Blended Family: Lou and Dina

Relationship on the Rocks?
Dr. Phil speaks with a family facing the extreme challenge of trying to blend two households together.
Lou and Dina met through their daughters Rachel and Ashley, who were best friends. "I actually do think that Lou is my soul mate," says Dina. "I do see us getting married someday."

But because Lou and Dina's kids don't get along, Lou has his doubts. "I love Dina. I want to stay with Dina, but I just don't want to get married because there's so much tension going on ... The road we're going down at this moment, I see me and Dina apart."

Dina thinks the majority of their fights are about Rachel. "I feel she shows me no respect whatsoever. She calls me a whore, her father's slut girlfriend. I know that she resents the fact that I'm here. She feels that I'm trying to take her mother's place and I shouldn't be telling her what to do. If we are not able to fix things, it will be the end of our relationship," says Dina.

Another problem is that Lou and Dina have different parenting styles. "He feels if you ignore something, it will go away," says Dina. "I'm more strict than he is. I have rules where the children are concerned and it seems that he has no rules where Rachel is concerned." For example, if Dina's kids are late at curfew, they are grounded. But when Rachel is late, there is no discipline.

"I feel like I'm caught in the middle," says Lou. "It's very frustrating."

Dina also feels that when she and Lou come to an agreement regarding Rachel, he doesn't stick to the agreement. "It just drives me insane," says Dina. "I hate being the bad guy, but it seems in order for there to be any discipline whatsoever, I have to be the bad guy."

"How's that working for you?" Dr. Phil asks Dina. "To come in as an authoritarian and it's just 'OK, here's what everyone's going to do'?"

"Not working well at all," says Dina.

Lou admits that he sabotages the decisions that he and Dina make together. "I cave in when it comes to my daughter," he says.

"Let me tell you what I know for sure," says Dr. Phil. "Merging two families together is very difficult. Merging two lives together is very difficult, as the 50 percent divorce rate suggests. I know for sure that you absolutely are not ready to get married. Your chance of success I would place at less than 10 percent. Somewhere between 10 percent and a snowball's chance in hell. I think you're just kidding yourselves."

Dr. Phil explains that their kids are suffering. "They're paying the price for the fact that you failed in your previous relationships, and that you didn't do your homework getting into this one. I know for sure that they have serious needs that are not being met. I know for sure that you haven't negotiated a plan. I know for sure that you don't have any defined roles, that there are blurred boundaries here, and I know for sure that you have a home with no rhythm. It's just chaos."
Dr. Phil addresses Lou: "You say you cave when it comes to your daughter. Isn't the truth, Lou, that you feel terribly guilty about the life you have created for Rachel and the hardships that she's been through mentally, emotionally, physically, lifestyle wise?"

Lou agrees.

"Do you blame yourself for it?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Yes," says Lou.

Dr. Phil summarizes: "And so, as a result, you're saying, 'You've been through all of this. You've had all these problems. I'm not going to be hard on you now.'"

"That's exactly how I feel," says Lou.

"It's like, 'You've got problems with Dina. You feel like you don't have a soft place to fall there. The only constant in your life is your dad and I'm going to tell you what you want to hear. There's going to be one person in your life who's nice to you,'" says Dr. Phil.

"You've hit it right on the head," says Lou.
"This time in her life is the time that she needs structure more than any other time," says Dr. Phil. "It's time that she needs discipline more than any other time. It's time that she needs predictability more than at any other time in her life, and you not putting up clear boundaries, you not putting up clear standards, is the worst possible thing you could do for her."

"I never thought of it like that," says Lou.

Although Rachel has to be accountable for her actions, Dr. Phil wants to look at it from her point of view. "Everything in her life has been stripped away and then five people move in to her house " one of them who's totally competing with her for her father's attention, affection and time. And her former best friend's mother is telling her what to do, while she's taking her dad's emotion, time and energy away from her."

"Wow, that's big," responds Lou.
Dr. Phil continues: "And you're working how many hours a day?"

"Sixteen, 18 hours a day," says Lou.
"So what you've done is you've moved five people into the house, and then you left. So all of a sudden, she's sleeping on the couch, and her dad's gone," says Dr. Phil.

Dr. Phil addresses Dina: "And what you do is get down on a teenage level and have yelling and screaming fights. How old were you when you had your first child?"

"Fourteen," says Dina.





"So you started real early on. And so maybe a lot of that development didn't come along because you had to stop being a kid and start being a mom," says Dr. Phil.
Dr. Phil brings up the fact that at one point, Dina threatened Rachel to make Lou choose between the two of them.

"We had a really long heated argument for a couple hours on that day and so we both said things in anger I don't think we meant," says Dina.

"That's the problem with a parent getting down at the child's level and interacting child to child instead of parent to child," says Dr. Phil.

"How do you not do that?" asks Dina.

"I'm so glad you asked," says Dr. Phil. "We can do this. We can turn this thing around, but it begins with you two saying, 'You know what? Like everybody else in America, I never learned how to be a parent ... Nobody taught me how to be a mother or a father. Nobody taught me how to deal with the emotional needs of myself, let alone my children. I need to learn that.' That's a void I intend to fill, starting with you guys."