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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59 Responses to “Dealing with an Older Stepson”

  • Chris says:

    phil…i am glad to hear the step son is taking steps in the right direction. typical of satans tactics, when he sees himiself losing on one front he concentrates on another, in this case your marriage. i pray you can see the truth of 2 corinthians 10.1 to 4 which says our battle is not with people but with satans stategies 2 corinthians 2.11 exhots us not to be ignorant of. since jesus came for the sick, mark 2, then we shouldnt be surprised when we encounter sick people, emotionally that is. your wife has many weaknesses that she is trying to find strength for in drinking. through godly wisdom you can understand that and minister to her as your wife just as if she were in a hospital because that is how sick she really is spirtually. again, as i mentioned last time, the only way for you to help her is to be up under her weaknesses and be a pilar of strength for her. romans 15. you cant do it in your own power but only in christs. philippians 4.13. i encourage you to get with other Christian people, a Christian church and pastor so that your relationship to christ can be strengthened and thereby you can strengthen your wife and be praying for her during her time of need, being there as a pilar when she needs someone to lean on. blessings to you!

  • Phil says:

    Hello all again, I have written into this forum before, and I am having trouble with my Step Son who is 25 years old. He is into drugs and just plain lazy, his job he was working involves the hospitality industry therefore alcohol and drugs are easy to get too. During the past week I have gotten close to him and have discussed at length what this is doing to my wife and myself with regard to our marriage. He has taken it upon himself to put in an implant that will stop the urges and also go into rehab, which I dropped him off yesterday. He cannot have contact with us for 30 days.
    Now the other part is that the other week my wife, step son and myself were involved in a heated discussion and alcohol was involved more to the point of my wife was drunk, stepson did not touch any alcohol. It felt like I was being ganged up on and I felt left out of the whole situation and I am now being portrayed as the bad person, My wife now wants a divorce and I have been sleeping on the fold up bed all week. The thing is she doesn’t talk to me unless she has a few drinks. She has had a few things happen in her life that she has not talked to anyone about e.g. counsellor. Her daughter has estranged her, her mother just passed recently, she has had some things happen to her when she was very young from one of her brothers, and now she has blamed me for losing her son.
    Last night she has told me she doesn’t love me and again that was fuelled by alcohol, I told her last night that she needs to seek counselling to speak to someone regarding all the pent up emotions she has inside of her, and then lashing it out on me. She has accused me of being an abusive husband, but in my defence when I am trying to say something she straight away cuts short my sentence, this has obviously angered me and then I swear to keep her from butting in. I love my wife so much and I would do anything for her. We have only been married not even 2 years, the time that we have been together also includes my step son being at home and it seems like a revolving door with him, I’m hoping the rehab will work and he comes back a man. By that time I feel my wife and myself will have parted ways, which I am strongly hoping will not happen. Can anyone out there with a similar situation be of assistance.

  • Aldo says:

    Frustratedstepmomof4, I suggest that you read Chris’ comment below. Not only does it make sense, but I believe it is the answer to the problems being discussed on this site.

  • Frustratedstepmomof4 says:

    Holly,
    Thanks for your response and definitely for your understanding. I also at first concluded that he is trying to take on the role of protector but our therapist strongly disagrees. I believe this kid exhibits many of the tell-tale signs of Asbergers. He is socially unable to make friends really and he is very into routines and gets upset if plans change. Unfortunately my wife refuses to see any of this and thinks that she is a bad parent by saying no to any of them. They pretty much get whatever they want by whining and complaining. I love my wife but this lack of boundaries and private time is most likely going to end our marriage. I always told her that the kids come first, but what I meant was what was best for them. I do not feel that an almost 16 year old boy should be hanging around our bedroom until we go to sleep. I do all of the cooking and I am the one who makes lunches for school and breakfast every day, as my wife is a nurse and has to be at work by 7 am. I work 5 days a week from 9-6 and frankly, come 9 pm, I would like to be able to watch tv in bed and unwind without feeling uncomfortable having an adolescent boy see my in my shorts and t shirt for bed. My wife and I have fought over this so many times and discussed it with our therapist also. Despite even our therapist telling my wife she didn’t think he should be in our room EVERY night, he continues to and my wife spends the whole night talking to him and ignoring me. I want this marriage to work more than anything but I don’t think it has to come at the expense of MY happiness either.

  • Holly says:

    Thank you both for your replies!

    Frustratedstepmomof4, I hear you! I’m so sorry you have to deal with this! Sounds like he might be trying to take on the ‘protector’ role, for some reason. You’ll know this by other protective things he does with her. He might be trying to protect his mom or protect the family in general, either way, it needs to be reinforced that you two rule and protect the roost and she’s in good hands.

    My stepson JUST recently stopped sleeping with his dad shortly after he turned 13. He would slip in at night and sleep at the bottom of our bed and when I had to work overnight, I’d come in and find him in my side of the bed everytime. I protested because I never thought this was normal at all. He also used to hang around dad in our room when it was time to wind down and I had to remind him to go to his room because I was ready to get comfortable, which meant change into my nightie.

    Much like my bf, your wife doesn’t seem to understand your role. It seems like she is trying to protect her kids feelings only, but she needs to understand that your marriage and feelings are just as important.

    I try to remember with my bf that sometimes they struggle with the rift caused by the splitup between their child’s other parent. But that doesn’t mean that we should be mistreated and devalued! Why should we be put at a disadvantage? We deserve to be loved, respected and treated just as invaluable as the other people in their lives!

    There is NOTHING wrong with you. This situation would try ANYONE’S nerves, including hers.

    Your stepson (or any children) should not be interfering in intimate time between you and your wife. I’m referring to intimacy as any quality time, relationships need intimacy to survive.

    My bf and I still have a LOT to work on, but here’s what I did for the co-sleeping situation.

    I reminded my bf that it was very inappropriate for a growing boy with peers as old as 18 yrs old to be sleeping in bed with him. I reminded him that his son is an adolescent now and is old enough to get aroused, thus he is too old to be in bed with his father regularly. I also explained that even if he didn’t agree, an outsider might not understand why he’s sending mixed signals about the father/son relationship during puberty.

    Then I subtly reminded my stepson that a bully would make his life hell if he found out. (Only bc he was very proud of this and bragged or talked about sleeping in bed with his dad.) It eventually stopped, as far as I know.

    Now, there are some people who are completely okay with co-sleeping with a teenager, but the fact is that it is affecting YOUR marriage. YOU are the partner, not anyone else. If it’s bothering YOU, then it should be addressed. She needs to keep you happy as well.

    Good luck and many blessings to you and yours :)

  • Frustratedstepmomof4 says:

    Holly,
    I absolutely feel your pain. My problem is similar. My wife (yes, we are 2 women)has 4 children, ages 15 to 7. The oldest, her 15 1/2 yr. old son treats me in a similar fashion. What really has caused problems in our relationship is the nightly routine of him “racing” up the stairs at night as we lock up to go to bed for the night and jumping into my side of the bed, wanting to sleep with his mother. When he isn’t trying to get in bed with her, he sits EVERY night in the chair we have in our bedroom and won’t leave until we are ready to go to bed. I am extremely uncomfortable with this. We have zero privacy and time alone and it upsets me when I try to talk to my wife about this and she makes it seem as if there is something wrong with me. I do not think it is healthy for an almost 16 year old boy to be so “attached” to his mother. I’d also like to add that he doesn’t really have any friends and is extremely socially awkward. He is argumentative most of the time.

  • Chris says:

    holly…sorry to hear of these struggles…relationships, kids from former relationships, polital families are all challenging especially if we as humans try to participate in them without godly wisdom that the bible is so filled with. since marriage and family is Gods idea, obviously to include God through his son jesus in our lives is imperative. otherwise the happiness we are looking for could very well elude us once more. we see how the Word of God teaches that the lord has a plan for our lives including whom we marry. it behooves us to plug into that plan and exerience all of Gods perfect will for our lives. to start you can log onto knowingjesuspersonally.com or click talk to a mentor above to begin finding out what is Gods perfect plan in your live through living in a personal relationship to his son jesus. i pray you would take that step today. blessings!

  • Holly says:

    sorry if that posted twice. I see the original one now, it wasn’t showing up at first and id like to get some feedback.

  • HollyAgain says:

    This is not letting my post go through but I’ll try it again:

    I am glad this post is still going. I have the same issues. Everytime my stepson comes over I find myself googling what to do about a disrespectful stepson and father. Here’s my thing, first we are not married, but I refer to him as my stepson as opposed to my boyfriends son. I met my bf’s son on our 3rd date, so he’s been in my life for 4 years… since he was 9.

    I think it was too early bc we should have established a relationship built on respect before I had to play nice with his son but bf was adamant on me meeting him early on.

    When I first met him, he was a cool kid. He made a comment about his father having several women in his life but I took it as a joke. I should have taken that as a clue that he was trying to break us up early on.

    I often had to share dates with him and his son bc we could only see each other on the weekends and he had his son on weekends. I wasn’t against it but I should have turned tail if I had known what would come. Once we established a relationship and bf moved in, his son came over very often. Usually 3/4 weekends per month. The whole time his son came over he would be really judgmental of me.

    He would make snide comments and refuse to eat dinner that I cooked. We’re talking about a 9 year old kid. At first I thought he was just picky until he started asking at the dinner table who cooked it (and he knew that I had) and then he would push the plate away. I think that a child will do anything they can get away with, so I never really held it against him. My problem was with my bf.

    As his father and my lover, I felt that he should have corrected that behavior. On what planet is it OK to let your child blatantly insult your woman. A child can give a father many things but he cannot replace a woman or companion.

    This still happens to this day, he is 13 years old now and when I cook, he will push the food around on his plate and turn his nose up like it’s slop. I’m a good, clean cook and no one else complains about my cooking. But whatever his father throws together he will slop it up and second helpings. I think that it is a slap in the face to welcome someone into your home for 4 years and you won’t even eat what they prepare. In some countries/cultures, that is very disrespectful.

    The other part of this though is that dad always gets REALLY ugly with me, when his son is around. I can’t stand the two of them together. They bully me and I’m walking on eggshells. My friends used to tell me that he did it bc he wanted his son to go back and tell his ex-wife that he was miserable, but I don’t see why since she cheated on him. But I don’t think this is the case. I think his son just brings out the worst in him … and he likes it.

    His son would make little comments about me or our daughter and I would wait to see if dad would correct him, and he wouldn’t so I would say something and then dad would jump in about how he’s just joking and I don’t like his son. So I can’t ever say anything without him thinking Im a wicked stepmom. It is so hard to sit back and be disrespected by two people doubleteaming on you. Now I just stay out of their way. I make busy and go out and just stay away from them. When I have to be near them, I stay quiet and read a book. I don’t interact with them at all and just hold my breath until his son leaves and everything is normal again.

    I have NO space or privacy. There are no boundaries at all. If my stepson wants something that belongs to me, he will ask his dad for it. Dad will not ask me or tell him to ask me, he will just give it to him. The rules are not enforced. He can do whatever he wants and dad will buy him a video game because he cries afterwards. Yes he is 13 and he still cries to get what he wants.

    Something embarrassing happened to me the other day and I caught them smirking at each other. This hurt me bc nobody wants to think the person they are with will laugh at them when they’re down… ESPECIALLY not with another person. They can have private jokes but not at my expense.

    I’ve written alot but I haven’t written enough. I just wrote the things that are bothering me today, but they are monsters together and he treats me and our daughter like second-class citizens when his son is around. More than once I’ve caught him and his son eating in our daughters face when I came to the table…(of course daddy cooked that one). This almost made me walk out right then and there but something always makes you stay.

    When his son is not around, he can still be a jerk but not as BIG of jerk as he is when he’s trying to be ‘big man’ around his son.
    Has anyone else had this happen, when it’s not as much of the childs fault than it is your mate’s?

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