My wife and I are in our second marriage, and when it's just the two of us, things are wonderful.
We each have two kids. For different reasons, we have all four children living with us full-time. Life is hectic. However, all normal "blended-family" matters can usually be handled, except for those regarding my stepson in Grade 12.
He has mental challenges, but is incredibly smart. He won’t do anything to help himself. He’s lazy and has resigned to failing school. He has terrible anger issues as a result of his relationship with his birth father.
He’s been to counselling, as have I, and so has the whole family.
He’s been verbally and emotionally abusing his mother for years. Recently, he began to physically abuse her. If I try to step in, and have a few times, I get the protective mother treatment from my wife.
He’s started to destroy our home, kicking drywall, breaking doors, etc. I feel trapped in this situation in my own home.
My home life is not happy. We try to keep the antics of the older brother away from the others, but it can't help but wear off on everybody else. Is going to the police the next step?
He refuses further counselling. He’s not 18 so I don't think I can kick him out, nor would my wife let me.
It’s ruined our marriage. Maybe I should be the one to get out.
With all the counselling to date, and the diagnosis of his having mental health issues, I have to assume his mother - and then both of you - have talked to doctors, mental health and behaviour specialists, and his school, about your stepson.
Even so, and certainly if you have not, you and she need to start over with a new, united approach as his parents. Or it will destroy your marriage till you do move out, and leave this troubled young man with no better future.
So for everyone’s sake, including the other children, resolve to stay together for the reasons that brought you to marry, and to try to help a smart young man learn to deal with his anger and move forward in his life.
First, some marriage counselling to boost that resolve - about you as a couple, not about him.
Next, choosing a “team leader” and a treatment plan. Tell him you both love him; want him to enjoy his natural intelligence, and his right to a happier life, so that he needs to participate in looking at his overall health.
Say that this isn’t about “fixing” him, but finding out if there are medical reasons, besides emotional/mental health factors affecting him that are not his fault.
(Examples are, whatever led to his parents’ divorce, and his poor relations with his father).
Based on his doctor’s findings, the team leader could be a behaviour specialist experienced with deeply-troubled teenagers, or a therapist, etc., who then negotiates a treatment plan with him, and with your support as parents.
Negotiating includes agreed rules, including that any physical assaults and destruction are unacceptable. Living away in a treatment facility may be considered.
Then, the time factor. He didn’t become disturbed overnight and there are no immediate answers. Depending on the diagnosis, he may benefit from group therapy with his peers, or from focusing on a special skill or talent he has (e.g. sports, music). The main approach is trying to find what works.
FEEDBACK Regarding the woman who doesn’t get along with her sister and had once dated her new fiancé (Jan. 15):
Reader – “I think you perhaps misunderstood the reference to her sister introducing her “ex-boyfriend” to her single friends. This likely was about the man she recently broke up with, not the sister’s fiancé.
“In that case, it’s understandable that she’d be upset over her sister's actions, which are pretty disrespectful. In that scenario, I think you were kind of harsh with her.
“Yes, she needs to accept and respect her sister's relationship, but she also needs to feel respected by her sister.”
Ellie – Thank-you to this reader and two others for pointing out the ambiguity in the writer’s description of “ex-es.” On re-reading, I agree with that interpretation over mine and regret if that made my advice sound harsh.
It’s still clear that the sisters’ relationship has been poor for a long time, on both sides.
Tip of the day:
Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s easier to find love when you love and accept yourself.