Spoiled Children of Divorce

Advice Columnist Tells Dad’s Girlfriend Where to Stick It
July 14, 2008, 1:40 am
Filed under: Authority, links to articles, separate households, Stepfamilies

The Sunday Paper today carries a column written by Carolyn Hax titled: “Dad worries merging homes will upset kids.” The Girlfriend wants to merge the teenage kids into one house and the Dad is concerned his kids will hate him forever if he does this. The Girlfriend figures it will all just work out and doesn’t show any concern for the kids’ situation. There’s nothing unusual about this except that Hax actually rips into her for being a selfish jerk. This is certainly a refreshing attitude which I don’t remember seeing before.  Thank you Carolyn Hax!

Link to the article: http://www.mercurynews.com/style/ci_9868244

Here’s the column:

DEAR CAROLYN: I am almost 50 and have been dating by all accounts (especially mine) one of the finest men on the planet for three years. Our relationship is to the point that we do virtually all things together, maintain a mutual calendar, have daily interaction via phone and face to face, kid celebrations, family events, etc.We each have three high school/college-age kids. For the most part we all get along. He’s a churchgoing Catholic, very successful, thrifty, a doormat for his kids and an over-thinker. I am feeling it is time to merge our lives, as “dating” at this point is quite costly in time and in maintaining two expensive households, while living essentially the same life. He says his kids will not react positively to this “merger” and he will “lose” them.

While I respect there will be a learning curve for all of us, if he really can’t begin to plan on our life together, I am ready to move on. Can you glean any considerations to manage this situation? We love and enjoy one another tremendously, are loyal, compassionate confidants . . . but we have reached a stalemate, and I am growing restless with the situation and skeptical about my life’s path being decided by his children’s contrivances.


DEAR S.G.: If you used the word “contrivance” to describe my desire not to have my world upended when I’m, what, three years from leaving the house? Not even that? Then I’d be angry at my dad for marrying you, too.

Home is a very, very big deal. You may be the adults of these homes, you and your boyfriend. You may be in a position to exercise your will over the will of your children. You may have legitimate reservations about kids who have this much say over their father’s life.But as one of the two adults here, you also have the ability, I hope, both to take the long view and to delay gratification.

You and this man have the rest of your lives to be together, but these kids have just a few years left in the nest. Why should at least three kids have to give up their home – bedrooms, hangouts, neighborhood, touchstones – and the others have to shuffle theirs, to tackle a “learning curve” they don’t need to tackle? To accommodate a situation where, so far, they get along “for the most part”?

I don’t advocate coddling children. When change is necessary for the greater good, then the kids will have to adjust.

But this is change for your good. And these are kids who have already been through one major nest-upending. Maybe your over-thinking doormat is overestimating your patience, or underestimating his kids. But maybe you’re underestimating the goodwill you could demonstrate by holding off on the merger till it displaces the fewest people possible – and by not resenting the kids for it. I wonder what effect it would have on the stalemate if you were to propose this: You and he plan on merging your lives officially when the nests empty out on their own.

Contact Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com.

2 Comments so far
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between my wife and I we have four sets of parents with two sets of split and remarried parents and a gaggle of full, step, and adopted brothers and sisters in every. merging households is tricky business. great if you can develop new traditions, vacations, whatever that can be common experience for everyone. BUT it is still so critical for parents to recognize and create continued separate space and time for the “original” families.

Comment by Stefan

Thanks for sharing your story, Stefan. And for your insights. Your blog is really nice.

Comment by toothless

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