Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married for three years. He has three teenage children from a previous marriage.
His ex-wife is manipulative and controlling. She gets my husband to fix her stairs, give her gas money and pay for the kids’ school trips and extras, even though that is part of the child support. And somehow, we always end up with the kids here. Every weekend, she coincidently “has to work.” My husband and I have no time to be alone together. His ex has brainwashed the kids about me, convincing them I’m a horrible person and a threat to their existence. I’ve been nothing but welcoming, positive and kind, and I attend all of their activities.
She is trying to destroy our marriage, and it has caused major stress. My husband always takes the path of least resistance, which means doing whatever she asks. They text back and forth for hours on end, and she calls daily and not about the kids. It has reached the point where my husband hides all communication with her and deletes her texts so I can’t see them. I’m sure it’s so we won’t fight about it.
My husband was emotionally abused by this woman for 15 years. He is a good person with a heart of gold, but she’s taught the kids that Dad is a mean, crabby person. Any discipline or rules he tried to enforce were undermined by his ex in front of the kids. My husband now does the “guilt parenting,” not wanting to upset the kids or the ex, so the kids have no rules and are given everything they want.
I’m also losing trust, because my husband is so secretive about everything pertaining to her or the children. He refuses counseling. He seems more concerned about his ex than about our marriage. Any advice? — Hurt and Confused
Dear Hurt: Your husband is more concerned about losing his children’s affection (not his ex) than anything else. She is a nightmare, but he won’t stand up for himself. And when it turns into an argument with you, it only adds to the problem. We know you want “alone” time, but his kids are part of the package, and you must schedule around them, the same as any other parent. If you need counseling, please get it, even if your husband won’t go. Meanwhile, you can find help through the National Stepfamily Resource Center (stepfamilies.info).
Dear Annie: My sister’s daughter-in-law is pregnant with her first child, and my sister is in a dilemma about whether or not to host a baby shower. Her son and daughter-in-law never come to any family functions, and his wife has never attended any family bridal and baby shower. I seriously doubt that any family members would recognize her if they passed her on the street.
Is it tacky to have a baby shower and invite family members who really don’t know her? — Baby Shower Dilemma
Dear Dilemma: Technically, showers should not be given by immediate family members (e.g., grandma-to-be). Nonetheless, we know many people do this anyway. A shower is about providing for the child. Your sister wants to do something nice for her daughter-in-law and ensure a good relationship with the new grandchild. It’s OK to invite family members, and those who don’t wish to attend (for any reason) can RSVP that they won’t be there.
Dear Annie: “Concerned Reader” wrote in response to the letter from “Need Help,” the teenager with mood swings, painful headaches and weakness. “Concerned” suggested testing for Lyme disease. I’d like to add to that excellent suggestion that if the regular test is inconclusive, it is important to get a Western Blot Test that is more thorough. I know because it saved a friend from being misdiagnosed. — Concerned Reader
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.