Q: My husband is being emotionally abused by his adult child. Junior demands money from Hubby, always gets it, and still goes on to say terrible things about Hubby to his extended family and friends, trying to garner sympathy (and further cash payments) from anyone who will listen (and via Facebook). He has lived with us now and then, does not work, is sullen and violent, helps with NOTHING, eats all our food, had caused property damage to our home, and is mean to our pets. From what I have seen, he does nothing but complain and suck everyone dry. There has not been any physical violence, but I see firsthand how much the emotional abuse takes a toll on Hubby, and it breaks my heart.
WHY IS THIS OK? If I pulled a fraction of this stuff even one time, Hubby would divorce me so fast it would make my head spin, as well he should. But because the Junior shares his DNA, he's regarded as a Precious Angel who is not to be scolded. I have never seen Junior punished for anything -- not one single time. Not so much as a stern talking to. Hubby occasionally suggests "rules" that are routinely ignored without consequence. As his behavior worsens, his enablers simply lower their expectations further to accommodate him. Hubby says "at least he's not doing drugs." Really? This is the benchmark you set for your offspring?
Do we live in a world where children are raised to believe this kind of behavior is acceptable? This is the only -- and I mean ONLY -- thing Hubby and I disagree or argue about (we married late in life and are late 40s). For the most part I keep my mouth shut and grit my teeth, but once in a while I just can't take it anymore and I finally speak my mind, but it makes no difference; nothing changes except the mood of our relationship, so it's not worth fighting about.
While the kid's behavior appalls me, it is the lack of response from Hubby and his ex-wife that bothers me even more. Precious Angel is the only child of a stay at home mom, and has never lifted a finger in his lifetime. He sits around watching TV, playing video games, and complaining on his cell phone (that Hubby pays for) to his delinquent friends about how much his life sucks ... and then cashes the next round of checks that Daddy just gave him while he hurls insults and punches holes in the walls.
I wish I could love my stepson and have peace in my home, but the truth is I don't like him even a little bit. I don't have children of my own, and now that I see what it's like, I'm glad I don't. It's gotten to the point that I can't even listen to Hubby's stories of "can't believe what this kid pulled today," because it's his own fault that his child acts this way. For my part, I smile, clean up after him, try in vain to engage him in conversation, serve him dinner, and keep gritting my teeth.
I'm at a complete loss as to how to handle the anger that this is causing in me. Someone out there please help me find a single redeeming quality in this person!
Thanks for letting me vent,
– Frustrated With Rotten Kid, Formerly Boston
A: I don't know whether this kid is just a spoiled, entitled jerk or has a real personality disorder, FWRK. He certainly has some anger management issues. And I don't blame you for freaking out about all of this. Your husband has put you in an awful position.
I hate to play the therapy card, but if there were ever a time, it's now. Hubby needs therapy. You need it with hubby so you can stop biting your tongue. The kid needs it, but I'd be shocked if anyone tries to get him into an office for professional help. My hope is that if you and your husband go as a twosome, you can learn to be a united front. The therapist needs to give you some tools to cope with the kid without ruining the marriage. I also want the therapist to get to the bottom of your husband's guilt. Does he believe that he has to help his kid because of the divorce? Or is it something more?
You've been smiling and silent, and I'm not sure it's helped. You have to explain to your husband that this could be a deal-breaker, and for the record, you won't be exaggerating. I've seen couples destroyed by the differences in parenting philosophies. Your husband must know that if this doesn't change, your occasional need to get angry and vent will ruin all of the good stuff.
In the short term, you must tell your husband that you don't feel safe with this kid in the house. Not right now. He punches things and is mean to animals. There's been no physical violence in your direction, but what if that changes? What if he decides to take something out on you? The kid is a grown-up, and he shouldn't need to crash at your place. Your husband can make and ignore his own rules, but it's time for you to come up with a list of your own. If you don't feel safe having more than a quick dinner with the kid -- or if you prefer to be out of the house while the son is there -- make it so. You have that power.
Readers? How do you deal with a partner whose parenting style you detest? How can the letter writer get her husband to enforce rules? Am I right to say that she's allowed to make a few demands of her own? Should she should feel unsafe? What's happening here? Anyone dealt with a similar situation? Help.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a new novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith here and on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.