Blended Families – Will Counseling Help?

Question: “My husband and I have been married for nearly eighteen years. It has been turbulent much of the time. We both had teenagers from previous marriages when we blended our families. We both had careers. From the beginning we had very different styles especially in regards to finances. Since my previous husband had been a compulsive gamble who wiped us out financially I came in to this marriage very protective of my income. It would send my new husband into literal rages that I would want to have a separate bank account. Needless to say his reaction did nothing to foster trust. Then there were the children. I was to have all the responsibility of a step mother but none of the authority and there were LOTS of fights about that. Finally, because he refused to use any form of birth control I got pregnant at 42 and had baby girl. For a while it looked like she might be the solution to our problems and we are both intensely devoted to her (she’s nearly 11 now). I have not been very happy in my marriage but I have dedicated myself to staying in it for our daughter’s sake. Especially since I gave up my career when she was born and would find it very hard to support myself at this age and in this economy. About eighteen months ago I started to suffer from depression and went to counseling. My husband even came with me for several sessions and I thought we had gained some valuable tools and information on how to have a better marriage. I even thought he had some little appreciation for what depression is and how he could help me. Well, I am not attracted physically to him anymore since he has put on over a hundred pounds since we got married and I don’t like sex with him. (We agreed to once a week on payday) So he says he feels “like dog” about sex. For me it’s like a household chore I have to do once a week. Not a good thing, I know. I have lost count of how many times he has walked out or threatened to walk out over the years. I admit freely I have pushed him beyond his limit sometimes. During counseling we both make promises, however, to each other and to our therapist (we quit going last summer) that I would approach conversations in a non threatening way and he would not threaten to leave. Today I brought up some money issues in the safest way I knew since I was feeling betrayed about some money he had loaned or given his family members without letting me know up front. He got furious and threatened to leave. Just like all the times in the past I ended up groveling and begging him not to go and the whole conversation turned into how I was the bad guy. We are both nearing the end of our rope. I think we would like to make our temple marriage work and although there are no serious moral transgressions and we don’t want to hurt our daughter, if I can’t talk to him and feel depressed all the time what am I suppose to do? Do I go back to counseling on my own?”

Answer: Sounds like it has been a long journey, one fraught with much strife and tension. Blending families is challenging as you attempt to not only love and serve your spouse but also fill the needs that your teens have and all that entails. I can tell it has been difficult and that you want things to work, otherwise you would not be begging him to stay when he threatens to leave. I am encouraged that you went to counseling and gained some tools and skills to better work out the concerns in the marriage. I hear you saying there are a few issues that still are present. These issues appear three fold: the authority and role you have in the home, the trust you have in one another that appears to be about money but at the core is really trust, and your current depression and lack of happiness with the relationship. My recommendation would be that you get back into counseling. I hear you saying that the sexual relationship is rocky as well. I’d expect this, since the trust is limited and the contention high when issues come up; therefore the intimacy and or sexual piece is lacking and frustrated.

From your post it appears you have trust issues from your previous marriage and you are hyper-sensitive to him and his decisions. He also has trust issues of you for wanting a separate account. The issues that came into your marriage from your past histories limit the ability to resolve conflict due to hurts and fear from the past.  I honestly feel that both of need to engage in counseling so you can tackle the trust issues, parenting issues, lack of closeness and the processing of fears and pain from each of your previous marriages. The issues themselves are not the issue, the items listed in the series in the previous sentences are. Going and listening to a counselor will not be enough for each of you. A solid commitment to changing yourself and working daily along with a counselor is the key to making it happen.

I’d recommend you both read, Hold Me Tight, a book that hits at the core of the issues you are having. Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love

Also, feel free to read my other posts on marriage.