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cease to love her husband, clear threats to their couple bond.

B was not able to identify one particular defining event that signaled a pivotal point in her current marriage: “We had reached a point where my husband could not even talk about it anymore. He (and I) felt misunderstood. There was no bigger event…it was just the same old never-ending junk.” Her marital attachment bond was being eroded by recurrent rejection of herself and her son, the children’s discipline and her husband’s jealousy of her dog, all factors she related to their stepfamily status. In fact, B had specifically enlisted the help of a stepfamily specialist for marital therapy. She remarked that they had tried a marital therapist earlier in their marriage, but found it unhelpful as the therapist had no experience with stepfamilies: “Stepfamilies are not the same as biofamilies and they never will be the same.”

Interpretation of Markers and Descriptors of Attachment Injury

The following reviews the four markers of attachment injury for each respondent. Each marker is identified and defined in the context of each interview. The rationale for the researcher’s categorical interpretation of the various descriptors is included.

Irresolvable Problems

Irresolvable problems revealed themselves through both direct questioning and contextual interpretation throughout the interviews. Two interview questions concerned recurring problems: “What are the three problem topics that occur most frequently for you as a couple?” and “Do you and your partner have any problems you have not been able to resolve up until now?”. This section reviews responses to these questions, and their connection to stepfamily formation and maintenance.

In addition to these interpretations, the analysis revealed other traits of irresolvability: they were pervasive as well as chronic. There was an accompanying sense of hopelessness, a sense that these problems are intractable, sometimes even taking on a life of their own. The respondents expressed irresolvability through the use of extreme language (i.e., “always/never”), and descriptions of strong disagreements, including “fights” or “arguments”. Descriptors of irresolvable problems are interwoven with terms revealing anger, animosity, blame, frustration, grief, hostility, hurt, jealousy and misery. All of the above emotions were expressed directly or indirectly to or about the spouse, an ex-spouse, in-laws or a pet.

Participants’ Descriptions of Irresolvable Problems. The interview specifically asked for descriptions of irresolvable differences in the current relationship. Two questions directly addressed this in each interview, with the exception of Respondent #5, who was not specifically asked about irresolvable problems. Based on her interview responses to that point, it would have been redundant to ask the question.

The respondents’ answers are outlined below. Topics noted by an asterisk were those that affected the stepcouple relationship and seemed attributable to their “step” status.

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