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Ask Amy: Reluctant stepmother wonders if she should stay in marriage

Ask Amy: Reluctant stepmother wonders if she should stay in marriage

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Dear Amy: I need to know if my marriage is even worth the trouble.

I've been married to "Jack" for almost two years. This is a second marriage for both of us.

I have no children and Jack has two children: a boy and a girl.

When I first met him, his children were tyrants who demanded their way and made a scene when they didn't get what they wanted. Jack's own family wouldn't have anything to do with the kids when Jack had visitation every other weekend.

I have since resolved this issue through tough love, boundaries and discipline, and the children have come a long way. Now that they are better behaved, Jack thinks it is no big deal to have extra time with them at our house (hours away from their mother), without even discussing it with me.

He says that they are better now, and so I should want to spend this extra time with them.

I am allowed to work from home, and I am the one expected to be at home with them, as Jack works excessive amounts of overtime at his own job. Am I wrong to oppose having this extra time with the children, which affects my job and free time?

We have a great relationship when the children are not around, but when they are, or are about to be with us, all we do is argue about my lack of flexibility.

Please help me, as I do not want to walk away from my marriage.

— Losing It in the South

Dear Losing It: You don't say how old these children are, but I agree with your husband that if they are doing better, you should be willing to spend more time with them.

However, "Jack" should not be parking his children with a resentful stepmother during unannounced visits. I assume that their own mother might not be particularly thrilled that her ex is bringing the children several hours to stay at your home when he isn't even there.

If you want to reverse this dynamic, the next time he notifies you that the children are coming to stay, you should let him know that you'll be working from the office, and he'll have to find child care during his own work hours.

Stepparenting is extremely challenging, certainly for a person who hasn't had any previous experience raising children. It can take a long time for a family to come together, especially when you see the children on an irregular schedule and feel so resentful of their presence in your life.

It sounds as if you feel good about your influence on these children, and the positive impact you believe you've had on their behavior, but ideally — the children's father would take the parenting lead and you would offer a warm, stable, accepting and supportive home life for them when they are with you.

The two of you don't seem particularly equipped to be in a family together, but you could improve your home life, your marriage, and your parenting skills by enlisting the expertise of a family counselor who specializes in blended families. If your marriage fails, unfortunately, the children will pay the price.

Dear Amy: I am in my early 70s, and still in touch with a married couple who have been friends of mine for 50 years. What do you recommend I do when they don't respond to emails, after orally promising to do so?

Some of the emails I have sent are time sensitive. Follow-up emails don't seem to help.

— Frustrated Friend

Dear Frustrated: Clearly, email is not the optimal mode of quick communication for these people. They may only have access to email on their home computers, while many people access email via their phones.

Obviously, you should contact this couple by telephone if you need to reach them quickly. Otherwise, ask them if sending a message via Facebook messenger might be better for them than email.

Dear Amy: I wanted to provide you with an alternate perspective on what to say to grieving people. I am a widow.

When people said "I can't imagine how you feel" my unstated reaction was always "I can't imagine it either! It is all new to me." This made me feel very "other."

How much better to say, "I can only try to imagine how you feel."

— Widow

Dear Widow: Thank you. I've had (too much) experience with loss in my own life, and yet I still struggle with what to say to other people.

Omaha World-Herald: Live Well

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