I’m in a second marriage, and my husband of four years has two grown sons. My husband was willing to go with me through the lengthy process of regaining full custody of my 13-year-old son. However, since my son moved in with us, my husband’s decided he no longer wants a kid in our home. He says it’s affecting our marriage, and complains I’m not as intimate with him as before. He’s becoming emotionally abusive to me and with my son. My son just stays in his room a lot now. My husband has given me an ultimatum: Either I find my son another home, or we divorce. When I ask me his reason, he just says he doesn’t like kids, will not live with one, and wants it to be us again in our home. I don’t know what to do.
While your husband’s change of heart is understandable (and we will talk about this!), his attitude and actions are not! I can understand why you would be distraught by your husband’s preposterous ultimatum. Thankfully, I believe there are other solutions to your situation than the two he recommends.
Let’s consider his actions. Emotional abuse is never right. Additionally, you’re in the position of protecting your son. He cannot be subjected to emotional abuse, and you must make that perfectly clear to your husband. You should not tolerate any abusive behavior. Say this gently but firmly.
That said, let’s look at your spouse’s feelings. I surmise he originally thought having a child in the home wouldn’t change things. He has had a big surprise, as anyone who has children knows – especially those with a blended family. Scripture encourages you both to “love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:10, NLT). Here’s an opportunity for you to honor each other by carefully listening to each other’s feelings.
More specifically, he’s unhappy you’re not as intimate as before. Whether or not this is factually true, his feelings need to be considered. Is it possible having a youth in the home has altered the chemistry between you two? He used to have all your time and attention and now shares you with your son. Many men might feel abandoned and perhaps even neglected in such circumstances.
Now before I get a lot of nasty emails, I want to repeat: Even if your husband feels neglected, he has no right to treat you with disrespect or to be emotionally abusive to you and your son. He may have a legitimate concern, but need not treat you poorly and certainly not to issue the ultimatum. What can be done? Here are some possibilities:
First, consider your husband’s feelings. There can be real power in empathizing with him. Listen carefully to his concerns and let him know you can understand him feeling displaced or neglected. Validate the fact things have changed and his feelings make sense.
Two, have a creative conversation with him. If there’s any truth to him feeling neglected, brainstorm how you two might ignite the intimacy fires again. Let him know your son need not be a hindrance. Ensure that you and your husband get away alone together, as well as have intimate times together even with your son at home.
Third, rediscover the joys of having a family. Explore with your husband ways he might connect with your son. Help your husband see – and experience – the benefits and joys of having your son live with you.
Fourth, seek professional counseling. This situation has clearly escalated beyond what you and he can tackle together. Consider finding someone who is knowledgeable about blended families as well as specializing in marriage counseling.
Finally, be firm regarding your husband’s ultimatum. While you can empathize with your husband’s feelings, don’t cater to his demands. Make it clear that although you’ll explore creative solutions, you will not entertain asking your son to leave, nor will you tolerate abusive behavior of any kind. Should his anger and abuse not abate, you and your son may needed to separate temporarily from your spouse while you work on these issues.
As life changes, healthy people adapt to the change and find ways to thrive in the midst of it. I’m confident you two will find a solution that fits you both if you collaborate with each other.