December 1, 2011 at 2:29 pm , by Lauren Piro
Combining homes with a new husband can be tough (“No, dear, I don’t actually store the clean silverware in the dishwasher), but blending families with kids offers even more unexpected hurdles. You just don’t know how things will shake out until everyone is under one roof, trying on new roles with names that start with “step.” This is what happened to Sheila and Will, and Sheila’s 8-year-old daughter Ashley. After the couple got married, and Will became the new family patriarch, things got trickier than expected. How did they make it work? Read our recap and check out the full version of the story here.
Shelia’s Turn: When Shelia and Will were dating, he seemed like he loved kids, especially Ashley. He’d bring her presents, play games with her, and he seemed psyched at the idea of becoming part of their little family. But after the wedding, things took a turn. Will suddenly became a super strict stepdad, scolding Ashley for watching too many cartoons, constantly picking fights and punishing her for offenses as small as spilling milk. Sheila’s thought about leaving Will, but soon after they married, they had a son, Billy. Will adores his well-behaved boy (and having Billy is the only thing that makes him happy since he hates his job as an accountant), but Ashley, well, hates him. Shelia doesn’t know what to do—her daughter is miserable, but leaving her husband might mean losing her son, which would be devastating.
Will’s Turn: Will was so excited to be a male role model in Ashley’s life. He didn’t just want to be a guy living in her house; he wanted to treat her like his own daughter, which, to Will, meant giving Ashely more rules and structure. He’d always felt that Shelia was too lenient with Ashley, that the girl could use some boundaries to improve her behavior and help her learn responsibility. But after the wedding, Will was surprised that Sheila didn’t want him defining Ashley’s upbringing, and now he’s upset that she’s constantly undermining his parenting tactics. If Will takes away Ashley’s TV privileges or tells her to clean up her room, Shelia just lets Ashley do what she likes and does the chores herself. What gives? Will and Billy are a perfect pair, but Ashley won’t even give him the time of day, and that’s not what Will signed up for. At this point, he’d rather take his son and go.
The counselor’s turn: Shelia and Will’s counselor quickly recognized their conflict as a classic case of unspoken, hidden expectations. Before the wedding, when it was just Shelia and Will, couples needs were totally being met—the two of them were enough for each other. But now, everyone in their big, blended family is competing for attention, and the couple never sat down and discussed the biggest issue that’s arose—their child-rearing philosophies. Will tried to change the status quo and that made Shelia resentful, but the counselor helped them come to a happy medium. Shelia would allow Will to impose some rules on Ashley (she admitted her daughter could use some discipline), but Will’s punishments couldn’t be extreme. Once Ashley saw that her mom and stepdad had become a united front, she cooperated more, and after some counseling of her own, now connects better with Will and has warmed to her new little brother. Sheila and Will have dedicated more time to rekindling their romance, and Will has even started a new job as a teacher—the career with kids he’s actually always wanted.
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