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Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: Arguing with My Husband since His Son Moved in with Us

Dear Stavroula, 

I am 43 years old and married to a man who has two children from his previous marriage a son, nine years old, and a daughter who is in college. I also have a thirteen-year-old son from a previous marriage, but his father has passed away. My husband and I have been together for eight years, since my son was five years old. From the beginning, my son became very attached to his stepfather, who treated him as his own and actually raised him. Recently, however, my husband's youngest son came to live with us. From the beginning he came to our house he has been constantly demanding the attention of his father (and it makes sense because he has been deprived of him) in a demanding way, and my husband shows favoritism towards him. Since then my son's behavior has changed radically. He has become very aggressive and irritable and shuts us out more easily. He has behaved aggressively towards my husband and usually treats his stepbrother with complete indifference. He refuses to play with him, ignores him when the little one talks to him, and generally shows his dissatisfaction in every way. 

My husband is very angry with this behavior and tries to force him to hang out with his stepbrother. I try to make him understand that pushing my son to accept his son is not going to achieve anything. He accuses me of not caring about his son, while he has done so much for mine and that my behavior is unfair, because I do not punish my son every time he treats his son badly. The result is that our own relationship has reached its limits. How can I make him understand that by clashing with the older one and constantly favoring the younger one, he is destroying the balance in our family? 

Lina 

Dear Lina, 

It is not always easy for children from different marriages to coexist in the same family, especially if the cohabitation coincides with the period when the children enter adolescence. 

Your son seems to be very attached to his stepfather and for a long time he grew up having the exclusivity of his attention, because he had him at his disposal every day, while his young son, I suppose, lived mainly with his mother. So when the decision was made to live together, the balance was upset. 

Your spouse, like most divorced dads, for so many years felt deprived of his child, along with all the negative emotions it brings, guilt, feelings of inadequacy as a parent, the inability to be there for his child when he needs him. Now he is given the opportunity to make up for lost time and it is natural that he wants to dedicate time to his biological child. 

His son reunited with his father and is now in a new family, in which there is another son who in fact for so many years was raised by his own father, whom he himself missed. Now he tries in every way to consolidate his presence in the family and claims his relationship with his natural father, because he feels that he is in danger of losing it to another, who in fact shows him his hostility in every way. 

Finally, your son feels that he is losing a father for the second time and at an age when he is in great need of him. While until now he had the exclusivity, he is now in second place and he experiences all this perhaps as betrayal and abandonment and that is why he reacts so aggressively towards his stepbrother and his stepfather. 

It is natural for mistakes to be made on all sides. Your spouse is trying to build a relationship between the two boys by pushing the older one to accept the younger one. Again, I think you have focused on how to protect your own child from hurt, which is perfectly understandable, but perhaps not fair. 

It would be good to talk calmly with your husband and explain to him your fears and worries, listening to his own point of view and together decide what your common position will be as parents of this family. As for what attitude to take towards the children, it would be good to consult a child psychologist. 

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