Here's my story. I have been married for 2.5 years, and a significant part of DH's life for 6 years. We have 1.5 year old twins. DH is 11 years older than I, and he started early. He married the woman who he got pregnant because it was the right thing to do. They then had more kids because "having a more complete family" would fix an unhappy marriage. His kids are now 20, 18, and 15. I joined the picture too late to really take on a "parent" role.
The 18 year old (DSS) has always lived with DH because he has behavior issues that the mother did not want to deal with. The 20 year old (DSD) moved in with us when she was 16 because she wanted to live in a more stable household. She is now in college on the other side of the country. The youngest one still lives with their mother.
DSD and I do not have a mother/daughter relationship. We have a friend/friend relationship which is fine. She asks for advice here and there, and I help her out with little issues (and of course, I provide lots of $$!).
The problem is with DSS (actually, I suspect the real problem is DH). DSS and I don't exactly not get along, we basically ignore each other. I drive him to karate classes when DH is not home. We eat dinner together most nights. He has himself a "man-cave" in the basement. Until a few months ago, I would make a point of trying to include him in conversation at dinner. I would ask questions about school, friends, etc. It was never smooth, easy conversation, but it was something. But one night he was quite nasty (not uncommon, but usually we all just move on and start over the next day). He insisted that he does not want me to be interested in him or ask him any questions. So, for almost two months, I have avoided negative responses by simply not asking questions and not supplying input regarding anything pertaining to hiim. And he has never said anything to me without me saying something first, so we just don't talk beyond a basic "hi". I suppose that this is childish of me. I should just do as before and start over as if nothing happened. But I think something snapped inside me.
DH is frustrated (he always has been). He wishes I would play more of a parent role. (Here is where I think DH may be the problem.) On the other hand, he repeatedly insists that I am critical, judgemental, negative, etc. and that DSS is too fragile to deal with the real me. So, I have intentionally not stepped into a parent role. I'm not sure how to explain some of the weirdness of the situation, so let me try some examples. (By the way, I have never heard from anyone else that I am critical, judgemental, etc. And I don't hear it from DH unless we are discussing his kids.)
In the past, I have asked DSS questions like "How was school today?" DH later explains that when a question like this comes from me, it sounds condescending because we all know that my standards are high while at the same time we all know that DSS hates school. I find myself wondering if I am crazy. Maybe I have missed something about general perspectives on the world and the way it works? Then I wonder if DH is crazy. Maybe since he also has high standards, he feels guilty for DSS not living up to them?
Over the weekend, DSS had some friends over. I was smelling cigarette smoke all over the house. I jumped to the conclusion that it was the teenage boys smoking. DH was really mad at my assumption, declaring that I had no evidence. The next day, I discovered evidence and asked DH to talk to DSS. DH suggested that I be the one to talk to him. I said I would. He then insisted that I could not because I would come across as too critical and condescending. And he was really mad at me again. Some sort of guilty defense, perhaps?
DH has told me that I should learn something about things that DSS is interested in and try talking about them. I have asked him for suggestion on what DSS is interested in. I have also asked DSS what he is interested in. It seems that he is interested in video games, skateboarding, and paintball. I have little hope of becoming versed enough in any of these things to have a conversation. I could ask him to teach me, but he would see through that one.
It seems that DH is of no help to me in this situation. He seems unable to have a reasonable discussion if it involves his older children. He is so quick to become strangely defensive. So I am turning to you folks for suggestions. I have no intention of stepping in and trying to be a "mother". I don't even have desires of being "good friend". I would just like to have some sort of relationship (hopefully positive) rather than a lack of any relationship. I don't even know where to start.
Bleah. I'm tired, frustrated, confused, maybe even crazy. I fear that the lack of relationship with DSS is turning into unhappiness between DH and I.
Thanks in advance for any comments and/or suggestions!