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

 



Dear Evil Stepmom
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




 

Dear Stuck:

New family additions do have a way of opening old wounds, don't they? Your future daughter-in-law sounds like an anxious young woman, to return from a visit with her future mother-in-law and immediately stir up conflict in your home.

There are lots of possible reasons for her behavior: she may be nervous about getting married, she may feel like an outsider in the warm family unit you, your husband, and your stepson enjoy, she may have been trying to form a fast friendship with Will's mom and threw you under the bus to get it (knowing that mom is always more important than stepmom), or she may be threatened by your good relationship with her young husband-to-be. But the thinking (if there was any) behind her words and actions doesn't matter.

Your husband is right; you always have to take the high road where your stepson's mother is involved. No matter what she does, no matter what she says, you don't get to respond, reply, or set the record straight.

You can, of course, state the facts if you wish, but it's highly unlikely that anything you say will be heard in an emotional family system at a hot time--and few times are hotter for parents and children than an upcoming marriage.

What your husband's ex did was wrong. No parent should ever, under any circumstances, say anything negative or critical to a child (even an adult child) about someone that child loves. It is bad for both parents, bad for the stepparent, and terrible for the child.

In this case, it is also an unflattering way to present Will's family to a new family member. But there is nothing you can do to stop her. What you can do is to go on being your best self, work to re-establish your relationship with your stepson, and try to make his fiance feel as welcome and included in your family as you can without making yourself too uncomfortable. This will be hard, but you are the grown up and they are the kids.

These two young adults are about to make the most important move of their lives, and they need all the calm, thoughtful, patient people around them they can get. No doubt Will's mom loves him, but, for whatever reason, she is not one of those calm, thoughtful people right now.

It's not your job to take her place as "Mom," just to provide this couple with all the stability, predictability, and peace that you can muster. It's not about the ex, it's about the kids. It's not about your husband's divorce, it's about his son's joyous wedding and healthy marriage.

So work with your husband to support the new young couple in any way you can, and the drama will fade away again, just as it did years ago. I promise.

Stay strong ~ ESM

P.S. Have you considered the possibility that Mom is trying to scare this young woman off? Just a thought... 




< Return to Dear Evil Stepmom