Dealing with an Older Stepson

Written by Dennis and Barbara Rainey

stepsonQuestion: My husband and I have developed a serious conflict over how to handle his 19-year-old son (my stepson). The son recently left college and moved back home, and he now seems determined to live his own life. He doesn’t work. He doesn’t show respect to me and in fact is often hostile. Yet he expects me to provide his meals and clean his clothes. Whenever I talk to my husband about the problem, he takes the side of his son. In my mind, the son is old enough to make it on his own. The situation has become so tense that I have told my husband that he needs to make a choice of whether he wants to keep our marriage going or not. What should I do?

Answer:
Dennis:
There are a lot of issues here. The first is their marriage covenant. When a man and a woman come together in marriage, part of the vow says, “Forsaking all others.” That means the husband and wife will give preference to one another—even in a blended family situation. Kids need to know that there is one relationship in that family that transcends all other relationships and can’t be toyed with. They need the security of knowing that this husband and this wife are still going to be committed to one another, regardless of what happens.

I’d suggest that the husband consider taking his wife away and devising a game plan for how they will deal with this issue. He may need to ask forgiveness for failing to protect her in this situation. They need to talk through the situation—perhaps the husband fears that he will lose his relationship with his son if he cracks down.

Barbara: It may be that this 19-year-old young man sees that Dad is on his side and the stepmom is not. As a couple, they really need to get together and present a united front. There have been plenty of times that Dennis and I have disagreed in handling the kids. But we’ve tried to keep our mouths shut when the kids are there and talk about it later privately. We don’t present two totally different opinions in front of the kids so that they can play off one or the other.

Dennis: The wife is right—it’s time for that young man to grow up. The husband and wife need to agree and clarify to the stepson what’s appropriate and inappropriate for how he relates to his stepmother. She needs to be protected. If he doesn’t comply with your guidelines, tell him that he will need to move into his own apartment. Even if he does comply, they all need to come to an agreement about when this young man should get a job and move out on his own.

Barbara: I’m reminded of a situation that we faced as a family years ago with a child in the neighborhood who was a bully to our children. One of my thoughts at the time was, “I wish this child didn’t live near us.” But he was there, and I knew as a Christian, I had to love that child too. I began to ask the Lord to give me love for him. So I began to miraculously give me a genuine compassion for the child because of God.

In the same way, I can see how a stepmom could wish this child wasn’t in the family. But the God of the universe can put love in our hearts for people who are unlovely. Children in blended families are going to feel like they don’t belong, and they often take it out on the stepparent. So that makes it harder for the stepparent to love in return. I would encourage this mom to try to love the son as much as possible. If she is a Christian, I encourage her to take this issue to God and pray for a genuine love for the stepson. She should get to know the stepson and see what the real needs of his heart are. That doesn’t mean that she has to go soft on him. But if the stepson and her husband see she genuinely loves and cares for the son, that will go a long way toward resolving the problem.

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29 Responses to “Dealing with an Older Stepson”

  • Shelley Shelley says:

    Dear Father God.

    Lord I lift up my friends to You as they are going through situations in there lives, that You will help them as they are seeking Your grace in the areas that they are in, in Jesus name amen

  • vierocka says:

    m… It’s is weird and disrespectful. You can try to talk to your stepson that it’s your private time. And get the lock and lock your door with a key! I think that he is doing it from hurt and jealousy and anger because every child is affected by divorce. Firstly pray to Jesus, repent, give him your life and then pray for your family and stepson.When Jesus is center in family then he is helping and solving problems. Your husband should talk to his son too.

  • m says:

    Sorry if this is too much information.
    Everytime me and my husband have sex/make love, his 18 yr old son always shows up immediately after or while we are still doing it. I find it not only disrespectful but weird. It’s every time. When brought it up he says it’s cuz we wake him up which is bs considering our 10 year old is closer to our room than our 18 year old. It makes me not even want to make love/have sex while 18 year old step son is in the house… what could be the reason/issues…

  • Chris Chris says:

    Charlie…sorry to hear of your struggles. without knowing more details about your marriage situation, its hard to know if there is something behind your wifes preferential treatment to your step son. sometimes wives us children as weapons to get even with their husbands. why not talk with your wife and ask her if there is something bothering her between you and her that you might not be aware of. bring up the situation with leaving you to walk home and ask her honestly if she thought that was right. remember too, that only by having a close walk with christ can someone love on a consistent basis and not let their earthly nature get the best of them. i encourage you to log onto knowingjesuspersonally.com or click talk to a mentor above for more information on letting christ be the head of your family and home. with the peace of jesus in your heart, you will be able to also overlook faults from your wife and love her as jesus loves the church, unconditionally!!

  • charlie says:

    My wife has a 20 yr. old son that respects more than me. She protect him in every way. My truck had broke down, and I work 75 miles away from home, he on the other hand works 3 miles away. She decided to pick him up and leave me down the road to find my own way home… All he is doing is crippling my marriage. She refuse to see the disrespect going on in the home! He had complained how I treat his friends when they come to my home. She discussed that with me, and wants me to respect them even tho, they are loud, do not speak when entering my home. I feel I loss every battle when it comes to him??????

  • Chris Chris says:

    bebe…sorry to hear of this struggle. in my mind, your husband is the one who needs to deal with this but neither should you feel the need to be asking your son for money for food. 1 tim 5.8 shows us that the father and husband is responsable for the needs of the family so you should relieve yourself of this feeling of obligation. of course proverbs 31 shows us the wife and mother can help with the family finances but the ultimate responsability lies with the husband. if your husband is struggling to find work or income, that is something else but he should be wanting to be responsable and 2 thes 3.3 is clear towards your son…if anyone doesnt work, let them not eat. love can be firm and still be love in Gods mind. i would suggest you be sure you give your life to christ as he alone is capable of running our lives and taking care of problems that are greater than we are. to do that log onto knowingjesuspersonally.com or click talk to a mentor above. i pray jesus relieve you of these heavy burdens and help you to handle them through his strength and wisdom amen

  • Bebe says:

    Our 21 year old had move back in after living out of our home since he was eighteen. Got evicted and was broke.his attitude is rude and he is unsanitary.we have asked him to help around but hardly does.when I asked him for money for food,after three months of not expecting anything because he was paying for a used car.he gave me a hard time about asking . It breaks my heart.i have repeatedly have had to ask my husband to talk to him.he does but does not follow through.it got so bad that I ran away from home for a few days. I really feel unprotected and that our relationship is not important.help!!i am ready to leave and start a new life.

  • Chris Chris says:

    adrotes….so sorry to hear of your struggles. it would seem that your husband isnt respecting you the way he should and is placing his sons above his relationship to you as his wife which shouldnt be. if you sense the need for a seperation at this time, we would pray that your husband would take the necessary steps to make the necessary corrections to have his household put in divine order. walkingthechristianlife.com may be a site that can help you. i pray that jesus would guide and direct you in this situation and that your heart would be in tune with the holy spirits will and ways so that you can truly say, not my will but thine be done lord jesus amen!

  • adrotes says:

    I just recently moved from my husband’s home due to a very similar situation with two adult stepsons who cuss at me and are very disrespectful, they remind me it is their dad’s house & one had even threatened to beat me up & leave my 13 yr old daughter at the time without a mom. They have accused me of trying to poison them. That was so very hurtful since I would never do that, ever, & no one in his family asked me for 5 days while they all discussed what was wrong with the ice cream, which nothing was. My husband states I certainly must have done something to warrant the behavior & in the other breath praises me for how good I have been to them. That he doesn’t understand their behavior. He does not stand up when they cuss at me & require them to be respectful. Providing to my daughters a safe, peaceful & joyful environment in which I live was very important, since my Husband failed to protect me & our marriage. My two oldest daughters visited very little over the past two years due the mistreatment from his sons. I asked him to move with me til we get the situation under control he flat out refused citing he would not leave his sons, nor his (healthy) parents who live right next door. Later says to the counselor he never condoned their behavior and that he never cited them as a reason to not move. Good thing I have that in writing several emails & text otherwise I’d believe I was going crazy. But yet, he still won’t move with me. All I can do at this point is pray for him to be the Godly man He was designed to be, leave his parents & sons & cleave to his wife. All else I can do is just go on with my life, being the best parent I can be to my daughters and cleave to God, my Father in Heaven.

  • Shelley Shelley says:

    Dear Father God.

    Lord I lift up these two responders to the blogging, that you will bless them in there walk with You. In Jesus name Amen

  • Walkaway says:

    You only have one life, enjoy it.
    Most children are great, and I love kids, mostly.
    However there is always the occasional one direct out of the movie “Omen”.
    If you are both the biological parents usually this is not marriage killing problem , as both parents are on the same side.
    However, if you are the step parent of this type of child, the problem in all honesty is insurmountable.
    Walk away sooner rater than later while you still have your sanity and the opportunity to start over with a new life. Not easy, but far better than the alternative, as such children only grow bolder by the day with their success when the biological parent is taking their side.
    Get while the getting is good, and don’t look back!
    I have a similar situation, and I have just made the break, and it feels so good to be alive again

  • Patty says:

    Thank you so much Chris for your answer and prayer, we really need it now. I am leaving everything in God’s hands, because there is nothing else we can do, we have tried everything possible in our hands, the water has just reached the top of the glass.
    Thanks again, I feel much me better after I read your post.

  • Chris Chris says:

    Patty…i am sorry to hear of your situation. we understand that children are often hurt when a marriage is broken up but we shouldnt be expected to tolerate their rebellion and laziness forever. the step son is now an adult and should be expected to act like one, being responsable for even the bible says if a person doesnt work, neither should they eat. 2 thes 3.10. your step son should be expected to look for work, do chores around the house and if pot is ilegal in your state, then he shouldnt be commiting crimes in your home because that could make you liable also. who in this world lives for free without doing anything in Gods creation? plants produce vegetables, trees produce fruit, animals produce food. should we be expected to do any less as humans and the Crown of Gods creation as psalm 8 says? of course, jesus is the answer for your step son above all other answers and you having christ in your life is imperative also to see positive changes in our lives and in others. if you would like more information on knowing jesus personally as your lord and savior log onto…knowingjesuspersonally.com or click talk to a mentor above. craigslist.com is a good place to look for Jobs aside from your local paper in the ad section. prayerfully, your step son will begin to take some steps towards being a productive person in your home so he can begin his own family in the future as well. i pray jesus would help you in this situation. give you wisdom as well as to your husband and that the order of christ would come to your step son so he can be produtive for Gods kingdom and in our society making a difference instead of not producing the fruit jesus expects out of all of us. amen!

  • Patty says:

    I am so lost in my situation, I feel guilty. Don’t know what to do.
    Married for 10 years, 3 1/2 years ago my husband’s son moved in with us, his mother couldn’t control him anymore, he needed to finish his last 2 years of high school. I gave the best of me, being understanding, i believe in God, so tried the best. His father and set rules, but his actitud over the years, no respect, and lies got me down, he doesn’t like his father and hates his mother because he sent him with us, so no pleasent situation, he finished high school, I don’t know how, he g went there but didn’t do anything, never want to work, after graduation I told his afther, I don’t know how much longer I will handle him…, a year passed by, he is 20 years old now, and no work, no looking for it, no college, Nothing, sitting down on face book all day long, he likes pot, so, anyway too long to describe everything. I am done, but nobody wants him, no his mother, nobody, now everything he does it bothers me, it doesn’t matter what, irritates me, we get in horribles fights at home, his fathers supporta me all the time, but, I don’t know what to do, and his father either.

  • Chris Chris Landwerlen says:

    anita….the bible says the husband of course must meet the needs of his wife. i believe you can reléase him to deal with his son the way he wants to between he and him without you having to get involved. providing for you is something that cant be debated. how he handles his sons situation could be left up to him and his son. blessings!

  • Anita says:

    My stepson who is 24 has been a nightmare. When I first met hubby, every other weekend he was catering to the boy (4 yrs ago) while leaving his younger children (then 10 and 13) in the house ignored all weekend log. The kid had a bag with drug stuff on our property 3 years ago and we both nailed him to the wall and set boundaries. THEN about 16 months ago the boy ordered $67 in cookies from his sister..we called and called (or should say I called) and he never responded and I ha signed as authority over her cookie sells as husband would not. (Issues with girls doing things) It was 2 weeks past due date on a Monday and money due Thursday. I called and the boy ranted and raved as I told him it is okay if you don’t have the money, we will sell them and be okay as I do understand you don’t have the money. He yelled obscene things and threatened to kill me! I said I was hanging up and he said I better GIVE HIM the cookies and IF I hung up things would get worse. He also said DAD will do nothing and will not believe YOU anyway!! Jim (husband) came home, when I told him he was mad at me and told me I should not have called and let his son cool off. NO CALL MADE!! 2 days later the boy has his Mom harass me on FB (she was never a wife to husband but 1st love) then when that did not work (I told her cookies already sold) she told him and he came to house beating on door and threatening me yet again, I called the police and of course the police took my husbands side because he got home when they pulled up and told them I was just being histerical over NOTHING!! (Just before cops arrive tho Jimmy sends text that says for me to watch my back, that one day when no one is looking he will “get me”. Jim kicks ME out of our home for the weekend, threatens to divorce me and then while I am gone cheats on me with PORNO for hours (10) even while his younger kids around.

    We all supposedly made amends but IF Jimmy doesn’t get his way he has a fit! I had surgery July 1st to remove gallbladder, not 2 hours after I get home my husband starts in that his son needs a vehicle and we need to loan him one. I said no, I don’t feel well and you need to stop. Your son blows up and ruins every car he touches so no. Well he refuses to get me dinner because of it and then a 3 weeks ago brings up selling one to his son after he fixes it. I agree! Now a week ago they decide between the 2 of them to doit different, his son wants brokn vehicle NOW. Jim asks me and I say we already talked about this and that is the answer…he gets it when it is fixed. Jim then says he needs something RIGHT NOW!!!! My husband tells me his way or no way, procedes to call his son when I am gone (he only calls him when I am not around and provokes situation) and tells the boy I SAID NO! This turns into a BIG THING!! His sister gets word and says DAD told the boy I will not let him have a car ever and that his dad cant talk to him per me. I asked that this mess be cleared up and hubby says nope!! He also states that this (lying, hateful) son of his comes first (before me) and he believes him over me period. I need to get along with the boy because iz have the problem, not him. He goes on to say that the cookie fight was stupid so that makes it my fault. I was the one threatened by the kid ad he continues to get in between us but that is okay. (Just like my husbands Mom drinking on our property is okay because he is worried about offending her tho she lives 3 miles from our house. (she visits for an hour or two and cant be sober for 2 hours)

  • Tracey Ellis says:

    Many thanks Doris for your prayers & support.
    I feel like Cinderella with the two ugly sisters!! Cooking and cleaning seems to be the only thing that I do these days. I get no thanks nor appreciation and don’t feel like I will ever go to the ball. I gavey home and life up and its been a harsh lesson that I have learnt. I cannot give anymore, do I feel that I have toove on, but I’m 54 and only work part time so I have to seriously onsider my options.
    Thank you so much
    Kind regards
    Tracey

  • Doris Beck Doris Beck says:

    Tracy,
    That’s too bad that he won’t accept help from an outside source. As you said, that leaves you at the point that you will need to make a serious decision very soon. We do have a team of online mentors that will walk alongside of you on this journey. Just fill in the form on this page http://powertochange.com/experience/talk-to-a-mentor/ and someone will email you back. In the meantime, I would love to pray for you:

    Heavenly Father
    I lift up Tracey to you right now. Her situation is a difficult one and I pray that You would give her much wisdom as she considers what her options are. You have promised that You will guide us and I ask that You would in fact do that for her, Amen

  • Tracey Ellis says:

    Hi Doris
    Many thanks for your comment. No my partner would not accept a third party involvement. Apparently I over react to everything!!! I can’t seem to get through to my partner that he has made a rod for his own back in allowing his son to rue the household. My son is older and was taught and brought up in a very different way, which I’m so pleased because now he owns his own home, business and has a lovely lifestyle. Unfortunately, my son seed what goes on in my partners home and is infuriated with the situation and would love me to leave. My son does my partners garden whilst the step son either sleeps, goes out with friends or watches TV!! My step son ivited 8 if his friends for a takeaway a week ago without asking either his dad or me, so we ended up going out. I asked my partner did he think that was right and he just shrugged his shoulders. Friends turn up and walk in and in my opinion have an air of entitlement to the home because thats how the stepson sees it. My partner does absolutely nothing to stop it. I’ve got to make a serious decision very soon.

  • Doris Beck Doris Beck says:

    Tracey,
    Your situation sounds very difficult. If nothing has changed after 7 years of this, what are You going to do about it? I’m assuming that you have talked about the issues and nothing has changed. Perhaps it is time to get a third person(other than the stepson) involved. Is your partner open to that?

  • Tracey Ellis says:

    Hi..
    I met my partner 7 years ago when hid son was 1 when i1years old. I too, have and still do experience daily problems. Recently I had an argument with my step son and he ignored mI told my partner that I was no longer willing to cook his son breakfast and do his washing and ironing my partner said, that I was being unfair. I’ve had 7yrs of watching a very overprotective father and could right a book on what I have witnessed and experienced. My step son does absolutely nothing within the home if anything goes wrong my partner is incapable of confronting his son, so it gets to the point that I have to deal with it and then I’m classed as a WI ked women for upsetting the son. My partner employed his son so they work together, do hobbies together and its that bad that they call us 3 when discussing anything within the household. My step son knows every spit and cough of what’s going on. My partner says I imagine it but just recently we put the house up for sale and all 3 of us were involved with the viewings!!! Its an absolute nightmare.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Suzane, thanks for sharing your experience here. How have you and your husband tried to work through the different ideas of how to deal with his son?

  • Suzane says:

    I have been searching the web looking for advice. I am in a similiar situation with a now 20 year old.
    I really hate to say this but, likely the child will cause the relationship to end if he is not removed from the home.
    A dignified relationship devolves quickly in with a bad person in the house. With small children it is deifferent, there is a power and a way to change them, but an adult with bad character is not going to change. It is likely u will always have a conflict with him(stepson) through your lifetimes if together. His behavior is a mark of his character. When I look back one year ago, I was hesitant to move in with my husband because of his youngest son, the son was supposed to go college, went, and was kicked out of college with in the year. The son moved in with us and turned our home into a place no one decent person would want to live, I wish I had never married then moved in with my husband. No amount of love can overcome the presence of a bad actor, daily, nightly, constantly. I actually plan to leave. I feel as tho my values and morals r cut down by his son, and now by his father for supporting him. I just had to say this for what it’s worth. I hope your situation has resolved some and you are strong enough to preseve your dignity.

  • B. Miller Brenda Miller says:

    Thank you so much for your comments, WickedStepmother. Your insights are much appreciated, and I completely agree with you when you say that “it must be the biological parent who delivers and enforces these messages. Otherwise, the stepmother is just being set up to be the permanent wicked witch.” However, I believe that the timeline for any action must be mutually agreed upon, and that, once a couple begin to speak as one to the “child” in the relationship, the possiblity for change is great. That is, the view of the step-parent as “the wicked stepmother” or “the wicked stepfather,” has tremendous potential for positive change. The critical factor is for the children in the new family unit NOT to be able to split the parents down the middle and play them off against one another. If one or the other parent is struggling with deep issues with guilt or other emotions that are preventing him or her from effectively disciplining his or her child from a previous marriage, then counselling may be necessary in order to learn how to overcome this and approach parenting in the new marriage as a team. It is only when approaching the children – including adult children – as one person – a team united as one in Christ – that success in parenting can be accomplished. Giving in to the indulgent wishes of the children, regardless of how old they are, is never an option leads to a successful, godly marriage.

    David, I pray that you have found help in coping with the manipulation of your step-son. If not, I suggest counselling for you and your wife to learn how to effectively cope with the problems that he is presenting and how your wife and you together can extracate yourselves from his tactics of manipulation. I also recommend to you a book and workbook called, Stop Walking On Eggshells, which you can find at the following links:

    http://www.amazon.ca/Stop-Walking-Eggshells-Borderline-Personality/dp/1572246901

    http://www.amazon.ca/Stop-Walking-Eggshells-Workbook-Personality/dp/1572242760/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1349162661&sr=1-1

    I pray these resources provide hope and help for you, and that the Lord blesses you all richly in your marriages.

  • WickedStepmother says:

    By all means love that stepson, but stop providing a meals and cleaning service at once. Can you and your husband together decide how long his son will live with you (my feeling is that another 10 minutes to facilitate his packing might work well)and what the ground rules are while he is there? If your husband tells his son that he expects the son to contribute market value rate for the room, buy 1/3 of the groceries, do all his own laundry,and clean the house including bathrooms and kitchen every other time – and makes it stick when the resistance starts – I confidently predict that your stepson will move out promptly. In my experience, it must be the biological parent who delivers and enforces these messages. Otherwise, the stepmother is just being set up to be the permanent wicked witch. There must be reciprocity in every relationship, and love the stepson as much as you can, but do not injure yourself to demonstrate that love. This has very long term implications for the health of the marriage and any chance at all that the stepson and stepmother can achieve a healthy, mutually affectionate relationship.

  • Claire Colvin Claire Colvin says:

    Number1, I’m glad you commented here, I’m not sure how the previous comment got passed us. We’re usually pretty quick to delete a comment like that.

  • Number 1 says:

    To Nick, Sounds like you have some Mommy problems. A real man can protect his wife as well as his children at the same time. If a man sees it fit to put his children above his wife at all times then he has no business getting married. The husband in this posting needs to Man-up as do you. Name calling and placing blame only shows your immaturity.

  • Nick says:

    [Comment removed. Please refrain from name calling and vulgar language.]

  • David Gurley says:

    Thank you Dennis and Barbara,
    Hope springs eternal in a parent’s heart.
    After some twenty years as a single father of two young men, I married a woman coming out of a bout of breast cancer. She claims that her four cancer cures were, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and a divorce. Her first marriage was thirty years of mental/emotional abuse from an adult victim of a sexually abusive childhood. she spent most of her latter years in that marriage wedging herself between her hostile husband, and her youngest son, his chosen target for animosity.
    Now, years later, her son is thirty-something, unable to retain any kind of normal, healthy interpersonal relationships. He expects negativity from me, and, thus, ‘twists ‘ any of my statements of opinion, or, offerings of positive advice, into verbal attacks. He interrupts with astoundingly unreasonable oblique references to an imagined animosity on my part. And, just yesterday, tried to instigate a physical altercation with me,(cursing,posing, verbal goadings…),knowing that his mother would fall into her traditional role of his protector and place herself between us.
    Through much prayer empowered with praise, combined with a single father’s experiences in life and family therapy, I am made to think that my step-son is indeed congenitally, and mentally impaired.
    He is a convicted felon,(drug sales), unrepentant, and full of anger. I can only pray for his serenity and Salvation from a distance, as he is unatainable to me.
    I cannot sleep at night when he is in my house. He has broken the air of serenity and spiritual gratitude that Jesus has blessed us with…
    Your reminder to us as married man and wife, having forsaken all others to come together, is apreciated.
    I hope that you might have more suggestions as to how my step-son and I can free ourselves from this animosity.
    Yesterday, when step-son was “trying to start a fight”, I sensed as I observed his and his Mother’s actions, in positioning of themselves, and how he waited until he was safely squared off with his mother between us before his verbal hazing became more profane and less respectfull,(ahem…), that they were going through a series of motions that they had been practicing for a long time with ‘someone else’. Later that evening when the boy wasn’t around, Jo Anne,(MOM), confirmed my suspicions. Now, I am made to think that this young man is a manipulator with a plan for agitation, taught him by his father.
    I also am made to think that thirty years of standing between two people that one loves more than all others as they rage hatred at each other can cause cancer. Jo Anne’s first husband, is out of the picture, but I’m here, and step-son only knows animosity in a father-figure, so, he will attempt to enrage me, so MOM can show him that he’s still ‘her little boy’ when the “Three-in-a-row Screamers” are lined up.
    I’m afraid that avoidance will be the only tool that help me get along with my step-son, Forrets.

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