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Carolyn Hax: Will she always be ‘The Mistress’ to her now-husband’s children?

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Hi Carolyn: My husband separated from his ex-wife six years ago as result of our affair, and we have been married for three years. There was period of estrangement from his kids (ages 22 to 28 now) around the breakup. After much abject apologizing, talking, accepting responsibility, and frankly extreme financial generosity on my husband’s part — well beyond what was legally required — they now are finally on a path to a better relationship.

As the mistress, I have been persona non grata from Day One. I accepted that both as a foreseeable consequence and as the better place for their anger than with their dad, so they could someday get on the path they now seem to be on.

But as they repair their relationship and as I build very cordial relations with his extended family, who have been welcoming and gracious, I find myself unhappy with being the fall guy with his ex and kids. I exist and I no longer want to be treated as if I don’t.

His kids and ex explicitly excluded me from the kids’ high school and college graduations these past few years. That was fair, and I supported my husband as he attended. My husband has sought to introduce me to his kids several times, individually or as a group, but they have repeatedly refused, saying they are not ready.

I am invited to my husband’s niece’s wedding next year — and we plan to go. However, his kids are close with her and will certainly attend. None of them has said anything to their dad yet about my being there, but it’s coming.

I don’t want to undo all the progress my husband has made, so I am prepared to bow out; he won’t go either, he says, in that case. But when will it end? Am I going to be The Mistress forever? Does adultery carry a life sentence? Appreciate any guidance about how to move forward or if we should just give up trying.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: That’s a (vaguely disingenuous) rhetorical question, right, about the life sentence? Because you must already know it is, if the kids want it to be. They’re the jury. And they don’t have to be fair.

They have incentive to be fair, sure, on several fronts. First, it wouldn’t be healthy for them to resent you to their graves. General soul stuff.

Second, they either know their resentment is mostly misplaced, or they refuse to. You were right to volunteer as lightning rod to keep their electric rage off their dad — you owed them at least that — but that was an act of generosity, not logic. Their dad is the one who made and broke promises to Family 1.

Third, they risk overplaying their hand if they value the bond with their dad, since he’s already weighing boycotts if they keep insisting on leaving you out.

Scratch No. 3, though, if they’re thawing with your husband more out of duty than devotion. Then they’ll just walk.

Again, you have little say here, so I’m saying most of this because I love the sound of my own typing. But there is one practical point: If your husband wants to, he can appeal (again) to the jury to grant you leniency. If you want to, you can ask him to do this. And if his kids want to, they can grant it.

Or they can re-estrange their dad. That’s the cost-benefit analysis you and he need to do. You decided your priorities when you had the affair and reset them in the aftermath. Your frustration says they’re due for review — and that’s pretty much all you can do.

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