Day 19 – Believe the Girl… But Not the Son?

My older son–I’ll call him Alejandro, though it isn’t his name–has autism. He has difficulty with social interactions, especially any that go off script. He is disorganized and unmotivated. He finished high school but has never had a job. He can be very loving but also very thoughtless. He has a lot of anxiety and tends to perseverate. And he lies a lot. He started lying as a way to deal with his anxiety; he would tell people what he thought they wanted to hear so no one would be upset with him. This wasn’t always effective since his lies were not necessarily very difficult to see through, but sometimes they worked, at least in the short term. Over time, Alejandro developed the habit of lying to make his life sound more exciting or even when there was no apparent reason. Not surprisingly, this means his stepdad and I don’t trust him very much.

Over the past three years, Alejandro has developed a relationship with a young woman–we’ll call her Jennie–who has had a difficult upbringing, with some physical abuse from a grandparent, some emotional abuse from her dad, and a lifetime of living in pretty extreme poverty. She has not been many places and is afraid of a lot of things–escalators, eating in public, evil spirits. Jennie told my son stories early on of her grandmother dislocating her shoulder, which still gives her problems at time. Not to be outdone, Alejandro told her that my husband got mad at him and smashed his head against the wall. I imagine that he originally told her that as a way to show he understood her situation and could relate. But he’s sticking to that story.

Never mind it isn’t true. Alejandro and my husband do argue a lot, that part is true. It’s painful for me to witness it, because I only experience my husband as patient and understanding, but my son pushes all of his buttons (a big one being he can’t stand when people lie to him). The two of them have yelled at each other before. But my husband would never hit him, I know it. We have lived together for 17 years, and I’ve never seen any hitting or slapping or anything resembling physical violence. Alejandro tells me it happened when I was traveling for work and insists I should believe him. My younger son, Mario, says it’s nonsense and never happened. He is exasperated by his older brother.

Alejandro and Jennie are visiting for a few days (they usually live with her parents). Long story short, today was my first day back at work, and Alejandro had a big blow-up with my husband. Funny thing was, my husband didn’t even realize they’d had a big fight until I got home and showed him the raging texts from my son. He was surprised. He thought he had just asked Alejandro not to take food to the bedroom. Alejandro says he screamed at him and Jennie both and smashed his fist against the wall in a threatening way. He says that he and Jennie are afraid of him. He says if I don’t believe him, well fine, he just won’t come visit anymore.

I don’t believe him. But you know those parents who deny everything when told that their partner abused their child? I feel as though I am doing that. It’s really tearing at my heart. I feel guilty not to believe him, as though I am betraying him. And if I say I don’t believe my son, then I wonder if I should believe the girl? Maybe there’s a genetic mutation in my family that causes us to make things up and then believe them?

10 thoughts on “Day 19 – Believe the Girl… But Not the Son?

  1. Building trust and losing it are very difficult when outside conflict influences judgement. I’ll suggest the obvious; counseling for your family. I do so because it will give you a set of ears and eyes that are trained to help you navigate the conflict(s). If money is an issue, please consider contacting your local Department of Human Services. In times of crisis, a counselor can be of tremendous help. No one is weak for asking for help, actually, it is commendable to seek assistance when we are overwhelmed.

    I can read your post and feel your pain and conflict. You and your family deserve a path to resolution from mistrust and fear. We all do. God bless you. You’re in my thoughts.


    • We used to go to family therapy, but when my son moved in with his girlfriend and her family, he moved to a town five hours away from us. He also stopped taking his meds, which has made it harder to have conversations because his thinking gets more stuck. He also stopped eating healthy and lives mostly on junk food and doesn’t take care of himself (for example, doesn’t brush his teeth or keep himself clean). Generally what I try to do it keep our relationship positive so if at some time he wants a more structured life with some of the supports he’s entitled to (such as Developmental Disability supports), he can turn to me and I can help him get back in place all the things that used to be there. I hope that happens some day.

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  2. Truth lies in the perception of the beholder. Your son may be very sensitive to anything his Dad says, and to him, maybe being told not to take food into the bedroom translated into, “I reject you. I don’t love you. You’re bad. etc…” Adding of a fist hitting a wall, which sounds like it never occurred, is your son’s way of storytelling and does so to get a reaction; sometimes even a negative reaction is better than no reaction. And maybe Dad was a bit more gruff than he relays. So to both, their stories are true.
    Maybe they need to get closer because it sounds like the lying has driven a wedge between them. Maybe your husband has to dig deep and look past the lying as to why he lies. Lying will bring more love from others?
    You seem able to quickly understand and forgive your son’s lying tendencies, and it seems harder for your husband. But maybe he can learn to do that too. What lies beneath the lies? A search for love, acceptance, sympathy, being noticed, etc. ?


    • I agree with you – a lot of his lies are really embellishments of a much smaller event, something that bothered him and that he wants me to think is a big deal. I mostly stopped arguing about the “facts” and try to respond with empathy for what I think he is feeling. My husband can sometimes do that but sometimes he gets impatient and snaps at Alejandro. And that in turn make Ale upset, and he exaggerates or even makes things up, which makes my husband angrier… it can be a bad cycle. If I can get them separated, I can generally talk my husband down. And actually this morning, my son came up and tearfully apologized to my husband, which was very sweet and tender.

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  3. I don’t think any of us here is qualified to give an answer to that , none of us (to my knowledge) know either your partner or your son. Generalities don’t apply here, each case is different. I could give answers, but with so many maybes that WordPress would call me a spammer! What does you heart say? Not in the heat of the moment, not when a fight, an argument, a confrontation with either of them has just occurred. Ask your heart in a calm, quiet moment and go on from there. That’s all I could say, and I offer what I can. I wish you all peace.

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    • Thank you. My heart tells me that my husband doesn’t lie, and my son does. But my son also lies out of emotional needs that he doesn’t know how to meet in other ways.


  4. This sounds like such a tough situation, because you clearly love your son and want him to feel supported, and also know the truth to the situation is not congruent with his story. I think you are doing a good job of honoring your own worries and feelings about the situation, and even perhaps just allowing that space for the difficulty between the two of them to exist. It is hard to watch people we care about have conflict. Sending support.


    • Thank you! Yes, seeing the tension between my husband and my son (his stepson) is very painful for me. Add to that the way I question myself about whether I could have done something different for my son when he was younger that would have made him better able to function independently now, and it can be really sad. Yet as I said to coffeegrounded (above), really all I can do right now is let Alejandro know I love him and will be here still if at some point he is willing to accept more assistance. At that point, my husband and I will need a lot of support to deal with the relationship tension between him and Ale. Anyway, thanks for your kind words.

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      • That realization that sometimes all we can do is let people we love know that we love them, can be profoundly freeing when they make decisions that are hurtful. I am not a parent, but I can only imagine how difficult it is to question choices made in the past. I think you are doing a good job with him and your family, very mindful of all involved, and we can only do our best for any given time. We will fall short, but that is human.

        Liked by 1 person

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