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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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How get Husband to validate Wife(Step-Mom) and not

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How get Husband to validate Wife(Step-Mom) and not constantly uphold disrespectful behavior from adult Step-Daughter?

Hi! I'll be glad to be of help with this issue.

I can imagine how frustrating this situation must be for you. You are trying so hard to be fair and it's so difficult to watch how your husband just doesn't see that the parenting he's giving his daughter is not helping. It's not helping him integrate the situation of his having a wife and her having a step mom. It's not helping your relationship with him. And it's certainly not helping your relationship with her.

Parents of divorce have a lot of stress to deal with in parenting. And their guilt can overcome them and they become permissive and overly non-confrontational. This is more common than rare. Because in truth, the stress of parenting in divorce is overwhelming to many adult parents. And it doesn't go away as the children grow up. And so when one tries to talk with them, they very often just turn defensive.

The discussion, then, that you wish to have with her has two dimensions we have to consider: one is how your husband will back it up and the other is, first, how she will take the discussion. I want to focus on this part because it may make the second part go much better.

You want to present the following rules: "We will not tolerate in our presence or our home -name calling -confrontation: loud talk, argumentative tone -destruction of property -rude behavior or the like, i.e. condescending facial gestures".

They are all fair. I'd like to see you prioritize them into a hierarchical list as opposed to the way you are thinking of them: as items that everyone should respect. Here's what I mean:

Loud talk may be less serious a violation than name calling. Condescending facial gestures may be even less. The importance of such prioritizing is that it allows you to not just have one consequence for any type of violation: it's war or nothing kind of situation.

Remember, after this much time being unhappy with dad having another wife in the middle of her family life (this is most often how kids view second marriages), she's gotten used to a certain pattern with you. That pattern is indeed hostile and confrontational. But she at least knows the rules of that pattern and it has become predictable. So she keeps playing it over and over.

Your goal is to change that pattern, not to just punish or exclude. Therefore, decide if you want to have just one conversation about all the violations or separate ones starting with facial expressions.

Whichever way, the part of the discussion about her facial expressions needs to be presented as not so serious. It's your first effort at changing the dynamics between you two. So, you want to converse about it lightly, asking questions about whether she even recognizes any more what her expression is like when she's with you. And how you think she's so much prettier when she smiles and is friendly with people. Highlight how much more inviting and pretty she is when she smiles, etc.

Then, before the rules making, ask her if there's a way the two of you can signal each other if either of you is being not-smiling. So that you can have a great visit, or a nice visit. In other words, you're trying to see if you can get her to buy in to a different pattern.

After that attempt, you can begin to introduce the rules aspect of things. And by not equating looking nasty with calling names, it gives you a chance to have her at least not go "all the way into being that nasty step daughter she's gotten used to being.

Okay, I wish you the very best!

My goal is for you to feel like you've gotten Great Service from me and the site. If we need to continue the discussion for that to happen, then please feel free to reply and we'll continue working on this. If the answer has given you the help you need, please remember to give a rating of 5 (Great Service) or 4 (Informative and helpful), or even 3 (Got the job done) button. This will make sure that I am credited for the answer and you are not charged anything more than the deposit you already made by pressing any of these buttons. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue now or in the future, just put "For Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, ***** *****

Dr. Mark and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

How do I get my husband to validate both, his & my need to be respected (not just his need for respect) in the relationship with his adult child. You are right he stays quiet to much and allows her bad behavior toward me. He will not speak up for me to her. She now has a toddler and a husband who she wants to bring to our home to stay for several nights. She nor her dad consider the amount of work I do for her visits. I'm not interested in being placed in the disrespected slave position. If we have guests I want it to be enjoyable for both of us not just for my husband. How do I get my husband to speak up and consider my feelings also?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Dr. Mark,

Would you please help me with the concern I posted yesterday?



Hi. I'm so sorry I had to be away for this long. Thank you for your patience with this.

Your question is the most heartbreaking question there is about marrying someone who has children from a previous marriage that are in this age category. I wish there were an easy answer that works for people, but there isn't one. It takes a lot of effort and patience and often it takes counseling/couples therapy to get the point across.

You see, I understand very well what you are referring to: ***** ***** as if this should be just part of how life works, that they come and visit and enjoy. The fact that you have not had the years and decades of being family together and that they need to bring you into their shared experiences just goes right over their head. And so the wife feels like she's just being used by everyone.

Your first step, then, is to separate the two parts of your goal: "How do I get my husband to speak up and consider my feelings also?"

Speaking up is something that at first is going to be very threatening for him. Remember everything we said at first about divorce parenting. To get him to speak up may take time, coaching, and even some counseling. So save this goal for a while.

Because his affirming his gratitude and understanding to you will go a LONG way toward making her and her husband's visits more tolerable. And this is what you need to work on: getting him to see that he needs to nurture and grow his marriage and not take it for granted. This is the important variable.

May I recommend you try first using my answers to you as a starting point for a conversation. And if he does not see this after conversations together (many men don't), then you may need to have a professional involved so that the two of you can talk about this in a safe environment where you can be heard without it seeming like an attack on him. He needs to see and understand that marriage taken for granted becomes an unhealthy relationship quickly. So he needs to give it brain power, attention, and focus. And then actions to show his gratitude and caring for you.

Again, thank you for your patience and all the very best to you!

Dr. Mark