Dear Carolyn: I am remarried to a man without children and have a 25-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. He and I met when she was 14. We never lived together when she was still at home but saw each other on weekends. Though they tried (he more than she), they never really hit it off.
We’ve been married for five years now, and they are at an impasse over a visit last summer to a house he owns where she was not a great guest (was nursing a broken heart) and he took the time to let her know about how it made him feel in an email after she left. Now they don’t speak, and he says she’s no longer welcome here unless she apologizes for her bad behavior.
This has gone on for over a year. I get where they are both coming from and care deeply for each but am caught in the middle. I don’t see either of them dropping the bone. Suggestions?
— Stuck in the Middle
Stuck in the Middle: Ugh. They’re both being awful.
A broken heart is not an excuse for treating your host, or stepparent, or fellow vacationer, or whatever the power alignment was in this property, like crap.
Yes, sometimes it happens anyway. In which case the person behaving badly apologizes for it, ideally unprompted.
If the prompting is necessary, email (or text) is arguably the worst, weaselliest possible way to do it. What was your husband thinking? He couldn’t talk to her like a fellow adult before she left? Or talk to you about it first and have you represent you both in whatever conversation was deemed necessary, knowing that as a messenger, he was too compromised by history for this? He couldn’t call her, or text/email her to call him at her convenience, because phone calls are often intrusive? Or let this one bad weekend go as the exception it (apparently) was?
And when he decided email was the way to go, he couldn’t put his concern in the form of a question and leave her room to apologize or explain herself? She’s 25, not 5.
And when she received this ill-advised email about her ill-advised behavior, that was the best she could do — huffy silence? For a year?
And the best he could do was stay in it for the win, instead of finding some way to be the bigger person?
And: Neither had to take the other personally. So many problems start there.
I can see being heartbroken by a cold war between the two people closest to my heart.
But I can also see being ashamed — that this is what I’m seeing from the person I raised and the person I chose to marry. Stubbornness is at its core an act of self-indulgence.
This is obviously between them, and you’re only “in the middle” if you put yourself there, and you can’t make people think or do or say things they don’t want to, and assuming the role of family hand-wringer only empowers them more.
You’re entitled to object, however, as a witness to rotten behavior, and if you haven’t done so here, then it’s overdue.
“How about this: You both act like adults. Then you both get your wish.”