Hi Rene:

My husband and I have been married for five years (second marriage for both of us) and have extremely active, two and three-year old girls. We both work full-time and have adult children. One of them, my 23-year-old stepson, lives with us.

I’ve paid to bail him out of jail, for his community service and his fines. He wears his pants sagging with underwear showing, which I feel is disrespectful to the girls and me. He doesn’t work or attend school, is often rude to me and to say he’s lazy is an understatement. The only chore I’ve assigned is mopping once a week, which he does once every four months (guess who gets the pleasure the rest of the time).

Every time I’ve tried to talk to my husband about these issues (for years now) we get into an argument. He says his son is grown and there’s nothing he can do about it. Last week my husband and I switched cell phone providers (of course I pay this bill). My stepson got the free phone and my husband and I got smart phones. I didn’t like mine and decided to exchange it my husband says that his son suggested that we swap phones and that he agreed. When I said no, an extended petty argument with hubby ensued. We kissed and made up, as we always do pretty quickly afterwards. But when I woke up the next morning I had the overwhelming desire to pack up the girls and leave…

I love my husband and want to work this out, but I’m feed up! Please advise
Weary Step-mother


Dear Weary Stepmother:

I wonder if you heard that huge sigh I just let out. Listen before I go any further, I need you to understand I am not a professional counselor, merely a wife and mother with an opinion and a common sense approach to parenting. Now that we are clear on that, I am going to tell you what I would do and though many won’t agree with me, I have to say it. Make a plan to leave. Here’s why.

YOUR HUSBAND IS NOT TAKING YOU SERIOUSLY: Ugh I hate this. I hate this because telling your husband that something is wrong should be proof enough that it needs to be fixed. But we all know actions speak louder than words and your husband’s actions are not those of someone who promises to love and cherish his wife. Some people only respond when the bit is pulled back so if this is what it takes to get his attention then you’re going to have to do it. I am not advocating idle threats; those will get you nowhere. You are going to have to follow through. But first, talk to your husband. Suggest you see a marriage counselor and see where that gets you. If that is a dead end, then you can implement the plan you already have in place.

YOU DESERVE BETTER: You deserve to be listened to, to have your concerns addressed and to be treated better, by EVERYONE including your stepson. He needs to obey the rules of YOUR house. The problem is, when your husband doesn’t back you up, he is sending a message to your stepson that you (and what you say) are not  important and that he can do whatever he damn well pleases. That is not good and it needs to stop. Now.

BOTH YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND NEED TO CRACK DOWN: Okay, what the hell does your husband mean when he says, his son is grown and he can’t do anything about it? Is he KIDDING? Who’s in charge over there? Who’s paying the bills? Of course he can do something about it. He can kick his son and his saggy-pants-wearing behind out on the street. Or to live with his mother. Or a cousin. Or a friend. But if you feel your stepson being disrespectful because of his attire, your husband needs to do something about that. And while your husband is having that conversation with him about expectations and rules, go ahead and slide a chore chart in the young man’s direction. If he’s living there rent free, he has to do something and it’s got to be more than mopping the floor three times a year. By the way, this right here, “I’ve paid to bail him out of jail, for his community service and his fines.” ends.right.now. You and your husband need to get serious about this because not only is this dude freeloading, he’s setting a terrible example for two little girls who are watching his every move.

Weary Stepmother, you have some tough decisions to make, beginning with what you want out of this relationship. I’m presuming the goal is to get your husband’s attention so you can adequately address this and move on. Something needs to be done, unless you’re okay with being treated like a second-class citizen in your own home. But you’re not or else you wouldn’t have written in. Time to make some tough decisions that might be followed by even tougher actions.

Good luck!

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