DEAR COACH RICHIE: I am at a loss. My son is 13. He is from a past relationship but I have full custody and he has lived with me basically his entire life. In the meantime I met my partner and we got married bought a house had another child and all that happy family stuff. But my partner and my older son just can’t seem to see eye to eye.
We have all been together for 8 of his 13 years and she actually has known my son longer than she’s known me. But he is a difficult kid with a sorted past. His other parent is a drug addict and has gone months without seeing him.
They’ve tried to poison his mind against my current partner years and years ago but it was eventually dropped and I thought we had all moved on. My son also has diagnoses of ADHD, ODD, and PTSD so he’s not easy to say the least. But he’s loving understanding beyond his years, smart, and an all round good kid outside of school. (He’s very rebellious about completing schoolwork) and my partner has an anxiety disorder which can be severe at times. So the two of them are like fire and gasoline at times.
But here is my issue. My partner calls him names regularly. Calls him stupid. Tells him he’s acting like an asshole. Tells him if he’s a dick to them, they will be to him as well and I just think all of that is wrong. If I try to talk about it with them, I get to sleep on the couch at best. But I can’t just sit by and watch my son get degraded like this can I? In family therapy it has been brought up a lot. As has it in 1:1 therapy. Nothing seems to help.
I don’t know what to do. Neither one hears me when I talk to them about it. They both complain the other is the issue. It’s truly a shared blame situation and neither is willing to put in effort to try to change. I feel like we should build our kids up and lead by example. They feel we need to toughen them up and give back what we get from them. I should also add that our little one who is 4 is starting to follow suit because he is around this toxicity.
Am I wrong? Is my partner?. I really just want to make everyone happy but all I seem to accomplish is nothing.
COACH RICHIE: So sorry about what seems like a horrible situation that you are in. Unfortunately, therapy typically doesn’t work. Especially for boys. The just want to be normal and normal kids don’t go to therapy. You are exactly write your partner is being a dick. He is a bully who most likely got bullied when he was young or who had bullies as parents that made him feel small, unworthy and unloved. We model what we see as we are children.
Is it your job to make everyone happy? Who is important in this situation at the moment? Do you believe you were put on this earth to make your partner happy? He is damaging your son’s life and also sounds like the younger one is going to be having some anxiety issues as he is around this toxicity.
What can you do? Serious conversation with your partner is where I would start. I would leave my son out of the conversation. I would ask your partner how he thinks your son feels when he calls him names? Would he like someone to call him names like that? Maybe ask him if he were bulled as a child? That may hit a raw nerve but may make him start seeing himself. Although if he is a narcissist then you won’t be able to tell him anything because it is all about him.
One thing I would try and sitting down with the both of them and asking them each a question. Ask your partner what does he think your son would say about the way he speaks about him? In front of your son. Then spin it around and ask your son what he thinks his stepdad? would say about the way he speaks to him? The only way forward is to get them to understand the other’s ones world.
Unfortunately your son should not have to do this with an adult. But you have to play the game where you are at. In the end the only question you really need to ask yourself is if this partner of yours is capable of empathy, compassion and love? If he isn’t you have some big decisions to make because if you don’t. You will lose your son to a teen tribe and that is when you have lost him for good. Then I would imagine your younger child will follow suit.
In the end you could end up with just your partner and the children out of the house because they can’t stand being around someone that tortures them constantly. You are an amazing mom who knows deep down inside what she needs to do to resolve this. Hope this helps you on your journey of parenting. We can love them or control them but we can’t do both
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