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It Seems Like I Have To Choose Between My Husband And My Son!

Question:

i am just lost and don’t know what to do .. i have 3 sons. 17,11,6 i am married. my husband now is the father of the 6 yr old . and yes he does treat him different then the other two . well my 17 yr old does not get along with my husband at all . me and my husband have been together for ten yrs now . this morning was another all out war between them which resulted to physical violence. i was at work . my son is calling screaming at me on the phone saying how he is being a jerk cause he cant use the truck which we gave to him . to go to school. then my husband gets on the phone screaming at me saying i need to choose between him and my son.. well I’m sorry but I’m gonna choose my son he is my blood i gave birth to him . my husband always says that him or me.. what am i supposed to do. it would break my 6yr olds heart if i let his daddy go. and financially i can not make it . my husband does drink a lot i’ve tried to tell him stop or i will leave. i left my first husband cause of it then i only had one child and i did make it on my own but now i have 3 . i’m so stressed…please any advice..thank you.

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Answer:

Given the serious issues that you are confronting, including marital problems, domestic violence and substance abuse, and the difficulty of really understanding your situation at the level of detail that is required to know how to best help you problem solve, I’m going to recommend right up front that you seek counseling immediately. You need support and guidance that no one who is unfamiliar with your particular circumstance can provide.

From a distance, we can make some observations and suggestions, however. The first thing that leaps out here is that yours is a family with boundary issues . You are more allied with your son than with your husband (and the father of your other son), and that is not the way to keep a marriage strong. I’m not saying that your marriage is worth preserving, because I don’t know the circumstances really, but on the assumption that it is, your taking the side of your son, particularly with regard to what sounds like a rather petty conflict (there are other ways to get to school than driving there yourself in a truck!) is just going to alienate your husband. It would alienate any partner to have their authority undermined in such a manner.

It’s not really important who started it (your son or your husband), or who is right (everyone is going to feel justified in this sort of circumstance). What is important is that you need to keep the level of tension and hostility down in the house. In order to do this, you need to set some rules up that will make it clear how this sort of problem will be solved. Provided that your husband is not a true danger to you or your children, my recommendation is that you and your husband get together and figure out what these rules should be (what you both can live with) with regard to driving to school, and then present them to your son as a unified couple. Your son then needs to play by those rules, even if he doesn’t like them (which is likely). If he doesn’t like them, in a year or so he can move out of your house and make his own rules (if he can support himself). Until then, he has to put up or shut up. This is not being cruel to your son; it is just setting reasonable limits on him; something many parents strive to do. He is testing the limits now to see what he can get away with (which is apparently everything he wants), and your unfortunate husband, who is already handicapped by not being the boy’s real father, is perhaps an unfortunate casualty of this adolescent breaking away process. By setting rules with your husband that you both can live with, and by presenting those rules to your son as a unified couple, you reinforce your husband’s authority to enforce the rules you’ve both agreed to and make his life as a step-parent easier. By enforcing the rules even when your son goes around your husband to see if he can sweet talk you into getting what he wants, you show your son that he has to live by the rules. When the limit is set and enforced by both you and your husband, there will likely be more peace in the house. In the process, you bring yourself closer to your husband and maybe that relationship gets a little better.

All by itself, your husbands drinking sounds like it could be enough to undermine your marriage. It is very difficult if not impossible to get someone else to limit their drinking or stop drinking entirely. If it is possible at all to do this, what would work would be a loving approach rather than an attacking one. If you nag him to stop drinking or yell at him to stop drinking, he will likely get defensive. If the quality of your relationship improves enough so that you can have a heart to heart and express your concern about his drinking and how it makes things so difficult for you, you might have a (slim) chance. It is perhaps worth trying, anyway.

Working to express affection rather than disdain for your husband is part of working on saving your marriage. However, it isn’t clear what you want, maybe even to you. You give two reasons why you need to stay with him (e.g., that you can’t afford to be on your own, and that it would hurt your youngest child to be apart from his father), but neither of them has anything to do with your feelings for him. Maybe those feelings are gone and died, or maybe they are just temporarily suppressed given the tension you’re experiencing. Even if you don’t love this man, it may be worthwhile to act as though you do for a time and work on drawing a healthy relationship boundary around yourselves anyway. You may find that your interest in the man becomes renewed, especially if he responds to your allying yourself with him by becoming an easier person to be with. Even if that particular positive outcome doesn’t occur, you might find that there is more peace in your house anyway, which would be a benefit. You can always divorce him later.

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