Dear Carolyn: My daughter recently remarried, creating a new family with a wonderful man, her young son and his two children.
My husband and I have a close relationship with her son. She and he lived with us for several years. I have tried to get to know my grandson's two stepsiblings but that is made more difficult by the custody schedules, which limit time the whole family is together.
My husband is always nice to the stepkids but has said he is unwilling to invest a lot of emotional capital in these two children, who he feels no real connection to. I get it. I find I have to try harder. At the same time, I recoil at his attitude. The connection is our daughter and her family.
My husband says if our daughter gets divorced again, I will never see these kids again. But that attitude assumes the worst-case scenario, and I prefer to assume — and act on — a best-case-scenario future for our daughter, unless and until facts dictate otherwise.
I believe I am not making a mistake but wonder if I should just chill about my husband's attitude because with time and growing familiarity, everything will work out.
Carolyn says: Not only does your husband's attitude assume the worst-case scenario, but it also assumes his feelings are paramount.
That is rarely if ever true where kids are involved.
If indeed he forms a bond with his stepgrandchildren only for a divorce to take them away, then, yes, he will feel that loss. But an adult such as he is much better equipped to weather that maybe-someday heartbreak than these children are to weather the certain heartbreak of unequal treatment by family elders.
These kids will sense their new grandfather sees them as less-than and doesn't care to know them, and feel the effects of that now. On top of whatever other pain they went through during the upheaval of their family through no choice of their own.
So I recoil at his attitude, too, and hope you will point out the deep injustice in his logic. They're kids. They don't need excuses, they need leadership and they need love.
Once you've established some moral authority here, then it might help to "just chill" — because knowing you need to get closer is one thing. Actually doing it takes authenticity and time, two things you simply can't force. A viewing with your husband of "On Golden Pond" might be just what you need to relax.
Man of few words
Dear Carolyn: What does it mean when a man won't admit his feelings for a woman to others?
Carolyn says: What does it say about the man, you mean? I don't know. It could be that he's a man of few words or a man of many secrets. Or a bunch of things in between.
What it means for the woman is that if she places a high value on a man's willingness to express his feelings for her openly, then he's not the man for her.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at email@example.com, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at washingtonpost.com.