I’ve been married for almost four years. My husband has two daughters from a previous relationship. His mother helped him with the older girl and, before we were married, he left the younger one with the girl’s mother. But when we got married, he brought the younger one to live with us. She was nine years old at that time.

The daughter who lives with us has not been disciplined nor taught to obey. My husband doesn’t correct her, so she does what she wants. I can’t deal with this situation anymore…. I want out of this marriage.

Dear Friend,

We are very saddened to hear about your situation. If you had told us your plans before you were married, we would have given you the same advice that we have offered many others. Marrying someone who has children living with him or her is like signing a contract to do the most difficult job in the world.

There are a few exceptions when it is sometimes not quite as difficult to do that job. One of them is when the child’s other parent has passed away. Another exception is when the child is an infant or very young and never sees the other biological parent.

However, it is obviously better for the child to have a relationship with both biological parents unless abuse or adoption is involved. But the existence of that other parent sets up a relationship dynamic that a new spouse will almost always find difficult to handle.

The majority of children will perceive that the new spouse is an intruder who is responsible for destroying his or her biological family. A son or daughter may purposefully make life difficult for the spouse, or they may do it without conscious intention. And the conflict often turns into a competition to prove whether the parent loves the child more or the new spouse more.

Mature adults know that romantic love and parental love are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to love the spouse fully and to love the child fully. But this doesn’t make sense to the son or daughter. They live like little judges in the home constantly ruling in their own favor. So the new spouse doesn’t have a chance.

The children feel totally justified when they treat the spouse badly or when they refuse to follow the house rules. They constantly say things to make the custodial parent feel guilty for having put them in such a situation, so in turn, that guilt causes the parent to fail to discipline the children as he or she might do otherwise.

There are no easy answers. Professional counseling is what we would recommend to try and save the marriage. In addition, we advise that you develop a personal relationship with God. He can give you the strength, perseverance, and wisdom that you need.

We wish you well,