CAROLINE WEST-MEADS:  I'm worried my stepdaughter will ruin Christmas

CAROLINE WEST-MEADS:  I’m worried my stepdaughter will ruin Christmas

Q I have been with my lovely second husband for three years. My first marriage ended seven years ago. My ex and I get on well enough and we are both close to our two teenage children. However, my new husband also has two children. His son, who is a bit younger than mine, is easy-going like his dad, but his daughter, who is the same age as mine, is incredibly difficult. She is not all bad but, like her mum, is very materialistic. I find her quite shallow and a little rude. She doesn’t get on with my daughter at all. 

My husband’s kids usually only come to stay at weekends but this year they will be with us for a week at Christmas. (Their mum is taking a luxury holiday with her new man.) I’m dreading it. My daughter is quiet and hard-working and both girls are meant to be revising for their mock GCSEs, which my daughter is anxious about. 

Although my husband loves his daughter, I don’t think he is looking forward to having her to stay either. I want her to feel included and happy here, but I am worried she will ruin Christmas. My kids can go to their dad’s for some of the time, but he is an emergency services worker and has shifts that week.

A It can be hard when children who would not naturally choose to be friends are thrust together because their respective parents happen to have fallen in love. I admire your open-hearted approach because, while this girl does sound tricky, you are keen to understand her, include her and do your best to get on with her for your husband’s sake. This is generous and I’m sure he appreciates it since it’s important he maintains a good relationship with her. 

As your own daughter gets anxious about her exams, it’s vital the emotional and physical space she needs when working is protected. You and your husband must set ground rules, such as keeping noise to a minimum during her study times. She might also need somewhere to retreat – perhaps a close friend’s house or the library – if she finds her stepsister too much. 

Your stepdaughter will probably be bored away from her friends, so could your husband take some time off to spend with his kids and give yours space? If your stepdaughter is rude to you, she might just be acting out. Don’t lose your temper, just pleasantly point out that she has been a little abrupt. If you show her nothing but kindness and engage her in activities that don’t involve shopping (eg sports or dog walks) it will smooth the way.

 I’m sure there will be tough times – and it might be that you never become close to her – but have confidence in yourself. I think you have the skills and compassion to manage this and, if you lead by example, some of that could rub off on her.


Should  leave my cheating husband?

Q My husband and I have been married for nearly 30 years and were together for ten before that. I’ve discovered that he has twice had an affair with the same person, who lives nearby – the first 13 years ago and then two years ago. His actions have left me depressed and I’m struggling. He won’t see a counsellor or talk about it in case our two adult children turn against him. I can’t decide if I should just give up and get divorced. I think that is probably the right decision, but selling the property would leave me with nowhere to live. What should I do?

A This must be devastating for you and it’s an agonising decision. After 40 years together, it would, of course, feel very difficult at first to be on your own. However, your husband has betrayed you badly. The fact that he is unwilling to make any moves towards repairing the marriage, after twice having an affair with the same person, several years apart, suggests that he is not committed to you. It is also unfair of him to refuse to talk about it because it denies you the chance to work things out. 

This is not a decision you can make without huge support, and I would urge you to go to counselling on your own. Try (or see to find a counsellor). Please also see your GP as the depression is a concern. I’m sure your husband doesn’t want to tell his children as he probably knows they will be angry. But you need their support and they are adults, so please talk to them, too. You should be entitled to half the house if you divorce. Contact or for free legal guidance.

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