My live-in partner of five years and I get along, and mostly share the same interests and opinions.
Her older son and daughter live on their own. My two daughters, newly at an out-of-town university, are home only sporadically.
We’ve discussed marriage, but my partner despises my daughters and the feeling’s reciprocated.
They can't have a civil discussion about anything and are rude to each other.
My partner can be tyrannical about a clean house with everything in its place.
My daughters are more relaxed about household chores. No matter whom I agree with, I’m accused of favouritism.
Setting boundaries doesn't work. I'm afraid that once we’re married, my daughters or my future wife may opt out of family functions. Can I make anyone happy?
Man in the Middle
Get out of the middle. These are your daughters. Address the situation with your partner as equal adults with reasonable expectations of these students.
They should be expected to make beds they’ve slept in, to wash dishes they’ve used, and leave outdoor shoes at the front door.
They should not be expected to be “perfect” householders when they visit.
If your partner’s fixated on this, include the cost of an occasional cleaner for the day after your daughters visit.
These young women need to know that you love them, and that you also love your partner. There’s no favouritism, just the natural need for everyone to be civil and respectful to each other.
However, your partner has to be the other mature adult here, if she wants a long, happy union with you.
Instead, she’s contributing to this immature standoff.
Boundaries apply to her, too. These are your daughters, and you want/need them in your life if at all possible.
She must try to be welcoming and friendly, interested in how they’re doing at school, and open to sharing some lighter moments… e.g. through watching a movie together, etc.
Unless she recognizes that she’s as much a part of the problem as they are, your marriage plans will likely be postponed, maybe even re-considered.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding the gentleman who invites his and his wife’s former spouses to family get-togethers. (Oct. 9):
“I’m a survivor of my parents’ bitter, acrimonious relationship, the impacts of which are still being felt by all of us involved, decades later.
“When they divorced, we were expected by my mother to take sides (hers). She tried to erase my father from our lives.
“When I got married, my parents didn’t want to sit one pew apart from each other and my step-mother didn’t want to be treated like a “second-class citizen.”
“I always had to host two separate Christmas dinners, one for my father and his new wife, and one for my mother and siblings.
“Everything was always about them.
“After my Dad’s wife died, I decided there’d be no more separate dinners, if they wanted to spend Christmas with us.
“After 40 years, my mother wouldn’t even say hello or acknowledge my father!
“My siblings have had nothing to do with her for years.
“She told my husband and I to “get out of her life!”
“At 90, in a nursing home, she’s a bitter, angry old woman.
“The ones who suffer from this bitter attitude after divorce are the children.
“Kudos to the gentleman who wrote last week. The gift he gave to the whole family is far-reaching and will pay off now and in the future.”
Reader’s Commentary “I come from the Ann Landers era where social advice in her newspaper column was truncated before she basically concluded, “Suck it up, Toots.”
“While scanning the letters sent to you for your column, I read your response which, in contrast to Ann Landers, provides myriad options before you - in essence - also say, “Suck it up.”
“I do think highly of your acumen (common sense).”
Ellie - I consider it high praise to be in the same category as Ann Landers! I still consider her (and her twin sister Abigail Van Buren) the great role models of relationship advice columnists, for decades, starting in the mid-1950s.
People had complex problems then, too. But the reading audience was more open to practical solutions.
Today’s readers, dealing with new and challenging social issues, want to consider handling relationships using varied approaches, as well as the choice to make the best of what they already have.
Tip of the day:
If your partner and young-adult children hate each other, it’s up to the true grown-ups to try to create bridges.