The Vine: December 30, 2009
I've read The Vine for a while and I think this is a new one.The closest one I can think of is the guy who bought all the chain mail off of eBay, but he was significant other, not a stepchild.Also, usually by the time I get done writing, re-wording, deleting, and asking my mom where I should put the comma, I've answered my own question.Not this time.
And yes, I know the solution to my problem is for me to speak the hell up.The thing is, I'm not sure a) whether I have the right to and b) how to do it.
Here's the situation:
My stepson, Q, is 20 years old.He dropped out of high school (which is a whole other story) and does not have his GED yet.He is unemployed.As of right now, he's on a daytime schedule, but usually he sleeps all day, waking up around 9 or 10 PM and then goes to bed around 3 in the afternoon.He typically spends his waking hours, no matter when they occur, either playing video games (on Xbox or computer) or watching TV.He has a license but no car, which he uses as an excuse to do nothing.
(I can hear your blood pressure rising from here.)
He is also a generally nice, funny person.I've said quite a few times that this whole thing would be so much easier if Q were an asshole.
Q2, my husband, ended up having to move 300 miles away for a job.He is currently in his hometown, living with his mom and working full-time.I plan on joining him in June.Q was staying with his mom, but somehow he ended up back at my place after Q2 moved for his job.By the way — nobody actually asked me if it would be okay to bring this adult back into my house.It was just kind of assumed.And yes, I went with it, because…well, I'm an idiot, I guess.
Q2 and I have been married for a little over a year.The first year we spent dead broke because he couldn't find a job in this town.This year, it looks like we get to live 300 miles apart.Things are already not as rosy as they could be.
I also have a daughter.She is 18 and finishing school, but she's only relevant in that she lives in the house and is having to deal with the fallout from Q's (non-)activities and the financial drain that an extra, non-contributing adult makes on the house.
I started to make a laundry list of complaints, but it got too long.Along with the whole no GED/no job/no activity thing, Q exhibits a general disregard for other people in the house (never cleans the Foreman grill because HE only uses it for hamburgers, takes over the entire couch and doesn't even think to move when other people come in to living room, turns thermostat up to 80 — 80!! — despite not throwing one red cent at anything resembling a bill, etc.).
To me, it all points to Q having absolutely no idea what it's like to live in a family/team environment. I'd love to blame it on his parents' divorce and being raised by a single dad, but my parents got divorced when I was 4, I was raised by a single mom and I know that if I use something, I need to clean it and that other people in the house might like to have some of the cookies and that you don't touch the thermostat unless you're paying the bills.
My problem is, as I said, that I don't know HOW to speak up.I don't want to be the mean stepmom and I don't want to cause (any more) friction between myself and Q2, but dammit, I also don't want to support a grown-ass adult who can't be bothered to take care of business.Everybody else in the house does something, whether it be school, work or household stuff.He is getting a free ride and I'm tired of him taking advantage of me and the situation.
This situation has made me resent Q and is starting to make me resent my husband.Hell, it's starting to make me resent Q's CAT, that's how bad it is.(Who is a very sweet cat and doesn't deserve that.)
I've tried to explain a few of the problems nicely, in a light manner to Q and it's like showing a dog a card trick.I'm so afraid of being cast as the mean stepmother (damn you, Disney) that it's kept me from saying what's really on my mind.
So, the questions:
Do I pour this all out to Q2, in an as little a what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-your-son manner as possible and let him handle it from 300 miles away? (I have my doubts about the effectiveness of that, which is why I haven't done it, but am willing to take suggestions.)
Do I sit Q down and tell him all of the problems I have with the situation and with him and hope this time will be different?
Do I start making ultimatums that X behavior will change or Y will be taken away/enforced/whatever?
Do I give him a time limit and if he doesn't meet the criteria, hand him bus fare and a change of clothes and wish him the best?
What would Sars do?
I would have discussed Q with my husband prior to putting a ring on it — Q, my daughter, and our respective expectations about our adult children generally.I get the feeling you didn't do that because you both feared hearing answers you didn't like or ideas that differed from your own, or that you just hoped it wouldn't become an issue.
You'll have to do it now.Schedule a time to talk to Q2 about these general issues, preferably in person, and before you begin the discussion, resolve as best you can to 1) ask questions and listen to the answers, and 2) separate Q as stepson from Q as roommate. Q is a crappy, frustrating roommate, I agree, but because Q is also your stepson, you have to put those questions first.
How does Q2 feel about Q's apparent lack of motivation and proven lack of contribution?Where did he see Q living as of when the two of you got married?How did he foresee his role in your daughter's life — and yours in Q's?Ask these questions; don't assume based on the current situation that you know the answers.Listen to what he says.Talk about it.
Then you can put Q's behavior into context with that conversation, and address the Roommate Q problems armed with better information about how Q2 sees the situation and what you feel empowered to do.Let's say Q2 says something like, "I know it's frustrating, but he's family and we can't just kick him out," use your "I" statements (…hee) to respond with something like, "I understand, and I care about Q, but I feel put-upon by his presence, I feel that he's draining the household finances, and I feel as though a voting adult who is functionally a guest in my home needs to abide by certain rules, or find somewhere else to stay."You might also mention that Q2's casting of you in the caretaker role without consulting you is confusing and weird for you and makes you feel taken for granted.
But you have to have the Stepson Q conversation first, and you have to anticipate that Q2's idea of how to handle this may differ from yours.
In the short term, keep reminding Q pleasantly that other people exist, or removing opportunities for him to annoy you around the house.Locks exist for thermostats and grills; you can find them at Home Depot.Hiding the cookies is an age-old trick; start deploying it.Asking people to shove over on the couch is fairly painless, and you should start doing it.Studies show that new behaviors take three months to "take," so keep at it while you sort this out with your husband: "In this house, we pick up towels.I will stand here while you hang yours up.Cheeriest of thanks!"
And by the time you move, have house rules sorted and agreed on with your husband so you don't run into this situation again with Q or anyone else.
I'm a 41-year-old man who's been in a relationship with a 35-year-old man (let's call him Bill) for almost seven years now.We love each other dearly and have built a great life together — lovely home, great friends, etc.And yet I'm thinking of leaving him.
A large part of the issue is sex.I have a much (…much) higher libido than Bill does.In addition, there's just not a lot Bill likes to do in bed; I've made compromises in that regard, but he really hasn't.
In addition, the sex is getting increasingly rare.We sort of have an agreement that since Bill doesn't want sex as often as I do, I should hang back and wait for him to initiate things when he's in the mood.At this writing, it's been over four months, and that doesn't seem to be fazing him at all.
The sex has never been great.I put up with it for a long time because everything else in the relationship was so great — I mean, I've never met anyone with whom I have so much in common.A few years ago, we opened up the relationship a little bit, and the occasional bit of outside play lessened the sexual frustration for a while.But it's really started getting to me lately.And I don't think a sex therapist would change anything — I just think that sexually, Bill and I are not that compatible, and I also suspect that while Bill may be attracted to me, he doesn't truly physically desire me.
So I've read enough Vine letters to know that this comes down to whether I consider this a breaking point — I can't change Bill, so would I rather try to put up with things the way they are, or bail?And I've been wrestling with that for the last month or so, and I think I'm coming to the conclusion that while I love him, I just can't see spending the rest of my life with someone who isn't really attracted to me.
Also, it just feels like we're stagnating.Most nights we don't even do much together — we both sit in front of our computers, or whatever.Maybe it's just seven-year itch, but I'm feeling like this just doesn't have anywhere left to go other than "more years of pleasant companionship," and I'm still young enough to want more than that.The idea of being single again and moving to a new city and starting all over seems very exciting to me right now, I have to admit.
And then I think, am I just being stupid and selfish?I mean, I'm middle-aged and while I'm okay-looking, I'm no hunk.I may never be able to find a guy who has this much of a connection with me who also happens to find me hot.Many people would probably kill for what I have right now, and it feels like I would be throwing away a lot.
But let's say that I go with the way I'm currently leaning and decide to break up with Bill.How in the world do I tell him?I can honestly say he has not a glimmer of an idea about how I'm feeling right now; it will totally catch him by surprise.(This lack of communication is part of our problem, I guess.)I know that the ripping-off-the-bandage approach is generally the best approach, but I just can't imagine throwing this at him all of a sudden, when he's expecting the usual conversations about "what do you want for dinner" or "what's on TV tonight?"
After seven good years, I feel like I owe him a gentle letdown if I can — I can't just say "look, we both know the sex is bad, and this really isn't going anywhere, and I need more," can I? And no matter what I say, how do I even approach the big conversation — with an ominous "we need to talk later" comment, or something?This is going to break his heart as it is; I want to defuse the extra impact of it coming out of the blue, which just seems so cruel.
I know these are age-old dilemmas, but now that I'm the one involved, suddenly I have no idea what to do.I'm really floundering and would definitely appreciate some guidance.
Don't Want To Be An Asshole
Well…counseling might address both of these problems.It could resolve the issues in the bedroom, or at least improve things, and it could also let Bill know that you're in an unsatisfied and stagnant place with the relationship.It could work.
I don't think so, though, because we already know how Bill responds to your trying to address the sexual-compatibility question — he goes with the option that requires less of him in the bedroom.I don't know whether he genuinely doesn't mind the open option or merely tolerates it in order to keep you, but if it's the latter, we can probably assume that counseling would kind of go the same way: he'd say or do things differently to keep you happy, but it won't solve the central problem.
And if you've made up your mind to leave, well, you've made up your mind, and going through the motions — with counseling, or dropping hints so that you feel like less of a monster — isn't going to protect Bill's feelings in the long run.It's just going to make you look like you cared more about not coming off like an asshole than about his actual feelings in the situation.It's a natural instinct, don't get me wrong, but as I've said in the past, wanting to break up is fine, and wanting to break up painlessly is fine, but expecting the other party to sign off on how awesomely you handled it…you can want that, but it won't happen.It's just not realistic.The only thing you can do is behave as honestly and kindly as you can manage while understanding that Bill is not going to acknowledge it, at least not for a while and possibly not ever, and then get out of the way and stay there.
Wanting to see if you can find a more harmonious, exciting relationship — or no relationship, for a while — doesn't make you an asshole.It will make Bill sad and it will hurt his feelings, but if you can't change it, you'll have to go.Way of the world.Just don't be that guy who's like, "Dear dumpee, please tell me I'm still a good guy so I don't feel so guilty kthxbai," because it's not Bill's job to reassure you of that anymore, and asking him to is what would make you look like a dick.
Which I doubt you are, since you cared enough to write this letter, but the sad fact is that, in situations like yours, good guys don't have any good options either.The only way around is through.
I am facing a persistent problem with one of my neighbors and could use a bit of friendly advice. I live in a quiet neighborhood with a series of small duplexes. In the neighboring buildings are young families with children around 6 or 7 and young marrieds who keep regular hours. In my building, I live in the A unit and one of my coworkers — we'll call her B — lives in the B unit.
Now the problem: Over the past month or so, B and her friends have consistently been waking me up when they come home from partying on a Saturday night. It happens every Sunday morning about 3 AM. (Our bars close at 2 AM.) She and her friends will walk the 8 feet or so from their cars to her apartment talking and laughing after making very merry at the bars. Unfortunately that 8-foot walk is right outside my bedroom window. It usually takes me about an hour to get back to sleep after they wake me up, mainly because I'm so steamed about getting woken up yet again.
I tried talking to B about it, but she's not very apologetic. She says that she's young, single and wants to have fun, and since it is a weekend it shouldn't be that big a deal. Now, I'm not exactly an old fogey — I'm only 32. And B's not exactly a baby — she's 27. But I do enjoy being able to sleep through the night, even if it is the weekend. In all other ways, B is an ideal neighbor. But we're just not seeing eye-to-eye on the whole "3 AM is quiet time" thing.
Some additional background: We live in a college town, so quiet student-free housing is hard to come by. I can't complain to our landlord; he's no help. (Once when my thermostat broke, he put a 99 cent thermometer on my wall as a replacement; thanks for nothing, dude.) I can't exactly start a guerrilla campaign against her because, as I stated earlier, we work at the same company. (Did I mention that her dad is Vice President of HR? Danger, Will Robinson!) And I really don't want to have to wear earplugs to sleep in because I find them uncomfortable.
Oh, and she may be a little ticked at me because I posted how tired I was thanks to my partying neighbor as my Facebook status. I didn't put her name on there, but some of my friends who also work with us guessed she was the partying neighbor and gave her a hard time. I apologized for embarrassing her (but it was the truth, and if she finds her behavior embarrassing…maybe she shouldn't behave that way).
So what can I do to get my neighbor to keep it down? I was woken up again at 3:11 AM last Sunday, after I JUST talked to her about it that week. I have no problem with her living it up, but I just want to live my life the way I want to, too. And that means sleeping when it's dark outside.
Can somebody please hit her snooze button?
It usually takes me about an hour to get back to sleep after they wake me up, mainly because I'm so steamed about getting woken up yet again.
You've spoken to her about the issue; she's not willing to change her behavior.But…neither are you.Yes, earplugs are uncomfortable, but you have other options, like a fan or white-noise machine; you also have the option of realizing that this will happen every Saturday, and deciding not to get angry about it.If she wakes you up and you can't get back to sleep, go clean the kitchen or read a book or something until you feel drowsy again.
As neighbor problems go, this is minor, and I understand that it's "not fair" and that you're "right," but again, by your own admission, a large portion of your sleep interruption proceeds from how angry you get at having your sleep interrupted.Yes, she should behave more courteously, but now that you know that isn't going to happen, you can continue to fume about it every time, or you can put your iPod by the bed and listen to a podcast to drown her out.I'd recommend Age of Lasers.
Tags: Age Of Lasers boys (and girls) etiquette roommates the fam