anything anymore.” J attributed the accident itself to stepfamily factors. At the time the accident occurred, this couple was struggling with factors both directly attributable to stepfamily formation as well as those possibly unrelated.
Her husband’s withdrawal behaviors had occurred for so long and to such an extent, that J expressed that he “…refuses to accept any responsibility for any of our problems…” and that she thought she should “…face the music on this marriage and find a way to move on.” J was considering leaving her marriage: “…giving up on my marriage doesn’t seem right but…it takes two and he doesn’t seem to want to be a part of the equation. I hate to join the statistics of stepfamily failures.” She summarized her own sense of hopelessness by stating, “It is hard to talk to someone (spouse) who makes me feel like I am being stupid for trying when it is so hard for me to continue trying to begin with.” She saw little point in gathering the energy to attempt to save her marriage when she expected rejection.
D, 49 years old and her husband, age 55, had been married for twenty-two years, and together for 2 years before that. This was D’s second marriage. Altogether, they had six living children; D’s youngest stepson was listed as “deceased” at an adult age. D and her husband had a daughter together approximately one year after they married, who was D’s second child, her husband’s sixth, and was the youngest child of both families.
D’s marital history was strongly marked by discord related to the efforts of D’s oldest stepdaughter to replace D, or at least to retain her powerful role as the mother figure to her siblings. There was a lengthy coalition between D’s husband and his oldest daughter. The alliance also included her husband’s ex-wife, who had a history of encouraging her children’s dissent. Typically, her husband offered D no overt emotional support, asserting “no opinion” about his children’s behaviors that resulted in excluding his wife.
D threatened divorce near the start of her marriage, resulting from her stepdaughter’s resentment. In D’s words, when the child “…resented me I was not happy with my husband. I wanted out of this marriage with five children that did not belong to me and did not want me around.” This suggests that D blamed her husband for his inability to repair the problem. The solution to holding the marriage together was to send the then-13-year-old to live with friends. This was a short-lived plan, and upon the stepdaughter’s return, the coalition between D’s husband and his daughter continued as before. As the stepdaughter returned, D recalled that her husband talked alone with his “favorite child” in an attempt to resolve the related problems. The oldest stepdaughter remained in their home, and D’s sense of exclusion resumed, as her husband’s lack of overt support continued.
D believed her husband’s support had improved over the past year. She attributed this to a “critical event” in their marriage wherein D’s oldest stepdaughter alienated their youngest daughter from D and their father. The resulting rearrangement placed D and her husband together, and strengthened their couple bond, as they aligned in their marriage against the oldest stepdaughter.