Monday, December 11, 2017
Parenting & Relationships

Wife wants to help husband overcome his resentment of stepmom

Q: My husband's mother passed away 10 years ago, before we got married. They were very close; his father was always a little disengaged, unsure of how to relate to children. After she died, my husband spent years in a pretty dark place. With therapy and time, he has worked through the worst of it, but still struggles with his grief on occasion.

My father-in-law remarried shortly after my mother-in-law's death. His new wife is much younger, has children of her own at home, and has made an effort to include us in the new family. My husband mildly dislikes her, ostensibly due to her overpowering religious beliefs, but also because he feels she treads too far over the line sometimes trying to fill his mother's shoes.

We are expecting our first child, and my husband is thrilled, but the new arrival is shining an extra bright spotlight on how much he misses his mother. His stepmother is beside herself with excitement, and is increasingly setting herself up as a prime target for my husband's frustration. For example, she talks about how excited she is to be a grandmother.

My husband finds her "grandmother" comments disrespectful to the memory of his mother, but doesn't know how to bring it up (or if he should at all). I pointed out that our children will inevitably see her as a grandmother-type figure, but that we can also honor the memory of his mother as part of their lives, yet he still bristles when Stepmother does so much as ask how we're doing. How can we best approach this delicate situation?

A.

A: Isn't it time you and your husband — he in particular — stopped treating this as delicate?

You won't find many people who can be as sympathetic to his loss, and the "extra bright spotlight" that having children can shine on it, as I can. I lived these myself, and feel the weight still.

But that sadness is my responsibility, and your husband's is his; the greatest dishonor to his mother's memory is the way your husband punishes his stepmother. It's self-indulgent cruelty to regard her love as coming at his mother's expense, when they're two separate things. The stepmother fell in love with a widower. Period. She's dancing on nobody's grave.

To your coming child, she is a grandmother. She deserves to be treated as such, and not as a "grandmother-type figure," which is a ludicrous non-entity, a by-product of the kind of tortured phrasing that emerges from walking on eggshells.

Yes, it is awful and unfair that his mother isn't alive to be Grandma, and I get that he just wants to rip down the moon — but he couldn't prevent that loss. If he interferes with his stepmother's attachment to your child, then the child loses a key source of love in a very big world — a completely preventable loss.

Please urge your husband at least to consider that the greatest tribute to his mother's memory would be to stop blaming the person who cares about (and for) the people she left behind. Isn't that what she'd want for them, after all — to know someone looks out for them, as she no longer can?

And: Name the baby for the late grandmother. Spin those tears into gold.

Comments

Tell Me About It: Identity of biological father is revealed

Identity of biological father is revealedQ: When I was 18, my mother revealed that the father I grew up with was not my biological father. She claimed she didnít even know my bio father, and never contacted him again after their brief weekend fling a...
Published: 12/11/17

Tell Me About It: Parentsí extreme sheltering feels creepy

Parentsí extreme sheltering feels creepyQ: My daughter, 11, has three friends from school. One girlís parents are generous hosts. "Emma" is an only child and has a pool, fun toys, great snacks.The problem is that Emmaís parents donít let Emma be a gu...
Published: 12/10/17
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of Dec. 11-17

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of Dec. 11-17

Katy Perry: The Teenage Dream songstress roars into Tampaís Amalie Arena on Friday ($45.75-$195.75). amaliearena.com. Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights begins Tuesday, bringing fun celebrations including Hanukkah in the City at the Sundial St. Petersb...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/10/17
Wild weather expected, 2 boat parades canceled

Wild weather expected, 2 boat parades canceled

Boat parades that were planned tonight in South Pasadena and St. Pete Beach have been canceled because of weather fears.Organizers said they will not be rescheduled. Heavy rain is expected to approach the gulf coast near sunset Friday ahead of a stro...
Published: 12/08/17
Fun and profound Hanukkah celebrations around the Tampa Bay area

Fun and profound Hanukkah celebrations around the Tampa Bay area

It’s time to observe the Festival of Lights, starting at sunset Tuesday and ending Dec. 20. Many congregations seem to be having a great time, because Hanukkah celebrations this year are hilarious. There’s a menorah made of fidget spinne...
Published: 12/08/17
From Hogwarts Castle to your home, digital projectors give a real light show

From Hogwarts Castle to your home, digital projectors give a real light show

At night, Hogwarts Castle is suddenly dusted with snow in steamy Florida. It’s not really snow, but light causing this trick of the eye. Projectors and sophisticated software then send ghosts across the castle towers. A turret spins and turns i...
Published: 12/08/17

Tell Me About It: Self-awareness best way to break bad habit

Self-awareness best way to break bad habitQ: I recently had a friend tell me that I have become arrogant since I entered a new career in which thereís a culture of snobbery and one-upping.I was defensive, and would really have liked to believe she wa...
Published: 12/08/17

Tell Me About It: Exís attempt to make amends falls flat

Exís attempt to make amends falls flatQ: My first love e-mailed me out of the blue, after 10 years, to make amends as part of his AA program. The lengthy e-mail detailed my exís love for me, regrets, and urged me to consider a phone call or FaceTime ...
Published: 12/07/17
Three shades of comedy this week: Game Grumps Live, Harlem Globetrotters, Liberal Redneck comedy tour

Three shades of comedy this week: Game Grumps Live, Harlem Globetrotters, Liberal Redneck comedy tour

VIDEO STARS: Game Grumps LiveYou thought video game players were wasting their time, but these days professional players are packing stadiums and making more money than youíll ever see. They also give us hilarious shows like Game Grumps Live, coming...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17

Tell Me About It: Remarks about food choices grow tiresome

Remarks about food choices grow tiresomeQ: Iím going on vacation soon with my in-laws, siblings-in-laws, and their spouses. Over the last few years, Iíve been working on eating fewer unhealthy foods like bread and dairy, and as a result I feel much b...
Published: 12/06/17