Her In-Laws Give Her Child Short Shrift

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I've been married for two years to my current husband, who is in the Navy. We are stationed in San Diego. I am my husband's first wife and I'm pregnant with our first child together, but I also have an 8-year-old son from a previous marriage.

I've known my husband for four years but have had a rocky relationship with his family because they refuse to accept me and my son. Basically, my husband is their only son and the golden boy in his family. His parents and grandparents absolutely adore him, and he is greatly admired by a lot of people in the small Texas town where he's from.

I'm from Oregon, and I can admit that their culture has taken me a while to get used to. I'm still not totally used to it. My husband is a great man, but the doting on him can be a little overboard. My biggest problem though, and the reason I'm writing to you, is that his family won't accept me and my son.

They treat me and talk about me like I am damaged goods and like my husband didn't marry well. You would think I was a street walker that he had to rescue, the way they act toward me. Yes, I was married before and before that I had relationships with other men. No, the golden boy is not my first -- but I'm a good person, too.

School let out for my son in May. My in-laws' other grandchildren were visiting, and they wanted to know if my son could come too. My husband insisted that I let my son go, and I agreed. I thought it would be a good time for him to get to know his new grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

It didn't happen like that. My son said he was grounded one day for misbehaving, and the other children received gifts and privileges that he didn't get. Now my son says he never wants to visit them again.

I am still furious about it, and my husband still has not stepped up to talk to them about it. He won't defend me and my son. I guess they think they will be good to the child I have with their son, but not my child with my ex-husband.

I don't think it's right and I believe trouble is looming. I know they will want to see our child who will be born in September, but it just won't work like that. Please tell me how to handle this situation.

-- Troubled in San Diego

Dear Troubled in SD,

I agree with you that trouble is on the horizon. In fact, it's already here and you are experiencing it now. First, let me say that your priority has to be to your son. If you don't stand up for him and protect him, who will?

You already said that your husband doesn't get it. He doesn't think he needs to advocate for you and your son. This means his family will continue to throw shade your way and mistreat your child. This is not right.

I don't want to see you mistreated either, but you are a grown woman. Your son is a child, and he needs protection. This issue has been going on since you met and married your husband. His family doesn't think you measure up to the Texas standard.

Truth is, you could win the Nobel Peace Prize and they still might not give you credit. It's like that sometimes; some people will put a red X by your face when they first meet you and there's nothing you can ever do about it.

You said you are still seething over something that happened in May. Perhaps you are wondering if your son is telling the truth or if you should say something because your husband won't. My advice is for you to address your concerns with your in-laws. They could very well treat your new baby differently than your 8-year-old. You have to let them know how you feel now before it gets more out of control.

Just tell them how you feel as a mother. Moreover, tell them how your son felt when he was in their care.

This could get very ugly and affect your marriage further. You could end up in divorce court over this. Fixing the favoritism problem will take a lot of patience and work, but it can be done.

My second recommendation is for you to talk with your husband. He needs to know how you feel and how his lack of support has affected you and your marriage. Explain to him that you need his support in building a bridge to his family. It's going to take everyone working together.

Finally, I think you and your husband should seek out marriage therapy as soon as possible. Check on base for therapy services. If services are not available on any of the bases near you, call Military OneSource and they will connect you to a therapist in the San Diego area.

I hope this helps, and I hope the delivery of your new baby goes well. Keep in touch with me and let me know how everything is going.

-- Ms. Vicki

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