Dear Amy: My husband and I married 33 years ago, and blended our family – his adolescent son and daughter and my similarly aged daughter. After a difficult custody battle for my husband’s children, we prevailed and our children grew up together. There were rocky moments but many good ones, too. My husband’s ex-wife died tragically a few years later.
Our college-educated ‘kids’ are now all in their 40s, married, and all with excellent jobs and children of their own.
They live in different areas of the country but have stayed connected until a year ago when our oldest daughter began a mean-spirited tirade cataloging all the ways my husband and I had wronged her over the years.
It started abruptly after we had to return one day early from our granddaughter’s college graduation for an elderly friend’s funeral.
Our daughter accused us of demonstrating by that that ‘some old dead guy’ was more important than her family. Her negativism escalated. Her vitriol was in written form (emails and letters) and on Facebook.
I stopped connecting with her on Facebook because of her disrespectful public posts, then she unfriended her dad.
We are told that her parental negativism continues online.
At my active encouragement, our son and his dad flew across country to talk and listen, in an effort to neutralize her attitude. It was not successful. She would not allow my husband to see his 10-year-old grandson during that visit.
My husband is absolutely done with trying and believes she is replaying a “generational meanness” exhibited by her birth mother and grandmother. Her brother tries to stay connected with her. I think we should make a more creative attempt to address her attitude toward us. She needs professional counseling. How should we approach this?
An Aging Stepmother
Dear Stepmother: I don’t know what “generational meanness” is, but I do know what narcissism is.
Here are some quotes from an article in Psychology Today describing a narcissist: “A cross section of the narcissist’s ego will reveal high levels of self-esteem, grandiosity, self-focus, and self-importance. ... Narcissists’ language and demeanor is often geared toward one objective: to maintain power in an interaction.”
Does this describe your daughter?
I am a layperson and I cannot diagnose your daughter (or anyone) with a psychological disorder. But if she has this, she will thrive on punishing people close to her.
Any communication with your daughter should focus on times when she behaved well, and state that you miss having her in the fold. Keep it very simple. You could suggest professional help, but expect this to trigger more rage from her. Keep your door open for a relationship in the future, but don’t let her dominate and punish you now.
Dear Amy: I have been with my boyfriend for five years now, and we have recently been discussing getting married. We’re talking about the wedding and all that good stuff.
He has a very large and great group of friends, and many of them would be groomsmen.
My question is, I have three brothers who I am very close to. They have taken a little longer to be close with my boyfriend.
What is the appropriate decision on making my brothers a part of his bridal party as groomsmen?
Dear Curious: There is no one answer to the sometimes delicate question of who should be in the wedding party. Asking all three brothers to be groomsmen would be one way to build a closer relationship to your guy, but you should not pressure him to do this.
Remember, too, that it is not necessary for the bride and groom to have the exact same number of attendants. However, if you’re open to this sort of thing, you may ask your brothers to stand with you – as your attendants.
Aside from being official groomsmen during the wedding, your brothers could also serve as ushers for all of your guests, relieving groomsmen of this duty.
Dear Amy: “Still Shocked” was appalled that a newcomer to their town showed up at their snooty club dressed in a negligee. I couldn’t believe you agreed with her! You should have told her to be open to this person, no matter how she was dressed!
Dear Appalled: I have traveled a lot and lived in many places. It is respectful to at least attempt to conform to the standards of wherever you are. Given the modesty of the community this woman was trying to enter, she should expect some pushback when she refuses their standard.
Email Amy at email@example.com.