Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boyfriend Is Taking a Family Vacation with His Kids and Ex-Wife and I’m Not Invited”

I’ve been with my boyfriend, “Larry,” for a year and three months, and he just moved in with me. Larry has two daughters — one is about to graduate from high school and the other is in college. The one graduating high school has decided that she wants to go on vacation to a national park for her graduation present. But the catch is she wants to go as a “family,” excluding me and bringing her mother who is at every family function, every family party, and every family picnic. I’m very nice to the mother at the functions, but I just don’t think it’s her place to be on the vacation. Larry tried to explain that excluding me on this trip was hurting my feelings, but they said that wasn’t their problem.

I told him that if the ex-wife goes on the trip, that I am not going to be happy and we are all going to resent each other. I don’t want to be with somebody who I’m going to resent. I need advice as I don’t know what to do. — Odd Woman Out

Well, Larry’s daughter and ex-wife are right about one thing: Your hurt feelings are not their problem. Without knowing the details of Larry’s break-up with his wife and your relationship with him — as, for example, did the relationships overlap? — it is safe to say from the details shared here that Larry’s ex-wife and younger daughter (and perhaps the older one) don’t care about your feelings very much, and they don’t really have to. They don’t have a relationship with you – Larry does. You could argue that you don’t have to care about their feelings either, but when it comes to your partner’s kids – even grown ones — it’s in your relationship’s best interest that you do at least act like you care about their feelings and their well-being, even if your feelings are more important to you.

So, what do you do here? Well, honestly, you don’t have a lot of options. You are not being invited on this trip, so crashing it is out of the question. (And how much fun would you have, anyway, on a trip where you know you are unwelcome – a trip that is meant as a gift for the very person who does not want you there?) You have zero control over whether Larry’s ex-wife goes, especially if this is a joint gift that both parents are giving their daughter as a graduation gift. And asking Larry to skip the trip will, as you suggested, likely lead to a lot of resentment.

What you could do is express your discomfort to Larry, but tell him that you are not going to request he skip this trip because you know how important it is to his daughter, you know she is still adjusting to this new woman in his dad’s life, it’s important that eventually you build a friendly relationship with his kids, and you know that making a big deal about this trip, a graduation gift to her, is not the way to do it. But going forward, you want to know that Larry has your back – that your being excluded from family events will not be a normal thing, and you want to know how Larry plans to help foster a close relationship between you and his daughters so that they will be more likely to want to include you in important and special events in the future.

There’s a lot of heavy lifting that needs to be done here and most of it falls on Larry’s shoulders. But you have to put in some effort, too, and you have to be patient, and you have to be understanding about why a 17-year-old girl may need a little more time adjusting to what sounds like a new family dynamic (especially if you have any role in the changing of the original family dynamic). Even if her parents have been divorced for a long time, they’ve been treated like a family unit (her mother is always included at every family gathering, etc.), and that dynamic doesn’t change overnight just because Dad has a new girlfriend. Obviously, it apparently doesn’t even change in a year and three months. If you aren’t ok with that – if you are growing impatient and tired of feeling excluded or sharing your boyfriend with his family, if you will feel deeply resentful over this vacation you are being excluded from, then maybe this is a deal-breaker for you and you should move on. You have clearly entered a relationship with a family man. If his family isn’t racing to accept you, you have to decide whether and how long you are willing to wait for them to do so.

I just recently googled “what to do when your boyfriend fucks up” when I ran across your Dear Wendy website. I have been engaged for about five years to someone who has been married before. My relationship problem is layered! “Ben” has two adult children, one of whom is doing ok and lives out of state and the other of whom is in a mental health hospital. Ben is originally from a different country but has lived here in the US for over 20 years. I say that to say we butt heads quite often due to cultural issues.

Anyway, my birthday was yesterday, but instead of going out, we did dinner at home with food picked up from the restaurant. There have been too many occasions when Ben has ruined our evenings with phone calls from his annoying-ass relatives. I’ve suggested on such occasions (like Valentine’s Day when this also happened) that he either not answer or, if he does so, to let the caller know that it is currently not a good time. He has yet to do that! In a nutshell, my birthday evening was ruined due to the fact that he “jumps” whenever these people call. And to make matters worse, he didn’t even make the caller (his cousin) at least acknowledge me or even to wish me a happy birthday.

I’m not so sure that I want to continue with this relationship. Am I overreacting or are my feelings valid and do I need to ditch this dude?? — Tired of Being Ignored

 
Yeah, it sounds like you need to ditch the dude. He’s not doing even the barest of minimums to honor your feelings, and this happens on the regular? No. If a dude can’t even give you attention on your birthday – for which he, apparently, can’t even be bothered to leave the house to celebrate – when does he give you attention? If the answer is “never” or “rarely” or “only when he wants to get laid,” it’s time to move on.

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

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

10 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Megan May 10, 2019, 10:52 am

    To LW1,
    As a child of divorce with a stepmom, you are in the wrong here. No matter how hard you try or how much you wish, you will never be quite “close family” to these girls – at least not yet. If they were taking random vacations all the time together, it would be different but it’s for their daughter’s grad trip – don’t make it about you. I had to make very clear to my stepmom early on in our relationship that she was not and never would be my mother. I have a good relationship with her but there have been too many times where she has forgotten that my dad had us first and we would always be priority. The fact that the family is healthy enough to have gatherings together in civil peace is RARE and amazing, do not ruin that for his daughters by complaining. The divorce was probably hard on them and keeping any resemblence of a healthy family is important. I’m sure with time you will feel more like part of the family but they’ve been there for almost 20 years, you’ve been in the picture for 1. Until you are actually the stepmother, I would not expect much.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark May 10, 2019, 11:04 am

    LW1) Oh for fucks sake, grow up and let the girl go on a trip with both her parents. NEWSFLASH: if you are too pathetic and insecure that you can’t not constantly be threatened by the mere presence of the ex/co-parent of your partner’s kids — don’t fucking date people that have kids. It’s really that fucking simple. How so many selfish dolts con nice people into dating them royally pisses me off. Instead people like you, LW, should all piss off.
    .
    LW2) “Wah, wah, wah. It’s my birthday. Wah, wah, wah…” Go back to fucking kindergarten where it ISN’T fucking pathetic to carry on so about your birthday. PS — the need for random (annoying ass) relatives you don’t know and clearly don’t like to wish you a Happy Birthday only made this dreary letter somehow even more pathetic.

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  • avatar

    Howdywiley May 10, 2019, 11:59 am

    #2 LW sounds like a HUGE pain in the ass.

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  • avatar

    Fyodor May 10, 2019, 12:15 pm

    “And to make matters worse, he didn’t even make the caller (his cousin) at least acknowledge me or even to wish me a happy birthday.”

    LOL

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  • avatar

    Kat15 May 10, 2019, 12:54 pm

    “And to make matters worse, he didn’t even make the caller (his cousin) at least acknowledge me or even to wish me a happy birthday.”
    I was with LW2 until this sentence, ugh

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  • CurlyQue

    CurlyQue May 10, 2019, 12:55 pm

    LW2, i agree it’s rude of him to have long phone conversations when you two are trying to have a celebratory dinner. Since you’ve already talked to him about this before, and it’s not changed i think it’s time for you to MOA .

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  • avatar

    ron May 10, 2019, 1:09 pm

    LW #2 — you are focusing on the trivia and ignoring the big picture. You haven’t been ‘engaged for 5 years’; you’ve been jollied along for 5 years. He has zero intention of ever marrying you. Nobody needs a 5-year-looong engagement. Either he is already married, not in the country legally and avoiding legal processes, or simply has no desire to be married to you. His treatment of you certainly suggests that he has no desire to be married to you and doesn’t like you very much, but I’m betting that one of the first two possibly reasons is actually correct. Why have you stayed with him all this time. Get some self-respect and MOA.

    LW#1 — you are dating a divorced man with children. He will always have obligations/love/need for connection with his children, even when they are out of college. If you can’t stand that you need to MOA. Your position here is petty. His youngest wants to go on a trip with her birth family. You aren’t a part of that. You can’t insist on being a part of that — both the kids and their mother have a veto and there is zilch your bf can do to over-ride that. You say that she is always present at family events. She’s the kids’ mother. She’s going to be present at family events. It sounds like you have also been present for many of these family events, which is swell, because as the father’s gf of 15-months who just moved in with him, you really have very little by way of family rights. In a lot of families you wouldn’t be allowed at these family functions. It would be different if you and the father were married, but it sounds like you are his first post-divorce gf. Honestly, post-divorce gfs come and go.

    If you actually believe that you can dictate the behavior of your bf’s first family to make yourself comfortable, then you are delusional. Likely the kids are closer to mom than to your bf. I’m sure if you aren’t comfortable with their mother’s presence at events, that they will view your presence as very optional.

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  • avatar

    Steph May 10, 2019, 1:58 pm

    LW1: I am in the relationship with a man that has three kids; 21, 20, 16. And one grand baby that is about to be a year old. He spends time with them, his ex-wife, and his ex mother in law frequently. Just yesterday, it was the birthday of his ex-wife’s son with her new boyfriend, and he went to the family dinner. I didn’t have a single problem with it. I do not like his ex-wife because I think she’s a terrible mother, so I’m not around her. And for holidays that he doesn’t have to be (father’s day, my birthday, his birthday, etc) he doesn’t include her. But Christmas, the girls birthdays, things like that. He does celebrate part of that with them, and I don’t mind. They don’t stop becoming family because the kids mother and father couldn’t work together. He is still showing his 3 daughters how a man is supposed to treat a woman.

    This goes beyond you. This trip is probably important to him just as it is to his daughter. Are you threatened by the ex-wife? Did you cause the divorce? If you did, obviously the kids won’t want you around.

    I think you need to decide if being with a man with kids (grown or not), is right for you.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros May 10, 2019, 3:39 pm

    LW1: Like Wendy said, there aren’t a lot of options. You either have to decide to be OK with how your boyfriend’s life works or break up. It’s not your place to dictate when he can or can’t see his ex-wife or kids. They’ve decided this is how they are going to relate to each other. This is one of those things that is part of the package. I get finding it annoying, but unless you feel like your boyfriend is going to cheat on you or get back with his ex, does this really affect the relationship outside of you feeling jealous and FOMO?

    Considering your description, this isn’t all that out of the ordinary. If the ex already comes to everything, it isn’t weird they’d want a family vacation. And no one would want to travel with both the ex and you. If you’re not cool with it, then find a guy who doesn’t have an ex and kids or maybe one who had less of an amicable divorce, I guess.

    LW2: You don’t need the opinion of us. If you think he ruins a lot of your time together and you butt heads all the time, why would you want to stay in a relationship with him? Sounds like you’re unhappy a lot of the time together.

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  • avatar

    Ange May 11, 2019, 8:08 pm

    LOL at a girlfriend of just over a year thinking she has the vaguest right to be included in anything family OR to dictate how the actual family spends their time together. In time you might get there but not if you don’t drop the pissy attitude. I wish more new people in relationships with parents could pull their head out of their arse and understand they don’t claim family just by virtue of dating, it’s a long term concerted effort. If you don’t want to do it that’s fine but don’t try and claim privileges over it or act like you have any authority here, stay in your lane.

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