DEAR AMY: I am currently dating/living with my boyfriend of three years. He has a daughter (9 years old) from a previous marriage that we have with us every other weekend. My boyfriend’s ex-wife has a son (age 14) from a previous relationship, whom my boyfriend will occasionally refer to as his “stepson,” although for as long as we have been together he has never spent any time with him, nor had any contact with him, with the exception of occasionally seeing the “stepson” when he drops off/picks up his daughter. We have a vacation coming up, and my boyfriend’s daughter invited her brother (the “stepson”) to go without our permission. My boyfriend seems comfortable with the “stepson” going, but I’m not comfortable with it. To me the past should stay in the past, and there is no reason to try and co-mingle families (with the exception of my boyfriend’s daughter). I should also mention that my boyfriend and his ex-wife were only together for three years. What are your thoughts on this? Am I overreacting?
DEAR TORN: I don’t know if you are overreacting, but you are definitely guilty of over-punctuating.
Your insistence on referring to your guy’s stepson as a “stepson” — as if this is debatable — is revealing.
Your boyfriend was married to the boy’s mother, correct? Then the boy is the man’s stepson.
I know many, many stepparents who stay close to their stepchildren after the marriage has ended. This is ideal but not always possible, especially if the stepparent’s next partner has firm feelings about the “past staying in the past,” and not “co-mingling families.”
Your guy’s daughter shouldn’t have invited this teen on your vacation, but — she’s 9. He’s her brother. She probably made some assumptions about what constitutes a “family vacation” that simply don’t seem to apply in this case.
If this teen lives with his sister and their mother, then he is in the girl’s life 10 times more often than you are. It would be great if your guy spent more time with him than just waving across the driveway.
A 9-year-old shouldn’t be making final choices about your vacation, but you should talk with your partner about it privately and decide between you what to do.
If you two choose not to include the boy, you can explain it like this: “We’re not going to include him this time, but you’ve reminded me that I don’t know him that well. Maybe he would like to hang out with us sometime on one of the weekends you’re here. Would you like that?”
DEAR AMY: My daughter is getting married about 250 miles from home next year. I’ve already asked my friends and relatives if they think they might attend, and only 1 out of 20 said she probably will. I told my daughter that she, her fiance and his family should also casually poll their loved ones so they don’t put a deposit on a hall for a minimum of 100 people when only 20 may accept the invitation. My daughter says that would be a rude and unacceptable thing to do. I say it may save many thousands of dollars if they have a vague idea of how many attendees to plan on before committing to a large banquet hall that they will need a loan to afford. What are your thoughts on this approach, please?
Very Concerned MOB
DEAR MOB: It is not rude to ask friends and relatives if they can be available for a wedding on a specific date; some people try to accomplish this by sending “save the date” notices well in advance, but (like you) I just think it is smart to try to get a basic count before putting down a deposit.
However — this is your daughter’s wedding, not yours. Unless you are financing this or are being asked specifically for your input, you should let the couple handle it.
It is not a good idea to take out loans to pay for weddings; starting married life in debt for a one-day celebration is putting a lot of pressure on the couple.
DEAR AMY: I had to laugh at the letter from “Peeved,” who resented the fact that their friend (who could afford professionals) had asked for help moving. I just faced this experience last weekend! A bunch of us showed up to help. One friend hurt his back, one friend dropped a table, and overall it was a real mess.
DEAR MOVER: I’m picturing it now. Yikes.