Dear Lynette:

I’ve never done this before, so I feel a bit inadequate but desperate in a sense so I will pursue. I’ve been married to my husband for almost 11 years. We’ve both been married before, and have lived with the excess baggage good and bad for years. And usually seems to the majority bad. We’ve only been saved Christians for a few years, and have tried to do as God would have us do since. Unfortunately we still have the consequences to pay from our former life. My husband insists he is a Christian, and goes to church on Sunday mornings, and all of our friends are Christians. Yet it appears he leaves the word of God at the Church steps on his way out. I’m doing my best not to pass judgment here, but as time goes on it gets worse. It is effecting all of our lives in this house.

His son moves in and out, and doesn’t have to follow rules. This is a 17 year old boy who is far from facing the world alone. My husband doesn’t find the importance of discipline or respect. When the law is put down to this young man, he moves somewhere else, then when that person has had enough of him he returns. I’m having a difficult time maintaining a Christian’s loving heart at this point. I’ve lost all respect for my husband regarding this and most other things due to his inability to demand his role in the home and to protect his family.

I love this boy as my own, but I feel tough love is in order and the other people in this “home” needs to be considered for a change. This has gone on for 8+ of the 11 years. My husband is a well educated man and a good heart and a good father to a fault, except, helping to kill this young man with no direction is not a good parents role. My husband is more concerned about his son liking him than he is concerned about dealing with the issues. My husband works 12-15 hr. per day so all is left up to me, but when he comes home he just pacifies the situation, and then it’s a repeat tomorrow. This young man has played with drugs, sex, alcohol, and late hours, and too much freedom. We have a 5 year old watching all of this.

It seems as if it would be easier to just call it quits and forget the entire situation. But I can’t walk away and give up again. I don’t feel that would be what God would have me do. I’ve been to the pastor, who is good friends with us. He doesn’t really see it for what it is. He knows the son needs help and feels my husband needs to put his foot down, but my husband tell everyone what they want to hear then does nothing, then doesn’t understand why everyone gets so upset. I wish I was over exaggerating this, but I’m not. The son refuses counseling, and my husband says it’ll work out he’ll do better. And it ends there!

It even goes as far as my husband will lie to keep the son out of trouble, and cover up his wrong doings. He gives him money when he says he doesn’t. This is suppose to be a Christian family. I have Christ, I know that, but it appears as if we are engaged in a spiritual battle. Other than prayers this is a last and desperate option. I’m a black and white person, and I have my faults, but integrity and a person’s word is most important, and all that leads to respect. And the respect is missing here all the way around.

Please advise. Carol


Dear Carol:
You say that you are having a very difficult time with your husband and his son who is a substance abuser, and that your husband lets him come and go when he pleases, giving him money, etc. against your wishes.

Work on Your Relationship with Husband:

The real issue is that you and your husband have not agreed that your relationship takes precedence over any other relationship (except your relationship with the Lord). You and your husband became Christians a few years ago and though there may have been some positive changes, the major change of applying biblical principles to your marriage and family did not occur.
There are always difficulties with step-children. When couples re-marry, unless they agree during their courtship that Christ must be at the center of their relationship and that their relationship must take priority over other relationships, they are headed for trouble.

Couples need to talk about the issues that will come up with step-children before marrying, and how to handle potential problems or major disruptions of the marriage will occur.
Order the book: What’s Good About Anger? to learn how to communicate assertively and resolve conflicts with your husband. Most likely, you have been arguing over your husband’s son for years.

You and your husband should determine together a strategy for dealing with this teen: setting house rules that he is not allowed to come home drunk or high on drugs, that any substance abuse will be reported and he will be sent to a rehab center. The step-son needs to attend AA meetings and receive counseling for his addiction.

Professional help:

This kind of conflict probably needs mediation or counseling. I recommend that you find a Christian counselor who does marriage counseling in your area. Check out the home page of the American Association of Christian Counselors. If your husband refuses to go to counseling, go yourself to learn how to cope with the situation.

Spiritual Help:

Along with this I would encourage you to pray. Pray fervently. Pray with your Bible study group and or a pastor or mentor. Matt 18:20 says: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”(NIV)
Prayer is heaven’s weapon against the sin and brokenness of our world. In Luke 18:1 we read, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”(NIV) You are right when you say that “I can’t walk away and give up again”. That is just what our old nature wants to do and what Satan wants us to do when we face crisis and difficulty.
Another aspect of this is to look for what God may be teaching you. How is He trying to purify you? Are you holding on to anger and resentment? It is easy to be angry and resentful when something keeps occurring like this. But Jesus wants you to give it up. Forgive your husband and this step-son as God has forgiven you in Christ. In Matthew 18:21-22 we read: ” Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”(NIV)
This is really saying that forgiveness is constant, & recurrent.

Why forgive? Because Christ has forgiven you as it says in Colossians 3:13: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (NIV) On the other hand, forgiveness often requires consequences to change harmful behaviors.

Practical Interventions:

But you say, “What about some boundaries? Can’t we set some limits on the behavior of this Step-Son in our home?” I would encourage you to read  the article on Codependency and order the book: Codependent No More : How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie for some ideas on boundaries and confronting this Step-son.
Also, attend some Al-Anon meetings. It seems to me that you are in charge most of the time since your husband works long hours.
You could learn to be assertive and learn new ways to handle him.
If your Step-son comes home drunk or has inappropriate behavior due to drug use, you should be able to lock him out of the house. You could also report him to the police when he comes home under the influence of drugs or alcohol since he is a minor. You should have a juvenile officer speak with him. You are home 12-15 hours with him and need to make the house rules to protect yourself and your younger child. Illegal behavior should be reported.

If your husband disagrees with this, then you will need to ask him for his support. You should not be at home alone with a drug abuser and worried about protection of your family and home. Ask your husband to go with you to your pastor or a counselor to talk about this. Ask him to attend Al-Anon, Ala-teen meetings with you.

I hope this is helpful. It’s difficult to know what to do as a Christian in this kind of situation. Scripture discourages divorce unless there is adultery or an unbelieving spouse leaves. Matt 19:4-6 says: “Haven’t you read,” he (Jesus) replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (NIV)

On the other hand, when there is abuse or safety is jeopardized – you may need to separate from your husband and this step-son to protect yourself and your 5 year old.
Consider ordering: Love Must be Tough: Proven Hope for Families in Crisis by James Dobson.

Thanks so much for writing. God bless you!
Lynette Hoy, NCC, LCPC, CAMS-V

Oak Brook, IL 60523