L also mentioned “fights” when she was left alone as her husband took his children to his family’s events. As mentioned earlier, L felt a lack of support from her husband about her mother-in-law’s rejection of her, a situation that could occur as a “non-step” issue; however, L linked the troubles with her mother-in-law to the challenges she faced at the start of her relationship with her husband L’s mother-in-law had hoped for her son’s reconciliation with his ex-wife, which L related to her in-laws’ concerns about her husband’s children.
B (Respondent #5) cited “kid” issues as the source of arguments with her spouse, and her interview was laced with ways they were polarized around their respective biological children. B observed that in some ways they were like a traditional family in terms of occasionally disagreeing about where to eat or which movie to watch, which she described as typically humorous. She noted, though, that the “stepfamily” disagreements challenged them, declaring, “We have the worst time agreeing as to how to handle ‘kid issues.’”
B also presented a situation wherein the blame she directed at her husband was not affected by “step” status. Her husband expressed continued negative opinions of her son’s being gay. In B’s words, her husband believed gays should “stay in the closet, so to speak.” B’s response was that she wanted her son to experience support at home, because “He spends enough of his time ‘hiding who he is’ in our home…” B and her husband strongly disagreed about this issue, and B’s protectiveness toward her son was apparent. Nonetheless, B believed that her husband’s opinion would remain the same if he were her son’s biological father.
B perceived her husband’s jealousy of her dog to be irresolvable, even as she considered ways to make her dog everyone’s dog. She expressed a feeling of helpless indignation about her husband’s jealousy, highlighting her husband’s difficulty about accepting his step dog’s place in B’s life: “He cannot stand it that my dog wants to always be near me.”
B interpreted their marital disagreements through a filter of stepcouple problems. In discussing the genesis of their fights, she astutely commented that, “It is the emotion that breathes fire into the fights,” a reference to their co-parenting problems. B later remarked that she specifically sought a stepfamily specialist for marital therapy.
The respondents attributed the genesis of many of their fights or disagreements to their stepfamily status. Often, they painted a dark picture of futile attempts to resolve chronic and pervasive difficulties; and at times, they conveyed hopelessness in finding resolution.
Change in Belief About the Partner
Attachment injury in adult relationships may be signaled through a change in one’s beliefs about one’s partner. Adult attachment relationships ideally create a foundation of emotional comfort and security. Trust is essential in creating such safe relationships, where one partner can rely on the other’s emotional presence, attention, support and loyalty. As the couple negotiates their life together, they ideally develop a sense of mutual dependability, confident that the other is worthy of trust.