The backstory here is that she and my partner tried dating in the past, but it didn't work out. That happened shortly before he and I met. I think she views me as the reason they will not be able to build a family together.
This situation is not sustainable if he and I are to move in together, which we plan on doing.
She is an important part of his kids' lives. I'm torn between putting up with her mistreating me for the sake of the kids — they're still young, so we still need to facilitate their relationships — and between telling my partner she's not welcome in my home if she will be rude to me. Both pills seem too bitter to swallow. What do I do?
Torn: Where is he in this?
What is he saying, doing, when his Susan-friend “completely ignores” his partner when you’re all in the same place, or making plans to be?
I am pro-“wonderful.” I think it serves us all to celebrate it when we find it. I want to believe that’s what you have.
But I have a hard time linking “wonderful” to “liquefies under emotional pressure.” He has his kids to look out for here, and you, and his friend, and himself — and with many of these needs in conflict, managing them requires some skeletal involvement.
Such as: “Susan, I can never thank you enough for all you’ve done. But you’re undermining my partner and that’s not the Susan I know.” With consequences if her rudeness persists.
And, to you: “Susan is behaving badly, I know, and you deserve better. You’re my priority. But for the kids’ sake and if you’re willing, I’d like to give Susan more time to adjust.”
And, to the kids, if it comes to this: “Susan loves you and always will. Her reasons for not being here are hers alone, and not because of you or me or ‘Torn.’ ”
If he has taken some version of a stand here and you omitted that from your letter, then, my apologies.
If he’s somehow oblivious to Susan’s coolness — a stretch, but, okay — or its impact on you and your authority with the kids, then wake him up. Ask your way to this calmly, though, instead of telling. “Do you think Susan will ever face me?” for example. Then, “What’s your plan if she keeps refusing to?” Hear him out. Give his “wonderful” room to express itself, to relieve you of the burden of finding your own solution.
If what you learn is that his entire plan is to avoid the issue at your repeated and indefinite expense — allowing someone hostile to you into your shared life under the children’s gaze — then please skip the Susan decision altogether and reconsider the family-blend.
Because this entire situation is a trick question: Susan is — Susans are — a problem only if there’s a problem with your partner, and his willingness to stand up for what’s right.
Hi, Carolyn: I'm in my mid-30s and moved back home with my parents after a health scare a few years ago. Thankfully, everything is all right now with me and I'm thriving. In our culture, multigenerational households are common and it's been working out pretty well for us.
But there are times when my parents still think of me as a small child and treat me in a protective manner rather than as an adult. How do you even start changing this dynamic, and relationship, in a healthy manner?
Adult: Certainly the adult thing to do is to let your parents know you appreciate their obvious love and concern, and understand their habits are deeply ingrained, but you also would prefer they treat you as an adult.
After that, you can keep it simple. “Mom.” Or Dad. “I’m 35.”
With a smile, real or stagy, it’s gentle and loving and all you need to say in response to any follow-up episode of overprotection.
With repetition, it’s a form of retraining you can to shorten to “Mom.” Or Dad. [Pause, eye contact, eyebrows up.]
With a chaser of disengagement — “Thanks,” or, “I’ll keep that in mind,” or, “Trust your handiwork, Mom” or Dad — it’s a peaceful, sustainable form of resistance. Good luck.