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Ask Ellie: Banning step-child from home hurts partner

Unless physical abuse was involved and counselling/intervention tried but failed, no child should be disallowed in their parent’s home

Dear Ellie: I’m a father who’s been very close to his daughter for 42 years. She’s now single, divorced. I’ve been in a common-law marriage for 30 years.

When my second wife came into our family my daughter was 11. Everything went well until she was in high school and they had a huge disagreement. Years of trying to resolve their differences has failed miserably.

For several years now, my wife won’t allow my daughter into our home. I’ve spent previous Christmases alone with my daughter for a couple of days.

This year, I’m not allowed in her house because she’s not allowed in mine. Neither one will try some sort of solution.

Stuck in the Middle

Staying in the middle equals avoidance. Your partner already issued her own solution to their disagreement. It’s led to you losing your daughter’s trust/respect.

Disallowing your daughter into your jointly-owned home showed little regard for you.

Your daughter’s learned to respond in kind, shutting you out of her house. She cannot accept the situation any longer.

Unless physical abuse was involved and counselling/intervention tried but failed, no child should be disallowed in their parent’s home.

But having received your letter when unable to respond before Christmas (and when Omicron made get-togethers problematic) there’s now time to reflect on what’s really at stake here.

Will you accept estrangement from your daughter to please your partner? Does what happened years back warrant still being rejected at 42?

Use the Christmas spirit to change this pathetic situation: Insist that your partner, yourself, and your daughter individually talk (online, for now) with a family counsellor.

If you can’t find a better answer than the current standoff, it’ll be clear that at least one of you doesn’t care enough to try.

Dear Ellie: How can I tell my aunt, 75, that I cannot accept dinner invitations at her home due to her unsanitary food handling?

Her husband died last year. I’ve been there for her as much as I can handle. She often invites my partner and me to eat at her home. However, her fridge is always full with drawers of rotting vegetables and last week’s couscous, though she’s well-off financially.

She feeds dinner guests with visibly-greyed camembert or food prepared up to a week prior. Worse, she loves to serve her homemade sushi, but I know she buys or thaws the fish several days in advance, making this a huge health hazard. I’ve been sick several times after eating it.

I worry about her health, but she insists she isn’t making herself sick and I’m overreacting. But I have to protect myself.

I’m desperate for a talk-formula I can repeat that leaves no room for a rebuttal.

Food Fights

Surprise your aunt. Given restrictions on in-house gatherings, send her a gift of food in the holiday-spirit — including fresh sushi, and a fresh fruit salad. If she says you must come and eat it, say you’re happy to visit when you can, but for now you’ll have to dine virtually with her.

When that happens, be clear. Say that you appreciate her hosting efforts but you can’t and won’t eat greyed cheese and stale-dated foods. Period.

When you can visit again, invite her to dinner. Say you appreciate her generosity and love of hosting, but it’s time she let others choose their own food preferences.

Formula response: Aunt, I love you but we have different tastes. Either we eat separately or I do the cooking.

Feedback regarding the letter-writer “sick of false dreams” (Dec. 17):

Reader: “People need to face reality. We’re not living in our parent’s or grandparent’s world. We’re experiencing far greater stresses. We’re also becoming less tolerant of inappropriate behaviour.

“I’m just really learning about the stressors that were present in my parent’s marriage. I don’t know if that’s fortunate or unfortunate.

“I now think that honesty and communication are key components to a successful marriage. Both parties need to be totally open and honest. That takes time.

“My opinion and new experience, is to not have any expectations when dating. Just let friendships happen and develop. Do not necessarily hope that friendships will develop into romantic relationships. Just having a good friend you can talk to is already good.

“Think ‘whatever will be, will be.” Just let it happen. But, if any red/danger signs appear, don’t dismiss, accept or tolerate them. Be honest with yourself.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Banning a step-child from their family home challenges the couple’s pledge of “partnership.”

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.