Dear Amy: Two decades ago my husband and I merged our families and then had more children together. We were a true Brady Bunch.
Fast-forward 20 years. We are now empty nesters.
The problem is that my husband’s birth children treat me like crap.
They don’t know when my birthday is and don’t acknowledge it. I don’t get a call or a card on Mother’s Day. I don’t receive Christmas gifts. I never get thanks for their birthday, Christmas or other special occasion gifts that I send, nor do I receive acknowledgement for gifts to the grandchildren.
I feel hurt and fed up. I’m tired of feeling this way. I raised these kids for more than half their childhoods, so I realize that I share the blame for their bad behavior. It feels like they don’t want me in their lives.
Resentful Brady Mom
Dear Resentful: Being a stepparent is a generally thankless job. Years don’t make the job easier, or the relationships with your now-grown stepchildren any less complicated than when you first met one another.
You don’t mention if you’ve discussed your frustrations with your husband, but this is a family problem and he is your partner. If he had done things differently when the kids were younger, surely they would know when your birthday is.
Relationships do ebb and flow. Sometimes people get trapped in bad patterns, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t care. It does mean that they don’t care to communicate, however.
You are at a tipping point in your relationship with these adults. Basically, now is when you get to say what you want, and ask them to participate. Say: “I have to be honest, I love you all and I’m proud to have had an important part in your lives when you were young. But I’m quite hurt that I never hear from you. I feel I’ve become quite invisible, and I would like for things to be different. I hope you’ll communicate with me about ways to improve things.”
If you try and nothing changes, you might choose to simply step back and anchor instead to those relationships in your life that are more positive and balanced.
Dear Amy: I recently moved away from my hometown. After moving, I became more outgoing, began to lose weight and started feeling confident enough to finally start meeting men. I had struggled with confidence due to weight gain during college. I used self-deprecation as a tool to stop people from criticizing me.
People used to say that I would never date because of my intense focus on academics and because I was socially awkward. I purposely used “big” words to make myself feel superior.
Recently, I stopped feeding into the narrative, and things started to change.
Unfortunately, now my relationship with my best friend is complicated. I like her, and want to confide in her, but feel as if she doesn’t acknowledge the positive changes in my life. Is it time to take a break – or is there a way to make her see how her actions remind me of a rough time in my life?
Dear Perplexed: Your experiences are demonstrating that when you change, your relationships also change. It can be a huge friendship stress for one friend to lose weight, gain confidence and step out in the world. Understand that your friend might have needed you (in some way) to be the geeky, unsure girl you used to be. She might feel somewhat abandoned by this new fabulous version of you.
You say that you’re hesitant about confiding in your bestie, you aren’t comfortable around her, and you cannot get her to acknowledge healthy changes that have made you happier.
Good, balanced friends are supportive and happy for you when you experience positive changes in your life, but from what you’ve said, you seem to feel undermined. If you talk to her about this, start by asking her about her life. Then ask her to talk about yours.
It seems like this relationship may be evolving from a best friendship to a cordial catch-up friend whenever you return home.
Dear Amy: “Southern Exposure” wrote about her “Southern gentleman” boyfriend flirting with and kissing a neighbor on the lips in front of her. Thank you for quoting Southern writer Roy Blount Jr., who pointed out that it is not “Southern” manners – or good manners anywhere – to make others uncomfortable.
Dear Fan: Mr. Blount’s advice – to follow the Golden Rule – was ideal, regardless of region.
Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.