Relationship Connection: My 40 year-old son has failed to re-launch

Get out of our house | Image composite by Brett Barrett, St. George News
Get out of our house | Image composite by Brett Barrett, St. George News


For financial reasons, my adult son has moved back in. He has a job and is saving up for a place of his own, but it could be a while. The problem is he has reverted to being a teenager (he’s almost 40). He doesn’t help around the house, he plays video games all the time, makes huge messes and is fairly disrespectful to me and my husband. He does help a little with food and utilities, but he is driving us crazy.


Teenagers can be tough for parents, but most parents have a light at the end of the tunnel when they plan for them to leave after high school to go to college, find work, and so on. However, in your case, there is no foreseeable light at the end of the tunnel when you’ve got an adult child living at home with no exit strategy. Let’s talk about what you can do.

First, it’s one thing to have a teenager at home who is learning independence. We often give them breaks, such as free housing and food, while they learn how to be independent in other areas of their life. However, with your adult son, those lessons should have been learned long before now and need to be preserved if he’s going to ever have a chance at successfully re-launching from your home.

Consequently, I recommend structuring your arrangement with him so that he can preserve some self-respect and you can preserve your sanity. For example, I think it’s a good idea to charge him rent, utilities, food, and other expenses that are part of maintaining a household. While you may not charge the full amount, it needs to be enough to send the message that he’s not being sheltered from the real world. Perhaps if he felt the weight of providing for himself, he would spend less time playing video games and work a second or third job to cover his expenses.

I also think it’s a good idea to set up an exit plan with realistic time lines for when he can be out on his own. He is a 40-year-old man and, unless he has serious physical or mental disabilities, should be able to and fully expect to be on his own. This date must be firm. If you’ve been soft on previous deadlines, then acknowledge that reality and do everything you can to be consistent in following through on your newly-set boundaries.

If you set up the rental agreement with him, the respect will more than likely take care of itself. In other words, if he has to pay his way while living at your home, chances are he’ll snap out of his entitled and self-centered universe and realize that he needs to take care of himself and his environment.

If he won’t do his part by paying, then you can certainly continue to nag him like a child, or you can invite him to be an adult as he looks for another place to live.

Stay connected!


Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Copyright St. George News, Inc., 2012, all rights reserved

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1 Comment

  • Mary November 20, 2012 at 11:59 am

    I suggest you figure out how much per month it’s costing you for him to live with you, then give him that much money toward his own place to live and move him out NOW. You can write up an agreement/contract to give him X amount of money for, say, 6 months, then decrease the amount for another 6 months and then stop funding his video game lifestyle. He will NEVER act like an adult until you get him away from his parents. Kids don’t even think about taking advantage of you because you have always been there, are there for him now, and will always be there. Therefore, it’s up to you to be the adult in the relationship and get him out on his own NOW. He has demonstrated to you what he thinks of you and himself, and actions speak louder than words.

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