Our Child Is Affecting Our Marriage

Dear GoodTherapy.org,
I married a man I've known for over 16 yrs. We started dating 6 1/2 yrs ago and have been married now for 2 1/2 yrs. He has 3 children and I never had children of my own. I'm finding it very difficult to step/co parent one of his children. We share custody and my husband is a VERY active father. (Which was the only reason I would have married a man with 3 children.) I came from a several time divorced home and never wanted to experience that as an adult. I am not the only adult/parent that is having trouble with this particular child, but I am feeling very out of control at this point and I do believe it is affecting my marriage, at least in my heart. This is my last effort to save my marriage and grow old with the man I love long after the kids are grown and have families of their own. But I am losing the battle right now. Please help. - Struggling Step-Mom
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Dear Struggling Step-Mom,

First, let me begin by letting you know of the great challenge you are living with, and I commend you. Most women would not be able to step into a relationship with so many people. You did, and that tells me you have what it takes to make it. Although the following advice is my opinion and not a substitute for therapy, I hope you will find it useful.

I believe what you see in your husband is his great capacity to parent and love others. Your heart may be longing to feel special to him, and at this moment you may not feel that this is the case. Unfortunately, you may feel secondary in his devotion, and you might be growing more and more saddened by this. Let’s take a look. It seems obvious to me that you love your husband. This is what you must learn to remember, and remind yourself of what you two feel for each other. This bond with him is your way to center yourself and become more balanced. You may worry too much, and so might your husband, about the child who is acting out. Yes, there is a problem in the family, but this problem does not have to unravel what belongs to you and your husband. My advice is to reconnect with him and to get him to reconnect with you, independent of his role as a parent. You need to work to make your union the strongest element in the family. Become his partner, not just the person who watches him parent. What you also must find is love–that is, love for the difficult child. I believe you have it, because you would not have been able to couple in the first place if you didn’t. I wish you the best of luck. And if you find that you are feeling saddened or lost and dismayed about the future, then see a counselor, just you, for you.

All the best,
Linda

Linda Nusbaum
Linda Nusbaum, MA, MFT, is a license psychotherapist with a private practice in Long Beach, California. Her specialty is working with couples in all stages of their relationships. In her former career, Linda was an Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist.

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