Internet annoyed by woman for trying coerce stepson to bond with family


A married woman has ruffled feathers on the internet after explaining why she insists that her husband include their children in visits with his son from a previous marriage.

*This work of nonfiction is based on conversations from social media discussion boards, as well as the insights of established experts and specialists.*

In a viral Reddit post, u/ConcernedMother45 explained that she and her husband "Fred" fell in love while he was still married to his son's mother. The original poster (OP) wrote that her 24-year-old stepson "James" has never liked her.

"I met James when he was five years old, and over the almost 20 years that I have known him, he has never liked me. Despite my best efforts to build a relationship with him, he has never shown any interest in getting to know me or his siblings."

Recently, the author asked her husband to include their children when he spends time with James, "but James has not spoken to him since."

Her mother-in-law, who the author says favors James' mother over her, accused her of hurting the relationship between Fred and his son.

According to the American Psychological Association, "children of divorce--and later, remarriage--are twice as likely to academically, behaviorally and socially struggle as children of first-marriage families: About 20 to 25 percent struggle, compared with 10 percent, a range of research finds."

The poster on Reddit wrote:

"I understand that my request may have hurt James' feelings, but after almost two decades of trying to build a relationship with him, I feel that I have exhausted all other options. I love my husband and our children, and I want them to feel included and valued in our family. It's not fair for James to exclude them from his life with Fred simply because he has a strained relationship with me.
I believe that it's important for families to come together and support one another, especially during difficult times. James is a part of our family, and I want him to know that he is welcome to spend time with us, but not at the expense of my children's feelings or our family dynamic."

So far, the post has garnered more than 4.8k upvotes and 2.5k comments. The readers seem to overwhelmingly agree that the OP is wrong to have made such a request.

Discord in blended families is relatively common, and parents need to understand how their actions can affect their children.

In a 2018 study by the University of Nebraska, researchers identified five ways to cultivate forgiveness and resilience in stepchild–stepparent relationships:

(1) healing family connections, (2) explicit negotiation, (3) maturation and acceptance, (4) a response to vulnerability and compassion, and (5) evidence of relational growth.

The study highlights " forgiveness practices that may foster resilience in stepfamily life," it also states that it's critically important to "include explicit discussion of violated expectations and hurtful acts; expression of emotions such as resentment and disappointment; compassionate responses to vulnerability; willingness to listen and discuss; commitments to improved relationships; and, in some cases, explicit requesting and granting of forgiveness."

The author claims that she and Fred "didn't do anything physical until after their divorce was final," but it appears that they did engage in an emotional affair while he was still married to James' mother.

However, it is unclear whether they have made attempts to make amends with James for the hurt and harm caused by their actions.

Reddit users have made it abundantly clear that the author of the post needs to take responsibility. The top comment, with 29,000 upvotes read:

"OK, so... Your husband divorced James' mother to be with you. James, somewhat unsurprisingly, wants nothing to do with the person who helped to break up his parents. James refused to play Happy Families with the two of you. Your husband has a tenuous relationship with James now. You put extra tension on that relationship by demanding that your children be included in any meetings between your husband and James.
Your reasoning was that your children would feel left out if their father occasionally spent time with James without them. Despite James not wanting to spend any time with his half-siblings, you somehow thought this was... going to be a healing move??? Come off it. You've been sabotaging this parent-child relationship for 20 years. Can't you give it a rest?"

Another added:

"You and your kids got the happy shiny life with your husband. Your stepson did not, and the fact that you want to make it into something else to assuage your guilt is horrible. Leave the young man alone. I know everything works out fine for stepfamilies sometimes, but your expectation that he would forgive at this point you is ridiculous. You made your bed, now lie in it."

What do you think?

Should the author of the post make more efforts to address her role in James's strained relationship with his father? Should she accept and respect his feelings instead of forcing a connection? Or is her approach justified?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Intimacy + Relationship-ing Coach | Writer. Helping singles & couples create healthy loving relationships.

Los Angeles County, CA

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