Advice | Carolyn Hax: Stepkids exclude her, and husband says to 'try … – The Washington Post

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Dear Carolyn: My husband has two children who were 18 and 25 when we married. I met him after his divorce. His children now have children and the mothers told the children I was not a real grandmother because I was a step.
My husband will not address this with them but feels I should try harder — like I am the Velveteen Rabbit trying to earn realness. I don’t want to. I would rather spend the times when I am excluded on myself.
— Not Real
Not Real: It is unacceptable that he expects you to “try harder” without doing so himself. Say this to him explicitly. Then, literally or figuratively, book your spa day. He can think over his options while he goes solo to see his kids.
There are obviously subtleties to navigate with any blended family at any stage. But it’s not even remotely debatable that it’s on him to do the heavy lifting with his own family, certainly before he assigns any to his spouse.
Dear Carolyn: My spouse has severe celiac disease — the real McCoy with almost shocklike reactions requiring emergency treatment, injections, etc.
She had a severe reaction after eating at a close friend’s house, probably due to lax gluten vigilance during cooking. We didn’t want to embarrass them and never told them about that episode.
Now they keep inviting us over, but we are afraid to go and running out of excuses. Any suggestions?
— Asking For a Friend
Asking For a Friend: Tell people the truth, oh my goodness. It may “embarrass” them, but at least they’ll know what to be embarrassed about. That’s not true of a string of excuses so long you’re depleting your supply of them — which probably embarrasses them, too, but also leaves them to wonder whether they annoy you, bore you, or smell.
Since the incident was a while ago, use that and skip the specifics of whose food caused what reaction. Just: “We probably should have said something sooner. We’re being super cautious with dinner invitations because of Spouse’s severe gluten sensitivity. We’d love to see you, though, and would gladly …” have you over here/meet at a restaurant/go to your house for a potluck so you can bring foods that are safe for your spouse.
People can handle a lot when it’s in the context of your liking them enough to want to find ways to see them.
Hi Carolyn: I own a summer cabin with my brother and his wife. We usually are not at the cabin at the same time, but sometimes we overlap.
I recently got a cat, and my brother and sister-in-law said I can’t have the cat at the cabin because my sister-in-law is highly allergic. I said I would try a different type of cat food that should help with allergies and I would not overlap with them — I would vacate whenever they decided to use it and clean it well before I left.
They said no, I just can’t have the cat there. I will have to board the cat for most of the summer then, and the cat has been an important companion for me (I’m single).
I don’t have any idea how to bridge this gap since I suggested some compromises and they said no. Any ideas? This was my dad’s cabin, and we inherited it. I’m worried about other negotiations relating to co-ownership because they don’t seem to want to compromise.
— Cat Lady
Cat Lady: The attachment to a companion animal is real and valid and warrants consideration, but yours does not get priority over your sister-in-law’s attachment to breathing.
Severe allergies are not vehicles for compromise. I’m sorry. It’s not a matter of “want.”
Boarding your cat sounds awful, too, though, even cruel. So maybe this arrangement would work better: alternate summers. It’s still shared ownership, just by the year instead of by the month or week or weekend, to allow deep cleaning and time to neutralize the allergens.
Neither of you will like having to go without your summer place for so long, presumably, but in one sense, it’s like the allergy itself: It’s not about what you want, it’s about what is. There’s no wiggle room or special-food option to work on the margins. There’s only a jointly owned summer cabin that you share on a schedule that isn’t ideal but is both cat- and allergy-friendly — or, there’s no more jointly owned cabin.
Being an odd-years-only vacationer sounds a lot better, to me at least, than one of you buying the other out or forcing a sale, which is where you’re headed if one can’t use it and the other won’t budge.
By the way — IF allergy treatments are an option (Big If), then the only soul who has to alternate years on this plan is the cat. You could visit catless during your off years, and your preventively equipped sister-in-law could brave the cat on their off years. You can’t ask her to do that, or even suggest it, but IFFF it’s a medically viable option, then it’s certainly one she can pursue.
Answer this week’s reader question:
Ex has ‘creepy’ interest in my life
From the archive:
Her boyfriend squawks about her ex, who’s also her sister’s in-law
Can you retain a friendship after hurtful comments?
Is it greedy to ask about an inheritance? For planning purposes, of course.
Dad says dessert should be on his timeline
I couldn’t measure up to her ex, so she must be the problem, right?
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