Q. Child of Divorce ... Again: I just found out that my mom and my stepdad are separating. My mom characterized the split as "peaceful," saying that "he still loves you and we still love each other," but this was the "only solution." I'm very sad about this split because my stepdad is a truly wonderful, generous, and loving person. I'm also getting married in the spring, and would still like him to be included in the wedding, but I'm unsure how to do so without making everyone uncomfortable. My mom said we would most likely be excluding "the Smiths" (my stepdad's family) from the wedding, but I think my stepdad deserves to be there, or at least to have the choice whether to be there or not. Since it's coming up so quickly, I'm worried things will still be raw and that my mom will blow up if I say I still want my stepdad to be there.
A: Your mother is divorcing this man, but he has been a huge and adored part of your life, so you don't have to symbolically divorce him yourself. And since your mother says the split is peaceful, that helps you to make the case to your mother that you want him to be there at your wedding. Tell her you will make sure he and the members of his family to whom you are closest will be seated far apart from her at the ceremony, and that his family will be seated at another end of the hall at the reception. If she blows up at this news, you stay calm. Explain you know even in a mutually agreed upon split the emotions are raw, but you know that everyone involved is a mature person who's able to be cordial on this important day.
Q. Re: Harsh response: I found your question to the expecting woman who had the affair to be rather harsh and to miss the mark. Of course it was wrong for both she and the deceased to have had an affair, but now she has a child—who is totally innocent in this—and it is her responsibility to provide for that child. Had he lived the kid would have been entitled to at least 18 years of child support and you'd hope the man would have included the kid in his estate planning. The only thing I agree with from your advice is that she should consult an attorney. But doing so is the right thing to do to take care of her kid—not a heartless gesture at all. Keep in mind that the deceased was just as much a part of the affair as she was.
A: I agree the child needs to be protected, thus my suggestion to see a lawyer. And yes, the newly deceased father was just as much a participant as the woman. I was commenting on the cold crassness of her note—no shock, no sorrow, no recognition that what she was up to was not right, nor any recognition that her news is going to be a devastating blow to the widow.
Q. Re: Wedding thank yous: I went into a depression (I have bipolar disorder) after our wedding several years ago, and I never sent thank-you notes. I kept insisting to my husband that I would do it myself, and perhaps because I made it into such a big-seeming task, I never got it done. It is still a source of shame for me.
A: First of all, you obliquely raise the important point that the gifts are to a couple, so there's no reason the entire burden for the thank you notes should fall exclusively on the bride. Second, ameliorate your shame. Get some lovely cards that aren't specifically for Christmas but have a holiday look, and write those notes. You can say you are wishing all the best for Christmas and the coming year, and your resolution for 2014 was to rectify having never thanked your guest for the lovely wedding gift. Mention how much you have enjoyed it and that having it in your home reminds you often of their thoughtfulness. Think how great you will feel addressing those envelopes and finally addressing this source of guilt.
Q. Ending the Dream: I have decided to break up with my boyfriend and move out, as he has finally told me that he doesn't plan to propose anytime soon. I am 36 and don't feel like waiting on him anymore. He tells me he doesn't want me to leave, and blames me for the breakup. I feel I don't have a choice, though, as he has made it clear that marriage is not in the cards for him anytime soon. Am I right? Or should I stick it out and wait?
A: This is why I always recommend that before couples start splitting the rent, they figure out more than who pays the gas bill and who pays the electricity. You clearly assumed living together would lead to something permanent. He assumed living together would mean you would permanently live together. If you want to have children, you do not have time to continue in this limbo. Hearing that you're leaving has not prompted him to reassess his life priorities—he just doesn't want to lose his roommate. Make the break and stop letting him waste your precious time.
Q. Re: Wedding gift thank yous: When my wife and I were married (10-plus years ago) we made a decision that I would write the thank yous to the people on "her side," and she would write the thanks to the people on "my side." We thought that would be a way for the folks that knew us the least to get to know us. Each year when we see her, one of my wife's aunts never fails to bring up the nice thank you note that I wrote. Just a follow up on the wedding note theme from today.
A: The aunt probably had to get the smelling salts when she got a prompt and lovely note from the groom! I love your idea of switching "sides"—a great way to divide the labor and make a wonderful impression on a new person in your life.
Q. Passive-Aggressive Christmas Card: My husband's family is a close-knit group all living in another part of the country from us. However, we do spend every other Christmas with them. My husband has two aunts: Judith and Mary. Mary is married and has two children, Judith is single and childless. We just received a Christmas card from Judith in which the only message was that my husband should plan to attend Mary's son's high school graduation because the aunts attended his many years ago. We were planning on sending a card and a check, not spending what could be $1,000 on airfare and hotel! We think the aunts are being unreasonable in thinking that because they drove two hours to my husband's graduation, we should fly across the country. What's a nice, but firm way to respond to the passive-aggressive jabs that there are sure to be more of between now and June? Or are we the ones being unreasonable?
A: You don't respond to this Christmas message about a high school graduation six months from now. If you're exchanging cards, yours should have the standard holiday good wishes. When an invitation to the graduation comes, if you decide at that time that you can't make the trip, your husband sends a heartfelt note to his nephew and encloses a check. You ignore any jabs you hear about the decade plus scoreboard the aunts keep.
Q. Re: Harsh Response: I didn't think your response was harsh enough! The man is dead less than 48 hours and the LW is already talking about his "large estate."
A: At least she didn't bother with the crocodile tears!
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