DEAR AMY: I married the love of my life in June.
I’ve known him for about 10 years. He was in a serious relationship and ended up getting married to his now ex-wife. They were married for only six months. They were separated and she was already living with someone else when he and I decided to start our relationship.
They had two young children together. I adore his children and they adore me.
His ex-wife recognizes that I am good to the kids and that they love me. She once told me she thinks I am a blessing to her children.
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The problem is, despite all of this, she hates me and always finds a way to make life harder for us.
She is always difficult and has even resorted to saying that the kids need to be picked up and dropped off at my mother-in-law’s home so she doesn’t even have to see me. My husband travels for work and oftentimes doesn’t get home until after I’ve picked up the kids.
Since I have no children of my own it’s hard for me to understand how someone could be so cruel and hateful to someone who is trying to bring peace to the situation. It has gotten so bad that I had to go to my doctor to get anti-anxiety medication. I need advice on how to handle situations when she is being passive-aggressive and difficult.
DEAR STEPMOM: Welcome, my friend, to the show that never ends. Stepparenting is very challenging – especially when stepparents end up as primary parents during custodial stays. Contact with the ex-spouse can be extremely stressful.
Stop trying to understand the mother’s motives for her terrible behavior.
This first year for a stepparent is an exercise in role-assignment and discomfort. Your husband should be the primary parent during this period of transition. He may need to get his lawyer involved to clarify arrangements and nip some of this nonsense in the bud.
If your husband’s ex wants to drop off the children at your mother-in-law’s house before you transfer them to your household, and if it’s convenient for you and best for the children (and if your mother-in-law is able to be supportive and/or neutral), then fine. Otherwise sorry; no deal.
A family counselor will help you and your husband cope with shenanigans. Never discuss this with – or in front of – the children. Also, read “The Happy Stepmother: Stay Sane, Empower Yourself, Thrive in Your New Family” by Rachelle Katz (2010, Harlequin).
DEAR AMY: I’m a millennial working in a small, mostly male-dominant office (with a handful of women).
Two of my colleagues’ wives are undergoing treatment for their respective long-term illnesses. Seeing my colleagues distressed at work is hard.
Is it appropriate to ask how they are when I know one has come back from an appointment and they look distressed?
If so, how can I do this respectfully and appropriately?
When one co-worker says he’s taking his wife to an appointment, instead of offering a smile and a “Thank you for letting me know,” how do I let him know that I pray everything goes smoothly?
P in Boston
DEAR P: It is important to maintain boundaries at work – unless a personal friendship blooms. It is also appropriate to convey concern when someone is obviously distressed or when you are aware they are facing a challenge.
You shouldn’t say, “I’m praying for you,” but you can say, “I’m keeping a good thought. I hope things turn out OK.” This is not querying someone about his wife’s medical condition, but it is opening the door if he chooses to talk about it.
Please remember – it’s always OK to be kind, even if you don’t quite know what to do or say.
DEAR AMY: “Frustrated Dad’s” daughter had taken money from him and his wife through loans that were never repaid – and some outright fraud.
I thought you were too easy on all of them. They should have called the cops!
DEAR DISGUSTED: That’s one answer, though pressing charges would make her unemployable and thus unable to repay them.
Write Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.