Ask a Psychiatrist and Get Answers to Mental Health Questions ASAP
I am sorry this is happening to you. I would be glad to help.
A functional marriage is like a picture of two folded hands. It is hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. In this case, there is a huge block to that joining in the form of a step daughter...one who is acting far outside of her normal given rights and status.
First of all, you are totally correct here. Any child, mature or still at home, cannot be permitted between the married couple. The couple, no one else, must be the priority in the marriage or the marriage will fall apart. But here your husband is allowing his daughter to act with what is called, equivalence. That is, she is being given the right to permit herself into your role, and to threaten, upset and violate your emotional security, the marriage integrity and your wellbeing. She is also showing signs of jealousy and control, an issue that she should be addressing in a functional way, not through threats and immaturity.
You are so correct. If she is not stopped the gap between you and your husband will increase and increase.
What should you do?
Even if he will not, I would suggest that you see a counselor. Like iron sharpens iron you need emotional support from an unbiased professional. Also, with you attending counseling it opens a door for him to go, far more than if it was initiated with a requirement that counseling involve you both immediately.
Couples counseling is the most demanding and difficult type to do well for a professional. I teach professional counseling and of the 20 students we graduate each year, only a few can do couples work.
Therefore, if your husband was completely unable to move in counseling before I would not give up hope. It may have been him, but often it is a combined issue that also involves talent of the individual therapist.
The best way to find a very good couples counselor is to ask your PCP, or if they do not know a good resource I often encourage people to call a local university that has a psychology-counseling program. The department head almost without fail will know the best of the best in your area and can make a good referral.
It is not easy to change a man who may feel (typical emotions that drive this lack of support ) guilt or shame. But it can be done, and I would strongly suggest that you seek out someone who can support you face to face. I have seen men, even like your own husband, change. However, often it takes a realization that the relationship might end or that this is indeed very serious, but you are worth the effort to try with him. Crisis often brings men to awareness. It is unfortunate, but often that is what it takes to have issues of this magnitude resolved. But you are hurting and need support through this. And, you are right. She is out of line and is harming your marriage and your husband has an obligation to support you first, not her. Even if he does not see it, you do, and that must be enough for a man to support his wife above all others. Steven
Can you give me any practical advice about how to find someone who is educated in these stepfamily issues? Also, what's a good way to interact with these two people? he now wants to go to New York to visit with her alone. I am afraid that she will obtain his signature on some kind of legal document that will ruin me financially if he dies first. We have been mostly happy as long as we stay away from these people but my husband is getting older and less able to understand things fast enough to protect us.
Thank you for writing.
When you have a few names of potential counselors ask them via a telephone call what experience they have in working with mixed families with older stepchildren.
Also: A credential, such as a certified marriage and family therapist (this is beyond the usual license and degrees) can point you toward finding someone who can be of better help. This will be listed as CMFT or similar initials behind his/her name. But the best way to determine this is to have a brief telephone conversation with the potential therapist who should, with only a bit of detail, be able to give you some assurance and support. You will know when you talk with the right one as you will be instantly understood and you will feel supported. (Personality and skill are a key part of this field. Although it is odd to recommend going with emotional instincts in selection of a therapist, it is often the best guide apart from education and experience)
As a married couple one signature on a document is not typically enough to alter family finances: I work with many seniors and with plenary guardianships and power of attorney, they are very limited if the person is married and the spouse is capacitated. But for safety, I feel it is appropriate to recommend a consult with a family attorney in addition to the counselor Steven