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Parenting Stepchildren/RE: Step Children Ruining My Marriage


Dear Peter:

I've written to you before concerning problems with my husband's adult children and his obligation to put their needs before our marriage, mainly his youngest daughter. It has gotten so bad lately that my husband and I walk around the house barely speaking. Our Thanksgiving Holiday was ruined and now my husband blames me and says he wants a divorce. Here's what happened. His son came home to visit with his 2-year old son. They had planned to stay at our house, which I had no problem with. I told my husband he could handle everything and that I would stay out of it. Well when I arrived home from work 2-days before Thanksgiving I was met at the door with two screaming 2-year olds. They had literally torn the house apart while my husband sat in the office with his daughter and son giving these toddler full run of the house. I mustered all the niceness I could and greeted the children with a smile and a hug. I spoke to his son who was standing in the office where my husband and his daughter also were. Well my stepson was the only one who spoke. My husband continued working on a picture of his daughter and her ex-boyfriend and never acknowledged that I had entered the house. As I walked through the foyer into the living area there was stuff everywhere. I couldn't believe my husband had let this go on. But I said nothing and just went straight to our room for about 10-minutes to wind down and regroup. When I came out I went into the office where my husband was and greeted him with a kiss. In the meantime his daughter had walked by me several times and never spoke on either occasion. I told my husband this when we were alone in the office and expressed my feelings that I didn't think it was right that his daughter intentionally ignored me and never acknowledged that I was in the house. He said it was nothing and that I should just go upstairs and speak to her. Mind you I had made several attempts to contact her via phone/text weeks before and she never responded. In any event, I told him she should be more respectful and considerate of the fact that this was my home. Long story short, he did nothing. The children continued to scream and tear the house apart and he and I sat there like two zombies and watched. I was so aggravated that I couldn't stop shaking. To make matters worse, his children invited another friend over with her toddler, so now we have three. After several hours of being overlooked and nerves shattered they left. Despite my state of mind and body, I immediately went into being a good hostess to my stepson and his son. I brought them fresh towels, and toiletries, linen, etc. We talked about his relationship with his son and what a good dad he was. When I joined my husband downstairs I didn't mention anything more about the rudeness his daughter displayed. The next day I was so overwrought with emotions that I couldn't breath. I started to experience chest pains and couldn't stop shaking. Frightened by all this, I called my Dr. who said I should get to the emergency room. They ran an EKG and took blood and started an IV. My blood pressure was up but not to the point of life threatening. Long story short, I was so overwhelmed with the events of the night before that I had suffered a Panic Attack. The Doctor gave me something to calm my nerves and said I should stay some place where I could rest. Naturally I didn't want to do this as my husband would accuse me of not wanting to deal with his adult children and their children. I went home that night and it was quiet because everyone was out. This lasted about 30-minutes before the same crowd came home for another round. The minute the children hit the door I could hear screaming and yelling. My body immediately tensed and I felt a pain down the back of my neck that stretched all the way to my legs. I started to pray for strength to get through another night of this torture, that's when I heard my stepdaughter's voice coming through the door. At first I just lay there in disbelief that she would even come back and that her father, my husband, would allow it after how she had treated me the night before. I felt my heart racing and my head start to swim. Now keep in mind the doctor had told my husband that I needed rest, but this was of no concern to him. I finally got up and went into the living area and spoke to everyone. The stepdaughter mumbled and never even looked up at me. I can't express how humiliating this felt, especially after the previous night. So I said to her that she needed to refrain from displaying this type of attitude with me in my home and if she couldn't respect me that she should leave. She immediately looked at my husband and started ranting and raving that she didn't have an attitude. I again reminded her of her behavior the night before and that's when she started saying I wanted to keep her father away from them and she didn't think she should have to consider me when trying to unload her 2-year old in our care while she resumes a carefree life. I reminded her that having a child was her decision and it was also her responsibility to care for. The problem came about when she asked her Dad to keep her 2-year old daughter overnight the previous Saturday and I said we had church on Sunday but we would keep her for a couple of hours if she had something pressing to do. This of course was not the answer she wanted so she began to ignore any further calls/messages from me. Oh, my husband got mad at me 2 for not agreeing to an overnight stay and didn't speak to me for 1-week. Well the argument got really heated and I demanded she leave our house. My husband took her side and again hasn't spoken to me since last Tuesday. Now he's talking about leaving and filing for a divorce because I stood up to his disrespectful daughter, when in fact he should have stood up for me when she failed to acknowledge me. He blames me for ruining the Thanksgiving Holiday and doesn't want to celebrate the Christmas Holiday either. I feel crushed and betrayed by my husband and humiliated by his daughter because he allowed all this to happen. I don't know where the state of my marriage but each time we speak it's like he's distant and cold. I love him so much but his daughter demands anything of him and he complies even though I've told him he's not being fair to me or our marriage. He even said we should drop our plans to baby sit for his daughter anytime she calls. I couldn't believe my ears and I know I can't live like that. How do I save my marriage and get my husband to see his daughter is trying to break us up. I love him dearly and want to spend the rest of my life with him, but at this rate I'm lucky if we're together next week. I can't eat or sleep just worrying about it. Please help me.

Frustrated and in Love

Hello Jacquiline - Your upset and question suggest to me you have not yet read the articles I referred you to before. I suspect you have 3 major concurrent problems: (1) each of you adults has inherited psychological wounds, and you don't know what that means or what to do about it; [2] you two aren't able to do win-win problem-solving as true partners; and [3] you both are probably unaware of some basic stepfamily realities.

Please study and discuss the articles I referred you to before. You can solve these problems if you work on lessons 1, 2, and 7 in my nonprofit Web site together:

Compassionately, Pete

Parenting Stepchildren

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Peter Gerlach, MSW


I can answer questions about remarriage preparation, stepparenting, stepchild discipline, child visitation, grieving, stepfamily norms and myths, mission statements, stepparent job (role)descriptions, communication skills, loyalty and values conflicts, stepfamily identity problems, common pitfalls, ex mate and relative problems, stepfamily merger and adjustment tasks, name confusions, choosing an effective counselor, resolving money disputes, co-parenting support groups, and the family effects of court (legal) battles. I can`t answer questions about medicine, family law, legal stepchild adoption, or financial planning.


I have studied and worked with stepfamilies clinically since 1979, and I have been a "step everything" personally. I was invited to be on the board of the Stepfamily Association of America (SAA) by it's founders, Drs. John and Emily Visher; and later was re-invited by president Margory Engle, PhD. For more detail, see this.

Former Board member, Stepfamily Association of America (SAA)
National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC)Experts Council

Hundreds of Web articles on ; I've uploaded over 150 self-improvement videos on YouTube; and have self-published 6 books. My ad-free Web site offers a unique, practical 7-lesson self-improvement course.

Stanford University BSME (1958) George Williams College MSW (1981) Hundreds of post-graduate seminars on a wide variety of "mental health" subjects

Awards and Honors
Hundreds of appreciative emails and comments on my Web site and videos from people all over the world.

Past/Present Clients
I have worked clinically with over 1,000 midwestern divorced and remarried family members, and have had over 800 stepfamily students in various seminars and courses since 1981

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