'Yours, Mine & Ours': Samantha

"I did not think it would be this hard blending a family. It was easier being a single mom with my three kids than it is now with a husband, and the six kids," complains Juli. 

 

She is married to Mark, and feels jealous of the relationship he has with his 12-year-old daughter, Samantha. "I feel like I'm the other woman in my marriage," Juli says. 

Mark admits that he contributes to the problem. "When it comes to Samantha, she is my firstborn. She's my baby girl. I spoil her rotten," he says proudly. "That has brought some issues into the house."

Samantha shares her thoughts. "I'd rather have my dad be alone. I could take care of him. If taught me, I'd make dinner one day, you know? It is nice to have Julie around, but it's kind of touchy."

When Mark got divorced, he and Samantha were constant companions. "Samantha was the spouse figure in Mark's life for a few years after his wife left," Juli explains. "I feel like there is a rivalry between me and Samantha over Mark. She's trying to get a lot of his attention and get in between us as much as she can."


Mark wants to change, but is unsure where to begin. "There have been times that my wife has said, 'This is not what I thought it was going to be,' and wants out. Secretly, I agree with her."

Addressing Juli, Dr. Phil says, "Now, were you surprised to hear him say that he agrees with you, that maybe this isn't a good idea?" 

"No, I wasn't surprised, because we've talked about that before," she replies. "When things are going crazy, we're like, 'Maybe we made a mistake.'"


Dr. Phil turns to Mark. "Did you make a mistake?"

"Sometimes, like Juli says, in a heated discussion, we have come to the conclusion that maybe we did," Mark says. "When we first met, we never discussed it with the kids. We never said, 'OK, let's get everybody together and let's see how things work out. Let's see how the kids interact together. Let's see what they think of blending these families together. We just said, 'Hey kids ... we're getting married and we're moving in together.'" 

Dr. Phil says their decision wasn't necessarily a bad thing. "I don't think you let kids tell the parents what to do," he says. "But y'all thought this was going to be a piece of cake, right? You just thought, 'Hey, just one big happy family'?"

Juli agrees. "Yeah, the more the merrier."

Dr. Phil asks Juli, "What's it like to feel like the other woman in your own marriage?"

"It's horrible. I feel like I'm competing with her all the time," she admits. "I don't feel like we're parents with children. I feel like she's always right there in between us, and it's like a threesome raising kids or something."

 

Dr. Phil points out that Mark doesn't mind spoiling his daughter. Turning to him, he says, "You said, 'It would be difficult for me to change how I interact with my daughter. She's Daddy's girl, and I don't know how to get around that. And I don't want to change this, because I don't think there's anything wrong with our relationship.'"

 

Dr. Phil also points out that Mark hasn't been able to cut out certain habits with his daughter. She stays up late watching TV with him and Juli. Dr. Phil reads, "'I have my wife laying next to me one side, and my 12-year-old laying on the other side, and I'm in the middle flipping channels.' Do you think that's confusing to [Juli]?"

Mark admits that it is. "I don't have any answers, because it does bring up problems between Juli and myself," he says. "I don't want to alienate my daughter and say, 'OK, I'm going to change the way I interact with you.'" 

Dr. Phil explains that Mark doesn't have to alienate his daughter, but he may need to redefine their relationship now that he is remarried. "It depends on what the core of the interaction is. If the core of the interaction is, 'I'm your father, protector, leader, provider, I love you, you're special to me, we're always going to have a unique relationship,'  you don't want to change that," he tells Mark. "But her being a surrogate wife for you at 12 years old — I don't mean anything creepy about that — I'm just talking about the fact that she sees herself as your significant other."

 

He reminds Mark that Samantha has expressed jealousy toward her stepmother. "And you're saying, 'It's clear to me. I'm not blind. I see the fact that there is a tug of war going on here for positioning.' That is very confusing to her."

 

 

When Dr. Phil asks Juli what she'd like to see in a redefined relationship between Mark and Samantha, she says, "I would like to see it be more like father and daughter, not companions, always together."

"Where do you think it crosses the line? What is it that makes you feel like the other woman?" Dr. Phil probes.

"Samantha considers herself an equal to me," Juli explains. "We went to Hawaii, and Samantha would come in to him and say, 'When are you taking me to Hawaii? You took Juli to Hawaii, now when are you taking me?' Just stuff like that, where she thinks she's equal to me, instead of a mother-daughter relationship."

"Do you think it's unkind to her if you define your relationship as parent-child, more than as companions?" Dr. Phil asks Mark. 

"I don't think it's unkind. It is hard for me to basically leave my daughter behind again," he replies. "As a father, you never want to push your kids away. My ideal situation would be Juli and my daughter, Samantha, to come together, and Samantha to do those mother-daughter things that they all do."

"I'm so glad you said that. You understand that right now you have them in competition," Dr. Phil says.

"I do."

Dr. Phil tells the couple that they need to set boundaries. "Good fences make good neighbors, and in any family, there has to be a clear hierarchy. Everybody has to know what their role is. If you're going to have a phenomenal family, everybody has to have a role, and they have to know what the boundaries of that role consist of," he explains.

 

Dr. Phil speaks to Mark. "You spoil her. And you said, 'I spoil her rotten. I do. And I have a hard time telling her what to do.' She absolutely has to have that separation. It has to be parent-child, not adult-to-adult," he stresses. "You say what you want is for them to bond and have a good relationship, but you've now got them just head-to-head as foes, and that will never work. And what will happen is as she gets older, she will become more powerful. She will become more able to articulate her feelings. She will become more able to aggress."

 

Mark has been modeling the wrong behavior for Samantha, but it's not too late to change it. "She needs to know that a husband is loyal to his wife, that a husband bonds with his wife, that he protects his wife. You don't let them be in a competition," Dr. Phil advises.