I Love Her But Can’t Stand Her Children. Can This Relationship Survive?

Dr. Wendy Walsh Dr. Wendy Walsh • 9/25/14

Reader question:

We have been together four years and I thought her children (25, 23, 20, 17) would “grow up.” They all have issues with ADD, supervision, bad manners, bad grades and now drugs.

She says I don’t need to worry and they are not my problem. I know there has been domestic violence with three out of the four children (they attacked her). I want to save her, but she continues to tell me she doesn’t need to be saved.

If you love the person you are with but can’t stand her children, can this relationship survive?

-Dave (New York)

Dr. Wendy Walsh’s Answer:

Dear Dave,

I don’t know how to break this to you, but these children are products of her. While we all come into the world with a biological disposition, good parenting can train some of the negative traits away.

It sounds like she doesn’t know how to put up healthy boundaries and she hasn’t followed mommy rule number one: Do your job well so you can work yourself out of a job.

So now you’d like to exchange care with her? Remember, a relationship is an exchange of care. And if there’s violence, it sounds like this family system is not one you should tangle with.

I’d take her advice. Don’t try to save her.

Your choices are: Have a compartmentalized relationship where you have dinner and sex from time to time. Or merge your lives and tell her you’ll be willing to do that when she shows she can have boundaries with her adult children.

No counseling or psychotherapy advice: The Site does not provide psychotherapy advice. The Site is intended only for use by consumers in search of general information of interest pertaining to problems people may face as individuals and in relationships and related topics. Content is not intended to replace or serve as substitute for professional consultation or service. Contained observations and opinions should not be misconstrued as specific counseling advice.