My guess is that your husband is afraid he will lose his children’s love and loyalty if he insists they act like the adults they are. In a strange way, he is complimenting you. He feels more secure in his relationship with you so is more willing to offend you. I know, I know — with compliments like that, who needs putdowns?
Whatever understanding you and your husband had before you married about his responsibility to his kids, when the time came for them to grow up and out he didn’t have the strength or the heart to follow through. Now you’re both stuck. He can’t figure out how to be a father without caving to every demand. You can’t figure out how to assert your needs without feeling like it calls the whole relationship into question.
If you could have talked frankly and effectively to your husband before now, you would have done so. If he could have figured out how to launch his kids while retaining their affection, he would have done that as well. You guys need help getting on the same team solving this problem instead of on different teams fighting with each other. Swallowing your anger isn’t going to help at all. It’s only going to make you feel increasingly resentful and unfriendly to both the children and the man you married.
Becoming a stepfamily is one of the most challenging things people can do, especially when the parents are older and less flexible themselves. I strongly suggest that you ask your doctor or someone else you trust for a referral to a couples counselor. You and your husband could both use some practical advice and support while you shift the relationship to the adult children to a more comfortable and positive place. An experienced counselor can help you two learn how to work together so everyone’s needs are met, or at least met enough of the time for life to feel much better.
If your husband won’t go at first, go yourself. Often when one member of a couple starts therapy and starts feeling better, the other person will join in later. You asked good questions in your letter so I have every reason to believe that you can make good use of therapy.
I wish you well.
This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on November 11, 2010.