How do I deal with the divide and conquer motives my step daughters have, that my wife won't or does not accept. It is becoming a marriage problem.
My wife and I have been married twenty years, she has three daughters and I have three sons. They are all raised and out on their own. Through-out the years the two oldest,(step-daughters, her daughters) have endeavored to keep a seperatist mentality in our family relationships. My sons on the other hand love and respect their stepmother; this is starting to be damaged because my wife at this juncture in our marriage is starting to give in to the two older girls tactics of hurting our home, my sons are now becoming resentful towards her for showing the same seperatist mentality at this juncture in time. We have started getting counciling, but she (wife), is cold as ice, and I am getting very weary of the on-going struggle of getting any favor or approval from her or her girls. She refuses to take what she knows is the christian position. I don't know what to do any more. My sons are hurting, the stepdaughters don't care, what do I do?
I can tell you are very frustrated with your family situation right now. It's tough to play the role of referee between family members. It must be very discouraging that your wife doesn't seem to be warming up to the idea of finding a solution through counseling.
It seems like you care very much for each member of your family and are trying your best to find a way to make it all work. The tough part is knowing that you cannot change your stepdaughters or your wife. They have to be willing to accept help and change on their own. Is sounds like your stepdaughters tactics to break the family up are beginning to work. This must be very hurtful for you. I'm sorry to hear that your family is in such turmoil right now.
What else have you tried besides counseling with your wife? Have you considered having a family meeting in which each family member writes down their concerns anonymously on a piece of paper and then as a family you discuss them one by one? Have you made a list of specific behaviors you have observed by your stepdaughters and presented it to your wife? Do you feel like you have fully explained to your wife how much this is affecting your marriage and family?
Unfortunately, it's often much easier for family members to hear feedback from a third party or outside source such as a counselor rather than a direct family member. However, you cannot force someone to participate in counseling. I would highly recommend that you continue counseling yourself to help you manage your feelings while you are trying to improve family relationships. Things can improve for your family. Above all, be honest and open about your feelings, in a respectful and caring way.
I am very sorry to hear that you and your wife are struggling in your marriage. This must be a very, very painful time for all of you.
I think it is an important first step that you and your wife have pursued counseling. It must be disappointing to get into a counseling session and experience your wife as "cold as ice." When one individual is uninterested or unwilling to "work" in counseling, it can render the process almost completely ineffective. Thus, I recommend that you spend some time in the next couple of sessions discussing with your wife what her goals are for counseling and the marriage. Does she wish to remain married? Is she willing to work on the process? As the old saying goes, "it takes two to tango", and she is most certainly contributing to the dynamic, and it will require change from both of you to change the course of the relationship. I am hopeful that she will recognize the necessity for her to open up to the process and get to work.
As for your experiences with your sons and stepdaughters, as you most likely know, it is very important that parents are united in their parenting. Although families are not a totalitarian government, the parents should be "on top" of the social hierarchy in terms of setting rules and limits. Problems arise when one parent sides with the children, excluding the other parent.
Once you and your wife are on the same page, I believe that the issue with the children will become easier to manage.
L. Compian, Ph.D.