We recently had a client Jill, who was in her early thirties, working full time, married, with a four year old daughter, Sally. Three years ago, the marriage ended and Jill had some on again, off again relationships until she met Jack. They fell in love. That was about a year ago. Jack has a daughter, Margaret and he is separated from his wife.

It all sounds terrific, but is it? 

Jack thinks that Jill spoils Sally and Jill says Jack spoils Margaret. Jill complains that Margaret, who is 7, is uncaring and selfish, unlike Jill’s Sally, who Jill sees as the perfect child.

When Jack and Margaret spent weekends at Jill’s home, Jill complained that Margaret walked through the house as if she owned it and she didn’t respect Jill’s rules about discipline. For his part, Jack objected to Jill disciplining his daughter.

Jill and Sally moved into Jack and Margaret’s house, but it didn’t work. The two children didn’t get on and there was ongoing friction between the adults. Eventually, Jill and Sally moved back to their home.

These sorts of problems are particularly obvious with older children. For example, teenagers are often very upset if their parents break up and, when mum or dad start a new relationship, the children resent that person taking the place of their other parent. 

This can be particularly difficult if one of their parents dies. 

The benefit of professional support

Back to our struggling couple, Jack and Jill. They spoke to their GP, who referred them to a Psychologist for Couple Counselling. That was a great help. 

They came to understand that they had to work hard on their relationship, particularly because of the two children involved. They came to respect and live with, even if they did not love, their partner’s child. They learnt techniques from the Psychologist, about how to deal with situations where the other person’s children were driving them mad. When I last heard from them, they had sold their respective houses and bought a new home for themselves and the children. They had even reconnected with their former partners and were talking about them all spending next Christmas together. 

That may sound like a fairy-tale ending, but working on the problem undoubtedly saved their relationship and the two children greatly benefited from the fact that they are now living in a happy home.