Q: I’ve been in a relationship for three years and am now engaged to a man who has three adult children, ages 20, 24 and 25. His 24-year-old lives with us, and his birthday is next week. My fiance and I believe the right thing to do is to invite the whole family to dinner to celebrate. So, my fiance invited his ex-wife, who reluctantly accepted. I am very nervous. I will be there with “his” family. Any suggestions?

A: OK, you’ve got a couple red flags here we would like to discuss. First, your life perspective. Yes, this is his family and each member, including his ex-wife, should be respected for their part that they have played — but after three years, it’s also your family. The “birthday boy,” although an adult, even lives with you. It seems that you have relegated yourself to second-class status — a sort of outsider — and you are not. This often happens when there is a second (or consecutive) wife or husband. Don’t get into the “comparing” mindset. You’ll just get intimidated by your fiance’s past — and you weren’t there. Your relationship is equally as important as the first — but very different. Unless you had something to do with their breakup, you have nothing about which to be intimidated. Relax and be as gracious as possible.

Second, we don’t think it’s a good idea to have the birthday get-together at your house. If you are feeling uncomfortable, the kids’ mother probably is as well. (Not to mention the other family members who probably aren’t saying something to you.) All that unspoken drama will overshadow the real reason you are all together. Better to find neutral ground, perhaps a restaurant everyone enjoys, eat and be merry, and as time moves on and becoming a bonus mom gets easier, that’s when you have get-togethers at each other’s homes. For now, even though it’s been three years, you are just beginning the process.

Kudos to both you and your fiance for putting your best foot forward. Yes, the kids in question are adults, and many think that the time spent together decreases as the kids get older, but they are getting to the age when they will start having serious relationships, and possibly have children. Then there will be (depending on heritage and religion) christenings, bar mitzvahs, Quinceaneras, plus grandkid birthdays, graduations, etc., all of which both sides will want to attend. The birthday in question is just the beginning. Be a gracious and active member of this family.

Jann Blackstone-Ford and her husband’s ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, authors of “Ex-Etiquette for Parents,” are the founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com). Reach them at:


— McClatchy-Tribune