increased her stepchildren’s negative behaviors toward her. This “then brought more bitterness between my spouse and myself.” Clearly, whether or not the content of their arguments was “step-related,” the process of their arguments was a stepcouple issue. Disagreements were detoured outside their stepfamily unit, to her husband’s ex-wife, and returned to T’s home in the belligerent voices of her stepchildren.
J’s (Respondent #2) marital experience simmered in blame, frustration, grief and misery. This family suffered severe trauma due to the effects of the devastating auto accident. The driver of the other car died and J’s husband was held legally responsible. As related earlier in this analysis, J’s son reported his stepbrother broke his video game component, prompting his mother and stepfather’s trip to the store. The accident occurred during this errand. J reported it took her son over four years to confess to her that he had lied about his stepbrother breaking his computer game. Follow-up with J revealed the relationship between her son and husband prior to the accident was “better,” but after the accident, “[my husband] became angry PERIOD! He had a problem with anger before, but the accident really intensified it. Nothing the kids did after the wreck was right or good enough.” Other information about her children described them as unusually helpful and supportive of their mother as she fought her way back to health. This was a mother deeply proud of her children: “I am very proud of them. Most people that know them are.” Based on these deep feelings of pride and approval, a fierce cycle of attack/defend/withdraw for this couple regarding her children seemed predictable, and did seem to occur. This cycle signaled not only attachment injury, but very likely deep trauma for many of the stepfamily members.
J and her husband disagreed about whether her children were “disrespectful”. She mentioned her husband’s disapproval of an older son, stating her husband “is angry now because my son who will be 18 next month does not have a job.” J merely noted it as a basic fact; her words carried a marked lack of emotion or energy in her depiction. She described the contentious relationship through the eyes of her children, noting “in actuality, they try to stay away from him.”
D (Respondent #3) reported being “unhappy with my husband” when he did not support her in handling the resentment of her oldest stepdaughter. Although she did not provide detail of strong negative engagement with her husband about this, she did note that she threatened to leave him. D expressed no overt negative emotion in describing these events during the interview, as it occurred over twenty years ago. Nonetheless, her story suggested strong disagreement for this stepcouple.
L (Respondent #4) and her spouse historically were locked in strong disagreement about L’s mother-in-law, and the lack of support and respect she continued to feel from her husband’s family, without support from her husband. She ascribed this to their “step” relationship, originally due to her mother-in-law’s negative remarks to L’s stepchildren, interpreted as a campaign to reunite L’s husband with his ex-wife. L stated, “I believe [my mother-in-law] feeds them so much negativism and then they feed off of it,” and that “[mother-in-law] tells [my husband] I’m mean to the kids.” The lack of support L felt from her husband was apparent as she stated, “I had to tape the conversations to prove she was saying these things.” This situation suggested L’s past futile attempts to pull her husband literally and figuratively to her side.