The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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Should I stay with a boyfriend whose adult son is out of control?

































(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Dr. Kenner:      Nancy, you have a question about a boyfriend’s son?


Nancy:             Yes.


Dr. Kenner:      What’s going on?


Nancy:             Well, this kid, I’ll call him, is going to be 21 in November, so he’s really a young man, or should be a young man at this point. He has been living at home with his father since his father and mother divorced five years ago. He graduated high school a couple of years ago and has spent the last two years essentially sort of going to junior college. He has enough credits now after two years of college that he almost has finished his freshman year. And through the process, he smoked a lot of marijuana, he’s lied about enrolling in classes, he’s lied about dropping classes, he’s gotten a DUI and lost his license for a year and gotten another ticket for being drunk in public, so now he’s lost his license for another year.


Dr. Kenner:      Who drives him around?


Nancy:             Well, he rides his bike – which is how he got the other drunken in public. He was drunk on his bike, believe it or not, on his way to work.


Dr. Kenner:      So what would you like some help with? He’s your boyfriend’s son, right?


Nancy:             Right.


Dr. Kenner:      He’s living with your boyfriend?


Nancy:             Finally, my boyfriend and I have been together for almost five years and he wanted us to live together and I said, “I’m not going to live in your house with your son there because I don’t feel safe around him and I just can’t do that.” I can’t live with – I’m an attorney. I can’t live with someone smoking dope in the house or having it in the house. I can’t do that. He finally told him this summer that he wanted him to move out by the end of the summer with a friend. Then he came and visited me, I’m living in another city now, and he came and visited me on vacation.


Dr. Kenner:      Who is the “he?” The son visited you?


Nancy:             No, the boyfriend.


Dr. Kenner:      The boyfriend visited you, okay.


Nancy:             While he was gone, the son got into his, he had already gotten into his checking account and taken about $3,000 and blown it on online gambling and now he got ahold of a couple of his credit card and ran up the balance to another $9,000.


Dr. Kenner:      So how can I help you?


Nancy:             I’m trying to I guess decide whether I should stay in this relationship. Because even now, his father doesn’t want to make there be any consequences for this atrocious behavior.


Dr. Kenner:      So you’re watching a kid’s behavior over a course of five years – because you’ve been with him for five years – go down the tubes. This kid is making one bad choice, starting small, growing the bad choices. You could see where he was at many potentially good choice points – he could go to college. He almost finished his freshman year. And instead, he even gets a DUI on a bike. I don’t think you can get a DUI on a bike, but he’s caught drunk driving on a bike. Here you are an attorney. You’ve built your reputation. You’ve built your character. What are you seeing in the father that you like?


Nancy:             Well, you know, we’ve had a lot of good shared memories together. We have a lot of fun together. But I don’t respect his parenting values.


Dr. Kenner:      Okay, that’s a major, that’s a potential relationship breaker. That’s why you’re calling right?


Nancy:             Yes, because now he’s blaming me. He told me today that it’s his fault his son did the things he did because his son was angry, because he told him to move out so I could move in. So it’s really all my fault.


Dr. Kenner:      The son is going to be a victim for life, according to the father. I don’t know what went on in the divorce with this kid – you’re calling him a kid, the 21-year-old kid – his mother, I don’t know what issues he’s been dealing with. The kids can make excuses and excuses but many parents get divorced and the kids end up fine. There are books, and because you’re an attorney, you may be aware of the initial I’m going to mention, who has written some very good books. He’s got a wonderful website that gives a lot of information too. One of the books is Before It’s Too Late, why some kids get into trouble and what parents can do about it. It’s by Dr. Stanton Samenow. It talks about, the first chapter, and listen to the chapter titles alone – “The child has shaper of his own destiny.” Many parents feel so guilty that they’re immobilized and the kids don’t take responsibility. And then it says there are some more chapter titles like “Life is a one way street – my way.” That’s the way the kid is thinking. They disregard others. They take the easy way out. Of course easy way is never an easy way. And they look at lying as a way of life. And then they have this idea of that it’s not my fault. They refuse to be held accountable. And then they are able to split their parents. One of the chapters is “The child is victim: excuses, excuses!” And parents blame themselves. Children know how to induce guilt in parents. So this is a wonderful read. This is the author who also wrote Inside the Criminal Mind, which is good.


Nancy:             Oh, that’s good!


Dr. Kenner:      This is the precursor to it, Before It’s Too Late. The bigger question is yourself. I know we only have a moment here. You can sit down and write down what bothers you in the character of this potential partner that would make it be a relationship breaker. It’s sounding like you’re frustrated enough over a long enough time that as you’re talking right now, it doesn’t sound like the relationship is going anywhere, even though you have good memories. You’re ambivalent and you would like to put your life on a better path and he’s not making those decisions. Listen, I want to thank you very much for the call. If you hold on during the break, I’ll talk more with you then.


Movie clip       

Male:               Tell me, what is so wonderful about smoking?

Female:           Everything. I like the way a fresh, firm pack feels in my hand. I like peeling away that little piece of cellophane and seeing a twinkle in the light. Coaxing that first, sweet cylinder out of its hiding place and bringing it slowly up to my lips. Striking a match. Watching it burst into a perfect little flame and knowing that soon that flame will be inside me. I love the first puff. Pulling it into my lungs, little fingers of smoke filling, caressing me, feeling that warmth penetrate deeper and deeper until I think I’m going to burst. Then whoosh. Washing it flow out of me in a lovely, sinuous cloud. No two ever quite the same.


Dr. Kenner:      That’s from Frasier. My apologies to anyone who is trying to quit smoking and hears that! There are incredibly fabulous benefits to most bad habits. For example, you could hear Bebe talking about smoking and how great that is, or drinking. I mean, drinking can help you drown your worries. But it also helps you drown your worries, which is a problem because you don’t deal with them. And smoking, even though it gives you some short-term benefits, it can give you a rush, long-term it can do a heck of a lot of damage. We have a friend who just had esophageal cancer. I don’t know whether it was caused by smoking, but smoking does damage lungs. You can look at the lungs at a science museum. Who thinks about their lungs, right? But clean, pink lungs, and then you see the black lungs of somebody who has been smoking. So it does a lot of damage. Now, can you go up to somebody and say, “Listen, it does a lot of damages you need to quit smoking?” The answer is, that’s not going to convince them. They need to talk themselves out of smoking. And you cannot force somebody else’s mind. It is truly their body. It is truly their life. And you can give them information and you can also become an incredible nag in their life. You don’t want to create that in your close relationships. So, it’s an art. It’s a skill. And to give information in a way that’s received by the other person as a thank you, as, “Oh, I’m so glad you let me know that,” rather than nagging them and nagging them, which will usually encourage them to rebel against you. We all know that’s what kids do.