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Why is my stepson excluding me from his wedding plans

My stepson is getting married in this year. His father and I embraced our future daughter-in law and looked forward meeting her family. I began to correspond with her mother, and expressed my interest in flying out to see them. My stepson discouraged me from doing this. He said they would soon be visiting our area. But we weren’t introduced to them when they came. Later, I received a call from his fiancée’s mother, who clearly mistook me for my husband’s ex-wife. She said she loved meeting me and referred to “the new wife” — me! — as “not blood.” At Thanksgiving, my stepson and his mother flew to visit his fiancée’s family and made lots of wedding plans, including for a rehearsal dinner for which we will pay half. How can we overcome all these painful exclusions, some of which are affecting our wallets? (I note: My husband’s relationship with his ex-wife is frosty.)

STEPMOM

I understand your pain. That phone call on which you were mistaken for your husband’s ex-wife sounds awful! I suspect the explanation lies largely in that “frosty” relationship between your husband and his former wife. Visits seem to have been organized to keep them apart and to prioritize your stepson’s mother. (I get that: I happen to be a mama’s boy myself.)

Your stepson could have handled introductions better. But ceremonial occasions — like “meet the parents” — can be tough for children of divorce if their parents are antagonistic. So, unless I am misreading this situation, try to forgive your stepson and take the long view: Life won’t end at the wedding! Getting to know your stepson’s in-laws may simply take longer than you expected.

As for splitting the costs of the rehearsal dinner — which I assume was acceptable until you were treated unkindly — I would stick with that plan. If I am wrong or the price is beyond your budget, please let me know. But don’t make a fuss on principle. Sometimes, it is a wise strategy to let the small things slide and focus on building better relationships. It may work for you and/or your husband.

My wife is an admitted neat freak. My children and my children try to keep things tidy, but we fail. She reacts by saying: “Why doesn’t anyone care?” But we absolutely care! Her remarks are hurtful, as she rarely acknowledges a job done well. How can I help her understand how hard we’re all trying and how upsetting her statement is?

HUSBAND

I’m glad you wrote. This problem seems to be very serious to me. A mother (or spouse) that only brings down family members and rarely lifts them up can really damage their self-esteem. I interpret the meaning of “Why doesn’t anyone care?” as a shorthand for “Why doesn’t anyone care about me?” — a harsh rebuke by a mother to her child.

Talk to your wife alone about her expectations and hurtful behavior. If she refuses to work on this (alone or with a counselor), you need to explore ways to protect your children’s emotional well-being.

My husband, son and I moved to a new community where we don’t know many people. We invited a co-worker and their child to dinner at our house. It was a casual invitation: “Do you want to come over for takeout?” When they accepted, we sent them a menu. They made their selections, including a costly seafood dish. We called the number, picked it up, and paid for the item. We had a great time. But when they left, they didn’t offer to contribute to the large dinner bill, nor did they mention reciprocating. This is a very rude and confusing behavior. My husband wants to give them another chance. What do you think?

HOST

You seem to have forgotten the lead: Congratulations for making new friends in your new community! That’s the significant takeaway (for me). It would be a shame for that to be spoilt for the price seafood.

Over the years I have heard many stories from readers who split the cost for takeout, as well from others who pay in turns. It doesn’t sound as if you mentioned payment, so your guests may have thought they were following your lead. You could give them time to do the same. You can even be cheeky with your new pals: “So, when is takeout night at your place?”

I live in a mediocre rental building. My neighbors have ratty doormats. So, to make things nicer, I went out and bought new, matching doormats for everyone — at my own expense. After I had put them down, one neighbor threw away the new mat and returned her old one! How should I handle it?

NEIGHBOR

Begin by apologizing to your neighbors for your domineering behaviour. Although you may have intended to be kind, your actions could be interpreted as disrespectful and entitled to their property. Common spaces can be best managed in a group.


Send a question at SocialQ@nytimes.com to Philip Galanes, or use Facebook to send it to Philip Galanes. @SocialQPhilipFollow us on Twitter.



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