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Ask Dr. Sherry: 'My Husband Wants to Treat Our Kids Differently'

A reader’s husband needs an attitude adjustment when it comes to how to raise their kids.

You’ve seen celebrity clinical psychologist Dr. Sherry Blake, author of The Single Married Woman: True Stories of Why Women Feel All Alone in Their Marriages, keep the Braxton sisters calm on the hit show Braxton Family Values. Now it’s your turn to sit in her chair…

Q: My husband and I have been married for almost three years and are experiencing issues with combining our blended family. We both entered the marriage with children – I have two and he has one. I believe that all the kids should be treated equally and shown the same treatment at all times. My husband feels that because his child lives with her mom during the week and us every weekend, he has to show her more attention when she’s with us. He completely ignores my children and I on the weekends. Plus, he refuses to show me any attention or affection and regularly starts arguments when hi daughter comes so he can use that as an excuse for his behavior. He has stated on several occasions that we cannot have a child together because it would upset his child, and that be believes when she is around it hurts her to see him show love to anyone else. I truly would not want to hurt his child, so I’ve dealt with a lot of neglect and heartache, but now I’m at a point where my children are being affected by his attitude and behavior.

I have even offered to help him seek joint custody, so his daughter can be with us more often but he declined because he doesn’t want to upset her mother. I believe that when you marry, you are to become one, just as the Bible teaches. My husband does not seem to comply with this. He treats me as if I’m a stranger when his child is around, but once she leaves, he expects all of my love until the weekend comes again. I have attempted to discuss this with him numerous times and he always has the same excuse – he just doesn’t want his child to feel like he loves anyone more than her because she does not live with us full-time. I do not want to leave my husband but I really don’t know if I can allow my children and I to be treated this way any longer. His behavior is so erratic and odd and I don’t know if this is normal. I understand blending a family can be difficult. Are there any suggestions you can offer?

A: Blended families are often difficult but you can make it work. In order to do so, both parents must be willing to make changes and put in the work. Communication comes first. Before you get married you’re supposed to discuss your expectations and feelings regarding exactly how you plan to “blend” your family. I am not sure if you had that discussion, but it sounds like the answer is no. Like many women, you may have assumed that all the children in the family will be treated and loved equally and everyone will be happy. Believe it or not,  this is a big assumption. 

What I am about to say is no excuse for your husband’s behavior, nor is it a pass. Once you understand the issues, it may help you address them differently. Your husband is dealing with tons of pure guilt. Guilt is very common with men who have children from another relationship and have remarried. He is trying to reduce his guilt by his mistreatment of you and your children when his child is around. He feels guilty and even resentful about playing dad to your children and having them around all the time while his child is not there.

There is also guilt associated with being married and starting a new life. While he has plenty guilt of his own, it is most likely increased on a daily basis by his ex-wife and child. Children have a way of singing the lead in the” poor me” song and their mothers sing background. The fact that he is not willing to have his custody or visitation modified suggests that he may actually be afraid of losing the relationship he thinks he has with his daughter. It could also possibly be related to issues regarding child support. Most importantly, he has unfinished business with his ex wife. After saying all this, you must deal with these issues head on. I highly recommend that you and your husband seek marital therapy as soon as possible. The two of you must address issues and get on the same page. He must become strong enough and willing to deal with issues honestly. Then family therapy is recommended with all the children involved. This will give you a chance to hear everyone’s feelings and to establish some common ground rules for all the children. If your husband wants a family and home with you, he must step up to the plate and do what is necessary to have a “blended” family. — Dr. Sherry

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