When Three’s a Crowd

 
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Q: I’ve been married – it isn’t my first – for three months and fear that I’ve made a mistake. My wife has a son, who is living with us. He doesn’t have a job and is in no hurry to get one. We aren’t getting along and argue most of the time. My wife takes her son’s side and accuses me of being hard on him. I resent supporting someone who should be looking after himself, and I fear for my relationship with my wife.

A: Your predicament is not an easy one to resolve. I would imagine you and your wife don’t yet know each other well, so to endure this kind of stress early in a relationship could cause serious cracks in your marriage. Ideally, time together, alone with each other, is what is needed to cement a strong relationship. But as you don’t have that luxury, I advise couple counselling for the pair of you, and a few sessions of family therapy. You also need to spell out the ground rules of your relationship, as well as the rules of interaction with your stepson.

I presume your stepson has finished schooling, but it sounds as if he needs guidance as to his future. He is probably unsure of himself, and uncertain about how to proceed with getting a job. As a male adult figure, you are in a position to help. First, however, take a hard and honest look at your attitude toward him: Do you see him as an intruder in your new life? Are you resentful that your wife was “encumbered” with a dependant? Such feelings are normal, but they aren’t productive. Counselling may help you work through these issues. As an adult, the mature thing to do is to take the lead in building a relationship with your stepson. You have something to share with this young person, but he’ll only listen once you’ve both come to terms with each other’s presence in the household.

You and your wife have pledged your love to each other, and despite the hardships of your situation, I encourage you to put in the work needed to make this relationship succeed. After all, what is more worthwhile in life than our relationships with significant others?

Don’t get discouraged by the obstacles in your way. And, if all else fails, remember that time has a way of sorting out problems. It’s unlikely your stepson will stay home forever, but while he is, I encourage you to be a positive influence in his life. I suspect that if you do manage to establish a good relationship with your stepson, it will only benefit your relationship with your wife. Good luck!