How long to live apart from husband on account of his son?

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-15-2014
How long to live apart from husband on account of his son?
Tue, 04-15-2014 - 3:45am

Hi, all. I really need some perspective: How long should I live apart from my husband on account of his son? ... My question seems simple enough, but it’s actually quite complicated, and the background story is rather complicated, too:

My husband and I knew each other in high school and “re-met” on Facebook in January 2009. We soon started dating, even though we lived about 1 1/2 hours apart.

In the spring of 2011, my husband and I were now engaged, and he moved in with me, along with his 18-year-old son who had just graduated from high school. The plan was for his son to attend a local community college and earn his physical therapy assistant degree in two years (around the spring of 2013) and then move back to his home town, where he could work and live with his older brother who remained there.

Soon after my husband and his son moved in with me, I started to get to know his son better and became very unhappy and uneasy living with him. I saw in our computer’s history that he was visiting very racist, sexist websites, and while cleaning his room, I saw that he was buying adult “comic” books in which women are tortured and raped. His favorite movie to watch was “American Psycho,” about a serial killer of women. My husband’s son is a large body builder who likes the “intimidating” look of growing a big, bushy beard and walking around in a tank shirt. He would barely talk to me or my two children (son was age 11, and daughter was age 6 at the time). I, unfortunately, started to snoop in his stuff as I began to wonder more and more who this person was living in my home with me and children.

[My husband is barely home, since he works 50+ hour weeks and then trains for triathlons in his free time. I was spending way more time with his son than he ever had. And the few hours when my husband was home, he expected me to spend them watching movies with him and his son. (His son has very few friends and is always at home.) I felt like I had no “alone” time for myself or for me and my husband.]

During my unfortunate snooping, I found a crumpled-up brochure in his son’s coat pocket about getting help if you are a sexual abuser. And in a bag under his bed, I found a diary his son wrote in high school in which he talked about women being good for nothing but sex (and that black women were the worst kind) and that he wanted to stab a girl in his class with a knife -- those were among many of the violent, sexist and racist comments in the diary. I showed the diary to my husband, and he thumbed through it half-interested while watching TV. I expressed my fear and unhappiness, but he said it was just all due to the fact that his son hates his mother and that I had nothing to worry about. I didn’t want my husband to mention the diary to his son as I was afraid he’d be angry and possibly hurt me while my husband was away. (My husband insists that his son would never hurt a flea, but he has spent so little time with him over the years, I am not sure he has a realistic view.)

Then, to compound things, my husband’s son was fired from his job and was spending even more time at home with me -- he would sleep until 3:00 in the afternoon and play video games and walk around in boxers. I would ask my husband to talk to him about getting up and getting motivated, but my husband told me that wasn’t his “job” to do -- which I totally disagreed with! {And on top of all that, there was a period of time when my husband was also unemployed, and I was supporting all of us!} Fortunately, my husband eventually found a job for his son at a local gym, and my husband also found a new job.

But, things came to a boiling point during Christmas 2012 when I was driving home and started crying. It was the holidays, and the last place I wanted to go was “home,” where I felt so unhappy and uncomfortable. I told my husband I couldn’t live with his son anymore, and my husband said that in that case, both he and his son would move out. (We were married by this time, having tied the knot in February 2012.) ... My husband got an apartment for his son and him over an hour away and closer to my husband’s job.

It is now April 2014 -- 1 year and 3 months later -- and my husband still has the apartment with his son (who was never accepted into the physical therapy assistant program and still hasn’t earned an Associate’s degree; also, my husband continues to pay nearly 100% of his son’s expenses, including a monthly car payment). I know that our children our are priority, but I think my husband and I have different values when it comes to how to demonstrate that sense of priority -- my expectations for my kids when they are nearly 21 years old is that they are away at college or nearly graduating and have a career plan and an ambition that THEY have bought into and are working towards, like my brother and I did. (The physical therapy assistant was my husband’s idea, not his son’s. And my husband himself didn’t earn an Associate’s until adulthood, so I know we have very different perspectives on things.)

Meanwhile, my husband continues to spend only Wednesdays and Sundays with me (I see him for a few hours when he gets home late on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and we see each other for a few minutes Thursday mornings. My children see him for a few minutes every other Saturday night, since they are with their dad the other times). I pay 100% of the mortgage and expenses for our home, while my husband pays for the apartment. When we talked about moving to our new house (just moved in March 2014), I had mentioned to my husband that I needed him to spend another night per week with me, but he seems to have forgotten this, and I know he would not agree to it if I asked again -- I know he’d feel his Ironman training would suffer.

My husband’s work commute is about 1 hour 20 minutes from our home, so I know that having the apartment near his job helps with his commute and the training time he needs for Ironman. My husband and I went to couples therapy around January 2013 to help us with this transition. He told the counselor that he’d be living with me full-time if it weren’t for his son, whom he feels he must live with or else his son will feel abandoned. So, I know that the apartment near his job isn’t really all about shortening the commute and giving him more training time. (To this day, I continue to wonder why my husband has never taken the time to get counseling for or with his son. He has the time and money if he really wanted to do it. I think my husband believes that hanging out with his son and going to the movies with him is all that’s required for his issues involving women and his overall social and emotional struggles.)

So, here we are 1 year and 3 months since they moved out. I have never spent more than 2 nights in a row with my husband for all this time (except for 1 time when he came to see me on a Friday night because I had a health scare). And, it sounds like he intends to keep things this way for another 9 months since he just signed another apartment lease until January 2015 -- and if his son still hasn’t graduated or still doesn’t have a job by January 2015, I have no idea what will happen. My husband says he doesn’t believe in giving timelines or deadlines to his son, but I feel having a timeframe and an expectation of when to move out and launch into life is what he needs.

In a nutshell, I’m beginning to wonder what it would be like to have a full-time husband who is more of a life partner to me, rather than one who seems to stop in for visits twice a week and spends much of that time training for Ironman. (I just bought a house in my name, and my husband gave me about $5000 for the downpayment plus paid for some furniture, which I am incredibly grateful for, but the monthly mortgage is about $3,000 so I am carrying the bulk of this financial weight.) For now, I find my husband attractive, funny, interesting and supportive enough of me emotionally to withstand these struggles. And I also share his love of triathlon and train for them, too.

But, I fear the day is coming where my desire for a close partnership that feels like “family” will outweigh the limits of our relationship that continues to feel “long-distance” and “half-committed” in so many ways.

What do I do? Give this current situation 9 more months? .... Ask him to spend another night at our home?....But what if nothing changes in yet another 9 months? .......


iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999

I think you have to decide how much longer you can put up with this.  Remember, your DH doesn't believe in deadlines so apparently it's ok with him to have an adult son who is totally dependent on him.  You said that the son has a job so why would he need his dad to be living with him?  I have a nephew by marriage who is 28--he had been living on his own and working full time until about 2  yrs ago when he had a mental health issue that landed him in the hospital, he lost his job and had to move in with his mother.  Now he's better, working again and would like to move out when he gets more money, but that is a different issue--this guy on the surface has no reason that he can't live apart from his parents--most 21 yr olds don't even want to live with their parents.  But the big unmentioned issue here is that this guy is really a sociopath and his father is ignoring it.  It reminds me of a local case where the adult son of a well known sports figure exhibited violent tendencies against women from the time he was a teenager--the paper did a story on him and about how he'd be arrested all the time and the parents would pay for his lawyer and he would get off with no punishment and the parents would give him money to live on, mainly because he had children and they didn't want the kids to go without money.  I can't say I am totally blaming the parents because they were doing what they thought was right and trying to get this guy help--but the end result is that he ended up killing the mother of his child.  I am really glad that you got this guy away from you & your kids but if you are married to his father, he's always going to be around in some way--and I think it's very interesting that your DH would pick his son over you--it's like there was no discussion about it, no "aha moment" as Oprah says, and no thought even to just giving the kid money while your DH kept living with you--it's definite here that you are in 2nd place.

I think if I were in your situation, I'd just get divorced and get it over with, no matter how nice your DH is about other aspects of your relationship.  He is content to have a very part time relationship with you and to let you shoulder all the financial burdens so you aren't really his priority.  And the fact that he seems to have no plan and will not impose any consequences for his son is not good.  I have a friend whose son was very difficult, graduated from high school and would not obey house rules or get a job so she eventually kicked him out--it was hard but the alternative would be that this kid would just be living off her forever, never getting a job and on top of that he wasn't even nice to her.  So your DH is not doing his son any favors by beling so lenient and not addressing the huge psychological problems that he has.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-20-2002

Hi Kaarina--

((((((hugs!!))))) to you!

I really have to agree with Musiclover re: might as well just get it over with and get divorced now.

That sounds so sad and un-supportive from a "making a second marriage work" board.........but, honestly, that son scares ME, and I havent even met him.  And, your DH is paying for son's apartment anyhow, why does dad need to LIVE there, also?  WTH? the kid is an ADULT, and his priority is to live with his SON instead of his WIFE?

I think it is such human nature to still see the good in the situation , and believe it's really not so bad, and it will get better, and that to leave the situation will be worse................butI think many, MANY times,.... that's really not the case, and it takes an impartial opinion like those of us reading your situation to tell you this.....(and, to be quite honest, I think, on a subconscious level, at least, that's why you're posting here asking for advice........your gut/your heart/whatever, ...that still small voice inside of you is saying,"uh, something's wrong here"....and your "logic" says, "oh, it will work out, give it another few months", etc etc..................but I think that's a mistake, and I think musiclover has it RIGHT re: "you might as well just go ahead and get divorced and get it over with")

I've been reading/posting on this board for many years (like 10 ?!!) and I remember Musiclover posting re: her situation, and she was willing to put up with it for a very long time when others of us thought of her situation, something along the lines of, "you might as well just go ahead and get divorced and get it over with"---so I'm sure that's part of why she can recognize that in your situation.

You have your own children to think about, and , honestly,....."you can do better than this".  

You're not happy.

Your DH doesnt seem to care about that too least his actions certainly dont speak to that.

YES, you've got alot invested (time wise and finacially) into your relationship with him............but, gosh Kaarina,'ve got a LOOOOONNNNNNNNGGGGGGG life ahead of you!  Dont settle for this for the rest of your life.....!!

You mentioned going to counseling with him in the about going back to see that same counselor just by yourself (heck, you've got alot of free time by yourself LOL) and talk about your concerns re: divorcing, etc.  

I think you've made your expectations to DH clear, and he's more concerned with himself and his DS.  That's fine, but that's not what you're interested in for a husband.  I, too, "put up" with a less than desireable situation for longer than I should have, ...thinking that, "oh, you'll just be trading one set of problems for another", ....and, there is a small degree of truth in that, ...but you truly have a potentially dangerous situation with that SS,.........................and my suggestion/advice to you, is to PLEASE listen to that small voice inside of you that's telling you that something is "wrong",..............and get yourself out of the situation.

You wont regret it.

((((((((((MORE HUGS!!))))))))))))

Best Wishes!!  

Keep us posted ;-)

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-15-2014

Thank you to both of you above for reaching out and helping me to process this. The things you write are things I've been thinking but thought maybe I was off-base. My husband always counters with the argument that his son has never done anything to hurt anyone and that it's my fault we live apart for "not wanting to have anything to do with [stepson]."  I just don't see how I can have his son in my life and my children's life unless we address the issues that cause me to be uncomfortable living with him. I asked today if he'd go to counseling with his son, but my husband said his son went to counseling years ago, and "there is nothing wrong with him."  Here's my husband's text message to me today: "for the record [son] has had counseling. The counselor found nothign wrong with him, but the counselor had a number of issues with his mother. I've been through a lot with [son], I didn't get to where I am overnight. But I've always let him know that I'm there for him. And that's all that I'm trying to do now. I would think any "good" parent would do the same...."  My response was, "Counseling isn't always about finding something wrong. And it's not somethat that has to end when you can put the blame on someone else (his mother) and then walk away from it. The things he was doing while he was living with me showed he still has issues, unhappiness. whatever it is that still persists." .... I also wanted to add that just becuase you're doing your best for your son, which I appreciate, doesn't mean it's the RIGHT thing. But I didn't send that part. My husband never responded, and he's due home by midnight-ish tonight, and I'm a little on edge on how it's going to go.....But you both have given me strength and I am so very appreciative!! 

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-08-2008

My honest opinion is that your husband is using this son issue as an excuse. It conveniently gives him the opportunity to focus on his triathlon hobby without having to admit he is a neglectful husband. His son is an adult and so are you. 2 days a night is not a marriage and any man would KNOW that. But to alleviate his guilt, he can point the finger at you and blame you.

Yes, his son sounds odd but you really don't know what is going on in his head. The brochure thing could be someone else's or a joke from a friend. It could be an outlet for his mommy anger and would never become real. But even if that is true, it would be best for him to deal with it and move on. But that isn't your business unless he has asked for your help. Regardless, no one  can blame you for not wanting a 21 man like that around your children.

I am trying to understand how your husband could just flip through the diary while watching TV - is that how you two have important discussions? While one is watching TV? You need his FULL attention when you talking to him about important things. Sounds like he does what he does with his son and just watches TV with you instead of talking with you? If so, he has serious intimacy issues going on...!

Good luck sorting it out - I hope he grows up quickly (and I'm not talking about your stepson)


iVillage Member
Registered: 04-15-2014

Thank you, Dee, for your help as well!! I often wonder if the real issue isn't so much about his son needing help, and that I make things worse by focusing on that. I feel in my heart that it's all just a symptom of my husband's relationship style, which I do find immature and uncommitted at times. Early in our relationship he kept things going (behind my back) with two ex-girlfriends in a very high schoolish way, and it was  red flag I should have paid attention, too. It took him nearly 2 years to work them out of his system -- I never made it about them but about HIS issues, and we were able to get through it. I think I need to be focusing more on my husband and me and what's going on -- his son and his triathlon training time do seem to be his constant excuses this time around....Just some thoughts I'm having this morning. Will keep you all posted on how it goes...

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-16-2002

I have to agree with StormyDancer on this one, the issue is not you living apart from your husband on account of his son, but on account of your husband.  Your husband's response to your concerns about his son put into perspective for me the signs that are ignored by parents either because they can't or don't want to deal with something. Then something like Newtown or Columbine happens.   It *could* be your husband finds nothing wrong with what his son does because he has the same perspective (and his son learned from him?)  How much do you know about the mother, only what your husband has told you?   Your husband spends a lot of time away from you, in his own place, doing who knows what.  This issue may run a lot deeper than what you think and I hope you can finally get the answers you are seeking to make the best decision for you and your own children. 

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

.  -Albert Einstein

Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006

Hello and welcome!  

Well, I have read the thread and I think if the DS was younger, I could see your DH getting the apartment if there were no BM for DS to live with.

I also had a breakdown with my DH's DS (we weren't married yet) and the DS went back to live with his mom.  Because he was still a minor and in highschool at the time, I would have supported SO getting his own place if absolutely necessary.  But the DS was younger and we were not married at the time.  

On a side note: the DS is now 19, almost 20, and has yet to be self-supporting.  He went from our house to his moms.  Then mom moved and he went to his sisters.  Sister moved and he went to his GF's house and her parents.   Parents ask him to move and sister feels sorry for him and takes him in.  And now she is regretting that decision. 

Point being, I don't see an end in sight for your DSS.  I am not going to say what your DH did is wrong perse, but the concern is that your DH doesn't seem to have a desire to change the situation any time soon.  

I do applaud you for following your gut to begin with.  Won't even go into the SS himself, as it is hard to say for sure what the deal is.  But we do have intuition for a reason.  He may not be a serial killer or even abusive or violent for that matter, but your gut was telling you something and followed it.  So good for you on that count.  

Clearly you are the one who has to live with your decision.  I have a feeling you are like me, and will be patient and forgiving until the cows come home, but when you hit that point you are done.  Period.  Until you hit that point I don't think any other attempts to change will work.  In other words, I don't think you have hit your "marital bottom."  

Hang in there and keep us posted!

Serenity CL making a marriage work

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-20-2002

I think if I were you, I'd just stop with the discussions re: his son, and move into discussions re: yourself and your life.

You want a fulltime husband, and you dont want the adult son in home with you/your kids.  I think you've already talked with DH enough re: WHY you feel that way, dont bother discussing anymore.---to me, those would be non-negotiable now.  

He acquienscenced (spell?) enough by taking adult son out of your home. THat's good.  However, a part time husband wasnt what you agreed to, ...and, honestly, I think it's just time to cut your losses and move on.  He's not going to change re: his opinion of his son, and you dont want yourself/your kids with the son.  Heck, EVEN IF DH started agreeing with you that his son was wacko....doesnt mean son will become less wacko/dangerous---even with tons of help/therapy---and you will still have son involved in your life.

I think you are better off without both of them,....AND....when you mention earlier in your relationship re: DH and other GF's....yeah, I'd question if that's also part of why he's fine with being in another town from you..............probably not, but I wouldnt rule it out.

You deserve better than all of this............if it wasnt a concern re: SAFETY of yourself and your kids, ...I wouldnt be so inclined to say, "cut your losses and end it"............but we're talking potential real danger..............please cut your losses and move on ;-) 

Your kids deserve it (and you do, too!!)


TRUST is a huge issue in a marriage/relationship......and since you cant trust the son (at all)....and DH is non-negotiable re: he being connected with really can't *win* to have a good marriage here.

To be fair to your DH,................I COMPLETELY understand re: parents being most wanting to give child a chance, care about him, etc etc.............and I just wouldnt argue any more with DH re: what he should or shouldnt do re: son (other than voicing your opinion re: son having issues).............but what DH choses to do about it is HIS perogative as a parent...........but, since you dont agree with it---rather than tell DH what to do (cause he doesnt listen anyhow).....I sincerely recommend following your heart/gut and leaving.

(I really am concerned about your safety.  And, ...yeah....the fact that son has never done anything before would NOT be consolation enough for me.....)


iVillage Member
Registered: 04-15-2014

Thank you to everyone above for your advice and kindness! You all have contributed to an epiphany for me that this isn't so much about my husband's son, but about my husband. I expressed that to him on Wednesday, and later that day he said he would spend another night with me every week rather than at his apartment, and he has already done that.  I also said that I wanted to see a counselor and he agreed immediately. I have been playing phone tag with a counselor but hope we can see her next week. My husband asked me on Wednesday if I wanted to stay married, and I said "yes," which is how I do feel right now. I asked him how he felt, and he said yes and that he didn't think there was anyone else on this planet besides me who would be better for him to be married to (he referenced our similar upbringing in the same town, which is something he always seems to put a lot of weight on for some reason) - but that he knows that just because you say you want to be married doesn't mean you should or that it's working. I said I agreed wtih that. So, we're going to see the counselor to help us talk about where to take our relationship.....As an aside, we had this moment on Wednesday, where we were talking about a water issue in one of the bedrooms and my husband said I should call the condo association. I paused and then said, "why don't you call?....this is our home together and it would be helpful to me to have you participate in it."... He picked up the phone and called, and I thanked him afterwards. I think I've let him off the hook for way too long -- I always step up and do the things that need to be done because he's either working, with his son or training for his triathlons.... I look back and there always has been this red flag about his lack of responsibility for the things that need to happen at home. This is definitely an area I want to talk with the counselor about in terms of what I want from our marriage....anyhow, thank you all again. Will keep you posted.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-29-2010

I think its about both the son and your husband. You are right to be concerned about the son's behaviors, I would not want him around my children either. Its also about son in that as long as you are married to his dad he will be in the background. He's not showing much inclination to become independent so to some degree you will have to continue to deal with him and his various problems, and so it will always be a topic in your marriage.

But its more about your husband. He is enabling his son to stay dependent by not requiring him to become self sufficient. He's in denial about his son's violence and dependency and how they are impacting your marriage. It seems like he has been hiding from facing these things by living with his son instead of with his wife. Even if he believes that his son still needs oversight, it could easily be one or two nights at the apartment and the rest of the time with you, instead of the reverse.

As an aside, the majority of (recreational) triathletes and other endurance athletes manage to juggle jobs, personal/family life, and training without getting excused from their responsibilities for most of the time.

Its excellent that he is willing to attend counseling and work on the relationship. Hopefully he will be able to hear and accept the truth from an impartial third party.