A friend of mine, Chris, recently had a massive falling out with their "step-mom", Mary. That part they've learned to accept, but the problem is that Mary is the mother to one of Chris' siblings that they're really close with, Alex.

Whenever Alex wants to hang out at my Chris' house, it's usually Mary who brings them over. Apparently, up until this last incident, Mary would always come in the house and chat with Chris for a bit before heading out. Now Chris doesn't want her to come into their house at all when dropping Alex off.

This is obviously a problem for Chris because they don't want to come off to Alex as someone not able to "keep the peace"--which is something Mary preaches heavily--but they also really want to set this boundary. They're very uncomfortable around Mary now and don't want them in their personal space.

What's the best way for Chris to tell Mary that she is no longer welcome in their home?

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    Why is "step-mom" in quotes? Is the relationship something other than what the term is usually used to indicate? – Upper_Case Oct 3 at 18:30
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    @Upper_Case Mary and Chris' dad were never legally married. She's been more like a long-term girlfriend. – DCOPTimDowd Oct 3 at 18:32
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    @paparazzo What? If I'm reading this correctly, Chris has a home separate from Mary. Alex sometimes comes to visit Chris at Chris's house, and Mary transports him. Previously, Mary would come in and talk to Chris for a while but after their falling out Chris does not want Mary to come into his home any longer. – Upper_Case Oct 3 at 19:59
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    Has Mary still come into the house, or is this a preemptive "Don't come in" issue? You'd think that if they had a mutual falling out, Mary would have no reason to come inside and try to chat with Chris. – Jess K. Oct 3 at 20:02
  • @JessK. You would think that, and you're right, it is preemptive. Like I said, their falling out was massive, and Chris says they don't even want to risk Mary coming in to be "civil". – DCOPTimDowd Oct 3 at 21:00

If Alex is a minor who is dependent on Mary for transportation, putting up with Mary's occasional presence may just be the price Chris has to pay for hanging out with Alex. I don't see any way to say "I don't want to associate with you, even in a casual situation" without giving offense.

Is there any way Alex can take the bus over? There is no mention of Alex's age.

It may even be a somewhat moot point. There is no suggestion that Mary has tried to show up at Chris' house since the incident. We have no idea what the incident was about, or how Mary feels about it.

In any case, it isn't fair for Alex to be forced into the middle of this conflict. I think it would be kindest if Chris were to try and meet Alex for a while at some kind of neutral location. Perhaps a movie or play? That would give Mary no reason or opportunity to linger. Chris could offer to bring Alex home afterward. If that goes well, perhaps another movie or other activity that would not be a drop-in sort of activity, and then Chris could take Alex to dinner afterward.

This would get the point across perhaps a bit more subtly, and without causing a scene unless Mary is determined to make one. One doesn't always have to use words to communicate.

  • I agree that it's not fair to get Alex involved, but I can tell you that it was a pretty serious thing, and that Mary, while she loves talking about "keeping the peace", is one to hold grudges and has been shunning Chris since it happened. I like the idea of a neutral location, which I believe Chris does do with Alex, but there are times when they wanna hang out and play games or watch movies. These are the times that Chris wants help with. – DCOPTimDowd Oct 3 at 18:37
  • Once Mary is used to the idea of neutral ground, it should be fairly easy to transition into hangout time afterwards. Chris just shouldn't put them in a situation where Mary is given the opportunity to force a confrontation. Use neutral ground as a buffer. Start with a movie or arrange to meet at the mall, or whatever, and make sure to ask if it's okay if Alex comes to hang out afterwards. Then if Mary insists on picking Alex up, Chris should just make sure he has someplace to urgently be at the pickup time. If necessary. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Oct 3 at 19:33

Many people in this world face this exact dilemma: a child they love and adore can only be dropped off by someone they can't stand the sight of and don't want to speak to at all. It's more common when the "someone" is the other parent, but the concepts can apply in your case just as well. It may be more work than what you used to do.

First, try to see Alex without getting Mary involved. This may mean going and picking them up, perhaps at a time when someone other than Mary is in the home. Or meeting them at school (with permission of course.)

Second, when Mary drops Alex to you, meet them both at the door. Greet Alex warmly and happily. Alex has nothing to do with this disagreement with Mary. If you can, try to say "thankyou for dropping Alex off" or some other normal friendly thing that you would say to anyone, and half a sentence about when Mary will be back or when you'll be returning Alex or whatever.

Do not say "come in, have a cup of tea!" or whatever you used to say. Go ahead and be cold, but polite. Not pure icy silence, but nothing extra and no invitation. If Mary starts to say anything, such as "aren't you going to invite me in", turn to Alex and say "why don't you take your stuff to your room" or "why don't you get the controllers out and get X launched for us to play" or whatever else is age appropriate for Alex to go and do. Once Alex is out of earshot, calmly say "no, I don't that would be ok right now." Then again thank Mary for coming by with Alex and confirm when and how the visit will end. You are super happy to see Alex and you are a super co-operative adult in the visiting process. You just don't want to talk to Mary at all about anything including why you don't want to talk to Mary.

If she insists on discussing it, you can say that you think another time, when Alex is not around, would be better. Or that you need time to get over the upset of The Incident before discussing how you can move forward. Or that your therapist recommends you don't discuss this with her. Or whatever.

And then close your door.

The variant when picking Alex up is to greet Alex warmly, thank Mary for having Alex ready, and confirming the return time and protocol, then leaving. If you have to wait while Alex gets ready, you can just wait quietly without having any conversation. You can say the same sorts of things about not talking about it here and now.

All the same things apply when it's time for the visit to be over. Have Alex ready in advance of pickup so there's no "standing around waiting" for last minute packing, peeing, etc during which you and Mary aren't talking. Be polite but not warm, and don't talk about what you don't want to talk about.

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