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recording conversations between him and his mother and his ex.”

L provided examples of ways her husband’s devotion to his children often seemed stronger than his commitment to her and their marriage. Time with the grandparents created divisiveness in the stepcouple. Their bond was tested when her husband created situations where his children “must” stay with his parents. L would not permit the stepchildren to visit her home when her husband was working. She recalled that her husband manipulated his work schedule so that his children had to stay with his parents, despite L’s strong objections to the negative influences of her in-laws on her stepchildren: “…I don’t want the kids to stay at her house, because she and grandpa say negative remarks about me…” This was a winless situation for L. She had reasons for not wanting to stepparent alone and for not wanting the children’s visitation interrupted by visits to her in-laws: “I hate [it], because then the kids come back [from L’s in-laws] like spoiled brats, throwing tantrums and crying the rest of the time they are here.” Her husband likely felt justified in encouraging his children to visit their grandparents. L would not stepmother while alone, and he wanted his children to be able to see their grandparents. This couple could not compromise, leaving L feeling without emotional support, and believing her husband manipulated situations against L’s specific wishes, creating a strong sense of betraying her trust.

L yearned for a combined family portrait, with no success arranging it. She required cooperation from her husband, whom she did not trust. This stepfamily’s continued sense of dichotomy, as well as the lack of trust and dependability, directly related to stepfamily factors.

L described significant difficulties stepmothering her husband’s children. She felt rejected by them and unsupported by her husband: “He would have conversations with them when I wasn’t around to hear what was being said. Then he would tell me that he said stuff and then what they said, which I didn’t believe. He never told them in front of me that they had to have respect and listen and do what I ask of them…” Clearly, L felt that her husband was not supportive of her, and she needed to protect herself against her stepchildren and her husband’s advocacy of his children. This affected their marital bond in that L’s perception of her husband changed her expectations of him: he was not acting as her partner, so she was on her own.

Her rejection of her stepchildren was overt, resulting in her threat to leave the family. It was that threat that finally brought her husband to her side; prior to that, they struggled against a cycle of L’s feelings of rejection by his children, and her rejection of them.

L planned to prevent future rejection: “…this summer will be different: I am going to Arizona and maybe look for a job. And if not, I’m going to work here…all summer so they will only get to come every other weekend unless [my husband] takes them to Disneyland grandma’s.” This indicated that she perceived her stepchildren to be a burden. Further, L could not trust her husband to maintain the changes she asked for; he was not yet viewed as a supportive co-parent with her for his children. He was, though, “…very good to my children, ages 16 and 18 and this can’t be an easy thing for him either.” She perceived his supportive stepfathering as his saving grace.

Respondent 5. B described her husband as unaware of his child’s manipulation,

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