How to handle people opposed to your relationship?
December 31, 2014 10:56 AM   Subscribe

After a long and difficult period (we met while married to other people) I'm now in a very loving relationship. However there is inevitable fallout. I feel a bit lost for guidance as to how to navigate the new territory I find myself in. I'd like recommendations for resources, blogs, books, forums, whatever, but also personal experiences of how you handled this kind of situation, namely with people who are very much not happy with the situation. Or maybe you are/were the not happy person - were you able to move past it?

The main people who are struggling with this are my sister and his daughter. My sister and I have always had a difficult relationship and this has not helped. When I told her I had fallen for someone else and didn't know what to do she was very judgemental, as is her right. When I be and separated over a year ago she was very unsupportive and has remained so. Two examples - when we were both in my mum's house and I walked in in tears and she got up and walked out, the other when I texted her saying I was in a bad way and could I maybe come and talk to her and she didn't reply, then text me a week later saying "How are you? Can you babysit tomorrow night?" She is married with kids and her life is textbook perfect and I think she feels I've brought shame on them (I'm not arguing).

Now that my partner and I are officially together she has met him once, at a dinner for my Dad that my Dad had invited him to (my parents have both met him and like him and can see he's very good to me) which she rang me to ask me to uninvite him to as she and her husband "wouldn't feel comfortable" and she didn't want to upset her kids. I agreed as I didn't want my Dad faced with an "us or them" scenario. She rang back to say she shouldn't have asked that and it was ok if he came, but they barely spoke to him and didn't introduce him to the kids. She hosted Christmas dinner and he wasn't invited so he spent the day alone until I left to visit him. Now there's a wedding coming up which I've been invited to +1 and she doesn't want him to go. I'm aware that we'll never have the sisterly relationship I want, I've tried hard over the years, and this feels like the final nail. But I adore her kids so I don't want to be estranged from her, but I don't want to constantly tell my partner he's not invited to things.

The other person is his daughter. She is early 30s (I'm late 30s - there's a 20 year age gap, but she's not even aware of this yet). She went through a big trauma as a teenager which I have utmost sympathy for, but all her family say that it left her very stuck in a teenage place despite lots of therapy, and she is generally unable or unwilling to think of anyone but herself. We were waiting for the right time to tell her about us (he and her mum have been separated for 2 years, he left a year before I did), but she arrived unannounced one day and he had to tell her I was there. She refused to come in (understandable as it was sprung on her) and didn't speak to him for a few weeks. She gradually resumed contact but never mentioned me and he didn't raise it. Today she announced she was visiting with her child, who my partner loves to bits, and again he said I'd be here. She said he was "putting that woman first" and that she and the grandchild "won't be back" even though he had said I would go out of the house if that suited her better.

I don't want to come between him and his kids, especially his grandchild, and it's going to be even worse when she finds out I'm close to her age. No one knows I'm why he left the marriage (well part of the reason) so it's not that per se. Again the thought of spending our lives avoiding her seems really sad.

I'm not sure where to look for advice. It's not really a "step-parent" situation and everything I've found about that talks about younger children anyway. I don't know how to mend things with my sister. Do I just wait it out and hope people will come around? Do I just ignore her and invite him to things and stand my ground? My own parents are divorced and we were kids when they had new partners so we just kind of had to accept it, I'm not sure how it feels to go through as an adult. And I am aware that I've brought this all on myself. Part of me thinks this is just part of the punishment for decisions I made and I just have to live with the fractured relationships that result.

Sorry for the wall of text.
-where can I look for advice on handling post-marriage relationship and family reaction to it?
-if this was you, how did it turn out?
-if this was your parent, did you eventually accept the other person?
-if it's never going to change how can I stop it bothering me and learn to accept it?
posted by outoftime to Human Relations (33 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry, but do you live with your partner? And how long have you been separated from your (ex)-husband--a year? Are all of you legally divorced? These things actually will have a lot to do with how people perceive your relationship.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:03 AM on December 31, 2014 [7 favorites]

Specifically from my experience--I am still legally married despite having decided with my ex to end our marriage years ago (!) and this fact definitely colors some peoples' opinion of my live-in relationship with my boyfriend. It seems a bit silly to me because it's completely arbitrary--had we not move to MA we'd be divorced by now, for example--but to some people the legally married part is a big deal. So they might come around a bit after that.

Also, I'm assuming you don't have kids; that would also be a big part of the calculus here.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:06 AM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

You know, I came in here prepared for "if everyone else hates your boyfriend, maybe..." but no. Your sister needs to start removing herself from the situation if she just can't possibly tolerate you moving on in your life. You're not hurting her, you were never hurting her, this is manufactured drama and everyone needs to stop catering to it. She can grow up or stay home or come and be uncomfortable and just braise in it, it's nobody else's problem to fix. This isn't even about you, it's about being the center of attention.

Same deal for the daughter. And it's entirely up to him to decide how to manage his relationship with her and her issues.

You just have to accept that there are assholes in the world, and you cannot fix them. You sound a little doormatty with all the being soooo understanding of them being assholes like you deserve it, but seriously - you have done nothing to your sister but live your life not exactly the way she dictates, and the daughter's going to hate anybody he dates. It's not about you.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:06 AM on December 31, 2014 [30 favorites]

Can I also ask why you're bothering to make excuses to yourself to explain away some shoddy treatment from your sister?

She does not have the right to ask you to uninvite someone because she "wouldn't feel comfortable". He is your partner, he makes YOU happy, and she should be happy FOR you. If she doesn't feel comfortable around him, she can bloody well stay home herself - and if she does, it is not YOUR fault if she does, it is HERS for not having the emotional maturity to suck it up and join the family.

I would instead look for resources on enforcing your boundaries with a sibling. You're trying to make excuses for them, but instead you need to be saying "you know what, the way you're treating me is crossing a line and it is not fair."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:07 AM on December 31, 2014 [14 favorites]

Response by poster: Not to threadsit but just to answer that. No we don't live together. I have my own place but its being fixed up so I stay with him a lot. We are not legally divorced yet due to the rules around divorce where I live - he has just become eligible, I have another year to go. For religious reasons some people don't get divorced at all or for a long time or for a specific reason - say to get remarried - my own parents were separated for 20 years before they made it final. It might sound weird but it wouldn't have any effect here on people's perceptions - the marriages are over which everyone is aware of. Sorry if that makes it sound more complicated. No I have no kids.
posted by outoftime at 11:09 AM on December 31, 2014

Oh, okay, that is helpful.

The thing with the daughter is that she wants to spend time with her dad and it weirds her out that dad's "new" girlfriend who she has never even met is at his house when she just wants to hang with dad. He should be more sensitive to that, which I think you realize. I would suggest making yourself scarce before she comes over instead of offering to leave.

I would guess that a lot of the disconnect here is that you don't feel like you are newly girlfriend/boyfriend--but to other people you very certainly are brand new, you and this guy are not married, and he's the type of person to have an affair with a married person decades his junior. They are wary of his character and likely do not want to include him in the family fold until time and experience show that he is not actually as sleazy as he looks on paper.

The other issue is that people get attached to their in-laws! I miss my in-laws quite a bit, even my sister-in-law's old girlfriend and I had spent holidays together. It takes time to adjust to losing a brother/son-in-law and getting a new one.

That said, if your sister was an asshole before she's likely to continue to be an asshole, and to hell with her. But time, and giving everyone space to come to terms with your new relationship without insisting that they spend time with your SO/you will help quite a bit.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:14 AM on December 31, 2014 [9 favorites]

Sorry if I'm not being clear--I'm not the best writer. What I mean is that to you, you've been in love with this man for years! But to most other people this is pretty fast (less than a year since you left your husband). Add that to the emotions brought up by the affair (fear being one of them--I feel like married women with kids especially fear being left for younger women), and people will need time to get used to it and be their best, most generous selves.

I would actually not press the issue by insisting that he come to family gatherings or being around when his daughter comes to visit. Instead I'd keep your family lives separate for now, maybe for another 6 months or so of healthy, happy relationship.

Good luck with this.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:22 AM on December 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

When people gave me grief for being in a long-distance relationship with an Australian woman who I eventually married, I told them to fuck off. Sometimes I told them to fuck off and die.

You aren't obligated to ask other people's permission to love somebody, and anybody who thinks otherwise is your enemy. You should treat them as such, and remove them from your life by any nonviolent means necessary.
posted by starbreaker at 11:24 AM on December 31, 2014 [6 favorites]

Your sister is being a jerk. I don't have a really full understanding of why she's being a jerk. I know you've asked a bunch of previous questions, but I haven't combed through them to find out where you live, what kind of culture you grew up in, what religious or social rules your family imposes, etc.
What is is that your sister objects to? (That you split with your husband? That you separated but didn't divorce? That you are/aren't planning to divorce? That you're starting a new relationship before the divorce goes through? That you started a new relationship before you ended the old one (does she even know that?) She objects to this specific new partner or any partner?) If you don't know for absolute certain exactly what her problem is, then you should probably ask her. There's a faint chance for a healthy conversation there. (despite the fact that your sister is, in my opinion, being a total jerk)
posted by aimedwander at 11:28 AM on December 31, 2014

In my experience, legitimizing the new relationship - ie, getting married - tends to ease the pressure. It may not be what you want to do, and some people may never be completely happy about it - but people in general will respect your relationship more when you're married.
posted by doctor tough love at 11:32 AM on December 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

It's harder if there's a stigma against divorce where you are. In the case of your sister, that's what you're fighting. She's upset because you're bucking the norm for your area and it reflects poorly on her. To that I say, "Screw her." She didn't have to live your life. You and your partner were both in unhappy relationships and I'm assuming that they were already broken and you were each separated before you got together. (and if not, although I'm no fan of infidelity, I can see how things might be different in a more closed culture.)

So tell your family, "I am with Bill now. We are a couple. We attend all functions together." If you treat your union with respect, your family must follow suit. If your sister threatens to boycott, that's on her. It sounds like your parents are on-board with your relationship, so let your sister know that she's the one being a butt.

As for his daughter, she has problems. She's had them way before you entered the picture, they have nothing to do with you. She may never warm to you, she may hate you forever. There's nothing you can do about it. Your partner needs to manage that relationship. If you're there when she drops over and she throws a tantrum, that's her problem. It sounds like your partner has a handle on his relationship with his daughter. Follow your partner's lead. She doesn't have to love you, and vice-versa. He may end up having to compartmentalize you both. He can navigate that, just be accommodating so long as it's respectful and appropriate.

This is not an easy row to hoe, you knew that when you were getting into it. Give people time to get used to the idea, but continue to present as a committed couple. People will either deal with it, or they won't. You can't please everyone, so please yourself.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:34 AM on December 31, 2014 [8 favorites]

You can live your life the way you choose, but conversely people have the right to judge your choices. I doubt your sister and your new SO's daughters are going to change their mind anytime soon (nor do I think they should). I think in time they'll realize that they have to accept your relationship or lose their loved ones altogether, but in the meantime there's not much you can do about it.
posted by crazy with stars at 11:50 AM on December 31, 2014

I would entertain the possibility that sis is as upset as she is because her life may LOOK picture perfect to outsiders but may not be all the fulfilling to her. If so, you leaving an unhappy marriage would just aggravate her and kind of slap her in the face with the fact that, no, she doesn't REALLY have to stay. She chooses to stay.

My divorce was amicable. When I filed, a woman I knew, who claimed to adore her husband and was staying with him, began emailing me the most man-hating, hostile, man-bashing ugly "jokes" I have ever seen. This stuff was just venomous as all hell. She talked trash to me about my divorce, my future ex, etc while swearing she had a good marriage blah blah blah. I just did not reply to most of this utter and complete SHIT. We eventually grew apart.

The stuff she was sending me had nothing whatsoever to do with the facts of my life and my divorce. It was just a cheap excuse for this very bitter woman to spew venom at someone.

I will suggest that, as much as possible, you just do not engage your sister on this topic. Talk to her about other things. Bring your new man along to functions. Try to sit as far from sis as possible. But don't exclude him. Other people may eventually figure out it's her, not you.

The daughter may be going through that thing some people do of being in denial that their parents have a sexuality. Your relationship to him is undenial proof that his sexuality isn't dead yet. Some folks have a very hard time with that. There may be not much you can do about it. I would leave it up to him to deal with it.

You might consider rearranging your life such that these different worlds intersect less. That is what I have done post-divorce. If I get with someone, they will need to deal with my two sons, who still live with me. Everyone else will get politely notified if I remarry because I am likely to take a new last name at that time. Beyond that, I don't want anyone butting into my private life. But I have spent a lot of years arranging it such that my private life shouldn't directly impact anyone other than my sons.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 11:51 AM on December 31, 2014 [5 favorites]

A lot of people have trouble forgiving others' affairs; it veers into dealbreaker territory. (Though it's somewhat ambiguous here, from your previous questions it sounds like this relationship certainly began as an affair, behind your husband's back, before you mutually decided the marriage was over. If I'm mistaken about this, I apologize.) Even if the affair and breakup of the original relationship don't affect them directly. Even if the relationship was not a good one and would have, or should have, ended anyway. I've known friendships that have ended over affairs. It's more painful and more complicated when both members of the now-broken-up couple are considered good friends or part of the family.

This doesn't mean you or your partner are bad people or unworthy of forgiveness, and it doesn't excuse your sister or your partner's daughter being shitty to you. (Even if your partner's daughter doesn't know he left his marriage for you, I bet she suspects it.) It's just that their behavior is more than simply jerks being jerks.

Regardless, repairing these relationships is going to be slow and difficult. It might not happen with your sister if she's always been antagonistic towards you. All you can really do is take the high road, and don't let on that they're getting to you; don't be country-club polite or overcompensate with aggressive friendliness, just be nice to them like you'd be nice to anyone else. Back out of anything the moment you smell drama; if your sister tries to invite you to something but doesn't want your partner to come, don't go and don't give it any more mental space. Treat your partner well, don't make him choose sides, and allow everyone as much space as they need.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:08 PM on December 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

When I told her I had fallen for someone else and didn't know what to do she was very judgemental, as is her right.

No it's not. She can stuff it. That's her right, but she doesn't get to sit in on judgment. She can do so, but only if you let her, so don't let her. Stuff it.

When I be and separated over a year ago she was very unsupportive and has remained so. Two examples - when we were both in my mum's house and I walked in in tears and she got up and walked out, the other when I texted her saying I was in a bad way and could I maybe come and talk to her and she didn't reply, then text me a week later saying "How are you? Can you babysit tomorrow night?" She is married with kids and her life is textbook perfect and I think she feels I've brought shame on them (I'm not arguing).

I would be the world's most unavailable babysitter in the world until her attitude changed. Life is too short to put up with assholes even if they are family. If she doesn't have time for you then you don't have time for her (or her kids). If she can't support you, then don't enable her either. She can pay for a sitter.

Everyone in this situation are presumably adults. They need to start acting like it. His daughter needs to buck up and realize her dad is no longer in the relationship she was used to. She might feel betrayed and she might feel you are some sort of transgressor. She can stuff it too.

Seriously, you both need to lay down the new realities for these people and let them know how things are. You're no longer with your previous partners, you are together now. You understand they may think this sucks, but you don't share that opinion and you'd kindly ask them to keep it to themselves if they feel that way. If not, stuff it.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:44 PM on December 31, 2014 [5 favorites]

There is a woman I see professionally who is perfectly nice and I like her. She had an affair with another colleague of ours who was married at the time.

It has been years and I can't get over it. It had nothing to do with me and it was none of my business. And I can't really warm up to her now.

Your sister doesn't want to normalize what you did. It is deal breaker territory. I might feel that way, too, if I had children old enough to "get" the situation.

I don't know what you should do. It's going to come out to his family that you had an affair while you were still committed to other people. Your family knows, his doesn't. If you stay together, the affair will come out. Plan for that.

Here is what I think you could do: Stop trying to date openly and in a way that involves your family and friends while you are both still not divorced. No - he can't come to the wedding as your date. No - he can't come to family functions. No - you should not be at his home when his daughter and grandchild are coming over. Do not attend work functions together. Lay low. Stay off the radar. Do not talk about him to your parents or sister. Your relationship issues are yours. Stop looking for comfort from them. Get a therapist if you need to. (Hint: You Need To.)

Maybe once you are both officially divorced you two can step out together comfortably as Boyfriend and Girlfriend. Until that time, quit trying to be so public with this relationship. The upset folks in your life don't want to think about this relationship right now. They'll be more comfortable and welcoming when things are official.
posted by jbenben at 12:54 PM on December 31, 2014 [15 favorites]

I'm also going to have to go against the grain of this thread, and second what jbenben added. If you're the type of person to cheat on your husband, then, yes, some people are going to treat you like the type of person that cheats on your husband.

This line in particular stood out to me:
...when we were both in my mum's house and I walked in in tears and she got up and walked out...

I might be reading this wrong (and so may have your sister), but it sounds like you were crying about your relationships, and are trying to make your own mess other people's problems. It is not your sister's job to comfort you about decisions she can't support. Stop expecting that.

And honestly, I can think of examples where my parents sheltered me from people who weren't irredeemable bad people, but were actively making destructive choices. As an adult, I'm glad they did that, so I see where your sister is coming from by not involving your boyfriend in her kids' lives.

The other thing you can do is stop maintaining circles of lies. As of a few months ago, your husband had no idea your affair led to the breakdown of your marriage, and it seems like your boyfriend's family is similarly in the dark. But yet, you expect your sister to keep up your lies. That's not okay, and it's not fair. Given the fact you and your boyfriend's lives are still tied up with your exes, and the number of people who know, the truth is going to come out some time. Your sister probably doesn't want to be the one (or have her children be the one) that accidentally outs you.
posted by fermezporte at 1:12 PM on December 31, 2014 [21 favorites]

where can I look for advice on handling post-marriage relationship and family reaction to it?

Have you looked at resources for inter-religious and interracial relationships? Not quite the same, but the disapproval seems similar, so you may find strategies for dealing with your own feelings and with your families' reactions.
posted by orangejenny at 1:23 PM on December 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

Based on your previous questions, it appears that you both cheated on your previous spouses. Despite that the fact that you think 'no one knows', I am sure that it was suspected by many even before you guys split up with your respective spouses, and when you officially announced your relationship, it probably just confirmed what a lot of people suspected. You need to have a real conversation with your sister and clear the air. I'm not sure you can ever make up with the daughter in question for splitting up her parents marriage. This sort of fall-out is one of the reasons that affairs between married people are a bad idea. You can make it work between you, but to do it, you're going to have to sacrifice a lot of relationships with other people. That sucks, but I don't see a way around it.
posted by empath at 1:31 PM on December 31, 2014 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Last input I promise. Thanks for the answers, you've given me a lot to think about. I just wanted to clarify that my sister's kids are 5 and 3 so they wouldn't be in a position of having to maintain any lies. It's of course her decision however to keep them from someone they don't trust. My sister was never very close to my husband, mainly because he didn't like how she treated me, and we never socialised together. She hasn't seen him or been in touch since the breakup. I have debated how and when or if to tell my husband the truth but he lost his Dad recently and I didn't want to burden him further. He has a new partner now also. I get that people think that having an affair is a deal breaker, however my sister's husband's best friend has had several affairs and it never had any impact on their friendship. (This is not to say that's ok, just that it wasn't a deal breaker in that case).

I realise having an affair was the worst thing I've ever done and I feel guilt everyday so I don't expect people not to have feelings about it. But my brother is of the "if you're happy, I'm happy" opinion, as are my parents and my partner's other daughter (she and her sister don't speak to each other), so it's just how to manage the people who are not of the same opinion and even though it might be doormatty (which I have a tendency to be) I do get where they're coming from. I will back off from forcing anyone to meet him or me unless it's something important to me (I'll skip the wedding) and the rest of the time try and just live my life and hope that in time they come to accept it. I would be interested to hear if anyone has been able to come around from disliking the partner of someone close to them or any books etc that might be appropriate, but thanks for the insight here as always.
posted by outoftime at 1:34 PM on December 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

It seems like you want things from people in your life that they are unable to give you. Therapy can help a lot with this sort of tension.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 1:42 PM on December 31, 2014 [6 favorites]

I would advise you to leave the guilt aside. It is not required that you atone for your happiness.

Other than that, live your life. If you want to attend a wedding to which you have been invited, attend. If other people choose not to attend because you are going, that's on them.

And frankly, one of my sisters has made what I would consider to be some extremely distasteful choices -- and I have no doubt she would say the same of me, and be entirely accurate -- but at the end of the day she is my sister and my job is to be on her team. Your sister should be providing a shoulder to cry on because you're in pain; for her to exit the room and leave you to suffer is parental and punitive.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:08 PM on December 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

I am guessing the husband's best friend is male and you are female.

This is a really common double standard: "Men have needs" but women are expected to be virtuous.

I'm a woman. I was married for more than 2 decades. I was not faithful. At the time, I hated myself for it and agonized over it. I wanted very much to be faithful. At some point, it became clear to me that we only had sex when he wanted it. If I asked, I was consistently turned down. That's why I cheated.

There are some deeply sick, twisted societal expectations out there that really don't work. They get made fun of in sit coms but are usually not confronted seriously in daily life. The choices you made are basically forcing people to confront them and it is making them deeply uncomfortable.

In All in the Family, Archie is telling his daughter that men are supposed to have experience before marriage, women are not. His daughter asks "Who are they supposed to get experience with?" (My youngest son has suggested widows should be doing this service for society -- it meets both sets of expectations and he likes that it is an answer that would mortify most people while actually being within the twisted rules.)

Monogamy as prison does not work. It only works so long as your partner agrees to play the victim. The minute they decide you aren't entitled to a monopoly, it falls apart. Monogamy only works in a healthy way if both parties feel obligated to take adequate care of each other's needs.

There are a great many people out there that believe monogamy is a virtue in and of itself and should be enforced by any means necessary (including ugly extremes like female circumcision). They are unlikely to ever understand the choice you made.

I will suggest that you may have little leeway here. Many people are going to put you in a position such that you can put up with their judge-y crap or you can start limiting how much you have to do with them. You cannot make them come around. You can just make a judgment call about how much crappy behavior you are willing to tolerate in the name of loving your sister/others. And it is okay if the amount of crap you are willing to put up with changes at some point.

I will add that given that you are in your late thirties, there is nothing whatsoever creepy about the age difference. It's not like you are some 19 year old, being taken advantage of. You are both adults, with some experience. You owe no one any explanation on that front. You and he are both old enough to be consenting adults, no qualifiers needed.
posted by Michele in California at 2:21 PM on December 31, 2014 [13 favorites]

'When Good people have affairs' might be worth a read, cos sometimes good people do indeed do this and it is not an easy path. I'm kind of of the 'don't judge until you've walked a mile in their mocasins' school on this issue. The thing that altered my perspective on an affair for someone in my family was the realisation it wouldn't have happened were the crack not already there (not to downplay the trauma for all involved). But taboo and delicate territory.. some people can t get past their initial powerful emotional response, for others time may help and seeing the reality of the new person and the relationship.
posted by tanktop at 2:28 PM on December 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

Don't tell anyone to fuck off and/or die unless you want to end the relationship you have with them.

OP, I would just give this one some time, honestly. It will be weird for a while, and it will get less weird for people over time in my experience. Whilst it feels like it's been a long time for you, it won't feel like a long time to people struggling with this, and people struggle with big change for all kinds of reasons.

re: The daughter, it sound like you have the right idea about not forcing yourself on this woman - don't push for an intimacy that's not there, and always, where it comes at little/no cost to you, let her feel like she's number one in her father's life, even if that's not true. My parents divorved and remarried when I was much younger than that, but they were transparent in my status as a distance second to their new relationships, and it's very deflatng.

re: your sister - I think you're generally taking a good tack, but I would make it easier for her to accept the reality of your relationship, with the option not to engage. What you've been doing a bit I think is giving her concerns more legitimacy than they deserve. She has s ay about how she and her family engage with your new partner; she doesn't have a say in how you and your partner engage in the broader world and the rest of your family. If it's not her wedding, then you take your partner if you want; she doesn't get a say in that.

Best of luck OP, it may take a while but you'll get there.
posted by smoke at 2:57 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your parents like your beau and are acting like reasonable people. Could you talk with them about whether it's a good idea to bring him to the upcoming wedding? Don't make it about your sister -- they already know how she feels. Just say you'd like their input on your "going public" with the relationship -- how to be fair to yourself yet not be inappropriate. There are always going to be friends and family who'll be critical of just about anything. I doubt your parents would counsel you to put other people's discomfort and disapproval above your own needs. They may, however, think it's wise to wait till you're divorced, or until they can tell your sister that it's time to accept your new life.
posted by wryly at 5:24 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Time really helps with this. When my sister left her husband for another man, I met them for dinner but wouldn't bring my kids. I didn't want to have to explain what I couldn't really understand (the ex -husband was an okay guy, and they were still married). But once both divorces were done, and they were married, I kind of shrugged and decided it was none of my business, and the kids would accept it if I did. But... in my family, it mattered that they got married. The new guy was part of the family then, and the old guy wasn't anymore.

If your sister has always been a jerk, let it go. But don't let her jerkhood affect your own actions. Do what you think is right about bringing him to the wedding, etc.

However, his daughter is his daughter. They have a relationship which is central and longstanding, and I'd suggest just backing off. You don't need to be part of that, at least at this point. Don't make him choose between you and his daughter. Let them get together without you for awhile. If your relationship lasts, you'll have years to get to be friends with her, but given your ages, friendship is what you ought to aim for, not "stepmother".

And-- I know I sound like my grandmother, but really, what's with not getting married? That's the sign to everyone that you consider this a permanent relationship, and it's what makes him family, not just "+1". And if he's NOT permanent, if he's not family to YOU, why should your families treat this like a marriage?
i know. Simplifying. But I don't get why people who intend to stay together forever don't get married. Gay couples are working so hard to get the legal right to do this because it MATTERs, and here all these couples who can do it easily don't think it matters.
Okay, I see that you aren't able to marry yet. So all this might be premature. People tend to hold off to make sure that the relationship lasts. Mazeltov in advance!
posted by pippin at 6:55 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

You don't handle other people. You handle yourself. Set your boundaries where you need them to be, and let other people do what they will.

I went through a similar situation, except I wound up getting back together with my wife. She lost some close friends who gave her a "him or us" ultimatum, and relations with most of my family members are pretty strained (my brothers haven't spoken to me in, geez, over a year). I went to therapy for a looooooooong time, and it's helped me to be comfortable in recognizing that I have needs that aren't being met, that it's acceptable for me to have these needs, and that I don't have to live the rest of my life this way unless I choose to. And a big part of "this way" is not needing to have a relationship with my brothers. It sucks, I love them so much, they're such cool people and it's so amazing to have seen them as newborns and now they have kids and jobs and they're better athletes than I and on and on but this is who they are and I can't change them.

My grandma refused to speak to me for a year+ after I moved out of my parents' house because I was disrespectful to them and all they wanted was what was best for me and the last thing she said to me before hanging up was "I hope you realize everything you're giving up." And click, she was gone, and I was spitting tacks. And I went on to have a great job as morning/lunch cook, I had my own apartment, a serious girlfriend, lots of other friends, lots of bike miles, lots of laughs and tears, and she missed out on all of that. God, I wish she could have treated me like an adult (and acted like one herself), but she didn't. And she missed out on everything that I did. To this day, though, I'm angry with her for being the stupid bitch she was. She was so convinced that she knew what was right that she refused to be a part of my life. Well, tough shit, I've got just enough room in my life for people who want to be in it, I don't have any time or resources to expend on someone not interested.

Now, the grandma thing was 25 years ago, and she and I eventually started talking again, but I never really felt as close to her after that. It took a long time to get to the point where I could look at that situation and think, yeah, I know you say I'm the light of your world, but goddamn if you didn't treat me like a turd there.

You've made your decision. You're living the life you want and need. That's all you need to do. Are you taking care of the kids in the picture? Are you able to look at yourself in the mirror? When you close your eyes at night, do you dread waking up in the morning?

Life's too short to be around people who don't want to be around you.
posted by disconnect at 9:03 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

For whatever it's worth, people like his daughter probably already assume that you are what broke up your current partner's marriage. No evidence needed. When a long term marriage breaks up, people generally just wait for the other woman to appear publicly. If she's younger, then case closed.

I don't think this is right necessarily. I admire you for doing what is right for you and I wish you all the happiness. I'm sorry these other people are being shits about it. Life's too short.
posted by gentian at 9:47 PM on December 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

Everyone covered it. And if your relationship with your sister was already strained, that says a lot. However...

" sister's kids are 5 and 3 so they wouldn't be in a position of having to maintain any lies..."

You are underestimating these children and disrespecting their mom, too.

3 and 5 years old are within the zone of when kids pick up EVERYTHING. Your sister is seeking to avoid awkward questions and having to explain interpersonal adult situations that Preschoolers should never ever have to parse. Ever.

C'mon. Please don't oversimplify how complicated this situation is. Your sister is being responsible in terms of her children. I'm sorry she's unable to express this to you respectfully. Please allow me to do it for her.

Source: parent of a 3.5 year old. he groks everything lately. no joke.
posted by jbenben at 3:55 AM on January 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

Honestly, just give your sister some time. If he's going to be your partner, he's going to be part of the family, and she will eventually adjust. Don't expect it to happen overnight, but don't take too much shit from her on this, either. It's not her life nor is it her place to punish you for your mistakes.

His daughter-- give her WAY more time and don't expect her to be 100% cool with this ever. If my dad brought the woman he cheated on my mom with around, I would not be happy about it, and if she were close to my age, I'd have an incredibly hard time with it. Intellectually, I'd accept his right to do what he wants and I'd want him to be happy, but asking me to be comfortable with her would be an extremely tall order. So if I were you, I'd extend the daughter way more leeway and empathy here. (Trust me, she knows the deal even if you aren't advertising your affair.)
posted by kapers at 1:14 PM on January 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

I have sort of been in the position of the adult daughter-- my SO's father showed up with a young woman closer to our (my and my SO's) age than to SO's father. Even as grown children, we were completely devastated. Today, we are civil with the step-parent, but I think "civil" is the best we can offer.

You bring up the fact that the daughter experienced a trauma that rendered her "unable to think of anybody else but herself," but my impression is that you mention that as a way to justify your position or make yourself feel better about how people are being unfair towards you. "Traumatized" or not, the adult daughter's reaction is typical and completely understandable. Let her grieve. To bring up character flaws in your SO's daughter and your sister (with her "textbook-perfect" life -- you write this with an air of disdain, if I am not mistaken) is petty of you.

To elaborate: you're not a bad person. You are, however, in a bad position for any child (however young or old) of your SO to ever truly accept you. I don't think it ever really happens after situations like these-- no child in that position is going to side with you, because to them, accepting you is to be implicitly accepting of the dishonesty that gets mixed in, by definition, with every marriage that started as an affair.

As a whole, your question and follow-up responses come across as self-centered: "my sister's kids are 5 and 3 so they wouldn't be in a position of having to maintain any lies"... Divorce, let alone infidelity, is a difficult subject to explain to a young child; children are curious about everything and they will catch on. Your sister's behavior may feel uncomfortable and frustrating to deal with to you, but it is not unreasonable. My SO's father's SO is not invited to family functions to this day.

"I walked in in tears and she got up and walked out..." You are making this all about you. Instead, I would think about how hurtful and disruptive infidelity and divorce is to a family. You can argue that the marriage was doomed to begin with and so on, but the fact is, you made a choice to engage in the affair. To expect that everybody accept and accommodate the outcome instead of reflecting on how hard and painful it is for other family members to accept dishonesty and disruption of the longstanding family structure is, in my opinion, self-centered.

Have some empathy and patience, and it will make everything go over more smoothly.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 2:14 PM on January 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

We are not legally divorced yet due to the rules around divorce where I live

This is part of what's going on.

Right or wrong, a lot of people feel that while you are married to someone else, you shouldn't be flaunting your relationship with another person. Since both of you are technically still married to other people, you guys publicly attending family events like weddings, etc, really falls into the category of flaunting.

Your sister doesn't want your partner around her kids. This is probably because she doesn't want to have to negotiate "yes, Auntie Outoftime is doing a bad thing that I will later tell you not to do, but we still love her" conversations.
posted by corb at 8:07 PM on January 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older help me understand the (farming) concept of quota...   |   New Year's Countdown by Radio? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.