[Solved] Relatively new stepdad in need of advice
Hi all, this is my first post and looking for some advice please as I'm really struggling.
Background: I was living with my partner about 25 years ago, but we split up and had no kids together. Having reconnected, she moved in about 3 years ago with her (now) 17 and 18 year old boys. Their bio-dad died when they were really young. My partner remarried about 7 years ago but was in the process of divorce when we re-met, and her boys really disliked the man. I have no kids of my own.
Initially I had to help my partner deal with mental health issues caused by years of historic abuses. It took ages to persuade her to get help but eventually we arranged professional counselling, which has really helped and she is in a much better place. So, with this and the adjustments for us all of moving in together it was obviously a very stressful time which unfortunately coincided with the younger boy coming up to his GCSEs which only added to the situation. All in all this was not a great time and the first few years have been a real struggle.
Fortunately, the younger boy is now at college, loving his course and seems really settled at home.
The problem is the older boy who is coming up to 19 and having left college is now doing nothing. He did have a job but gave that up after 4 months ago saying it was "too stressful" (don't get me started on that!). He's also had a car-crash of a relationship which (thankfully) ended about two months ago as well. He's now got into his head that he's "recovering" from the stressful job and end of the relationship so now spends every day playing on his computer till the early hours, doesn't get up till midday and then only appears from his room to go to the bathroom, empty the fridge or appear for his cooked dinner. He almost NEVER offers to do anything and only does things when asked to do them and even then it's on his terms (e.g. took a week to clean the bathroom after being asked - I accept this is an extreme example but it's an indication of his attitude). However, when he wants something, there's an expectation that it will happen almost immediately. The way he speaks to his brother is more like a father-figure than a brother. Heaven-forbid the younger brother doesn't do what he's asked within a few minutes of being told by his sibling. I totally understand that over the years, without having a father-figure in his life, he's (willingly or otherwise) taken on the "head of the house" role but this just continues and it's an attitude of "I'm the boss" so do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do.
When we've talked about him getting a job, he flippantly says "I don't know what I want to do" and has done nothing whatsoever to look for a job. He's suggested going travelling for a bit (which is fine and we've said we'll support him if he wants to do it) but he doesn't want to go alone or with a like-minded stranger and has done virtually no research into the options. He doesn't get charged any rent, walks round like he owns the place and gets REALLY defensive whenever he's hears something he doesn't like. His whole attitude is "I can, and will, do whatever I like whenever I like"
I've tried discussing this with my partner but she just palms me off with "don't get so uptight". Because she is ok with the situation and he's happy-as-Larry not having to work and having everything on a plate, I feel completely isolated. I work from home, so what I see is me working, my partner at work, younger boy off at college but the older boy behaving like an entitled parasite.
I absolutely adore my partner, we're amazing together and I have tried SO hard to build a happy stable home for them all. I do most of the shopping and cooking but just feel like I'm on a treadmill of servitude, trying to make sure everyone else is happy. I'm worried that I might snap one day and tell him that if he's not going to do, or contribute, anything, then he can do it elsewhere. I know this is wrong, he's been through a lot in his life already and he needs support but how long do I allow myself to be treated like a doormat in my own house.
This is doing my head in, I'm constantly on edge and can feel myself sinking into depression (I've suffered from this before so recognise the signs). I wake every morning wondering what eggshells I need to walk on today and go to bed looking forward to the peace of sleep, occasionally hoping the morning doesn't come.
I don't know if I'm over-thinking this or allowing things to get out of proportion, but I'd really welcome any advice.
This is difficult, I had the same experience when i met my ex. Her son (15 when I met him now 23) was the same, dropped out of college, never worked and did no house work. It got right on my nerves and my ex didnt seem to care. I think it is how you are bought up, I was raised to earn what I want, I was never given anything...EVER! I had to write out a rota of jobs for him to do. I even found him a job as he would not do it himself.
It can be very stressful, but if he lives in your house, he should obey your rules. I started doing things like blocking access to the internet after 10pm so he could not play x-box late at night and keep me up. Not making him dinner and left him to do his own.
It might be worth speaking to your partner again, just say you need to lay some ground rules and get him in to a routine and earning some respect. I had to tell my step son, if he got a job and spoke to his boss as he does to me or his mum, he would be sacked on the spot. It is a difficult thing to face, but it has to be done for your benefit.
Thanks for your reply Ferfer. Whilst I wouldn't wish this level of stress on anyone, but it does help to know I'm not alone and to hear others' experiences.
Sounds like you and I have the same work ethic. Apart from being unemployed for 4-5 weeks following redundancy decades ago, I have always worked, whether it's been a good job or one I hated. You just have to do what you have to do, so I know that some of my frustration stems from the his seemingly cavalier approach to work (or doing anything productive).
I have spoken to my partner a few times but I think you're right, I just need to keep talking to her and hope that it filters down to him, even if it's in baby steps.
I probably need to start instilling a sense of urgency in him, so that he realises that his dossing-round-the-house approach is not going to be acceptable and that he doesn't get to decide when he "feels ready" to get his backside into gear. To be fair I have tried this in a very gentle manner in the past, but maybe I need to be a little more forceful, so he recognises that there are expectations.
Having him make his own dinner had crossed my mind but that puts me at odds with my partner, which I totally understand; they're her "babies" and she is rightly/naturally very protective. Part of my problem is that he and his mum are REALLY close...more like best friends than Mother-son, so I have to be careful what I say/do and how I say/do it.
Blimey, it's such a tightrope.