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

 



Dear Evil Stepmom
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 

Dear Feeling Bad,

Since it's bothering you, it's good that you're thinking about bringing it up with her. Awkward things will happen from time to time in stepfamilies, and you don't have two decades of history with each other to fall back on for perspective.

It sounds as if you're worried that she might think you're a snoop, and that she may be feeling as if you've invaded her privacy. It may be worth a conversation to check it out with her. But if you're looking to alleviate your own worry rather than to improve your relationship with her, it would be better to sit on it for a while and just observe. Only you can know where you're coming from on this issue, and you have to be clear with yourself before you take it up with her.

I'd urge you to think about your principles in this situation: what do you believe about privacy, honest accidents, apologies, and forgiveness? Opening a letter addressed to someone else is a privacy invasion even if you think you know what's in it. But if it was an honest error, you have a chance to show her that you know how to take responsibility for your mistakes.

Your principles may lead you to have a conversation with her about your error, and to apologize for it. Just don't look for her to excuse your mistake or comfort you. She may be embarrassed that you discovered her problem at school, and/or sore with you for telling her dad. Only time will fix those bad feelings.

Think about it, do the right thing because you know it's right (not to get a particular reaction from her), and be prepared to deal with the consequences.

Then, please re-think your role in writing checks for her tuition. It's always best if the bio-parent takes care of these things, even if it's inconvenient. It keeps stepparents out of sticky situations like this one. But don't beat yourself up--we live and learn.

Stay strong,

ESM




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