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Question

I love my husband deeply but his oldest son is so mean to me. My 20-year-old stepson is verbally abusive. I have almost committed myself to a mental hospital because of the torture I go through. My husband lets it happen because he is afraid he will lose his son.

The son is living with us because his mother and her wife kicked him out and had to change the locks. She usually enables him and doesn’t require him to be respectful to me. He calls me horrible names and says that this isn’t my home because I’m just married to his dad.

I have health problems and need to go to the doctor multiple times per week. When I leave, my stepson will lock me out and steal my stuff. He crossed my face out of all my photos on the wall and has even called the police to report that I assaulted him (I’ve never even touched him in anger).

I have cried and cried to my husband to please stick up for me, but he tells me they are his kids and he won’t choose between me and them. I’m not asking him to disown his children. I’m asking him to kick him out because of how he is treating me. My husband has been the love of my life since we were teenagers and I don’t want to lose him. I feel alone, broken, and, at times, believe that maybe even dying would be better.

I can’t stick up for myself because then my husband views me as the bad guy for saying anything. Yet, my husband won’t kick him out and continues to let his son treat me this way. He just tells me that I have to get help because I have problems. 

Answer

It’s a tragedy that your husband has allowed himself to get caught in a loyalty split between his son and his wife. Your stepson is a grown man who is terrorizing you in your own home and needs to be stopped. Since your husband isn’t willing to protect you from his abusive son, you have to protect yourself. The abusive behavior has escalated to the point where your own safety is in great jeopardy.

I recommend you immediately contact a women’s crisis shelter in your area and begin getting help. They will help you sort through your legal options and provide immediate mental health counseling to help you stabilize. You may not see yourself as a victim of domestic violence, but this is exactly what’s happening to you. It’s not wise for you to stay in this environment, so please get the support you need so you can get to safety.

I recognize this is far from what you ever imagined could happen in your own home. You have cried tears of desperation to your husband to change this situation, but he’s made his choice. He may not feel he’s choosing sides, but when abusive behavior is allowed to continue, inaction is always a choice favoring the abuser.

This might sound strange to you, but your husband is just as guilty as abuse as your stepson. He’s communicating loud and clear that domestic violence directed at his wife is acceptable. It’s time to decide how you will act to protect yourself from this abuse from both men.

Even though he may not be physically assaulting you, living in constant fear of what he might do drains your limited physical strength. Also, the name calling, stealing, and other aggressive actions are all destructive to your mental and physical health.

Please don’t believe that your only option out of this abuse is to take your own life. You have plenty of other options. I imagine you question the value of your life since the man who committed to protect you has abandoned his responsibility. His inaction on your behalf isn’t a reflection of your worth and value. As already mentioned above, please visit a women’s crisis center in your area and tell them what you’re experiencing. They will help you begin to make healthy decisions about your situation.

You are outnumbered in your home by two men who aren’t willing to protect and care for you. I know this is a devastating reality to face, as you’ve had a long history with your husband. He might be a wonderful man in many ways, but he’s currently failing you in a serious way. Your safety and life matter, but he’s not willing to create a safe and stable home environment for you.

Please take your own safety seriously and get the help you need. You don’t need to tell your husband that you’re going to get help, as he may talk you out of it. And, you may decide you need to stay in the crisis shelter or a different safe location until your husband is willing to see the reality of this situation. Please don’t want for someone else to protect you any longer. You can protect yourself now.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.geoffsteurer.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

If you or a loved one are struggling with the devastating impact of pornography issues, sexual betrayal, and relationship trauma, I have created a 6-part audio program to help married couples strengthen their recoveries. You can purchase the 6-hour audio program here for a limited time at the reduced price of $29 – https://geoff-steurer.mykajabi.com/marriage-recovery

You can connect with him at:
Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT