My almost 17-year-old son knows about his father's pornography addiction and he seems to have resentment towards me. He seems to be taking it out on me.
He adores his father. I feel that his father has been very calculated and subtle at trying to destroy my relationship with my son.
I feel much of the way my husband has portrayed things to my son is unfair. I feel that if I tried to help my son understand the other side of things, and what I've been through, I would be resented by him and our relationship would further deteriorate.
You're right, mom, you're completely right about that.
I feel my son is carrying a heavy burden due to the dynamics in our home and what he knows. He's struggling in school. He's always been a straight-A student and he does not care anymore.
Okay, so right there, we've got that critical behavioral change.
He's often unkind to his younger sisters and me. I don't know how to help him, but I know that when my relationship with him was stronger, he was a much happier boy and seemed to thrive. What can I do to rebuild our relationship so he can care about important things again such as his academics and God?
I miss him.
Okay, well, mom, so much in this important question and there's a lot of things that come up. The first is your betrayal trauma. I would say that before we even talk about your sweet son, I would engage support for yourself for your betrayal trauma. There's a lot in this question that sounds like it's going unsaid, but with a pornography addiction, many spouses feel betrayal trauma. I would encourage you to reach out for free support, such as bloomforwomen.com. There are so many women going through this very same thing and community is critical for healing. Getting your own support around that is absolutely important.
Number two is, again, remember what we just said about that boy is half dad and half mom and he knows it. Right now he's idealizing dad and de-valuing mom and that's for a reason, he's over identifying with dad. Anything that you share a negative about dad, he is going to internalize as being about him, even though that's not what you're saying.
We do not want to triangulate our children into our own parental conflict. That is parental territory, not territory for the child. It may be for a time he over identifies with dad and I would say that, if he's a 17 year old boy, chances are very likely that he himself has used or is using pornography. That is the cultural mill that our young adults are growing up in right now. Again, keeping the betrayal piece of that with your safe people, therapist support group, Bloom for Women, those types of resources will be important.
You mentioned that he's been disrespectful to you and to his sisters. That's an area where we want to have loving boundaries. It is not okay for a young man to be disrespectful to mom and to sisters. If dad is not speaking into that, then you as mom can speak into that in a loving, but firm way. "In this family, we do not treat each other with disrespect. If you continue to treat your sisters that way, this week you will do their chores." In other words, have a consequence. One thing that's critical with consequences is that we follow through and not overblow a consequence. We need it to be consistent. We need to follow through, it needs to be manageable and tied to the offense. If he's being unkind or hurtful to the siblings, it's really important that we as parents not allow that to continue.
Again, all the things that we talked about of creating that relationship and being present with, even if in the moment he's orienting more towards dad. Spending time together, entering into his world and really expressing, "son, part of me is really, really sad that we feel more distant and really missing you. Is there anything about that, that you would like to share with me? Is there any way that we could be together that would feel better than how we're doing it right now? Do you have any ideas?"
Again, if we can externalize the distance between us and then, instead of it's me against you. It's now us looking at the distance as a team. Now we've got some attachment going on and we can say, "wow, I'm noticing that there's this distance between us that didn't use to be there and gosh, that distance feels kind of yucky. I'm wondering what we, we're a team, might do differently? It feels yucky for me? Does it feel yucky for you? How do you think we could make that better?"
Even in the engagement around the topic, we're creating some partnerships.