Dear Amy: My husband has been irritable, tense, short-tempered and basically taking things out on me and our 16-year-old son.
I confided in my 39-year-old stepson (my husband’s son) and let him know that I was worried about his father regarding stress and potentially some depression issues.
I did mention that we were not getting along well and suggested that perhaps the son could give his father a break and take him away from the stress of the family business.
The getaway ended up being a trip to Vegas which included drinking, gambling and yes, strip joints.
This of course put a bigger wedge in our marriage.
Would it be appropriate to let my stepson know how hurt I am, since he coordinated the “bachelor trip,” or did I learn a painful lesson?
Dear Bamboozled: Your intentions were good, but the essential error you made was to share your marital problems with your husband’s son. Confiding your concerns about his stress and possible depression is one thing, but entrusting children (no matter how old) with deeply personal relationship issues between parents is tricky. This knowledge can divide their loyalties, or – in your case – inspire a son to align with and enable his father.
So, were you bamboozled when the son chose to take his dad for a Vegas blowout, versus a de-stressing yoga retreat in the woods? It was unrealistic of you to expect a different outcome.
Your husband is unhappy. He is not treating you and your son well.
His problem has come home to roost, and you and he should pursue marriage counseling right away.
Couples’ counseling does not always repair relationships, but it does facilitate communication and create pathways for behaving differently. And sometimes, counseling sessions can uncover intractable issues which lead to couples deciding to part.
My instinct is that your husband might be toying with leaving the marriage; he is forcing the issue by treating you badly, which is a cowardly – but common – way to transfer unhappiness onto family members.
Dear Amy: I am a stay-at-home mom to a 9-year-old daughter. She’s, well, she’s great. She is mainly well-behaved and as an only child I try hard to give her lots of experiences with other kids.
We have a cool “attic” room in our house that has low-sloping ceilings. We’ve set it up as something of a play space and we also store suitcases and extra bedding there.
Last week, we invited “Sophie” to come on a Saturday for a playdate. I set up the play room with some craft supplies and snacks. The two girls were there for most of the afternoon and seemed to have a great time.
After taking Sophie home I went into the room and it was a shambles. The suitcases were opened, bedding and food were strewn everywhere. I was completely shocked. This is absolutely not the way our daughter would ever treat our home.
Now I don’t know whether I should call Sophie’s mother to let her know how destructive her daughter was, or whether I would ever welcome this child into our home again.
– Frustrated Mom
Dear Frustrated: Never, ever, leave two 9-year-olds alone for several hours in a room full of temptations, because they will imagine and conspire and create their own world full of strewn bedding, snacks, and overall mayhem.
One child does not play this way. Two children do. They trade ideas, come up with storylines about being orphans on a camping trip, and things have a way of going sideways.
My first piece of advice is to leave the snacks out of the playroom. This way, every now and then you will pop your head in and invite them into the kitchen to take a break from their play. This will allow you to see what they’re up to and either marvel at their creations or course-correct them.
“Sophie” might have inspired this destruction, but this could very well have originated with your child, who decided to push her well-behaved boundaries (perhaps showing off).
Your daughter should do the clean-up, which is part of the responsibility of hosting.
Dear Amy: “Stressed” was a divorced mom who didn’t like it that her ex-husband showed up for games and school events on “her” custody days.
I appreciated your response and would only add one reminder: The children didn’t get divorced, the parents did.
– Regular Reader
Dear Reader: Every divorced parent should have this wisdom posted on their refrigerator. Thank you!