I recently wrote a blog post about a letter to an advice column involving a stepmother who was treated badly by her soon-to-be married stepson. Well, the topic has come up again, so brace yourselves for more. I know there are more important subjects I could be writing about, but this topic has me a bit pissed off. So here goes…
Carolyn Hax, columnist for the Washington Post, shared this letter on February 3.
Dear Carolyn: My 27-year-old stepdaughter has made it clear that I am not welcome at her upcoming wedding. She’s blaming it on her mother not wanting me there.
But I’ve been married to her father for more than 10 years, and although we live in different states, I have tried my best to be kind to her. I certainly don’t expect any role except to watch and enjoy her happiness and her father’s pride.
How do I get past my hurt feelings and anger at her?
My response, as well as Carolyn’s, was basically this. Hit the spa, sister! Carolyn went deeper and wrote:
Not Invited: How fabulous a trip/adventure/staycation of your own can you plan for the time you would have been at the wedding? Because she and this and they and it all sound utterly not worth a moment more of your angst.
It’s hard and painful, yes, and you probably have some emotional details to work out with her father on this step-relationship going forward — but, really, after All We Have Been Through lately, I am coming to lean hard toward the … how can I say this in a Washington Post-friendly way … “no ducks left to give” family of answers. Take this as license not to care about her or her mother’s crap for multiple days. Pencil in some bliss. Live the dream.
My heart goes out to this stepmother because I have been where she is. I think Carolyn’s response was right on, too. The stepmom should take the day and do something for herself, if she has the means. I would add that it could be a good sign of solidarity if her husband also opted out of the wedding. However, I understand that taking such a step might possibly ruin the letter writer’s relationship with his daughter. Not knowing anything about the family in question, I don’t think that would be good advice for Carolyn to give. However, depending on the actual family dynamics, it might be warranted.
What I want to comment on today, though, has less to do with this particular letter. I noticed a whole lot of people, most of whom obviously didn’t bother to read the comments at all, were assuming the letter writer is “the other woman”. Nowhere in the original letter is that possibility mentioned. People get divorced for all kinds of reasons. It doesn’t have to be due to infidelity, nor are men always the cheaters when infidelity does happen.
In this case, the letter writer left a comment on the post that she was NOT the other woman. She hadn’t met her husband until after he was divorced. That was how it was in my situation, too. I did meet Bill online before he was divorced, but we didn’t meet offline until about a year after the split was official. And Ex had #3 living in the house Bill was paying for before they were officially divorced. Bill was completely platonic toward me until he was legally divorced. I didn’t even know about Ex until several months after we first bumped into each other in a chat room.
People have asked me if I was “the other woman.” I find that an incredibly rude and offensive question. Not only isn’t it anyone else’s business, but even if I had been the other woman, it’s not like I’d tell them. I don’t think people should try to have romantic relationships with people who are married. I also realize that sometimes, you don’t know the other person is married until some time has passed. And sometimes, situations are complicated or difficult. Personally, though, I don’t think it’s a good idea to get involved with married people, even if it’s just distilled down to a business arrangement. I wouldn’t do it.
However, I also don’t think the so-called “other woman” necessarily should get all of the blame. She isn’t the one who made a promise or a commitment to the other party. And I highly doubt that “other women” have the power to “steal” someone else. The vast majority of times, the committed party goes willingly. Yes, it’s a huge betrayal, but the other woman is not necessarily the one who made it, when it comes down to brass tacks.
That doesn’t mean I think it’s appropriate for women to hit on obviously attached men. I don’t think that’s right, either. I simply think the man who goes willingly to another woman is the one at fault, most of the time. I also think any person who does that once is liable to do it again.
I feel very secure in my marriage to Bill, because I was talking to him online when he was separated. He was never sexual or inappropriate. Our conversations were friendly, not romantic. And they were entirely online. Ex met her current husband playing Dungeons & Dragons. They met up in person before the divorce was final. In fact, he moved into Bill’s house before the divorce was final. But I’ll bet no one has ever asked #3 if he was “the other man”.
I was glad to see a few people on the Washington Post article commenting on the very anti-male, anti-stepmother sentiment in the comments on that letter. It’s as if people don’t realize how common divorce is, or that people get divorced for all kinds of reasons. It’s as if the first wife and mother of the children is always innocent and decent, and the second wife is always a homewrecking man stealer, and mean to her stepchildren.
I will admit, for a long time, I had outright contempt for Bill’s kids, mainly because of the unfair and disrespectful way they treated him. However, I eventually changed my mind when he started talking to his younger daughter. She’s turned out to be a really lovely young lady. I dare say, too, that she realizes that Bill and I are a much better match, and I am a lot less toxic than her mother is, in spite of what some people’s impressions of me might be. Lately, we’ve even had a friendly email exchange. I’ve been writing to her about my days riding horses. 😉
Anyway… because I’m waiting for the laundry to dry, here are a few “choice” comments from the WaPo. People really need to grow the fuck up!
*I’m betting wife #2 isn’t much older than the bride. “No ducks to give” is an appropriate response to this letter from the whining second wife. There’s probably not a lot of love lost in daddy dropping her mom for this piece of work.
*Did LW feature in events leading to the divorce? If so, Mother of the Bride may have great reasons for not wanting to see LW at the wedding – and Bride very well might share these reasons. However, even if this is not the case, the wedding is about the Bride and Groom, and they get to invite who they want to. Given that, Hax’s advice to not give a duck, and to find something else to do that day, is great for this and other such occasions.
*Wondering if stepmom was the other woman.
*I just re-read the letter. I don’t see where the LW says that she loves her step-daughter. She said “I have tried my best to be kind to her”. Since they live in different states, they might have had an opportunity for love to develop. Now there’s more reason than ever not to love her.
*If a bride can’t make her mom happy and comfortable at her wedding, that’s just sad. You don’t know what led to this.
*Sorry, I’m on the side of Mom. You can’t expect to be the cause of a family break-up and be welcome with open arms by the woman whose marriage you helped destroy. This is not your daughter, and while I’m sure she appreciates your “kindness” over the years, why not let her have her day with her mom and pop minus any awkwardness resulting from understandable resentment?
*Maybe the husband was unfaithful and that’s why the ex-wife doesn’t want her there because she wrecked their marriage. Ask the daughter-in-law how she really feels about you personally? That’s what matters. Right now it’s very personal with a couple of elephants sitting in the room blocking the truth. (This one is especially shitty. It’s not possible for someone to “wreck” someone else’s marriage. Adults are responsible for their own actions!)
*If my lying, cheating, thieving ex brings his marriage-wrecking girlfriend to our daughter’s (eventual) wedding, I will rip her to shreds with my bare hands. And then him. Sometimes the circumstances make it impossible for civil faking-of-politeness. (I can see why the ex husband got the hell away from this woman…)
*Did the stepmother have an affair with the bride’s father causing the divorce of her parents? If so I can understand her not wanting the stepmother to attend her wedding where her mother will be present.
*LW doesn’t say, but if her involvement with the bride’s father started before the divorce, perhaps there is wider family animosity that time as not healed. Even though a marriage ends, not everyone is happy for the remarried spouse’s happy new life. I say this as someone who excluded my father’s second wife from my wedding. My parents had a terrible divorce and the aftermath was emotionally scarring and financially difficult for not only my mother but for me and my siblings. This is not your hour to get your way.
Of course, there were many more comments like these. I almost hope some of these people, most of whom are obviously women, wind up being stepmothers someday. They could use an empathy and a reality check. On the other hand, some of these people don’t sound like pleasant people, either.
I also think situations like these, along with the high cost and stress involved with planning a wedding, make the idea of eloping so much better. I hope I never have to plan another wedding. 😉