Step Son is killing my marriage! - FamilyEducation
Step Son is killing my marriage!
12/07/2008 at 11:16 AM

I will try to keep this brief.  This could become a long story, and I am writing out of desperation for some advice that will help. 

My husband and I have only been together for just coming up on 3 years.  We have been married since April of 07.  I was about 3 months pregnant when we were married, a surprise that came into our life, but nonethless, the surprise that became the light of our lives. 

We have 2 other children; my daughter is 14 (today) and his son is 13 (also today).  My daughter is a great kid, good grades in school, helps around the house without asking, is there for me when I need her.  I have had to raise her by myself for most of her life, so we are very close and she has alot of respect for me.  His son, in a nutshell, has issues.  His mom had him medicated for about 4 or 5 years.  She carted him to doctor after doctor until one finally gave him medication.  I know she is the exwife, so please dont' misconstrue me saying this because of that.  But she is not very intelligent and I do not agree with her parenting (nor do I agree with medicating children) AT ALL.  She also has 2 other young children both under the age of 10 that are on the same kind of medication.  when I met my husband, he was on 7 pills a day.  just about a year and a half ago, his regimine was changed (again becuase according to her nothing ever works) to 4 pills a day.  one, primarily a sleeping pill. 

My husband, up until this summer, did not have any custodial rights to his son, so could not fight any decisions to be made as far as this medication was concerned.  The only way to do this, was to have him live with us.  Of course, i want the boy to grow up and have the advantage of good parenting, but I can't deny that I have always had my reservations because I almost foresaw the events that have begun to unfold.

He came to live with us on a whim at the beginning of May.  He thew a huge fit at his Mom's and she called late on a sunday...almost midnight--and said she couldn't take it anymore.  Against my feelings, he went out to get him...gave him his way again.  We agreed that he would move in over the summer after school.  we did not live close to his school at all, so taking him there would not be an option.  BUT because that is how the events unfolded, that's what happened.  my husband had to take him 25 minutes one way out of his way every day to school and then go to work.  I still shake my head when i think about that. 

over the summer we had numerous issues...even when he was on the medication he was constantly breaking the rules, being mean to kids in the neighborhood, being rude to me and my daughter, and even his Dad.  My husband didn't seem to priortize getting him off the meds.  we were paying $150 for these pills a month with no child support; all a waste, because they weren't helping?  finally, we were able to wean him off the sleeping pill.  Then, it took about 6 weeks, but he has been off all medication for about 6 weeks now. 

Of course, we did expect to have him develop a few more issues after the medication was removed.  This is really the first time in many years that he is experiencing what it is like to be sober.  these medications were controlled substances, that when even given to adults, note to handle with care.  He has wanted to move back in with his Mom (because she will put him back on the meds rather than deal with him.  give him a video game and he'll be OK), he fights us constantly about everything.  Homework, minimal chores, following rules.  he's rude and says he hates us, acts like a 7 year old most of the time.  I honestly believe that because of the way his Mom has raised him, she has hindered his emotional development and he really does have the mind of a 7 year old. 

i just didn't think it would take this long...nor did I think it would take this much of a toll on our relationship.  The huge problem isn't really so much my step son, as it is the difference in mine and my husband's parenting style.  i used to think that it was an advantage having 2 different points of view.  now i see how wrong i was.

he is pretty laid back, and doesn't have much structure or follow through.  this is of course, in my opinion.  if you ask him, that is not how he is.  He is to the point that he feels that i think that everything he does (and his son does) is wrong, and that i will never be happy.  He says I rule with an iron fist, and that you can't even kick a wounded dog constantly if you expect it to grow.  My steps son's mom did everything for the boy...cleaned his room, folded his clothes, made his food--EVERTYHING.  i have been training my daughter and preparing her for life since she could walk, so i just don't get that.  HE agrees that this is the main reason that he acts the way he does, so why doesn't he agree that being hard on him--some true TOUGH LOVE is what he needs? 

He says that he is tired of me taking the issues that his son has out on him.  I confess that I do.  I have huge mounting frustration that just never goes away and I don't know what to do.  even as I am writing this, I don't even know if this can be repaired.  I am tired of every day being drama filled....over an hour every day of bullshit talking and talking and reasoning and sometimes yelling and scolding and it's just crazy!!  I wanted to send him to boarding school and my husband is mortified that i would think such a thing.  he said that he would rather us live in separate houses.  i said "well, next time he really does punch you in the face, you tell me how you feel." 

I know we need counseling, but money is an issue.  Our insurance is terrible and doesn't have mental health coverage.  My step son sees the school counselor a couple of times a week, but has now gotten to the point that he is trying to abuse it (to get out of class) and we have to monitor it. 

My husband has tried reasoning and many many different approaches to try to control him.  even my tough love approach, but he doesnt' follow through with it, how i feel he should.  My problem is, things have gotten so bad for me personally that I just can't find right in the boy.  Grant it, in my defense, it is hard for him to do anything and i mean anything on a consistent basis.  the only thing he has follow through on is doign the complete opposite of what we ask.  I have been harboring alot of hidden resentment that he is the cause of my failing marriage.  I just really don't want him here anymore.  his mom will not take him back, if that tells you anything.  Her marriage was on the rocks, and now they are doing great!!!! 

How do i develop that maternal love that can forgive and forget.  I just never developed a bond with him and now i fear that it is too late.  I will admit that some of that may be my fault, but how do i deal with all of this shit when everything is hitting the fan and i know it's not all my fault??  i knew i was in for a challenge, but honestly, I didn't think it was going to be this bad.  This is almost as hard as dealing with an abusive husband.  it's even started to affect the mood of of 14 month old son.  he is a very intuitive child and can feel the damage that all of this is doing. 

My daughter said to me the other day "mom, you must really love him.  If i were you, I would have already picked my kids up and moved.  this stuff is just crazy.  It's abusive in a different way."

and she's right.  but now my husband resents me and just doesnt' care.  he says it doesn't change his feelings for me, but the talk of boarding school has changed him.  i can feel it.  i want to know what he would do if he were in my shoes?  I told him that if my daughter ever caused this much turmoil in our family, i would make the same decision.  not forever, just enough to make a drastic change. 

I just don't know where all the love has gone.  He doesn't see that ever since his son moved in, our house is no longer a home.  we don't even have a sex life anymore because I am so stressed out that is the last thing on my mind.  I am emotionally dead right now.  I am numb and only remember feeling this numb shortly before I left my daughter's dad. 

someone please help.  i am desperate and lost and do not know what to do...if there is anything left that i can do.

Sorry, but after reading all this I am feeling great pity for the child in the middle of all this. Read through what you have written and try to see it from another's eyes. Yes you are going through a hard time, but he has had it tough too. You are very sanctimonious over certain issues.

I can understand why you would think that. YES, he has had a tough time. But I have not gone through much detail about the things that he is doing to cause our family all of this anguish. I may be coming off sanctimonious because I am frustrated with my husband continually doing the same things and nothing changing. I am not saying that he has not been through a tough time and does not deserve love and a healthy family. we have been trying to do that, but it has gotten worse and nothing is enough for him. He wants all of his Dad's time whether it be negative or positive. It's not fair to the rest of us. I didn't post this long story because I don't want to try to change certain things about what shortcomings I may have.

You know, Junieg, I want to add to that. Maybe you are right. Maybe it is unfortunate that he is in the middle of all of this, and that I am just not a good fit for him as his Step Mom. I do not want to think that, but have unfortunately been faced with this possibility recently. I had hoped our love would outlast my stubborn nature..... I would never expect him to choose between me or his Son and have me win. I should be the more mature person and just throw in the towel if I can't get past this.

I am sorry if I sounded harsh but I have been through a lot myself bringing up two of my children who have ADHD. One has additionally Asperger's. Life has been full of challenges. I know very well how desperate the situation can get. So imagine it for him when he not only has these problems to overcome, but has been passed about between mother and father. Firstly, does he have any diagnosis of any medical conditions. Has he had any medical or psychological evaluations? You said he was on medication. I know a lot of people would speak against that but it does depend on circumstances and a firm diagnosis. My youngest son was put on medication, with my full agreement, and he has never looked back. There will be a lot of comments about medicating the child, and I know that over there in the States there are a lot more children being put on medication than are here in Britain. A lot of that is probably due to the archaic National Health Service we have here. I agree that plenty of children are medicated when they don't need it. This does not negate the fact that there are children for whom medication is worthwhile. Perhaps the medication used on your stepson was not suitable. Worth checking? You say that the way his Mom has raised him, she has hindered his emotional development and he really does have the mind of a 7 year old. Being passed around like a parcel would not help. I don't think sending him off to a boarding school would help either. Are you expecting the boarding school to do the job that his parents should be doing? I don't know the solution here. I do know that he needs a firm and consistent routine. Perhaps you and your husband could compromise on your parenting styles. It sounds like he is getting the good cop/ bad cop routine at the moment and knows how to play you off against each other. It sounds also like your marriage is going through a rocky stage and you need to resolve this. Sorry I can't be more help.

Lost, I truly feel for you, especially since, as you and I discovered on my post, we have several things in common. You're right that my situation is a bit different because my stepson hasn't caused any major problems at home or at school, but he does show some of the same behavior: lying, cheating, failure to take responsibility. I realize I'm far from a position to really give advice (considering I myself posted a plea for help, to which I have received some of the same criticism that you have). I will tell you some of the things that have helped me, though, and some of the advice I most took to heart. I agree with the previous post that a change in parenting roles is probably in order. I my house, we have basically agreed that I am the disciplinarian for my kids and my husband is for his. This worked flawlessly for five years, until his son came to live with us full time. I am with my kids much more than my husband is, so it worked very well. With his son here, it is a bit harder because I'm with his son more than he is. What we have decided to do, at least for now, is have my husband remain the disciplanarian and agree that I have the right to back up HIS rules when I see they aren't being followed. This still allows for plenty of room for annoyance for me, because we still don't agree completely on what is acceptable behavior for a 15-year-old and what is not, but it has at least taken away some of the battles, which is a start. I also agree that you need to have your stepson evaluated for LEGITIMATE medical problems. My stepson was also put on several medications with his mother, after she took him from doctor to doctor. We have had him evaluated here by two doctors and both have said he has no medical problem, and instead is just unmotivated and lazy. His mother had tried to find a medical reason for this, which of course gave him an "out". He still tries to convince us that it's more than laziness, but we trust the doctors' opinions. He is off all medication now and there has not been a single change in his behavior. We are trying to teach him to be more responsible and not use medication as a crutch (although, don't get me wrong, I know enough kids that NEED medication to say that no kid shoudl ever be on it). I think the thing that you and I most have in common is just the dislike for our stepsons. You mentioned in my post that you actually feel different when he is in the room. I know exactly what you mean! I think it is unreasonable for the people who criticize to say that we owe it to our spouses to love their children. It is very, very difficult to automatically love someone else's children. Love is developed over time, and when you're dealing with a pre-teen or teenager (when their OWN parents struggle with liking them), it makes it even more difficult. I wish you and I could talk more openly through email or something so that we could lean on each other for support without it being so public. :) Good luck to you. I sincerely hope your marriage can last the storm. My husband and I agreed a long time ago that we came first to each other, no matter what. We have never actually put each other in the position to choose over the kids, and never will, but just making that commitment to each other has shown in how we deal with our kids and has saved us this far. (Sorry for the long post!) :)

Boy you guys are right about being in similar situations. Sometimes kids get off-track developmentally because of the other things that are going on in their lives. It may really benefit you to think of these boys as being developmentally seven years old, especially if they have been being medicated inappropriately. Now that they are drug-free, their fathers can start to encourage more age-appropriate behavior. If the kids are 5 years behind, it probably will take a couple of years for them to catch up. Be patient with yourselves, your husbands, and all the children involved. It is hard for everybody.

Thank everyone for the encouraging and helpful words. I know this is a difficult situation to really understand unless you have been in it. It's easy to judge, it's easy to say that my approach and feelings are unfair to the child. In alot of ways, I can't deny that my inability to look past certain things is unfair. he only knows what he has been allowed (and forced) to do for all of these years by his mother. I have not personally taken him to be evaluated. Money is a huge issue right now. I was laid off for 3 weeks recently, did find another job quick, but my husband also missed some work shortly after, and it really has wrought some damage. It's no good when you are already living week to week. That in itself is another stressor. One thing at a time, though. The school counselor feels that he absolutely has the ability to see right from wrong, that he knows when he is doing these things (and we see this, too). If he is aware, whether he really does have medical condition or not, being aware is the first step to controlling it. I do think that he has a mild to moderate reaction when ingesting sugar and sweets; much like small children do. Junieg, it is possible that the latest medication that he was on was not working. In my opinion, nothing that he was on was really healthy for him. they all caused him to suffer from memory loss, and didn't seem to help him concentrate. he never really has been a good student and always had the tendency to be hiper at times--but this is a child! and again, he is probably 3 to 4 years behind in maturity level. This, I suppose I didn't realize when I first met my husband. Although, like I said, when we first met, he was being the most heavily medicated that he has been the entire time I have known him. I'm sure the world was rosey then. dlp2008, I am assuminng that they aren't going to allow me to give my email address to you. i tried posting on your site and they say they recognize it as spam. that's truly disappointing because i think we could bounce some ideas off each other. The main reason I am not interested in medicating him is because he shows additiction behaviors. He is terribly addicted to food, especially junk and anything sweet. I hope I don't get backlash for this, but we had to put a pad lock on our refrigerator and a lock on the pantry. We just couldn't get him to listen and he was eating us out of house and home. he's overweight and doesn't exercise. we have to force him to. He already thinks a pill of any kind is the answer to his ailments, and we are trying to get that out of his head. the only reason I mentioned boarding school is because of the shock factor. sort of like a "scared straight" program. again, i am a tough, love mom, so that seems like an option to me. Not to abandon him. also keep in mind, he says he hates us and hates living here at least a couple of times a week. i don't care if those kinds of words were thrown about at his mother's is not acceptable here, and i just can't forgive and move on when he puts off displays like that! it's only human nature, all parenting aside. even if my own daughter said that to me, i would be mortified and wouldn't look at her the same for a while. we don't even get a week's break and he's saying it again. believe me--he doesn't have it bad here! he really doesn't! up until recently when i couldnt' take it anymore his dad was still going on like nothing crazy was happening and like he wasn't really out of control and doing what he wanted. i guess that could be part of what's going on...he didn't want that ride to be over yet. but where's the respect? The hardest thing for me is that I was so much in love with my husband....and it doesn't seem like that long ago that I still felt that way. Well, in reality, it wasn't long ago, but it feels like a distant memory. I think subconsciously I am distancing myself from him so that just in case I can't take it anymore, or that my daughter can't take it anymore (she told me last night she wants to live with my Mom!), that I can leave a bit more easily than if I maintained a tight bond with him. I know it is terrible....I know I am giving the bond of marriage a terrible name. I thought I could do this but don't know how much more I can take if things don't change. I will try to be more conscious of my emotional block and try to break it down....but that will only go so far if this immaturity continues. Like my daughter said last night " did marry "him," but you also married his son. If you can't love him, you can't be married to the man." I know that she is right. this is the hardest thing that i have ever had to go through.

I thought you wrote you would keep it brief. Goodness, I just couldn't read through all of it. Poor child. His mom doesn't want him, you don't want him. Just throw him to the wolves then. Stop blaming everyone else for why he's screwed up. Take some pride and responsibility for him if no one else will. No wonder he's a screw up. Everyone is expecting him to fail. If you don't have a maternal love for him it's because you're not his mother. Be honest to yourself about your feelings. Now, pray that you can be kind, loving, and giving to him. It works. You won't want to pray for him at first, but do it anyway. You will start to develop a positive attitude about him then and he will feel that from you.

i can completly understand, and the person that said that they feel sorry for the child with behaviour problems, well i am sure they have never experienced anything close to your situation. well i have and after nearly 9yrs on still am putting up with it. the basic truth is; the child behaves spoilt, the father has not disaplined him because of his guilt of not being there for him and has always succumed to the childs way to keep him happy and just for a quiet life, but in doing this the child will just do what he wants and treat you with disrepsect because he is not being shown the right way in life. the mother has put him on these pills to shut his behavior up because she also finds it hard on her own to cope and i imagine hat when any of you try to disapline him he emotionaly threatens daddy that he dousnt love him now he has other children and a wife. well believe me they dont change with age. my stepson now almost 19yrs old is still doing the same, he was never put in order and everything done for him and wouldnt even look for his own ob; said it was his dads job to get him a job! he couldn't even run his own bath before xmas and i said to get on with it by turning on the tap but my husband went and did it for him. he runs up mobile phone bills £130mth that his daddy has to pay for him. so i kicked him out of our house as he has no respect for anyone or himself and is not a good person atall, and i am working and keeping the house and being a mum and when i would ask him to help or tidy his room he would phone his dad saying im having a go at him!! my husband is trying to get him back into the house to stay over. but well because he is an adult now well put it this way, i wouldnt choose that kind of person for a mate and i havent got the unconditional love there iether so when he is being disrespectfuli dont have time atall for him. oh and he also had 'ADHD' and it dousnt help when people give their children crap to eat all the time like pop and sweets everyday then they wonder!!

hey junieg! i think your missing the point!! it is awful when a child has these problems but she isnt so much bothered anymore! get it? it must be awful having two with adhd, having one is bad enough! but its generaly about stearing them in the right direction and what this stepmum is saying she has no authority in the parenting of this kid and well ive had it like that for 9yrs, and sometimes you stay silent and shut up and put up but then after a while when they get older and the mother si saying she dousnt want him well and you have put up with it for the sake of your marriage well yeh your gonna flip and say well he aint staying here because i am not his mother and i have other children to think about that are just as important and you certainly dont want this other child upsetting your parenting with them and they will notice the bad behaviour of this kid and follow by example and say well he does it!! no i am working hard at trying to show my stepson how to be a good decent adult and take responsability for his own actions and being. people need support not condemnation for trying hard with parenting. its the fathers fault believe me!

ive tried that too and how can a person feel goodness coming from oneself when he feels nothing atall! all the praying does is heal your angry frustrated little heart and soul for a time until you feel that way again. it wont do anything for the boy. i'm afraid if its not nipped in the bud and taught young well then its just part of their personality and they will be that way when they are older. so you will be praying everyday. pray for your own sanity to be saved, and patience so you can hold your tongue and hang on to your marriage if you love your husband enough! and the bad feelings will blow away!!

My step son has been a sociopath since 4th grade. His mother sent him to live with us for 3 yrs when he was 15 she couldn't take it anymore. Our marriage has never been the same and that was 13 years ago. Same situation, my husband would not discipline and resented my efforts to discipline. We went to counseling and he and his son didn't want to go so i continued for 2 years. I should have heeded the counselor and left then. The daughter was arrested for drugs in 11th grade and kicked out of the school system. She never got in trouble again but now has a kid of her own, she is 31, works as waitress and barely makes ends meet. Son was arrested for drugs and violation of probation numerous times, is a convicted felon, and spent 4 stints in county jail and 9 months in state prison. My husband always goes to his side, pays for legal fees when he feels a public defender will not be able to get him off. My husband lies to me about giving him money for things. My step son is 28 yrs old and he has a 2 year old who has been taken away from him and the mother (who is bipolar pill addicted and works at strip clubs). My husband resents me because i will not raise that grandchild. I have no children. His children have been a heartache for me. This is a second marriage and i was divorced for 10 years, i am not looking forward to getting divorced again after almost 2 decades of marriage but trust me, this step son crap will NOT GO AWAY. It will only get worse. I used to think that i put up with it because he was a minor. Well that is no longer the case and has not been for 10 years. In the past 10 years he was kicked out of the navy, and has literally about 50 reckless or criminal traffic violations, traffics drugs, lies and blames everyone in the world for his woes. He is currently facing charges of insurance fraud, DUI and will probably loose his parental rights over the baby. My husband has shut down his emotions a long time ago and his normal gruff defensive personality has gotten worse. He likes to party and have fun with other people, friends couples but our time alone together is vacant, empty. I recently discovered he has been communicating with an old high school sweetheart, and he lied to me about it. She is married and lives in another state and i don't think there is hanky panky there, but he told me that he can talk to her about "things" where he cannot talk to me. So, that was a wonderful thing to find out, that my husband lies about things other than his son and that he has been confiding in an ex girlfriend behind my back for almost all of the marriage and lied when confronted about it. He just lied to me this week about giving his son money for whatever and threw a temper fit when he mentioned the son may visit for father's day and all i said was, well he is not going to stay here. I have not seen or spoken to the son in over a year so i assumed he would not stay here. He comes to town to get drugs and never comes to our house. But suddenly my husband chose to get all defensive and huffy about it and start an argument. Trust me, your daughter is right. I always knew that if i had brought children to this marriage or if we had had a child of our own, i would have left because i would not have subjected my children to this bs, both the bad influence of the son and the disrespect that your husband is showing you. Trust me, he will NEVER be on the same page with you regarding HIS SON. There is something that goes on with the father and the son, some ego identification thing and there is nothing you can do about it. You will be the last priority in his life and as time goes on and the resentment builds it will eat you alive and the fights and the bad karma will grow. Get out now while you are still young and your children are still sane.

wow!is what came to mind when i read this.i never thought someone else would be going through this,as i am,with my are not a bad person.i know how hard it is.i believe the kid creates problems on purpose.

I can absolutely relate to your plight. I have an obnoxious step son who I have spent years trying to help. His father does not correct his bad behavior, which gets on my last nerve. My advice is this: is worth sacrificing yourself or your children over the whims and inappropriate behavior of this child? It sounds to me like this kid is selfish and feels entitled to do whatever he wants. Somewhere along the line someone (indirectly) told him this was ok. No.. its NOT!! This feeling of entitlement will carry on into adulthood. Its criminal thinking behavior. When you are challenged with a question of "Is it just me?" You know its not because your daughter sees it too. I am very old fashion and believe in marriage, but step-children acting like hurricanes in the home is more than any human can bear.

i agree with mykidsmomforlife.

I can also relate to this. People don't understand what it is to be a step parent until they are one. Especially full time, most situations that step parent is only a step parent part time and it's nice to have breaks I'm sure. My step son is 6, been married to his dad for 4 months. Together for 2 years and we have a 10 month old together. We have my step son full time and he is a huge handful. He's very spoiled and bratty and is always mean to the baby. I just can't stand being around him, his bio mom never wants to see him and is moving to a town 2 hours away soon. I never thought being a step parent would be this hard and you truly don't know until you are in the situation and it takes time to either love the kid or not.