Stepmother Woes

7 Feb

Letterbalm StepmotherDear LetterBalm: My stepmother has come between my father and his three grown daughters. Dad married her three years ago, and she has never warmed up to us. She has never welcomed us into her home (now Dad’s home, as well), and she has resented the love we have for one another. Now, the time we spend with him has been drastically cut back. On the rare occasions – like holidays and his birthday – when we are in their home at his invitation, she denigrates us and gets sarcastic. Her comments are hurtful and cutting, but she’s clever enough not to make them in our dad’s presence. The sad thing is, she seems to be making our dad happy at the expense of his daughters. We want him to be happy, but we feel we must say something. To her? To him?

–Missing Our Dad

It’s too bad that your stepmom’s jealousy and insecurity is spilling over into your life and harming the good relationship you’ve enjoyed with your father. It is good that she makes him happy – that’s important. Ms. L.B. is going to recommend something risky here. Talking with your dad privately and asking him to intercede with his wife is unlikely to work. So, you and your two sisters need to have a quiet talk with him and your stepmom the next time you’re at their home. Don’t give your stepmother the impression you’re ganging up on her – she’ll get defensive, especially if all of you jump in with opinions. Keep it simple, heartfelt and brief and let the calmest daughter do the talking. Perhaps this:

It’s so nice to be here with you both. Matilda, we’re so happy that you’re dad’s wife, that you make him so happy. Clearly, you two love each other very much. But there’s something that concerns the three of us daughters. We’re uncomfortable with your comments and actions, which sometimes hurt us. Please don’t feel that we would try to come between you and dad. We’d never do that – we’ve welcomed you in our lives. There’s enough love to go around. You’re his wife, and we’ve always respected that. But can you understand that his children are an important part of dad’s life, as well? We want to spend time with him in the home you and he share. Can you make us feel welcome?

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