Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Step parent and expectations questions. Please respond


My step-son has been recently diagnosed. I’m wondering what is acceptable in my expectations. Here is the scenario, my stepson, 22, had 2 girls and a boy sleepover last night in his bedroom. The 2 girls were not his girlfriend either. It is unreasonable of me to expect my wife not to allow this sort of behavior? She seems to write off everything to his illness. He can’t handle doing the dishes, because of his illness, but he is perfectly fine driving anywhere and everywhere. Please someone, let me know if this is ok or if not, should I just get out now?


I would say you need to have a long conversation with your wife, and then a joint conversation with yourself, your wife, and your stepson.

When I was experiencing episodes prior to being diagnosed I couldn’t handle doing small tasks because I was so caught up in my own world. And then after I was diagnosed came the epic journey of finding a medication regiment that did not make me feel like a zombie, so I wasn’t able to do small tasks then either.

Socializing isn’t something I did when I was really ill because people didn’t want to be anywhere around me, and also, I’m generally not a social person, so I don’t know if that’s normal for him to do. Or healthy for him to do. At 22 it seems a little strange to have sleepovers. I’m 23 and my parents wouldn’t let me have people, male or female, stay over anymore because there is too much trouble that other people could get me into (drugs, alcohol, sex).

What does your wife have to say about this? Did your stepson ask permission for these people to stay in the house? If you’re uncomfortable with it, it’s your house too and you have every right to tell him not to do that anymore. Just because he has a mental illness such as this does not mean that all of his behaviors should be excused.


Thanks for the quick response.
The problem is that with his new diagnosis he brings over so many people now. All hours of the night and many people even my wife doesn’t know. As for the drugs alcohol and sex. California has the medical marijuana and she got him a card. He often asks for it while his friends are here and the wife seems to think his friends don’t know where he is getting it. She won’t tell me how much she spends on it either as it is his prescription and he needs it. I’m ok with him needing it, but i don’t wan to be known as the place to get weed. I married my wife 4 years ago and now am on the mortgage, but I don’t feel safe in my own house. If I bring it up to my wife, she gets upset because, “he has an illness”. Please don’t think my callous, I was a nurse, in the military for 10 years, so I have compassion. I just don’t believe that he should get a, what seems to me, a free pass. If I am wrong please let me know, or if somewhat justified in my feelings please tell me. I am at wit’s end, trying to figure if I should stay. Thanks again.


Does he still experience symptoms? Is he taking medication?


Still experiencing symptoms. He takes his medication infrequently and only if given his THC meds with them, if not, they sit, for who knows how long.


I think you’re justified in your frustration. But if he is cognitively aware enough to go out and get high with his buddies, he can probably be persuaded to take his regular meds. It’s important to get him on a schedule so he doesn’t miss a dose. Infrequently taking them won’t do anything.


Unfortunately, I’m not included in ant of the conversations. My wife says I was mean to her and I don’t fully understand his condition. She is a Psychologist, so she know better? She won’t have him do anything for himself. She cooks for him, cleans his room and bathroom. When I bring up how he can drive and how that takes a lot more reasoning skills than taking out the trash, I’m the bad guy. She just cleaned out his truck. There were so many red Solo cups, he could have played beer pong in the bed of the truck.
I do very much love my wife, but can’t handle how she deals with this. I try to be supportive. I don’t think she will change how she deals with him and as much as I hate to say it, get the heck out. She does rely on my wages to cover the bills. I don’t believe she can take care of them, but when she is upset with me, she says don’t worry about it.


Maybe you should try family therapy. It seems like your concerns are not being dealt with properly. If one person feels like something is wrong in a relationship, then something is wrong. Her being a psychologist doesn’t make her right. Suggest family therapy under the guise of, “I want to learn how to best deal with our son’s illness.” You should feel like that anyway, but it might take some time for you to bond with him and to feel like he is your son too. It is hard to bond with people who have this illness. I hope you get help and get to that point.

I am lucky. I wasn’t bad off when my dad remarried. I got close with my step mom and I’m seen as one of her kids too. Schizophrenia got in the way of me maintaining relationships, because I was paranoid all the time.


This is a tough one… Even with healthy children, the parents have to be on the same page as far as expectations and consequences.

So not being able to be on the same page with a child, (used purely in the sense that this person is a son)

I can imagine your home is very off center. I hope you and your wife can sit down and come up with a united front when dealing with this disease and how to handle the behavior.

When in psychosis, my parents knew I didn’t have it in me to manage self care, or chores. But when I was doing better, there were expectations.


When my son first came back to live with me and his step-dad 15 months ago, things got bad on occasion. It put a huge strain on mine and my husband’s relationship. Somehow we made it though but he ended up on Ciprelax for anxiety.

It was pretty eye opening for me when I watched my son do dishes at his friend’s place for a couple of cigarettes when he wouldn’t lift a finger to do anything at home when I was supporting him. I stopped doing certain things for him like making coffee etc as I knew that he was capable. Still in 15 months he has never helped me do dishes or housework. It was a struggle getting him to even pick up after himself. He would do laundry when out of clean cloths or sometimes help me tidy his room or make his bed. I had to go with him to get blood work done etc yet he had no problem going on his own to the beer store.

I can certainly see how all this was upsetting to my husband as he was/is the main financial support for the family yet he had no say in what was going on. From his point of view it’s hand over your money but keep quiet… I have come close to getting us into counselling to deal with everything. The Ciprelax helped :wink: but still I try my best to make our relationship a priority because without his emotional and financial support I would not have been able to make the choice to stay home to try to help my son. My husband deserves that.

My husband and I still butt heads over my son as he doesn’t understand or have the same empathy however there still has to be some sort of boundaries on how far I will let my son go. I refuse to let my son talk to my husband in certain ways. For the most part my husband tries to stay out of it but I have to recognize that he is part of this family and this is his home too so he does have rights.

As for your wife… She is reacting as mom not as a psychologist…

It’s up to you if you are willing to continue in the relationship as it is.


This is my opinion on your situation. You 3 need to see a family therapist who will guide you all in the right direction. We saw a Family therapist for a long time but my son didn’t like her so We don’t see her anymore. I wish We did. She was very appropriate, never took sides but at the same time gave us advice. I would write down issues and We would talk about them . As far as illness, my son is not able to do any chores. We have a cleaning lady and I am home, but he does do laundry and takes care of personal hygiene and I am happy with that . Also since he is in college, he lives with us and plans to move out as soon as he is done. One day at a time, but like someone said you need to talk to your wife and then the 3 of you should discuss issues. Sleep over with 3 other adults? I don’t think so. They should just hang out and leave after 2 or 3 hours. Hope this helps. Good luck!


I am looking at this from the other side of the equation. My son, after an unsettled adolescence, was diagnosed in his late teens. I married my husband before my son was diagnosed, and before diagnosis my son was at times aggressive toward me. My husband felt unable to have much influence as my ex-husband was still very controlling and would reject my husband’s efforts, and now my husband wants little to do with my son. It is difficult on me, as I sometimes feel I am living 2 separate lives.

So, I applaud your concern as a step parent. Your wife, as someone else said, is reacting as a mother, not as a psychologist. It is very difficult to come to terms with this diagnosis. But… I have always said… it may be an explanation for behavior, but not an excuse. I agree that it might be best, if able, to go for some family counseling. If only I were so lucky to be able to get that to happen in my life! It sounds like there are some basic standards that you and your wife do not agree on, regardless of a diagnosis.

Good luck to you. Please remember, that it is very likely that your wife is grieving for what could be lost for her son, and try to continue to give emotional support.


Thanks for everyones replies. We have tried counseling, funny she is a couples therapist. She doesn’t want to go to anyone as they couldn’t possibly be a better therapist than her. She says I’m abusive and that I say mean things. I might, but after years of not being heard, she heard the mean things.

I’ve even showed her some of your responses and she still denies that she doesn’t hear my concerns.

Thanks again, I wish all of you the best.


I would like to add - your wife seems off-base providing marijuana to someone diagnosed with schizophrenia. In most cases, drug use worsens the problems of schizophrenia.

I suggest that at least you educate yourself about the illness and surrounding issues, and draw your boundaries. You have a right to feel safe in your house. I may not be happy with how my husband relates (or doesn’t relate) to my son, but I respect his rights, and expect my son to do the same.


SZ is not an excuse to do drugs, or disrespect other people and their boundaries.


Sounds to me like your wife doesnt want her kid to suffer which could be a good thing. The aspect of house work I can agree it can be hard with mental blocks that schizophrenia can cause to do house work. Ive been in bed for three weeks with no shower, and regardless of the pressure the only place i can avoid mental pain is in bed, other wise my stress levels rise and i suffer a lot. i need to get out of bed, and im going to practice it for instance, but doesnt mean its as easy as it is for you to get out of bed.

this is probably what you dont understand about the illness is the absence of any joy especially with meds you got to take, he is truly suffering here. imagine taking three benedryl and trying to clean a house, its just not as easy as it sounds to say just clean it. perspective is hard for mental illness.

with him leaving the house to do what he wants you have to understand that these are the little things someone battling with their own mind has to do to get even a little enjoyment in life. most of these meds kill joy, literally cause 10% brain damage to the brain and hormonal issues as well. please dont look at him as having a free for all as much as trying to seek what little joy he can in life by doing this. these meds are not like advil, everyday we are aware of a poisonous feeling in our brain that sedates us and turns us into zombies

i agree with the marijuana thing, theres no excuse there except this. your wife would probably prefer him smoke pot legally if hes going to smoke it at all. its possible she doesnt agree with it either, but what else are you going to do if he smokes it either way. he probably doesnt need the pot, and is just trying to use it because his minds depressed. schizophrenia can be exacerbated by pot. he should not be smoking pot.

if he is going to continue smoking pot, it might as well be legal pot is probably your wifes thinking, its a bad sorta selfish decision on his part to smoke pot in the house when it makes you uncomfortable. this is where she needs to empathize.

all in all it sounds like hes trying to minimize his suffering through drugs and friends which the latter is a good thing kinda, he needs to understand you though too. dont be aggressive with it, because its true that its hard to empathize with the struggle hes enduring like every minute of the day against his brain and the meds. dishes and stuff might even be mentally painful for him to do like they are for me because of poor concentration due to meds or negative symptoms. when i go to do the dishes i get this sad negative feeling because im reminded how i cant concentrate and it makes me depressed, i still struggle through them because i live for free, but understand its not like “oh dishes suck” its like “wow, this makes me want to cry what happened to my MIND that i had before, my beautiful mind that did things and had goals.”

anyway pot your justified in. she also shouldnt just discount you by saying you dont understand, she should also try to understand you. just keep in mind though it might not be laziness or inconsideration, our minds are literally brain damaged as harsh as that sounds either with the pills or without, there are things about my condition i cant even describe using simple terms like"hearing voices" or “seeing things” because there is chaos at the subconcious level too, stuff were not aware of that make simple tasks like dishes mentslly frustrating. again doesnt mean he shouldnt do them, but expecting it everyday to be done or giving an unorganized brain an organized list of things to do might be adding too much stress to someone thats already got 10 times more stress than you

now about whether or not you should leave, i guess technically if you cant handle the situation maybe that is the better scenario for your mental health doesnt sound like either of you are in the wrong other than the pot situation, but if your goal was to understand his behavior then what i wrote should help.


Honestly, compared to some of the stories of other family members from this forum I’d say you really haven’t experienced anything yet. If you’re already questioning whether to stay or leave then the right answer is to probably leave. It will get worse before it gets better.


Thanks for explaining how hard it is at times to do housework and how it may makes a person with sz feel while trying to do these task. I always gave my son the option like if you feel like it today can you please clean your room /take out trash or sometimes I would say he needed to shower and put clean clothes on sometime today …I did not give him chores or task everyday…I did not understand this when he first got diagnosed and went off meds for 7-8 months and would not take showers at all and make a big mess in the kitchen… I would get so frustrated ! I just had a phone conversation with my son yesterday and told him that I’m sorry for getting so mad at him when he was living here w/ no meds and would make a mess. We were having a conversation about him being in a long term care and volunteering… he said he worked and volunteered for a few days but it is very hard for him to do it everyday. Also discussed about him building his own computer the last time he was living here and how hard it was just doing 1 simple thing and he would get so tired he said he would have to rest and take a nap and work on it the next day or later that evening.


please continue to give him love. youd be surprised the parts of the brain we struggle to use on these meds. i developed tarditive dyskinesia from the meds myself, and i try so hard to get that first wind to be able to get out of bed. these meds literally cause brain shrinkage and damage. think cutting 10% of your someones brain literally out of their body at random. not everyones as bad, but its a struggle