Q: I love my fiancé more than anything in this world. He’s kind, funny, and a generally nice guy. The type of guy who will work the seven-day-a-week job without complaint and still make sure you have time to do “fun stuff.” However, when I talk about my future in-laws, I get upset. Not for me. For him. His parents divorced when he was young and his father remarried. My fiancé chose to live with his mother on the opposite end of the country. His father went on to have more children. My future in-laws have not always treated my future husband fairly, especially in the time that we have been together. They spend more time with their children they had together, seeming to forget that they each had children from previous relationships. They have never even been to our home (granted it is far away, but the distance is the same as one of their other children).
My fiancé and I have decided to have children in the future, and we don’t want our children to feel that their grandparents on their father’s side give them any less love or attention than they would get from their grandparents on their mother’s side. Do we address this issue with his folks, or do we let it ride? If we do address this issue, how do we do so tactfully?
A: Dear Anonymous,
Nope, you don’t address it. There’s no way to address it. And what would happen if you did say, “Hey, why are you visiting them more than us?” or, “It sometimes feels like you favor the other kids”? In the very best outcome, they try a little harder to make it seem like they dole out their time and affection evenly. But that’s unlikely to last, and the whole time you’d know it’s because you had to ask.
The blended family tree adds a level of complexity, but this stuff also happens in families where there aren’t remarriages and stepsiblings. Some parents just aren’t good at fairness. And even when parents are good at it, it doesn’t always translate to grandparenting. You want your future hypothetical kids to feel equally loved by both sides of the family, but that’s not always a realistic goal.
You can’t control family dynamics. You can’t micromanage relationships. All you can do for the people you care about is love them wholly, unconditionally, regardless of how others treat them. Your partner’s parents may suck in this way, but he’s got you now. They might continue to suck once they’re grandparents. But your kids will have you. You just love on them all you can, and you surround them by other folks who love on them—aunties, babysitters, doting friends.
Your kids will be fine as people (like your partner is); they just might not be very close to their grandparents as they grow up. Which sucks, but is out of your control. Besides, it’s good for kids to face stuff that sucks without us fixing it (even if we’d prefer to).
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