If anything complicates parenting more than when parents get divorced, it’s when divorced parents get remarried.
Some children might not take kindly to one or both of their parents having new spouses, while step-parents tend to worry about being too involved in the lives of their step-children… or not involved enough.
Not to mention that there is no guarantee that either parent will take kindly to their ex’s new spouse.
Redditor Livid_School_5534 was lucky that her son and her second husband had a good relationship and that her ex also got along with her second spouse.
The same couldn’t be said for the wife of the original poster (OP)’s ex-husband, who had a somewhat tense relationship with her son.
As a result, the OP’s son declared that she did not want his stepmother to join them on an upcoming trip which was very important to him.
A decision the OP’s ex-husband did not appreciate at all.
Wondering if she was wrong for standing behind her son’s decision, the OP took to the subReddit “Am I The A**hole” (AITA), where she asked fellow Redditors:
“AITA for telling my child’s father’s new wife that she can’t come with us on our son’s college tours?”
The OP explained why her ex-husband’s wife wasn’t welcome on an upcoming trip.
“My son will be a senior in high school this fall, and we have been touring colleges.”
“We toured a few this spring and plan to tour several out-of-state ones throughout the summer.”
“The plan was for myself, my husband, and his father to do the tours together.”
“We’ll be touring four schools, and he’s coming to 3 of them.”
“Some background: my son’s father and I split up before our son was six months old.”
“Soon after our relationship ended, I met my now husband, and we got married when the son was 3.”
“My ex has been supportive of our relationship and thinks my husband is a great stepfather.”
“Our co-parenting relationship has been challenging at times, but we’ve done just fine for the sake of our son.”
“Last year, my ex eloped with this woman, Shelly (not her real name).”
“They dated for only a year or so before marrying.”
“I don’t know her too well since we’ve only met twice, but I know she has three kids of her own. Her oldest is about the same age as my son.”
“My son dislikes her.”
“He thinks Shelly is mentally unhinged, is way too involved in his personal business, and he blames her for being the reason he hasn’t been able to spend as much quality time with his father lately.”
“Earlier this week, I was coordinating with my ex about the details of our next tour.”
“Everything was great until he mentioned that Shelly would be coming along on all our tours.”
“I asked why and if it was necessary that she tag along.”
“He said that she just wanted to be supportive.”
“I asked him if her daughter was looking at these schools too since she’s also going to be a senior, and he said no.”
“So why is she coming if her own child isn’t planning on attending those schools?”
“I told him that our son should get a say in who comes to the tours and that I would ask him what he thought about Shelly joining us.”
“After I got off the phone with my ex, I asked our son if he wanted Shelly to come with us.”
“He immediately replied no and that he wasn’t comfortable with her coming.”
“I told our son that he should speak with his father and let him know about what he thinks.”
“Fast forward to last night, my ex calls and is furious that I would ‘get our son involved in this matter.’”
“I replied that our son is the one touring the colleges and making decisions about his future, and he gets to decide who can come along.”
“Not to mention, our son is almost an adult and, at his age, is more than capable of deciding who he wants in his life and to what extent.”
“Son has been vocal to his father about his feelings about Shelly.”
“He accepts that his father loves her, but he doesn’t see her as family.”
“So I told my ex that if he loves his son and wants to continue having a positive relationship with him, then he needs to respect his wishes and leave his wife at home.”
“End of story.”
“Ex replies that I’m an AH, Shelly cares about our son, and that he should be allowed to bring his wife with him whenever he chooses.”
“Was I wrong? AITA?”
Fellow Redditors weighed in on where they believed the OP fell in this particular situation by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
The Reddit community generally agreed that the OP was not the a**hole for telling her ex-husband that Shelly couldn’t join them on her son’s college tour.
Everyone agreed with the OP that this was ultimately her son’s decision, and since they already had a tense relationship, he didn’t need Shelly’s influence on where he should go to college.
“NTA, your son is the only person who gets any say here.”- emohelelwhy
“If your ex is more concerned about Shelly’s feelings than his son’s, then maybe he should stay home with her.”- Admirable_Scale_5075
“You are correct that your son should have a say in the matter.”
“Ex-husband needs to realize this is about his son, not about his new wife.”- poeadam
“Your son has the final say here.”
“But honestly, your Ex- needs to hear himself.”
“If Shelly cared about your son, Son should never have to say that he wants one-on-one time with his dad.”
“Shelly should be telling Ex-, hey you need to make sure that just cuz we’re married and there are three more kids in the house that you aren’t skipping time with just son.”
“Shelly should be saying- if Son wants me on these college visits, awesome, but I’m fine staying home.”
“These college tours aren’t a family bonding experience for Ex-, Shelly and Son, and they aren’t a chance for a romantic weekend away for Shelly and Ex-.”
“They’re about Son seeing where he might want to spend the next four years of his life.”- rak1882
“Shelly hasn’t been in your son’s life long enough to have any impact on his college choices.”
“There’s no reason for her to be there stressing him out while he’s beginning to make decisions about his adult life.”- eternal_casserole
The OP later returned with an update, where she clarified her family’s situation a bit more and also shared the decision her ex-husband and Shelly finally came to.
“First of all, thanks for the validation and the kind words some left.”
“I’ve read nearly everything you all have left so thank you.”
“I’d like to emphasize for anyone who may have missed it in my original post that my son has been the main one communicating his boundaries to his dad, not me.”
“My son is 17 and more than capable of setting and enforcing his own boundaries.”
“Also, since some expressed that it’s hypocritical for my husband to be there but not Shelly, let me reiterate that my son ASKED his stepdad to come along on the tours!”
“And ex is fine with him being there, and it was never an issue in the first place.”
“There’s also a lot more to the story behind why my son doesn’t like Shelly that I couldn’t explain in my original post.”
“If it was up to me, I’d like him to get to know her better but I understand his reasons, and I honor them.”
“I’m certainly not pitting him against her as some of you implied.”
“I talked to my son late last night about his father being upset about him not wanting Shelly to come along.”
“I told him that I fully respected his choice and reminded him that he can share this experience with whomever he wants.”
‘I encouraged him to talk to his dad again, explain his feelings about the situation, and I let him know that I was happy to step in if he needed me.”
“I also added that if he ultimately decided that he wanted to go on these tours alone or with just one parent to avoid drama (which I communicated might be the best option, but that’s just my opinion, and he doesn’t need to consider it if he doesn’t want to) that that would be okay too.”
“It’s his tours and his decisions.”
“So he called his dad this morning and calmly told him that he didn’t want Shelly coming along on any of the tours and explained his reasons, which mainly included needing time with his dad sans Shelly and him not wanting an ‘entourage’ accompanying him on his tours.”
“’Five is a crowd, dad.’”
“I lol’d when he said that.”
“This time, my ex was more receptive and told our son that he respected his feelings.”
“But then he put the son on the spot and told him he should talk to Shelly directly about her not coming.”
“He was not comfortable with that and requested that I step in and talk to both his dad and Shelly.”
“So I got on the phone and repeated that this was our son’s decision.”
“I didn’t say anything about son disliking Shelly or feeling uncomfortable around her because that is beside the point.”
“Shelly was clearly disappointed and said she understood and only wanted an opportunity to bond with her new stepson.”
“I replied that it was sweet of her to want to get to know him better, but a college tour isn’t the time nor place.”
“Overall, she seemed to be okay with it.”
“We spoke for another minute or two, and then she left the conversation, and I talked to ex for a little while.”
“I reiterated to him that ever since Shelly came into the picture, our son feels like he doesn’t get as much quality time with his dad anymore because either she’s there during their entire time together or he’s busy being a stepfather to her kids (son doesn’t have an issue with his step-siblings but also I want to make sure ex makes time for his own kid).”
“I also explained to him that if Shelly not coming was going to be this big of a deal to him, then he shouldn’t come either.”
“He said he understood where I was coming from and apologized for calling me an AH.”
“I asked him if it was Shelly who was pushing this issue or if it was him.”
‘Based on his response, I got the sense that Shelly expressed an interest in going, and was okay not going if that was really son’s decision, but my ex just really wants her to feel more like a part of his family so it’s a mix of him appeasing her but also wanting his son to get to know her better.”
“So I gave him two choices: either he comes without Shelly and uses those opportunities to have special time with his son, or he doesn’t come to the tours, and we find a weekend for him and son to spend one-on-one time, but either way, Shelly isn’t going to be there because our son isn’t interested in a relationship with her right now and he shouldn’t force it onto him.”
“He said he’d think about his choices.”
“So all good there!”
“I hope he decides to leave Shelly at home and come to whatever tours he can because I know how important it is to our son.”
The OP’s second husband has been a major part of her son’s life for the majority of the time he’s been alive.
Shelly has not, nor does she seem to make him a priority of any kind.
Perhaps the OP’s ex-husband felt that a college trip was a good opportunity to improve their relationship.
But seeing as he was going to have far too much on his mind already, it’s a good thing that they came to the decision that they did.