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Ugh. Parenting with an ACOA ex...

Old 07-30-2010, 08:53 PM
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Ugh. Parenting with an ACOA ex...

So exH and I had consistently had a very amicable divorce. We split up over 4 years ago.

It seems that now, that ship has sailed. Know why? Because I'm getting healthier. ExH is majorly P*SSED that I am not continuing to make accommodations regarding the separation agreement. Now, mind you, I've already made 3 significant accommodations and told him I CAN'T financially do more. Doesn't matter, he's soooooo angry.

Then yesterday my 14 yo DD tells me that the last 2 years with Dad have been very difficult. "Dad doesn't do what he says he's going to do" and "I'm tired of crying over my relationship with him" and "I know that deep down inside I must love him, but I don't want to spend time with him anymore."

I know what she's talking about, it's toxic stuff and I had to get out of the marriage in order to survive. DD says, "even though I'm so much happier since you got divorced, this is my home and I don't want to leave anything at Dad's anymore." My heart is so sad.

ExH is exceedingly manipulative, and I've seen this SO much more clearly since getting into recovery. I don't know how to do this. My kids are 12 and 14 and I want to do everything I can to raise them to have strong voices about who they are and what they want. I don't know what to do. My Mamma Bear inside wants to have them spend almost all of their time with me. Their Dad is trying to make sure he gets less and less time with them, anyway. I want to set boundaries with him and yet I'm concerned he'll use the kids as pawns to try to "get" to me. It's so awful, I can barely stomach it.

ES&H much appreciated...

Gratefully and tearfully,
posie

Last edited by posiesperson; 07-30-2010 at 08:54 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 07-30-2010, 09:06 PM
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Oh Posie, my heart hurts for you!

It sound like DD is communicating clearly with you on how she feels.

You know how toxic it was. Now she's seeing it.

Is there any reason she has to spend time with him at all, if not a bare minimum?

How is your 12 year old handling things?
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Old 07-30-2010, 09:37 PM
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Thanks Freedom. There's really no reason my DD has to spend much time with him, unless he makes a stink. Don't know why he would, seeing as he seems to resent the time he "has" to spend with them, but if he thought it would hurt me I think he could do a lot that I wouldn't have expected of him a year ago. Or at least, I wasn't seeing it. Amazing what happened when I said "No" to him!

My 12 year old DD says she doesn't like the way he is, but says it doesn't bother her as much as it bothers my 14 yo.

The control is unreal. He'll take them out to dinner, but says he can't afford anything but take-out sub sandwiches, and then says that they can only order from the value meal...implies they should be happy they're eating out at all. If they ordered what they want it would run him less than $5 more, total.

Of course, it's all a "dig" at me for not agreeing to take a lesser amount in child support payments. Although he got laid off and took a job with a paycut, when he made a huge commission you can bet your bottom dollar that I didn't see any of that! Also, somehow it's my fault that his car died and instead of getting a used one he got a brand-spanking-new one. Not my decision, not my problem. Except that he wants it to be.

Oh, and he wants to take them out of the private school that they LOVE, supposedly because he can't afford it. Funny thing is, though, that I PAY FOR IT. And I'll be able to continue to eek by if he simply pays his agreed-upon child support.

I can't believe this.

ARGH!
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Old 07-30-2010, 10:23 PM
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Hugs, Posie. I don't have any experience to impart - just getting started here, but I have a shoulder to lean on and an ear to lend.

My STBXAH pulled the same cr-p about my DS's school when he has not paid anything towards it or really even any child support in the 2 years we've been living apart, so I can completely relate to that part. I don't know why I continue to be amazed by the similarities between A's....

Your daughters sound amazingly insightful and pretty sure of themselves. I'm inclined to attribute that to their amazing mom.
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Old 07-31-2010, 03:58 AM
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hi-

i don't have children so perhaps i should leave your question to those who have experience.

however, i do want to say that i think it's healthy and a testement to your relationship with your daughter that she can verbalize how she feels so succinctly and honestly with you.

i find myself wondering if perhaps there would be some benefit to her writing a letter to her father regarding how she actually feels. this letter doesn't ever have to be sent to him, but it might help her express how she feels and share it with you and for her to know that it's ok.

i think also perhaps it would be helpful to discuss the concept and method of determining boundaries with her. she's 14 and she's dealing with him and she too will have to set boundaries with him when in his care. if he crosses one of her boundaries, does she have an out? can she leave and return home, for example.

i don't have children and please forgive me if i misspeak here, but i worked with troubled youths as a teacher. i got them when they had been kicked out of all the local schools, that's when they came to my class. they were 14-16 and were dealing with very real issues in their homes. they knew the score.

when i read what your daughter has said, she seems pretty clear. she says:

I know that deep down inside I must love him, but I don't want to spend time with him anymore


that's a big statement. is it possible to honour her request?

he's done this himself with his choices. oddly, i feel no sympathy towards him. why should she spend time with him if she doesn't want to?
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Old 07-31-2010, 04:36 AM
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I would think that the courts would recognize your 14 yr old is old enough to make he own choice over custody. Or so I have heard over and over from others. If she didn't want to go I would not force her.

If your ex blows his relationship with his children that's on him, not you.
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Old 07-31-2010, 06:26 AM
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Originally Posted by posiesperson View Post
ExH is majorly P*SSED that I am not continuing to make accommodations regarding the separation agreement. Now, mind you, I've already made 3 significant accommodations and told him I CAN'T financially do more. Doesn't matter, he's soooooo angry.

Then yesterday my 14 yo DD tells me that the last 2 years with Dad have been very difficult. "Dad doesn't do what he says he's going to do" and "I'm tired of crying over my relationship with him" and "I know that deep down inside I must love him, but I don't want to spend time with him anymore."

I don't know what to do. ... It's so awful, I can barely stomach it.

ES&H much appreciated...
1. Breathe deeply. Go to yoga. Sing out loud. ANYthing to get yourself breathing into your belly to release the tensions that these fears have brought up.
2. Let Go and Let God. You CANNOT control any of this Posie. You cannot prevent ANYthing from happening. Let your HP do his job. Read the other posts about HPs (there's a good one on here right now someone posted about an Al-Anon meeting and "please don't judge me"). Trying to figure out what the XH is going through, what HE is doing, what HE is going to do, HOW he is going to manipulate you, WHY he is acting this way, etc., is going to get you NOWHERE.

Let HIM go and focus on YOU. What YOU WANT and what YOU can control about YOUR self and YOUR life.

3. Do nothing. Do not react. Walk away. It is ALL going to work out the way it is all going to work out, regardless of whether you understand, figure out, say the right thing, say the wrong thing, do this, do that, whatever. Just take care of YOU and any minor children who are unable to take care of themselves.
4. The legal agreements exist to spell out for each of the parties what their rights and responsibilities are. You do not need to discuss these things with him if doing so is toxic.

Now here is what I think is the crux of the issue, based on my own personal experience: You have told him what you expect from him, he's reacted to YOU (next time do not give him the opportunity to throw a temper tantrum in your direction), now you have a choice. If he does not do what is in the agreement to do, YOU have to decide ALL ON YOUR OWN (at least, without any input or feedback from HIM) what you are going to do about it. Take him to court or not? And do so without any personal feedback from anyone. Professional, legal feedback only. That is my suggestion to you as an exercise in self-development
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Old 07-31-2010, 06:56 AM
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Thanks everyone. I should have read these posts before calling him this morning...had to, really, because the kids have an activity to go to later today and I had to work out arrangements.

He's p*ssed that he is supposed to pick them up on Saturday mornings WHICH HE AGREED TO (because then he doesn't get time to himself for a chunk of the weekend), and was p*ssed that he was going to have more time to himself as a result of my taking them to their activity later today (meaning he gets more time to himself), because he didn't have more time to "plan" his time to himself. I can't f*cking win. This is so sad.

After I told him what I needed to say he was all remorseful, "gee the kids don't want me to take them this morning" and such garbage. WAH. He's a king baby, just never saw it before because he doesn't have a bottle to his lips. I guess I can thank my exA for helping me get to a place where I started seeing all this kind of stuff.

I really appreciate your input. naive, a letter sounds like a great idea! I'll talk to DD about that. And the boundary thing is important, I just don't know how I can give her an escape hatch with him, he lives 25 minutes away (BTW, hates and resents that fact, too, but does nothing to change it for himself. THAT'S probably my fault too! LOL.) I need to consider this. I'm working so hard on my own boundaries there are lessons I can discuss with her, I'm sure, and developing a plan will be important.

DD is amazingly open and talks to me, for which I am SO grateful, so thanks for the complement, theuncertainty. I needed that. I feel your pain.

Jazz, you said, "If your ex blows his relationship with his children that's on him, not you." Yup. I know this. I've seen it time and again with other people I know, and the kids end up having an amazing relationship with their healthier parent. Just breaks my heart to send them into that abyss of cr*p. They even complain that his house is an absolute filthy mess...

L2L, I'm off to an Alanon meeting this morning, and my sponsor will be there, too. Working the 3rd step in a major way, thank you for the reminder. And yes--legal/professional input only, no accepting garbage from him. He's good at tossing out the hooks, and although I'm better at avoiding them, I do get "hooked" occasionally...

I have to admit, too, that there's a part of me that's mourning my loss of time here at home, by myself, when I assumed they were building at least a decent relationship with their father. I've never had time to myself like that before, and although I will of course do what's best for my precious children, it's the in-my-face recognition that I'm doing parenting by myself....always was, just have it right in front of my face now.

I'll do the best thing for my kids, and I have to say, I'm just oozing gratefulness for your support. I think I need to revisit the custody thing. Does this cr*p ever end???

Still teary,
posie
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Old 07-31-2010, 09:43 AM
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hi posie-

just brainstorming about the 25 minute away problem. perhaps could be solved by him only visitng DD locally in her own neighborhood? for example, the local swimming pool , park or restaurant. that way, she always has an exit if it is somewhere reachable by her with her bicycle. she can leave on her own power, if so, without relying on him to take her home if her boundary is crossed. she can just cycle home.

another alternative is that she always has a mobile phone and money to pay a 25 minute taxi with her. like an "i'm going to dad's kit" that she takes with her so she has a way out.

but really, she doesn't want to see him, which is the bottom line.

as for your alone time, well, there are many ways in which to acheive that...girls at that age love to spend the night with their friends, there is aunts and uncles and there's always paying someone to watch them while you have a night out with yourself.

i know for myself, it is critical that i get some time to myself. perhaps talk with the girls and get their ideas as to how you can accomplish some solo time in the house for yourself. they might have some ideas, like they go to the library together every saturday morning to give you some space....

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Old 07-31-2010, 10:06 AM
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Maybe, at this point, what would work better than regularly-scheduled parenting time with Dad would be a flexible arrangement where he and the kids spend time together as they agree between themselves? I don't know how amenable to that everyone would be, but it doesn't sound like your 14 y/o wants to cut off all contact, just not have to endure the forced "togetherness" on a regular basis.

Are there any AlaTeen groups around? They might benefit from gaining a bit of understanding about why Dad is the way he is, and how it affects them--relieve some of the burden of feeling guilty because they don't enjoy spending time with him. Just a thought.
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Old 08-01-2010, 07:22 AM
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Thanks for those suggestions. My DDs have agreed to go to Alateen this week! I'm looking forward to them having the opportunity to hear/talk about this. I've been talking with them about Alateen for about 5 months, ever since I broke up with my exA, and now they seem ready to go.

They both went off to Dad's yesterday evening (they had said they didn't want to go with him until later in the day, after their activity instead of the usual late-morning changeover). He then took them to a Fair. Of course then he was "Dad of the Year" and my younger one called and said what a great time she had. Well, good. I won't hold my breath for more of the same. I can't imagine where the money came from for the Fair, given that he's professing that he's incredibly broke so that's why paying the child support is just such a hardship for him. Wah.

They'll be home tomorrow, and in the meantime I'll be pondering all of this. It's painful. I also know it's high time I took off the blinders. This is part of recovery that's challenging, even though it's so worth it. I continue to be a bit amazed at how angry he is about the changes I'm making with regard to him. It's validating, in a way, and reminds me of the insidious nature of passive-aggressive control. It's also part of the deeper reasons that I had to leave the marriage, even if I wasn't fully in touch with all of those reasons at the time.

I like the "i'm going to Dad's kit", naive. I'll work on that.

Hugs and gratitude,
posie
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Old 08-01-2010, 08:41 AM
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that's good news that they are going to alateen this week. perhaps explain the give it 6 trys rule, as many feel uncomfortable initially. also, let them know that they don't have to say anything at all...they can just sit and listen...

and yes, expect the uproar from the A when you start to make changes. this work is painful but liberating! for myself, i was so busy putting fires out and playing the blame game that it took me a while to take a good hard honest look at my role in the whole thing.

in therapy, i'm learning to try to identify my needs, my goals...something i haven't considered in a long time while i was busy caring for everyone else. my codie behavior, i now discover, was playing a role in MANY relationships, not only the one with my xABF.

now, i guard my private time like a mother lion. i'm learning that i don't have to answer the door, i don't have to answer the phone, i don't have to commit to plans.

now, i prefer to leave my days open to unfold, with no stakes in the ground to meet anyone or do anything that someone wants me to do.

i used to feel bad if a friend came over and knocked the door and i didn't answer. now i don't! i have been clear: call before you come over. they ignore this. and i ignore the knock now.

i'm learning that i don't have to feel pressured by others demands on me. in therapy, we are working on what we call "exits"...when they demand, i can fall back on my "exits", which are new ways of communicating or choosing to not communicate. kind of like the "i'm going to dad's kit"...i always have an out.

in doing this recovery work, i have been amazed at just how many demands are being made of me by a whole bunch of people. now i'm stepping back and observing. in theraspy, we discuss what happened that week and what my boundaries are...how will i handle it.

it's good to see these things and be prepared to put my new plan of action into motion.

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Old 08-01-2010, 08:47 AM
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It seems you are making such great progress and your kids too. I love hearing this!! You must keep us updated on this! Wonderful to hear how a negative turned into a positive!

Hugs
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Old 08-01-2010, 08:56 AM
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Ah, well, don't worry too much about where the money came from, and the fact that he complains about being broke. It's nice that they had a good time together.

I think a lot of non-custodial parents feel the need to do something "fun" when they see the kids. My kids lived with their dad most of the time, and so they didn't really have a regular "routine" when they came over. So I usually had at least one "fun" activity or outing planned.

I think you are doing great.
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Old 08-01-2010, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by naive View Post

i used to feel bad if a friend came over and knocked the door and i didn't answer. now i don't! i have been clear: call before you come over. they ignore this. and i ignore the knock now.
I like that a lot! Don't like the drop-ins.

I like the "dad kit" too. Back in high school I took out this one girl for a while who always had "mad money" tucked away. Enough for a cab home if she got mad at her date.

I like to think I was somewhat responsible for her novel idea!

Thanks and God bless us all,
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Old 08-02-2010, 06:01 AM
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Good stuff, thanks for the replies.

naive, I am SO with you on your response to the doorbell, the phone, etc. I was the same way--had to get it right away. Not I don't even give it a second thought beyond "I'm not going to answer right this minute" and then I get back to it when I'm good and ready. It's a much more peaceful way to live my life! I, too, am like a mother lion with regard to my time and energy. And I try to not think about all the time/money/energy I put into dead-end relationships...I used to do that, too. Instead it's all about the learning I've done.

LexieCat, I think the time at the Fair bothers me because of all the BS he's fed them for so long. When they don't want to go with him early in the day (because they're sick of said BS) then he arrives on the scene like a f***ing knight in shining armor. It gets them hooked back into his web of control b/c he did something they really wanted, and then he manipulates them with it. I'm angry about that because I know it's a set-up...been there, done that. Now I'm watching my kids on the same trajectory. My 14 yo is wiser to it, but my 12 yo isn't. So it's not about having the time together and making it "fun", it's really his half-a**ed apology to them for not having given them the respect they deserve so that then he can turn around and say, "But remember, I took you to the Fair..."

This was further illustrated for me yesterday, when my 14 yo DD called me and said, "Mom, Dad said we have to go to day camp tomorrow but we want to go to a friend's house. He won't listen, and he and (12 yo DD) got into a shouting match about it this morning. Dad won't listen to what we're saying, no matter what it has to be what he says."

So there you have it. Classic. I talked to her about her feelings, what she really wants to say to her Dad, suggested that expressing her feelings to him might be helpful for her, and she said she was going to talk to him again. I didn't hear back from her, so I am assuming it went okay.

It's all about control, control, control. I'm so sad for my kids.

On another note, Lulu, thanks for the encouragement...

And Coyote, I like the "mad money" idea. Given that I'm probably not too many years away from THAT issue with my DDs, I'm using that one!

posie
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Old 08-02-2010, 06:48 AM
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posie,

i'm sorry i was away for much of the week and weekend, and didn't see this until now.

some thoughts:

for what it's worth, i remember those beautiful times of alone in my home when the girls were at their dad's. it was very nice. but yes, you will put their needs first, as it should be, and get your time in other ways.

i think it's not SO bad for him to be super-dad every once in awhile. they are getting to the age where they can see him for what/who he really is. good qualities and bad. it will be a balanced perspective, you can be sure of that.
i guess i would try and choose "grateful" that they had a good time with the guy.

big commission check? you know, you can petition the court for an increase in c.support, if you think his income has gone up that is. one big check wouldn't qualify probably, but if starts doing better.....
fair is fair.

take them out of the school that they love? he just doesn't get it, what stability is about, does he?
let it roll off your back.

when i took mine to alateen, i told her it was not an option. after going once, she said "do i have to go again?" i said "yes". "not forever, but for at least a few times". she went to three or four meetings, tried two different meetings, and felt she couldn't relate to the other kids. she probably could have, if she had an open mind, but i let her drop because i thought that forcing her would backfire.
i think at their ages, it's ok to say, "five times." or "10 times". it does take awhile to start to get it.

i love the "dad kit". i hope they would feel empowered to use it if the need ever came up. if they need to leave, they can tell dad they think they got sick?

sounds like you are a wonderful mother.
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Old 08-03-2010, 06:02 AM
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Thanks coffee, I'm working on letting it all roll off my back. It's not easy. Good perspective, thank you for that.

The latest games this week have begun. Tomorrow he wants to do an activity during the day and include the kids (funny, he just CAN'T make it to anything I ask him to attend because of his limited vacation time but he can take time off to do this "fluffy" activity). He left me a VM saying one thing about the plans, sent me an e-mail saying another. This was all after allegedly talking to the kids over the weekend and them being "on-board" with it. Grrrrr. The kids, who got back from his place late last night (and he didn't bother to call me to tell me he'd be late) are sleeping now but of course I'll have to follow up with them and find out what their perspective on all of this is...

How does he do it? How does he repeatedly manage to hook me into having to deal with him on this level? The manipulation is so insidious and amazingly smooth. I don't even know if this makes sense this morning, but all I know is that he has managed to get us all to kind of walk around, knocking into each other as we try to figure out what the h*ll happened! He's not an A, but learned the family dynamics so, so well (both of us have mothers who are ACOA). I certainly need no further proof that alcoholism is a family disease.

His antics are a waste of my precious time and energy, IMO. I definitely need to find a way to deal with this.

Thanks,
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