The Love Goddess’s Holiday Hints for Handling Hostile Stepchildren

Editor’s Note: Who is the wisest of them all? Who is more dedicated to your pleasure than anyone on earth? Who can help you when you’re going online for the first time to find love; or when your lover’s children hate you; or when you want to strangle your husband? Why, the Love Goddess, of course. She promises nothing less than celestial wisdom, heavenly sex, divine dating. Read on …

So you’re dating a man who divorced his wife. Or whose wife died. Or maybe you’re even married to this man who divorced his wife or whose wife died. It’s the third Christmas together now and his grown children, who sided with the divorced wife (or with the now-sainted late wife to whom they still feel he should remain forever faithful) are resentful. Oh, he says they have “worked through” their anger at him, and that you have little to do with it all, but guess what? It’s you they hate and to whom they’re still unfailingly rude. 
     
It’s no use greeting them with a polite reminder that the statute of limitations for anger over their mother being gone is long over. It’s fruitless to say, “Hey, I never MET your mother, kids, so give me a break,” because they don’t care that you never met her, nor do they want to give you a break. 
   
“So Love Goddess,” you say, “I know it’s the holidays, and I love the notion of family fun, but do I have to look over the turkey and greet their nasty faces with good cheer?”
     
No, my well-meaning, generous-hearted earthly darlings, you don’t.
     
You do have to be a grown-up. You do have to be civil, polite and respectful. But if your stomach churns in protest at their pointed disinterest, and you find yourself with the unholy urge to upend the Christmas tree, here’s what to do instead.
   
1. Resolve early – like, now – not to fall into the role of the overly compliant “mom” even if your boyfriend/husband implicitly wants you to. Don’t bring darling, cozy, personal gifts but rather, generic ones fit for people you like but don’t love. A wine cooler. A panini maker. (Although one young teenager said to a friend of mine, “We HAVE a panini maker, thanks.” My friend said, “OK, great! I’ll keep it!” Let your boyfriend handle personal gifts if he wants to give them; and let him sign the card without your name – even though you’ll get a pang because of your desire for the family thing. But you’re not his family, so try it. 
   
2. If possible, get yourself there separately – so you can leave separately. You promised to call your dear friend in China and must do so soon after dinner! You vowed to have Christmas Grog with your ailing neighbor! Anything to give you a way out if you need one.
     
3. Do not tell your lover any of the above unless you KNOW he understands. He wants to believe such machinations are not necessary and will accuse you of  overreacting – leaving you in the same outsider position that makes you want to leave in the first place. Tell him sweetly that you want him to be with his kids and nephews and grandkids … just be gracious and get yourself free.

4. Resolve not to swallow their rudeness. “Why don’t you just shut up?” a 14-year-old girl said to her father’s girlfriend when she offered some warmhearted comment about a boy. “Oh, no, I certainly won’t,” she said amicably. “Why don’t you?” For ongoing slights, prepare a line, and deliver it elegantly and with minimal affect. My friend Beth, tired of her stepdaughter’s tiresome decision never to listen to her, said, “Ann, why do you suppose you always ask me questions and then walk away?” Beth was prepared for Ann – a psychiatrist – to say what she did: “I don’t know, Beth. Why do you think I do?” “Well,” Beth said evenly, “I think you want to act as if you’re interested … but to make sure it’s emphatically clear how much you’re not.” And then, as everyone’s mouths dropped, Beth added, looking at her watch, “Omigod, it’s late … I’ve got to get back home and make that call to China.”
       
As we enter the holidays, a time we want most to be loved, remember that sometimes you have to love yourself when others clearly don’t (and won’t). That means having the guts to stand alone – and refuse to enable those fools to hurt you.
      
Let me know your thoughts!
      
-TLG 

Like all savvy goddesses, the Love Goddess has her own blog, which you can visit by clicking here.

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