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.
September 15, 2011 at 4:42 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
Sure, sometimes we ladies like to be treated with chivalry and a touch of old-fashioned manners: opened car doors, chairs pulled back from dinner tables, a romantic gesture from our hubbies. But we like our modern, independent roles, too. (I can change that flat tire myself, thankyouverymuch.) So what happens when you’re a liberated lady and your spouse is stuck in Leave It to Beaver Land?
Maria, a 41-year-old mom of three, has been married to Jose for 20 years. When they met and fell in love, Jose promised she could go to school and get a job, but she got pregnant on their honeymoon and that was the end of that.
Maria’s turn Yes, Jose is a good husband, but he doesn’t understand that Maria has dreams and goals of her own that don’t involve him or their kids. He thinks that because he supports her financially and doesn’t drink, curse or sleep around, she should be completely happy in their marriage. He holds very traditional Latino ideals: The man’s place is at work, and the woman’s is at home. But Maria hates relying on Jose for every decision and purchase and wants to find fulfillment in working and making her own money; she even won a scholarship to a junior college but Jose wouldn’t let her accept it. Because he works so much to support them, they never spend any time together, and he gets angry when she goes out with friends or chats with strangers. He thinks of her as his property, not as his partner, and she’s tired of being the obedient wife.
Jose’s turn What has gotten into his wife? She didn’t make a peep about being unhappy for 20 years and now she wants a divorce. He gives her everything she could want – new clothes, nice cars, financial security – and yet she’s unhappy. So what if he doesn’t compliment her or call her or hold her hand? That’s how marriage was for his parents, who’ve been married 50 years. He does his job, which is to provide for the family, and he doesn’t understand why his wife still wants more. Why go to school now, since she won’t be done until she’s nearly 50? Besides, they don’t need the money. And he doesn’t like her seeing her friends because they’re the ones planting these ideas in her head. He’s baffled that Maria thinks their marriage is in trouble. Read more
September 2, 2011 at 1:21 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
As you may know, in the 50-plus-year history of our Can This Marriage Be Saved? column, there have been just a handful of times the marriages we’ve covered haven’t made it through counseling (see one example here, of a husband and wife who probably should never have married in the first place). Inspired by our Facebook fan Heather Fraser’s question about these doomed unions, here’s another of the marriages that could not be saved.
In our February 1973 issue, with a ravishing Liz Taylor on the cover, is the story of Sandy and Guy, a young married couple who weren’t mature enough to understand that marriage is a serious commitment but tied the knot anyway. From our editor’s notes in the introduction, “Marriage is not a game for children, yet many people behave as if it were.”
Sandy’s turn Her husband has “a total lack of fiscal responsibility”, can’t hold down a job and spends all his time drinking. Sandy had been on a round-the-world cruise, financed by her family, and while away she decided to give the marriage another shot. Guy showed up when her ship docked completely drunk, didn’t say a word about missing her while she was gone and left her “tottering with fatigue” when she arrived home and had to clean the house and put the kids to bed. When she confronted him about his behavior, he told her to bug off (in slightly rougher language) and turned on the TV. Sandy decided then and there to get a divorce and had her father hire a lawyer. Guy objected but eventually moved out, though he still shows up unannounced all the time. Sandy’s first marriage was a disaster arranged by her in-laws, and they divorced because her husband turned out to be gay. She became disillusioned with all men except her father, and when she met Guy she found him spoiled and lazy. She only agreed to marry him after she got pregnant. Before they even wed, he quit his job and invested in a coke-bottling plant that quickly went belly-up. Now all he does is sit around the house all day, sleeping till noon and drinking, and pays the bills with handouts from his mother. Read more
July 28, 2011 at 3:14 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
When you’re newly married, in love and childless, sex is usually pretty easy to keep at the top of the agenda. But what happens when a romantic slump sets in while you’re still young, mad about each other and have a butt whose size is relatively similar to the one you had when you got hitched? For Angela and Lane, a young couple married for several years who are now dealing with Lane’s disinterest in sex, the problem started a bit too soon.
Angela’s turn She and Lane haven’t successfully had sex in eight months; he usually flat-out shuts down Angela’s advances, and when he doesn’t he can’t keep an erection. They’ve always had amazing chemistry and equally amazing sex, and Lane was always a generous lover. But after one unsuccessful attempt that ended with Lane insisting there was nothing wrong and turning on the TV, they haven’t so much as cuddled. One of Angela’s friends is pregnant, which makes her insanely jealous because she’s dying to start a family, too. She’s terrified that her husband doesn’t find her attractive anymore and tells him so constantly – and she also tells him she refuses to stay in a sexless marriage.
Lane’s turn He feels like a complete failure at absolutely everything – his job, his marriage and his life in general. He’s scared to initiate sex because he’s sure he’ll fail again, and when Angela says it must be because he’s no longer attracted to her, it makes him feel worse. Lane works for the family business and feels like a loser there, too, since he isn’t as successful as his older brother, who’s always been better than Lane at everything. The incident Angela mentions as the start of their problems happened after Lane had just lost a big contract at work and his brother secured one. Then Angela told him their friend was pregnant and he started to think about supporting a family on his own – and freaked out. He’s not sure he’s ready to be a father yet, but it’s a moot point since they can’t have sex anyway. He doesn’t want to lose his wife over this but can’t see how to fix it.
The counselor’s turn The cause of Lane’s erectile dysfunction, or ED, was purely emotional. At work, he was terrified of making a mistake and regretted not pursuing another career. At home, he feared not being able to support his family and was embarrassed about his problems in bed. The counselor started by having Lane write out on paper his successes at work, and he realized he was more than adequate and even equal to his brother. As for parenthood, Lane feared losing his independence just as much as supporting his family, so he and Angela discussed it and promised that they would still travel, spend time together and do the things they loved as individuals after the kids come. Angela also realized she wasn’t quite ready for kids herself but felt compelled after her friends starting having babies, so they agreed to start trying in a few years, which eased Lane’s anxiety. And as for sex, once Angela realized her attractiveness had nothing to do with Lane’s ED, she stopped panicking and taking it personally. They worked to resume non-sexual contact, like massages and cuddling, and gradually resumed their once-active sex life. If it doesn’t happen one night, they don’t make a big deal of it and are able to make it work the next time. Lane is thriving on the job, too, and no longer feels like a failure.
July 21, 2011 at 12:51 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
If only all blended families could resemble The Brady Bunch: a life of zany hijinks and good-natured ribbing where the biggest problems involve the race for class president and who stole Cindy’s Kitty Karry-All doll. In real life, creating a new family from the parts of an old one is much more complicated. When Lisa, a 39-year old mother of two teen girls from a previous marriage, wed John, a successful 52-year-old businessman with no kids of his own, one child adjusted quickly while the other outright revolted.
Lisa’s turn Her 16-year-old daughter, Ali, is making their lives hell. She’s disrespectful, defiant and ignores the rules of the house. Ali was just 5 when Lisa and her ex-husband, Ken, split up, and she’s never been able to adjust. And Ken isn’t helping, either: He’s asked Ali to live with him full-time and promised her no curfew and a car, though he’s completely unreliable when it comes to seeing the girls or dropping them off. Lisa tried to make her first marriage work for years but eventually gave up, and she’s tried hard to do everything right in her new marriage, too, including taking it slow when introducing John into her girls’ lives. In fact, she’s always tried too hard in everything – she’s constantly told she’s too nice. The situation with Ali really came to a head when she shoved Lisa after an argument, John grabbed Ali’s arm, and Ali reacted by calling the police.
John’s turn Ali has been a headache from day one. John has tried and tried to love her like he loves her mom and sister, but the kid won’t give an inch. She blames John for her parents’ divorce, even though John and Lisa hadn’t even met until three years later, and it kills him to see how hard Lisa tries to make it work. They’ve taken away Ali’s privileges, grounded her and bent over backwards to please her and nothing’s worked. He can’t tolerate Ken – the man is always messing up their plans and is horribly irresponsible – and he can’t stand how Lisa lets her ex walk all over her. The stunt with the police put him over the edge. He doesn’t mean to take his anger at Ali out on his wife, but he can’t take much more if this situation doesn’t change. Read more
July 14, 2011 at 1:25 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
Chances are that the husband you’re currently married to is, at least in some ways, different from the man he was when you first laid eyes on him. Odds are also pretty good that you’ve changed a bit, too. (And not just in dress size.) Hopefully the differences are good, and you’ve grown together as a couple. But Pam, a 41-year-old marketing manager, and her lawyer husband, Ross, 45, have decidedly grown apart. (Read the full story in our August issue, which hits newsstands this week!)
Pam’s turn Ross is more like her roommate than her husband. Their conversations never go deeper than the grocery list, and his 60-hour workweeks leave her stuck with all the parenting duties even though she works as well. If she complains about feeling overwhelmed, he’ll help for a few days then go back to his old ways. She knows their relationship isn’t terrible, but whenever she expresses that she misses their closeness, Ross says it’s not that bad and refuses to discuss it. And she’s in charge of everything around the house, not just parenting. The man can’t give her a single opinion – it’s like he’s an employee waiting for instructions. She’s also overwhelmed caring for her aging parents. The final straw came when she almost had an affair with a coworker because for once, she’d found someone that made her feel like a whole person, not just the director of the family.
Ross’s turn Pam seems so much happier at work than she does at home, and it makes Ross sad. He’s jealous of her coworkers and can’t remember the last time her eyes lit up for him like they do when she talks about them. He doesn’t think they live separate lives, just that they’re busy with work and the kids and can’t spend time together like they used to. Whenever he tries to help around the house, Pam criticizes him or asks why he didn’t do other chores, too. Her anger is off the charts, and they have epic battles every time they fight, so he avoids the confrontations completely. And of course he has ideas and opinions, he’s just been deferring to her to keep the peace. He didn’t mean to brush her off and doesn’t want a divorce. Read more
June 2, 2011 at 1:17 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
In case you haven’t heard, it’s tough to get a job these days. And for the thousands of college grads now heading out into the workforce, or at least attempting to do so, odds are many will find themselves back home with mom and pop while they hunt for a paycheck. (Or while they slog through the denial that they’re now “adults,” which could take even longer.) One question in all this boomeranging: What happens to a marriage when a couple’s little bird has flown back into the nest? Meg and Paul, a mid-40s couple married for 24 years, is facing the dilemma with their 22-year-old daughter, Kim, a college grad who’s come back home jobless.
Meg’s turn She thought their only child’s departure would hurt their marriage but in fact her leaving brought them closer. It was wonderful: They could go out for dinners or movies alone, their sex life perked up and Sean began to help around the house more. When Kim came home, Meg reverted to waiting on her, doing her laundry, cooking dinners and all the things she’s sick of doing after 20-plus years. And her husband is backsliding, no longer helping around the house, leaving dishes in the sink like his daughter and bickering with her that she’s too lenient with Kim. Their new-found closeness evaporated, just like that. Read more