Most of us remember the experience of your parents hang out at their boring adult friends' house and you're forced to spend an entire evening with those people's kids.
It was a grim, awkward reality at age nine.
A step-family, in some cases, is a VERY long term version of that scenario. One guy wondered—on Reddit—when it's acceptable to call it quits.
"Step_siblingAITA" is a 26-year-old guy who turned to the subReddit "relationships" when he found himself at a crossroads on family dynamics.
The death of a parent threw some lifelong non-negotiable expectations up in the air, and he was stuck.
First, he provided the backdrop.
"So my dad left me and my mom when I was around 4, and my mom sort of rushed her way into a new marriage."
"When I was around 6 she re-married to a nice enough guy who had 2 kids of his own--a girl and boy who were 6 (girl) and 4 (boy) at the time."
Remember those nights when you were forced to hang out with some kids just because your parents liked to chat and drink wine together?
"They spent 3 weeks at our place and 1 week at their mom's place. It was always an awkward situation cause we met maybe 3 times before our parents got married."
From the 26-year-old viewpoint, he was now able to empathize with his mom and stepdad.
That said, things weren't the smoothest.
"I think they both had young children and wanted them to have a father/mother figure in their lives."
"They were never bad to me and sure we had dumb kid fights but nothing really serious, I did always feel like the odd man out and I didn't like it."
"Like for example they had their own things they'd do and play with each other and just flat out refuse to include me. Or would be watching a show or something and turn it off and leave the area if I came."
"Or they would flat out say that I'm not one of them and to just stop trying (this went on until we were like 16 and 14 and I just stopped interacting with them all together)."
When he grew to early adulthood, he took the opportunity to make his own life decisions.
"There was no big fight or anything but at 19 I moved out and kinda went low contact. I didn't NEED to see them and could get away with just 1 visit for Christmas to go see my mom."
But a recent major life event stirred the pot.
"I am 26 now and live with my GF across the country from where my mom and step dad live. Sadly my mom passed away about 5 months ago, we already had the funeral and I picked up all the sentimental items with me."
"I only really kept in touch with that side of the 'family' for my mom and now that she's sadly gone I don't feel a reason to continue to see them."
"It's hard enough keeping money tied down, and flying out to see people I'm not the fondest of doesn't really seem good at this point."
Before he makes the leap and cuts ties, he finds himself wavering enough, apparently, to bring him to an advice thread.
"I told my GF my plan that we will no longer be going over there for Christmas and she is saying that I'm gonna regret this and wishes for me to re-consider."
Many Redditors understood where he was coming from, but advocated for finding some middle ground.
"How's your relationship with your step dad?"
"Personally, if I were in your position, I probably wouldn't be physically traveling over either, but I will write a Christmas card and stuff to keep in contact if my relationship with step dad is good." -- OceanSiren
"Definitely slow down the visits, you can always keep them on Facebook, email etc, but don't force the interactions now your mum is gone."
"Treat them like any secondary family like uncles/aunties etc. No need to burn bridges but no need to make it a chore you do every holiday." -- frozenpeaninja
"Don't drop your stepdad; it's the step-sibs who are problematic (and your stepdad should have done a better job at making them be decent to you)."
"You don't have to go there for Xmas, but do send him a card and a small gift for Xmas, his birthday, and Father's Day."
"Save your money. If something big comes up or he specifically asks you to come, then a visit would be nice, but it seems like you've already been low contact since you were 18." -- thumb_of_justice
"As far as family goes, I think keeping in passive contact with them is a good idea. The annual birthday card, Christmas or whatever holiday card, and some slight online interaction with your step dad every now and then."
"And I definitely agree with you about spending money to visit people you aren't keen to see or ever close to. I think your stance is justified, but maybe don't cut all contact." -- SceretAznMan
Some weren't so patient with his stepdad, or mother for that matter.
These comments zeroed in on the start of the relationships that now feel toxic.
"All the comments about your keeping in contact with your stepdad, but wtf was he doing when his kids treated you like dirt? What did your mum do?"
"Why WOULD you want to stay in contact with them, what would be the point? It's like banging your head against a wall." -- FunkisHen
"I'm wondering if your mother and stepfather ever took notice of the new sibling relationship. Did they ever consciously make an effort to help the three of you become friends?"
"As a mother myself, I would have low key tried a number of fun things to include you in. And to not allow that blatant rudeness. You were all little kids who needed some loving guidance." -- vabirder
Others took issue with his girlfriend's take on the situation.
"This kind of advice is usually based entirely on their own family experiences. All it means is she would regret it if she cut her family out of her life."
"The concept of a useless or draining or harmful family can be entirely alien to someone with a well-adjusted family life (or someone who hasn't accepted just how bad theirs is and needs everyone else to act like family is inviolable in order to keep the delusion up for themselves)." -- Pomguo
"Family centric people's main argument is always that 'you will regret this, I wish you reconsider' because there is no real point that they'd be able to bring up." -- Arnoldthehawk
"Why do people say, you will regret this or that. This is how you feel. Accept it or don't but don't try to guilt me."
"Your GF did not grow up with you. If you feel differently one day, then so be it. Right now, you are done." -- livinlikeriley
"It doesn't sound like they are interested in keeping in contact with you either. It sounds like everyone except your girlfriend would be quite content to lose touch." -- AnonnyLou
"Don't let your girlfriend guilt trip you into doing stuff you don't stand behind. You know these people and relationships are supposed to be two-way streets. You need to do what's best for yourself." -- MissYellowtail
If we go by the numbers, the general consensus is overwhelmingly in support of this guy putting a halt to the in-person Christmas visits.
As for whether or not an internet majority will defeat the stance of his partner and his own moral quandaries, that will remain an open question.
The book Our Modern Blended Family: A Practical Guide to Creating a Happy Home is available here.