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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.