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Constantly disengaging, because I always re-engage

Toxic Situation's picture
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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. 

Major Blunder's picture

Been there still doing that, I just try not to more and more, takes a real effort to not engage at all, there is alot of under my breath comments everyday lol

fairyo's picture

Oh that Sysiphus thing- I'm going through that too but for different reasons.

I am sorry you are going through this- it does sound like an enmeshed relationship and we all know how difficult that can be.

It does sound, though, as you haven't really disengaged. But, it isn't a one size fits all thing- you sort of diengage to make things less pressured for yourself than it has been,and it sounds to me as if you are still parenting (or trying to) this young man, in the absence of his birth dad. Where is he and what part does he play? If at all?

I think you have to stop taking so much responsibilty on your shoulders now this young man should be starting to make decisions for himself (and they may be bad ones) and really the only way to do this is deprive him of your financial support if he refuses to get himself a job. I also think you are wise to think seriously about the mortgage as it seems to me that you are making an exit plan.

I think hitting your SD in the pocket is the best effective disengagement there can be, and may send the message to your DW that you have had enough of his entitlement, and of her need to keep those apron strings tied.

I am sorry you are subjected to this constant drama- it must be exhausting.

Toxic Situation's picture

Hi fairyo,

His birth dad is in Europe. He's going there for the first time, alone, in July. Interesting your calling me out on still being engaged. You're right, I still care. I don't know if it's that I care so much about him as much as I care that these things shouldn't be happening. Like today, beautiful summer day and the skid has no interest whatsoever in being outside. He's sequestered in his room, playing video games. Now, it's true that I'm not going to talk to him about that, or tell him that he ought to go outside, but I do think about it, in a "wow, this is so weird" sense, so this is being engaged, if only by giving it more attention than it deserves.

Yes, the constant drama is exhausting.

Evil3's picture

I was in your shoes. I refused to buy a home with my DH until the SKs were launched. Only they weren't required to launch. We were perpetual renters and my DH was the epiotomy of a Disney Dad to both SKs and fostered Mini-Wife Syndrome in SDstb29. When my SS26 was about to turn 23 and showing no signs whatsoever of launching any time soon, I broached the subject of a long-term launching plan with DH. I got my head bit off and DH acted like I wanted to run to the door to change the locks before SS got home. He was a major pothead and quit and got fired from so many part time jobs, that I quit counting at 11. My DH also refused to own a home with me, because he didn't want to be seen owning a home with a woman other than his mini-wife. That was fine with me, because I wasn't going to pay a much larger mortgage for a bigger home that would allow the SKs to live with us forever. My DH was so obsessed with his kids that he wasn't emotionally available to me. I was ready to walk away after 18 years of it.

One day, I told DH that I'm buying a place and since I'm buying it myself, it'll be small and have only two bedrooms: one for our DD18 (14 or 15 at the time) and one for me and possibly for both of us depending on whether DH decided to come with me or not. I told DH that there would be no room for SS or any other adult that is not servicing me sexually. I told DH that if he really felt that he needed to live with his adult kids forever (SD moved in with BM), he could do so, but he cannot live with his adult kids and me at the same time. I also said that I'm worth the whole enchilada and I will not be a booty call or part-timer, so if DH chose to stay living with his man-baby, I would have no choice but to move on. I gave DH 48 hours to make his decision, which was irreversible. I gave the deadline so that DH couldn't continue to string me along waiting for SS to "launch naturally." DH immediately agreed to come with me and we bought our home together. I warned DH that no person who isn't living there can have a key or security code to get in. I also warned DH of what would happen should he melt upon the sight of SS and allow him to move back in. I was fully willing to call the police and have them remove whichever adult kid did not have my permission to be there.

Ironically, what I did liberated DH from having to constantly jump through hoops for the SKs. DH confessed that he was actually relieved that he no longer had to cater to such high-maintenance spoiled, entitled, lazy brats and DH made me be the one to promise to never allow SS to move in with us. DH has actually woken up from nightmares where he came home from work to find that I let SS move back in. We both laugh at that now. It's been three or four years and SS being on his own has caused him to turn into a completely different person. SS and my relationship is back to the wonderful one we had when he was a young boy.

You will have to take the risk that your DW might threaten to divorce you if you take a stand. However, do something now so that you don't end up spending your life waiting and waiting and waiting. Your DW is not ever goning to make her baby launch unless you make things very uncomfortable for her. Things will get ugly, but without it, things won't change. Now that I'm on the other side, my marriage is completely different and I couldn't be happier. I really recommend taking a stand and doing something sooner rather than later.

Areyou's picture

Could you buy a house under your name with only one bedroom and an office or den? SS needs to see that there won’t be room for him. If DW wants to rent an apartment for him she is welcome to do that with her own funds. I have my own house that skids are rarely invited to and DH stays here on his no custody days. When skids grow up he will sell his house and move in with me. My house only has enough room for me and DD not skids.

Java_Junkie's picture

I feel for ya...

SS14 here is a bit of a sonsband, and I've been hoping all that junk will go bye-bye some day soon.

I will say, I felt so good when SD13 started getting flippant with me, and I said, "Yknow... I'm not your dad and you don't have to do what I say. So, tell ya what... do what you want, I know you will, anyway. You're not my kid, not my concern, and when you run into problems - they won't be my problems." She looked at me funny and went on about her business. Now, both those kids could crack their skulls on the sandstone pool coping as far as I care. I used to care a lot, but now? Nope. I tried and DW told me to essentially butt the Hell out. Done, and done. Now I just ignore them, and it's fine, except I'm also starting to ignore DW as well, which isn't healthy...

Toxic Situation's picture

Thank you for the comments on disengaging and also ideas of how (not) to buy a house with room for skids to be included. The problem is the four-year period where, legitimately I guess, he can still live at home while not away at college. Then of course, there would be the next year or two, you know, he's not able to launch even if he wants to, because he needs to get a good job, waiting... waiting.

My older brother launched immediately after college in the 70s during the tech boom, got a great job with a well-known (now merged into something else) software company and moved to another state. The skid is intelligent, but it's not his academic abilities I'm worried about, it's his continued presence any time longer than over 18 or continued partial presence during the college years, etc.

Toxic Situation's picture

DW has also just started a job in academia, for more money. At times, when skid behavior is off the rails, I have increasingly considered telling her she now makes enough to set up a separate household with him (so they can live out their enmeshed relationship without me). At present, things are calmer and I don't want to throw separation (not meaning divorce here) into the mix while DW is still onboarding at her job, as it would be an added level of stress for her. (Yes, I care about people and it's not about being too meek or nice to speak up. I do speak up a lot.) But as things change, I will need to put this on the table, especially when looking for houses, which DW is eager to do once the skid is 18 (and we no longer need to be in this more expensive school district, where we rent now).