My husband’s first wife died. They had two kids. We live in his house. He keeps his wife’s urn in the living room. I requested that “she” be moved, and he and the kids are upset. Am I wrong? —Anonymous
So when it comes to relationships, it’s not always about right or wrong. Sometimes it’s “Am I happy, and/or is my partner happy?” Or “How do I keep or restore peace and get my needs met, too?”
But if you want an answer in terms of rightness or wrongness, I don’t think you’re inherently wrong for asking. I do think it’s a sensitive subject that you may not have handled in the best way.
For starters, I’m not sure why the kids were involved in this discussion, given its sensitive nature. This should have been a subject that you broached with your husband and worked out between the two of you and then approached the kids as a united front. That would have gone over better than having you—whom they may not have taken to as a second mother yet—approach the topic with them on your own.
I also think that while you’ve chosen to focus on the urn, the urn isn’t really your issue. You used some interesting language to refer to the home you live in with your husband: “his.” You’re married. You live there with your husband and stepchildren, to whom you are a full-time mom. It’s curious to me that you don’t consider your dwelling your home. But I can also understand how that could be.
You moved into a home that your spouse once shared with his previous wife. Unless he and the kids did some major renovations and interior decorating, that house has his ex-wife’s stamp on the furniture, the decor and maybe even the dishes (hopefully y’all got a new bed). If this is the case, I’m not surprised you don’t consider the place “ours.”
I’m choosing to believe that you’re a reasonable person. And I’m going to guess, based on your query, that you may feel overshadowed by the memory of a deceased woman, which is understandable.
If you feel that your new family isn’t making room for you in their lives, then that needs to be addressed, not just the urn. The urn is just a symbol of a larger issue, and even if it’s moved to a place where you don’t have to see it daily, your feeling of being an outsider won’t change.
When you asked about moving the urn, your family didn’t hear “There’s not enough room for me here.” They heard, “You don’t respect my ex-wife and our mother.” Given that, I get why they are mad.
Since your husband has chosen to remarry, let’s hope that he has properly mourned his former wife’s passing and was ready to move on. Let’s also hope that you’re not feeling unreasonably threatened by a set of ashes and want them moved to the basement or the attic out of jealousy or spite.
Assuming that the core issue is “only” as deep as your feeling overshadowed, go back to your husband—not the whole family—and apologize for offending and let them know that you absolutely respect the memory of their deceased wife and mother. This will clear the air and open up the discussion about what’s really bothering you. You may find that they had no idea that it’s been challenging for you to find your place among them, and hopefully they—or at least your husband—will be open to making you feel more welcome.
And about that urn: If it really bothers you, I’d suggest letting the atmosphere clear and giving your family a chance to step up to the plate and make you feel included. If you still want the urn moved, as a family, you should all decide on a respectful place for it in the house. As a grand gesture, suggest a small ceremony of sorts where you get to display your respect for their deceased mother. That may sound as if you’re being asked to do a lot—and you are. But you’ll also be keeping the peace in your home.
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously in Ask Demetria: “Being Too Scared to Reveal You Have an STD Is No Excuse for Ruining Someone Else’s Life”