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which caused dissension for the couple. Although B rarely if ever disciplined her stepdaughter, she expressed her concerns to her husband, who “just doesn’t see it.”

Dichotomy for this couple was not just biological, but also affected the step-pet relationship. B’s husband was jealous of her dog, who paid her adoringly slavish but well-mannered attention. B’s attempts to encourage bonding of her husband and stepdaughter with their stepdog were unsuccessful: “My husband made a half-hearted try…but it didn’t last and nothing resulted.” Although her stepdaughter “adored” the dog, B felt that her stepdaughter’s half-time residency status did not promote a dog/child bond. B believed that adding a new dog “would be good for all of us,” with the hope that both her husband and stepdaughter could bond with “our” dog. B’s husband continued to express strong disapproval of the dog, believing his spouse’s relationship with her pet to be “unhealthy.” This affected B’s feelings about her husband, who felt she could not depend on or trust him to understand or honor her needs: “I don’t think I can love someone who put his needs to not have my dog around above my love for my dog.”

B explained the genesis of the biological dichotomy for a stepcouple: “I think we are afraid of what the other person thinks of our child…you know, is he/she going to be able to accept/love/bond with my child. It is a parent’s ideal to have the stepparent accept his/her child as their own. This is a non-issue in a biological family.” B succinctly described the combination of fear and hopefulness when two adults assume the task of becoming a stepfamily, and their struggle to evolve from a theme of dichotomy to one of unity.

B’s concerted efforts to emerge from a marital cycle of rejection and protection were directly related to stepfamily factors. Both B and her husband perceived the other as aligned in opposition to their biological children’s best interests, which brought forth strong protectiveness from each of them.

B struggled to decrease the consistent priority her stepdaughter held in her marriage, and their family: “I can understand that because we only have her half the time, my husband feels a greater sense of urgency to be a parent. There has to be a ‘happy medium’ that allows for everyone in the family to exist on the same plane…when she is with us, my son and I are just along for the ride…our lives revolve around my stepdaughter when she is with us.” B felt rejected, and believed her son did also; this brought forth feelings of protection on behalf of her self and her son.

B’s husband believed that she rejected his daughter, further challenging their marital bond. “My husband believes I think his kid is a ‘monster’…he’ll say, ‘what do you want to do, run the little s%@t2 off?’ I don’t feel like that, but it is his perception. This perception affects the way he interacts with me on a daily basis. It has to be hard to love someone that you believe doesn’t want your kid around. We parents have an unconditional love for our children…we don’t for one another.” Her husband’s reaction suggested his belief that B considered his daughter a burden, and he expressed his own conflict in his concern that she “wanted to run the little s%@t off.”

B attempted to see both sides of unconditional love in a stepfamily: “A parent is very protective (as they should be) of his/her children.” She had a clear picture of the rejection and protection cycle occurring in her marriage and hoped this would change. At the same time, she had prepared herself somewhat in the event that their



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