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When to call it quits

Citygirl05's picture

Quick summary: divorced with 1 teenage daughter (joint custody) and have dated single father with teenage son (sole custody) for almost 10 years. We have never lived together mainly because of my fears with blending families....different parenting styles, custody battle with vindictive ex-husband, and behavioral issues with his son.

My boyfriend and I are best friends and have a great relationship. I kept thinking that some of these issues would resolve themselves with time. Ultimately I do want to be re-married and live together as a family. But his son just turned 18 and now it seems as though the issues are getting worse. I'm not sure he has a diagnosable mental illness (he's been in counseling on and off and nothing was indicated) but makes terrible decisions that are affecting he and his father legally, financially, and emotionally. He's a good kid who typically regrets these decisions and then spirals into depression...but it doesn't keep him from making the same mistakes again. I myself suffer from anxiety and depression, which is triggered anytime one of these situations occurs, and I'm at the point where I'm not sure I can handle any more for my own sanity. I feel terrible because my boyfriend is great and this has nothing to do with him. I don't want him to be alone in dealing with everything (he has no family that can help and no close friends - he has devoted his life to raising his son while working full time), but I just don't have the energy or capacity to do it while also raising my daughter and fighting a long custody battle (which he has been there for me for).

I guess I am just second-guessing if I need to try harder to be there for them or if the relationship is just wrong. Even though I love him tremendously, I'm not sure I was cut out to parent his child. Anyone else been through this?




JRI's picture

Why not have a living apart togetjer relationship (LAT)?  I wouldn't move in with him, either, with the son's issues.  But why not just continue to date?  Or do the son's issues bleed in?

ldvilen's picture

They bleed in: “. . . it doesn't keep him from making the same mistakes again. I myself suffer from anxiety and depression, which is triggered anytime one of these situations occurs, and I'm at the point where I'm not sure I can handle any more for my own sanity.”

Rags's picture

"makes terrible decisions that are affecting he and his father legally, financially, and emotionally. He's a good kid" Ummm, no, he is not a good kid.  He is the ill behaved criminal spawn of a failed family.

Your own daughter is the product of a divorce. Does she make terrible decisions that are affecting you legally, financially and emotionally?  Probably not. At least not that you have mentioned in this thread.

So many people who enter relationships with partners with prior relationship children have a litany of crap these kids perpetrate yet still insist on calling them "good kid(s)". They aren't. And when the SParent and parent involved quit deluding themselves about an ill behaved toxic prior failed family breeding experiment, only then can the relationship have a decent chance of success and the kid can gain a chance at getting past their own crap.  It takes committed assertive parents to raise a kid through this crap.

Kid centric, spawn catering parents without testicular fortitude in their parenting are not worthy partners for anyone IMHO.  They do not make their partner or the relationship their priority, they squander insane amounts of resources on attempting to repeatedly rescue kids that are nothing more than a write off, and they ruin relationships and the lives of people who make the mistake of loving the parent.

Save yourself and your daughter from this toxic kid, failed father and waste of resources.

Just my thoughts of course.

Citygirl05's picture

I say that he is a "good kid" because I recognize that every human has value regardless of their mistakes. Also, because he is just "a kid" who has an absentee mother and has lived through some pretty difficult things (of course one would not know these things from one online post.) I have seen this kid in tears as a result of some of these decisions and it is heartbreaking. I have seen him light up when someone shows approval of something he has done. And I have seen him selfishly help others in community and service projects. So  yes, I maintain that he is a good kid. That is why this decision is not easy.

Rags's picture

At some point issues we inherit from our parents and families become our issues to resolve.  Problems that are not resolved are problems that we choose.  Occasional guilt for poor choices and actions be yet more and seemingly tender and caring actions that are followed by yet more poor choices and poor performance are IMHO indicative of manipulation and conscious and willful action to do wrong.

I was one who for a number of years of my youth made poor choices and would break down in tears when having to discuss those choices with my parents.  The solution is the "don't tell us, show us" lecture. At some point it is time to stop listening to the excuses and to stop mitigating the consequences of those choices and nail the poor performing kid to the wall by their short and curlies. Proverbially of course.

For me, it took repeating my sophomore of HS... I did finish HS as Valedictorian/Outstanding Graduating Sr. and got into a number of universities honors programs.  Though I did  have to repeat that lesson in college as well.  The real lesson was my parents cutting me off after my Sophomore year of college.  I paid for the next 6 year of college out of my own pocket and had to support myself.  I started my own company and did very well with it for 5 years until I sold it following my divorce.  That funded most of my last three years of undergrad.  When I had performed well during my first year and a half of Engineering school my parents helped with my last year and a half of undergrad.

I was far from a focused student in my youth. I was not a criminal.

Give the "Don't tell us, show us" lecture and let his mistakes ride on his shoulders method a try.  Tears should not be get out of trouble free cards.

Yes, every human as the potential for value. However, value only comes with performance.  Repeating mistakes is a conscious effort to avoid value.

IMHO of course.


tog redux's picture

Well, he likely does have a hand in some of this behavior. Does he enable the kid to continue making these decisions without any consequences?  Then he's part of the problem.

Citygirl05's picture

I wouldn't say he enables him at all, IMO. The fact is, most of the bad decisions have brought their own very negative consequences on his son directly, so while my SO makes it clear he doesn't approve of the decisions, he actually ends up doing damage control in most cases because son becomes depressed and angry at himself because he ends up in really crappy situations. Typically my SO is left trying to seek out counseling for him, dealing with legal fallout, or logistical situations, all while trying to work full time with no other support.

Rags's picture

Parents who mitigate the results of crappy decisions by their adult age kids aren't doing their kids any favors.

Time for DH to let SS realize the full natural consequences of his choices and to hit rock bottom.  I would strongly suspect that SS's depression and anger over his crappy choices and the resulting outcomes are pure manipulation to get daddy to rescue him.

That crap has to stop IMHO.


DPW's picture

The kid is 18. What is his dad doing to prepare him for the adult world? Is there a concrete plan for him to leave the nest?

I would stay separate if I was you. You've waited this long, what's another bit of time to get 18 out on his own. This, of course, is providing your SO is prepared to do the work needed for this. Do you think he is?

Citygirl05's picture

Thanks for your response. Son is not very self-motivated, so dad has pushed and encouraged him as much as possible to make future plans. Trust me, he does not want his son permanently living at home for his adult life. Dad "forced" (as much as you can force that kind of thing) son to take SAT and apply for college. He has chosen a 2-year program at the local community college; however, one of his recent poor decisions has left him without transportation so not sure how that will work. So to answer your question, dad attempts to prepare him to leave the nest but son seems to sabotage these plans with his bad decisions (although he says he really wants to move out). I do wonder if his impulsiveness is a sign of mental illness, as his bio mother is bipolar.

That being said, I think SO is willing to do everything he can to make/help his son become independent other than putting him out on the street. They really have no other family and have moved around a lot, so he has no one else to turn to. And he beats himself up for the bad decisions he makes afterwards, so his dad worries about depression.

BethAnne's picture

Sometimes love isn't enough.

If your partner cannot keep the stress of his son's choices away from you and your life then this relationship may not be what is best for you right now. It hurts but your life could be a lot easier without these added burdens. Stress and anxiety are not minor issues, protect your health. 

Citygirl05's picture

My SO is very aware of how his son's choices affect me emotionally, so it has gotten to the point where he will avoid discussing specific topics that stress me out and does not call me immediately freaking out when his son gets in trouble. But, that in and of itself feels odd because a person should be able to call their SO for support when something significant happens in their life, so it causes me to feel guilty.

Citygirl05's picture

Oh, he has certainly parented as much as humanly possible. He has had son 24/7 for 18 years with no other help while trying to work full time. Son has also had medical issues, been bullied, and my SO has been laid off twice, which has made counseling difficult to maintain.

"Not wanting to make his son mad" has been a tricky balance as he certainly wants to discipline but since child also has suffered from bullying, poor self esteem, and depression, he also feels the need to build him up as much as possible while trying to help him learn from his mistakes.

He has been extremely supportive of me throughout custody issues as well as episodes of anxiety and depression, so it's not so simple just to walk away.

Tried out's picture

on ST for readers to assume the worst about fathers, and quite often their actions  show the assumptions to be spot on. I'm not sure that this is the case with your BF. It sounds as if he has tried to do his best under difficult circumstances.

Has he made mistakes? Absolutely, but parents from intact families do stupid stuff, too. God knows I did, including and especially bailing out my son from really idiotic situations. Mostly I was trying to not let my son's teenage stupidity impact his future. It sounds as if that is what your BF does. Is it the right thing to do? Probably not, but it seems like it is in the moment. Parenting is hard.

It is my belief that there is nothing stupider on God's green earth than a teenage boy. I can't count the times I said, or at least wanted to say, WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?? It took me awhile to realize that they weren't thinking at all...

For what it's worth, both of my boys are all grown up now, made it through college and have careers they enjoy in their chosen fields. Getting there wasn't always a straight path and there were problems along the way, but their earlier stupid actions didn't blight their lives. My running interference ended a very long time ago.

Knock on wood.