Ask Amy: She makes the rules; he ignores them

April 6, 2012

DEAR AMY: I have been married to a wonderful man for the last four years. We are both in our 60s.

Recently, his 23-year-old son moved back into the house we share. He has a part-time job and goes to school two days a week. His dad is putting him through school and spends money on groceries.

My problem is that my husband is lenient with him and is letting him get away with things. I wrote down a few house rules that needed to be followed.

Since he has moved in with us, he hasn’t done things his dad has asked him to do. He comes up with a lot of excuses, but he spends time with his friends. On one occasion, he spent three days not leaving his bedroom because he didn’t want to do what we asked.

I have asked my husband to be firm dealing with him. My husband keeps ignoring my pleas, and the sad thing is that he wants me to get some help because I am bothered by his son’s behavior. How can I encourage him to be firm with his son?! I don’t want him to grow up to be irresponsible. -- Desperate

DEAR DESPERATE: What you are doing isn’t working. And so you need to do something else. Your stepson will not adhere to rules and requests that you impose upon him, and your husband will not discipline him or kick him out. This 23-year-old man is acting like an adolescent and you are treating him like one.

I prescribe a do-over for all of you. You and your husband should rip up your rules and collaborate on another set of rules and/or guidelines for your household, along with consequences if these guidelines aren’t adhered to.

Once you decide upon reasonable and specific rules, you should both sit down with the young adult and involve him in the process. It might help to draw up a contract and ask him to sign it. Once he has agreed, revisit this issue when you need to — but you and your husband must do this together.

DEAR AMY: I’ve been seeing a man for more than three months. We are both 40 with no children. I’ve never been married, and he is divorced.

Two weeks ago we began a sexual relationship. I wanted to make it known that I don’t do “open” relationships. He just told me that a woman has asked him to meet up for coffee. He said it was no big deal, just coffee.

I’m inclined to end our sexual relationship until he knows what he really wants. In my mind, I’m not the answer for him or he wouldn’t be making time for coffee dates with another woman. I’m not saying I want to end our association, but I feel I should put the brakes on. And I’m thinking maybe I need to start having some coffee dates too. What do you think? -- Curious Singleton

DEAR SINGLETON: I agree with you.

Granted, going on a coffee date doesn’t necessarily equate to a Craigslist hookup, but your guy basically seems to be declaring that he wants to be out there, meeting more people.

You two have been physically intimate, and now you can test your intimacy by discussing how meeting new people fits into the relationship you two share.

Dating is great. Dating is important. You two should embrace dating — each other and other people. But back away from your sexual relationship until it conforms to your own values.

DEAR AMY: I would like to congratulate you for your support of community colleges.

In addition to their technical programs that prepare students to work in jobs needed throughout our country in business, industry and medical careers, they also provide exceptional opportunities to transfer to a four-year institution.

This past fall, for example, 768 new transfer students began their work at the University of Iowa having begun their educational careers at a community college.

Thank you again for pointing out this outstanding resource to your readers. -- Don Kamps, partnership coordinator, University of Iowa/North Iowa Area Community College

DEAR DON: Community colleges vary in quality just like any other institution, but they offer excellent opportunities at a great value.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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