“How Do I Disinvite Our Son-In-Law to Our Family Vacation?”

My stepdaughter, “Marie,” is married to a lovely man who is an exceptional father to our two grandsons. Last week, Marie left her husband and two sons to move in with another man she has apparently been seeing since the summer. She recognizes that her husband is a fabulous father and she has agreed to give custodial rights to him. While this is unconventional, we all believe it is in the best interests of all concerned. However, now my husband and I are in disagreement over how to proceed with our upcoming family vacation.

Last year, we began a family tradition to rent a condo in Mexico for a week for our family (i.e. adult children plus the two grandchildren). We are all set to fly there again in February for this annual trip. While we love and respect our son-in-law dearly, Marie and I agree we should dis-invite him. Family vacations can be tense enough, deciding what to do, where to go, etc., etc. With a couple who have only recently separated with no hope of reconciliation and two grandchildren who are confused enough, is it worth experiencing the tension for a whole week of precious vacation time?

My husband, however, thinks we should encourage our soon-to-be ex-son-in-law to join us on vacation as we need to be in his good graces since he is now the primary caregiver and we need to ensure we have access to the grandchildren. My husband may also be unsympathetic to his daughter’s situation since he is very angry with her because it reminds him so much of how his ex-wife (Marie’s mother) ended their marriage (for another man). I see, though, how she has struggled for some time with the decision to separate (even prior to the appearance of her new guy) and how she has found motherhood difficult and not really her thing. I think she is being honest and strong by saying the boys’ father is the better parent while most everyone else is lambasting her for leaving her children. (Men have left their wives/children for centuries, so why is it such a horrible thing for her to leave after so much deliberation?).

How do I un-invite my son-in-law, who is really a great guy, because I want a relaxing family vacation and a chance to reconnect with my adult children and grandchildren and especially with Marie who is going through a difficult time in spite of putting on this front that she has it all together? — Trying to Keep the Family Harmony

Well, obviously, you can’t invite your soon-to-be ex-son-in-law on your family vacation if your stepdaughter doesn’t want him there (and she doesn’t, if she’s telling you and your husband she thinks he should be disinvited). I appreciate your and your husband’s desire to maintain a good relationship with your son-in-law, the father of your grandchildren, but maintaining a good relationship with Marie is equally, if not more, important, and inviting her estranged husband to spend a week with all of you on vacation is a good way to alienate her. And whether she’s given custodial rights or not, she is still her children’s mother and, if what your husband fears is losing access to them, then I would think alienating his daughter would hinder that more than anything else.

You say Marie left her husband last week, so this is all very new, even if you’ve seen signs for a while that Marie wasn’t happy in her marriage. It’s understandable that all of you are upset and just beginning to process what this means for your extended family and for your grandchildren, whom you obviously love and care about. It’s also understandable that your husband feels deeply disappointed in his daughter whom he feels is repeating her mother’s behavior — behavior which, of course, directly betrayed and hurt him. But punishing Marie, alienating her, or in any way making her pay for what is a very personal decision isn’t going to erase the past or heal any of your husband’s old wounds that may feel newly re-opened. Withholding compassion for Marie at this point is only going to create distance when what is needed for family harmony is the opposite.

Of course, at the same time you don’t want to risk alienating your son-in-law. While I wouldn’t think that a “fabulous father” and all-around “lovely man” is going to keep his kids from seeing their grandparents, you don’t want to give him any reason to doubt your sincerity or commitment to their well-being. And, of course, you care about him, too! There’s a way to let him know you can’t welcome him on your family vacation this year while still extending compassion. I’d send a letter/email or call him and roughly follow this script:

“We are devastated to hear the news of your split with Marie. We have loved you like a son and will continue to love you as an extended family member and father of our dear grandchildren. We have always known how lucky the boys are to have you as their father and now, as they face what will be a confusing time in their lives, we are grateful they have you and your love and caring wisdom to guide them through it. Please know we are here to help in any way we can, too. We love our grandchildren so much and look forward to many years of nurturing our bond with them and watching them grow up. And while we are deeply sad about what is happening, we know that you, like [your husband’s name] did, will get through this challenge and continue to be an amazing father.

Last year, we started what we hoped would be a fun family tradition of vacationing in Florida every spring. We will continue that tradition this year, but it will be bittersweet. We will miss your company and will be thinking of you and sending love and strength your way. We hope, as we navigate these new family ties, that you can appreciate that, while our loyalty must first go to Marie, our love doesn’t have sides, and you will always be family to us.”


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


  1. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

    Sloooooow clap for Wendy!!! Amazing script for LW.
    LW, I wonder how your husband thinks that the sleeping arrangements would work out for this Fla trip… unless you are renting some 15BR manse or something, I suppose. I cannot imagine how, even in the best of circumstances, two lovely ppl a mere 3 weeks out from a split, would be able to co-exist on a family vacation trip. I am cringing even contemplating it. Good luck.

    1. snoopy128 says:

      I agree, amazing script!

      I can’t also imagine that the SIL would want to go on this trip. Regardless of whether he knew this was coming or not, he’s going to be hurting

      1. tell him he tell him he can’t go if the step-daughter don’t like it tell her she can stay home and baby-sit never let anyone invade your space

      2. That was my thought. I doubt he would even want to go, but if he still did, I would have Marie tell him he is no longer invited because she doesn’t feel comfortable with him being there. It’s the truth and takes the pressure off of the grandparents.

  2. This is a tough one. I agree that a parent’s loyalty is to their child and the letter writer’s husband should not be punishing his daughter for choices she has made in her marriage. The custody arrangements between her and the child’s father aren’t anybody’s business but the two of them. But I really feel for the soon to be ex son-in-law. And this is the husband’s daughter, so his feelings should be considered. But it would most likely be for the best for the two parents not to be vacationing together this soon. The kids are going to have to get used to going on separate vacations. I’m always sad when infidelity is involved in ending a marriage when there are still kids in the picture.

  3. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

    And this should go without saying, but I can’t imagine that the son-in-law would WANT to go on a week-long vacation with the family of the woman who has just left him for another man.

    1. The next fight between LW and her husband will happen in a day or so when Marie insists that her new bf should be included in vacation plans.

      1. I see I wasn’t the only one who thought of that scenario.

  4. Yes, LW and her husband can’t invite soon-to-be-ex son-in-law on the vacation. Yes they need to be loyal to their daughter, but step-mom seems rather cavalier in attitude about Marie. Marie is a mess. She had a second child after obviously knowing after child number one that she hated being a mother. She cheated on her husband for over half a year, before separating. She left her husband with the kids and the mess to clean up after taking the time to assure she had a new relationship she could seamlessly move into.

    LW just assumes grandkids will be going on the vacation, which might not be the case. Obviously this is a very emotional time for Marie’s ex, who has been caught by surprise by her moving out. “Here are the kids, they’re all yours I don’t want them” then 3 weeks later “I want them for the week to vacation with my parents, then they’re all yours again” may not go over great in the current pain and confusion of the household she left behind.

    This vacation is not a great family tradition. LW has done it exactly once.

    LW doesn’t discuss at all what on-going responsibility Marie wants to or is going to assume for her two children. Unless and until that is settled, there are bigger issues than who goes on this brand new traditional vacation.

    1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      You’re making a ton of assumptions — that Marie knew after her first kid that she hated being a mother; that the SIL was caught by surprise by the separation; that Marie and her husband haven’t agreed about custody in regards to family vacations. And regardless what the details are, it’s not the LW’s place to figure out the “bigger issues” that you say are more important than who gets invited on this family vacation. She’s absolutely in the right to be focused on the two things that ARE her business — whom to invite (or disinvite, as it were) on vacation, and how best to maintain access to her grandkids.

      1. Jeff Storm says:

        I believe the correct advice that should have been given is to cancel the annual (not yet annual) vacation with what the current family situation is

      2. Made Up Name says:

        You’re making just as many assumptions. That Marie didn’t know she didn’t want to be a mother, that the SIL wasn’t caught off guard, that Marie and her STBX have an agreement that she can take the children she abandoned on family vacations while he is stuck doing the daily, difficult parenting grind the rest of the time. As the person stuck in the SIL’s shoes in this exact situation right now, I can tell you that there’s no world in which the children my STBXH abandoned would be flying off for a week’s vacation with their father and his family ESPECIALLY given the LW’s complete lack of acknowledgement for how horrific Marie’s actions are. It’s equally appalling for a man or woman to cheat on their spouse and then walk away from their children to be with their AP. I am still in close contact with my STBX’s family (in fact his sister and her family are coming to stay with me and our children for Christmas), but he no longer gets to enjoy the fun aspects of being a father when he’s chosen to walk away from the entire rest of their lives. This family should cancel their trip this year. Perhaps next year the children’s father will be in a place to allow the children to travel with their grandparents, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this year is not that year.

    2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      I was thinking the same thing about the family tradition. It has happened exactly once so not yet a tradition. I was also wondering if the kids would go on the family vacation. Their entire world has just upended and they may not want to go on this vacation. They may not want to leave their dad alone. They may not want to be around their mom who just abandoned them. I was also wondering who would provide their care since their mom has made it plain that she doesn’t like caring for kids. These kids may not be anywhere near emotionally ready to go on this family vacation. I don’t see any comment from the LW about the needs of the kids at this time or anything but her compassion for Marie.

      1. Anonymous says:

        I would cancel the vacation for this year.

    3. Depending on the kid’s ages they have probably been looking forward to this vacation. I don’t disagree that Marie is a mess, but I think that letting the kids do something fun is probably something they really need right now. Providing that distraction for them is something the grandparents can do. They’re place isn’t in the middle of the divorce figuring out custody, that’s on the parents.

      1. Northern Star says:

        The kids have been dumped by their mother. It’s sending mixed messages for them to go on vacation “like normal” with the woman who wants nothing to do with them anymore.

      2. Technically they’re going on vacation with their grandparents and her side of the family who has not abandoned them. It also does not send mixed messages. Even if the husband has custodial rights doesn’t mean the mother isn’t getting visitation rights.

      3. Northern Star says:

        Kids aren’t stupid. Marie’s message to them is: “I like being with my new sex buddy more than you.” Even if that’s not her intention (a generous thought, and one I disagree with…), that’s what they will think. So they get one last hurrah with mom and the grandparents before mom goes back to the person she likes best (sex buddy) and leaves them in the dust. How great.

      4. Doesn’t mean the grandparents won’t stop their relationship with them. Which seems to be the point of the vacation. I don’t disagree that Marie’s attitude is not good for the kids, but the grandparents can only do so much in this. Keeping a positive relationship with the children and encouraging a positive relationship with extended family is one thing they can do.

      5. When the father is the one to move out, no one says he’s dumping the kids. Or that he abandoned the kids. Is what she did wrong? Absolutely. But just because the father now has custody doesn’t mean the mother dumped them. It’s the same thing that men usually do when the parents get divorced (move out and leave the kids with their mother). But this time with the gender roles reversed.

      6. @freckles- I think part of the difficulty for me is that the mom didn’t just move out and decide to do visitation- she moved right in with someone she was having an affair with. I understand situations can be complex. But really she has no idea how this other person will be around her kids or if they will feel comfortable coming to visit her. I would guess that is probably at least part of the reason they are remaining in full custody with their dad.

        I understand people get married or have kids or make other huge choices that sometimes leave them feeling trapped in a lifestyle that doesn’t feel like it meets all of their needs. I don’t think one is obliged to stay married to someone because they share children but I think there are far less selfish, better ways to negotiate a different life that wouldn’t feel so potentially devastating to the kids involved. I’ll never see this as the brave choice. But I’m not going to pretend to know anyone’s limit, inner conflicts, or demons. Still, I hardly expect the kids to pick up all the pieces and come out of this undamaged or not confused. And as I eluded to on an earlier post, I do think parents are obliged to consider the well-being of their offspring. Perhaps not to their personal detriment, but not without consideration for the consequences of their choices on their dependents.

    4. artsygirl says:

      Ron – I too was put off by the LW’s attitude. Yes, I get that as a society we need to acknowledge that traditional gender roles and not carved into stone and that a man can be a better caregiver than a woman, but her comment that men have been abandoning their wives and children for hundreds of years rubbed me the wrong way. Just because some men have been asshats in the past does not excuse bad behavior in the present.

      1. RedroverRedrover says:

        My guess is that Marie is getting demonized waaaay worse than men do for getting the same thing, and that’s what the LW is getting at. I agree with you, it’s shitty behaviour from either parent. But it’s true that it’s much more acceptable for men to ditch their kids than for women to do it. Not that it’s “acceptable” for either parent to do it, but men get away with it socially much easier than women do.

      2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        We had a family friend ditch his wife and kids for his affair partner. No one I know found it acceptable. Even his coworkers went out of their way to support his wife at his mom’s funeral. They all got up and walked out of the church to greet her as she arrived with their son, leaving her ex and his wife sitting there in the church.

      3. RedroverRedrover says:

        Like I said, it’s not acceptable in the sense that everyone thinks it’s ok. But on a scale of 1-10 of acceptability, it’s like 1 for men and -50 for women.

      4. I think this letter writer is getting more heat for choosing to give her husband full custody and have visits than a husband would traditionally get. Some might assume that the kids would be better off with a mom because traditionally she is usually the one that gives up the career and does more care giving. If the soon to be ex is comfortable and happy to get his kids full time, I still think it is sad for the kids but perhaps people are assuming the soon to be ex is going to be worse off than he will be.

        I hate the infidelity component. But the letter writer did say they had marriage problems that preceded the affair. And for many women it is harder to get out of a bad marriage after they have had kids.

        I don’t think “Marie” sounds brave, though. I think she sounds lacking in some areas of maturity. But I’m not her mother, either. I think parents have to resist the temptation to judge the decisions their grown children make, while being as supportive as possible to their grandchildren.

      5. Northern Star says:

        I think if a man ran off to be with his mistress and left his kids completely in the care of their now-single mom, NO ONE would find that acceptable. Who would actually feel sympathy for a guy who “didn’t really like being a dad” after having two kids in a marriage? Nobody. Come on.

      6. RedroverRedrover says:

        I’m not saying people feel sympathy for them. I’m saying people think they’re a deadbeat, but then when a woman does the same thing, she’s literally Satan. Both are bad, but if you’re a woman it’s so much worse.

      7. anonymousse says:

        Agreed. Satan.

      8. Baccalieu says:

        I think it needs to be said in big capital letters that a parent whose marriage breaks up and they decide to leave the day to day custody of their kids in the hands of the other spouse while remaining a part of their lives a seeing them regularly is not “dumping” their kids, even if they go live with another person and it doesn’t matter what the gender of the people involved is. Marriages break down and most people agree that it is better for everyone, including the kids, for the marriage to end and new parenting arrangements, other than mother and father together under the same roof, be made, than to leave everybody jammed together and miserable. This is difficult enough and usually the spouse giving up day to day custody feels plenty guilty about it without being judged for “dumping their kids”. I’m not defending having affairs or even leaving your spouse for another without warning, but (and here comes the part where I know some people will not agree with me) betraying your spouse is not the same as betraying your kids.

      9. RedroverRedrover says:

        Thumbs up. I disagree with the cheating, obviously, but it sounded like she wanted out of the marriage anyway. But even if she’d left THEN started dating, I think there would be people on here calling her a horrible mother for leaving the marriage and not trying to get full custody. Whereas fathers can leave and try to get partial custody and it’s seen as a totally reasonable move, and even “what’s best for the kids” if the marriage wasn’t working out.

    5. I agree. Marie sounds like a mess.

      Dumping your kids on your ex because you don’t like being a mother is a shitty thing to do.

    6. I agree! Marie is a hot mess and LW seems to want to gloss over her bad choices and the long-term consequences of them. I’m sure Marie is already lobbying for an invite for the side dude! I think the grandparents definitely need to maintain a relationship with the soon to be ex SiL. If he has primary custody, he will be the gatekeeper to the kids. Marie may have them weekends, but he’ll be the one making decisions for them( including what family they see) Short-term, they should cancel this year’s vacation and focus on the kids, because they will need the support.

  5. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    I wouldn’t invite the guy she just moved in with either. The kids are going to be hurting and probably don’t want to be around that guy, the one their mom left them and their dad for. The kids will feel just as abandoned as their dad does. So unless the kids aren’t going I think Marie needs to go without a partner.

    1. RedroverRedrover says:

      If I were the LW I’d be seriously considering bringing the kids on their own. Leave the mom and the dad out of it, and just give the kids a nice vacation with their grandparents. That might create a rift with Marie, though.

      1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        That seems the best option if they are willing to leave their dad behind. At this point it is just them and their dad and they might not be willing to leave him because they have just been through the experience of being left behind and might worry that dad will be all alone. Dad may also feel that he and the kids need some time together. This all depends on what the kids and dad want. The LW has to ask the dad if the kids can go and if they want to go. She also has to understand that the kids may or may not want to be around their mom at this time. They might be frantic for her attention or may want to totally avoid her. They will be emotionally fragile at this time and the LW doesn’t seem to understand that.

      2. Northern Star says:

        LW needs to put the grandkids first. If that means creating a rift with Marie, who just destroyed her family, so be it.

      3. I agree. If this is who Marie has chosen to be, then she better be prepared to deal with the consequences of her actions, and not whine about people “judging” her.

      4. anonymousse says:

        Right, throw away the daughter, steal the kids, create utopian world where people “choose” how they are. And never whine, even though she isn’t….he mother wrote in advice about a vacation. Slow down.

  6. Northern Star says:

    A parent who abandons his or her kids is a jerk. I can’t imagine your soon-to-be ex SIL would have any desire to go on vacation right now with you (especially considering that you don’t care what a jerk your stepdaughter is being). Your husband is wrong, though. Would HE have wanted to go on vacation with his nasty, cheating ex’s family a few weeks after she left him for another man? How uncomfortable and painful.

    Just give up the idea that any vacation will happen at all (it’s not a tradition if you only did it once). Or ask nicely about taking the grandkids yourselves and don’t invite the SIL or stepdaughter.

  7. artsygirl says:

    LW – Since the vacation is looming in a little over a week, I know you likely cannot cancel the plans. That being said, you could also suggest to Marie and her soon-to-be ex that you and your husband just take the grandkids alone and give their parents time off to work on custody and divorce plans. This is likely a tense and uncomfortable situation and the kids being removed for a fun grandma and grandpa vacation could be an easy way for Marie and her ex to work things out without the fear of kids getting caught in the fighting.

    Since Marie is giving up custody you might also have a hard time getting permission to take the kids out of state without their father. You need to clear this up ASAP. Finally I second (or third) the thought that Marie’s new BF is most definitely not allowed on the vacation. That would be cruel to the ex, confusing to the kids, and would cause your husband to have a conniption fit.

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      I think this is the best approach. Just the kids this year. All the kids I’ve known who had a parent leave the home for another partner have felt abandoned. None of them have had a good relationship with that parent. I saw it happen when I was in elementary school and I still see it happen. Kids take it very personally when their parent moves out and leaves them behind. Nothing makes a kid feel more unwanted than a parent who obviously doesn’t want them.

    2. for_cutie says:

      Yes, 100% this. Give everyone a break and some breathing room. Bond with your Grandkids. Make the trip just about them, what they want to do, where they want to go. There is no need to add other adult opinions into the mix. Your children and step children are all adults and can take care of themselves. Now is your time to show love and attention to your Grandkids. Maybe the family tradition can be Grandparents take the Grandkids for a week. I would personally LOVE it if my parents or in-laws offered to do this, even if I just spent the whole week at home working. This dynamic also takes you out of the blame game or who to dis-invite. Dis-invite all the adults and make it about the kids. Good Luck LW, you have to make a decision fast given flight reservations.

    3. I think this is great advice. Just take the kids. I know when my my aunt and her husband split, my cousins came and spent a week with the grandma/grandpa and the family. Their dad did leave for another woman. Cousins were, IDK, 16 and 12 or something).
      My cousins still have a relationship with their dad and his new wife (the woman he left for).
      Anyway, there is a way to make it work. But I do think it’s important to focus on the kids and to let them know they are still extremely loved.

    4. Anonymous says:

      I completely agree with you. Grandparents should offer to take the kids to give the parents time to work out the details of any custody/visitation going forward.

  8. I don`t share this opinion. The son-in-law must still be in denial about the split. The proposition of letter would hurt his feelings in my opinion. He can`t come on this vacantion, of course, but this should be discussed between Marie and him. Didn`t they address that concern? The parents shouldn`´t interfere. But they should indeed write him a letter, in some weeks, to state all the positive things Wendy suggested, to offer help, and to say that they would like to preserve the family links as much as possible with their grand-children.
    But to dis-invite him: no. This is the young couple´s business, not the LW´s.

    1. RedroverRedrover says:

      Since it was the parents who issued the invitation, yes it is their business to disinvite.

    2. for_cutie says:

      I agree with this too. Getting parents involved in the divorce is not going to turn out well. The LW isn’t even a bio parent and we have no idea how new she is to the family or how strong her bond is with Marie’s family either. The couple should work out their new family dynamic, not have it dictated to them by parents/in-laws.

  9. Avatar photo veritek33 says:

    Wendy I think you gave very compassionate advice and LW, I think the script she gave you is awesome.

    I saw something similar happen when I was dating an ex and his family invited me along for a family trip. His sister had recently separated from her husband (they ended up reconciling and as far as I know are still married) but at the time it was sort of tricky because the trip had been planned all summer and they separated in late August and the trip was mid-September.

    HE made the choice not to come and relieved all the the decision making. She brought the kids along and we all sort of pitched in and helped her. I agree with the above commenter that the soon to be ex husband may not even want to go on this vacation because it just screams awkward and awful so soon after a split.

  10. WWS.

    I would definitely talk to the dad and see if you can just take the kids this year to give him time and space to figure out what he wants and needs to do.

    And if she asks about bringing the new bf, I would give her a wholehearted h*ll no!

  11. anonymousse says:

    Wow, so much assumption and judgement in the comments.
    No one knows the Marie’s relationship with the SIL.
    And I’d love to know how giving the SIL custodial rights is “abandoning” her children. I’m sure they haven’t worked out visitation, etc. He’s a better parent. She’s not loving being a mother. So, it’s not “traditional,” who cares? Why do we villainize women who don’t or can’t run excitedly into the role of care giving mother?

    1. RedroverRedrover says:

      That’s a good point. I tried to say above that women get demonized more than men do for not wanting to keep the kids. But like, my BIL didn’t fight for full custody of his kids, just partial. No one’s calling him a deadbeat. For all we know Marie has the same kind of arrangement with her husband, where she’s got partial and he’s got custodial.

    2. Northern Star says:

      Because it’s not acceptable for men to say, “Gee, I really just don’t like being a dad” after two kids, either. A mother who does this is just as much of an a-hole as a deadbeat dad.

      1. anonymousse says:

        Actually, it is. It’s totally socially acceptable. It’s the nearly standard for custody arrangements.

      2. bittergaymark says:

        Um, sweetie. You have a seriously FUCKED up view on men.

      3. anonymousse says:

        I don’t. I’m not saying the mom is a peach, I’m just saying that just because she doesn’t love being a parent doesn’t mean she’s abandoned her kids or destroyed her marriage or is a terrible person. No one can know how they feel about parenting until they are there, parenting. You can love your kids, you can want the kids, but not like being a mother, or father. That doesn’t make you a monster. Her husband wants to reconcile with her. She couldn’t have fucked it up too much.
        And I meant, more that it’s so common for the man to leave and not fight for custody and that be the norm, but since a woman doesn’t want sole custody she’s being demonized. Which is true in this case.

      4. It’s nearly the standard in custody arrangements, because judges give preference to the mother as custodial parent, when both parents want custody. In some states this has even happened when the parents have asked for joint custody. It is not correct to assume that every father who has the kids just on alternate weekends and a couple of holidays has chosen to limit himself to such little contact. That was our legal tradition and it is changing slowly.

      5. RedRoverRedRover says:

        This is not true actually. The vast majority of child custody agreements are settled out of court and never see a judge. Going to court and having the lawyers fight it out happens in approx 15-20% of cases. In states with mandatory mediation, it happens far less than that.

        The reason it’s the standard is because our society still sees mothers as the “default” parent. In the same way as it’s hard for women to ask men to buck expectations and do something like change their last name to the woman’s, it’s also hard for men to go against the expectation that the woman should be the primary parent. And look what happens when a couple goes against that expectation – this woman is being completely vilified on here for agreeing to let her husband take primary custody. No wonder it doesn’t happen often.

      6. SimontheGrey says:

        In fact, if the father tries for/fights for custody, he is very likely to get at least joint custody. No, he will most likely not get full custody if the mother still wants the children, but joint is very different from the past when it would default to the mother.

    3. Is it too much to ask that a mother love, care and raise the children she chose to have?Good grief. No one made her have or keep having children. Now she’s decided it’s “not her thing”, according to the person who is actually ON her side, and that’s just plain selfish, arrogant, and disgusting. These children are human beings. They’re not some teenage phase you try out and then fold up and put away when you’re done.
      She essentially gave away her kids to the other parent because she can’t be bothered. I and every other human being has the right to say she is a poor excuse of a person for that. That’s just humanity at its core- you don’t just abandon people, especially your own.

      Man or woman, it applies the same. The LWs excuse of “well men have always done it, so what?”, makes no sense. Because some men have shown how awful some of them can be, it’s ok for women to also be just as awful? Is this seriously what we meant by “equality”? Equality in all the deplorable areas as well?

      1. anonymousse says:

        She gave him custodial rights. That’s hardly “giving them away.” She hasn’t abandoned them. They split up one week ago! I’m sure they haven’t worked out visitation yet. Being the sole care giver probably should go to the more interested parent. Being parented 24/7 reluctantly by someone who doesn’t enjoy it all the time, is not the better option, IMO.
        Yeah, equality means in all areas.
        So you’d rather have a disinterested mother mothering them, then a very interested father? That doesn’t sound better to me.
        The abstract idea of having children and the realities of mothering 24/7 are two different things. No one has any right to judge a woman who isn’t naturally totally loving motherhood.
        But sure, carry on demonizing this LW’s daughter, because her natural abilities and interests vary from what is considered respectable.

      2. Northern Star says:

        Of course it’s better for the kids to be with their loving, involved dad than their selfish jerk mother. We’re arguing that not wanting your kids makes you a selfish jerk. That’s a different argument.

      3. So every time a mother is awarded custody and a father settles for a role of being a loving father during reasonable part-time visitation, the father in that scenario is an atrocious person that should basically be stoned to death? Because that’s how we would have to frame it for this argument to hold any weight.
        Honestly, congratulations to Marie for being strong enough to say “you’re the better parent, you should have official custody.” By not making this a knock-down drag-out custody battle, it’s way better for the kids and it way increases the chances of both parents being able to lovingly co-parent under the new arrangements (whatever they end up being). Good for Marie for being honest, taking responsibility for her own feelings, and trying to be a reasonable adult during divorce.

      4. anonymousse says:


      5. Northern Star says:

        According to the stepmom, Marie couldn’t be bothered with the kids and didn’t want them. That’s a FAR different scenario from a dad fighting the system trying to get shared or part-time custody of his kids.

      6. RedroverRedrover says:

        Read the update. Marie wants shared custody. The two parents agreed between themselves that the father should be the custodial parent.

      7. Look she’s been cheating since last summer, left her husband a week ago & moved in with someone else, and gave custodial rights to her husband because motherhood “isn’t really her thing”. She destroyed and then abandoned her family. No one is going to tell me not to judge that person and be accepting of that behavior. Especially because “men always do it”. I don’t care what gender this person is, they’re are a horrible human being.

        This is who Marie has chosen to be, and she better own up to it & be prepared to deal with the consequences of her actions. And not whine when people see her for what she really is.

      8. anonymousse says:

        You only know what the mother has written in. She said they were having problems in their marriage long before all this.
        With the depth of empathy and humanity expressed here, I can see we will just continue debating this.
        No one being honest about their feelings and capabilities is a horrible human being. A horrible human being is an abuser, not a woman who has recognized her soon to be ex is a better parent than she is.

        And I’m sure your demonizing of this woman is really helping her mother with advice. Because that’s who wrote in, her mother, about a vacation. Not to ask every DWers opinion of the character of her daughter.

      9. I don’t think it is a matter of demonizing the LW’s daughter. It’s a matter of questioning whether the LW’s laser focus upon having a family vacation with just her husband, kids, and these two grandchildren is appropriate thinking a short week after Marie walked out on her family. It just seems like step-grandma’s plans for the vacation of her dreams are taking precedence over what grandchildren and SIL need to settle into a new normal. It would be different if the trip were a couple of months post separation, but it isn’t.

      10. anonymousse says:

        Umm… That’s not what I was writing about.
        How is it not appropriate for her to worry about the vacation? She wrote Wendy to ask how to bring it up, or if she even should. Unfortunately, in times of stress, people often get hyperbole see on one aspect of the data a, whether it makes sense to others or not.

      11. anonymousse says:

        I meant to write * hyper focused on the drama

      12. I think you are over-stating your case. I doubt Marie was mothering 24/7. If that were the case, how could she be so sure that her husband was better at parenting than she is. The only way that happens is if the husband has been doing a lot of the parenting, especially recently. If she has truly been parenting 24/7 and husband has had little parenting involvement, then it is a truly awful thing to just blithely declare “you’re a much better parent than I am, here are the kids”. You can’t have it both ways. The father has clearly been very actively involved in parenting, which means Marie hasn’t been saddled with 24/7.

      13. anonymousse says:

        Ron, I said being parented 24/7 by someone not loving it was worse then the father having custody. I will not demonize a woman who doesn’t want to be a full time parent always, just because that’s what society and certain commenters think is best for her.

      14. I certainly agree on that.

      15. Northern Star says:

        From the kids’ perspectives, yes it is ABSOLUTELY better for them to be with their dad full-time. Because their mom is a piece of work.

      16. anonymousse says:

        I’m sure you are just as close to perfect as a human being gets.

        The stepmom wrote in for advice. I don’t really see how dragging her daughter over the coals repeatedly, with different adjectives helps her figure out her dilemma.

      17. What if the father died? Is she then still allowed to be a part time parent and give her kids away to social services because she doesn’t want to take care of them all the time?

      18. Also, not to get too political here, but in a ton of cases women aren’t given options when they have an unwanted pregnancy. Some women don’t even have ready and easy access to birth control, let alone education about birth control. This may not apply in this specific case, but its not helpful nor educated to make sweeping statements like “is it too much to ask that a mother love, care and raise the children she chose to have”.

        I have my own set of opinions about this letter, but I find it incredibly frustrating that people act like women have complete independence and autonomy over their bodies and childbearing, when the reality is, they don’t.

      19. anonymousse says:

        Fucking amen!

      20. Northern Star says:

        You see a victim of some sort. I see a selfish jerk. We will not agree on this topic, you are right.

      21. anonymousse says:

        No, I don’t see a victim, I see a woman admitting her capabilities and letting her ex husband be the custodial parent.

      22. bittergaymark says:

        Next time, maybe the vapid fool will accept her limitations before breeding. But no. She won’t. She’ll promptly have litter two and fuck them up as well when it gets “too hard.”

      23. I specifically said “this may not apply in this specific case”, and referenced “sweeping statements”. Having personally lived through my parents’ incredibly acrimonious divorce due to infidelity (and my dad’s subsequent complete inability to be a father for years and years afterwards), I have lots of strong feelings about Marie. But, this statement was intended to address a more general issue. So… there’s that.

      24. RedroverRedrover says:

        She’s no more a selfish jerk than the many, many, MANY fathers out there who agree to let the mother be the custodial parent. Which is the majority of divorced fathers. Are they all selfish jerks?

        To be clear, I think she’s a selfish jerk for cheating, which is what I generally think about cheaters. I don’t think she’s a selfish jerk for agreeing to let the dad have custody. After all, if we’re going to have equality, shouldn’t half of divorced dads have custody? It shouldn’t always be the mother who has custody, that’s not fair.

      25. Northern Star says:

        RedroverRedrover, no it’s NOT fair that many divorced dads don’t have shared custody of their kids. And I have absolutely ZERO sympathy for a parent of two kids in a marriage who decides he or she simply doesn’t want those kids anymore. That’s what we’ve been told—that the mom doesn’t want to bother trying. Not that the dad really, really wants sole custody, or that the mom is going into an unsafe place or lacks resources. No. It’s because mom doesn’t care enough to make any effort (possibly that lack of interest in her family is why her marriage failed, too, but that’s just total speculation). That’s how I read it, and that’s what the LW said about her stepdaughter. You add the cheating on top of it, and it paints a very nasty picture of this woman.

      26. RedroverRedrover says:

        Did you even read the update from the LW? They’ll have shared custody. The dad doesn’t have sole custody, he has primary. She’ll see them on a similar schedule that most divorced dads have.

      27. Northern Star says:

        Yes, I read the update. Stepdaughter doesn’t want her kids.

      28. anonymousse says:

        Lol, okay NS.

      29. Northern Star says:

        I understand it. I understand it from the perspective of the kids whose mother chose her sex buddy over them. You have sympathy for the mother who doesn’t want to deal with her kids all the time as a parent because it’s “too hard.” I have sympathy for the kids who didn’t ask for their mother to shack up with a home-wrecker and walk away from them.

      30. anonymousse says:

        Umm, she gave her husband custodial rights, and she has visitation. How is that giving up her kids for her fuck buddy? You are oddly obsessed with tearing this woman down…who didn’t even write it!

      31. RedRoverRedRover says:

        So you looked at the update but didn’t understand it? K.

      32. She got married for Christ’s sake!!! Did anyone force her to get married and have sex with this guy? I highly doubt it.

    4. Your shouldn’t have children of you don’t want to take care of them. There are so many orphans for this reason!

  12. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    LW I don’t think you can assume that this vacation will be part of a wonderful, happy tradition. Begin with your husband. He is hurting emotionally. This situation has dredged up painful memories that had been safely buried. He is hurting from his past and he is disappointed with and angry at his daughter. All of those feelings will go on the vacation with him. The lack of the SIL will remind him of the situation. Seeing his daughter will remind him of the situation. Don’t expect him to be happy. You seem to have a cavalier attitude about how he is feeling and you don’t seem to be supporting him emotionally. This will take a toll on your marriage. He will be seeing you in a new and uglier way. You suddenly become the woman who thinks it is fine for a mother to abandon her children. Try to understand your husband and to be emotionally supportive.

    Next consider the grandchildren. They are hurting. They have a huge, gaping emotional hole in their hearts. If I was their dad and picked up on your attitude about their mother I wouldn’t allow them to go on this trip because you don’t sound like you would be any more emotionally supportive of the kids than you are of your husband. You have to understand that if the kids come along they may be whiny and cranky and clingy and irritable and angry and acting out. They won’t be the same kids who went on vacation with you last year. Their mother’s new boyfriend should absolutely not be on the trip because they won’t enjoy a trip where they see their mom hugging and kissing and snuggling with her new guy. They will be incredibly loyal to their dad at this time in their lives.

    At the very least adjust your expectations of this trip. It is more likely to be something that everyone gets through than a wonderful experience. Everyone’s emotions will be very raw at this point in time. You need to be emotionally supportive, especially through tantrums and crying and angry outbursts.

  13. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    I think we have two sets of assumptions about Marie. I have been assuming that she gave up her rights and since she doesn’t like parenting isn’t doing visitation. It is probably too soon to know if she is picking up the kids for visitation because she left them last week. If she will be a parent who picks up the kids for visitation and shows up like clockwork to get them and spend time with them then she is a different type of person from the one who would give them to the husband and say she doesn’t like parenting and she is done. My impression was the latter but it is too soon to know.

    I still think the LW isn’t understanding the repercussions of the entire situation if she thinks she can have a relaxing family vacation with bonding going on between all of them. The other adult children in this family will all have opinions about Marie and her blood siblings will also be reliving the experience of having their mom leave them. There could be a lot of condemning comments going back and forth. Lots of attitude. Lots of hurt. I don’t think this will be a relaxing vacation. At best it will be something everyone endures. If I was the dad of the kids I don’t think I would send my kids on this trip unless they very much wanted to go.

    1. Yes, you are correct about two sets of assumptions. I assumed that LW would have mentioned if Marie had visited kids since leaving and if she planned to be a part of their lives, since this matters a lot if Marie is going on this vacation with the kids. On reflection, Wendy is probably correct that Marie and her husband have worked this all out and Marie may well have the kids weekends and vacations or something.

      My big problem with the vacation is that, where SIL has known for months that Marie was leaving him or whether it really is the giant surprise I probably incorrectly assumed it was, that this is still very fresh and raw for everyone, especially the kids. The grandparents shouldn’t be part of working out Marie’s plans for visiting with her kids, but they should realize that their vacation plans is not at all the most important thing at this time. Just 3 weeks after Marie leaving their home, the most important thing is giving the kids some stability. Taking them away from their father for a vacation with their mother and her family (especially if Marie doesn’t plan to be a big part of their lives) is very disruptive to trying to establish a new normal. It likely is a far more manageable situation next year.

      I’m not sure just the kids with the rest of Marie’s family, sans Marie and the SIL, works either. This leaves the kids still in the shock of their mother is gone having to navigate her extended family on their own, with just the grandparents’ help.

      If Marie just left a week ago, I seriously doubt that she and SIL have worked out the details and rhythm of their new co-parenting, or SIL’s solo-parenting of the kids. This vacation just seems too much, too soon for young kids.

      1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        I’ve been thinking much the same thing about the kids going on the vacation. I don’t know that they are ready for it. Since the details of custody are being worked out who knows if they can go on this vacation let alone whether they should go. Partly it will depend on whether they are angry with Marie to the point of not wanting to see her right now. If they do go I could see them acting out or trying to convince Marie to come back home with them. That’s where their dad emotionally is right now and I could see the kids being in the same place.

  14. I agree that the LW should have a conversation with the SIL about how they still consider him part of the family. I disagree that: (1) that same conversation should include disinviting him from the vacation (which may seem like the smallest thing in the world to him right now, with all he has going on) ; (2) LW should handle the vacation thing by glossing over it in a “us and Marie are taking the grandkids on vacation, sorry you can’t come” type way, especially when SIL has custody and this should be more of an asking permission type conversation; (3) LW should express that Marie is where their loyalty lies (unnecessary, and they don’t know yet whether they want to commit to that); and (4) LW is the one that should be having this conversation with SIL about the vacation. LW calling SIL up to discuss the vacation could only serve to (1) alienate Marie by going around her to discuss her relationship issues with SIL, and (2) catch SIL off guard, as he may not have even thought about the vacation. I think LW should talk to Marie about the vacation plans, and ask if Marie and SIL have discussed it. It’s unclear whether Marie has permission to take the grandkids, or if SIL even wants to go (probably not). Then Marie should be the one to talk to SIL and ask if it’s okay that she take the grandkids and he sit this one out. LW is then free to have a heartfelt conversation with SIL (before or after the vacation) that isn’t tied up in vacation issue. LW is also then free to invite SIL and the grandkids to next year’s vacation (which may be the only way the grandkids will be able to come), without the baggage of having disinviting him last year.

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      You’re right about it needing to be Marie who talks to the SIL. She has to work out their visitation with their dad.

  15. dinoceros says:

    Are you sure that he’s still planning to go? Most people would assume that they are not longer a part of it. Not that you should assume he knows he isn’t invited anymore, but also don’t act like he’s already packed his bags.
    I think it’s a little odd the way you say that “men have been leaving for centuries” as though it’s some sort of right that people have. Men get looked down on for leaving their families, and I don’t think that because your daughter is a woman makes it any less bad.

    1. dinoceros says:

      And I do want to clarify that I don’t think divorce is bad or whatever, but cheating on the co-parent of your kids is a problem no matter who it is.

  16. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

    From the LW:

    The responses to my letter were quite interesting. While my step-daughter is giving custodial rights to her soon to be ex-husband, she will have visitation and of course will continue to be their mother, just not living full time with her boys. Yes “Marie” is a mess right now. Is there anyone who has gone through a separation and not been a mess in some way? It has been a very difficult decision for her, and perhaps non-traditional, but I am still surprised comments have been so negative. The marriage was definitely not working for her. Mothering 24/7 was very difficult. I don’t like these facts but that is the way it is. I want to support “Marie” as much as I want to support my son-in-law. Of course the most important part is the welfare of the grandchildren.

    My son-in-law really wants to come on our trip. He just called me so I took the opportunity to say a lot of things you suggested (probably not as eloquently as you wrote Wendy) It is clear our son-in-law wants to still come on our trip to spend time at the beach with the boys as well as to have an opportunity to change my step-daughter’s mind about the separation, which I definitely think will not happen. While he was disappointed when I said it was best he not attend, I think he understood. I think he is hoping my husband will “talk some sense” into Marie and encourage her to work things out. We did agreed we would continue to spend time together with son-in-law, just not in Florida this spring.

    My vision of this vacation was simple, I just wanted to spend some relaxing time with the grandsons as well as our other adult children (my 2 daughters and 1 son). We all have very busy careers and while we touch base weekly, we don’t have many opportunities to spend any lengthy quality time together, which is why we decided to start this new “tradition” (yes, I know one year is not a tradition but we were hoping it would become a tradition) While I have compassion for both my son-in-law and step-daughter as they work their way through this difficult time, I am not in any hurry to develop a relationship yet with the new boyfriend, so H*ll no, he is not invited on our vacation.

    I appreciate Skyblossom’s comments. I clearly did not fully take into account just how deeply this has hurt my husband. On the surface, I thought he was most concerned about continuing access to the grandsons, but I see now how this is a much deeper issue for him and I am now cognizant of this. He is very angry with his daughter. This is a whole new issue I didn’t even realize I need to nagivate.

    Yes, I have adjusted my expectations for what I had imagined for this “Happy Family Vacation”.

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      I am sorry that this probably won’t be the vacation you had planned for and paid for and envisioned. Just like everyone on here has an opinion so will everyone on the vacation. It is all so raw and new that everyone will think about it all of the time. When Marie arrives without her husband they will think of it. When the kids don’t have their dad around they will think of it. If Marie mentions her new guy they will think of it. This will be a time of adjustment for everyone and there will probably be some judgement. It could go from fulling understanding Marie and what she did to fully loathing her for what she did. If your kids have differing opinions then there could be some heated discussions like the ones we are seeing on here.

    2. Of course he’s hoping that by spending time playing happy family he’ll convince her to stay. That’s why she doesn’t want him to come and why he shouldn’t come. You said yourself that she has been considering this for a long time… according to you, she didn’t make some reckless decision, but rather one that she put a lot of thought into and determined was best.
      Hopefully after the initial pain has worn off, Marie and your son in law can reach a happy coparenting relationship where joint family vacations are possible. But by forcing those things now, when everything is fresh and raw, it’s too soon and will probably set their healing back.

      As Skyblossom says, everyone on the vacation will have an opinion. Consider if you can run some interference for Marie in order to keep her from being ambushed by everyone and their opinions… maybe ground ruling out discussion of her marriage until she’s ready to talk to people. I feel like Marie is being set up to spend the entire week in Florida getting a lecture from one family member or another and that is certainly not what happy memories are made of.

    3. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      Another thing to keep in mind is that the kids will probably feel responsible for the separation. Anything at all that happened before the separation could seem like the reason their mom left. So if they ran outside without shoes and ruined a pair of socks they could feel responsible. Same for whining about dinner or not cleaning their rooms or leaving a mess in the kitchen. They might not say it out loud because they won’t want anyone to know how their badness drove their mom away but there is a good chance they are feeling it. Don’t be surprised if they spend the entire week around their mom trying to be perfect so that she will come back home to them or trying to make a deal with her by promising to be better. Also be wary of one child feeling responsible on their own or being blamed by the other child for the separation. If one complained about dinner the night before their mom left, or fill in whatever, they might both blame the complainer. These kids are in an emotionally vulnerable place right now and who knows whether it would be better for them to go on the trip or better to stay with their dad. If they feel a compulsion to try to put the marriage back together they are probably better off staying at home. Feeling the full weight of trying to put their parent’s marriage together isn’t good for them. If their dad isn’t along they could certainly come to that conclusion on their own and I’m not suggesting that he come along.

      1. Personally as a child of divorce I think it really depends on the kid and the relationship with everyone involved. I loved spending time with my Grandparents as a kid. Any time I could get with them the better. And I looked forward to special trips with them.

        Taking away the trip could also feel like something else they don’t get now that their parents are separated. I think it’s a tough line to walk. The Grandparents and other family members (aunts, uncles, potentially other cousins) have the potential to give them some normalcy to their otherwise not normal life at the moment. Even if it is the distraction of getting ice cream and going to the beach. Obviously the Father knows the kids best and potentially what is best for them (there is always some unpredictability involved) and it may be that getting to see the family on vacation is something they need, as a break from the emotionally charged situation that their life is probably at the moment.

      2. Agree with this. I think, if the family is close and a tight knit group, that the kids will benefit from the distraction. Especially if they’ve been looking forward to this trip. They’ll know that not everything is changing.
        If the kids have a great relationship with the extended family, I think LW should consider asking Marie to bow out of the vacation this year too, as others have mentioned. If there is even a chance of a tension-filled home with Marie coming along, I think it will be better for the kids in the long run to have this distraction, without parents and without animosity towards said parents.

    4. I’m surprised that SIL still wants to come on trip, but the correct answer is still that he can’t. I still think that you are being very presumptuous to unilaterally make these decisions about the vacation. From what you write, your husband is adamantly opposed. Not only is he the father and you the stepmom (the supporting role), but he is the only one who has the direct experience of what it’s like to have your wife leave you for another guy and walk away from the kids. You’ve helped to raise Marie, but your husband is the only one who dealt with the kids in those desperately grief-filled, confusing initial weeks after their mother left. He experience first hand which of the things he did made the situation better and which made it worse. He is the one who saw Marie’s reaction as a child to being abandoned by her mother. He just has life experience on this exact issue that you don’t, plus he’s her father, so you should defer to him, if the two of you can’t talk your way to common ground. I have relatives who step-parented and they always allowed their bio-parent spouse to take the lead and played a supportive role. I guess if you’ve participated in raising Marie for a long time that gives you more of a stake, but still, I think you are pushing things.

      Your added information is confusing. How can Marie have been an unhappy 24/7 mother if SIL was taking a big parenting role? If he wasn’t taking such a role, why are Marie and you so convinced he is a great father? How can Marie have a successful career and also be a 24/7 mother? That seems a huge contradiction.

      I still think it’s all moot, because Marie will refuse to come without her bf. Canceling her ex was step one, bf is step two. You should leave the performance of her own dirty work to her and not be the buffer to her ex.

    5. Monkeysmommy says:

      LW, you are in some serious denial. This is your husbands daughter; you should have let him handle it. Newsflash- it is NOT normal to dump your kids and run off with another man. I left my ex husband… Guess who I took with me. So, no, her being a “mess” is no excuse.
      The funny thing is, Marie probably will change her mind the minute some nice woman wants to pick up the pieces for her ex. I have seen it all too often… And I hope he tells her to kick rocks. No, I didn’t try to return to my ex, he was abusive. Had he been them gem you describe the ex as, I would have.
      Though I am reaching and likely overstepping here, your cavalier attitude about Marie and her infidelity and the situation really makes me wonder how you came to be in a relationship with her father in the first place … Perhaps the apple didn’t fall far from the tree?

  17. Monkeysmommy says:

    Does it make me a total bitch that I think you should disinvite Marie and take her soon to be husband instead? I mean, I am okay with it if it does, just wondering…
    I guess I don’t have a lot of sympathy because if “motherhood isn’t her thing”, she probably shouldn’t have made that commitment. I mean, is she planning to enjoy the vacation with them, even though she has to actually, you know, parent them?
    And I am laying bets that Marie really wants ex off the trip so she can invite the new man.
    Yes, your loyalties should be with your child, but to what extent? Actually your best bet LW- see if you can disinvite both parents, and just take the kids for a fun getaway.

    1. Hah I think that’s a valid emotional response but probably not a good idea for overall family harmony. For the sake of the kids and their relationship with their mom, it’s probably best that the grandparents don’t appear to choose sides and I think inviting mom but not dad when they’re mom’s parents is ok, but inviting dad but not mom is an obvious picking of his side.

      I was actually also thinking about the idea of taking just the kids, but I wonder if that would make them feel even more abandoned?

  18. LW, having experienced something like this as a child (although with my father, not my mother), I’d just like to chime in with some unsolicited advice. Don’t ghost your son-in-law. Don’t all of a sudden disappear out of his life, and only interact with him as needed to get to your grandchildren. Sure, Marie may ask you to do that, but that’s incredibly selfish on her part and you shouldn’t just go along blindly with her requests.
    When my parents separated, my dad’s family (who had been a huge part of our lives) just disappeared from my mom’s life. Never called, never reached out, nothing. Here she was, blindsided by an affair and all of a sudden dealing with raising kids essentially on her own, and people who she had considered her extended family dropped her too. They didn’t do it to be malicious, but they did it because my dad asked them to (why? i think because he felt uncomfortable. He knew he had screwed up, been selfish, and was in the wrong, and it made him feel even more guilty for his family to be kind and inclusive to my mom).
    My sisters and I absolutely noticed this, and even 15+ years later, I think it is absolutely shitty how they just fawn over whomever the girlfriend of the moment is, but dumped my mom after 20+ years and never looked back.

  19. bittergaymark says:

    Sorry, folks. I think Wendy is out too lunch on this one. Honestly, it’s the LW’s STEPdaughter. Let her husband take the lead on this and run with it. NEWSFLASH if your smash your family to pieces so you can fuck somebody else you like better for the moment — well, too fucking bad if you don’t like the consequences. And if you don’t want people to have to choose sides, Stepdaughter dearest…. don’t set it up so they have to…

  20. bittergaymark says:

    And if mothering 24/7 is “too difficult” don’t fucking have kids to begin with. Vapid women like Marie are the REASON so many kids today grow up hopelessly fucked up and with terrible ideas of relationships… The fact that Marie seems to modeling her own mother’s behavior only underscores my point. Heterosexuals fucking suck. Hick backwater states like Georgia and North Carolina should be passing laws protecting us from them. Bah…

    1. RedRoverRedRover says:

      Nothing like coming on a site where the vast majority of people are pro-gay heterosexuals, and bashing heterosexuals. Nice work.

      1. bittergaymark says:

        Everybody I know in North Carolina and Georgia are supposedly pro gay but look at the fuckwads they elect time and time again.

      2. Unfortunately this is due to them still being in the minority. It’s slowly changing. As much as it feels like there are a lot of liberals in those areas (probably because I only hang out with liberals) we are still in the minority.

      3. RedRoverRedRover says:

        So you come on here and lash out at us? Makes tons of sense. Hell, I’m Canadian, gay marriage is such a non-issue to us that we don’t even talk about it at a political level anymore.

      4. bittergaymark says:

        Oh, don’t take everything so fucking personally. I am sick and tired of dealing with / endlessly hearing about tired, bullshit, first-world, endlessly self created hetero-drama.
        “Oh boo hoo hoo. My terrible stepdaughter — wait, wait, wait … no, she isn’t actually such a terrible person, she just does terrible things. Like, say… fuck over her family about as casually as most people flush a toilet. But I understand her! Being a Mom is hard! Why not just run away and fuck somebody new… But really, I digress, what I am REALLY worried about is whether or not my time at the beach shall be so disrupted…”
        Seriously, LW? Seriously? Piss off.

      5. RedRoverRedRover says:

        Then don’t come on this site? Because that’s what it is. If you’re sick of it don’t read it. Doesn’t mean you need to make the rest of us the object of your bigoted statements. Ironic that you hate bigots but you’re fine with being one.

      6. Living in North Carolina, I can tell you that us liberals got fucked at the last election … It was a low Dem turnout election, conservatives got elected to all three branches, and started doing the craziest things … I can only hope that they haven’t gerrymandered things to the point we can’t get them out at the next election … I can tell you though, it has sucked for a long time …

      7. While I am loathe to agree with BGM on this, low voter turnout is not liberals getting fucked, it’s them fucking themselves.
        There is some element of gerrymandering involved, but the larger problem is that democrats don’t turn out to vote. That is a problem you fix from within, not by hating on “the man”

      8. Tell that to the Dems in Maricopa County, AZ where the number of voting places was cut by more than half and the lines were more than 5 hours long. Tell that to poor people in many states controlled by Republicans, where voter ID laws have been required, but all of the places to go to get the necessary ID, if you aren’t a licensed driver are outside the cities, where the poor live. You have to be deliberately wearing blinders not to see the very extensive voter suppression program being waged by the Rs.

      9. Really, BGM? You just associate with a very narrow slice of society. Those states are resoundingly anti-gay. Not nearly as resoundingly anti-gay as a decade ago, and not so in urban areas like Raleigh-Durham and Atlanta, but still overwhelmingly true in the rural areas. I get the sense that most commenters on Dear Wendy are pro-gay. You do seem to be campaigning very hard to change that. Anti-straight isn’t any less objectionable than anti-gay and just perpetuates the false meme that minorities can’t by definition be bigoted. It’s right to call B.S. on that meme.

  21. bittergaymark says:

    Update; I’d either take the kids alone. Or the dad, too.
    Leave Marie the fuck at home. I dunno. Maybe give her some condoms and a key to the Motel 6. Like she really gives a fuck about spending time at with the kids. And, LW, why ruin your husband’s vacation by saddling him with spending time with a daughter who has only disappointed him as of late?

  22. LW, leaving Marie out of vacation plans is not choosing the SIL over her. I am sure your husband and you get to meet her and her new beau on other occasions.

    Since the father is the custodial parent, you need his permission to visit/take the kids any time. So first ask the SIL if he still wants to join the vacation with his kids or prefers to just send the kids. If either answer is yes, then think about Marie.

    I think more than anyone else, it is the kids who need the most consideration now. So let them have their vacation without worrying about an adult woman who made her own choices.

  23. Seriously? Seriously! says:

    I do not understand people’s response to the custodial arrangement. Once a couple decides to undergo a divorce or separation, they no longer will be taking care of the together, which means they must take care of them apart. Unless they have a weirdly precise arrangement (which is its own issue), one parent is going to be spending more time with the kids than the other parent. Hell, even if they live in the same town and split up the week, 7 days doesn’t split evenly. Sure, one week at mom’s then one week at dad’s is pretty even, but business trips, sleepovers, etc. mean that it will not (nor should it be) exactly even. So there will always be an uneven arrangement of time.
    How in the world is this mother abandoning her children by AGREEING to partial physical custody? Agreeing means that the dad WANTED primary physical custody! People keep talking about deadbeats and parents that “leave” their kids, only to return sporadically, as if this arrangement is remotely akin that. A dad that got his kids every other weekend didn’t “leave” or “walk out” on his children — especially as perceived by the children who grew up in this scenario. And physical custody isn’t the same thing as legal custody, and there is no indication that this mother either wanted to or actually gave up legal custody. The kids have to live SOMEWHERE — and again, while a precious few parents might be rockstars and manage two functioning “full time” residences, most children of divorce have a primary and secondary residence, without the parent in the secondary residence as having abandoned them; and I almost guarantee none of those rockstar parents managed to establish such within the first week of separation.
    (Not even to touch upon the ridiculous extrapolation that “finding motherhood difficult and not her thing” means “had children she regrets and doesn’t want.”)

    1. Well, prior to the update, the LW had a lot of talk about how her step-daughter didn’t feel she was cut out to be a mother and had walked out of the house, leaving husband with the kids. There was zero mention of shared custody or of the mother having spent a minute with the kids after she left the house a week ago. There was a comment about what a great father the husband is and how he is a great guy. A lot of times, LWs change the story a bit on the update, because perhaps too much truth has come out in the original and they have made themselves or a family member look really bad. This LW dwelt upon the trip to FL. Even with that focus, she never said in either the original post or the update that Marie was looking forward to the vacation as a chance to spend some solid time with her daughter after not seeing her since she left home. Marie may be looking forward to being an accurate co-parent, but that attitude is certainly nowhere in the original note and not at all prominent in the update. I don’t think it at all unreasonable to speculate that Marie really isn’t very interested at all in parenting and wants to be alone with new bf.

      1. I have no idea how active morphed into accurate co-parent.

      2. In fact, I think we know that there isn’t a shared civil agreement on custody. If the husband has known for a significant time that the marriage was kaput, that Marie had a replacement bf she had been with for 8 months, and that they had worked out between them and finalized a civil custody agreement, then how could it be, as LW tells us in update that SIL wants to go on trip in order to try to reunite with his still wife. It sounds like he was surprised by her departure and probably doesn’t know she’s been with this other guy for 8 months. It certainly doesn’t sound like things are settled enough in his mind that he and Marie have been playing pretend live together for the boys sake for 8 months while working out a civil custody agreement through the legal channels. If the two of them had agreed to separate and had even finalized a legal custody agreement, but SIL was just not accepting reality and still pursuing Marie, I seriously doubt that LW would be still describing him as a nice guy and writing about him the way she does. She has nothing at all even faintly bad to say about the guy. Troubles in the marriage for a while could very well mean that stepmom was aware of Marie’s bf, even if SIL wasn’t. The troubles in marriage certainly related to Marie’s dislike of parenting.

      3. anonymousse says:

        It was the stepmom her who wrote in. I highly doubt she walked out with no warning, only to have a civil custody agreement already worked out hours afterwards.
        It would have been better had she left out all information about how the split happened or why, because she probably doesn’t even know.

      4. We don’t know that she has a civil custody agreement worked out.

      5. anonymousse says:

        Ron, how can you say it’s not unreasonable to speculate about Marie’s intentions or feelings when it’s her stepmother writing in? I’m sure they probably are not “bosom buddies” sharing all thoughts and feelings for eachother.
        The truth is many of you would rather paint a dastardly put crude of third hand information than sticks to the facts as they are presented, and stick to giving advice that is asked for.
        The step on wanted advice on what she should do about the vacation, she didn’t ask for everyone’s personal speculative thoughts on her stepdaughter’s sex life, behavior, and love for her children. Motherhood is really fucking hard, and anyone who thinks they know what it’s like or what the t entails before having kids is welcome to come spend 24 hours at my house with two babies under two. Not liking being a mother has absolutely nothing to do with how much you live your children. This isn’t all directed at you, Ron.

      6. anonymousse says:

        I’m sorry about the many errors. I’m on a mobile device in my bathtub.

      7. The comments on Marie, before they got more than a tad side-tracked, were directly on point, in my opinion, because they related directly to the vacation that the LW asked about. To answer that question required a lot more than simply how to tell the SIL that he wasn’t wanted on the trip. You couldn’t answer that question without first asnwering whether or not it was wise to separate these two young boys from their father a scant 3 weeks after their mother had left the home, leaving them fully in the care of their father. That seemed excessively disruptive, at the time the father presumbly is struggling to reassure his sons and establish some new sense of normalcy. That problem is made worse by no mention of Marie having any contact with her sons after leaving home and her step-mothers comment that Marie just doesn’t feel like she is cut out for motherhood. The original letter also specifically said that Marie was giving custody of the boys to the SIL. That is the wording you use to describe giving sole custody to the father. There was no mention in the original letter of visitation or shared custody, with the father as the primary custodial parent. That was only mentioned (or invented?) in the follow-up post.

        This is why in my response, I suggested that the LW’s laser focus on the family vacation she wanted to take was inappropriate. Yes, it was what she wanted, but Marie’s father didn’t agree and it seemed too disruptive to the young boys’ need to find a new normal in their life.

        This is true, IMHO, regardless of whether Marie was leaving the family to take holy orders or to be with the guy with whom she had carried on a secret affair of over half a year. I think secret affairs are wrong and cowardly for married men or married women. If your marriage is troubled, talk to your spouse, try counseling, if not of that works, then separate and move toward divorce with a detailed plan of how the kids will be protectected and only then, after you have established separate living arrangements and your SO knows that the marriage is over, begin the search for a replacement lover. I think this basic honesty is especially important for parents and for being a good human being, whether of the male or female gender.

        We can only go based upon the LW’s data. Perhaps Marie would explain things very differently. Marie, which likely isn’t her actual name is highly unlikely to ever read our responses to her stepmom, but if she does, she can post her version of events and we can change our opinions accordingly.

      8. anonymousse says:

        If we are going to make broad sweeping assumptions, why must they be the worst possible ones? Being a mother “isn’t her thing,” doesn’t need to get turned into her abandoning her children without contact. Obviously, from the first letter there was a relationship continuing, otherwise why would grandma be writing about the vacation invitation?
        You know nothing about the marriage, the separation, her seeing another man and how that even happened. It must not all be so depraved and “secret” and destroying everyone, if her ex wants to go on the vacation to reconcile. You don’t know if maybe she had an agreement with her husband. Maybe she had his complete blessing to explore having sex or relationships with other people. And yeah, everyone wants honesty, but shit happens. Not everyone acts according to their own moral code all the time. You don’t know. And I bet stepmom doesn’t either, because early is everyone included in private conversations about that in a marriage, or a separation scenario. It must not have been as despicable as so many of you want to imagine it, since he wants to reconcile with her.
        My whole point is…stop speculating, stop focusing on details on the letter that have nothing to do with what the LW wrote in for. I’m sure I’ve done it many times, but probably with less animosity and yes, outright sexism.

      9. anonymousse says:

        I’m betting grandma wishes she had left it all out, because instead of advice, the majority of the comments are telling her how terrible of a person her daughter is…not helpful for her, or really anyone in her entire situation.

    2. anonymousse says:

      Thank you.
      If is was a man, the conversation would have been completely different.
      How many times do we tell one half of a couple not to stay for the sake of the kids? But because the wife was seeing someone else (which we do t know he details of) she is automatically painted as an asshole loser who destroyed everyone’s life.

      1. Do you really think men who have affairs and leave their wives and kids are treated favorably on this forum? Can’t say that I’ve ever seen that.

      2. anonymousse says:

        I bet the conversation would not be that he’s a terrible human and is abandoning and destroying his family. People seperate all the time. Just because in this case it is a woman doesn’t mean she’s a monster.
        And the LW was asking advice about the vacation. The vacation, not her daughter’s relationships or sexual exploits or skills as a mother.

      3. @ anonymousse, I think a lot of people are commenting on their feelings around the topic because the letter writer was asking for advice from Wendy, not the commentators. I do think there is some level of sexism and double standards but I’ve already said that once. I think this topic must be hitting a nerve for a lot of people for it to still be going. I guess subjects that dance around abandonment issues, adultery, parenthood, and sexism tend to do that.

      4. RedRoverRedRover says:

        I think it’s that anonymousse (and me as well) are both women who, while we love being mothers, also struggle with how it’s changed our lives. For some women, it’s all they want to do and it fits in naturally. For others, it’s very hard to suddenly have that burden, and it tends to be a bigger burden than what fathers get (especially for anonymousse who’s staying home). To see how much more women are judged for not wanting to be the primary parent is infuriating when we know how hard it is for some women and we know how much more responsibility women end up having.

      5. But, for the most part I don’t think Marie has been judged for not wanting to be the primary parent. If she’s been judged for anything, its for having the 8 month affir. It’s fine that she doesn’t want to be the primary parent, especially since the fther does want to be. It would really suck for the kids if neither parent wanted that role, but that’s not the case.

        Marie not being the parent necessarily comes up in the discussion, because Marie not being the primary parent and having left home just a week ago has consequences for the vacation her stepmom has planned. If father is to be the primary caregiver and the kids are currently in shock and grief because Marie is no longer living with them, then I just think it is wrong to yank them away from their father to go off on their step-grandmother’s vacation trip, while their father is trying to establish a new sense of normal for them. Three weeks after their family broke up is too quick.

        I don’t think any (apart from perhaps BGM’s) comments relate to your or Anonymouse’s situation, unless you’ve been having an affair for about a year and are letting your stepmom handle short-term planning for your kids’ lives after you have just left them with their fathers. You’ve been behaving a lot more responsibly than that.

        As I recall, Anonymouse has said she is a SAHM because daycare is prohibitively expensive. I think she needs to keep trying with that or with some other creative childcare approach to be able to work at least part time.

      6. RedRoverRedRover says:

        There are plenty of comments on here about how she’s “dumping” her kids or leaving her kids, that don’t even mention the affair. No one says that about a dad who’s leaving a marriage that’s not working, and asks for partial custody.

      7. Basically, this. For decades, women end up being the primary caregivers most of the time and men are not vilified for this. Sure, some might call men out for their asshattery, but they recover quickly. Honestly, upthread, people are vilifying Marie and it’s kind of ridiculous and a complete double standard.

      8. anonymousse says:


      9. anonymousse says:

        Umm, no, Ron. I stay home because I love being a mother and I want to be here for my kids.
        I’d ask now that you not write personal assumptions about my life. It’s frankly disturbing it’s come down to this.

      10. I apologize. I thought I remembered you saying this in another post. Obviously I was wrong. I think I confused another poster’s post as yours. Again, I am very sorry for having done that. I should have gone back and tried to find the post to verify what I thought I knew, but I was too lazy to do that.

      11. anonymousse says:

        I love being a mother. It is incredibly rewarding and incredibly hard. Some days are harder than others, and I often joke or make disparaging comments about it because that’s how I deal with stress. And to me, it doesn’t matter. So what if I did find motherhood to not be my thing, does that really need to come up in this discussion with commentary and unsolicited advice from you?
        I don’t think we need to bring in personal jabs or comments when we are discussing anonymous (mostly) advice issues. This has gone on way too long, I admit my role in that as well, but I don’t appreciate being brought into the argument. I generally value your contributions to DW, but please do not comment on my personal life.

      12. bittergaymark says:

        Your defensiveness here is over the top and rather revealing.

  24. Ron- read the comment made before your own. I think anonymousse made some valid points. Personally, I think it is discourteous to try to her opinions by speculating about the specific details of her life. I think we all have details from our own lives that come into play, that was my point. People aren’t necessarily judging this letter the way that they are because they are all lack empathy or hate women who aren’t natural caregivers. I think some of them just have their own feelings, and if having feelings is always okay and valid, then it might be counter-productive to try to shut them down. If she thinks the goal of commenting should be to provide constructive advice to the letter writer, I personally think it is past that point now. This is, of course, just my opinion.

    1. edit- this was supposed to be a response to Ron. Also, I meant to write is discourteous to try to *completely discount* her opinions.

  25. anonymousse says:

    “My whole point is…stop speculating, stop focusing on details on the letter that have nothing to do with what the LW wrote in for. I’m sure I’ve done it many times, but probably with less animosity and yes, outright sexism.”

    That’s my whole point, in a nutshell.
    Please do not start making assumptions and speculating on my personal life. I didn’t get personal, and I’d ask you to stop writing things about me, when you do not know me or my life.
    I love being a mom, I love my kids, and it is really hard, and I do feel for women who are treated like garbage because they don’t like it so much. I also can understand why some relationships fall apart and cheating happens. That also, to me, doesn’t make someone a despicable person. A deeply flawed person, sure, but not a monster.

  26. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    I think all of us approach these issues from our own anecdotal history. We each have our own experiences but none of us is a researcher gathering data. I personally took the initial letter to mean that Marie left husband and kids behind for the affair partner because not only was she giving up custody in that letter but she also didn’t like parenting and found it wasn’t for her. It didn’t say she was going to have shared custody with the father being the custodial parent which is an entirely different situation. To me it sounded like a situation where a parent was abandoning kids along with spouse. I don’t care whether it is a mom or a dad abandoning kids, I can’t respect someone who does that. I felt the same about the guy who wanted to leave an unborn baby behind in Europe to follow a girlfriend to North America. If Marie isn’t abandoning her kids I’m glad. If she will be seeing them I’m happy for them.

    I haven’t personally seen people be less condemning of men abandoning families than of women who do the same. I’ve know four people who abandoned their families. Two were women and two were men. No one accepted it any better with the men than with the women. One of the men was my cousin. His ex wife and kids still alternate spending Christmas with his family and her family while he doesn’t go at all. His ex is still a member of his family and he isn’t. I think that’s a serious consequence and speaks volumes about how his family didn’t accept what he did and didn’t excuse it. The other guy had a best friend that he met through work. Over the years their families became good friends and the two families spent their holidays together. After he left his family for his affair partner his friend’s family had to choose whether to spend holidays with him or with his ex. They chose the ex. His best friend dropped him as a friend. All of his friends dropped him. That’s a serious consequence. All of the kids involved from the four family, the two men’s families and the two women’s families, are grown now and none of those kids has a good relationship with the parent who left. Most of them have no relationship with the parent who left.

  27. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    This is somewhat on a tangent. It is as bad to go from your marital home straight to your affair partner’s home as it is to go from your parent’s home to your marital home with no independent time between. Most people who move in with an affair partner haven’t discussed the things that need to be discussed before moving in together. They haven’t talked about things like finances and debt. They haven’t spent time as a couple around any kids who are involved so have no idea if their partner is any good with kids or if they even like kids. They have no idea how their own kids will react to their partner or how their partner’s kids will react to them. Usually the kids aspect goes much less well than they assumed it would. They have no idea if the person they’ve been seeing is a slob or fastidious. They’ve spent relatively short amounts of intense time together but haven’t seen each other in a normal way that allows them to see the real, full person. They don’t know whether they leave pee on the floor or dirty socks on the couch or shoes in a spot where they are tripped over when coming through the door. They don’t know whether the partner will shop for groceries or do laundry or wash dishes. They don’t know each other very well at all.

  28. I think the grandparents here need to totally revise the trip and only take the grandkids and leave all other adults out of it. With all the stress going on, the kids need a vacation the most from their parents, and this will give time to the parents to figure out their situation better while the kids are away

  29. Rosacolleti says:

    Surely the Daughter comes with her kids??

  30. Marie should be disinvited. Grandparents need to understand that they can maintain a relationship with their grandchildren or the parent who abandoned them to shack up with the dirtbag she’s having an affair with, but not both. They owe it to their grandkids to cut out Marie and let her live with the consequences of her disgraceful behavior.

  31. I’m a mom too says:

    I can’t believe anyone is supporting the trainwreck of a daughter. She SIGNED OVER HER RIGHTS. That means she doesn’t even have visitation so why tf would maintaining a relationship with HER mean the grandparents would keep a relationship with her?

    She’s a selfish person and it doesn’t sound like she’d even want to be on vacation her children.

    We wonder why society is the way it is but we sanction this kind of behavior.

    1. I’m a mom too says:

      Just to reiterate — she signed over custodial rights. This mean she has none. Only parents sharing custody have visitation rights.

      Actually save the money from the vacation and use it for therapy for those poor kiddos.

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