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Wife Grieves Over Her Adult Childrens Behavior


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My wife and I are in a lovely second marriage, we’ve been married 12 years with no end in sight. Over the years our five children (3 hers, 2 mine) have lived with us until recently when hers moved off to other things. Mine, being a bit younger are still in High School and with us.

There has always been a big difference between how the two groups of kids behaved, and even though we made conscious efforts to be as unifying in a family sense as possible, the difference remained. We found ourselves in continual conflict with her kids while mine were compliant and satisfied. As a step father I supported my wife but did not over step my bounds despite how irritating the constant conflict with them was. I also contributed as much as I could to her kids lives, coaching their teams, making sure they always had the equipment, supplies, music lessons, etc. In this both groups were treated the same in that I wanted them to be able to take advantage of every opportunity for learning, growth and fun available. Unfortunately her kids didn’t embrace this and were poor students, not engaged socially in their school, didn’t have friends, etc. They were caught in the conflict of the two households that influenced them; ours which was for responsibility, citizenship, and growth (and keeping all that fun and interesting) and their dads whose house was about entertainment and going to Disney World. When he’d drop them off on Sunday nights at 8:00 we would be in the position of having to ask if their homework was done, etc. This put us into the position of being fun wreckers while Dad let them do whatever they wanted. We would try to find ways to meet them in reasonable compromises, but they rejected anything that wasn’t “Dad’s way”. The kids have always been rude and disrespectful of their mother, which is amplified now.

As a result, the two older kids both flunked out of college within 3 semesters and the younger one has moved in with Dad to finish high school. He has been busted for drugs, disobeys curfews, etc. The older ones live in a one bedroom apt and work in food service, drinking and partying. The father is now very frustrated with the behavior of the kids.

The oldest totaled her car recently in a drunk driving accident in which she was fortunately unharmed. That day at the hospital the Dad and I drove to the wreckers lot to get stuff out of the car and also to the accident scene to see if her purse was there (it was). During this he kept repeating to me over and over again, “I don’t know what to do with these kids”. I thought, “no kidding”.

We are at a point with them where she can’t sustain any morale because of how upsetting they are to her. She continually tries to get them to come over and have dinner, or visit or anything, and they usually refuse. When they do come over they upset her because of some antics they are up to or they are so rude or just plain childish that she can’t wait for them to leave. Nonetheless, she tries and tries to get their attention. She is kind and inviting and upbeat in an invitation, and they are rude back. This hurts her so much that she becomes depressed and goes into a cocoon. I don’t criticize them and suck it up to support her as much as possible. I think she keeps setting herself up over and over again. They never act differently, unless they want something, so manipulation has always been part of this too.

She loves her children but doesn’t like them. They hurt her constantly but she can’t resist the temptation to keep reaching out to them. I am wondering if there is a way she can re-orient her expectations so that this situation doesn’t always sabotage her emotions.

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi MrTyler,

I agree with Findingmyway, as I usually do. :(

I want to suggest going even further and that you and your wife go to family therapy. It may start with the two of you and will probably come to include the kids and her ex. In terms of family therapy, all of you are part of a system, a system that dysfunctional (not a criticism). However, if the system cannot be fixed because of the age of her kids, the two of you could be helped to cope with what is happening, base on my view, that its happening to both of you.

What do you think about this suggestion?


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I agree with both of you and thank you for taking the time to read, and reply to such a lengthy post.

Therapy would be helpful for the two of us, and given that we are only able to influence our own conduct is probably the most likely. Getting the others to engage might take more effort than their indifferent participation might be worth. The lack of cooperation from the father and playing one against the other utilized by the kids makes an effort to get them involved appear to be like climbing Mt Everest.

My wife and I can do this, and it might be helpful for her to hear a qualified professional encourage her to re-evaluate her feelings and expectations of the situation. I have told her that we can't change what we stand for and we can't palliate the behavior, but that doesn't mean we have to stop loving them and stop hoping that at some point the will grow up. We just can't accept the way they behave now, and if that means reducing contact to levels that insulate her from their BS, so be it; just make it clear that we are open and willing to engage with appropriate and more mature behavior.

The flip side of this is the conduct of my own children who are thriving, happy, enjoy wonderful friendships with other like kids (high school kids CAN be amazing people) and treat we well with lots of affection and respect. For her this is a double edged sword, she appreciates it, and it hurts her at the same time, which I think is understandable. One of the results of this is that it has muted my own enjoyment of their accomplishments since I don't want to be overly joyful due to my wifes resident disappointment.

Therapy would be helpful, I think.


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