About two years ago I was introduced to a wonderful man by some friends. There was an instant attraction between the two of us. He lived in New York and I lived in California so we didn’t plan on getting serious. We are both older with settled lives and grown children. Also he is a recent widower. His wife of many years died after a prolonged battle with cancer a few months before we met. The problem is this: I’ve grown to love him very much and we’ve decided to make a life together, but his children are furious that he took up with someone so soon after their mother’s death. They refuse to have anything to do with me and this is very difficult and painful for both of us. I understand it’s hard for them to see their father living with another woman. (After we’d been going out for about a year, I moved to New York to be with him.) He is a kind man in his late seventies who doesn’t have time to waste if he wants to go forward with his life. His kids don’t understand that and want him to be in constant mourning. I think they simply can’t deal with the fact that I share the same home that was once theirs with their mother. Believe me, I understand how this could be problematic. I had wanted my fiance (for want of a better word) and I to start fresh in another apartment, but he wouldn’t hear of it, figuring if we repainted and bought new furniture things would be fine. But I am haunted by her ghost. The children are angry that he’s removed photos of their mom from the walls and completely gutted her bathroom (which has become mine). He loves me and would do anything for me, but this situation with his kids is really upsetting to him and undermining his health. He keeps wondering whether he did the right thing or not, and this is extremely hard on me. Sometimes it seems that we’re living his life and not mine. I don’t want to leave him and move back to California, but this current situation is too awkward and uncomfortable and I’m not sure what to do to change it. Can you please advise?
All the best,
Frustrated by Ghosts in New York
Yes, this is an awkward situation, but it’s within your power to change it. “Power” here does not mean use of force, obviously, but rather the use of love, patience and understanding. Love for your new partner, and understanding that his children are still suffering the loss of their mother. Even though they are adults, their emotions are raw and it’s probably very difficult for them to see someone else step into the place of their mother. That’s natural. Your job is to be there for their dad, to start enjoying and building your new life, and to be ready to have a relationship with the children when they become open to it. Don’t go chasing after them. Don’t try and do things to get them to like you. Just be yourself and know in your heart that you and their dad have a beautiful future ahead of you and that that’s what’s really important. Put another way: don’t engage in drama or battles with the children. Ignore their bad behavior. Drop your end of the rope and develop an attitude of good will toward them. Eventually it will pay off. Make sure to discuss all this openly with their father, who must be having an even more difficult time with his kids’ behavior than you. He will need to develop the same policy of patience and understanding. If the two of you are on the same page, you will succeed.
Best of luck to you,
REACTIONS TO UNHAPPY DAUGHTER-IN-LAW
My suggestion is for you and your sister-in-law to gang up on your mother-in-law, and give her a taste of her own medicine. Fight fire with fire. In this case I think that’s the best solution. Why should the bitch get away with such bad behavior? You guys need to let her have it.
Cherie Ainsworth, Toledo, Ohio
I say treat that bitch like the child she is and put her in time-out. Every time she makes a dig, she gets a cold shoulder and a punishment. She needs to know that her nastiness leads to silence and isolation. Also, do a little soul searching about why Barbara has so much power over everyone. Probably she’s a bully and behind bullying behavior you will always find a weak and insecure person. Hope that helps.
Best, Mildred P., Hartford, CT
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Disclaimer: CD Knowles is not a doctor or psychotherapist. Any opinions expressed on Knowles Knows are just that — opinions.