Dear Margo: A Modern Cinderella

Should I continue to make the effort with the people I consider my parents? Margo Howard’s advice

A Modern Cinderella

Dear Margo: I was raised in a “unique” family. My mother passed away when I was young, and I was raised by my stepfather and his new wife. These “parents” raised me — as in, they allowed me to live with them and provided me with the necessities and emotional support if I pleaded for it. Ours was a large and varied family, and I was lost in the shuffle. Now I’m in my mid 30s and am happily married with a successful career and two kids of my own. My problem is that my parents rarely want anything to do with my family or me. They often do things with my other siblings (their biological children), yet I’m rarely invited. I used to contact them to initiate get-togethers, but it was never reciprocated, so I stopped.

I recognize that they raised me, but I just can’t help feeling hurt and disappointed that they don’t want to spend any time together. Should I continue to make an effort and take whatever little bit of a relationship I can squeeze out of them, or should I give up, focus on my immediate family and accept that I lost any parent I may have had when my biological mother died? — Stepdaughter

Dear Step: This is a sad situation, and the meaning is that not everyone has a big heart. The reality is that you were young when you lost your mother, and she was married to a man who no doubt felt burdened by a youngster he “inherited,” and real emotion never jelled. When he remarried, the woman he chose was a quart low in the compassion department, as well. So that’s the situation.

I would indeed stop the overtures and let your friends be your family. With luck, you might stumble onto an older couple who could fill the position of grandparents for your kids. Therapy might help you integrate the situation and understand that there is nothing wrong with you and what happened was just a bum break. For whatever it’s worth, some biological kids experience this situation — and worse. I wish you well. — Margo, forwardly

No One Need Stay Married Forever

Dear Margo: I am a 24-year-old male who’s been going through a pretty tough time for quite a while. I’m a former serviceman who got married during my military tour. While I was still in, I had to be away for a period of two weeks, unable to leave my command. I was able to call my wife every day when my daily shifts were over, and everything seemed to be OK. However, when I was finally able to return home, the house was cleaned out, except for my uniforms and very few other objects. A letter was on the counter stating she had left for her home state to be with another man. Six months later, I was discharged and returned to my own home state. All of this happened three years ago.

Since then, we have been in limited contact via email, and every time the topic of divorce comes up, she gets dodgy and disappears for weeks if not months. At one point, she sent me a package of divorce papers from the state we were married in, and I filled them out on my end and sent them back to the state’s court system. However, nothing happened with the proceedings. I again filed for divorce through my home state and had her “served.” She blatantly refused to answer them, and the courts will do nothing until she does. What can I do? I need to move on. — Broken Heart in Michigan

Dear Broke: I don’t know how things work in Michigan, but many states now have remedies for spouses who will not respond to divorce papers. Often “abandonment” kicks in after one year apart. I suggest you contact a lawyer for guidance in securing your divorce. — Margo, hopefully

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

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47 comments so far.

  1. avatar crystalclear says:

    lisakitty, well, it’s certainly not something to get so worked up over now is it?   He didn’t pull anything over my eyes as he would have no reason to and he is quite an honorable  and successful man.   He did go on line and  he printed out the paperwork.   He paid a small fee for this.   And, yes, as I said in my second post obviously one you didn’t read before writing yours,  which states that he did have to “send”  it to the court in the state where she lived (he moved to another state).   He never had to appear in court.   She did get an attorney who negotiated the settlement for her which ended up being that she got it all which suited him just fine.    Three or four months later their divorce was final.  

    My divorce was a completely different matter as my attorney filed under the Ruth Bader Ginsburg formula for long marriages.   Worked like a charm and cost quite a bit more.

    Happy Holidays, lisakitty.

  2. avatar Patti Spencer says:

    For Ltr #1 – My situation was reversed – I was adopted at an early age and have found half of my biological family – I was lucky here – the point is – two of my “sisters” are people who I grew up with from school.  Family is what YOU MAKE IT! DNA has a small part in it.  The people who are the biggest loosers here are the ones who raised you.  They have chosen not to allow themselves to love you the way they should as parents.  If you are looking fr someone to be grandparents for your kids – check out the senior centers in your area.  There are older people out there who, like my mom now, have their kids farther away from them, or have lost their kids some way and are looking to be grandparents to others.  Think about adopting a few of these people.  The love will go both ways here.

    For LTR #2 – I know that there are ways around this – esp. in Michigan- take Margo’s advice and get an attorney – they can guide you through this one – see if the military can help you with it.  Like others have said – sounds like she wants something – more than likely, money!  Thank you for your service to our country!  

  3. avatar crystalclear says:

    lisakitty, no harm done!   I knew you hadn’t been able to read my follow up post.    Wishing you the best throughout this holiday.    Women are such special people!

  4. avatar crystalclear says:

    I agree that an attorney can be important.   However, sometimes when couples have been married a few years and haven’t accumulated “things” and investments it can be easier to manuever.   All of you have offered very good advice.  

    On LW1 great advice all the way around.   What I am reading from all of you is for LW1 to embrace with is solid and real in her life and feel good about it!

  5. avatar Carol Joly says:

    I look forward to every Thursday and Friday for Margo. 

  6. avatar impska says:

    In defense of LW1’s parents, I can imagine that the situation that they found themselves in was a difficult one. Her father inherited a little girl and chose to keep her rather than leave her to the foster care system. Clearly, he felt some connection to her – maybe it was only duty, but it was something. Like anyone in his position, he kept her with the intention of raising her and doing his best by her. No one in his situation would keep the step daughter with the intention of making her feel unloved and unwelcome.

    Then he gets remarried and the stepmother is in an even more difficult position. She’s in a position to adopt a girl that has no biological connection to herself or her husband whatsoever. And when we imagine ourselves in that position, we think we’d be great parents, just fine.

    But when you speak with people who have adopted non-infant orphans, it’s not so easy as all that. The loving motherly feeling isn’t automatic, the child may have attachment issues, the child often requires constant reassurances. Except neither of these people quite intended to adopt a child like this – it just happened. On the other hand, they have their biological children, the ones they chose to have, who they’ve raised from infants, who they have a full biological connection to, who do not have the emotional problems and needs that the orphan has.

    It doesn’t change what the LW has to do: These people aren’t able to give her what she needs. She should move on and stop seeking it from them. They did their best and maybe it wasn’t good enough. It doesn’t mean they’re bad people, it doesn’t mean they’re toxic, but they will never love her the way she wants them to.

  7. avatar WordUp says:

    You can file in Illinois under abandonment.  There are probably other states as well.  If you hire a PI and he writes a letter saying he can’t find her where she is supposed to be, that will strengthen your case, but it’s not essential.  She is probably trying to hang on for some type of benefit.  If she got pregnant, she may try to saddle you with a financial responsibility that isn’t yours.  Your lawyer is not on the job.  Get another one or file a DIY divorce – you should be free and clear within 120 days in most states.  I wouldn’t pay the lawyer the entire amount until the divorce is filed in court, not just the papers initiating it.  It’s getting harder to find a lawyer who does what you hire him for lately. 

  8. avatar crystalclear says:

    lisakitty, I apologize if I made getting a divorce sound easy.   I didn’t mean to ruffle feathers just sharing the experiences I’ve witnessed  over the years.   As I stated my own divorce was not simple.  

    I do see the point you are making.   *biggest grin*     

  9. avatar Amy says:

    LW#2: Your ex sure is a cunt. Wow. I don’t take that word lightly, but there’s no other word to describe a woman of her morals and behavior. That said, I agree that you need a lawyer. After three years of this nonsense, I’m certain that your divorce can be finalized whether she wants it to or not. Something tells me this man she ran off to is wanting to get married and she’s riding out the excuse that her divorce won’t go through. What a stinker.

  10. avatar Jon T says:

    Wow, what heartbreaking letters, especially right around the holidays. I hope both LWs are able to make peace and/or go forward in their situations. Margo’s advice was spot on in both cases.

  11. avatar Jon T says:

    This is totally unrelated to Margo’s column, but I need assistance in resolving an issue with this website. I’ve been trying to reach anyone who runs this website to find out why my home computer has suddenly been blocked from accessing this site. I’ve sent e-mails trying to find out why I’m being accused of spamming the site, as I’ve always been careful not to post anything derogatory or offensive in the comments sections (I noticed the use of the C-word above didn’t set off any red flags here). Is there a webmaster who would be kind enough to address this issue? I enjoy the content of this site, and don’t appreciate having to use other computers to see it.