Can I salvage my relationship with my girlfriend AND my kid?
November 22, 2022 1:00 PM   Subscribe

I may have ruined my long-term relationship with my girlfriend over my teenage son's behavior, and how I handle the situation. This is the latest escalation of a long-running three way conflict, I am definitely to blame here, and I know I've royally screwed the whole situation up. How can I fix this? CAN I fix this? (Long, complicated background follows)

Almost 10 years ago, when my son was 7 and my daughter 5, I discovered my wife was having several affairs and we divorced, horribly, over the course of the next year. Soon after, I began a relationship with an also recently-divorced woman I'd been friends with for years. For a long time now it's been what I thought was mutually great, more or less. We really enjoy each other's company, we like enough of the same things that we can do things together and have a good time, and her kids, while older, mostly got along well with my kids. The fact that we have separate houses, and due to various logistical reasons, need to keep separate houses actually helps. We've had dreams about what kind of life we'll have when all the kids are out of the houses, soon, and we can finally live our lives together, but we've done the best we can together given the circumstances.

Mostly.

Soon after we started seeing each other my son began to dislike her, and has been varying levels of rude/disrespectful to both her and me over the years(some of which I would chalk up to normal teen obnoxiousness, but sometimes it's overt hostility to her and me). He and I have had conflicts where he gets in trouble for his behavior, but because my ex's parenting style is much more hands-off, the consequences(grounding, for example) tend to not do anything because once he goes back to her house, he's no longer in trouble and none of what I say or do at my house makes any difference. The last few years he's become even more boorish, selfish, and rude to everyone, and now that he can drive if I attempt to enforce my rules, he just gets in his car and drives over to his mom's house (I don't control his car, it belongs to his mom). However, I still love my son and even though we fight I don't want to kick him out for good, and I've always tried to enforce my household rules while still carving out ways that we can all do things together, or I give in and make exceptions because I'm afraid he's going to make good on his threats to live with his mom permanently. I'm a pushover, I know, but I'm trying to find a middle ground where we can all get along.

My girlfriend hates this, and over the last couple years as the intensity of my conflict with my son has increased, her willingness to put up with him or my admittedly inconsistent parenting has decreased dramatically, leading to a few fights about why I let him get away with things like this, and essentially not involving her in my fights with him. I've talked with my therapist about ways to both stand up to his behavior, and also not let it boil over into my relationship with my girlfriend, with limited success.

This past weekend my son was, for a host of reasons, grounded. However, it was also my girlfriend's son's birthday, and I had offered to host birthday dinner at my house. In the leadup to the party, in the middle of me cooking and cleaning, my son asked if he could have his girlfriend join us and I said yes, out of weakness/love for my son/not thinking things through/trying to avoid confrontation/trying to make everyone happy all at the same time. When my girlfriend came over that evening with her kids and saw his girlfriend there, she was livid. She told me that she's fed up with my son getting to behave badly with no consequences, and tired of me venting to her about him while being unable to hold him accountable for his behavior. She's said that I can parent my kids however I want, but that she's basically got no respect for me anymore and I'm guessing this is leading up to the end of my relationship with her. I know I fucked up, I 100% take the blame for all this. Is there anything I can do to salvage things at this point?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (40 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
So, your girlfriend was mad because son's girlfriend was just there, at the party? Does girlfriend have some kind of beef with son's girlfriend? Was son's girlfriend misbehaving, or does she have a pattern of misbehaving?

It's really not clear that you did anything wrong in this situation, but unfortunately it sounds like your girlfriend is done with you. It doesn't sound like there's any way to salvage this.
posted by bleep at 1:18 PM on November 22 [10 favorites]


One thing that stands out to me is that initially put all the blame on your ex-wife for not upholding your punishments, but then you give an example where you don't uphold your son being grounded. If this is a pattern, I can see why your girlfriend would be annoyed by this.

That said, this sounds incredibly hard and complicated, and this situation is by no means your fault. Would your ex-wife and son be open to going to family counseling with you?
posted by coffeecat at 1:24 PM on November 22 [17 favorites]


If you admit to her you’ve lost perspective of your plans together because you’ve become fearful of your son, you might be able to start a productive conversation, perhaps with a counselor.
posted by michaelh at 1:27 PM on November 22


Your almost-adult son has been getting away with treating you and your girlfriend with extreme disrespect for years. I understand your wish to maintain a relationship with him, but I would suggest that is entirely up to him at this point.

That said, if you want to maintain your relationship with your girlfriend (who has been amazingly patient and supportive, by your description) I think it is time to draw a really firm line and then stick to it.

I want to suggest something that will be incredibly difficult for you. You need to have a conversation with your son and tell him, in no uncertain terms, that he is not welcome in your home and family events until he can be kind and respectful to you AND your girlfriend. Before you have this conversation, I would suggest that you have the locks changed on your home (I am assuming he has a key) because some teens have terrible impulse control, and he could act out in a damaging way. Also check with your ex to see if she will be willing to have him full time.

Now, there may be terms of the divorce/custody that would prevent you from doing this until he's 18--if that is the case, you'll need to wait until then. I'm also not suggesting that you block him or cut him off financially, etc. If he wants to reach out to you and talk or ask for help or a favor, you can continue to parent. However, if you want to salvage your relationship with your girlfriend, I think this is your only option. Your son is being terrible and abusive, and you need to hold him accountable.
posted by agatha_magatha at 1:30 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


I saw something on Reddit that may be of interest to you. I hope this isn't your situation, or that it doesn't go as horrendously badly as this one did.

I'm trying to find a middle ground where we can all get along.

I don't think there is one, because your son has NO interest in getting along. And frankly, I'm not sure if a relationship can even continue if your kid hates your girlfriend, or vice versa, or it's mutual, and at least one party can't pretend to not be nasty for a few hours of a meal together. I get that he's 17 and being a jerky 17, but if he can't handle not being nasty to your girlfriend for a few hours, he needs to not be around your girlfriend, and get kicked out if necessary. These two need to be SEPARATED since the son won't make nice or even not-nasty, and if that means no holiday dinners together/he stomps off in a huff to mom's, then that's probably all for the best.

In all honesty, if I were your girlfriend, I probably would be leaning towards breaking up with you because "kids come first" and all that and odds are low that you're gonna pick her over him, but he's not making it a great environment to be with you, and I'm not surprised that your relationship hasn't gotten more involved and that's probably all for the best. (I note you don't sound rapturously in love with this lady, more like "this is nice companionship.")

I'm not a parent, I haven't the faintest idea how to make a hotheaded teen boy listen, or if that's even an option with this one. But if you let him treat her like shit, then it's time for her to go to a safer space/de-escalate your relationship/break up with you. You may be great, but dealing with your son as a package deal sounds awful. Maybe you have better odds if he turns 18 and moves out and isn't in her face any more, but if this has been going on for years and years, she may have hit her limit on waiting for 18.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:42 PM on November 22 [5 favorites]


Kid is 17? Next time he threatens to go live with his mom--assuming that is consistent with any custody order--tell him, kindly but firmly, that he can do so. Get his mom on the phone to discuss the transition. I'm guessing the reason he hasn't actually done so yet is that either his mom or he himself don't really want that arrangement. Time to call his bluff. If he's happier living there, then great. If he realizes he doesn't actually want to be full-time with his mom, then you have another conversation about ground rules before letting him come back. He's not an adult yet, but he's old enough to take significant responsibility for how his behavior affects the people in his own household.
posted by praemunire at 1:42 PM on November 22 [13 favorites]


You know, there aren't really a lot of concrete details in this question. You're very vague about what your son's behavior has actually consisted of, and of what the behavior of the adults around him has actually consisted of. From the little you've said, nobody comes off well to me - including your girlfriend - but it's impossible to actually judge because none of us has anywhere near enough information. Anyone giving any sort of definitive answer here is basing it on details they've filled in entirely on their own. Which may or may not be accurate.

Is family counseling on the cards at all? Is couple's counseling with your girlfriend an option? One way or another, at least some of you, if not all of you, need to talk.

Also -
leading to a few fights about why I let him get away with things like this, and essentially not involving her in my fights with him

This is one detail that stood out to me, and I'm not sure if I'm reading it the way you meant it. Does this mean she wants to be involved in your fights with your son? Why? What do you think about that?
posted by trig at 1:57 PM on November 22 [45 favorites]


Gah! You can't start parenting your son just to fix your relationship to your girlfriend!

You're in this mindset of "I'm torn between two warring parties, how do I please them both?" This is not how it works.
You need to give your son boundaries and rules because you think they are good boundaries and rules. Not because you don't want your girlfriend to be upset.

They both don't respect you anymore because you don't respect yourself. Fix that first, the rest will follow
posted by Omnomnom at 2:05 PM on November 22 [60 favorites]


You say that you want to maintain your relationship with your son, but you don't have a relationship with him, in any healthy sense of the word. I agree with the others that it would be best for your son to go move in with his mother full time until he can start treating you and your girlfriend respectfully. You can make clear to him that you want to have a relationship when he's ready to have one based on mutual respect. You don't do him or yourself any favors -- and you aren't "maintaining a relationship" -- by allowing him to keep treating you this way.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 2:11 PM on November 22 [3 favorites]


Soon after we started seeing each other my son began to dislike her

Well yeah, you replaced his mom. To me, as a child of divorce, that seems like one of the root causes here. Kids never like their divorced parents' new partners, and the fact that you got together "soon after" the divorce, when he was still a pretty small child, makes it that much more raw for him. I assume there's probably more to the story that you've written here, but the fact that your kid doesn't like his quasi-stepmom is not shocking. The villain in Cinderella is the evil stepmother for a reason.

It's also not surprising that he'd react negatively to someone who's a much sterner disciplinarian than you are. He's used to both his mother and you being lenient. It's not really any different than if he had been raised vegan and she was feeding him steak. It's different, and different in a way that he doesn't want it to be. Of course he doesn't like it.

What it sounds like to me is that your girlfriend is upset that you and she have different parenting styles. And quite frankly, I don't really blame her for that. But that's hardly a unique discussion, and it's one that's broken up a lot of relationships. You (the plural you, both of you) are either going to have to compromise or break up. I will say that if you want to have a relationship with your son, setting some ultimatum for him in order for you to spend more time with someone whose company you enjoy is probably not going to go over well. This is why, as another commenter said, kids come first. Girlfriends come and go, but it takes a lot to get over feeling like you've been rejected by a parent, even if you were a boorish asshole.

But yeah, I think more detail would be helpful, both about your son's behavior and why your girlfriend reacts so strongly to it. I mean, I don't think it's uncommon for fathers to see their teenaged sons as assholes. Mine certainly did, and I was pretty objectively not an asshole. I was just becoming more independent, and with that comes decisions that conflicted with his. Normal parent-teenager stuff. So is it just that your kid doesn't listen to you anymore? Or is he actually doing anti-social stuff, insulting people, committing petty crimes, etc? And what is your girlfriend getting "livid" about? The mere fact that you allowed his girlfriend to come over? Unless there's a lot more to the story, that seems like a her problem more than a you problems. But we don't know.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:12 PM on November 22 [10 favorites]


I am a (step) parent of three kids. Their father and I were married, but we are now divorced prompted by a weird, unfortunate series of events (it's in my ask history). I am still dad to these kids, in most regards moreso than their bio dad, and oh my god were there hard years. Those are my credentials.

This is two situations disguised as one: your relationship with your kid, and your partner's relationship with the two of you. Handle them separately and transparently, because they are not the same thing—your responsibilities to these two people are different.

For your son: announce consequences before actions happen and then stick to them. I don't know how else to say this, but you're being taken advantage of. If your son gets upset that you're following through on consequences and he storms out... let him? That is not the end of the world, and he's at an age where he really (really) needs to understand through experience that storming out feels badass but is a petulant, avoidant behavior. Otherwise, *your* caving in is petulant, avoidant behavior.

For your partner: you have to talk. Maybe this is the point where she's had enough, and if so so be it. You can express your desire to be on speaking terms with her about this issue and leave that decision in her court. Where do you go from there? It sounds like you have a therapist, so would you be open to involving her in conversations from therapy? Or joining you in a session? Or maybe seeking a counselor jointly? It's hard to unpack adult relationships from a few paragraphs, but you've said enough to paint a picture. Contempt is a relationship killer, and she may be so frustrated that her good feelings have been clouded, or replaced, by that contempt. If you want to, you can ask her to help figure out if that contempt can be addressed or if it's too late.

None of this is easy, but you and everyone else out there are. Capable of making small, medium, and big changes in your status quo. You are the only person in your control. What *you* do next is always the only thing you need to worry about. How others react is up to them. Acting in a way that is driven by your fears of how others will act or react to you does not take you in a good direction.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 2:15 PM on November 22 [40 favorites]


This is a small piece of the larger situation, but grounding is not an effective consequence for your son right now because you cannot enforce it and you need to find some different consequences.

Have you asked your girlfriend for advice about the situation? She has slightly older kids, she probably has opinions about more effective ways to handle it, and you need some more options. Obviously, you are not going to present it to your son as "GF's plan," and she might have shit ideas, but it sounds like you might not fully understand her perspective here.
posted by momus_window at 2:42 PM on November 22 [2 favorites]


I'm honestly shocked at the number of commenters who seem to essentially be saying to ditch the kid for the girlfriend. The behaviors described in the original post seem to me within the realm of normal adolescent kid, not fully formed, hormonally and emotionally driven-type behaviors... maybe they are worse than that, but I don't see that in your original post. My general impression is that people seem to want to treat the kid like an adult roommate or something in this scenario. But he's your son, and still a child.

As a child of divorce, I would probably have never forgiven a parent if they had decided I was being a jerk and told me to get out of their house. Especially if I thought it was being driven by that parent's current partner. You should put the kid first, in my opinion, unless there's something really big about his behavior or the situation you aren't mentioning here. You are his parent, you brought him into this world, and you have a clear responsibility to him, and even if he's being rude and disrespectful, he deserves to feel safe, loved, and secure, not abandoned or unimportant or an obstacle you just have to tolerate until he turns 18 and you can move in with your girlfriend.

I agree with Omnomnom and late afternoon dreaming hotel that the kid problem and the girlfriend problem are two different things and need to be addressed separately, clearly, and firmly on their own terms. I don't think you should "call his bluff" and tell him to move in with his mom, but you still can enforce the rules you've set for him without essentially telling him to GTFO. And I think the phrasing of "I may have ruined my relationship with my girlfriend over my son's behavior" is a tell that you are centering your relationship with your girlfriend and essentially blaming the kid, and that's probably really obvious to him too.
posted by music for skeletons at 2:48 PM on November 22 [45 favorites]


I'm honestly shocked at the number of commenters who seem to essentially be saying to ditch the kid for the girlfriend. The behaviors described in the original post seem to me within the realm of normal adolescent kid, not fully formed, hormonally and emotionally driven-type behaviors... maybe they are worse than that, but I don't see that in your original post. My general impression is that people seem to want to treat the kid like an adult roommate or something in this scenario. But he's your son, and still a child.

Thank you! I was starting to think there was something wrong with me. OP, your son is a child who you made and have a responsibility to. Kicking him out of your house because he's being rude to your girlfriend is some straight-up fairy tale villain shit.

That said, it certainly sounds like your relationship with your son has gone off the rails a bit. Irrespective of how your girlfriend feels about that, your focus should be on establishing a better dynamic. That's going to be tough, since it sounds like the current one has a pretty deep groove worn in it. But the first step is to approach this as a parenting problem, and not as a problem in your relationship with your girlfriend.
posted by Ragged Richard at 3:00 PM on November 22 [34 favorites]


As a child of divorce, I would probably have never forgiven a parent if they had decided I was being a jerk and told me to get out of their house.

This. Child of divorce here, *hand wave*, with LOTS of friends who are the same. This falls into unforgivable territory. I say this as someone whose parents never did this, phew, and with friends whose parents DID do this - and now that I'm in my 40's I can tell you that those relationships NEVER recovered. EVER. 20+ years later. NEVER RECOVERED.

My recommendation? Both your son and girlfriend need space, your son doesn't spend all his time at your (his?!?! - it is HIS house too, right?!?!) house and it sounds like is going off to college/life soon? So split the time - when he is over, it's son time, when he's not, girlfriend can come over. You've got a year, just make it work.
posted by Toddles at 3:13 PM on November 22 [22 favorites]


Reading this question and the answers, I keep thinking of the trust thermocline. It sounds like you've already lost the trust of both your son and your girlfriend.
Your next steps probably involve figuring out what steps can you take to earn back the trust of whichever of them will accept that.
If you're very lucky, you may even do that for both.

The background you gave make it sound to me like you may possibly have assumed that your (former?) girlfriend would be accepted as a parental figure for your son WELL before your son was ready to accept this. Whatever reasons brought you to this place, I'm guessing that's the original problem that will have to be unwinded-to before you can rewind the life you'd like to have.
posted by Shunra at 3:21 PM on November 22


I find this narrative confusing. The thing that stood out to me is that you are attempting to ground your 17 year old son who has a car and another home to go to. This seems futile and counter-productive. Do you intend to have a relationship with your son when he is 18, 19, 20 and so on? If so, what do you want that relationship to look like? How can you take steps to get there?
posted by plonkee at 3:37 PM on November 22 [14 favorites]


I think you should ask for your 15yo daughter’s take on this. She might be able to offer you some clarity like “Brother pops off all the time and he’s annoying but I like GF” or “GF is pissy to us both but the difference is I can’t drive and leave” or “you AND mom let Brother get away with everything so yeah that’s why GF is mad and I think it’s crap too.”

I mean, don’t make her your family counselor because that’s a burden to her, but she lives with all of you and may have a wiser opinion than all of us here taking shots in the dark.
posted by kimberussell at 3:47 PM on November 22 [23 favorites]


you still can enforce the rules you've set for him without essentially telling him to GTFO.

Taking a nearly adult child's repeatedly expressed preference to live with the other parent seriously is not telling him to GTFO. It is actually not that much different than letting your six-year-old go to school in the mismatched shoes she's insisting on wearing. Right now the kid is using these "threats" as a means of leverage to get to do what he wants. That has to stop, and the best way to do that is to let the natural consequences ensue: that is, he gets what he claims to want (something which, unless there is something big OP is not telling us, is perfectly safe for him), and gets to decide whether he actually likes it or not. If he does, cool (again, this is the kid going to live with his other parent, with whom he already spends time, not ending up at Covenant House); if he doesn't, then he can think about how his behavior has landed him in a place he'd rather not be and how that needs to change.
posted by praemunire at 3:50 PM on November 22 [9 favorites]


Divorced parent of a 17 year old kid here. I'm the softie, a pushover, says my ex-husband (though we have a pretty amicable relationship). He thinks he's firm, but really he's inconsistent: totally overshooting with harsher punishments without warning, and then backing off when it doesn't work. I might be a softie, but I'm pretty consistently that way. It's become clear, in the past several months, that my approach of parenting based on mutual respect has worked, and thank goodness, because I don't really have any other way of doing this. I do know it would have been impossible to do with a not-quite-co-parent around telling me that I should be stricter. And, I don't just have "good" or "easy" kids. (I think they're great, of course! But it has not been an easy path!)

Also, I am parenting my kids now based pretty much on what I think is good for them and good for us to have a relationship that continues to develop as they become adults. I let them make a lot of their own choices and mistakes. So that can work. But it sounds like it's not what your girlfriend wants you to do. It sounds like she's pushing you around as much as your son is. Like, your son drives off in his car, and your girlfriend rants you about your parenting, and you are meeker and smaller all the time.

I have an image of you, like a reed blowing in the wind. When you talk to your girlfriend about things, you lean into that because it makes sense. And then you talk to your kiddo, and you want to support and love him as you can, and you flow back to that side, and then you're essentially never consistent yourself. What do you think should happen? I am wondering if you had any time at all to parent as a single dad, to really figure out how to interact with your kids without your ex or your girlfriend around. I am wondering why you are letting your girlfriend dictate your parenting. I am wondering what it would look like for you to really focus on your kid. He doesn't sound like a lost cause. He sounds 17. He sounds like a kid who has needed more of his dad than he's gotten, maybe.

I think they're both understandably frustrated here. Also, I really want to know what this kid is doing to get grounded. I don't think your heart is in it so why are you doing this approach?

I don't exactly know what you need to do, but I do know the first step: stop bitching about your kid to your girlfriend. Just stop. Find a parent group, find a friend with a kid the same age. But stop venting to her about how awful your kid is being, because she believes it. You've convinced her. She's exhausted hearing about the same problem. She doesn't even need to know that kid is grounded. That's not her business. You are maybe asking her to do a lot of emotional labor in processing all this with you, and she's understandably tired too.

Also, have you talked to your ex-wife about whether she can take him there full time and what that would look like? Maybe it would be okay to have a bit of space. But also, I wonder if what your kid is really doing is saying, "Dad, prove you love me."
posted by bluedaisy at 3:59 PM on November 22 [37 favorites]


It doesn't feel like either you or your girlfriend have any real fully-developed reality-based perspective on parenting a somewhat upheaved older teenager. I'm taken aback by the casual cruelty in wielding a family birthday party as leverage rather than taking the opportunity to let your nearly-grown child feel like a valid member of the family who is able to - as adults do - bring his partner to a family social event. Grounding, for older teenagers, should be reserved for specific infractions AAAAAND a specific scope of consequences that take real world shit into consideration.

Please find a family therapist and go by yourself. I agree that you need to find a path to reasonable consistency, you need a plan, and it needs to be one you form with a qualified professional and not in a series of disconnected pivots every time someone yells at you.

But if you can only save one relationship, it should be the one with your son who has an excuse and not the person who seems to either want you to control another grown human being in ways that are not possible, or she wants you to give up and let his mom handle it. Maybe your son doesn't need someone in his life who wants him set apart from her family so badly. If her actual desire is for him to feel uncomfortable and othered...I don't know, man. You clearly need to draw better boundaries for everyone's privacy and comfort, which a therapist can also help you do, but I think you need someone to help you review the big picture here.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:14 PM on November 22 [19 favorites]


Are you sure that your son bringing his girlfriend to the party is really what your girlfriend is upset about? Because that seems kind of bizarre to me. Older teens bringing their SO's to family events is something that's practically expected in my family and social circle, and if anyone objected to it I would expect there to be some deeper reason.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:50 PM on November 22 [6 favorites]


All I can say is she’s right that you don’t get to complain about him to her if you’re not following through on acutually resolving anything (backing away from consequences, etc.) That would drive the most patient understanding person crazy. You really have to stop that.
posted by kapers at 6:24 PM on November 22 [5 favorites]


Oof, what a mess.

>Soon after we started seeing each other my son began to dislike her, and has been varying levels of rude/disrespectful to both her and me over the years

Have you ever thought about *why* your son has been rude/disrespectful to you and her over the years? Because it's not just normal teen obnoxiousness. Think about it. You're 7 years old. Your parents get divorced, and it sounds like it was high-conflict, stressful and traumatic. Soon after, your dad starts seeing someone new. She's got kids too. I can imagine that this is a very confusing time for him. How were you there for him during the divorce, or any time afterwards in the following years? At any point in time, did your son ever get the chance to process what he experienced with the divorce, and seeing his dad get together with someone new? Nor do you talk about how your gf treats him. (And let's not forget your daughter in all this. She may feel she has to be the good quiet one and keep the peace when all your attention is focused on her brother, which is unfair to her.) Have you ever had heart to heart talks with your son? And daughter? Not just about the divorce, about anything?

So your son was grounded this weekend, and yet you still let him have his gf over. I don't even know what to say to that. There's too much complex stuff there for random internet strangers to parse.

Anyway, if she doesn't respect you anymore, it's pretty much over. She shouldn't be with someone she doesn't respect, and you shouldn't be with someone who doesn't respect you.

You say you know you fucked up, but do you really? What, in your words, did you do wrong, and what would you have done differently? How could you have prevented this? Tbh, I don't think you could have because you have never addressed the root cause of your son's behaviour, which goes back to the divorce 10 years ago.

I honestly think you should let the gf go and focus on your relationship with your son. And daughter. You have a LOT of work to do, which may not be possible with gf (someone who doesn't respect you anymore) still in the picture.
posted by foxjacket at 6:26 PM on November 22 [8 favorites]


I also think you should be focusing on repairing your relationship with your son, and taking a big step back from your girlfriend's current level of involvement in and commentary on your parenting decisions.

I'm not sure you're ever going to fix a relationship between your son and the woman you started dating soon after your divorce who thinks she gets a say in how he is parented and who he can invite to his own house where she does not live. Maybe someday far, far in the future. But for now put that one on the shelf. If you can repair your relationships with each of them separately, probably in part by giving them a *lot* more space from each other, that will already be a major accomplishment.
posted by Stacey at 6:51 PM on November 22 [9 favorites]


Your moral compass is floating in the breeze. You don't know where you stand so you stand whichever way is safest for you in the moment, which changes depending on who you're with. Everyone around you can sense it and they don't feel safe with you and they're acting out their frustrations and frankly their fear in different ways. This problem is not about your son or your girlfriend, it's about you, and it's a pattern that surely affects every relationship in your life.

You have to get real with yourself and decide if you actually care about people and want them in your life. You need to place all of these conflicting voices you feel in your mind to the same table and let them hash out their fears and desires. Give them all an honest hearing. Hash it all out. What are your red lines? What are the things you will hold onto no matter what? If your son says 'its her or me' what will you tell him? If your girlfriend says 'its him or me' what will you tell her?

Nobody wants you to bend to them. I know it seems like they do, but they don't. They want to feel SAFE with you. If you bend to them in their favor, then you will bend against them the following day and they know it. They need to know you have a structure that you are using and it had a space for them in it and you are going to protect that space no matter what. You need to figure out what that looks like for you.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:58 PM on November 22 [13 favorites]


I recommend you read Barbara Coloroso's Kids are Worth It!* You're going to recognize her description of "jellyfish families" in it.

At 17, you are on the cusp of where your father-son relationship will be completely about choice (yours and his) and not about control. It's time to sink your teeth into that.

I suspect this is part of the angst you seem to be having. It strikes me that your all-purpose parenting tool seems to be grounding, which forces a child to stay with you/at home, and your overwhelming fear in both relationships is abandonment. I think that for you, you need to get okay with the idea that you could end up alone and that if you did, life would be okay.

Because when you have a blaring don't leave me siren in your head, it drowns out a lot of other choices. Your kid clearly has figured that out. It really looks to me like grounding is a totally ineffective tool.

(I also don't understand grounding a kid for "multiple" reasons. Can you get more grounded than grounded? I only really ground my kids (one of whom is 17) for two reasons: 1. undone homework, because you have to stay home to finish it, and 2. violation of curfew/out-of-house rules like I caught you down at the bottom of the ravine during spring watershed.)

I think your trying to assert control/punishment, rather than establishing boundaries or guiding behaviour, is now completely backfiring - as your son is almost a man. I mean...I side with your ex and your son here on the punishment thing. Why on earth would a punishment be following your child to the other house - like how long are these things?

If I were you, I would give up punishment unless we're talking about drunk driving or something on that level. I think you need to talk to your son and tell him that you know you've let him be rude to you and your girlfriend, and you realize it's been a mistake, because it's making you unhappy and allowing your son to be less of a man than he could be. Let him know it's a Brand New Day and you can't let your household run that way any more.

If your son is rude, don't ground him - just tell him "I can't let you talk to me that way," and then walk away (for that hour). Let him know if he is damaging your relationship, in a compassionate way like "When you talk to me like that/to my girlfriend like that, it damages our relationship/puts me in an awkward position." Then walk away from the conversation and LET THE WORDS SIT. Because in life, there's no like, massive grounding in the sky. Relationship damage is relationship damage.

If he does other things, you have to figure out how he can take ownership. Grounding is the REVERSE of taking ownership - it's infantilizing someone who really is almost a man. If he has undone homework, he has to do it or fail.

If he damages property, he needs to get a job and make amends. If he leaves things dirty, he needs to clean them or pay someone else to do them, or else you have to clean them so you don't have time to do The Fun Thing you said you would do with him....you get the idea here.

It may be too late, but that's okay because...he really is almost a man. Very very soon, your relationship will be entirely by choice on his side (and yours although I think parents should hang in for life barring extreme abuse.) Let him choose his mum's house or skip weeks or whatever. He's seventeen, he's been in a pandemic, he's about to go to university or study a trade or get a job. Your job is to let him know what you see about him. "Son, I'm really worried if you don't learn to clean a toilet, you'll get tossed out by your first roommates. Can you go back and redo it?" If he doesn't...well, I mean, life is going to take care of that really soon.

If your girlfriend is All About Punishment then frankly, I disagree with her. I don't think she's giving you good advice from the tiny bit here. But I think that relationship is a separate thing because you have kept it separate. Maybe lean into it. You do need to stop taking your issues with your kid to her, and then just - court her. On the days you don't have your kids, enjoy her company! On the days you do, just chat with her about other things at night or whatever. Don't combine the families except if it's a birthday or whatever.

If you can provide more details maybe the hive mind can help more.

* there are author issues but it's still a good book
posted by warriorqueen at 4:07 AM on November 23 [14 favorites]


Also, sorry for more words but your use of the term "selfish" stayed with me. Kids are inherently selfish; it's how they survive into adulthood.

Punishment makes them MORE selfish.

Why? Because when you punish a kid, you actually remove the responsibility from them. They become the aggrieved, punished person. What a kid needs in order to be less selfish is to learn to MAKE AMENDS.

"Hey kid, when you were 20 minutes late to pick up your sister she was worried and also missed her violin lesson. You need to make amends. My suggestion is you do the dishes for her so she can practice extra on her violin."

"Hey kid, when you hog the bathroom we're all late. What's your solution?"

Etc.

Hang in there! Life is long.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:14 AM on November 23 [11 favorites]


It seems like a generally positive thing to me that he wanted his girlfriend to come over to spend time with his family. That means he's sharing his life with you. Not all teenagers want to do that.

I don't understand why that was so upsetting to your girlfriend. I think there's some information here that we don't have. (Also don't understand people saying that your son is abusive and the girlfriend has been patient - those things may be true, but that's not in what you wrote.)

I suggest reading the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. A lot of it is geared toward younger kids, but it's still useful with teens. That book was life changing for me as a parent. She also has another one now called How to Talk When Kids Won't Listen.

And I think family counseling starting with just you and your son would be a good idea. You really need to work on your relationship with him. If you prioritize your girlfriend over him now, there's no recovering from it.
posted by FencingGal at 7:11 AM on November 23 [5 favorites]


Oh also this stood out at me:

"We've had dreams about what kind of life we'll have when all the kids are out of the houses, soon, and we can finally live our lives together,"

If I was one of your kids, I mean like, ouch. They can surely tell that you are counting the years until they are gone.

I want to advise you, as a person who has very similar moral compass / relationship issues, that your relationship issues with your girlfriend will only intensify once you are living together. It is not the children that are holding you back from deeper intimacy.

The looming question that your girlfriend is preparing to speak, which this conflict with your son has been obscuring, is: do you have any respect for ME. Do you care about me. Can I count on you, or will you betray me if someone else wants you to. Are you taking care of your own life and goals in a way that had my best interests at the core. Will you blindly do what you think I want you to do and then blame me for whatever happens, or will you take responsibility for your actions at every step. Are you willing to disagree with me if you think I'm wrong, or will you bury your feelings and then resent me. Etc.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:59 AM on November 23 [6 favorites]


Hi all- OP here. I had to create a new account to keep this private. I've read through a lot of the comments and I'm going to try to address some and add more context as needed.

***To address the posters telling me to not kick him out, I have absolutely no plans to do so and in fact I'm trying to avoid a situation where he leaves or is kicked out. I recognize that would be pretty much the death of our relationship right there!

***Posters asking for more info on what my son has done over the years? It's a mix of usual teen behavior- lying about where he's going and when he's coming home, not coming home at curfew (sometimes by nearly an hour), not doing homework, rudeness/indifference when talked to about his behavior, and ignoring/unwillingness to abide by the rules I've set down and the consequences for doing so. So far, AFAIK there's no drug use/criminal behavior or things like that.

bleep: "So, your girlfriend was mad because son's girlfriend was just there, at the party? Does girlfriend have some kind of beef with son's girlfriend? Was son's girlfriend misbehaving, or does she have a pattern of misbehaving?"

No, as far as I know my GF actually likes my son's GF. The beef isn't with her at all.

michaelh: "If you admit to her you’ve lost perspective of your plans together because you’ve become fearful of your son, you might be able to start a productive conversation, perhaps with a counselor."

Over the last couple days, my GF and I have talked a bit and I did in fact admit that I am scared of him- both because he's much larger than me physically (and while he hasn't come out and tried to harm me or anyone else, he's lost his temper in frightening ways and his sheer size is a factor)... and also I'm afraid of screwing up my relationship with him.

jenfullmoon: "I saw something on Reddit that may be of interest to you.

Oh dear god, no. It's not nearly that bad.

praemunire: "Kid is 17? Next time he threatens to go live with his mom--assuming that is consistent with any custody order--tell him, kindly but firmly, that he can do so."
music for skeletons: "As a child of divorce, I would probably have never forgiven a parent if they had decided I was being a jerk and told me to get out of their house."
Ragged Richard: "Kicking him out of your house because he's being rude to your girlfriend is some straight-up fairy tale villain shit."

Agreed. Not happening. Hell, even my GF who's seen what I've been dealing with has advised against that.

trig: "Also -
leading to a few fights about why I let him get away with things like this, and essentially not involving her in my fights with him

This is one detail that stood out to me, and I'm not sure if I'm reading it the way you meant it. Does this mean she wants to be involved in your fights with your son? Why? What do you think about that?
"

Sorry, that was poorly worded. I meant that my GF is not interested in being involved in these struggles with my son anymore.

trig: "Is family counseling on the cards at all? Is couple's counseling with your girlfriend an option? One way or another, at least some of you, if not all of you, need to talk."

I've asked my GF if she'd be willing to come to counseling/therapy with me. So far she's been lukewarm on the idea. As far as my kid is concerned, he's had a therapist on and off for years, and I've tried couples/family counseling with him and his mom but that ended poorly.

kimberussell: "I think you should ask for your 15yo daughter’s take on this. She might be able to offer you some clarity like “Brother pops off all the time and he’s annoying but I like GF”

I have actually asked her opinion and talked to her about the situation and it's almost exactly this.

Shunra: "The background you gave make it sound to me like you may possibly have assumed that your (former?) girlfriend would be accepted as a parental figure for your son WELL before your son was ready to accept this."

Oh, no, definitely not. Everyone involved was pretty clear from the beginning that my GF wasn't going to be a (step-)parent in any way. ***Something that may/may not be pertinent is that my ex got remarried a few months after our divorce was finalized to the person she was having a not-so-secret affair with, who is financially well off and immediately began acting as the Good Step-Parent/Cop in all of this, buying all sorts of expensive things, vacations, etc. for the kids, and my GF wasn't going to be able to do that, so there's probably an element of that in how my son sees her.

warriorqueen: "Why on earth would a punishment be following your child to the other house - like how long are these things?

Oh, they don't follow him over there. They wouldn't stick anyway.

If I were you, I would give up punishment unless we're talking about drunk driving or something on that level. I think you need to talk to your son and tell him that you know you've let him be rude to you and your girlfriend, and you realize it's been a mistake, because it's making you unhappy and allowing your son to be less of a man than he could be. Let him know it's a Brand New Day and you can't let your household run that way any more.

...If he does other things, you have to figure out how he can take ownership. Grounding is the REVERSE of taking ownership - it's infantilizing someone who really is almost a man. If he has undone homework, he has to do it or fail.


Sure, this makes sense to me. However:

"Son, I'm really worried if you don't learn to clean a toilet, you'll get tossed out by your first roommates. Can you go back and redo it?" If he doesn't...well, I mean, life is going to take care of that really soon.

I've actually had very similar conversations with him, and... he literally just does not care. Not sure how to deal with someone who sees what they're doing is a problem to other people and actively chooses not to do anything about it. I realize this is also some teen behavior to a certain extent. Re: grounding, I don't have a good toolbox for consequences, honestly. I didn't really get in a lot of trouble as a kid, and when I did my parents basically just responded with grounding. I've tried the approach suggested above of letting him take ownership on what the consequences should be for his behavior, but he doesn't seem to see his behavior as a problem to other people and doesn't see why he should have to deal with it.

... I think that relationship is a separate thing because you have kept it separate. Maybe lean into it. You do need to stop taking your issues with your kid to her, and then just - court her. On the days you don't have your kids, enjoy her company!"
Stacey: " If you can repair your relationships with each of them separately, probably in part by giving them a *lot* more space from each other, that will already be a major accomplishment."

In addition to couples' counseling I've suggested to my GF that we make our households more separate, leaning into that separation. Maybe it'll work.

Things have evolved over the last couple of days so I don't know how much more help this thread is going to be for me but I want to thank all of you who've replied with some good suggestions and sometimes harsh truths. I'm going to digest all of this over the next few days.
posted by 2ndAccountForAnonymousComments at 9:46 AM on November 23 [3 favorites]


I feel sorry for your son- he seems unhappy. Does your girlfriend love him, this child she's known since he was seven (or longer, given that you were already friends before the divorce)? It doesn't sound like it from your question...if I was in your shoes, I wouldn't want to spend my life with a partner who wasn't really affectionate to my child. Maybe that's not the case, but it just struck me.
posted by pinochiette at 12:07 PM on November 23 [1 favorite]


I've actually had very similar conversations with him, and... he literally just does not care. Not sure how to deal with someone who sees what they're doing is a problem to other people and actively chooses not to do anything about it. I realize this is also some teen behavior to a certain extent.

There's a story in The Secret of Parenting (I think, I don't have a copy any more but this one stuck with me and I'm pretty sure that's the source) where every. week. the dad reminds the son that bringing the garbage cans in is his job. And every. week. the kid does not bring them in. And the dad brings them in with a huff and tells his son he's disappointed and so on.

And then one day the dad comes home and the garbage cans have been stolen. No wait, they're in the garage. So he says to his son, "did you put the garbage cans in the garage????" and the son says with alllll the casualness in the world "Sure, that's my job."

So basically...I think that's within normal.

It may be that your son is extreme but nothing you've said so far really indicates that. I definitely would stop grounding him though.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:54 PM on November 23 [1 favorite]


The only part that gives me pause is the temper thing and the fact that you are a bit scared. But, if it's just him flaring up a bit, then I'd say warriorqueen's script is a good one. You keep your cool and say, "Hey, we can continue this conversation when you can speak to me respectfully." Do you yell at him? Did he hear a lot of yelling during the almost-divorce years? Does he ever hear you and your girlfriend arguing? He might need to learn more self-regulation. If you yell at him or your other kid or your girlfriend, stop doing that, because otherwise, you are just teaching him to yell at you and everyone he loves.

Otherwise...

Natural consequences don't show up right away. You have to be patient with them. Like, just let it play out. At some point, he will have internal motivation. You can't give him that. Middle school kids not being great with personal hygiene is a good example of this. You can tell your kid he stinks (in a nice way or whatever), but some kids really need to get this feedback from their peers in order to be motivated. Like, you want your kid to take care of his hygiene not because it's a rule he follows or he gets in trouble with parents for not bathing but because he's motivated to care of his appearance, odor, cleanliness, whatever.

He doesn't do his homework? He gets a bad grade, teacher gets mad, etc. He stays out past curfew? He's sleepy the next day at school or doing chores. (I'm not a big fan of curfews. In another year, your kid is going to have to a lot of freedom to set his own schedule. Why not let him manage his own time now? Like, he's an hour late for curfew and then he's grounded isn't helping him learn to regulate his own behavior; it's teaching him to follow or rebel against rules that are likely arbitrary. Like, if he has a curfew because otherwise he is late to work and will get fired... then let him get fired. He's going to have to learn behavior management at some point, and it's better to learn it now while he's still living at home.)

The problem and challenge is that you have to learn to be okay with both waiting for these natural consequences to manifest and him learning the lesson of it all. My kid didn't do much schoolwork during the pandemic stay-home year, and now he's taking night classes to graduate on time. I was worried he was going to drop off in 10th and 11th grades. He's super stubborn and I knew I couldn't force him to do schoolwork; we'd just end up fighting all the time, and he still wouldn't do schoolwork. It took most of the year being back in school and talking to his friends about graduation for him to want to start doing stuff again. I'm not saying I have figured this all out. I was terrified at a few times that I was doing this totally wrong and it was all going to fail miserably.

As another example, when my kiddo was out later than I expected on a school night recently, I told him, "Hey I give you a lot of freedom, and it's really helpful for me to know when you're not going to be home so I'm not worried and also for dinner planning. So just let me know, please." And he mostly does. And sometimes he forgets, and that's okay, because sometimes I forget things too.

Also, why is he lying about where he's going? Does he have to give you a list of where he's going and there are places you don't approve of? At 17, if he's not getting into anything dangerous, what happens if you just trust that he's going places that are okay? He has a phone on him so he can call if needs you.

Yes, to some extent, teens are just going to be assholes sometimes. It's not that you should tolerate it, but also, you can model speaking respectfully to him. There are consequences to his behavior, and you need to regulate yourself to stop interfering.

Also the rich stepdad stuff is a red herring. I hear you holding onto some resentment and perhaps jealousy, and I want to encourage you to let that go. I don't think a kid with a rich stepdad expects his dad's girlfriend to buy him stuff. I'd say worry about your own household, you know? What happens there is totally separate from what happens in your house.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:55 PM on November 23 [2 favorites]


Oh, OP. This all sounds hard, and sometimes MetaFilter's community can be awfully harsh on parents and especially on divorced parents. So I just want to start by acknowledging that divorce is hard, parenting teenagers is hard, and blending families is hard. Yours sounds like a situation where you can--and should--still count some blessings. People are talking to one another. You're sharing parenting time with your kids. No one seems to have resorted to drug abuse or physical violence or self harm or sticking their thumb out on a highway or calling a lawyer yet. Things could be worse; for many families in similar situations, they are much, much worse.

That being said, here's the advice I can give as someone who has navigated divorce and, for the last ten years, a "new" partnership blending two families while living for many of those years in separate houses...and parenting three teenagers between us with two toxic exes in the mix.

First of all, I would step way back from involving your girlfriend in your parenting woes and strategies. I get it; she's your lover and your confidante; parenting is an experience you share. Yet one of the main benefits of being re-partnered while living in separate households is that you each get to maintain some degree of autonomy over how you run your respective households and how you relate to your respective children. I would reclaim that benefit, which it sounds like you are going to do. Use your parenting time to focus on enhancing the relationship you have your teenagers, and use your ex's parenting time to focus on enhancing the relationship you have with your partner. You should vent and strategize about your teenager with a therapist or a trusted friend for the foreseeable future.

Second of all, parenting teenagers sucks. The examples you provide in your update sound frustrating, for sure, but mostly in the realm of normal teenager-y stuff. At the same time, I think many parents have to arrive at a place where we accept that we need to love the kiddo we have and not the one we might be idealizing, the one that might be exactly like us or even better than us. It sounds like your son simply isn't in a place where he can acknowledge that rude or cruel behavior does damage to the people he loves and the relationships he has. I think that all you can do is keep saying to him, "I love you and I will always love you no matter what, but when you say X or do Y it really hurts me; it would hurt anyone--and I really hope we can find a way to be good to one another and that you can use our relationship as a way of figuring out how to have good relationships with other people in your life." At this point, you might also just ask your son: "What do you think you could do, I could do, and we could do together to make our relationship a good one?" And then I would really listen to the answers if he has them. If he doesn't have them or blows that off, then I would just say: "This is something I really hope you'll think about more, even though you don't know what you would say in this moment." And leave it at that. Definitely walk away from any violent outbursts. If he's scaring you, I would say that's he's scaring you. "Yelling (or stomping or throwing things or punching things) makes me feel unsafe, so I'm going to go to my room. We can try and resolve this conversation when you're ready to do it in a way that isn't threatening." And, finally, if you could get back into therapy just the two of you (no ex, no girlfriend), that seems to me like it would be a good thing.

Lastly, I think you and your girlfriend could have a conversation that acknowledges rather than tries to reconcile your differing parenting styles and experiences. No two parents parent the same way; no two kids are the same kind of kids to parent. I admit that my partner is a much more accommodating parent than I am, and yeah--it irks me sometimes! But at the same time, I'm very, very grateful for his parenting style which reflects his generous spirit and, truthfully, balances my own parenting style out and is a real benefit to my own child. I've learned to love in many different ways from my partner, and I'm more grateful for that than I can say. And I think he would say that he's learned to have boundaries from me in ways that are also good for him. So what I'm suggesting is that you and your girlfriend might talk about these differences between you--and rather than try to come together in some sort of middle ground or agreement, figure out if you can each appreciate the benefits these differences bring to one another *and* to your blended family.

Best of luck to you.
posted by pinkacademic at 2:16 PM on November 23 [6 favorites]


It sounds like your son is A Problem and you are fixated on trying to fix him. But people are not problems. People are herd animals and we evolved to live communally in the wild and it is not in our nature to turn against one another unless subject to severe stressors. Your son's negative behavior are completely and totally explainable by his environment and circumstances and not at all by something intrinsic to him. I think you know this deeply which is why your heart isn't in it when you ground him and why you're happy to lift the punishment. I bet his heart isnt really in the acting out either which is why his transgressions are so minor (a whole hour after curfew!). It looks to me like the two of you are acting out some kind of ritual, and the acting out and the punishments are like the carrier wave, and the real signal - the communication and the love - are occuring through your respective modulations of the acting out and punishment. Neither of you will stop, because this is how you actually communicate to one another that this relationship is important. Hell I bet even if he does stop you'll punish him anyway just beczuse you miss him.

You can actually change the carrier wave altogether so that it is one of pure love. You can tell your son directly that you love him and you care about him and you are so happy he exists. You can tell him that every time you see him, and it will be the truth, because you do love him, and the proof is in the halfheartedness of your punishments. And you can spend time with him in a way that centers his needs and fosters his interests and just forgets completely about who hes supposed to be and what he's supposed to be doing.

Just like let go of curfews and homework and rules. He's a human being. He's supposed to be able to walk as far as he wants in any direction and never encounter a wall or a fence. Hes supposed to be hunting and gathering and building and making things and loving and helping other humans. No human needs rules to learn these things; they're encoded deeply in our bodies and souls. Capitalism isn't human society. Human society is the resistance to capitalism. The acting out and the subversion and the transgressive acts are opening notes in the revolutionary song that will wipe all the oppressive structures away. Switch sides. You can do it.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:52 PM on November 23 [9 favorites]


I got stuck at "horrible divorce when son was 7" and "new relationship soon after". How exactly did you support your son through this huge, traumatic transition? Have you examined the ROOTS of his behaviour, the reasons behind his resentment of your partner? Have you had honest conversations with him about what he went through and is still going through, in regards to these events? Has he ever been in therapy? Who is asking him what his actual feelings are and why he is behaving the way he is?
posted by yawper at 8:05 AM on November 24 [2 favorites]


Your girlfriend isn't upset at your parenting style she's fed up of what a whole a decade of "I've done nothing and I'm all out of ideas" from you. You are not in the middle trying to please both of them, you're in the middle pleasing yourself by taking the easy way out every time. If I don't discipline son too hard I don't risk getting hurt, if I lie to my girlfriend that I'm going to parent, then don't parent and bitch about it I don't have to set boundaries with her and risk loosing her. This isn't going to magically work out, there is no magical set of words or actions that is going to fix this, this is work you are going to have to do and it's going to be scary.

You want a relationship with your son then talk to him tell him you want one and ask if he'll come see a counsellor with you so you can both develop the tools to communicate to each other more effectively than you both bluffing and counterbluffing each other. If he won't go then you go yourself and learn those tools, and you know what it's going to suck, you're going to hear things you don't like and you're going to have to relive the divorce and see it through his eyes. Oh boy it's going to suck and that is what you get when you have spent a decade carefully tiptoeing around doing nothing.

Then you need to see a relationship counsellor with your girlfriend, you guys need to figure out some better communication styles your gf isn't being heard, even if you don't like what she is saying or think she's wrong, and you're not telling her your truth but what you think she wants to hear. This is not a good way to have a relationship.
posted by wwax at 11:29 AM on November 24 [5 favorites]


As far as my kid is concerned, he's had a therapist on and off for years, and I've tried couples/family counseling with him and his mom but that ended poorly.

Get individual counseling for you. Get family counseling for you & your son -- just the two of you. (Later in the process, ask your daughter to join you.) If your son had a therapist he's liked, start there for joint sessions or recommendations.
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:31 PM on November 25


Agreed that the first step is counseling alone. You should not go to counseling with another person without first spending time doing it by yourself (unless it is one of those situations like a sudden loss or devastating medical diagnosis or other instant-world-changing things, but even then you're best off finding an individual therapist along with the family/group therapy). Also counseling from non-specialists is often just shit when they try to apply willing-adult therapeutic techniques to someone with almost no sense of self-awareness or ability/desire to introspect.

Get your own toolbox in order first, then use therapy as a form of parenting coaching. Eventually probably you and your partner should do some joint communication training, after you and she have been in solo therapy for a while.

Your kid is just going to have to fail until he succeeds in the world, as it's too late for y'all to start doing anything about it now. That's just how it is to some degree for all kids; very few of them are just magically competent without first-hand experience, and some will be faster learners than others. Work with your therapist on radical acceptance even if it's hard to watch, as well as how to apologize to and engage with your kid in ways that leave a door open so he has the option one day of reaching out to you for support when he's ready.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:49 PM on November 25


« Older Winter wonderland white party food   |   How can two people have simultaneous Zoom calls in... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments