Hus­band won’t em­brace step-grand­kids

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - ADVICE - CAR­OLYN HAX Tell Me about it ▶ Email Car­olyn at tellme­wash­

DEAR C: My daugh­ter re­cently re­mar­ried, cre­at­ing a new fam­ily with a won­der­ful man, her young son and his two chil­dren.

My hus­band and I have a close re­la­tion­ship with her son. She and he lived with us for sev­eral years. I have tried to get to know my grand­son’s two stepsi­b­lings but that is made more dif­fi­cult by the cus­tody sched­ules, which limit time the whole fam­ily is to­gether.

My hus­band is al­ways nice to the step­kids but has said he is un­will­ing to in­vest a lot of emo­tional cap­i­tal in th­ese two chil­dren, who he feels no real con­nec­tion to. I get it. I find I have to try harder. At the same time, I re­coil at his at­ti­tude. The con­nec­tion is our daugh­ter and her fam­ily.

My hus­band says if our daugh­ter gets di­vorced again, I will never see th­ese kids again. But that at­ti­tude as­sumes the worst-case sce­nario, and I pre­fer to as­sume — and act on — a best-case-sce­nario fu­ture for our daugh­ter, un­less and un­til facts dic­tate oth­er­wise.

I be­lieve I am not mak­ing a mis­take but won­der if I should just chill about my hus­band’s at­ti­tude be­cause with time and grow­ing fa­mil­iar­ity, ev­ery­thing will work out. — Nav­i­gat­ing an Un­fa­mil­iar World

DEAR NAV­I­GAT­ING AN UN­FA­MIL­IAR WORLD: Not only does your hus­band’s at­ti­tude as­sume the worst-case sce­nario, but it also as­sumes his feel­ings are paramount.

That is rarely if ever true where kids are in­volved.

If in­deed he forms a bond with his step-grand­chil­dren only for a divorce to take them away, then, yes, he will feel that loss. But an adult such as he is much bet­ter equipped to weather that maybe­some­day heart­break than th­ese chil­dren are to weather the cer­tain heart­break of unequal treat­ment by fam­ily elders.

Th­ese kids will sense their new grand­fa­ther sees them as less-than and doesn’t care to know them, and feel the ef­fects of that now. On top of what­ever other pain they went through dur­ing the up­heaval of their fam­ily through no choice of their own.

So I re­coil at his at­ti­tude, too, and hope you will point out the deep in­jus­tice in his logic. They’re kids. They don’t need ex­cuses, they need lead­er­ship and they need love.

Once you’ve es­tab­lished some moral au­thor­ity here, then it might help to “just chill” — be­cause know­ing you need to get closer is one thing. Ac­tu­ally do­ing it takes au­then­tic­ity and time, two things you sim­ply can’t force. A view­ing with your hus­band of “On Golden Pond” might be just what you need to re­lax.

DEAR CAR­OLYN: What does it mean when a man won’t ad­mit his feel­ings for a woman to oth­ers?

— M. DEAR M.: What does it say about the man, you mean? I don’t know. It could be that he’s a man of few words or a man of many se­crets. Or a bunch of things in be­tween.

What it means for the woman is that if she places a high value on a man’s will­ing­ness to ex­press his feel­ings for her openly, then he’s not the man for her.

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