Should my stepson be having sleep-overs with his girlfriend?
The following Q&A originally ran in The Huffington Post relationship newsletter:
My 18-year-old stepson frequently comes to our house for the weekend, and his father allows his girlfriend to come spend the night with him. My husband thinks it’s great that his son is having sex, but I keep thinking that the girl is 17, and therefore underage. I’m not sure his mother knows, and it feels like he’s staying here a lot more because his father allows him to bring his girlfriend along. Because it’s my stepson, I don’t feel that I can say anything. Should I? What should I do?
Is your stepson’s girlfriend letting her parents know that she is staying over? Or might they think she is staying at her girlfriend’s house during her sleepovers with your family? Is your stepson using condoms? Is his girlfriend using additional birth control in case the condom breaks? Are you hesitant to speak with your husband? Or your stepson? Or both? Stepparents often tread lightly and worry that their interventions and input may cross a line. But actions that are taking place in your home reflect on you, and you should feel comfortable with activities happening under your roof. I’m convinced there is a productive way to ask some important questions and share your concerns. You have an important role as a stepmother and may be able to help facilitate conversations about sex and relationships that will be therapeutic for everyone.
Read Deborah Roffman’s books “Sex and Sensibility” and “Talk to Me First” for strategies to facilitate open discussions about sex and sexuality with teenagers. “I’d Listen to My Parents if They’d Just Shut Up” by Dr. Anthony Wolf would also be a useful resource to prepare for what may be a series of overdue conversations. You don’t need to read any of these books cover-to-cover to prepare for your approach to a discussion; instead, think of the books as ongoing points of reference. It sounds like it will be important to speak first with your husband and then, together, with your stepson.
It is reasonable (and respectful) to raise concerns about behavior taking place without your stepson’s mother’s knowledge. If it turns out she is unaware that her teenage son is having sex, and you are accommodating your stepson’s sexual relationship behind her back, this secrecy could damage the dynamic between all of you for many years to come. There may be additional background that has informed your husband’s decision to keep her out of the loop, but it is worth gaining personal clarity on this topic. It is also reasonable to ask that you and your husband discuss your stepson’s sleepovers with his girlfriend’s parents. If they are not aware of the sleepovers, this may be quite complicated, but that’s all the more reason that an honest, respectful conversation is long overdue. If your husband has not talked directly with your stepson about his decision to enter a sexual relationship, that conversation is very important. He may prefer that certain facets of the discussion about his sexual activity take place between the two of them, and the books mentioned above can be wonderful resources to prepare for a meaningful conversation.