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Is this a fair boundary to set with my husband? Opinions Please

Hoping for Help's picture

My soon-to-be adult stepson is extremely toxic and has a variety of unhealthy behaviors. He and his mom have caused so much pain and damage to my husband and I over the ears and now it is primarily my stepson doing all the manipulating and abusing. My stepson has basically isolated himself from me and his half-siblings (my two young children) and now only remains in communication with my husband so he can manipulate him for money. At this point, due to my stepson's threatening and unpredictable behavior in our home, it was decided by therapists, child protective services and my husband and I that it is not safe or healthy for my stepson to continue visiting our home. Now, my husband just goes for day visits to see his son on a regular basis. That does not mean that there is not a multitude of dramatic phone calls that continuously come from therapists and family members of my stepson's with a variety of problems all centered around my stepson. Because my stepson refuses therapy, which he is basically being forced to undergo because he is still a minor for now, he is leaving all the reprocussuons of his bad manipulation and toxic behavior to be cleaned up by surrounding family members, especially my husband.

In my opinion, my husband struggles with recognize healthy and unhealthy behavior and how to set proper boundaries with my stepson. Whenever he gets phone calls about the issues involving my stepson, my husband shares them with me and wants to discuss them with me, analyze the situation and help him come up with ways to deal with the problems. However, if I point out to him some ways that he might want to set firm boundaries with my stepson, he doesn't want to hear if it and gets very defensive and we end up arguing. So, I have asked my husband to please refrain from involving me in the issues pertaining to my stepson because it only seems to cause conflict between the two of us. My husband is very upset about this and says I am trying to punish him. I have tried to explain to him that I am trying to move on from the pain and trauma we've endured for the last several years and now that my stepson has shut everyone out except my husband, I feel that it's healthier for me to not have to be involved in his unhealthy behaviors towards my husband and just his toxic lifestyle in general. I want to move forward and heal and I don't like fighting with my husband over my stepson.

Is this a fair boundary to set? Am I being unreasonable? I have worked so hard over the last year especially to gain a healthier way of dealing with toxic people and my husband has not and refuses to acknowledge his part in this toxic relationship we've had with my stepson. Is it fair for him to expect me to listen to him complain about my stepson's bad behavior while he knows that I don't agree with a lot of the way he handles my stepson? I'd rather just be left out of it. I don't know what the right thing to do is. Anyone been in a situation like this before?

sandye21's picture

It is horrible when older children are toxic and have emotional or mental issues. I experienced this first hand from two older adopted children. It was very frustrating and at times I thought I was going crazy. Your DH must feel like this too. Perhaps your DH needs to go to counseling to deal with his frustrations. Maybe you need to see a counselor also to help you get the self-confidence to stand firm with your boundaries.

You are not being unreasonable at all. DH is frustrated but he is using you as a sounding board, and you are just supposed to sit there and listen him without saying anything. It is hard to understand why your DH would agree that SS is too toxic to be in your home and around your smaller children but will not accept that the toxicity is not good for you too.

hurtingbad.13's picture

Thank you for this. It applies to my situation as well. Made it very clear to me on a real level. This is how my DD always sees everything else. I think you are spot on.

sammigirl's picture

StepAside has nailed it. You have already informed your DH how you want to move forward; now stick to your boundaries and go into action. Say no more, just live the way you see best for your marriage.

I have totally disengaged. If I was to have the choice of disengagement to do over, I would move slower and just do it on my own. Discussing it with my DH, which I did, only made it contention between us. I finally just moved forward with my disengagement and set boundaries for myself. As events took place with my SD58, I took care of them; I did not involve my DH or expect him to have my back. My DH will not, nor will ever, cross his princess; so I take care of it.

Disengagement is a maintenance process that will never end, as long as we have skids, such as in this discussion. Take the reins and you do the right thing for yourself and your marriage. It's difficult and a very ugly scene.

The only reason I stepped up and put myself through disengagement; we have been married 37 years and we have too much invested in our love and life to let this SD58 take it away. It will never happen, because I took control of my own destiny.

I will stand by my man and defend my marriage. He would not do the same for me, concerning his kids, but it is what it is. The facts are not always what you wish them to be. I am a better person, I am free of my toxic SD58 99% of the time, and she hates me even more for disengagement. Mission accomplished!!!!!

sammigirl's picture


Luckyone's picture

I just wasn't going to be the bad guy any more. I disengaged and life has been so much better. I felt that SD28 really liked the fact that he defended her and even more the fact that she was driving a wedge between us. Her goal was always to separate us, but when I disengaged I took all of her power away and now it doesn't matter what SHE does, it isn't going to come between US.

I encourage my Dh to have a relationship with SD, to go to lunch, etc, because I don't want him to ever feel that I wanted him to dump his daughter. This has nothing to do with her but everything to do with keeping my side of the street clean. I don't care if he gives her money, I don't hear about it, I don't even notice in our lifestyle etc, so it's not my problem.

Since I disengaged, life has become so much sweeter for DH and I, and he sees more and more how babying her only hurts her. He no longer pays her bills and while that makes her angry, it makes him feel like a better father, making his daughter stronger by dealing with life.

Sadly, the home dh helped her purchase a year ago is no longer a home for just her, as her mother has moved in and SD doesn't seem to be dating since her R ended 2 years ago. She is a pretty girl but she is so selfish relationships never last long. I am seriously starting to wonder when they will begin adopting cats. It is sad for SD but she makes these decisions, it's her life.

For me it is like hearing third or fourth person gossip and I am not affected by it any more. It feels really good.

You don't have to fight with DH, you don't even have to tell him to be quiet, that you are disengaged or that you don't care. I simply smile while he talks, am affable, then go on with my day. He is happy I listened, and I am happy he thinks I care. If he asks pointed questions about her I tell him that I will have to think about how I feel and let him know later, which I never do.

I hope you find the place you need to be for peace in your life because nobody has the right to take that from you! Hang in there..

sammigirl's picture

Luckyone: Since I have given DH to SD, on their terms, it all stopped, almost immediately. I wasn't even aware there was competition. Amazing how they thought I would be their hitching post and satisfy their feeding on each other.

My breaking point was finding out that DH betrayed our marriage and personal life to SD for years, thus betraying me and breaking my trust and love for our life. They were never denied any time or place they could spend together; they just wanted to brow beat me; for why I'll never understand???? To be honest, my heart was actually torn and broken and I have no feelings, just obligation to my disabled husband. He took my trust, love, and our marriage and flushed it, when he betrayed me to SD58. Yes, KARMA is a bitch. I think he is truly sorry now and shows it; but I want to move forward.

I don't even think about my SD58, unless I'm commenting on here. I have no idea what she is doing with her life and I hope I never hear her name again. SD being out of my life will never be my pleasure, but it is so rare now, I am enjoying what I should have been enjoying 30+ years, before I put a stop to it all.

We are doing ok, but I want to take care of the man I vowed to love, cherish, and care for in sickness and health. He broke our vows, but I look myself in the mirror and am thankful for my life, which once again is my own. I have too many years invested to ever walk away from what I have built for myself. It has nothing to do with DH or SD and never will have from now on.

Everything I do now is because I want to and it will be for my satisfaction; not because I'm pleasing anyone but myself. Sorry it came to this, but again, it is what it is.

SugarSpice's picture

i know well how you feel about your heart being torn. i feel the same way in that dh is way to fond of his skids. he spends a lot of money on them and does not tell me about it. the last straw was when dh on the pretense of having to help out his elderly parents bought me trinkets for wedding anniversary gift. then he gave skid five hundred dollars to buy sports equipment. not for birthday or gift occasion. just out of the blue. i also have invested too many years.

poor boundaries are all too common for single parents and non custodial parents. the main reason is guilt and the desire to be assured their children love them. the result is entitled and spoiled brats with no regard for anyone but themselves.

these days i am just thank ful the skids no longer live with us.

setting boundaries is important at some point if ones mental or financial health is at risk or risking ones children.

protect yourself and your children.

pinkb's picture

Totally agree with everyone here... Hoping, you've got it particularly tough in your household it sounds like. I lurked on this site for years before I disengaged. I can't say it's been 100% smooth (maybe 70%?) but it's definitely better. No matter how hard I try my husband still "knows" that I'm displeased every time I have to hear about the latest *wonderful* thing that SS21 has done. He tries to turn it into "you hate my kid" fight most days. I just don't take the *bait* anymore (most of the time).

SS was supposed to pay his own tuition for college (Dad didn't save anything for school); Kid didn't
SS was supposed to get a regular job and be responsible for his own auxiliary spending, cell phone, car insuance; Kid didn't
SS: was supposed to graduate early from college (after Daddy caved and paid despite the fact that several months he was unemployed but drained OUR savings or maxed credit cards to pay it; Kid didn't
Summer job lined up? NOPE

Disengagement is aboslutely the best way to go. I'm personally not sure whether its best to talk about it with your DH or not (but some really great experience out here).

I do suggest you be ready (at least at first) for your DH to be pissy about it. Either bc "you hate my kid" or "you don't care about the things I care about"... like we're supposed to fall all over these entitled little brats above all else.

It's almost sad to watch because now that the funds available that are at my husband's disposal after our household Bill's is VERY VERY VERY slim (I took over the finances after he and SS maxed up a LOT of debt, the kid's reaching out much less often.

Hopefully, that might happen one day with you guys, too! Best of luck and feel free to reach out to those of us who are going through this, too. This really IS an excellent support group.

SugarSpice's picture

plus one for disengagement.

dh puts his children up on pedestals and believes they can do no wrong.

i have just sat back while skids committed crimes and were arrested, got kicked out of the military, got involved in drugs and alcohol, wasted their lived with unhealthy relationships. anything i say will make me the bad guy so i just shut up.

i have my own business and money, so to a certain extent dh cannot use my money.

CANYOUHELP's picture

If you have one of these men, like most of us, you must disengage. They simply give us no alternative. Clearly, men like these--raise selfish kids that torment the h...ll out of SM's, as they are buddies and not fathers. They cannot father, period. Most enmeshed like this, will likely never act like a father; thus the kids do little with their lives, except ask for freebies from dadeeee.

Sorry to say you do not have any choice either....But, know you are not alone, no, not at all....many of us understand all too well.

So So Step Mom's picture

I think a starting point is for you to decide what you want. Your DH apparently wishes to treat you as a partner by talking about his son with you. If you disengage, you disengage not only from the SS, but also from your husband. Is that what you want? Be cautious about choosing which bridges need strengthening, such as communication with your spouse. and which need burning.

Perhaps your DH and you could go to a competent counselor who specializes in "blended family" issues. There your husband can speak with someone about issues that are more appropriately dealt with by a professional, you can gather some insight and information about an appropriate role for you (i.e., wife, not therapist), and you both may learn some new, more effective approaches both for dealing with the SS and with each other about the SS.

If you can't afford or can't find a good therapist, an inexpensive and accessible way to learn new ways to cope with people whose behavior you cannot control is to go to ALANON.

Good luck.