DEAR ABBY: My husband recently got custody of his 16-year-old son, "Zack," from his first marriage. We have been going to therapy with Zack for some things that happened to him while he was with his mother, and telling him that if he's going to live with us he has to go by our rules.
Zack agreed to this, but since then has stolen from me and lied to my face about doing it -- even after I found the things that he had taken in his room. Zack has also tried to hit me, but when I told my husband, he just said he didn't know what to do. Zack's social worker wants to send him to a treatment center in a nearby state to help him with the problems he's having, but my husband doesn't want him to go.
Abby, I gave my husband a choice: Either Zack goes to the center and gets treatment, or I leave forever, because I'm not going to be treated like this by a 16-year-old.
What should I do? If my husband refuses to send his son, should I leave? Or should I stay and take the chance of being hit the next time I catch Zack doing something?
-- BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE
DEAR BETWEEN: Before you make that decision, please understand that your husband probably feels helpless and guilty about the way his son has turned out, and fears that sending his son away would somehow be letting him down.
Your husband needs to understand that sometimes being a responsible parent means doing something that is painful. In two short years, his son will be 18 and an adult. Adults who steal from others and strike out at them in a physical way usually wind up in prison. The time to get the boy the help he needs -- intensive help -- is NOW.
If you can't get your husband to recognize these hard facts, then you may need the help of a marriage counselor or a clergyperson to do so. If he still refuses after that, then you should pack your bags -- if not forever, until his son is out of the house and on his own. You have my deepest sympathy.