Adult SS wanting his father's respect

sweebyJune 21, 2009

Hubby's having a hard time this Father's Day because he's worried about his adult son. Again. We had a running bet today about whether or not SS would call to wish his father a happy Fathers' Day -- and we both nailed it. SS sent a text message during dinner time -- then wouldn't answer his phone when Dad called back.

SS is in his mid 30's and is once again is in danger of having to file bankruptcy. He's done it once before, and been on the brink several other times. This time, it will probably also cost him a house. Not to bankruptcy, but to foreclosure since he's not paying on it either. Though he IS still enjoying high speed Internet (dial up is SO slow), cable with premiun channels (because they're cheaper than movies), a great cell phone with free texting (because he texts a lot), a gym membership (he's in training), four cats with medical problems (thank goodness he got custody when he and his Ex broke up) and a fancy sports car (limited edition! 'cause he got a really great deal on it.)

His personal life is a mess because the GF he bought the house with and who he recently broke up with wants her furniture back -- especially since she found his new GF sleeping in her bed. And the new GF is high drama 'cause she's still 'legally' married to some guy who's a real jerk (she says) and SS had to buy four new tires for her car. (Mortgage / new tires for GF / mortgage / new tires... WTF??)

Once again, we've offered to let him work for Hubby (for cash) on evenings or weekends -- but the only work Hubby has is dirty and sweaty and unpleasant, and SS doesn't want to do that because he really needs his down time. Work-Life balance is so important. He is still working full time, but his boss reduced his commissions, which is making it hard for him to stay motivated. (So he leaves early a few times a week to keep things more even.)

Poor him!

He's depressed, anxious, drinking too much, avoiding his problems and looking for handouts -- which we're not giving him. (Well, Hubby gave him a small one a few months back in a fit of guilt, but immediately regretted "feeding the tapeworm" as he so aptly put it.)

Of course, now SS is mad at his father for not helping him out financially. But more than that, we both agree he's mad at himself and knows that he's on a failing path -- But he simply won't change his ways! By the way, we've also paid for psychological counselling twice. The counsellors gave up in frustration. We've also paid for a financial counsellor (another band-aid) and bought him a 'Personal Finance for Dummies' type book which is lying by the highway somewhere, I'm sure...

Hubby's always been very open with his love for his son, and gives freely of his time -- but I think what SS really wants is his father's respect. But how can Hubby give THAT when SS's poor situation is a direct result of his consistently poor life choices! And that leaves Hubby feeling like he's withholding the one thing his son desparately needs --

Is Hubby wrong?

Is there some middle ground?

Or is this just one of those hopeless situations?

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Is he really after respect or is he looking for approval? It sounds as if he's going to do what he's going to do... maybe feels bad that Dad isn't 'proud' of him and looking for a pat on the shoulder... when he needs a swift kick somewhat lower.

I have a nephew, he's 21 and blew off school after his first year in college where he flunked out to party. Moved back home and is finally out in his own apartment... working part time as a waiter. He drives a paid off car my sister bought him but now wants to drive a 4x4... because it's what he wants. He calls my sister, who I think is enabling him out of guilt, to buy his car and loan him another grand for a 4x4 he wants. My sister is having trouble paying her mortgage and has one foot in foreclosure... it's pretty bad but she wants to help him get this 4x4. Well, my nephew came into the office the other day, pretty much demanding the money (she had previously told him she'd try to get it by July 1st) but he found a SUV he wants and the guy wants the money right away. So he has a fit when she tells him she doesn't have it just yet, she's got a job lined up and should have it by the first. That's not good enough for him & he storms out. A few days later, he calls to let her know he's going sky diving with some friends. He came by yesterday to tell everyone about his skydiving experience.. and it hasn't occurred to him that the money he spent on skydiving... and probably lots of other things he 'wants' could be used to get the car he so desperately wants. (not to mention he has a job and decent credit, he could probably finance one if he wanted...) but he wants his mom to buy it for him because he knows how to make her feel guilty and get what he wants.

A 30 something year old does not desperately need a parent's respect if they are not behaving in a way to get that respect. My 20 year old nephew wants my sister to treat him like an adult, but he comes running to her when he wants something he can't get... he is not acting like an adult. I think hubby is wrong if he is operating out of guilt and making excuses for his grown son's behavior. (and saying he just want my respect... is an excuse for 'that is why he hasn't gotten his life on the right track.) I would ask your husband "how is giving him respect for what he's doing, going to make his life better? What message does that send to his son? That no matter what I do, it's okay because my dad respects me? But, does dad really respect him? He can say he respects him when he doesn't.. but then he's being dishonest to his son.

If he hasn't already, DH needs to tell his son what he needs to do to make him proud... what he needs to do to earn the respect he so desperately needs... because if he so desperately needs it, he will do whatever it takes to get it. Otherwise, he's just blowing smoke up ... well, i can't post that here, but you know what I mean.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 1:23AM
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Hubby's always been very open with his love for his son, and gives freely of his time -- but I think what SS really wants is his father's respect. But how can Hubby give THAT when SS's poor situation is a direct result of his consistently poor life choices! And that leaves Hubby feeling like he's withholding the one thing his son desparately needs --

Is Hubby wrong?
Is there some middle ground?
Or is this just one of those hopeless situations?

This is so hard . . . the one thing you and your hubby want most is for your S to be happy and healthy (emotionally as well as physically) . . . making good choices, in a stable relationship, able to give of himself instead of just sucking the air out of everyone around him. But I'm thinking that this is one of those "tough love" situations. I think giving in over and over, bailing him out, is akin to buying an alcoholic another vodka or a drug addict another hit of meth -- it's enabling him to continue doing what he's doing, which is bad for him. Ask your hubby - if S was 10 years old -- ESPECIALLY knowing what he knows now -- would he be buying him that cell phone, laptop, AND big screen TV for his room? The answer is NO! I'm not saying he spoiled him as a child, either -- my oldest D has champagne tastes, has had them all her life, despite my distaste for "designer labels" or maybe because of it.

So what if S is 30-something? Does hubby love him any less because he's older? Of course not. Is it impossible to teach him values now, is he too old to reach? Maybe not. Does he think that D doesn't love him because he won't give it up? Maybe in an immature way, but not deep down. And what does a tantrum look like from an adult? I'm not sure, probably kind of what S is already doing. It's complicated and harder to see, but it's still manipulation.

I think S loves D very much, though he's not doing a very good job of showing it. We know D loves S. I think D can still model behavior that S needs, like not giving in to this childish behavior. I think you need to help hubby with his grief over having an emotionally ill child, and I sense that you already are.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 8:22AM
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My nephew is only 19, so not the lost cause yet but he flunked out of college after the first year (all the lost money!!!), not even partying but skipping classes and not doing his work. He took a loan (got very little loan because my brother makes good money)but the rest my brother paid out of his pocket!

Now he is back at home, couldn't find job, my brother found him job, he had trouble keeping that job so now he isn't working again. My brother gave him work to do in the house, they are making new patio and stuff like that. he barelly keeps up wiht that.

My nephew has to register for a community college now to get some credits. i asked him if he went to talk to anyone in a community college and he said not yet, i offered to help, he says he is fine. Probably won't go until September. It will be too late then.

Now we live in the area where you cannnot even go to buy groceries wiht no car, you must drive everywhere. My brother isn't giving him a car so now he has to bike everywhere, which is fine.

We never had anyone flunking out of college so the whole family is petrified, we never knew such thing exist. I and my brother raised our children together, DD and my nephew are like brother and sister. But DD is doing reasonably fine in college and works.

When my nephew was little, my SIL spolied him up to ridiculous. She was always SAM and he could do no wrong, he was on a pedestal. Maybe that's why he is this way. Now they raise my niece the same way. I and may parents are terrified that all this spoiling will make her the same way.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 9:13AM
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"Is he really after respect or is he looking for approval? It sounds as if he's going to do what he's going to do... maybe feels bad that Dad isn't 'proud' of him and looking for a pat on the shoulder... "

Approval - certainly. And yes, I'm sure he does feel that Dad isn't proud of him -- and often, that's true. But Dad does look for things SS does right, and he compliments and encourages those. And there have been times when SS gets it together for a while -- which Hubby also praises. There was a recent stretch lasting almost three years when SS paid all his own bills, stayed out of legal trouble and even managed to buy a house. Then the slow fizzle...

"his grief over having an emotionally ill child"
That's exactly what Hubby's feeling Mabeljean! With some anger and embarrassment, too.

For what it's worth, Hubby did not spoil SS, but BioMom did. BioMom's own life laid down 'the original' footprints that SS is following in -- and SS knows it! He's complained to Dad many times about how his Mom's life is so messed up -- then goes and messes up his own life in the same ways. He knows it! But does it anyway. And yes, I'm pretty sure there's a history of undiagnosed mental illness in BioMom's side of the family -- bi-polar maybe? (BioMom's been hospitalized twice for suicide attempts and her father, grandfather and two uncles all committed suicide.)

Come to think of it, I wonder if maybe SS is bi-polar. Is there such a thing as being 'mildly bi-polar'? I've certainly seen depression, anxiety and helplessness, but there are also times when he feels gregarious and confident. He's got problems with anger and with alcohol that he sometimes manages, other times, not so well.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 10:07AM
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"Come to think of it, I wonder if maybe SS is bi-polar. Is there such a thing as being 'mildly bi-polar'?"

Yes, actually, there is something called Bipolar Disorder II. It's a form of bi-polar where the person has less severe mood swings and often doesn't experience the extreme manic phases.

It does sound like SS has some sort of physiological disorder going on, especially because of the family history. BUT that is not an excuse for him to take no action to make his life better. He's making poor choices. I do agree that tough love is the best bet in this situation. It sounds like you are already doing that in not giving him any money or hand-outs. Let him face the consequences of his own actions. At some point, when he gets to the bottom, maybe he will decide the JOB your DH is offering isn't "beneath him" afterall.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 10:58AM
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President John Adams had several children, one of which was John Quincy Adams. All the sons (girls were to be wives in those days) were afforded similar upbringings which included paid attendance at a fledgling Harvard. Still this great man had a son Charles who ended a failure, a drunkard and so forth.

In my blended family we have 4 adopted boys of similar ages. 2 are from her prior marriage and 2 are from mine. We have 2 boys from either set who understand life and are working at carving out responsible pathways. The other 2 (again one from each marriage) are festering boils intent on being supported by someone (ideally us).

So this is nothing new or unique and it has no rhyme nor reason that I can think of. No counselor we ever employed made one whit of difference (in other than our checking account). Like Charles Adams some 200 years ago they will figure it out or succumb. He succumbed despite the wisdom and help from his father. We have chosen to draw the line with our miscreants. We cannot afford not to draw the line either in money of grief. Nothing seems to help, as you have experienced. You are sadly not alone. I suppose this is survival of the smartest. If it were cave days they may have been eaten by bears as youngsters. They certainly would be so consumed as the poor thinking adults they are.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 11:15AM
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I can't wrap my head around the idea of a parent referring to his child as a "festering boil."

I can understand having to detach with love from a child (grown child) who has time and time again made poor choices in life, and who refuses to "grow up." I get that completely. But no matter how much a parent detaches emotionally and refuses to enable, that child is still their child.

My daughter could be on drugs and I might have to detach and practice tough love---but I just cannot EVER see myself referring to her as a festering boil.

At the end of the day, no matter how many times she messes up, she is my CHILD, and I love her no matter what. That does NOT mean I would enable or become a doormat. But I will always love her.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 11:21AM
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Sweeby - I wish I had some great words of wisdom for you to help get you through this. I suppose the only solice I can give you is that it could be worse. I think you are right... I think that the son is looking for some sort of approval or praise and can't understand why he is not getting it. He does not see his behavior as being as bad as it is. And that is no one's fault but his own.
I am in exactly the same situation. My husband has a 23 year old son (my step son) who has been in alcohol rehab at the age of 18, finished high school at an all boys bording school, and has been spent the last 4 years "in college" but only has 30 credits. Lot's of signing up for classes and dropping them. He has an excuse for everything. He has been in more financial trouble than I can image and the hubby is always there to bail him out. Up until a year ago, my hubby was giving his son the rent money and the kid would spend it on other things and the apartment complex would call to say that rent was not paid and dad would pay it. The kid has no sense of responsibility. Now, we have not heard from him for over 2 months. His birthday came and went and the son never called. Father's Day came and went and we didn't even get a text message. Nothing. The kid is being so cruel to his father by not making any contact.
So, as you can see, I can completely sympothize with you, but I can't give you any answers. All I have learned is that pointing out the problem only makes my husband more angry, anxious, upset, etc., and so I have to bit my tounge and let him work it out. I try to remain positive and distract my hubby as much as I can from the troubles that his son brings to our lives. But I know that when the lights go out each night, my poor husband has a weight on his mind and soul that I could never even come close to understanding.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 12:11PM
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LoveHadley... My apologies if my expression of derision is over the top for you. The 2 men in question decided early in life that they were for some reason beyond any need to be responsible people. My oldest adopted son literally chose to become a criminal. He called me from his most recent place of internment to wish me a happy fathers day. To this day he refuses to accept that he will need to work in life. My SS (her youngest adopted son) has made a career of doing nothing. He is not ambitious enough to become a criminal. He has lost every job he ever had. He has no money. All he owns was paid for by us. He has a nominal education and zero (as in none) work ethic. Currently he has run away from home because we expected him to not shove food into the couch.

We have 2 other young men. One is on his 2nd year in the Navy and intends to become a fireman after his service duty. He is a fireman on a nuclear aircraft carrier. The other has accepted the offer made to all of the boys of going to college and is progressing on that goal at an accelerated pace (his choice not ours).

Regardless of our efforts the challenging kids insist on failing. Can't fix stupid/selfish and it hurts to see them floundering. If and when they choose to grow up and not waste our love or resources then we will reconsider their plight. We can only hope they will not have dug themselves into trouble too deeply.

Sorry if I am too pragmatic about the issue. All of these boys had wonderful homes, families and loads of opportunities. We are not a bottomless pit of feelings to be trounced upon or money to hand out. They will figure it out or they will live with the consequences of their choices. They do not have to become Rhodes scholars or Bill Gates. They need to show us the respect we have very freely and generously provided them through their early lives and learn to become self sufficient men.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 12:57PM
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"Approval - certainly. And yes, I'm sure he does feel that Dad isn't proud of him -- and often, that's true. But Dad does look for things SS does right, and he compliments and encourages those. And there have been times when SS gets it together for a while -- which Hubby also praises."

Sweeby, in addition to looking for things SS does right, does he also look for things SS is right? As in, we know he is irresponsible and makes poor decisions. Is he also... kind, generous, smart, loyal, loving, some other good qualities? I was not particularly flattered that my dad was proud of me for finally going to college at 23 like I knew he'd wanted me to all along. It felt almost more like "oh, sure, as long as I do exactly what you want me to do, you're proud of me". It feels much better to have respect for who you are, rather than for certain select things you do. I don't know your SS, but if he has enough good character traits that your husband could focus more on appreciating the good than being disappointed in the bad?

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 10:27PM
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Very important distinction Quirk! And thank you for bringing it up and spelling it out so clearly. (I learned about that once in therapy, but keep forgetting it!)

And to answer your question, to some extent, we have praised who SS is and his many good qualities. Of course, they're so much easier to praise when the stuff he's doing isn't so disheartening.

OK - Focus on the good qualities. He has beautiful manners. He's very good at placating hysterical women (thanks Mom!). He's reasonably intelligent, an excellent athlete, very personable, good-looking and has very white teeth.

So Quirk - What can we do with that?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 2:16PM
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I think respect is something that one should have for him/herself, other human beings and their belongings, animals, our environment,etc. In this sense, we value these things and let them know that we care for them, or in the case of some of them, we need to be good stewards. Do I respect my neighbor (whom I consider a friend) even though he chases tail in front of his young children? I respect HIM, but I don't respect his behavior. If it comes up, I'd like to tell him, but it won't change things. Do I respect another friend who runs a mediocre home improvement business? I respect HIM, but I don't respect his work ethic. I wish I could tell him, but I don't think he will change. There are things I don't respect so much about myself and things I do or have done, but I still have a healthy self-respect.

Maybe I'm making it too simple, I'm sure the whole issue is bigger than this. Does anyone have any more thoughts on what specific behaviors show others whether you respect OR disrespect them? Especially our children - I think our kids remember everything we've ever said to them, good and bad. And it doesn't seem to matter how gently you deliver bad news (that is, your dissaproval of what they're doing) -- they still take it personally, because they want our approval so badly. So what DO we do when our adult children's decisions impact our families? I am learning by trial and error to just keep quiet and try to let them make their mistakes. It was hard enough to get them through the teen years without too many scars!

I got reamed big time a couple of years ago at a school fund raiser by a couple of parents who were mad that their 8 year old didn't get to sing karaoke. 10 minutes of public tongue lashing. It was terrible! I would say that my efforts were certainly not respected, and they had a lot to say about me as a person even though they didn't even know me . . .but I had this wonderful epiphany that night. I was in the habit of yelling at my then-16 year son old a little too much (you know how that is), and I suddenly came face-to-face with how that feels. Really changed my behavior.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 4:03PM
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So Quirk - What can we do with that?

haha, i'm better at conceptualization than implementation...

    Bookmark   June 24, 2009 at 9:37PM
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Is Hubby wrong? No sweeby your hubby is not wrong. SS is a grown man making decisions and he must pay the consequences to his actions. You have helped him on many occasions, offered him work and he's snubbed it...he is lookign for a bail out for daddy to save him...uh uh...let him fall and let him fall hard. He does not have his priorities straight.
1. He's cheated on his girlfriend with a married woman no doubt.
2. He has expensive habits he cannot afford.
3. He should be paying his bankrupcy debt , not increasing the tab.
4. He should work more and get more money to pay for the things he has.
5. He's in no position to pay for someone elsed tires for GODS SAKE!
Is there some middle ground? No there is no middle ground. You've tried to help him the best way you both can and it didnt' work. Even professional help gave up.

Or is this just one of those hopeless situations? Its not hopeless...but its not your problem. ITs HIS. He is an adult and if he wants to get out of it he can if he wants to.
i dont think your ss wants his respect. He wants him to bail him out big time and he's angry that your hubby wont do it. I think your husband should stand his ground.
You have to EARN respect, not want it or demand it. If your ss was smart, he'ld get respect from his dad if he showed some B*lls and was a man. Sorry. i'm blunt. i'm really sorry sweeby but if your hubby bails him he'll be an enabler.
Your ss needs to
1. Pay his debt
2. Stop spending
3. Stop expecting dad to come save the day.
4. Get a second job to pay the bills.
5. Have respect for himself and not have an affair with a married woman and cheat with his now ex girlfriend. She did theright thing to dump him and leave him.
6. Stop drinking, he needs to go to AA and start respecting himself before demanding it from someone else.
My own brother was left to hang dry by my father for debt. His fiancee left him because of his situation. Well, my brother consolidated everything, and then sold everything he had. EVERYTHING. to pay as much off. He had a few thousand left and because my father saw him do that and my brother was making payments double every month, my father then stepped in and helped him. And he told him its a one time deal and because he saw him make the effort. My brother earned my fathers respect and got the bail he worked hard to deserve.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2009 at 10:38AM
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