Be flexible when dealing with a complex family equation
Q: My husband was married twice before me, the first time to "Cindy," with whom he had a son, "Jason." They divorced only a few months after Jason was born, and he soon got involved with "Donna." He and Donna eventually got married. Cindy also remarried. So Jason has basically known his whole life Mom and stepdad, Dad and Donna.
Well, Dad and Donna got divorced when Jason was 14. I came into the picture the following year and we got married and moved out of state. Jason is now 16.
So, Jason and Donna are still close. He spends weekends with her often, and it's basically like she's still his stepmom.
This puts me in an odd position because . . . what am I? He already has a mom and a stepmom, and it's hard for me to tell exactly what my role is. Random example — do I help him buy a birthday present for his dad, or does Donna do that like she always has? When I'm coordinating visits (like a birthday or holiday), do I make arrangements with Cindy or should I be contacting Donna too?
I get along great with Jason. I also get along great with Cindy, but have basically only met Donna once (who was civil but not terribly friendly).
I just feel lost and my husband isn't much help in figuring this all out.
A: Seems to me the most generous thing you can do is not stand in the way. Be friendly, be flexible, be glad you get along with Jason, don't keep your husband all to yourself, and maybe keep the planning of surprises and other elaborate social constructs to a minimum. You're all adults, the usual adult gatherings will do.
When there's a hmmm moment in regard to Jason — say, when he graduates and you're not sure how to handle a party or announcement — think of the voting power each person has in terms of concentric circles. Jason is the center, Mom and Dad are the inner circle, Donna is one circle out, you are two circles out.
The details may be unusual, but it's not really unusual in its general theme: Your life is affected significantly by people and things over which you have only limited say. As long as you have a reasonable idea of your limits and a gracious attitude toward whatever lies beyond them, you'll be fine.