I’m telling her the best advice I’ve drawn from that experience. She may see truth in my words, she may find I’m overly harsh, but either way, I’m adding another perspective vs. the rest of the statements here.

        What is best is for her to decide. As for you, don’t insult me for speaking my opinion, and I hope you get over your passive-aggressive bs sometime and perhaps can be honest in your approach and dealings instead of trying to quiet others you don’t want to hear.

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      demoiselle April 21, 2011, 10:47 am

      This is really harsh and unfair. You don’t know this family’s situation, and you could cause a lot of pain to people for no good reason. If you want to see what a scummy father looks like, look here: http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2011/04/13/sl-letter-of-the-day-have-at-it-gang

      There is no reason to assume that the LW’s father is scum.

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      Monica M April 21, 2011, 11:02 am

      JustMe I feel for you because we seem to suffer from the same thing, abandonment from a father after he remarried. I understand your anger and it has taken me some time to come to grips with my own. You may not want to hear this but you need to let the anger go. For me remaining angry was like I was letting him continue to hurt me. We can’t take our negative background and unilaterally applying it to the LW’s situation.

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    LW April 20, 2011, 9:58 pm

    I seriously tried keeping myself from posting, so I can maybe give Wendy an update, which I will. But I just wanted to clarify that my father is not SCUM. My parents divorce was really hard on me, but it ultimately made both of parents way more happier than they were before. I am sorry that your father became absent in your life, but I know my father would never do that to me. Saving all the details for Wendy.

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      stillalive April 21, 2011, 8:46 am

      LW, my heart just goes out to you reading this. My father remarried when I was eighteen and a month away from leaving for college; now I don’t have a home to go to because my stepsister lives in my room, and the stepmother in this case has serious insecurity issues and even objects to my father cooking dinner for me (I have some serious health-related dietary restrictions, so I can’t eat what the rest of the family would.)

      One thing I did that really helped rebuild the relationship with my father (which plummeted to nonexistence) was to remove the situation from the house. I’m assuming he works outside the home? See if you can get lunch sometime. That could work out for both of you.

      After reading the other commenters, I have to say that talking to the stepmother about it might also be a good strategic move. In my case, that wasn’t necessary – my father really understood my need to see him alone, and has done his best to accommodate it. But if your stepmother still has so much influence on him, and it’s causing estrangement from other family, playing nice with her would be a good thing to try.

      Again, I feel for you so much. Best of luck in rebuilding your relationship. Take care of yourself.

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      TheGirl April 21, 2011, 9:54 am

      Can’t wait to hear the update and a special THANK YOU to you for serving this country!!

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    Painted_lady April 20, 2011, 10:09 pm

    I have no idea if this is the case for you and your stepmother, but I have a cousin who did almost the exact same thing as your dad. His new wife came across as completely overbearing the first couple of years, and it absolutely didn’t help that his ex wife was an amazing mom who was close to her kids, the perfect daughter-in-law, and the favorite wife of my aunt’s three sons to everyone who knew the family. The new wife was pushy, nosy, interfering, and controlling, and there were a few years where they didn’t have much contact with our family. Then my aunt made a decision: she missed her son. New wife was never going to be ex wife, but if she wanted to see her son, she was going to have to get used to new wife. So she started tolerating her, making an effort to see her, get to know her, inviting her to girls’ nights with games and wine, and aside from getting to see her son more, a completely unexpected thing happened: she started liking new wife. They hung out more. They took vacations together. When my aunt had knee replacement surgery, guess who went with her to the hospital? New wife is overbearing anyway, but she’s so goodhearted my aunt can’t not love her. And once new wife felt the hostility and irritation toward her ebb away, she calmed the hell down.

    This absolutely may not be the case, and I don’t know how much time you have before you deploy to devote to new wife and getting to know her as an individual, even if it is just to get to your father. But maybe it’s worth exploring. Nothing else, take her out for one round of drinks and assure her you aren’t a threat (or ask her advice – that was a brilliant suggestion). But this lady is more than likely here to stay, so rather than battle her for your father’s affections, make her your ally.

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    demoiselle April 21, 2011, 10:52 am

    I feel a need to write something in defense of stepmothers after reading this, because it is very pertinent to me (my mother was a second wife). Some of the attitudes here are understandable but seem geared to causing a lot of pain and damage–possibly through more than one generation of the family–which could be avoidable.

    However, I fear that this letter is not the proper place for a lengthy message of this sort. Sometimes people don’t like such tangents that don’t directly deal with the letter.

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    • Just Max

      Just Max April 21, 2011, 12:14 pm

      I’m with you here. I have a step dad and have had three (gasp!) step moms. They were, and still are, very nice people that I am glad to have in my life. 🙂

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