Dear Amy: My husband and I married 16 years ago. He has two sons and I have a son and daughter. We were not the Brady Bunch, but I truly tried.

My stepsons have been involved in narcotics since they were in middle school. Today they are both near 30, on methadone, and have been able to work and live on their own with my husband's financial help. We have had many upheavals in our lives centered around their addictions and behavior.

My husband loves to have the family together for meals, birthday celebrations, etc. This is fine. I understand. However, the burden of shopping and preparing these meals falls to me.

My husband wants everything ready to slide onto the table the minute they walk in the door because he knows they only stay for a very short time.

Yet even with advance planning, they are consistently late by two or three hours.

I get up early to start working on the meal, only to try to save and salvage it until they walk in the door. I've suggested to my husband that he cook or order in food, but he says they need a wholesome, home-cooked meal. And he makes excuses for their lateness. It's not like these meals are a surprise. They agree to be there at a particular time, and they are always late.

I guess I should be happy that they eventually do show up, because they used to not show at all.

How do I get my husband to call his sons on this behavior?

Amy says: Your husband is accepting what he can get from his sons. They show up at all because they feel obligated to their father and you, and they eat and run because being home fills them with tension, sadness and guilt because of all they've been through, and all they've put you through.

I can understand why your husband doesn't confront them about their lateness. He wants to establish "home" as a place where they aren't judged, criticized or stigmatized. He's going for "normalcy," but the entire situation is very loaded.

I think you have two choices: You can commit to this experience, and decide that this is a beautiful way that you specifically can show your love and compassion toward these men. Release your anger elsewhere, anticipate their lateness, and make food that is easily served room-temperature (or easily reheated).

You can go on strike. Tell your husband, "This has become a very tough situation for me. When it comes to these visits, you are very tense and demanding. The next time we plan a meal with our sons, you are going to have to handle it. I'll help out, but you need to be in charge of the food."

You and your husband should commit to counseling, and/or a "friends and family" support group.

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