Saturday, January 26, 2008

‘ONE’, NOT NECESSARILY THE LONLIEST NUMBER

Dear Crabby:

I am on marriage #2. First one was 17 years. He walked out on me and our 2 small boys. Three years after the divorce I fell in love and married hubby # 2. My boys are incredible (marine and diesel tech).

Hubby also has two raised by angry resentful ex-wife. Daughter, 22 just arrested for shoplifting; lives with us right now while waiting to enlist. Son, age 18, still in high school; moved out because of our rules - after he punched holes in the walls, totaled his truck (in hubby's name) this week.

Both (my husband’s kids) lived with (their) mom their entire lives. Stepson came to live with us when he turned 16. His mom literally dropped him off with his belongings in a trash bag at 9 pm one night. We picked (my husband’s daughter) up from jail and brought her home. Hubby said tops 30 days. It is going on 4 months.

I know hubby is bringing them into our lives because of guilt. Thinks he can correct twenty years of crap? Anyway, I'm the one carrying the load. I'm the one available for the transportation, doctor appointments, recruiter’s even running with SD every night so she can meet the weight requirement.

I love him dearly, I just can't imagine the next thirty years of my life (I'm 48) revolving around his kids and the ex (who calls daily) to solve their problems. There is no other man, if anything happens to this relationship, I'm done. I'll get a pet.

My sister agrees that my hubby loves me and would do anything for me he is just diluted when it comes to the trouble his past is causing our future. We are being sued by his son's friend who was in the truck at the time of the accident. But sis tells me I need to take off my own rose colored glasses.

Do I stay or do I go?

Kathy in Florida
Dear Should I Stay or Go?

It sounds to me like you stepped in a rather large pile of marital manure that oddly enough didn’t seem to bother you during the courtship phase.

I’m a firm believer in doing extensive critical analysis of all the variables in any relationship before jumping into the sack. Sometimes prospective mates will get bored and leave. Oh, well – they’re loss.

As I’ve said before on this blog, there are a lot worse things in life than remaining single!

I gather you’ve discovered this since you said ‘I do.’

You may think you’ve made some lousy choices in men (and perhaps, you have) but I don’t believe this guy is one of them. So, where do you go from here?

The answer to your question – ‘stay’ or ‘go’ is ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ I’ll explain.

You say that your stepdaughter is enlisting in the armed forces. I think that’s a step in the right direction for her. A military career will provide her with some guidance, discipline and structure; all qualities I gather were evidently lacking in her home life before she moved in with you.

Anyway, soon she’ll be off to boot camp where they don’t tolerate tarts with big mouths and bad attitudes, so it should be interesting to see how the military influence reshapes her way of thinking about life in general. As far as she goes, my advice would be a more of a ‘wait and see’ rather than laying down the law. Leave that to the drill sergeant she’s about to meet. He’s better suited for the challenge.

At 22, your stepdaughter perhaps doesn’t need any more maternal influences (not that she’s had much with her own mother by the sound of it) but she very probably could use a genuine girlfriend when reality reaches over and smacks her down. That’s where you come in. Remember that whatever her own mother’s done to her until now, very likely she’ll wake up from the stupor once real life gets a hold of her.

At that moment of vulnerability, your stepdaughter will need a real woman’s influence – someone who doesn’t judge her or hold a grudge for everything that’s gone before. Just a woman who knows the ropes and is willing to share her experiences without putting on a pair of boxing gloves.

Be that person in her life.

She may not recognize it now, but you’re her best hope for a happy tomorrow. You never know, it might turn out to be the best thing for both of you.

I’m not trying to suggest you let her walk all over you. It’s still your home. But, if at all possible, stave off the urge to stomp her silly little brain into the mush or she will hate you for it. (Aside: she probably already hates you because her mother’s filled her head with all sorts of crap about how you ruined their lives by marrying her father. Ignore the excess baggage. Life’s too short to give a damn about those who don’t give as much about you.) Take the high road and follow your heart.

As for your stepson; at 18 he’s an irresponsible kid with an attitude that needs realigning. Not that you’re the one to do it. He needs a strong male influence that’s going to steer him in the right direction. I’d like to say that male role model is you’re husband – but from what you’ve told me about his lack of stamina when push comes to shove – I don’t think he’s the guy for the job.

My advice: when sonny boy’s not home I’d have a serious chat with your guy about his son’s future. If he’s tearing up your home, wrecking vehicles and being a total ass

- he’s out!

You don’t need him and he clearly doesn’t want to be needed by you!

Tell your husband that you married him for better or worse and since his son falls under the category of ‘worse’ you would appreciate a brainstorming session on how the two of you can come to one decision on how to make him part of your ‘better’.

Now, given that your husband has a track record for caving when it comes to making practical decisions, I don’t want you to go into this conversation with him unprepared. Face facts: your husband probably won’t have any solutions to recommend. I know you’ve been the drudge on family matters thus far, so even though that hasn’t been fair to you, one more responsibility really won’t shift things that much.

I want you to take the initiative. You’re not trying to make sonny boy homeless.

But he’s definitely outstayed his welcome in your home!

So, look into programs for your husband’s son; enrollment in boot camp comes immediately to mind.

He’s old enough for a military career so give it to him if that’s what your husband agrees to. But whatever tough love the two of you decide on, make it clear that it’ll be your husband’s responsibility to lower the boom and inform his kid about the decision. At that point, you stay out of the mix. Otherwise, sonny boy will hold that decision against you.

See, my philosophy on being a stepparent while the ex of the spouse is alive is quite simple:

DON’T DO IT!

Rarely do the children understand the mechanics behind a marital split and/or remarriage. Heck, they’re not supposed to! They’re kids!

But since they can’t formulate an understanding on the matter it’s grossly unfair of the adults placed with the responsibility in rearing them to simply go spouse hunting with the blind ignorance and hope that everything will just work itself out in the end where the children are concerned. It won’t! It rarely – if ever – does!

In my opinion, Kathy, you’re fortunate because I feel there is a genuine love between you and your husband. He’s not an authority figure with his kids and that’s a shame. But he’s also a loving individual and that’s a definite plus. Since both his children are actually young adults – not kids - it’s time they left the nest in search of their own future.

Your stepdaughter has already taken the hint with her enlistment.

Good for her!

It will probably turn out to be good for you too.

As for sonny boy: yep – the time has come for him to discover what he’s made of: crap or credulity – we all have to come to our own realization of who we are.

One can only come to that conclusion in an absence of anger. Currently, step-boy has too much rage directed at the two of you to discover his own self worth. Help him find it. Remove yourselves from his life’s equation – at least for a time. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Get him out of your house and on a path to becoming the man he can be.

I wish you every success, Kathy. If I were you I wouldn’t leave just yet. You’ve too much invested here to simply pack up and go.

Yours truly,
The Crabby Critic

@The Crabby Critic 2008 (all rights reserved).

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