Dear Abby: “Disappearing Stepmother’s” June 9 letter brought back memories of my stepdaughter “Amy’s” wedding. Her mother also tried her best to prevent us from being involved. However, Amy included all four of her parents in the wedding. Dad and Stepdad walked her down the aisle together, and her mom and I lit the bride’s candle together (though I’m sure she gritted her teeth when she did it).
The bride needs to develop a backbone and stand up to her mother. The dad (who’s paying for half the wedding) should at least put his foot down about the guest list, and invite whomever he and his wife would like to be there. Wedding photos can be of the two families separately, including the stepmom. Otherwise, resentment will linger and poison the relationship between stepmom and stepdaughter.
Dear Stepmom: I encouraged “Disappearing” to attend the wedding to support her stepdaughter and inject a dose of reality into the “fantasy,” and readers were quick to share their views:
Dear Abby: I, too, am stepmom to two beautiful young women whose mother harbors animosity toward me and my husband. When the girls were kids she filled their heads with lies about us. Their father and I remained noncritical, loving and constant.
There were some rocky years, but my stepdaughters and I have made it through. When the younger one was married two years ago, she did a beautiful job including me. Her mother spent the wedding day spewing vile lies about us to anyone who’d listen, and is still bitter these 26 years later.
The girls see their mother as she is and do not let her affect their relationship with us. For this I credit my husband, who never tolerated her ill treatment of me. Stepmoms are not looking to be in the spotlight or take anyone’s place. But we are an important part of the modern family and should be treated with the honor and respect we deserve.
Made It Through
Dear Abby: I work in the wedding industry, and all too frequently I see the engaged couple manipulated by a parent in order to hurt the former spouse and alienate the stepparent. It is the bane of my professional existence. They cause so much stress for the couple that I’ve had brides break down and cry in my office and choose to elope rather than deal with the drama.
Parents must realize that their children are loved by MANY people, and the best gift they can give them on their wedding day is to set aside differences and old grudges in order to support the couple as they begin their marriage.
Frustrated Wedding Planner
Dear Abby: My husband’s former wife has been a huge challenge for me, even showing up at our small wedding ceremony and slapping me in the face. The children were all there and I kept the evening going by hugging them and saying I was sorry their mom was so upset. Now, as I watch these grown kids and THEIR kids making their way through life, I am proud to have been part of showing them what a solid, loving family can be without alienation and selfishness.
Dear Abby: I sympathize with “Disappearing,” having myself been ignored at “blended” family events, including weddings. I am also conveniently excluded from family photos.
I deal with all of this by staying in the background during events. The gathering is not about me. My stepkids are simply trying to keep the drama caused by their mother to a minimum. They would never hear the end of it from her, and she has been known to go off in public. I know they appreciate my quiet approach because, when not in their mother’s presence, they treat me with kindness, love and humor.
Dear Abby: First wives hold the upper hand in many instances. It’s something you never really get used to — you just live with it.
When your husband’s daughter matures and is a mom herself, things may change. They did for me. Take the high road and always do the right thing. That first wife is clearly traveling on a lower path.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.