"My Stepdaughter Is Ruining Our Marriage"

Blending children from previous marriages is putting a strain on this new union. Can this marriage be saved?
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Her Turn

"She's Driving Us Crazy"

"My 21-year-old stepdaughter, Dana, moved in last year after dropping out of her junior year of college," said Ellen, 37, a marketing representative, who has a seven-year-old son, Jack, from a previous marriage and is now seven months pregnant. "I love her, but her laziness and disregard for the rest of us is driving Warren and me crazy. 

"Worse, we're totally at odds over Dana. She manipulates us so that Warren and I are bickering a lot now--something we'd rarely done in our two-year marriage.

"I really feel for this kid. Her mother, Warren's first wife, died when Dana was five, and she was shuttled from one relative to another. Warren was in no condition to care for her then--he has a history of drug problems, and it's only in the last few years that he's straightened out. But he adores his daughter, and he's worried about her.

"Dana is a smart girl, but she got derailed, so she asked to move in with us until she figured out what she wanted to do. I wouldn't have any problem with that if she didn't flout every rule we have. She’s a total slob. She leaves pizza crusts in the living room, watches soap operas for hours and spills cigarette ashes on the carpet. She didn’t do wash for two months, and when she finally ran out of clothes, we had a big blowup because she expected me to do laundry for her.

"Both Warren and I are also very worried about Dana's weight. She's well over two hundred pounds. She refuses to talk about it, and she canceled the appointment I made for her with a weight specialist. We hate to nag, but she's facing serious medical problems.

"Warren thinks I’m a pushover because I try to draw Dana out. But his alternative is unacceptable: He confronts her angrily, Dana rolls her eyes and gets this sneering look, and his temper just explodes. The next thing I know, my husband is pounding the walls, Dana is screaming, and I'm at wit's end

"Dana is also very manipulative. She tells me constantly that Warren is taking advantage of me because he procrastinates with everything-- helping around the house, doing the yardwork, taking the car in for repairs. I can't believe her impudence, insinuating herself into our relationship like that. I'm starting to have all these doubts and jealous feelings now whenever Warren is late coming home, so I pepper him with questions.

Continued on page 2:  Her Turn, continued


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