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Her heart’s bereft memory recalls “he walked out.” Her mind clarified it by remembering that, although she asked him to leave for a couple of days, he was gone for one week. This was crucial to widening the breach: She suggested a brief break, but he “walked out” and did not return for several days.

J indicated that the greatest threat to her relationship was her husband’s rejection of her children, directly attributable to stepfamily factors. Her initial breach in trust and resulting detachment from her husband were not clearly related to these threats or to other specific stepfamily issues. She does not recall what precipitated the argument that led to the initial one-week separation. She did note that their first year of marriage constituted an adjustment period for the stepfamily, but at the time, it seemed to be going fairly well. This respondent clearly described detachment. The initial breach was not clearly related to step issues, though it was affected by stepfamily factors.

Respondent 3. Perceived threat/rating: Stepdaughter’s interference with biological child / 8.

D remembered the start of her marriage as “miserable,” recalling: “When his oldest child resented me I was not happy with my husband; I threatened to leave and end the marriage.” These difficulties with her oldest stepdaughter “had a great negative impact on our marriage.” D felt established as the disciplinarian in the new stepfamily: “What my husband did at the time…[was]…put me in charge. They were to follow my rules. That made them resent me even more because what was fine with Dad is not fine with me.” D felt deserted by her husband’s lack of involvement and in not stopping the rejection she experienced. She was in so much pain and felt such resentment, that she was prepared to leave her marriage: “I wanted out of this marriage with 5 children that did not belong to me and did not want me around.”

D’s detachment in her marriage, though long ago and seemingly recovered, was related to her perceived relationship threat: the oldest stepdaughter’s continued presence in D’s marriage. Both were directly attributable to factors in stepfamily formation.

Respondent 4. Perceived threat/rating: In-laws and visiting children / 8. L experienced a pivotal event that challenged her marital bond when her husband first lied to her: “Lying has made me not trust him.” The events surrounding her husband’s first memorable lie occurred before they were married; this primed their relationship for her reactivity and expectations about his lying after that. Consistent with this, once lied to, L described that her trust continued to erode, leading to her need to tape record his conversations with his mother and ex-wife. Her partner’s lying negatively primed her perceptions of her husband’s continued coalitions with his parents and ex- wife about his children.

L threatened divorce approximately two years after she and her husband married. There had been an emotionally trying history with his children, who rejected her, and who were encouraged by her husband to maintain coalitions with her rejecting in-laws. L’s emotional saturation point occurred after one of her stepchildren drew her without a head. This happened on a long car trip after she had spent several days with her stepchildren. Up to this point, her husband had aligned with his children n conflicts between them with L. However, responding to her outrage at being drawn without a head, he laid down the law with his children, and has continued to do this with varying


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