Straight Talk Advice

Jan 29, 2013

In love with troubled stepbrother. Now what?

Dear Straight Talk: My stepfather has a son a year older than me who didn’t live with us because my stepdad didn’t have custody. Since we weren’t blood related, I had a crush on “Unknown.” I didn’t hear much about him for a few years, then sophomore year, "Unknown" was getting out of a troubled-teen boot camp and none of his family wanted him. My mom and stepdad took him in. Well, we had sex and I fell in love with him. Then we had a pregnancy scare and were going to run away. I don’t know what happened to me. I changed. My family found out and sent "Unknown" to foster care, but he kept running away from his foster home to see me, so the cops locked him in juvie. I know it’s not incest, but I let him go. Then we started writing letters and my feelings are back. He gets out in February. I love him but I don’t want my family to disown me. Help! — Arianna, Fresno, Calif.

Alex 16, Newton, Mass. Ask me a question

Have your parents forced a therapist on you? If not, find one yourself and see if they’ll pay for sessions. A trained listener can help yield solutions. Part of life is seeking your own help, so don’t wait.

Brandon 21, Mapleton, Maine Ask me a question

I have no problem that he’s your stepbrother. There's no blood relation or illegality there. I am worried, however, that having pregnancy scares with a boy in and out of boot camp and juvie practically guarantees you'll be a single mother — not by his not caring, but because he can't stay out of trouble. You’ll join the ranks of other girls living on a fixed state income, shopping at the thrift store.

Come on, Arianna, you can write fluently, you’re smart. Why do you enjoy this “bad boy”? If he’d gotten out of boot camp and changed, I’d say, “Okay, maybe,” but that didn’t happened. I'm not trying to be a jerk, but I've seen smart girls suckered into bad situations. I hope you realistically weigh your options and choose a man who will make your future great.

Justin 25, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

Matters of the heart often lead to poor decisions — at least for me. Despite your feelings, this isn’t the start of a healthy relationship. There are literally millions of other guys out there. Let this one go. I know it’s hard, but you must get over him. There hasn't been a single relationship I know of that started off with this much drama and was successful.

Dear Arianna: The panel isn’t mincing words. My heart goes out to you and your stepbrother both. You say you “changed” and “don’t know what happened” to you. What happened was you lost yourself overnight by having sex too young. Sexual attraction can be highly addictive and stopping can feel like a drug withdrawal — which is why sex is not for the young or emotionally immature.

The root cause of “Unknown” ending up in correctional facilities is emotional trauma and lack of love suffered as a child. Sad as this is, you cannot be his savior. You need all your resources just to save yourself. Be smart! I urge you to get a free confidential IUD at a Planned Parenthood or county health department. That way, if you fall for this attraction again, you at least don’t make a baby. A child born now will just experience the same traumatic pattern in life he did — and very likely will get you disowned. Also, please realize that you could put “Unknown” into jail if you have sex and he’s over 18. For his sake, let him go! I know you have the strength or you wouldn't have written.

Editor's Note: That Arianna refers to her stepbrother as “Unknown” speaks volumes. Let’s look at what we know about “Unknown.” He was separated from his bio father (who lacked custody) (and we have to wonder what that stemmed from), then his bio mother sends him to boot camp (a last resort for most parents, so we have to figure he’s into trouble, which means that he suffers emotionally or he wouldn’t be acting out). Then, nobody in bio mother’s camp wants him back when that’s over. So he’s shuttled off to Dad, who he hardly knows. Once there, this boy, obviously desperate for love (“to be loved is to be known”), finds it, albeit inappropriately, only to be punished with the ultimate banishment of being placed into a foster home — not because his original tribe is deemed incompetent, but because they don’t want him. Well, except for one person, who does know and want him: Arianna. Desperate to return to the only love he has ever known, “Unknown” runs toward that. For that “crime,” he is locked behind bars. We know he is close to 18, so upon release from juvie, even the smallest infraction, including seeking someone who loves him, will land him in jail.

We can further assume that his education, emotional development, and ability to learn has been severely stunted from all this trauma and he likely is nowhere near a high school diploma. After release, his ability to find a job to support himself with nowhere to live or family to help out, is low. Prison looms.

This is a typical biography of our incarcerated. This same genetic boy, born into different circumstances, would be on his school’s sport team looking at colleges right now.

They say that all a child needs to be successful is one unconditionally loving parent figure. Nothing: parental divorces, addictions, poverty, multiple moves, holds a candle to this. Unfortunately “Unknown” lacked this ingredient — through no fault of his own.

At this point in our narrative, let’s talk about ACE scores. “ACE” stands for “adverse childhood experience” and a person’s ACE “score” is their score on a series of 10 questions used to assess childhood trauma. The higher the ACE score, the more likelihood of depression, violence, drug and alcohol addiction, inappropriate sex, suicide and other social emotional problems — and chronic health problems later in life. I invite you to take the 5-minute ACE test and see how your own childhood traumas have affected you. I then invite you to consider how every kid in juvenile hall and many in the foster care system could benefit from having that one unconditionally-loving adult in their life. Could that person be you? It’s never too late for these kids — for them, it does take a village. —Lauren

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  1. By Brie, age , from San Francisco, CA on 01/29/2013

    Since you aren’t blood related I don’t see the problem, especially since you didn’t grow up together. However, I would wait until you’re both over 18 to move forward with your relationship. If your love is strong and you guys are meant to be, waiting won’t be a problem.

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  2. By M.C., age , from Toledo, OH on 01/29/2013

    My sister and I have a stepbrother who is really “hot” if you know what I mean.  He doesn’t live with us, but comes here every other weekend on visitations.  He isn’t someone who has been in trouble like “Unknown.”  My sister and I were both very attracted to him.  I didn’t act on my feelings, but one Saturday our parents were gone for the day and I came home early from my part-time job because things were slow and they didn’t need me and found them in our room, both nude and my sister performing oral sex on him.  He wasn’t even phased by it.  He just grinned at me.  He was wearing a condum, so my sister later told me that she doesn’t see any harm since she can’t get pregnant or get any kind of disease this way.  She says she’s been doing this to prove her love to him and feels that she’s still a virgin since it’s just oral sex.  We don’t tell on each other to our parents and she doesn’t tell on me when she could get me in trouble, so I’m not going to tell our parents.  However, I’m concerned for my sister and think he’s taking advantage of her if he’s asking her to prove her love this way.  Even though it’s technically not incenst, I still think it’s wrong for a stepbrother to take advantage of a stepsister this way, but my sister won’t listen when I try to tell her this.


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  3. By Lisa C., age , from Carmichael, CA on 01/29/2013

    My older sister fell for a guy like much like “Unknown,”  although he wasn’t a stepbrother.  Everyone else could see that he was a real loser.  I mean it’s not that difficult to see it when someone’s an unemployed, drug using high school dropout who has been in and out of jail, but she somehow thought he was the greatest.  It ruined her life.  When she got pregnant he left her and she was so devestated that I thought she might try to kill herself.  She wouldn’t get an abortion, so now her college plans are ruined even though she was an excellent student.  I’m stuck sharing our room with both her and her baby because our parents don’t have the heart to kick her out which I would do if it were up to me.  I will never make such a mistake.  Any girl should run away as fast as she can from this type of guy, stepbrother or not.

    Lisa C.

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  4. By Sorry Stepsister, age , from Folsom, CA on 01/31/2013

    I had sex with my stepbrother and it turned out to be a huge mistake. We’re about the same age and had become good friends, but it was like a brother and sister in the beginning.  One night when we were at home alone without planning it, we eneded up having sex.  We used protection, so I didn’t see a problem at the time.  However, afterwards we both felt very ashamed and could hardly look at each other the rest of the weekend.  Now we do our best to avoid each other when he’s here.  Even though it technically wasn’t incest, it sure feels like it.  A nice friendship is gone and he no longer feels like a brother like he did before.  My sister keeps asking me why I stay in our room with the door closed so much of the time when he’s here, and I have to keep making excuses.  I wish like anything that this had never happened.

    Sorry Stepsister

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