Q. Re: Comment on complicated paternity and estranged husband visiting: No question, just had to comment that so far we have two nominees for Stepmother of the Year today! After all the “how can I get my ex to ignore his kids and pay more attention to me?” types, these two ladies are awesome examples of stepparents showing that you don’t have to give birth to someone to be an excellent parent to them.
A: Thank you for pointing this out. Yes, we have two women not biologically related to the children in their lives, who want to do the best by them under difficult circumstances. How refreshing!
Q. Re: Paternity: How does he have proof of paternity? With the facts as listed, he’s never met the boy, so how did he do DNA testing?
A: Great point! I hope the original letter writer will clarify this. And if there isn’t a good explanation, new testing is in order.
Q. Mother Hates My In-Laws: Seven years ago my husband and I got married, and things went very sour at the wedding between my mother and my in-laws. My mom claims that FIL told her she couldn’t speak at the wedding reception because it wasn’t appropriate, or something to that effect. My father died when I was 14, so it was very important to her that she get to say something nice on my father’s behalf. The entire event was ruined for her and she’s been holding a grudge ever since. There’s currently no physical interaction between them, but we’re thinking about moving my mom in to the basement to spend more time together and improve our finances. However, the in-laws visit on a regular basis. There’s no way we can have everyone in the same house without WWIII raining down. Is it my job to reveal to the in-laws that my mother doesn’t want to be around them and that they will no longer be able to stay at our home but will instead have to go to a hotel when they come to visit? I know I should have tried to organize a truce years ago, but I’m in a quandary about what to do now, so many years after they fact. MIL and FIL truly have no idea—they still send my mother birthday and Christmas cards, which she despises. Help!
A: Your father-in-law behaved terribly seven years ago, but I’m afraid this statute of limitations has expired. Sure, you could tell your in-laws about the mean-spirited slight and ask your father-in-law to apologize. But I’m afraid it will make your mother sound rather bonkers if you have to further explain that the wound is as fresh today as on the wedding day, that your mother has never gotten over it, and that the mere sight of them makes her want to explode. I think you have to set some new ground rules with your mother long before you finalize her moving in. Say to her there’s no excuse for what your father-in-law did, but it was a stupid thing done a long time ago and since then they’ve demonstrated they have only good wishes for her. Say that you’re done keeping them apart. If she wants to live with you, that means she behaves graciously when your in-laws visit, which they do on a regular basis. You can explain that once things improve, you will consider letting them know about the original injury, but you feel given the time that’s passed, it’s just best to move on. Tell her if she can’t let this go, then your living together has to be a no go.
Q. Re: Paternity Proof: He probably means he has the old-fashioned kind: an affidavit of some kind from the mother.
A: Thanks—that’s a good point. I also read a Kate Atkinson novel in which a father in this situation who’s a private detective cleverly arranges to get a DNA sample (a hair) from a child to see if he can establish paternity without first contacting the mother. [Update: When I publish a letter during the live chat it disappears off my screen, so I'm just seeing now that the original letter writer specified a “paternity test.” How it was conducted remains a mystery.]
Q. Living Situation: I moved into the house my boyfriend owns in a suburb. Things are fine with him, but it’s now been a year, and I hate where we live. I don’t want to break up but it’s not like he can just sell the house (it’s only a couple years since he purchased it). But I’m feeling so totally isolated from my friends and the city I used to live in, and the commute now takes me almost an hour. My moving out and renting back where I used to be will be a huge step backwards for the relationship. He’s talked about moving back to the city “eventually” but his standards (single family, won’t live in certain neighborhoods) make it very unlikely that we could ever find or afford something. I don’t know how much longer I can make it living here though. What can I do?
A: There’s a rousing endorsement of the relationship: “Things are fine.” Add to that your loneliness, boredom, and commuting woes, and it sounds as if lots of time with your boyfriend is not enough to make your living situation worth it. I don’t know how old you are, but you sound unready to settle into suburban life. You’ve given it a year. He isn’t going anywhere, but you want to. So what you do is tell him that you are unhappy with your living situation. It just might be that you have to accept that literally and figuratively you can’t meet each other halfway.
Q. Re: Stepmother of the year: To the person who is pleased to see “good” stepmothers for a change: Actually, there are a lot of us out there who love our stepkids and would do anything for them—and we do it all against the backdrop of stereotypes like wanting our partners to pay us all the attention and generally being evil. Think before you generalize.
A: Yes, of course. But this column is not overrun with anyone behaving well, and conflict between stepparents and stepchildren is sadly a common theme. I don’t see anything wrong noting what you say yourself: that many stepparents are doing yeoman’s duty on behalf of their stepchildren.
Q. Cheater: Long story short: A few months ago I found out that a friend (not a close friend, bordering on acquaintance) cheated on her husband with a random guy. I’d call it a one-night stand but it was pre-planned, so ... Fast forward, I find out this same friend cheated on her husband, again, multiple times, with her cousin’s husband. Cousin doesn’t know, cheater’s husband doesn’t know. The cousin is an acquaintance of mine with three young kids; cheater has two kids. I just keep my mouth shut, right?
A: Right. Everyone involved is only tangentially in your orbit. Keep it that way.
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