New Guy's Son is In the Way

Q: I've been dating a wonderful man for the past six months. He is a terrific guy and treats me like a princess, and we're falling in love. Everything was going great until his son graduated college and returned home. I have had long-term relationships with other men who had children (I have none) and I've never had an issue with any child. I'm always respectful, allowing them to have their own time, not to interfere with the raising and NOT to present myself as the new "mom." His son, quite frankly, is a deal breaker. He's a rotten kid, ill-tempered, disrespectful, and moody. I certainly hope this is a temporary adjustment of returning home coupled with his father having a new girlfriend.

What can I do to save this relationship? He might not make all the right choices in how to handle his son, but he and I have really found something and are grateful we are in each other's lives. — Katie, 42

Dr. Susan: : Sit that wonderful man down and let him know that if his son continues to interact with you in such a snotty way, it could put a crimp in this relationship, which you'd hate to happen. No ultimatums, just sharing that you're at a loss as to what else to do to keep things running smoothly. You could suggest, perhaps, that you meet elsewhere than at his home, so you won't be triggering the kid's moodiness. You could hope the kid gets a job or goes away to school again. You could grit your teeth and use all the patience you have, hoping your guy is able to empathize with your feelings about his son, without taking them as a personal affront. Stepfamilies are nearly always a challenge. A couple of counseling sessions with your boyfriend could be useful, and only you know whether this would be premature to ask for. Meanwhile, sounds like you're doing everything right.

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