Stepmothers Helping Stepmothers: When An Adult Stepchild Lives With You

Stepmothers Helping Stepmothers

This latest question deals with a topic that hasn’t been discussed in much depth here on Blissfully Blended: adult stepchildren. I think many of us see somewhat of a “finish line” of sorts at age 18 – we think, the children will legally be adults, graduate high school, and move on to start their own adult lives on their own. Sometimes, as you can see from the below question, that doesn’t happen.

I have one adult stepdaughter living with me and my husband.  She has been rude, etc. towards me and is not going to be moving out any time soon.  I have talked to my husband and he has spoken to her about her behavior, but not much has changed.  How do I go about co-existing in the same house with her until she moves out one day? [ I have talked to my husband about giving her a timetable to move out. Not happening.]  Do I just ignore her, which has been hard? Any suggestions?  Anyone have had to deal with anything similar?

Ouch. It’s NOT unreasonable to expect to be treated with respect in your home. In my opinion, that should be non-negotiable. She doesn’t have to like you, but treating you rudely is not okay. If your husband has already talked with his daughter about her behavior and she’s still treating you in a rude manner, it may be time to talk with her again – letting her know that in the house, it is expected that everyone will treat each other with respect, and that is a condition of living in the home.

Have you and your husband established a game plan for your stepdaughter? In your shoes, I would want to know what my husband saw as the plan – she can stay as long as she’s in college, rent free? She can stay indefinitely even if she’s not attending classes, but perhaps she’s expected to pay a token amount for rent? She’s expected to contribute to helping with the household chores (Actually, I think this is a must – for all kids over the age of two – if they CAN help, they SHOULD).

I wish you luck because it certainly can’t be easy OR fun to be treated poorly in your home. It’s not right, and it’s not fair. Readers, what advice can you offer to our stepmother?

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What do you think?



  1. 13

    My husband’s adult son moved in with us after having trouble with the law. He’s currently attending community college, however he is not working and doing little to nothing regarding getting a job. He comes home from school, sits and watches TV, eats nothing but junk food, which is really expensive, and has zero regard for all the conveniences he has because of us. He feels no need to support himself or help us. It’s putting a huge strain on us both financially and our marriage. My husband sees a 12 yr old boy and I see a 21 yr old taking advantage of our generosity while blaming everyone for his misfortune in life……I feel your pain

  2. 14

    My husband and I offered to have my adult stepdaughter move back in with us when she had trouble getting on her feet. I noticed that she has tried to revert to some of the teen-aged levels of disrespect that she showed me and that I had difficulty dealing with when we were raising her; however, since she has moved back in, I’ve basically had no qualms about telling the adult that I allow to live in my house that I will not accept her disrespect–I generally state it in those terms–no raised voices. Hubby can back me up or not–but she seems to realize that the respect is a non-negotiable in this arrangement. I also feel no qualms about letting her know that, while she’s sharing a room with her little sister, who is entering puberty, I don’t really want her demonstrating any behaviors that her sister might want to copy in a couple of years (staying out until all hours of the morning or sleeping until after noon). Adult, independent freedom can wait until she’s independent and free. She seems to get it.

  3. 16

    I also have an adult stepson living with me and its very frustrating. I have raised him for the past 13 years and this young man is very lazy, he is out all hours of the night and basically comes and goes as he pleases. He doesn’t have a job, he doesn’t go to school, nor does he have a plan on what he is going to do with his life. This young man lies to me on a regular basis and sleeps all day and is out all night. He has already has had a pregnancy scare with his girlfriend even after I have told him about protection and bought him condoms. What makes this sitution even harder is I am the sole provider in the family. I make all the money so intern I pay all the bills form the mortgage to the groceries. I told him that he needs to start helping by paying for his phone bill and his auto insurance and all he says is I dont have a job. When I get upset about this my husband and I fight because he says his son is incapable of taking care of himself and that I am being unresonable. I feel very frustrated and resentful that I am expected to continue to let this 20 year old man mooch off of me and not complain. I love my husband but dont feel he has my back at all and every time I say something we have a BIG fight.

  4. 17

    These are all helpful comments for me. I have two stepsons living with us (this is my second marriage, his third. His first was a divorce and his 2nd wife passed away). I am hoping that he puts our marriage first as his children are 21 and 26, and are not small children and need discipline. They need a different kind of discipline as there are and never were, from what I can tell, any rules or any kind of consequences, no responsibilities, and no form of help either cleaning, cooking, or monetary. Neither of them do anything but mooch off us. I blame their father and it is coming between us. My children do not live with us. They are not rude, but they are very unappreciative and never thank us for anything. They do seem to come before me even though it’s been established that this is my home now too. I believe the 3 of them are co-dependent on each other. I have no privacy. I am half of the bread winner as I make as much as my husband. I keep quiet most of the time, but I’m at the end of my rope. I agree with one of the readers, I should of made the rules apparent as soon as I arrived. It is too late now as I’ve been ther 4 years and nothing has changed. A lot of this is my fault for letting all this happen and now I’m resentful to my husband. I am not looking for perfection just a happy medium, some respect, a little privacy and some cooperation. All I can hope for now is that they will leave soon.

  5. 18

    I am also a stepmother to 2 sons, 19 almost 20 and a 15yr old. And my husband and I have always agreed that our marriage comes before ANY child, step or natural. They do follow at a very close second but in order to have a successful, happy marriage AND home for the child AND be an effective parent, you must, MUST work on your marriage before anything. There is no offense meant to Becca but I do believe one day if you are ever in this type of situation, you will see things much different. You are the child right now and for some reason, you are terrified of a step parent. Not sure if there is more there either but what should be happening is worrying about your mother’s happiness and not about what will happen to you if she remarries. Just because my husband and I married didn’t make my husband love his sons any less. When and if she remarries, maybe it would be time to go out on your own anyway as you stated your an adult? But anyway, like I said, there is in no way any disrespect meant. So please, don’t take anything the wrong way but take it as something to just think about…please. Back to the above issue, if I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t even allowed this to get this far. It is YOUR house too and if your husband doesn’t want to handle business, honey, it’s time you yourself handled business. Tell that girl the next time she disrespects you in your house that if she doesn’t like you or your rules that she is free to pack her bags and head to the door at anytime. Lay down the law. Tell her you don’t agree with her treatment of you and you will NOT tolerate it. You have allowed this treatment by not confronting her the minute anything nasty comes out of her mouth and it’s time to stop it. By having your husband say something and not you, she realizes she will be allowed to say or do anything and you won’t do anything. I had this problem at first and was always having my husband handle my stepsons and things did not change so I changed them myself. And my husband was actually happier to not be put in the middle of our arguement or issue. Things have gotten much better. Not perfect but hey, what house with teenagers is perfect??

    I hope you take all this advice and really think about your options and your happiness. And I hope all works out well for you and your family. God Bless.

  6. 20

    I’ll concur with much of the above. I’ll also add this about marriage/kids fr previous relationships. When my husband and I married, we talked a lot about how he and the kids fit together and what our priorities are. I told him that when my 1st husband and I divorced, we both committed to live near each other as long as our daughter [now 10] is at home. So, until my daughter graduates from high school, I will be in this city. We’re in a large metro area, so even with the economy, it’s possible to find work, etc. and it’s unlikely we’d be FORCED to leave for a job. But we’ve said we will not CHOOSE to leave until then.

    So my husband made that part of his commitment to our family, as well.

    I think decisions about minor children should be approached in this way — before the adults make a commitment, make sure everyone is on the same page re: the kids.

    Adult children are another matter, but it also seems to me that similar rules should apply. Was an adult child at home when the marriage began? Then, hopefully everyone talked and was comfortable with the situation. Did the adult child move home after the marriage? Again, everyone should have talked.

    But if they didn’t….well, it’s never too late. And while it’s nice when family can help each other in times of transition, it’s uncommon in our culture for adult children to live more than a short time with their parents, when all parties are healthy. There’s nothing wrong with it if it makes everyone happy, but when it doesn’t, I’m more sympathetic to the homeowner[s] than anyone else.

  7. 21
    Jersey_Girl says:

    I understand where step-kids could say that the step-parent becomes over-controlling because they are introducing new things into the household. However, the step-parent is also helping the step-kids with food, shelter, etc. and they have a right to set reasonable expectations and boundaries for the step-kids.

    I believe that the marriage should come first. Why? Because the people in the marriage need to be on the same page and need to nurture their relationship first, before they can nurture other relationships. Also, if the marriage is happy or decent, the threshold for the step-kids will be higher. The lower the marital satisfaction, the less tolerance for the step-kid related situations.

    Also, when you are married, your marriage is supposed to be the number one priority, regardless if you have children or not. How can someone have a successful marriage if they are putting their kids first, or their job first or something else before the marriage? One cannot have a successful marriage when one person feels that they are a second class citizen.

    There is a new book out called “Stepmonster” by Wednesday Martin, Ph.D. It is a great read for anyone who is in a step-family situation, and it goes through the kids’ feelings, stepmoms’ feelings, the dads’ feelings, etc.

  8. 22

    I am an adult living at home with my single mother and we have actually talked about this. It makes me nervous when she dates because I have seen where step-parents come in and try to take over. But I think as long as long as the step-parent doesn’t become over-controlling everything should be fine. Is there more to the above scenario than listed?

    I do disagree a bit with the other comment. I don’t think a marriage comes before a child. I think they need to be equal. “I love you and I love my wife. You two MUST get along”. It seems reasonable to me.

    • 23
      plushpeach says:

      I can see your point of view on marriage and child(ren) being equal, however the truth of the matter is that the marriage MUST come first. A strong united committed couple who places themselves first will always have enough love and support to give to their step-child(ren). When the marriage doesn’t come first, that’s when resentment, anger, jealousy etc comes to the front. those emotions will wreck havoc upon the relationships between the couple and the step-children.

  9. 24

    I am sorry you are having such a position put before you. Loyalty issues are so difficult in step families. You are left in the position of knowing your husband put an adult child before your needs, and the child is put in the position of not only not succeeding as an adult, but knowing she causes friction in her own father’s home. This may be a power issue for her, to be more “daddy’s princess” than you are, but the real issue is that there is an order problem in the household. Children have to come after spouses. You recognize this, but your husband is not willing to call the boundary what it is, out of order under his own roof. He may think that it is wrong to choose his wife over his daughter, that she has been through enough pain….that somehow he is showing her his love. However what he is doing is enabling her to be codependent upon him and that limits her ability to achieve competence as an adult and confidence as a person. Regardless of the spouts she may sputter in frustration or inner ugly….the truth is she is unhappy and now she’s keeping you unhappy too.

    It is your home. You can choose what and what doesn’t offend you. The truth is, no one can make us feel any way at all, only we have control of that. TRUTH has a funny way of helping that out. We get so close to the situation that we begin the lies that others tell us when they want control. The lies you are being told is “its wrong to ask me to choose between daughter and adult” and the truth is, that the marriage must come first, then the child as you prepare him/her for a life lived independently on their own. The lie is “He loves her more than he loves me” while the truth may possibly be that “He prefers codependence and a surrendered peace than the peace that doing what is right brings out of fear of losing his daughter, he’s already lost her mother, so his track record is wives leave….” You need outside assistance to get past this. A good place to start before you find help though is to ready the book “Boundaries in Marriage” or the original Boundaries book by Dr. Henry Cloud. My prayer is that you will recognize that this is a problem you can only handle one end of, your own. That you choose to guard your heart from words and choices they make that hurt you, while working on returning love and patience with the situation. Bitterness is a root that kills marriages, I urge you to seek outside mediation or help from someone with a neutral perspective. Ultimately it is your choice to stay quiet or to learn that you cannot change him, only change your actions and boundaries about how you will deal with situations. It is my limited personal experience that if you clearly define your boundaries in a blended families and stick firmly to them, remove the emotional responses and simply do, not way, while continuing to do, say, and be loving and praising what tiny changes do occur, they adjust very quickly to the new boundaries.

    I will be praying for your situation!

    • 25

      Sweetie: EXCELLENT feedback! Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you stopped by.

    • 26
      Stepmonster4now says:

      Sweetie^^^^ THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!! So eloquent and on the money!!!!!! Bookmarking all you have said… GREAT ADVICE!

    • 27
      island girl says:

      I always read the importance of setting boundaries, but what are the consequences for crossing the boundaries? I have 2 stepdaughters, one 35 and one 38. They constantly find out what vulnerabilities I might have, then exploit them. They find out what the boundaries are for the sole purpose of crossing them. Then when they do, it’s….So what are you going to do about it? Another thing they do is lie. It seems whenever I am at work and they are over, something of mine gets broken. The first half dozen times they lied about the circumstances so it was ‘never their fault’. Later, and often by accident, I discover the lies. Now when I know they are coming over I have to lock up everything that is breakable. They see that and it gives them even more pleasure. They never replaced anything they ever broke because at the time, they always lie about how it happens and their dad sticks up for them. These people don’t RESPECT boundaries, or me!!!