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My Stepson’s Mental Health Issues Are Ruining My Marriage

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From a stepdad in the U.S.:  Stepson is 23 and has mental capacity issues. Has fathered two children out of wedlock. Wants to be treated as an adult but has mental capacity of 12 year old. Has no respect for me or my house and rules.

Wife keeps stating we cannot treat him like others and must look at from his perspective. I can’t continue to live like this.  Wife gives excuses for his actions whenever he does something stupid but won’t hold accountable. How do we move forward with this big issue as it’;s ruining our marriage?

We have been married two years. He wants to get a car, two drink but then we can’t hold him accountable for not calling and telling us he is not coming home?  There has to be a consistent way to hold him accountable for his actions and when all else fails where do we look for help to have him placed somewhere as our marriage is falling apart.

My Stepson’s Mental Health Issues Are Ruining My Marriage

Answered by on -


I’m very glad you wrote. Your wife’s response to her son is not unusual even though it is not helpful to her son or good for your marriage. My guess is that she feels sorry for her son and perhaps even carries some guilt about his disability. In response, she is enabling his antisocial behavior.

You and your wife both need help and support while you navigate better ways to manage this young man. Seek out a counselor who has experience working with families with an intellectually disabled member. Your marriage and his future depend on it.

If he meets the criteria for intellectual disability in your state, there may be state services including residential placements. Contact your state office for Intellectual Disability services and ask to speak to a social worker who can give you some guidance about what kinds of help are available.

I wish you well.

Dr. Marie

My Stepson’s Mental Health Issues Are Ruining My Marriage

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2019). My Stepson’s Mental Health Issues Are Ruining My Marriage. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 9 Mar 2019 (Originally: 10 Mar 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 9 Mar 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.