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

 



Dear Evil Stepmom
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

Dear Stepmom,

It is frustrating to watch your spouse give his resources to people whose motives may be dubious. But the two important questions to ask yourself are, "what does this have to do with me?" and, "How will it affect my stepchildren?"

While his in-laws (they are still family) may be hooked on his stuff and spoiled by his generosity, it doesn't appear to be taking anything away from you. So they're clear on the first count.

Your husband's in-laws are your stepchildrens' aunt and uncle, and you say your stepkids are close to this couple's children. If so, your husband might put the chill on warm relations in the next generation by withholding things he has historically shared with the other family.

Ingrained habits are hard to break, and what you're looking at is a good example of a long-standing pattern in your husband's family. Families often continue to do their old dances for a long time after a divorce, and even after a remarriage. Over time though, things change and people move on. Don't forget that you have only been married for a year. I predict that eventually these requests will die out on their own, without your intervention.

My advice is to be patient, give it some more time (three or four years, perhaps), and stay out of the middle. You do not want to be the one to blame for a rift, especially if it will negatively affect your stepkids. Coming into a family and insisting on changes that disrupt long-standing relationships--even unhealthy ones--is precisely how stepmothers get a bad name.

That said, if your husband's generosity with his in-laws begins to affect you or your marriage financially or emotionally, then you will need to talk with him about ways to politely circumvent these requests. But for now, keep quiet, watch carefully, and focus on being a great wife and a great family member, no matter how anyone else is behaving.

Stay strong ~ ESM




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