How Can We Present A United Front?

Question: Dear Luise, I have not done anything like this before, but I’m pretty overwhelmed & have nowhere to turn. I am married & have 2 grown sons. My husband has severe diabetes and has also had a couple of strokes. In years past he drank heavily, to the point of loosing a 30 yr career. He also had (and still does) a terrible temper, not physical, but verbal abuse. I do not have a good reason why I stayed in a bad marriage with 2 children, except that I was afraid of not being able to support us while raising the kids. I now realize myself & the kids might have been better off if I would have been a little braver. We did separate for about a year, but because of financial difficulties (a lot of medical) we reunited & I have become his fulltime caregiver. As for my kids, the oldest is 25, lives about 50 miles away. Unfortunately, my son has the same raging temper as his dad, only much, much worse. He also uses drugs, sells drugs, has stolen from us, as well as his grandparents (for which I had him arrested several years ago). He was the golden boy, star football player, etc etc in high school & is very self-centered. We have tried everything, including Tough Love to get thru to him, but we’ve failed miserably in the past because we gave in. During these past few years I also took care of both my parents, my mom died of brain cancer & my dad died of dementia. I am an only child so it was pretty tough to care for them as well as my husband which is why I didn’t develop the backbone to deal effectively with my son. He now talks of “people” he can get to do things to anyone (including his brother) who anger him. My younger son is 22, lives at home and I believe has Social Anxiety Disorder, unfortunately he will not see a dr, therapist or even our priest. He is not working, except odd jobs & I now have returned to work part time & soon full time. I will probably have to get home health care for my husband, although he is totally opposed to the idea. The final straw for me occured a few days ago. After a situation where the older son threatened the younger son (saying that for $100 he can have him taken care of, I finally was so angry that I sent him an email (I wanted it in writing & also he will not let anyone else talk especially when he is mad) telling him that we were finished with the stealing, lying and abuse he has been doing. I discussed this email for several days with my husband to make sure that he understood what I was going to say & back me up if needed. He has now had 2 phone conversations w/ our son which sound chatty & friendly as if nothing had ever happened. I talked with him for about a week b/4 composing the email & made very sure that my husband agreed with what I was doing telling our son we were not going to help him financially or any other way until he takes the big step of deciding to turn his life around. But when my husband speaks to our son it’s just as friendly as ever. He tells me that he will handle this his way & that he sees no reason not to have a friendly talk w/ our son, the same one who has threatened to kill his brother. At this point I’m struggling to keep working, to cut off contact with older son, & to drop him off our insurance. I’m really upset & disappointed that after all our talks about cutting the ties completely together he is still ready to chit- shat. I have never felt more overwhelmed and discouraged. I’m sorry I made this so long, but I tried to as concise as possible. I know this is a little complicated, but all I want for today is for my husband & I to present a united front to our son. Is there any advise you can help me with. I look forward to hearing from you. God bless you, L.

Answer: Dear L. You have tried so hard and given so much, it breaks my heart. However, your husband is how he is and he’s going to do what he does. Talks and agreements are only as solid as the people putting them together…and you describe a very unstable, unwell and uncooperative spouse.

In such circumstances your hands are tied because you cannot present a united front. Your husband gave you lip service and then bailed. Now, he’s Mr. Nice-guy.

If at all possible, I would suggest that you seek counseling; not to change anything because you can’t but to have an advocate and a place to be heard and given respect. In the interim, please consider coming over to my Web-forum: where you will find women supporting each other in dealing with all kinds of issues with adult children and extended families. You deserve so much better. Blessings, Luise

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