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that excluded her. She recalled the first time he left her at home to attend a family celebration: “We had a huge fight, I wanted to go home to mommy. But my mom’s house is too small.” His continued attendance at events that excluded her plagued their relationship.

There also was a permeating sense of distrust of her husband. She described lying and possible manipulation by her spouse, stating, “T lies to keep from hurting me, he says. But lying has made me not trust him.” She clearly recalled the circumstances of his first lie. Before they married, T was considering reconciliation with his ex-wife. L realized this when she discovered that T had lied to her regarding his stated destination, and had visited his ex-wife’s home. L placed this in the context of T’s “devotion to his children,” believing T sought reconciliation largely for the sake of his children. She continued to express her hurt through indignation and self flagellation in the interview, encapsulated in one succinct, rhetorical question: “…how could I be so STUPID?” She was quick to remind herself and the interviewer that she and T continued to have fun together in their couple relationship and he further redeems himself with his good stepfathering skills. Nonetheless, she marked an event when her trust was betrayed, and her perception of her partner as trustworthy changed.

L stated, “I feel like an outsider in my own house,” her heartfelt expression of rejection by her husband’s continued alliances with his children. She described a history of the three of them causing her to feel excluded. She recalled that the last time it occurred, she “totally blew a…gasket,” reminding her husband that “this is why I don’t like them to come.” L also advised her stepchildren that, “it pi***s1 me off when they whisper like they don’t want me to know what they are saying. And that if they can’t come and act decent and treat me with respect that they were not to come anymore. My husband just sits there like, this is all normal to him…” Contained in this vignette were her feelings of being disrespected, and rejection of her stepchildren evolving from her own rejection, as well as believing that her husband would not come to her aid.

L’s relationship with both her husband and her stepchildren reached a critical point last summer. L experienced overwhelming challenges during her stepchildren’s visit, which included a long car trip. After days of oppositional behavior both at home and on the long car ride, one of her stepchildren drew a picture of L headless, causing L to reach a point where she ended the trip early. Once home, she advised her stepchildren that she was divorcing their father and that “they and their grandma had won,” and she informed her husband that she was selling the house and leaving. She remained only because her husband supported her “for once.” However, she was primed for further self- protection: “All I…can say is, if things ever get as bad as they did, I will leave.” And she remained wary: “I want to have a happy life. And being in a step situation is not FUN and I would tell anyone who is thinking of marrying into a stepfamily to turn and run as fast as they can the other way.”

Respondent 5

B, age 43, had been married for over two years after a one-year relationship with her 52-year-old husband. This was B’s third marriage. She had two sons, one adult who



Respondent’s exact notation during the interview.

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