Unwanted Houseguests

Dear Robin:

I married the man of my dreams three years ago and we have a wonderful marriage.  All our children are grown.  I have two daughters, both of whom are married and live here in Portland.  My husband has one son and one daughter.  The daughter (unmarried) lives in town but the son (married with one child) lives in Seattle.

When my stepson visits Portland with his family for a weekend at least three or four times a year, he always ends up staying at our house with his wife and daughter.  Please don’t misunderstand me because I love my stepson and his family, I truly do!  My problem is that I really don’t like having houseguests, especially ones with a toddler!  My house is not equipped to be safe for a young child, to say nothing of the way my life is turned upside down when they come to visit.

I’ve tried to discuss this with my husband but he refuses to listen – he actually wants them to stay despite all the chaos that ensues when they are here.  We have two guest rooms and his position is that we should always provide anyone in our family a place to stay, rather than having them go to a hotel.

By the way, I have offered to pay to put them up at a lovely hotel here in Portland.  Nobody seemed excited about that idea.

How do I reclaim my home and get husband on my side?  Sign me,

“Invaded in Portland”

Dear “Invaded in Portland,”

Talk about a nail-biting, incredibly frustrating situation.  

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I don’t mean yours, I mean mine.  

You see, I recently decided to be nicer to those seeking my advice.  I told myself that I’d catch more flies with honey, etc., and my husband convinced me that my advice would be more well-received if I dialed back the snark and addressed my “clients” in a kinder, more gentle manner.

Your letter has challenged me.  Mightily.  Here goes nothing:

You told me in our email exchange that your husband’s children were very young when he divorced and his wife had sole custody, as was the norm back in those days.  His time with his children was limited to every-other-weekend, despite his efforts to get more visitation.

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Don’t even get me started on how fucked up the system is for fathers and husbands when it comes to divorce, because as most of my readers know, I could go on and on.

Your husband was robbed of precious years with his children, and now you are complaining about 3-4 weekend visits per year?  Weekend visits during which your husband, whom you proclaim to love, can reconnect and spend time with his son, daughter-in-law and grandchild?

Screw it, I’ll start being nicer tomorrow.

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Let me tell you something about marrying a person who has kids: those kids should be treated with the same love and respect as you show to your own.  

I’m going to take a wild guess here and assume that because your children live in Portland, you have never considered this question from your husband’s perspective.  It’s also highly relevant that you did not divorce until your kids were in college, so you never had to share custody of them and experience the pain of being separated from your kids.

Instead, all you care about is your being inconvenienced up to 8 days (wow!) out of the year by providing your step-son and his family a place to stay and the resulting increased closeness and connection with their dad.  I would say “with their dad and you,” but I suspect you don’t really care about being close to your husband’s kids.

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It’s women like you that give the rest of us a bad name.  Knock it off and take my advice listed below, because if you don’t your marriage WILL fail, and like George Zimmer, I guarantee it.

If you love the tree, you must also love the fruit.  And that means welcoming these people into your home with an open heart and whatever baby proofing may be needed.  Make their time with you special and wonderful and for Christ’s sake, have a little empathy for the husband you claim is the man of your dreams.  

There is a massive disconnect between your professed love for this man and your complete disregard of his feelings when it comes to his children.

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I really don’t have much else to say – it’s simple advice and I hope you take it: shut the fuck up about these visits, suck it up, enjoy the time if you can and if you can’t, fake it.  Fake it HARD.  Why?

Because if you don’t, your husband may decide to find a nice stepmom for his kids.  One like me, who is thrilled every time either of my husband’s children who live out of town come to stay with us.  And one like my husband, who will surely rejoice in having my son visit in a few years after he leaves us for college, and later the White House.

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I am including the sorry pug photo for two reasons.

1. I am sorry I was mean to you.  I haven’t had enough coffee yet today and your question kind of pissed me off.  I hope you know I was coming from a place of wanting to help you, your husband and your entire blended family.  This stuff can be hard, but it is so worth it.

2. In my opinion, you should apologize to your husband for even suggesting his family should stay at a hotel, and let him know that with the help of the lovely Advice Goddess, you have realized the error of your ways and plan to be welcoming and inclusive from here on out.

Thank you for your letter, and please let me know how the next visit goes.  

-Robin

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. echinachea

    Thanks. I needed that and vow to be a better stepmom. My husband is crazy about my kids. , Why can’t I be the same? Excellent column.

  2. Lance

    Right on the mark–

    1. askdescamp

      Thank you, Lance! I appreciate you taking time out of depositions and witness-tampering to read and comment! What happened between you and Sheryl Crow? Do tell! And if you ever need any advice, ditch your inner instict which tells you that you can handle the issue alone and give the Advice Goddess a call. I never would have let you go on Oprah…

  3. Linda

    I agree with you Robin! I love my boyfriends children as if they were my own. I loved getting up the day after Christmas and seeing all of the kids asleep after a long night of catching up. And our place is only 1067 sq. ft.! We had 11 people here and it was wonderful!

  4. Elizabeth Ann

    Robin, there is another side to this. As much as the logical side of me agrees with you, the childish, petty side has a hard time swallowing that my husband has children with another woman. While none of us were virgins when we married, the children are living proof that my man made love to a woman that I can’t stand for a million reasons, including the fact that she collects permanent alimony while I work and she doesn’t. I really have a hard time connecting to his children because of this. I don’t want them around because when I look at them, I see HER. I realize I have issues, but it is what it is. I can’t imagine I am the only second wife that feels this way. I never heard anyone else express it, so sometimes I feel alone. I also do not enjoy having houseguests at all even if they are my own family. I am just a private persona feel houseguests invade my personal space. I work hard all week and my weekends are my sanctuary. I do not like to share my personal space with anyone, not do I want to clean up the mess that guests leave behind.

  5. Ali Whiting

    Seriously? Just have a cleaning service come in afterwards. Assign everyone a cooking night and get over it. My BF’s delinquent brat, his cougar whore and a kid they swear is his (umm…only if I saw DNA test results would I believe that B.S.) come and stay for a minimum of a week at a time. They have rifled through drawers, stolen jewelry, replaced narcotics with generic aspirin…grrrr. And this woman is upset about pandemonium and an overall loss of privacy for a few days?!! Appreciate what you have, be thankful it’s not every month and deal.

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