Dear Lisa,

My husband and I have been together for almost 24 years. I had three children and he had two. We have always referred to the children as “ours.” Our four grandchildren we refer to as our grandchildren. Our youngest (his son) is getting married on June 2. When he was young, we were very much in his life. However as he became a teenager, he was very, very busy with his friends and sports. We continued to talk to him and kept a great relationship.

A month or so ago my husband's ex-wife called him accused us of now wanting to be in his life at the time of celebration. For an hour she yelled at my husband, telling him she was their son's mother, not me. She insisted that I could attend the wedding as the “wife of his father,” not his stepmother. My husband is the very quiet type and all he would tell me was that she insists I should not introduce myself as my stepson’s stepmother.

She admitted that I was great with her son when he was young, and I was not a mean stepmom.

My husband did not know what to say or do. I called the bride and asked her if she had any idea what the ex meant. She was also shocked.

Then I received a call from the ex. She said my husband had misunderstood what she said. She did not feel I was a bad person but I was not her son’s stepmom and that his wedding was her special day. She said he is her only son and I was not going to upstage her. I explained to her it was the couple's day and in no way was I planning to cause any problems at the wedding.

She then said she was giving them a shower and would send me an invitation. We had planned to go up for the shower but at the last minute, I decided I did not want to drive seven to eight hours to be exposed to abuse. I called with my regrets.

Now, what should I do? We definitely plan to attend the wedding. We will not know anyone at the wedding except the ex-wife and her mother, possibly a couple of our son's friends. I'm always the one who introduces us to strangers. Do I say, “I'm the wife of Chad's father, and this is his father?”

Please help us.

Wife of the Groom's Father

Dear Wife of the Groom’s Father:

I’m sure this is very hurtful. Often, in stepfamilies, this kind of tension arises during holidays and special occasions like weddings. Cheryl Dellasega, Ph.D., author of “Mean Girls” and other books, says that primitive feelings push stepmoms and their husbands’ ex-wives to engage in “Mean Girl” games. Hopefully, you’ll consider what’s best for your stepson and refrain from engaging in these games with your husband’s ex.

I suggest that you begin by speaking once more with your husband’s ex. Tell her that you care deeply for her son. Tell her that you have no intention of upstaging her at the wedding. But be clear that her request hurts your feelings. Tell her that you’d really like to introduce yourself as his stepmom.

If your husband’s ex continues to insist that you’ll be identified as the “wife of the groom’s father,” think hard about what it would mean for your stepson if you engage in battles with his mother. When stepmoms are in this position, they need to take the higher ground.

I think you should have attended the shower—for the sake of your stepson and his new wife. And you should attend the wedding to show your support for the new couple. Be there for your stepson, no matter what his mother calls you.

When you introduce yourself, you might simply give your first and last name.

You might want to visit

and listen to the audio, “Stepmoms and Their Husbands’ Ex-Wives.” The longer version of this audio (available in the products section of the website) provides stepmoms with many practical tips for dealing with their husband’s ex-wives under these kinds of circumstances.

Good luck.

Lisa