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spouse was decreasing as their marital bond became more overwhelmed, pushing them ever farther apart.

J experienced much pain due to their separate family lives: “It doesn’t help that his family wants nothing to do with us for the past several years and he is torn between staying with us and not speaking to them.” Choosing to be with his family of origin meant J’s husband chose to exclude her, which was difficult for her to accept and highlighted his unreliability. She felt her husband’s conflict about his family was a difficult one for him. There was a sense of anguish and unpredictability about his decisions. This may have been particularly salient for her during this interview, conducted just before the holiday season.

J described the frustration and sadness in “…getting him to participate in my children’s lives. They live here with him full-time and he rarely ever does anything with them…” J believed her husband maintained a “yours/mine” dichotomy by treating the two sets of children differently. She felt this dichotomy affected and was maintained by her stepchildren, who blamed J and her children for prematurely terminated visitation trips. This negatively affected her marital bond: She could not depend on her husband to pay attention to her point of view, and she could not trust him to treat her children fairly.

J’s relationship was tested frequently by events that were eroding her feelings of attachment to her husband. Her interview included markers that strongly indicated a change in her beliefs about her husband.

J referred several times to her husband’s rejection of her children, observing that “It has hurt my children terribly to be left out…I have stopped trying to explain [it to them]…It does cause a lot of frustration still for my 16 and 14 year olds.” J believed that their most significant challenge as a stepcouple was his refusal to share her children’s lives.

J recalled that when she and her husband were separated, she helped him choose holiday gifts for his children, but he “…didn’t need to buy my children gifts.” This overt rejection of her children aroused J’s ire, who asked him, “…why the difference?” He finally purchased a gift for each of her children, but made clear to her it “…wasn’t his place to support mine, said they aren’t his kids.” This was the keynote event in J’s story about the rejection of her children. She did not express much emotion in telling her story, as though she was protective but tired, so that her feelings were conveyed through indignation and helplessness. She implied that she had stopped actively protecting her children from the rejection: “They are old enough now that they understand the difference and live with it.”

J described her husband’s rejection of her children as continuous: “My kids are upset at the way he and his family leave them out and his kids rub it in my kids’ faces.” She was unable to protect her children from her in-laws’ collective negativity. J addressed the coming Christmas holidays: “…it will be tense…his kids will be going to visit the family for the holidays and me and mine won’t be welcome. Some days I am not sure we will work through this at all.” She sounded defeated in her inability to protect her children from rejection.

J saw herself in a hopeless cycle of criticism and disapproval that changed her perception of her husband from someone she trusted to start a stepfamily, to someone she

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