Q: My husband has a daughter from a previous marriage and an ex-stepson from that relationship as well. They are 9 and 10 years old and the boy's biological father has never been in his life. I can't stand his ex-stepson, which he takes responsibility for, like a son. He even pays child support. We have two kids of our own. How do I tell my husband I don't want to pay for this little boy as if he was his real son? We can't afford it and I simply don't want to do it. What should I do?
A: If you're looking for sympathy, you've come to the wrong place. We like it when men choose to be positive role models for children. The fact that your husband raised both children before meeting you -- even after a breakup -- and does not distinguish one child from the other, means he's a stand-up guy and takes his role as parent very seriously. Add to that our visceral response to your use of the term "real" to distinguish a child's value, and you'll understand why we say, "Very bad ex-etiquette!"
What should you do? Change your attitude. Your husband made his commitment to this child before meeting you -- and we don't believe your husband's attitude has changed in the last few years. He loved and supported this child when you met him, so to expect that sense of responsibility to change based on the fact that you don't want to do it now, is a low blow indeed both to your husband and to the child.
Also, here's something to know about child support -- it's complicated. If your husband met the mother when she was pregnant and assumed the responsibility knowing full well the child wasn't biologically his, it's possible he still signed the birth certificate -- some men do. In that case, if there was a breakup, he would pay child support just as if the child was biologically his. A man may also assume a child is his, break up with the mother, have a paternity test, find the child isn't, but still have to pay child support because he's the father of record. A man has until a child is 3 to question paternity if he's signed the birth certificate (this may differ from state to state). After that, bio or not, he's financially responsible for the child.
But again, the bigger issue is your attitude. It's not uncommon for people to be less than honest "to get the guy or girl." It breaks most of the rules of good ex-etiquette, but it happens. However, in your case, it's not that you really don't like football, it's that you really don't like his kid, based purely on the fact that he's not his and he's paying for him. Shame on you! You should have never married this man if you felt that way. His path was clear before your marriage.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.