Please contact Evil Stepmom at ESM@evilstepmom.org with your questions or ideas about stepfamily living with 17-30 year olds.

 



Dear Evil Stepmom
Feeling Like a Target at Home

Dear Evil stepmom,

I have a very mean, vindictive, and rude stepmother. She's horrible to my sisters and I. It seems like every few months she has to start a fight with me about the dumbest things. She tries to make my life a living hell and she tries to make me scared of her.

The other night she started a fight with me again. My dad, brother, her and I were all at dinner and she started telling me that my little brother was not allowed to joke around with me because I'll just get mad. I've gotten mad at my little brother once because he poured soda down my back. When this happened she got mad at me for yelling at him, and my dad was pissed at her because she treats me horribly.

Well during this particular fight at dinner she told me she hated me and a lot of mean stuff, but for once I didn't take it. I told her that I was done with her making my life hell and that I wasn't going to let her win anymore or scare me. I want her to know that I'm not going to back down and let her treat us wrong anymore. How do I do this? I would hate to have to be a total b word but I feel like if I don't she won't ever understand that I'm serious. I don't want to be scared of her anymore either.

- Pissed Off


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Separated Parent and Stepparent Present Wedding Planning Challenge


Dear ESM,


Here's my deal. My dad and stepmom got together when I was about nine (I'm 28 now). I have known my step mom for a long time - she was a family friend. My dad recently cheated on her/left her, but now he is trying to get back with my stepmom. While they were separated, she would try and contact me, asking about my wedding coming up. Well I never responded (and neither did my siblings) because we knew what was going on and felt like she was trying to manipulate us to get at my dad. I'm not a huge fan of hers (or my dads) but we were cordial before all this.

Now she is having screaming matches with my dad because she is pissed off that we didn't respect her and respond to her during their separation, as if we owed her anything. I also think she's extremely pissed she isn't coming to the wedding (because hell if I'll let her ruin that day for me). 
So I'm just looking to help my dad (because I probably care too much) and was wondering if you had any advice on how to handle this situation.


Signed,

Stressed Bride


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Wedding Planning Leaves Stepmom Feeling Left Out


Dear Evil Stepmom,


Like many, I never thought I would be in the position I am currently in. I have been married to my husband, a second marriage for both of us for 4 years, together just under 6 years. He has two daughters, 25 and 22, and I have one daughter, 23. My husband's oldest daughter has become engaged and has jumped deep into wedding planning. They have set a date approximately 18 months from now.


The relationship between my husband and his daughters has been complicated. His relationship with his ex has been difficult and frosty. Since my entry into his life, I have gently encouraged him to improve his relationships with his daughters and to find a way to leave the pain of his marriage, (20 years) and divorce behind. This has been a slow but positive process and it has only made our relationship better. But now the engagement and pending wedding is bringing up many old issues...and new ones too! All things financial, a major negative point from a historic point is now much of the conversation. My husband and I have a pre-nup, wills, and an estate plan, but we have also—from the start of our marriage—combined our resources.

There have been many occasions for everyone to be together since the announcement of the engagement. As his engaged daughter continues to say: "I want you all to get along"—meaning her mother and father. I feel as if I become more and more marginalized. I have been surprised by my reactions! Consciously, intellectually I do want them all to get along...but emotionally I am starting to feel significantly on the sidelines. As my husband engages more freely with his ex—even having had an alone meeting with her with less anger and drama—I know this is a good thing. Still, as the planning moves forward and money is spent, I find my self feeling like, "I am paying for this wedding but I'm invisible." I feel irrational...I want everyone to get along....I want the event to be beautiful, etc...but this outsider feeling is starting to depress me. 


I have a neutral to somewhat positive relationship with his daughter...I wouldn't say we are close. I try to be lovely and understanding with her. I know his ex. We have had a number of family events where I was present and we all belong to the same church. His ex and I have had a mixed history of interaction, including an extremely negative email exchange initiated by her after I mistakenly thought I could communicate with her.
I am surprised by my emotional reactions to the whole thing. I feel left out and sad. Part of me knows this is irrational, but that isn't helping with my growing negative feelings. How do I cope and what do I do to keep this from escalating?

Signed ~

Sad


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My Stepmom Is Freaking Out About My Wedding


Hi ESM,

I am not a stepmom but I am having major problems with my stepmom so I thought I would write to you.

When my dad and stepmom first married we didn't get along. I blame it on the timing--my parents divorced, my grandma died, and my dad remarried all in the same year. Over time we became very close. My biological mother and I didn't see much of each other after the divorce, and less over time. After a while, I started to consider my stepmom my mom.

Everything was great until I got engaged. I wanted to make her feel included so I put her name on the invitation, invited her to all the pre-wedding parties and asked if she wanted to help me plan. Since day one she has become a different person. She gets mad when my family talks about the wedding and she is constantly yelling at my Dad because she thinks he is spending more money on my wedding than theirs. My Dad and step-mom had a small wedding, but it was because my Grandma had just died and my Dad had just gone through a very difficult divorce.

She even got mad at my Dad because my engagement ring is bigger than hers, and now she wants my Dad to buy her a new one. My fiance's friend owns a wedding dress store so I was able to get a fabulous dress for free, and now she wants my Dad to buy her a new dress because she thinks it's unfair that mine is nicer.

These are things I don't have control over. Last month she told me I was selfish for getting married in the state where I live instead of the state where she and my Dad live. She said that she had a life and she shouldn't have to miss a week of it to come to my wedding. We haven't talked since then.

I really miss my cool fun stepmom, and I wonder if I did something along the way to make her act like this and what I can do to fix the problem.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Bewildered Bride



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Stepmother's Family is Taking Over the House


Dear Evil Stepmom,

I'm a 20-year-old woman with a horrible stepmother. I feel like she does things to spite me. About two years ago, I moved from my mother’s house to my stepmom's house where my father lived as well. (House is under her name but both people split mortgage + bills).

My Mom's house is about 45 minutes away from their house so it's not too far. Anyway, I had to gain all new friends, start a new job, start college, etc. It wasn't long before I got settled and had an awesome social life and a job. When I moved in, I loved it and was so happy. My stepmom and I went out for drinks, got our nails done, went out to eat, went shopping, etc. She was practically a second mother figure in my life. 


My stepmom, stepbrother, and father lived upstairs, tenants lived in the middle, and me in the basement apartment. I was told the one bedroom one bathroom small apartment was mine, which was awesome. It was relatively small, but perfect for my 5'0 self and my puppy. I loved the privacy when I did not feel like hanging out with them. Everything was going great and everyone got along...UNTIL...her sister, niece, nephew, mom, and dad came to "visit."

They told me three months into my move-in...if I knew then what I know now, I would have never left my mom's house. She told me that all five family members were there for a "temporary stay" and that the apartment would soon be back to mine. Two years have passed and they're still here. I am depressed and miserable and cannot take it anymore. All everyone does it fight with each other, and now I despise my stepmother. Her parents tell me not to eat certain things, ask me why I am not working, when I'm going to school, etc.! I am too embarrassed to have friends over or tell anyone about my situation. I am too young to be super stressed.

I want to get out but my dad is telling me he wants me to stay and tells me don't worry they are going soon. But I feel as if everyone is lying and they are never leaving. I constantly fight with my dad and stepmom because it is bs. My dad is too cheap to leave and get an apartment with me (even though he threatens her with that). He never leaves!

Ever since her family came, my dad’s relationship with her got all messed up along with my relationships with everyone else. I want to go so bad but am not financially stable to stay in the area; I'd have to move back with my mom. I'm scared to leave my social life with great friends and start a new job and transfer credits to a new college...and START ALL OVER AGAIN.

The fighting is getting worse and I'm miserable. School starts the last week of August and I’m supposed to start a new job soon, but now I don't know what to do. 


My life is getting ruined. My stepmom belittles me and treats me like crap because she is jealous. She even fights with me and says I am selfish and trying to take away my dad! Excuse me, but my dad is my blood and how could I "take him away" from her? I am his daughter and she is crazy. Everything was great and now it is all ruined. I am totally upset at my dad and her...I want to run away and never come back.

My dad doesn't get it. Men are stupid and don't understand the pain their daughters go through when things like this occur. I will never do this to my children when I grow up! I'm so confused because I need a plan fast...school starts August 28 and I need a job.

I must figure everything out now. Thanks for your time!


Signed~

Gotta Get Out


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Combined 18th Birthday Party, or Separate Parties?

Dear Evil Stepmom,


I have been a stepmother to a beautiful, talented, loving stepdaughter for a little over a year now. She turns 18 in a few weeks.


Last year, because her mother's deck and yard were torn up, we had her family birthday party at our home with all family invited. This year, I contacted her mother about how she wished to handle my stepdaughter's birthday party -- jointly or separately, meaning the bio parents and their families and me and my family (bio mom does not have a significant other) or bio mom and her family have a party and bio dad, me, my sons and our families have a second party. I had strongly urged against the latter to my stepdaughter's dad because I felt she should have both her parents at her birthday party.


When I got word back from bio mom about the party plans, it was that all would be included except my extended family--my mother, brothers and their families.  She said her house was not big enough so that I should do something separate with them. 

I have tried for about 48 hours but I cannot seem to shake the sting of this and I do not know where to go with it. Of course, I have run every option over in my mind and have determined to say/do nothing to change it but cannot seem to let go of my anger and hurt. 



Any words of advice for laying this hurt to rest would be gratefully appreciated. I feel myself erecting a wall of protection against my stepdaughter and, even, my husband. Thank you. 


Signed,

Hurt


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What to Do When Your Stepmother Invades Your Privacy

Dear Evil Stepmom, 

I really need some help here. I'm twenty-one years old, living at home with my father and stepmother. When they got married about three or four years ago, everything was fine. Stepmom was always sweet and talkative. Never missing my birthday, and trying to include me during holidays. Well, all that dissipated. I would move out with my real mom, then always end up back at my dad's house.

Now, a few years into their marriage, things started to get really ugly. I've caught her looking through my room, even READING old journals of mine. Thinking she's Queen of the House. Between the dirty, rude looks I receive every time we pass by, to the ridiculous accusations and comments she always seems to have stored up, I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE, I feel I am a victim. There is no use to going to my father for help because he has no backbone toward her whatsoever. It's pathetic, and makes me feel less important. What can I say to her? How do I handle this? The constant attacking and defensiveness from 'mommy' needs to end.

Sincerely,

The "Bad" Child


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Missing My Dad

Okay, I'm not a stepmom but I'm a stepdaughter. I'm 14 years old and I have a stepmom who really gets under my skin. Ever since my dad got married three years ago he like forgot about me and it makes me feel sad. I got on Facebook one day and saw he changed his Facebook profile picture and cover picture from me to him. 


The witch had three children, and he treats them more like his child than me. My brother already has nothing to do with him and I don't want to be like that. 
My stepmom tries to change me. I'm not your ordinary girl, I like my t-shirts not dress shirts. She tells me to wear dress shirts and I'm like no it's my body not yours so shut up. 
I want them to divorce but I can't get them to. Talking won't help it will just create drama but please tell me what I can do ASAP thanks!


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Do I Have to Keep Trying with My Stepmom?

Dear Evil Stepmom,

I am a 20-year-old girl who lives with my father, stepmother, and two kids ages 8 and 10, who they have together. I did not move in with my father until I was 15, and before that I barley knew him. I had met my step mom a few times when I was about 9 years old.

At that age I clearly remember her making it clear that she did not want me around. My father had left me alone with her a few times so he could go to work, and she would make me stay in the spare room all day or she would lock me outside in the hot sun all day. My dad would tell her to put sunscreen on me, but she said it wasn't her job. After spending this short amount of time with her I was afraid to go back and see her.

My mom confronted my dad about the way his new wife treated me and she lied to him about what actually happened. My mom decided that since my dad was basically not willing to do anything about the situation that it would be best if I did not see him again.

For the next seven years I didn't see or talk to my father. It wasn't until I turned 15 that I took it upon myself to start a relationship with him. While visiting him I decided that I wanted to live with him. During this time my step mom was still very cold towards me and I noticed that she would avoid me.

My dad told me that she said she had tried all that she could to make a relationship with me, but that I wasn't keeping up my end of it. This was not at all true. I would try all the time to talk to her and show interest in things that she liked, I would even do more than my share around the house. No matter what I did she just didn't want me there.

My dad told me that she did not want me to move in, but that he did, so I moved in. During the next few years I continued to try and build a bond with her, but still nothing. It seemed like she had gotten fed up with my dad letting me live with them so she resorted to making up things about me.

One day she told my dad that she did not want me to be alone with the younger children. I was very hurt and confused by this because I had always had a good relationship with them. She told my dad that at my age it just made her uncomfortable to let me play with the kids. I still don’t understand this since I have done nothing that would make me a bad example to them.

At the time I was a straight A high school student who had already taken college courses and had never been in any kind of trouble.

She also made it clear that she did not want my dad spending money on me. When my dad took me and the other kids school shopping she flat out told him that he better not spend much money on me. During those first years she also made a habit of excluding me from family outings and vacations.

When I turned 16 she made my dad force me to get a job. This was a problem because I was a full time high school/college student with no time to spare. I ended up leaving at 5AM everyday and coming home at 12 in the morning after work.

All of these things began to weigh on me and by the time I turned 18 I moved out on my own. When I moved out my step mom made my dad cut all ties with me and she told him that I was not allowed to come back to the house or ever see the kids.

For a few months I was doing fine until my roommate skipped out on the rent. My mom ended up calling my dad and explaining the situation. My dad raced over to my place and took me back to his house. My step mom agreed to let me move back in, but nothing with her changed.

I am now turning 20 and she still refuses to respect me as a person and continues to make it known that she wants me out. Just the other day she told my dad that she thinks the few hours that I am at home are too much for her. My question is, should I continue to try and form a relationship with her? Is there a better way to make a connection with her? Or should I just continue to co-exist with her until I can move out?

Signed,

Confused Stepdaughter


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A Rough Christmas

Dear Evil:


Our kids are ages 22 (daughter-his) and 19 (son-mine and daughter-his). For years the holidays were crazy with two custody schedules, but we just always made whatever day we were together "the holiday", and in our decision making for everything we just always put the kids first.
The girls' Mom was always in the picture but once she remarried, she was ready for a family again and time became evenly shared and holidays rotated. We lived two miles apart and have co-parented so well that others had asked how we did it. That was up until college started for the youngest and Mom moved an hour away.

Problem:
 Mom and her hubby tend to be very competitive and are in a position to "buy" everything.  I am more practical and am trying to teach the value of earning your rewards and enjoying the most precious thing--time together.  I.e.--The elder had a problem with truth telling and numerous times lied about car where abouts.  One day she called and asked for the car and was going to put her bike in the backseat to meet her boyfriend--I said, “No--please wait 30 minutes till I get home. I'll put the bike rack on and you can go.” She was gone with the car and bike when I got home.
We decided to take the car for a month.  That weekend Mom and stepdad bought her a car--which she totaled in 3 weeks.

Current: 
Kids are now in college. We try to actually spend some TIME together which is tough with three different holiday schedules for kids, plus we both work and they have other holiday obligations with boy/girlfriends, friends etc. Grandparents are another issue in itself.
So, we do try to work out a bit of time together and that poses a challenge. We try to be VERY flexible and don't ask much. It can be frustrating when someone "pops in" for the meal unexpectedly (and usually has a friend or two). We do not know when they will be coming or going. With no kids in the house--our meal shopping is not the same and requires a bit of planning. I have asked for plans for when they may come and go etc., or a quick phone call. Younger one is great--older one is....a challenge!


This year Mom and stepdad decided they would take a yachting trip to the Caribbean for 10 days over Christmas break (the kids have only two weeks off from school). So we didn't really get the chance for a holiday. Oh, and when they came home--she still wanted a day to do "Christmas" and then lavished them with flat/plasma big screens for their dorm rooms, a KINDLE, tons of gift cards, etc. And then they had to go to Mom’s sister's for a day too. Gee, now we get to see them for two hours one evening because that is all anyone has time for.


My two stepchildren are very different. The elder is very much like her mother...and  will do nothing to displease her for fear of losing her mom. The younger is the mediator and tries to be fair; she enjoys time with both families. She is very level headed and has a big heart and loves all her parents. She wants to spend time with her sister and hates to make waves. I hate to see her in the middle.
It gets me angry that Mom can be so selfish to not allow any time for our holiday time. I am usually very easy going and I feel for the kids who it is tough for with two houses. I know that the future with husbands, grandkids etc. will be tough. I am angry with the bribes and games coming from Mom which are easy for young adults to fall prey to.

I am hoping to find some words of wisdom so I can inwardly have some peace with this and move forward.
Thanks for your time and I hope you have some great ideas...

Signed,

Looking for Peace


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I Want the Man, But Not His Baggage!


Dear Evil Stepmom,


I am in a truly happy relationship with a man 20 years my senior. I moved in with him a year ago. I am in my late 20's with a career and very independent life. I would say I found my soul mate and everything would be perfect if only there were no "baggage" issues. He is a divorced dad of three teenagers and one college kid that live with their re-married mom with a new child. There were moments when I felt overwhelmed by all this, had my tearful breakdowns, and asked myself why I want to put up with all this.
Meanwhile our relationship turned out so strong that I am willing to work on it. And I can picture the rest of my life with him. And that's my problem- WITH HIM but not with his baggage! It's an ugly word but that pretty much expresses the way I feel.


I tried to connect with them on the visitation weekends. But there is absolutely NO chemistry. In my eyes they are a spoiled rotten bunch. They basically treat their dad as a wallet. They don't even call on his birthday. And to be honest, there is also not much of a real personal connection between them and their dad. He would never tell the kids but he does tell me...he regrets that he had them. Never wanted so many if at all. He was young and foolish and sometimes it shows in the way he interacts with them.


Recently, the kids stopped visiting. And I encouraged my mate to withdraw from them because in my opinion they are young adults now and it's their turn to contribute to a mutual human relationship. In the end it's me who will be on his side and not his kids. I can't deny the fact that I am not really sad if the ties to their dad loosen. I just don't care about them at all!


Am I evil, wrong? It may look like it, but this is the delicate balance I found for myself to deal with this relationship.  And please consider the fact that I myself grew up in a patchwork family (Mom went through several divorces) with three step-siblings and a wonderful close relationship to my stepdad. So I've been on both sides!
Thank you so much for your help in advance! I don't know where else to go to with all my confusion!


Signed,

Confused


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I Don't Think I Can Do It

Dear Evil Stepmom,

My husband has two sons, 29 and 32, who live in California. We live in Alaska. We go to visit the boys for a few weeks each winter, and it's always a disaster.

Last year, my husband's ex-wife was at his son's house when we arrived from the airport, because, according to our daughter-in-law, "Grandma comes over to swim with the kids every Friday!" It's a two-day ordeal for us to get there one time a year, and "Grandma" can't take one single Friday off???

Things like this happen all the time while we're there. Neither of his sons can be bothered to take a day off work to do things with us and the kids, and neither of their wives will adjust the kids' overloaded schedules to let us have some fun with them. My poor husband doesn't even know his grandchildren anymore, and they're very shy and quiet around us.

So, after last year's trip, I said "no more." I'm not spending lots of money and all my vacation time to go visit people who clearly aren't interested in seeing us. And I refuse to watch my husband be abused and neglected by his sons. Especially when he's the first one they call when one of them need advice or a "loan." I've had it.

Well, it's winter again, and my husband is starting to press me about scheduling our annual visit to see his boys. And he's making me feel like the bad guy for not wanting to go (apparently he forgot all about last years' debacle).

I don't think I can do it. I don't feel I should have to. Haven't I tried hard enough?

Signed,

Angry in Anchorage


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Who's Crazy Here?

Dear Evil Stepmom,

Next month I'm getting married to a guy with two daughters--19 and 21. The girls both go to college out of state; they will start school again in late September, a few days after our wedding.

I get along great with both of his girls, so this isn't really a stepmom question--it's more about my fiance's ex-wife. Last week, she sent him an email saying, "Given the fact that you are getting married, shouldn't we discuss you leaving money to me to cover the girls' education if anything should happen to you?" WOW. She's got him dead and me stealing all of his money from his daughters!

It sounds crazy enough, but it gets better: the girls' educations are provided for by a fund he and his ex set up together during their divorce! What would possess her to ask him for money (which is already being provided) just because we're getting married?

She's been terrible to me and to us for the three years we've been together, and has vowed in writing to never treat me with respect, so it's not as if this comes out of nowhere. But is this how it's going to be forever? 

If so, I'm just not sure I can handle it. Can you give me a little help here?

Signed,

Maybe I'm the Crazy One


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Your Marriage is Being Sabotaged

Dear Evil Stepmom,

My husband's ex has been calling him a lot lately and asking him if they have a chance of reconciling. She says she wants her family back together. They have been divorced for five years now and she remarried three years ago. Meanwhile my husband and I have been married for three years also.

Every time we have to go to an event for the children she calls him afterward to tell him how awful it was for her, how uneasy she felt, and that she cried for hours. Her husband attends all of the events too so it's not like she doesn't have a supportive spouse. I have started to stay at home whenever I can come up with a good excuse just to avoid this.

I should also tell you that she is always very nice to me when we see each other, but knowing the aftermath and her attempts at reconciliation, I have become extremely uncomfortable at these events. Anyway, we have a wedding coming up which I am totally dreading. What can I possibly do so this isn't so completely awful?

Distressed Stepmom


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My Husband's Former In-laws are Users

Dear Evil,

My husband and I have been together for about three years, and married a little over a year. My problem is his ex-wife's family. He has a former brother- and sister-in-law who, in my opinion, are moochers. They have long enjoyed my husband's toys and, in my opinion, take advantage of his generosity. Every year they send a Christmas card and a birthday card, and keep in just enough contact to act like they're still family.

Last week, his ex sister-in-law emailed my husband to "check in," then proceeded to ask if their family could use a week at a time share my husband owns. He agreed, as he always does.

I think they're out of line and that they are using him. He says they've been friends for a long time and that it's important to him to keep relations nice for the kids' sake. (His children and their cousins are all very close.) I say he needs to wean them off the goodies they've always enjoyed at his expense, and then we'll see what their friendship looks like.

What do you think?

Signed,

Feeling used in Sacremento


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OOPS! I opened her mail...

Dear Evil Stepmom,

Recently, while paying the monthly bills, I came across an envelope from my stepdaughter's university. Assuming it was the tuition bill, I opened it. I was surprised to find two progress reports regarding her 'unacceptable performance' and 'poor attendance' in two important courses she's taking this semester. 

I gave them to my husband and explained what had happened, and he understood the mistake. He then went to his daughter, told her what happened, and addressed the school problem with her. 

She hasn't brought it up with me, nor have I with her. Should I say something to her about having opened the letter, or should I leave it alone?

Signed,

Feeling Bad in Boulder 


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Feeling Like Family at Stepkids' Weddings

Dear ESM,

My youngest stepdaughter, Anna, got engaged last October and will be married this August. The fall and winter went by without any wedding drama, but now several wedding-related events are being planned for this summer—showers for the bride and parties for the couple—and I’m getting nervous.

I’m already stressing about seeing my husband’s ex-wife, Carol, at these events. I haven’t seen her in three years, since Anna graduated from college. At that event, Carol went out of her way to ignore me while pretending to still be married to my husband whenever she saw him. He tried to discourage her and be as cool as he could in front of the kids, but it was weird. If it weren’t for my older stepdaughter, who worked hard to make me feel welcome and included at the graduation ceremony, I would have been invisible.

For a while I worried myself sick about the wedding, but now I realize I’m going to have to spend a lot of time with Carol before the wedding if I want to be part of Anna’s celebration. I don’t want to ignore her mother, but I don’t want to feel invisible or foolish, or get snubbed, either. I’ve even thought about just graciously not going to the pre-wedding parties. Any thoughts about what I should do?

Signed,

Stepmother of the Bride


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New daughter-in-law stirs up old drama

Dear Evil Stepmom,

My 28-year-old stepson, Will, got engaged over the holidays. I've been married to his dad for 10 years this summer, and in Will's life since he was 16. We get along really well, though it was hard it the early days.

My husband's ex-wife left him for another man and took the kids with her when the children were in their early teens. Then, a year after we began dating, she wrote to him and begged him to take her back. Obviously, he didn't, which made her blame and badmouth me to their children.

All of that eventually became ancient history, and I have long enjoyed a warm and loving relationship with each of my husband's children. That is, until Will got engaged. Will and his new fiance recently came to visit us after returning from a trip to celebrate their engagement with Will's mother.

While my husband and Will were outside, my future daughter-in-law repeated several ugly things Will's mother had said about Will's father and me, including calling my husband a bad father. I blew up, told her the facts, and made it clear that no one talks about my husband that way in front of me or in our home.

She stormed out and took Will with her. We haven't heard from them in weeks. My husband thinks I made too big a deal out of it. In his opinion, no one can stop his ex from saying stupid, untruthful, or hurtful things, and I need to rise above it.

I say NO WAY--he's a good man and a great dad, and Will should set her straight. I'd appreciate any ideas, because I'm stuck.

Signed,

'Stuck' in Seattle




 


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If you want to like them better, expect less

Dear ESM,

I have three young adult stepkids; two in college and one who's 25 and on his own. I buy them great gifts, send them cards (always with a check) for their birthdays, call them, include them in things, and I get no thanks at all in return. Not only that, but do you think they acknowledge my birthday, our anniversary, or do anything nice for me? No way. How do I get a little gratitude or recognition for all my effort?

Thanks,

From a stepmom who gets No Thanks


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How Much Did That Cost?

Dear Evil Stepmom,

My wife and I have been married for two years. She has two young adult children, and I have teenager and two kids in college. My problem is that her children always ask us what things cost. They want to know how expensive our furniture was, how much our new carpeting cost, what we paid for her car. I sometimes think they're comparing how much money I make to to their father's income. The worst incident of this happened last Christmas. My wife gave me a beautiful briefcase as a gift. I barely had it out of the box and her kids were asking how expensive it was.

My kids, who know better, were dumbfounded. My wife says she and her ex-husband always talked openly about money and the price of things they had, and that she doesn't see anything wrong with answering her kids' questions. I say it's rude, especially when you're old enough to understand that what something costs is personal information. I'd like to tell them it's none of their business. Am I out of line here? I don't even want a present this year; I don't want to go through that again.

Signed, Hum-Bug


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The Primary Triangle

Dear Evil Stepmom,

My stepson, Zach, has lived on and off with his father and me since he was a junior in high school. He’s now 25, and I’ve noticed something strange over these past seven years with him. It seems that when he’s living with us or living on his own, he has a lot of contact with his dad. They have a good relationship, they enjoy each other, and they like doing things together. They hunt and fish together, they work on cars together, and they build things and do repair work together. This is the strange part: whenever Zach spends time with or lives with his mom, we don’t hear from him at all. This didn’t used to bother me, but now that Zach is married and has a 1-year-old daughter, I feel that he should keep in better contact with his dad, even when he’s with his mom.

Here’s what’s happening. When Zach and his girlfriend, Sandy (now his wife), first discovered that they were pregnant, they moved in with us to save up for the baby. We don’t have much, but they had a room of their own and a clean place to stay. They lived with us til Anna, the baby, was three months old. Then Zach’s mom called and begged Zach to move his new family to her home in the South. I’ve been through this before with both of my husband’s sons; if they live with us or near us, everything goes well and we all get along. Then my husband’s ex pops up and wants one or both of the boys to move in with her by promising them a free place to live, jobs, contacts, etc. It never works out the way the boys hope, and they always wind up moving back here, where most of their family is. But, for the time they’re away, they don’t call their father, and he won’t call them if they’re living with his ex-wife because he doesn’t want to talk to her. I think Zach needs to be in touch with his dad, especially now that he has a child. What can I do?

Signed,

Missing the kids in Pacific Northwest


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What If My Stepdaughter Doesn't Want to Get to Know Me?

Dear Evil Stepmom,

My nineteen-year-old stepdaughter doesn’t want to get to know me. When she comes to stay at holidays or in the summer, we end up avoiding each other because she won’t talk to me. She gives one-word answers to my questions, barely acknowledges my coming and going from the house, and speaks to me only enough to keep her dad off her back at the dinner table. I’ve tried really hard, but lately I find myself giving up and going to my bedroom with a book shortly after dinner. I don’t dislike her – I just can’t make contact with her. I’m not trying to replace her mom; I’m only trying to get to know her so that she—and I—can be comfortable in our home. I’m thinking about inviting her on a trip, just the two of us, to break the ice. What do you think?

Signed,

Trying in Boston


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Put Family Before Friendship with Young Adult Stepchildren

Dear Evil Stepmom,

My husband and I have been together for about four years now, and married less than a year. Greg, my 28-year-old stepson, just got married a few months ago. Greg and I get along really well, and I'm quite fond of his new wife. My husband and I socialize with them a good bit when they're in town, and visit them every moth or so.

My worry is about becoming a pain to them--Greg has to keep in touch with his mom, his dad, and now new in-laws and me, too! I really like them and want to befriend them, but I worry that Greg is too nice to tell me if I'm being a burden. When you really like your stepchildren, how do you know when you're overdoing it? 

Signed, 

Cautious Stepmom


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