D observed a continued dichotomy in her stepfamily. Her stepchildren, led by her “controlling” stepdaughter, were still divided in their loyalties after their father’s twenty- two year remarriage. D observed that the stepfamily’s dichotomous attitudes had affected the next generation. For example, D recalled her oldest stepdaughter’s remark to D’s husband, “…that none of them like it when I (D) hug them, including the grandchildren.” She also remarked that her stepgrandchildren were sometimes confused about whether to call her “D” or “Grandmom,” and blamed her stepchildren’s negative influence on their children. D felt torn: She wanted consistency, and yet if she instructed all the stepgrandchildren to address her by her first name, this would hurt the stepgrandchildren already accustomed to calling her “Grandmom.” Usually, D’s husband offered her no emotional support, as a father and husband who did not want to be “in the middle.” She was attempting to interpret her stepchildren’s influences as her husband did, as continuing grief over the end of their parents’ marriage.
D withheld information from her husband in order to show favoritism to her two biological grandchildren. D “splurged” on her biological grandchildren’s birthday gifts, spending more money than the designated amount each of their combined thirteen grandchildren was supposed to receive. D did not rationalize withholding her “splurges” from her spouse. Ironically, her self-justified actions supported the dichotomous, (i.e., “your family/my family”) views of the stepfamily that had plagued her for so many years. She could not overcome the dichotomy, so she quietly yielded to it.
L, 43 years old, had been married to 33-year-old T for over two years, after being together for over two years. This was L’s second marriage. They each brought two children to the marriage: L’s were adolescents, one who lived with them part-time and one permanently; T’s children were 8 and 9 years old, lived with their biological mother, and had frequent visitation with their father. They came to L’s home twice per week for supper, as well as on alternate holidays and weekends.
L’s marriage was defined by the rejection she experienced from her stepchildren and her in-laws. Her husband sided with his children in discipline issues, and he maintained a strong sense of loyalty to his family of origin, who rejected her. L and her husband had recurring fights about these problems.
For example, L was excluded from holiday and in-law family events, as she was “no longer welcome” to them. She felt her husband should not go where she was not welcomed. L blamed her unfavorable status with her in-laws on their rejection of her, initially expressed as their support of her husband’s reconciliation with his ex-wife. L explained that this occurred because her mother-in-law “…only wanted T and me together because she thought I could get her the children, and when this did not happen, then she no longer wanted anything to do with me, and then wanted T and his ex back together; then [mother-in-law] started working on the children, having them ask me when
I was going to divorce their dad.” issue in our marriage.”
L summarily stated, “His mother has been a BIG
L’s husband’s expressed helplessness about his choice to attend family gatherings 32