A Wonderful, Caring and Timorous Man

By Margo Howard

October 4, 2013 4 min read

Dear Margo: I am at a loss. After 13 years of marriage, I divorced a controlling, alcoholic husband and, two years later, married a wonderful, caring man who allows me to be a person in my own right and to make my own decisions. Sounds great, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, he also allows his son and his parents to run our lives. There is no boundary these three don't feel comfortable crossing.

When his 19-year-old doesn't get his way (which is rare), he tries to make his dad feel guilty by saying it's because his dad doesn't love him as much as he loves his "new family." If that doesn't work, he calls his grandparents, and they call my husband to question him. This makes him reluctant to ever lay down the law and be a parent.

His son recently moved out, presumably because life at our house was unbearable. He lasted less than a month, because that family had rules, and now he wants to return home. I told my husband I was fine with that, but he had to be willing to live by normal household rules, such as curfew, a steady job (he had seven during the last year, and two months of unemployment), respecting my husband and myself, and telling the truth.

My husband is reluctant to articulate these basic rules, saying his son "knows." My stepson's lying has almost reached the point of being a compulsion, and he has gained a terrible reputation.

My husband's parents regularly come over to our house while we are at work to clean, even though we've asked them not to. They also hung six pictures in our bathroom. My husband later admitted he asked them to clean the house if they got bored (they're retired), but never asked them to redecorate.

What can I do to be treated like an adult? — Lady in Limbo

Dear Lim: Lady, this is a mess.

You have traded in a controlling husband for one who is being controlled — by both his kid and his parents.

The 19-year-old sounds like a train wreck, and perhaps he should live with a buddy (or maybe the grandparents with nothing to do), since I strongly doubt he is capable of a personality makeover and has the potential to wreck your marriage.

Equally important is that your husband be counseled by a therapist that it's time for him to cut the cord with his parents and grow a spine. It's a little late in the day for all this "re-education," but it is essential if you are to stay married and not get ulcers. — Margo, definitely


Dear Margo: My wife's sister has asked me if I am willing to be an "anonymous" sperm donor so she can have a baby of her own. She has no interest in my paternity, only my sperm. My wife and I already have two children.

If I go through with this, would my kids be half-siblings or cousins to the new baby? Since my sister-in-law is not married, I am afraid I might have difficulty playing uncle to my own kid. I'd like to be helpful to the family, but I'm not sure this is a good idea. — Double Trouble

Dear Dub: Yoo-hoo. There is nothing "anonymous" about using one's brother-in-law's sperm. Don't do it. Your concerns are valid, and your discomfort alone is reason enough to decline.

Level with your s-i-l and explain it would unnecessarily complicate all of the relationships. Encourage her to either avail herself of a certified sperm bank or ask a friend who is not part of the family. — Margo, procreatively

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers' daughter. To learn more about Margo Howard or to read features by other writers, visit creators.com.

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