Blended Family Bitterness

Heidi is a stepmom of two teenage girls. Her say doesn't seem to have any impact on what goes on in their home though. Dave tells Heidi she isn't feeling respected in her own home.

QUESTION: Heidi in Ohio is a stepmom of two teenage girls. Her say doesn’t seem to have any impact on what goes on in their home though. They’ve only been married six months and didn’t have premarital counseling. Dave tells Heidi she isn’t feeling respected in her own home.

ANSWER: Now we get to do marriage counseling because I’ve got to tell you I don’t like what you just said. It sounded dysfunctional. I heard bitterness beginning, and you don’t want to go there. You don’t feel respected in your own home. You feel like you’re a second-class citizen. That’s the way it was phrased.

This is a classic situation. You’re in the Cinderella situation. You’re going to be the evil stepmother before you know it. That’s where this is headed. You’re going to get enough of this, and then you’re going to pounce in the middle of it and it’s going to come off wrong. That or you’ve got no backbone and you become a wuss. I don’t really smell that in this conversation. I just feel frustration building up.

What I would suggest you guys do is you and your husband need to sit down with a counselor—and it’s not like you’re about to get divorced or something—but you need to talk through these issues without the kids present. Re-establish who’s in charge here and who is valued here. The values don’t need to be verbalized as much as they need to be acted out, meaning that these kids are not in freaking charge of this house. The two of you are, and you’re going to love them like they’re yours and treat them like they’re yours. You’re not trying to get money so they can’t have it. You are the two adults. The wife comes ahead of the stepkids. He’s going to get that straight, or you guys are going to have real problems, aren’t you?

When you do that, here’s how you mechanically do the budget thing. You and your husband sit down together and say, “Part of our obligation is to this 50% custody that we have. We want to love these kids well when they’re here. Here’s what we’re going to allocate to the raising of these children as a part of this. That’s their trips and so forth. We’re going to agree to that together as part of our budget.” You took that on when you married a man who had kids. He took that on when he knew he had kids. Then you guys lay out a plan that the two of you both agree to, and anything other than that plan you have to come back and agree to it.