"My Teenage Daughter Is Ruining Our Marriage"
"My stepdaughter has hijacked our marriage," said John, 52. "Ali was 9 when her mom and I met, and I really wanted to love her. But this kid has been a handful from day one. Cara, the little one, is flexible and lighthearted, but Ali is tightly wound and stubborn. She blames me for her parents' divorce, even though Lisa and I met years afterward. In her mixed-up mind, her parents would have gotten back together if I'd never come along.
"It kills me to see how torn up Lisa is about Ali. The spunky, upbeat woman I fell in love with is anxious and tearful, always waiting for the next storm to blow in. And it always does. We've tried grounding Ali, taking away privileges, bending over backward to please her. Nothing works. Nothing. She's always nasty. Believe me, this behavior wouldn't have been tolerated when I was a kid. My parents were old-fashioned, and when my dad gave an order, my brother and I followed it or faced the consequences.
"I'm not proud of the way I handle Ken, either, but the guy gets under my skin. Whenever Lisa and I have something special to do, he manages to mess it up. One Sunday a few years ago we were getting ready to go to my parents' 50th wedding anniversary party and had no idea where the girls were. When Ken finally showed up with them three hours late -- he'd 'lost track of time,' he said, and didn't have his cell phone with him -- I lit into him and the two of us ended up in an ugly shouting match. That still happens more often than I care to admit, even though Lisa always tells me it's pointless to engage him.
"Lisa actually makes things easier for him. He can barely be bothered to have the girls at his place, so she'll be the one who drives them there. My wife is loving, thoughtful, and kind to a fault. She hates it when people say she's too nice, but it's true. She lets people walk all over her.
"That farce with the police was the last straw. I was already really angry at Ali for monopolizing the phone and then slamming her bedroom door in my face when I yelled at her about it. Lisa wasn't there when that happened, and it would have upset her because she has told the girls time and again that door slamming isn't permitted. Not that they listen to her anyway. Then Ali pushed her mom against the stairs, and that's when I really lost it. Okay, I grabbed her arm, but I certainly wasn't hurting her or whatever crazy story she told the cops. By that time I was so furious I had to get out. I drove around for a while and stopped for coffee before going home. I tried to tell Lisa how sorry I was, but I'm not sure she believed me. I know I shouldn't take my anger at Ali out on her, but I just can't help it sometimes.
"I wish I could love Ali. God knows I've tried. But I'm beginning to think that letting her move in with her father would give us our lives back."