A heartbroken Redditor's experience emphasizes why it's so important for parents to find a partner whose relatives will unconditionally love and welcome a child from a previous relationship.

By Maressa Brown
January 14, 2021
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Credit: Getty Images. Art: Jillian Sellers.

Sixteen percent of children live in blended families, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. That number is sure to be on the rise, yet toxic, antiquated attitudes about stepfamilies persist. A woman on Reddit recently detailed an unnerving experience with her mother-in-law that illustrated this frustrating fact. The 36-year-old mom of two wrote during a family get-together, she noticed that her MIL had excluded her daughters from a family photo album.

The original poster (OP) explained that she met her fiancé over two years ago. "He's a good man, treats my girls well and loves them," wrote the Redditor. "Future mother-in-law is a generous lady, truth be told. His family are respectful and helpful. We visit them a lot. After we got engaged, I pretty much considered this my extended family. However, my mother-in-law tends to do things that either intentionally or unintentionally hurt my feelings."

A few examples the OP offered: "When there's a family dinner at a restaurant we're not invited," she wrote. "On Christmas, my girls didn't receive anything from her while other kids in the family got gifts and cards. Also all the kids in the family get a trip once a month but my girls never participate." The OP said her future MIL's excuse is that she "forgot."

Then this week, her fiancé's mom told the Redditor that she was creating a family photo album and gathering pictures from everyone, including the OP. "I thought that was nice of her," wrote the mom, who then sent a few options over. Later, she and her fiancé were invited to the MIL's house to look at the completed album.

"The entire family was there to look at the photo album because it was complete," wrote the OP. "We took turns to look at it. And when it was mine and my girls' turn, I was stunned. Turned out she picked the pictures that had just me and her son. Not my girls."

The OP, who was understandably distressed by how the incident made her daughters feel, asked why the pictures weren't there. "She just ignored me," recalled the Redditor. "My fiancé stared at me. I felt awful I got up, took my girls and walked out immediately. Everyone was confused. My fiancé followed us. Then we left."

At home, the OP's fiancé said she shouldn't have walked out and should just ignore the issue at hand, because, "Who cares about a stupid photo album?"

"I told him it's a symbol of family," noted the OP. "The girls felt left out when all the kids' pictures were there except for the girls although I sent her pics of four of us as a family. He said his mom didn't mean it and promised that this will change once we get married And said he'll 'get everyone in line,' so I shouldn't even consider this a problem."

The OP's fiancé also described his soon-to-be stepdaughters as the "light of his life and that's the only thing that matters." He then told the OP that she was overreacting.

Then, the OP's future MIL called, upset, calling her future DIL's behavior "disrespectful to the entire family." When the OP explained why she was upset, the MIL "bluntly said, 'I don't wanna lie to people. Those girls don't relate to me in any way.'" She then said she loves the OP's girls and treats them well, and she'll even "host their birthdays," but she "won't call them family." "I argued with her over this, and I hung up on her since she didn't think she did anything wrong," wrote the Redditor.

She then turned it over to the community, asking if she was wrong to take a stand in this way.

Commenters overwhelmingly warned the OP against moving forward with her fiancè. "Pro tip: DON'T MARRY THIS MAN," wrote u/loloannd. "Their behavior now won't change once you're married. Nothing will be different. Your girls will be excluded like this by his family forever."

U/bugDue8789 agreed, noting, "If the girls are 'the light of his life,' he wouldn't let his family treat them this way and would have nipped it in the bud the first time they were excluded with gifts. Everyone can spend their money as they see fit, but for someone that should be treating them as grandchildren should be more fair. Or else she doesn't get to be in their lives. If they get married, guaranteed she regrets it, unless he has an epiphany before the wedding."

And u/LadyTrix weighed in, "OP please listen to this comment. As someone who grew up in a family dynamic similar to this, the hurt your future MIL is inflicting upon your children will be unpacked years later, and they will have resentment towards her and the parent(s) who let it happen to them. Throw the whole fiancé away. There is someone out there who will truly love those children like his own and will make sure, from day 1, that his family loves them just as much. The one you have right now is rotten fruit."

One Redditor, writing under the handle u/rare_Guarantee_6975, pointed out that the situation could get even hairier if they were to have a kid together. "Can you imagine what those girls will feel like when/if she and the fiancé have kids? His family will treat the kid super well and exclude her daughters! Run, OP, run!"

U/sentientWater noted that she had been down a similar path and married the guy. "My daughter was 15 months old when I met my now husband. Met his family (as they live out of state) at four years together and two biological kids between us in addition to the oldest. Future SIL told my then 6-year-old to go in the other room so she could spend time with her real niece and nephew. We left that house, immediately. To THIS DAY, my oldest is not considered family, and I'm just a 'problem' my husband needs to leave behind. ... They will NOT change. It will NOT get better."

Responding to her fellow Redditors, the OP shared that she realizes this latest issue has revealed her future MIL's "true intentions." She noted, "I don't know what to say about his family, and this treatment I'm seriously thinking of postponing our wedding."

The fact is that marriage, especially when it involves children from a previous relationship, requires that both partners tackle family issues as a united front. As heartbreaking as it might be for the OP to postpone her wedding, attempting to hash this out in couples therapy—or walking away—might very well be what's best for everyone. After all, the OP's kids deserve not only a stepdad but a whole, loving, blended family.

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