Unfortunately, she passed away, and we found each other pretty soon — six months — after her passing. We fell in love, and two years later we married. His daughters didn’t like it and couldn’t even be happy for their dad. They do not like that we are happy and that we do things and travel and have fun together.
Now they want nothing to do with me. I have been nothing but loving, caring, and supportive. They are both out of the house and have heir own lives, husbands, and children. They say I am rude and disrespectful to their mother because my husband and I are happy and doing things together.
I’m not sure what to do. Personally, I think they are rude and disrespectful. — The New Wife
They may very well be rude and disrespectful — and certainly from your description they sound that way. But when you entered the picture, they were also still grieving. Six months isn’t a lot of time, and while your husband may have been ready to move on and find happiness with a new woman, the same obviously cannot be said for his daughters. Losing a spouse — especially one you’ve lived apart from for years and may have essentially already felt like you lost before she actually passed away, is much different than suddenly losing a mother. Your husband may have done much of his grieving for his marriage and wife while she was still alive. And by the time she died, her death may have been, for him, something of a release from a marriage that no longer brought him joy. For his daughters, though, the death of their mother likely brought no such release, and their grief probably began only when she died. Six months is not much time to grapple with that kind of loss. They may see their father moving on so quickly as a betrayal — of their mother, and of them. It’s not fair for them to think that way, but it’s probably the reality of the situation you entered into.
Unless your step-daughters are being aggressively and actively rude to you, I would try to cut them some slack. (And if they are being actively and aggressively rude to you, you have every right to tell your husband that their behavior toward you is unacceptable and he needs to talk to them about it!) Okay, so they want nothing to do with you. Their loss, right? Continue enjoying your newlywed time with your husband. Travel, go out, and have fun. And when friction arises around his daughters, let your husband take the lead in dealing with it. After all, they’re his daughters. What does he say about all of it? Does he tell you to be patient? Tell you to give it/them some time? Does he seem concerned or bothered by it? Does he have any suggestions for how best to form a relationship with them? Really, it’s his job to pave the way here. I would follow his lead, keep your head down, extend as much compassion to his daughters as you feel you can, and try to enjoy that you and your husband found each other and seem to be having such a great time together, despite the tension with his grown daughters.
When I asked him about this, he got defensive and said I was giving him attitude, which wasn’t the case at all, and then he claimed he doesn’t like crowds. He has no hesitation going to hockey games with buddies or out with his other friends, so this makes me feel like I am the issue. It’s really not helping our relationship because we keep getting into stupid and pointless fights over things like this. I really don’t know what to do because it feels like he’s pushing me away. I need some sound advice. — Feeling Pushed Away
You guys don’t like doing the same thing and you’re taking it personally. He doesn’t like bars and going out dancing, apparently. Do you like hockey games? Has he invited you to join him? It seems like that would be a fun activity you could enjoy together that’s different from your regular movie and dinner dates. But if you don’t want to do that or he doesn’t want you to come and you can’t find any other activity that you both can enjoy together, and your regular dinner and movies dates aren’t cutting it for you and it’s not satisfying for you to enjoy the other stuff with friends while he enjoys hockey games with his friends, then it seems like you two simply aren’t a match.
For your own good, you need to not make this personal. Your boyfriend is allowed to not like bars and nightclubs without it being a reflection of his feelings for you. And you’re allowed to say, “You know what, it’s important to me to have a boyfriend I have common interests with and can enjoy going out to bars and dancing with, and since that isn’t you, I think it might be for the best to end things now before we start resenting each other.”
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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.
Sarah December 18, 2017, 10:11 am
LW1 – your side of the story is that for 5 years your husband tried to be a good husband living out of state due to job loss but he had enough money to support his wife in another state because she didn’t want to move. This doesn’t make sense. They were apart for 5 years so there marriage wasn’t great but also its a little convenient that just 6 months after she died after being alone for 5 years he found the next love of his life and you all waited 2 years after that to get married but the kids still don’t like you for the reason that its disrespectful to their mom. I think you missed some of the story because it just doesn’t add up. This may be the story you believe but I bet the girls have another story that would differ greatly.
LisforLeslie December 18, 2017, 10:12 am
LW#1 – You say they want nothing to do with you – but that’s a wide open statement. Does that mean they don’t want to chat on the phone, refuse to go to your home, refuse to go out to dinner if you’re attending? And what does your husband say about all of this? Is he bending over backwards to keep the three of you apart, insisting you be a part of every get together or finding some balance in between? And are you making room in your life for his ex wife. I’m not saying that you should build a shrine to her in your home, but are there any pictures of her on the walls or visible when walking around the house?
I expect that because there are two of them, they are feeding off of one another, trying to prove their loyalty to their mother by hating you. Your husband needs to sit them down and tell them that he loved their mother very much, but that playing the martyr isn’t going to bring her back and asking him to sacrifice his happiness, especially now that they are adults and will be moving on with their own separate lives, is awful.
So he needs to lay out his expectations for how they treat you very clearly. That means clarifying that they can’t ignore you, they can’t be dismissive and rude. They should expect that you’ll participate in family events, because you are now part of the family. He can also say that they don’t have to love you, but they have to show you respect.
Northern Star December 18, 2017, 10:22 am
LW 1: While it would be nice for you if your husband’s daughters embraced you as family—they simply don’t have to. You came into the picture six months after the untimely (and sudden?) death of their mother and shined the spotlight on the fact that their dad didn’t grieve or miss her. It may not be “disrespectful,” exactly, since the vows ended in her death—but it damn sure was hurtful.
They have their own lives. You have yours. Leave them be, and let your husband be dad and grandpa as much as he can. You think the girls are rude and disrespectful; so, it won’t be much of a loss if you don’t have a relationship. Right?
becboo84 December 18, 2017, 10:32 am
You put my thoughts into words much more succinctly than I could muster. After going through something quite similar myself, I think the LW is failing to have any empathy for these girls whose lives were likely shattered when their mother died, and then flipped again when their father moved on so very, very quickly.
Skyblossom December 18, 2017, 11:14 am
I was thinking the same thing. You can’t force someone to like you or accept you. At the most you can force them to tolerate your presence but the anger and contempt will come through clearly.
Most kids I’ve known who felt that their parent moved on too quickly after a divorce, which I get isn’t death, felt betrayed and never accepted the parent’s new partner.
I think it should have been obvious before you got married that his daughter’s didn’t like you or accept you.
convexexed December 18, 2017, 11:17 am
LW1: Please don’t take the daughter’s reluctance to accept you personally. I’ve had a few friends who lost their mothers in high school. We’re in our thirties now and the loss is still ringing. Believe that they do have the capacity to acknowledge you and show you respect at the very least, and possibly warmer feelings down the line, but they aren’t there yet. It would, honestly, be surprising if they were. We no longer live in the times when widows/widowers wore black for a year, but even so six months is the blink of an eye as far as the timeline for recovering from such a monumental loss. I know it hurts, and it’s hard, but as hard as it is for you to feel rejected, it is harder for them to reckon with the conflict of loyalties between wanting to see their father happy and wanting their mother to be remembered, missed, and irreplaceable. I would advise keeping a low profile, and when you do interact with them, show them warmth and kindness in a non-pushy way. They may or may not ever fully *embrace* you, but time will make the sting of your relationship with their father less sharp. If you intend to stay with this man forever, you have time, so be patient.
LW2: I’m not saying this can’t be a dealbreaker, but here’s the thing: if you end up with this guy long-term, I pretty much guarantee you will come to love the nights where he says, I’m going to watch the hockey game with the guys, and you say, great, I’m hitting the club with my girls. It’s healthy to keep some social activities separate, so you can cultivate your relationships with your friends without just being there as one half of a couple. You could also do a deal where you go to one hockey game with him per month (or whatever) if he’ll suck it up and dance with you once a month. I’m not a party person, and I’ll fight pretty hard to keep from having to go to parties ‘all the time’. But I could work it into my schedule (and my temperament) to include a limited number of parties if I knew ahead of time and could pep myself up for them, especially if it was important to my partner. Your boyfriend might be the same; it all depends how you approach it and if you offer him an ‘out’ if he starts feeling trapped. For example, you could ask him to stop by the bar after a movie for an hour, and if he’s not having fun after an hour, you two can leave. I think for people who don’t like bars, the open-endedness can be overwhelming. Like, it’s 9pm and they’re already bored, but they know you’re gonna wanna be there til the bar closes at 2am and that’s 5 hours of watching you drink and dance that they gotta get through. All things in moderation.
Amy December 18, 2017, 11:42 am
I have another thought on LW#1s husband. Perhaps he and his first wife had a very good relationship (even though he had to be out of state). When she died, he likely felt sadness and grief, but perhaps also a strong sense of loneliness. A new love and relationship with the LW likely didn’t “replace” his relationship with his first wife, but felt to him like a new relationship. However, for his daughters, a new wife for their father feels like he is replacing their mother.
This sounds very similar to what my mom and her siblings experienced when my grandma died. While they wanted their dad to be happy, it was really really really hard for them to see their dad with a woman that wasn’t their mother.
I agree with Wendy’s advice. Develop your love and relationship with your husband. Maybe just try to have some empathy for the daughters. It is probably understandable that they are not ready for a relationship with you, although it would be lovely if they were willing to be polite and nice to you. While it might not feel ideal for any of you, it might be best for your husband to have a relationship with your daughters and a relationship with you and not try to combine those relationships. He can expect that you are all polite to each other, and hopefully that you can all have some empathy for each other.
Good luck. I’m glad that you and your husband found each other.
Skyblossom December 18, 2017, 12:04 pm
LW1 Maybe warm gestures will help. Does your husband still have the family photos? If so how about making a family “scrapbook” for each grandchild that shows their grandparents and their mom during the mom’s childhood. Include mom’s wedding photos and college graduation if she went to college and then put in pictures of the child as a newborn. Don’t put yourself in at all. You can get photos printed into books. You could try giving each family a Christmas ornament, if they celebrate christmas, that has a picture of your husband and his first wife. Show them that their mom is valued in your home.
If you live near his daughters your husband could volunteer for the two of you to watch the kids so that his daughters and their husbands could have a date night once a month without paying a babysitter. If the two of you are retired or if your husband is retired he could volunteer to be the backup babysitter for the parents or maybe the two of you could watch the kids once or twice a week while the parents work.
You could also volunteer to take them on vacation with you to a spot that is family friendly.
Think about kind, generous gestures that the two of you could make that would go to the daughters through your husband.
SpaceySteph December 18, 2017, 12:37 pm
I might be hesitant to do anything with old family photos, even something nice. If the daughters are really mean (and its hard to tell, but leaving the possibility open) then they could easily go to “you had no right to deface our family photos.”
Northern Star December 18, 2017, 1:02 pm
I don’t think it would be wise for LW 1 to make scrapbooks or ornaments with the deceased mother’s picture. The tone of this letter makes me think the LW doesn’t really respect the mother or her importance to her daughters. I’m pretty sure the gesture would feel weird and empty coming from someone who has no understanding.
MissDre December 18, 2017, 1:36 pm
I also think this would be weird… if somebody who didn’t know my mother gave me a scrapbook of her photos after she died, I’d be like WTF are you doing!? You didn’t even know her!
Skyblossom December 18, 2017, 2:09 pm
It should come from their father which shouldn’t be weird.
ele4phant December 18, 2017, 2:50 pm
What’s the point of the scrap books then if they “come from the father”?
How is that helping with how they perceive the new wife?
Based on my own experience of getting a step=parent as an adult, I would just say, treat them like you would any other new adult you meet. Don’t try to force intimacy there. Just hope that you all can be civil around one another, and if real relationships grow eventually that’s create but not required.
Don’t freak out if they want to talk about their mother around you. Give them some space on occasion to be with their father without you.
Be polite and kind to them even if they are huge aholes to you.
ele4phant December 18, 2017, 2:43 pm
Agree with all of the above.
My father’s wife (married him when I was in my mid-twenties) was kind of weird at first – acting way too motherly. It was weird – like I actually like her and she makes my father happy, but when she refers to me as her daughter it was very strange for me.
You met me as an adult, treat me like an adult, we can have a nice adult relationship together. Stop trying to act like a parent figure to me. My mom is alive and well, but still, if some strange woman I met created scrapbooks about my childhood for me, or my children, it would strike me as creepy and her way to insert herself into my childhood.
Just be unfailing polite and kind to these daughters, and treat them like adults instead of trying to force a connection that’s not there.
Hopefully they’ll come around eventual, or at least start being cordial in her presence.
Ange December 18, 2017, 9:33 pm
I think the latter part is the way to handle it. My parents divorced when I was 19 or so and my dad’s partner was weirdly pushy and possessive and that all ended really badly. My mum’s partner, however, has never tried to be more than he is, never tried to intrude and just treats us all like he’s a friend of the family. Obviously he’s far more than that 14 years later but stepping back and not messing with existing dynamics made his entrance into the family SO much easier.
MissDre December 18, 2017, 3:07 pm
Yeah, like ele4phant, I’m not really seeing the connection here… how does the father giving them a scrapbook change their perception of his new wife?
ele4phant December 18, 2017, 12:14 pm
LW1 – Ideally, what kind of relationship do you want with your husband’s daughters?
Do you want to have a warm, familial relationship with them? That may never come. Coming into their adults, notwithstanding the complication losing their mother and dealing with that grief adds to how they see you, they may never warm to you that much. They may always see you as somewhat of a stranger to them. If you’re imagining a modern day brady bunch where you all have warm fuzzy feelings towards one another, that may not ever be in the cards.
Or you just hoping they aren’t complete dicks to you?
The latter is probably going to be more achievable than the former. But getting there is going to take empathy (I mean, they lost their mother and then suddenly their father had someone new – that stings), time, and probably your husband doing most of the leg work.
So enjoy your marriage, and be sympathetic to the fact that the last couple of years have been tough for these women – even if they are adults with their own husbands and families now.
Ron December 18, 2017, 12:57 pm
My sibs and I were adults when my mother died. My father was very lonely and rushed into a second marriage. Second wife struck us as a bad choice, but we went along, then he sort of poisoned the well using all of us as venting boards for all the problems in second marriage. She was never going to be our mother and if she didn’t seem to make our father super happy… well things were cool for some of us, warm for others. Our childhood home always seems sort of alien territory. Eventually, the second marriage seemed at least reasonably ok, but it took over a decade to reach that point. I don’t feel bad about our position, since second wife was also semi-estranged from her own kids and VERY quick to take offense.
JustMax December 18, 2017, 2:26 pm
I agree with most regarding LW1. I do have a question though; what kind of relationship does she want, or think she should have with her husband’s daughters? What are her expectations? What kind of “embracing” is there to have?
I’m always curious about these LWs that get married to men with adult children and seem to want some deep connection with them right off the bat. Why?
MissDre December 18, 2017, 6:15 pm
Because they want others to validate their relationship.
ele4phant December 18, 2017, 6:38 pm
I want to take a charitable that for many second spouses (at least for my father’s wife), it’s not a self centered effort to validate their relationship, it’s a well meaning but misguided sense of feeling like it’s what they “should” be doing.
Like, they love their husband, their husband loves his children, ergo to be a good spouse they think they need to push really hard to have great relationships with his kids.
But, relationships between adult children and their parents can be tricky. The aftermath of divorce or widowhood are tricky. So this rush to create a big happy family dynamic often falls flat and just comes across as insincere, despite what I believe for many is new spouses is a genuine and well-meaning effort.
But I don’t even know if that’s what the OP wants. These daughters very well may be treating her like crap. Which sucks, although I think if you put into context that they are likely still dealing with the double whammy of losing their mom and then seeing their dad move on immediately, you can see how they might behave poorly.
brise December 18, 2017, 3:48 pm
LW1: they don’t need you. They are grown up, have their family, why would they bother to please you if they think you are not that great? You have to make the effort to enter gently their life. I guess your attitude is part of the problem. For example, I wouldn’t claim so much “fun” and “crazy in love” and so “happy”: for them, it is perhaps still difficult to accept because it erases their mother’s memory. Try to be more discreet. I suspect also that you must have hurt them somehow if now they don’t want anything to do with you. I think your best bet is to have a low, very low profile. Don’t impose yourself and your new happiness to them. Don’t act like a parent, rather like a new friend you have to get to know them and get used to this family. Listen to them, give them access to their father without being always there, don’t overdo it (the tone of your post looks like exaggeration). Be kind, don’t even think that “they don’t like that we are happy”. Did they say that? I doubt it. Don’t be self-centered. It is certainly difficult, but if you take the back-seat and let your husband be in touch with her, it will amend. Anyway, don’t expect much: again, they don’t need you and they perhaps decided once and for good that they want nothing to do with you, for some reason. You can’t help it, but think that you have also a part of responsibility in the problem. Be patient, and don’t obsess on them, don’t resent them. Forgive them.
Fyodor December 18, 2017, 6:06 pm
If they were quasi-separated before her death and then he started dating LW1 shortly afterwards, there is going to be a reasonable assumption that she was cheating with him.
Dear Wendy December 19, 2017, 8:22 am
From the LW:
wobster109 December 19, 2017, 10:12 am
Yikes. I agree with you about being sympathetic to the daughters, but I do hate when the new wife gets all the anger and the father gets none. I don’t think either of them deserves any blame, but since the daughters are laying it on, the father should be the one handling it.
Northern Star December 19, 2017, 11:27 am
You met on a dating website. Your husband was actively seeking out a new partner mere months after the death of their mother. It seriously never occurred to you that they might have feelings about this? Why didn’t you consider these girls at all?
I’m struck by the fact that your letter was all about YOU. Not about the hurt your husband was feeling.
And I am saying this as someone who met her husband about 4 months after his wife died from a long battle with cancer—on a dating website. We are young and he has no children—but I thought about how being with my guy could hurt his first wife’s parents and sibling. I would not have been surprised if they wanted nothing to do with me. And I know those relationships were/are important, so I encourage him to stay close.
You need to step WAAAAAAY back and ABSOLUTELY let your husband visit the kids alone, if he wants to. This isn’t about etiquette or feeling welcome or whatever. This is about not being a roadblock that keeps your husband from his own children and grandchildren.
MissDre December 19, 2017, 11:36 am
I think you should absolutely 100% let him do things with his daughters without you. For a while, anyway. Let his daughters rebuild their relationship with their dad and hopefully, slowly, they deal with their grief and they will come to terms with the fact that their father is happy with someone new.
ele4phant December 19, 2017, 1:07 pm
Gosh I’m sorry. This sounds rough.
It’s not like you forced your husband to join that dating website, he did that on his own volition.
And, it’s hard to say whether or not you were being totally oblivious to the fact the daughters were grieving because you were just so in love, or if you were pretty sensitive and they just can’t stomach the idea of their father moving on. But it seems like you are appreciative of the fact he had a wife he loved first, and again, they’re placing all of the blame on you when their father actively sought out a relationship, so that sucks.
I think your best hope here is not to strive to integrate your families, but to let your husband have a relationship with his daughters, and then the two of you enjoy your partnership together without stressing too much about whether they like it or not.
Maybe with time they’ll accept you enough to stop sniping about you and on occasion you can all be physically together, treating one another civilly.
wobster109 December 19, 2017, 10:17 am
LW2 – Please don’t falsely equate dancing in bars with watching hockey. They are totally different things, and the only thing they have in common is they are social. He likes going to hockey with friends. This says nothing about whether he likes dancing in bars. I’m not saying either activity is good or bad, just that they are very different. It’s unfair to say to him, “you like going to hockey so you should like going to bars”. This is just like saying “you like ramen so you must like steak because they’re both food”.
lovely light December 19, 2017, 4:01 pm
I don’t believe she was comparing going to the bar and hockey games together as the problem, she was just giving them as examples. The problem seems to be that she’s taking it personally against her as he seems to have no hesitation going out with his friends. Could be wrong but there was no comparison of hockey and the bar being the same thing, if anything she was referring to how he says he doesn’t like crowds but an arena for a hockey game (example) is a huge crowd. I kind of understand it but she’s definitely taking it personally and isn’t doing anyone any good.
Dear Wendy December 19, 2017, 12:49 pm
I feel like I’m over reacting, maybe, but I’m also picking up on what I think are signs of him not really caring and guilting me into things I don’t want to do. I’m so torn because I really do like him a lot, but I feel like I’m constantly compromising for him and I can’t even get a simple night alone in return. I think my expectations might be too high for him, so I’m unfairly setting him up for failure without him knowing. I really just don’t know what to do because even though we don’t spend as much time together as I’d like, I think I’m falling in love with him. When I fall in love I forgive everything even when I shouldn’t, I can see myself doing this more and more as time goes on. I don’t think what I’m asking for is a huge deal but it feels like it is to him.
Thanks again for answering me before and listening to what I have to say,
Dear Wendy December 19, 2017, 12:57 pm
Relationships shouldn’t be this hard and joyless, especially when you’re 22 and you’ve been together a few months. Honey, it’s time to MOA.
Vathena December 19, 2017, 1:02 pm
Girl, just break up already. You “think you’re falling in love”? WHY? Don’t cling to this guy. You are 22. He’s not the last man on earth. There is someone out there who is a better match for you, who you won’t have to beg to spend time alone with you. Come the fuck ON. Stop wasting your time on this soul-sucking relationship.
Or, you know, you can just say “well I’m in loooooooove” and use that to justify staying with someone who actively isn’t meeting your basic relationship needs. Good luck with that, because it’s not going to get better.