When the Mistress Becomes the (Step)Mom
Dear Margo: I’m in my 40s, as are my siblings. Our dad, who is in his late 70s, had an affair an indeterminate while ago, but to this day won’t admit it. My parents have been divorced for a dozen years now, and Dad married the mistress. Naturally, I am not comfortable acting like we’re all “family.” I’ve told my dad I’m not comfortable behaving as if everything is fine and pretending we all enjoy each other’s company. His response has been to never call or visit, and he turns down my invitations to dinner or visiting with my kids. (We live within 30 minutes of each other.) He doesn’t even call the kids on their birthdays.
He and his wife frequently see my sibs and their kids. I am hurt but realistic about it. I really cannot tolerate his wife, and if he wants to side with her over getting to know his young grandchildren, that’s his choice. I extend invitations every once in a while, and he frequently says during those calls that he misses my kids but is too busy to see us. Admittedly, I never invite his wife, but I assume he knows an invitation for him is for both. I do attend large family events for holidays or his birthday.
Should I try to tolerate his wife so that my children can know their grandfather? It’s not just her history and role; I simply dislike her. Plus, she certainly hasn’t extended herself in any way toward me. My mom is bitter, too, about the affair and divorce, though she has admirably built a new life. Maybe because I’m a wife, mother and daughter, I side with my mom, so I would have to contend with my feelings of betraying her, too, if I reconcile. Should I call it our loss about his decision or suck it up for my kids? –Willing to be a Martyr
Dear Will: Life is choices, hon. It sounds as though you alone of the sibs have badgered your father for a “confession,” and it doesn’t seem to be forthcoming. The handwriting is on the mistress — I mean, the wall. Having made known your dislike of her, you cannot expect him to interpret any invitation as meant for the two of them. If you’re willing to put up with her, make an explicit invitation to them both. Your father will know how to interpret it. If this woman hasn’t been nice to you, it could surely be because she’s getting the vibes. It’s your call. Literally. –Margo, optionally
No Need To Feel Stuck for an Answer
Dear Margo: From time to time, a friend will say, “See you at The Smiths’ party!” What do you say in reply when you haven’t been invited but don’t want to embarrass your friend for having mentioned it? I always end up saying, “Oh, we’re busy that night,” so the friend doesn’t feel jerky for mentioning it. Should I just say, “Sorry, we weren’t invited, but have a good time”? Help. — Feeling Awkward
Dear Feel: There is no shame in not being invited everyplace your friends are. Ergo, there’s no need to fudge an answer. If this person starts fumfering around, merely say, “Don’t give it a thought. People cannot invite everyone they know to every event they have.” If the prospective host mentioned is a close friend of yours, the same rules still apply. One hopes grownups do not feel about entertaining as though they were sixth graders planning a birthday party. Chins up. –Margo, comfortably
Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to email@example.com. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.
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