Dear Annie: I recently remarried, and my husband and I are in the process of moving our families into a beautiful new home. I have an 8-year-old daughter, and “Brett” has two sons, 10 and 16, who live with him full time.
We have spent two years getting to know one another. Brett is a great guy, but he and his boys have been living a bachelor lifestyle. They basically do whatever they want in the house and the yard, which leads to destruction on a large scale (fires in the yard, melted wax on the deck, shower heads ripped off, spills on the carpet).
We jointly decided on rules for the new house. We have given the boys areas where they are free to have fun. However, they aren’t following the rules, and the damage is already piling up. I don’t want to be the evil stepmother, but they are making me nervous and I’m afraid some resentment is building. Brett and I both work, but I am the one who purchased the house with my life’s savings. And I work 10 hours a day plus a three-hour commute to a job I don’t love, while Brett is a teacher with summers off.
I also worry because Brett is partial to his younger son, who had a rough childhood with his mother. This boy does not hesitate to lie and take things without permission. No amount of talking seems to help, and Brett would never punish him. How do I make things better? – Not the Brady Bunch
Dear Not: You and Brett must approach these issues with a united front. Once rules have been established, he cannot permit his children to undermine your authority. The level of commotion around boys can make unaccustomed people nervous, but Brett should insist they limit their rowdier activities to the places you designate. He also should get his younger son into counseling before the lying and stealing escalate. For assistance and resources, contact the National Stepfamily Resource Center (stepfamilies.info) at Dept. of Human Development and Family Studies, 203 Spidle Hall, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849.