Step-kids Destroying Marriage
Q: We're married one year. My two daughters live with me, as do my two stepchildren. We all knew that this would not be easy but I did not think it would turn out to be this difficult. My youngest daughter and my wife's daughter were friends, and this is how we met. No sooner did we get married and they began to grow apart. As the months went by the friendship turned to hate. The behavior of my step-daughter became unpredictable, both verbally and physically aggressive towards everyone in the house including her mother and brother. She has since been diagnosed as being bi-polar by her primary doctor and has been on meds for several months with very little, if any, improvement. I have suggested a psychologist or counselor that has experience with this but my wife refuses.
My step-son, who graduated high school, has yet to get a job, is very disrespectful and a little violent. We now have holes in the walls to prove it. He swindled money out of me and my wife, over $600 to fix his car, which he spent on who knows what because it was not the car. He backed over a mail box and pole with my wife's car, and lied and said he was side-swiped. My wife told him to leave. telling him it was me that wanted him out. Then my wife asked if he could move back in if he got a job first to pay us back. My wife said, "I really think he has changed and learned his lesson." I told her that's fine, he's your son. Since he has moved back, he still has no job and is not looking. Over $550 worth of DVDs are missing, and I can only assume that they have been cashed in since he does smoke dope and drinks. My wife and I have been fighting more and more and don't seem to agree on parenting. We are all under a lot of stress to the point my daughters are thinking of moving to the city with their mother. Should I grab my kids and leave? -- David, 45
Dr. Susan: Whew, what a litany of misery! Stepfamilies, especially with pre-teens or teens, are indeed challenging. And it sounds as though you and your wife didn't get much information on what to expect before you married. The main thing is for the two of you to get together on how to handle parenting. You don't have to agree on every detail, but you can't let the kids play you against one another. For your wife to say you're the one who wants the thieving young man to move out is not the way to handle this. Can't she take responsibility? And since when is it okay to let a kid be aggressive or violent? I can't understand why your wife wouldn't want her bi-polar daughter to get more targeted help. It's not an easy illness to treat, and your step-daughter most certainly needs to see a specialist who will keep track of her medications.
Unless your wife agrees to deal with all these issues WITH you, and get professional help where it's needed, matters will only get worse. So far it's drugs, violence, lying, and thieving. I don't blame your daughters for wanting a safer place to live. One way or another, you can't just leave things as they are.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.