Q: I’ve been remarried for a year to a man with three adult children, all over 21. He has been divorced for five years and we live in his former family home. His kids and he are very close and they often come over for Sunday night dinner — which afterwards consists of their reminiscing about their mother for hours on end. They call them “Crazy Mom Stories” and once dinner is over each takes a turn telling a story as they sit around the table after dinner. My husband tells me they have done this for years. They laugh to tears, hearing the same silly stories over and over again.

Mom is not dead. She’s happy and healthy and lives in the next town. We are actually quite friendly. Why do I have to hear the same stories about my husband’s ex-wife at my dinner table each Sunday night? I don’t want to alienate the kids, but it needs to stop. How do I approach this?

A: This is a tough one because it sounds like this family approaches this time after dinner as a family ritual and asking a family to stop a family ritual upon remarriage is very bad ex-etiquette. Family rituals are bonding time for family members. A divorce severs family ties, and these children of divorce have found a way to reinforce their family bond even though their parents’ relationship has ended. It’s actually quite healthy — they have found a subject that amuses them and cements their family feeling. Unfortunately for you, the subject is “crazy mom,” and their reminiscing seems hurtful and insensitive. 

Dad tells you that this is not a new practice, however, and the kids have been doing this for years. This tells us that they’re not necessarily being spiteful or insensitive, but attempting “life as normal” by not curtailing a practice that has been in place in their family home before you got there. By sitting around the table with you and continuing their family practice, they may actually think they are including you in their ritual, not reinforcing that you are an outsider or trying to make you jealous. If you have been acting secure in your relationship with their dad and interact comfortably with their mom, they simply may not see this as possibly making you uncomfortable. 

Remember, they see things on a different level. They are talking about their mother, not their father’s ex-lover. It may lessen the stories’ power to hurt if you mentally reframe them as stories about mom, not stories about your husband’s ex. 

Finally, if it’s really bothering you and reframing doesn’t help, talk to dad about discussing your discomfort with the kids. Get on the same page and during one of the after-dinner discussions, both gently bring up that the stories make you uncomfortable. Be clear about exactly what you want — one or two stories OK, but not hours and hours? None at all? It’s up to you. Clear boundaries.

Jann Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe, authors of “Extiquette for Parents,” are the founders of Bonus Families (bonusfamilies.com). Reach them at: