Having trouble with my stepchildren

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I've been married to my husband for a little less than a year. We've been together for three years and have a 1-year-old daughter. He has two daughters (both under 5) from a previous marriage. I've been feeling really down lately about our life. I don't know if I should consider leaving.

Our marriage was not welcome by many of my family members. In fact, one of my siblings doesn't speak to me anymore. The reason for this is because my husband and I were together when we were both married. We had entered into a polyamorous relationship with our other spouses. None of it ended well. He ended up being accused of abuse by his ex, and when I left my husband, he told all of our friends and family that I had cheated on him. We ended up together as a soft place to land.

Divorce took a lot out of us. We moved into an apartment together with my parents' help. Everything was fine – but completely drama filled. The kids loved coming to visit us, and we loved having them. So much so we had one of our own.

However, after having my baby, I started to have trouble accepting my stepdaughters. I was terrified of them and what germs they brought from their mom's, and I didn’t want them around. Even now they want to cuddle and I can't stand it because I'm not supposed to be the one who does this, their mom is.

Their mom has been absent the last two months. We are struggling hard financially and emotionally to keep up with having the two girls full-time. I feel like the anger I feel toward them is causing a lot of harm and I should leave. I absolutely adore my husband. I did adore the kids before I had mine. I don't know what is wrong with me. Should I leave? Should I stay?

– Harder landing

First, it sounds like it's time to talk to a mental health professional. You have a 1-year-old who arrived in the middle of a lot of change. You might benefit from processing all of this with a therapist. If you don't have a path to getting one, you can ask your doctor for guidance.

Second, this is a unique moment for the word "germs." You didn't mention any specific fears, but I can’t imagine the state of the world is giving you real cause to worry about what's being brought into the house. Perhaps it would help to make sure you understand how his daughters follow rules when they're outside.

I also think you should talk to your partner about needing space. I understand that he's probably struggling too, but right now you require special time by yourself and with your 1-year-old. Talk to him about scheduling breaks from the rest of the world. He can help by taking the lead with his kids.

If you have any acute concerns about all of this anger, yes, get out of there, even if it's just to take a breather at your parents' place. You first priority is to keep everyone safe, yourself included.

- Meredith

Readers? Can people with kids talk about how dynamics change when there's a new child in the house? How can the relationship between stepparents and stepchildren change over time? How do you get a break when there's so much going on and people who have needs?