Constantly disengaging, because I always re-engage
I have to continually disengage. I re-engage in ways that I think, at first, is not engaging. Like trying to talk to the skid (SS17) himself about his behavior, now that he's a bit older and maybe able to be reasoned with. This, however, was engaging in order to fix the problem, and his problems include deep entitlement, contempt for his mother, an enmeshed relationship with his mother which is more like a marriage (without sex, of course) in which he is the passive-agressive sonsband and she is the in-denial, supportive helpmate and wifemom who is "always there for him."
But the other kind of engaging that kind of hits me from left field is trying to talk to my wife about this. You see, my wife is (otherwise) a reasonable and intelligent person. I can talk to her about all kinds of sensitive topics, except for topics concerning SS17, the true ruler and leading actor (as in, much drama) on our household stage.
Of late I have tried to talk to her about his entitlement regarding getting a summer job. "I'm not going to work for less than minimum wage" was one of his takeaway lines, as was, "I'm not going to have some boss telling me what to do." (He had a less then minimum wage restaurant job last summer with a boss who actually took him under his wing.)
This is among the many other things that go on here, and I often start a "there’s a problem and this is what we need to do" campaign with my wife, in an attempt to get her to see whatever the current manifestation of the underlying dysfunction is, the sort of "flavor of the week, you might say." This has never worked, however. (It also reminds me of when Lucy always moved the football when Charlie Brown tried to kick it. My wife always tells me I can talk to her and even says, you can talk to him about it. Only if it were so easy. The skid's got his power sewn up and "talking to him" is ineffective and expressly does not work.)
But you see, by trying to talk to DW, I engaged again. Not with the skid directly, but by trying to dialog with her about it. It's hard to do nothing, but nothing works either.
My latest stay up late, and can't fall asleep, topic is, the skid is turning 18 and we want to buy a house (we're in an apartment now), but I don't want to wrap a mortgage and debt around this situation, where teenage abusive skid behavior will now be adult skid abusive behavior and I have a mortgage with a bank that I can't walk away from if I want to get out. The skid will go to college for four years, which might give temporary breaks, but there is no definite move-out date. I would have to engage my wife and engage this situation to "talk about that," but rules and boundaries, whenever "we've" tried them, are quickly repealed and relaxed by my wife.
I'm venting somewhat here, but I do want to add to the conversation on disengaging, especially on the need for it, and about how engaging expressly does not work, at least for many stepparents, while at the same time, I'm constantly compelled to engage and must constantly pull myself back. Not unlike Sysiphus, rolling the rock all the way up the hill, only to have it roll all the way back down just as I get near the top.