attributable to the specific challenges of stepfamily formation. Respondents 1 and 2 each noted irresolvable problems whose genesis may have been unrelated to stepfamily formation. Nonetheless, their “step” status clearly brought additional stressors that might have re-challenged attachment bonds injured in their current relationships or in earlier ones.
Pervasive, chronic and hopeless. One of the hallmarks of irresolvable problems in these interviews was the sense that they were hopelessly and woefully chronic. The problems were pervasive to the extent that they seemed “multi-layered” and a solution would require extensive change in the stepcouple relationship.
Respondent #1 (“T”) stated, “we never really finish a conversation and find a solution because we know it will lead to bigger issues and therefore (we) let things go unresolved.” She noted a connection between arguing with each other about their parenting skills and each of them feeling aligned with their respective biological children. T concluded that, “we’ve hurt one another on many levels and we really don’t want to delve in another layer more.” This observation conveyed her apprehension about where to first seek resolution. Clearly, their multi-layered hurt played a significant role in this couple’s ability to stepparent together effectively.
Respondent #2 (“J”) clearly believed that her marital disagreements were chronic and pervasive, noting, “Nothing is resolved.” She clarified her sense of hopelessness by stating, “I asked him how he thought we could fix anything if we don’t talk and he said he doesn’t know but still won’t talk.” J was referring both to the step-related issues and those that were less clearly related. The impact, regardless of how it related, reverberated through their stepcouple relationship.
Respondent #3’s (“D”) husband was reluctant to interfere with the difficulties D had in maintaining her grandmother status with her stepgrandchildren. She attributed this to the interference of her oldest stepdaughter, who as a child, was her husband’s ”favorite.” D described confusion in her family, promoted by her oldest stepdaughter, about whether or not the stepgrandchildren should call her “grandmother.” Her husband attributed this to his children’s continued grieving of their parents’ divorce, rather than supporting D in her role as “grandmother.”
Respondent #4 (“L”) characterized her chronic and pervasive marital problems as a lack of respect, which all could be related to the family’s “step” status. She perceived this lack of respect by her in-laws for herself and her children, and by her stepchildren toward herself. She implied feeling a lack of support by her husband when his mother disrespects her, “…if I am not welcomed then he should not go anywhere I am not welcomed.” L cited this in the context of her husband’s ongoing alignment with his biological family in leaving her alone for the holidays. This was considered irresolvable in the analysis, as she presented no current attempts at solutions and described a history of being polarized around this problem in their marriage. She expressed her hopelessness that, “Every holiday will be like this…”
Respondent #5 (“B”) considered “kid issues” irresolvable. Most of these were directly related to the family’s “step” status, as the couple specifically aligned themselves with their respective biological children in the context of critiquing one another’s parenting decisions. Their inability to resolve these difficulties prevented them from