Tell Me About It: Consider the needs of the little boy

Posted: September 14, 2012

Question: I am hoping for a resolution beyond the typical "walk away" or "accept."

I remarried 12 years ago. We are retired and ought to be able to travel or lead a life of our choosing. My wife and I have a great relationship when we are away, but traveling is becoming less frequent due to a growing situation.

When in town, my wife, her unmarried 35-year-old stepdaughter from a previous marriage, and the stepdaughter's 5-year-old son have a relationship that barely includes me.

The ex-stepdaughter has a good career, and enjoys leading a life that rarely includes her son. My wife enables this by caring for the child whenever asked, and often in our home.

If I voice any complaint, I am cast as the jealous malcontent.

I like the child but do not want the encumbrance at this stage of my life. Am I wrong to want more from a relationship with my wife? What do you suggest?

Answer: Of course it's not wrong to want more of your wife's company.

But the child's needs trump yours. You just don't push aside kids because you're owed a cruise, and you don't judge a child for his mother's failings. He's innocent.

I have to believe - and not just because it fits my thesis - that your wife will be more open to giving you more attention if you stop resenting her compassion, and instead praise it.

Then: "I'd like to help you more." Surely that's the cure for your sense of exclusion? Attachment where resentment now lurks?

Then: "I'd also like to draw some lines" - X days a week for sitting, Y weeks of the year for traveling, etc. - "so that we're supporting Stepdaughter versus flat-out doing her job." To get what you want, understand who you want it from.


E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

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