DEAR ABBY: I am living with a man I'll call Steve and his 17-year-old son, "Charles." We plan to marry in four months. I love Steve very much, but I can't handle Charles. I lived with my stepmother from the time I was 11 until I was an adult, and believe me, I know what it's like.
Charles' mother lives nearby. She's a heavy drinker, which is why she can't keep him, and he doesn't want to live with her. At first, everything went fairly well. I tried hard to get along with Charles, but he took advantage of me. I recently put my foot down, and now I'm the "wicked old witch."
Charles dropped out of school, stays out all night, has girlfriends spend the night, and his bedroom is so filthy the door must remain closed because of the smell. He works full time, and I feel that if he's not going to school, then he should pay rent and do his share around the house. That was the rule when I was growing up, and it worked.
Part of my problem is that I can't get his father to enforce any rules; when I try to talk to him, he either says, "Well, Charles is only 17" or, "I don't want to talk about it." It's putting a strain on our relationship.
Abby, I am childless, so maybe I am too strict. I was not raised the way Charles is being raised -- meaning no control at all!
I've loved Steve for six years and I don't want to lose him. Abby, am I being a "wicked witch"? -- TIME BOMB IN MESA, ARIZ.
DEAR TIME BOMB: Charles is screaming for help. His mother is an alcoholic, his father can't control him, and you are without parental experience. What you are attempting to do for Charles is correct -- but he may not appreciate it for years. Go to the library for books on stepparenting and blended families.
Also, make an appointment with a family counselor and insist that Steve and Charles go with you, and don't take "no" for an answer.