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How to talk to SO about his son? Nothing I say is ever good enough

oodra's picture

Me (27F), my SO (38M) and his son (14M) have been living together for a year. I won't sugarcoat it, it's difficult. But before we moved in together, my SO and I agreed upon a set of house rules (that were never enforced while my SO and his son were living together). These are some basic things: saying "Please" and "Thank you", washing your own dishes after a meal, helping to keep the home clean, etc.

And then there are a set of rules especially for the SS. He's obese, so with the help of a dietitian my SO is trying to help him to lose some weight (I tired to help too, but have been practicing disengaging recently).

Well, my problem is that whenever I try to tell my SO that a certain rule has been broken, let's say SS didn't wash his plate, SO will lash out on me. It's not that I shout "Your bloody son didn't wash the plate again!", I simply say "SS left his plate". Still, my SO's reaction makes it seem that I'M the problem. 

For example, SS never used to say "thank you" after a meal, even though he never helps with meal prep. SO insisted he'd say "thank you". And he did for a while. Then he stopped. I asked my SO "So, SS stopped saying "thank you"?” And he lashed out "What are you trying to say? Why are you bringing this up? What's the problem?" The problem is I’M the one making the meals, so why am I being taken for granted?

Also, because of his obesity, SS is required to stick only to the meals we make him (as the dietitian ordered) and use the stationary bike for a bout 40 min daily. Most of the time he does it just fine.

But every time my SO and I leave our home for a longer period of time, SS eats large quantities of food, even though we have a rule that he can't, and then denies it. Every time I try to bring it up with my SO, he makes me feel as I'm the problem. So most of the times we end up fighting about it.

Because I feel that every time I mention something about SS, SO get's supper offended and takes it really personally, even though I just stated a fact and wasn't hurtful or rude.

HOW am I supposed to live like this? Would counseling help? I'm tired of all the fighting and feeling like I'm actually the guilty party.

Ursula's picture

Disengaging would help.  At the end of the day, your SS obesity is your SO's problem to deal with.  If he isn't going to care that SS is sneaking food, then you shouldn't either.  I would say just make sure you aren't the one purchasing the food he is binging on, your SO needs to buy it.  Anything that you want for yourself, purchase and keep away from SS.

For the meals, if you want a thank you for preparing dinners and you don't get it, stop making the meals.  It's really your SO's job to feed his kid anyway.  

oodra's picture

The problem with the food is that he's eating MY food. I know, I know, we're a family and nothing is supposed to be MY, everything is OURS (that's what my SO's always telling me). But I follow a different diet that my SO and SS. So sometimes, even though we buy food as a family, I buy myself something different, a treat. Guess who eats it. Not me. Guess who cares. Not my SO. I keep it in our fridge, in our kitchen, so I can't really hide it.

I really really want to stop making food for that ungrateful kid. I just feel that my SO would (once again) get very hurt and see it as a personal insult to him.

TwoOfUs's picture

Seriously. Quit making excuses and immediately disengage 1000%. Buy a mini fridge for your bedroom or office if you have to. Or book a hotel room during SS visitation, make sure there's no extra food in the fridge and DH doesn't have access to joint funds...and let him deal with SS entirely from start to finish. Hopefully he's not with you full time...? 

I know this sounds extreme, but it isn't at all. You didn't sign up to be a cook and maid for an ungrateful kid. You just didn't. You deserve to be comfortable and taken care of in the home that you help to pay for and maintain.

Food wasn't my issue bc I actually love to cook...incessant TV watching was my thing. The house was just so loud every time skids were over and I couldn't even begin to mention it without DH getting in a huff.

My DH also had a problem with saying yes to extra stuff with skids without even telling me, let alone asking me. They'd just show up...and DH would look all surprised and sheepish: "OH!!! Oh yeah...I told ex we'd take the kids tonight..."

The thing is, at the time, DH traveled a lot for work and took a lot of meetings while I worked from home. So he essentially "said yes" to ME watching the kids...prepping them food...listening to the non-stop loud TV...etc. I'd usually get a 10 or 15 minute heads up that they were about to descend upon my peace and quiet and that's it. 

I'm not exaggerating when I say that I started booking the cheapest 2.5 or 3-star Priceline Express Deal I could find...EVERY TIME this happened. And I doubled my absence. If he said yes to 1 night, I stayed gone 2. Of he said yes to 2 nights, I stayed gone 4. 

It worked like a charm...I started having input and power in my own home again. I also disengaged by not doing lunches, after school rides, laundry. It's not that I never ever helped out with the skids ever just wasn't expected or presumed. 

In your need to stay silent about SS and completely disengage. Stop cooking ASAP for starters. You can tell your DH you're resigning or not...choice is up to you. For me, my decision was really spontaneous so DH didn't get much heads up. He was insistent that a 10, 12, and 14 years old were far too young to make their own beds or their own lunches and, plus, he wanted them to feel "special" and taken care of when they were with us.

One Sunday night I just couldn't put together the 3 lunches, so I didn't. When DH came to me in a panic the next morning asking where the kids' lunches were...I just shrugged and said: "I have no idea." 

You've never seen 3 kids become capable of putting together their own lunches more quickly than my 3 skids after DH realized I'd quit. Suddenly they knew how to slap a couple pieces of bread together and throw some chips in a bag...they knew how to hang up their towels, put laundry in the hamper, strip their beds before they left, clear the table after dinner...all of it.

My apologies for the long rant. My point here general men are lazy. As long as you're doing everything, they'll let you. I get so frustrated seeing blog after blog from women who are doing everything and miserable...but then they write in the comments that they "can't" disengage because _____________ (the house will be messy, the skids will fail school, everyone will eat junk...etc.) 

I get it. I like order and healthy habits, too. But you absolutely can and should disengage. Do whatever it takes. You weren't put on this earth to fully carry the emotional and mental load of raising a kid you didn't create. Stop it!!! 


oodra's picture

It really frustrated me to read what your DH was putting you through with his kids. But your approach is amazing. Yes, I'm new to disengaging, but I'm trying my best. Sadly, we do have full custody and SS is with us 24/7 because we've been living under lockdown for the whole year. 
I'm really gonna start making meals only for me and not gonna tell my SO about it, he can serve himself and his son.


futurobrillante99's picture

"The problem with the food is that he's eating MY food. I know, I know, we're a family and nothing is supposed to be MY, everything is OURS (that's what my SO's always telling me)."

You will not hear that from any of us at this site (well, most of us).

He's a glutton and he's got a problem. You should never suffer financially or materially because your partner is a crap parent. Yes, I know he's trying, but he's failing.

For your own sanity, you will have to make some sacrifices. You will have to stop grocery shopping and stop cooking for anyone but yourself. Lock up your food and let SO take full responsibility for the feeding of his obese child.

Once you stop making the food, there won't be a need for a thank you.

Laundry? You do your own, SO does laundry for himself and SS.

Cleaning? Clean only the spaces you absolutely need to to stay sane (master bathroom, your bedroom). If there is a spare bedroom, claim it and set it up with whatever you need to relax. Keep it clean. Lock the door - it's off limits to SO and SS. Keep a mini fridge in there.

Never point out to SO any rule that SS breaks and only step in when something SS does affects you directly (like messing up your bathroom or damaging your property). Then, focus on your own happiness.

I don't think your SO will like it and he may step up with SS. He may also act out when he realizes you expect him to parent the person he made with another woman. It's THEIR problem. Not yours. Most of them get over their initial tantrums about having to actually parent their kids. Some never step up.

But, you can be sure to be happy, making sure he knows that his son must fly the nest at some point.

oodra's picture

I'm gonna try baby steps from now on - no cooking for them and. only cleaning the parts of the house I'm supposed to (we have agreed wich one's of us clean which parts).

ndc's picture

I might tell SO that you are bringing these things up to HELP SS, because if he's raised with chores,  rules and manners he will be a more likable person and a more productive and successful adult. Emphasize that you're doing it for SS's own good.  If SO doesn't want you to continue helping his son in that way, completely disengage.  Do nothing for him and let the chips fall as they may.  If SO doesn't step up and living with SS is more trouble than your SO is worth, then reconsider living with them. 

oodra's picture

Yes, I've tried and I’m still trying the approach that you mentioned. Every time my SO gets defensive, I explain to him that everything I do, I do to help SS, not to hurt him. But then my SO thinks that I'm actually trying to change SS, and that I think that SS isn't good enough... You get my point. I'm starting to feel that it's SO, not the SS that's the problem - he's very defensive about his son.

Merry's picture

Your SO is the problem here. If you do all the meal prep, does your SO thank you? Or do you expect that from just the SS? Your SO should be the role model here. Even when DH and I cook a meal together, which is frequently, one or the other of us will comment on the food. "Sweetie, you did a great job with the steak. It's just the way I like it. THank you."

As someone who struggles with weight and raised a child who struggles with weight, you can make all the rules you want to, to no avail. SS KNOWS he shouldn't be binging, but there is a psychological force at work that is frequently too powerful to control. Working with a dietician is great, but he may also need counseling and a physician's intervention to help control those cravings. Let SS and SO deal with his physical and mental health issues, and back off.

oodra's picture

Funny you should mention, because my SO not only helps me with meal prep, but comments on how good the food is, thanks for the meal and does the dishes. I love him for that!

But somehow his son doesn't seem to be learning the good manners. On the other hand, my SO never presses him to be polite. NEVER. SS just orders SO around, saygin "give me this", "buy me this", "pass me this". No please, no thank you...

futurobrillante99's picture

Well, that's good to read that you SO is helpful and has appreciation for what you do. You may just have to give up on expecting SS to be polite. Teenagers are buttheads anyway. If you decide to keep cooking for SO, accept his gratitude and ignore SS. Better yet, ask SS directly if he enjoyed his meal.

You can refuse to respond to the commands SS might give SO, but you can't really control SO allowing himself to be ordered around by SS. However, I might be tempted to tell SO how unattractive it is to you to see a man being ordered around by a child. Tell him it's a real turn off and kills your libido. Wink

tog redux's picture

Sounds like your SO is afraid to parent his kid - why? Does he fear the kid refusing to come over?  I'd have a hard time cooking for a kid who was rude and ungrateful, and in a sense, your SO is being rude and ungrateful in how he responds to your feelings.  He'd rather lash out at you than parent his son.

I didn't have this issue, but many on here who did have said they had to make their partner fear THEIR reaction more than the kid's reaction.  At this point, he lashes out at you, and you back down, from the sounds of it. Try standing up for yourself and maybe refusing to cook for SS or pick up after him. Your DH can pick up the slack or make SS do it, his choice.

oodra's picture

We have full custody of SS. But yes, from my observations, my SO is trying to be SS's best friend, not his parent. He tries not to get into any confontation with him, doesn't like to be strict. That's why the kid doesn't keep up with simple house rules.

I tried reacting to my SO's lashing out on me, but it always lead to a fight and somehow it's always my fault. My SO seems to think no fights are his fault. I'm seriously thinking about couples counseling.

tog redux's picture

Yes, couples counseling is a great idea.  It's not fair that you are expected to help try to fix this kid when his father won't even do the basics of parenting.  

The boy should be in therapy too. He's lost his mom (I assume) and his father is his pal - he likely has emotional issues that he deals with by overeating. 

oodra's picture

We took him to therapy but he refused to talk and the psychologist told us that everything is fine with him. (RIIIGHT...) So I stopped pressing, it's not my problem.
The BM actually IS alive. She's the one who left them a couple of years ago to persue another woman. She has seldom contact with SS, never helps us financialy and never pays for anything even thout the court ordered her to. I've complained to my SO about that (why should I pay for THEIR kid??) but he refured to do anything, so I just stepped back.

Gimlet's picture

Unless you enjoy walking on eggshells, I would absolutely pursue the couples counseling.

It's tiring to not be able to be yourself in a relationship or in your own home because your SO gets all butthurt about it.  He needs to grow up and start acting like a parent.

oodra's picture

Thank you so much for saying that! You're right. Thankfully, my SO is on board to go to therapy, we just had to postpone it due to the pandemic. But I'm sure we'll look into it as soon as there's a chance (I wouldn't like to do it online).

futurobrillante99's picture

Online is actually wonderful. Please consider trying it. I've been doing it for at least a year, now.

Ispofacto's picture

My SD was also obese and I had to keep junkfood out of the house.  If you want some for yourself, most of us have had to hide it in our rooms, or disguised in a meat or vegetable package, or hidden in a box of something they don't like.

I wouldn't expect a skid to thank me for a meal, but if I did expect it and didn't receive it I would simply stop doing the cooking.


oodra's picture

That's the problem - we don't keep any junk food in our home. On seldom ocasions that we do, I keep it in our bedroom and he doesn't know about it. He binges on "normal" food that we keep in the fridge or freezer - leftovers, bread, cheese, dumplings, hummus, etc. And then he's gaining weight.

simifan's picture

SS weight problem isn't your issue. Unfortunately you cannot care more then the bioparents do, it never ends well. Let it go. I wouldn't cook or buy food for anyone who doesn't appreciate it & your SO doesn't appreciate it if he has not taught his 14yo to say thank you. So stop cooking & buying food for anyone. Stop at your favorite restaurant and get take out for yourself. Get a small foot locker or dorm fridge for your treats.

Quite honestly the first time SO yelled at me for what his child did, would be the last time I would have done anything for that child. I'd suggest counseling for yourself to understand why you would accept SO's displaced anger. It is not a behavior I would want in a "partner." 

oodra's picture

Yes, I've already stepped aside from my SS's weight problem. I make no special meals for him, I meke normal meals for all of us. I've stopped giving my SO advide about his son's weight (I've had my own weight problems during my teenage years), I'm letting him deal with it.
I wouldn't say I'm accepting my SO's lashing out - I've certainly said my fair share of things about it. I'm just too tired to fight anymore. I've went to counseling myself for two years, if I hadn't I think I wouldn't see this situation as a problem at all :/ just now I'm recognising that I'm not happy at all.

BethAnne's picture

I do not put up with rudeness from children. I would directly ask the boy to say thank you everytime he should. Don't wait for his Dad to enforce it.

Having said that, I am not sure I would want to stay with this man if I were you. He seems to have little respect for you.

Harry's picture

It's hard work to parent a child.  Work and time.  Your SO rather tell you your food is greatest so he doesn't have to cook. His kid needs help. But not helping him.  He's a armchair quarterback,