Dear Savvy Auntie,

My brother-in-law just got married to a lady with two children from several previous relationships. They now just had a baby of their own. His wife is very open with her own family but keeps my side of the family separate. Is there anything I can do to help merge us into a more cohesive family. Also, my brother-in-law has another daughter from a previous relationship, which ended very badly and is going through a nasty custody battle. We are really losing out on all fronts as far as my brother-in-law is concerned. Is there anything we can do?

Losing Out

Dear Losing Out,

I understand your wish for a more cohesive family and  your upset at “losing out.” However, whenever there is a “nasty custody battle,” it is the attorneys and combatants that are calling all the shots. It is a very dark cloud that hangs over all involved parties, everyone in their world, and disrupts family relationships. So, I have suggestions for a “to-do” list for you:

1. Be patient.

2. Be understanding.

3. Befriend your brother-in-law’s wife.

4. Be sympathetic to everyone involved.

5. Keep communications to the children open and pleasant. Write notes, call, and SKYPE them.

6. Help your family understand the difficulty of the situation.

7. Put everyone else’s needs and wants ahead of yours, temporarily.

8. Be patient!

9. Be helpful.

I know how difficult this list is to actually put in effect; but when the smoke clears, pushing your agenda will have most likely alienated your brother-in-law and his new family.

I wish you the best of luck and my sympathy,

Natalie Robinson Garfield

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