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Caught in delusional BM whiplash

SopranoKaty's picture

I'm stuck in a situation that is becoming harder and harder to take. The BM of my SS9 and SD11 is like a horrifying rollercoaster. Either she is actively aggressing both me and DH, she is completely ignoring us and avoiding contact, or she is in a period of fake niceness, which comes out of nowhere and to me feels the strangest and most abusive/gaslighting....

This past week she wouldn't stop verbally abusing DH, screaming at him over the phone, and threatening to tell his children what a monster he was and share all their previous exchanges with the kids. The stress rose and rose, I tried to stay out of it, but finally, it amounted to DH having an episode of anxiety so strong that he passed out and hit his head on the bathroom floor. I spent the next several days taking care of him, the kids, and forgetting my anger long enough to just keep things going. 

This morning, in a moment of this fake niceness, she wrote him a message expressing that she'd heard from the kids how he had collapsed and how worried she was for him. This was the last straw for me, I exploded. DH has now "gotten over it" and thus "I should too," try to take things easy, etc. The problem is I'm still so angry. I drafted her the following message, which I haven't sent, and I guess I shouldn't send, based on previous (great) advice I've gotten here:

"DH collapsed last week because of the tremendous amount of stress your exchanges had on him. This was extremely detrimental to his health and disturbing for the children to witness, not to mention that all this stress is destroying me as well. It has been 3 years, this has to stop. This has to change. Everyone is suffering, I'm sure you are too. It's clear that you are still incredibly angry, but this is taking a toll on everyone and there is no sense in it. "

What can I do? Anything? Nothing? Send? Not send? I love my DH, my stepkids, and we have a good thing going--DH is super appreciative of everything and very concerned that I don't give too much with the kids, etc, but he has no tolerance for any anger I have with the BM. On one hand, I get it, he is getting enough from her, but on the other, I'm left having to care for everyone in the wake of her wrath and I'm the first expected to move on gracefully when he is ready to move on. I'm so lost. Help?


tog redux's picture

No, no, no - stay out of it. Encourage DH to stop having face-to-face exchanges with her and to bring someone who can be a witness so he can call the police next time she does this.

My guess is that she has Borderline Personality Disorder. He needs to be very careful with her and never go on exchanges alone. You can be the person who accompanies him if she doesn't tend to get freaked out by your presence, but just sit there quietly recording or whatever, don't jump into the drama. 

Better boundaries are needed with the crazy woman.  He should learn how to have absolute minimal contact with her, even when she's being nice.

SopranoKaty's picture

I should have been more clear. I mean verbally pushing him, they have almost no face-to-face contact, it's all over the phone, messages, emails, or my personal favorite, messages she wants passed along by the kids to us. That makes a different issue for recording, witnessing, etc. Anything I can do to that end? I think you are right about staying out of it...

CastleJJ's picture

Email is all documented, so there is no need to record. He can turn those emails over to the courts at any time. If you limit everything to writing, you will have a clear paper trail.

Your SO also needs to get help for his anxiety. He cannot be passing out every time BM has a meltdown. He has a long road of still dealing with her and he cannot sweep it under the rug. He needs to talk to a therapist or a psychiatrist if he needs counseling or medication. He needs to grow some thick skin and stop being afraid of her. 

futurobrillante99's picture

Your husband needs to learn gray rocking - you don't show emotion and you only respond on necessary information: The when, where and how of exchanges or things relating to the BUSINESS of parenting kids.

All other emails, texts and phone calls are IGNORED. No response. It doesn't matter if she calls him a POS father.

If the kids come with messages, "Sorry kids. You shouldn't have to be put in the middle. If your mom has a message for me, she will need to communicate directly with me. No more relaying messages. If it's important your mom will text or email me."

If he's willing and YOU are willing, screen all text messages and emails before he does - then discuss how to respond with "just the facts."


BM: "Well, ex, aren't you the crappiest father? You won't LET our children pass messages from me? What kind of sicko are you? Are you a coward or does your new wife boss you around? Your kids will hear about this. Oh, and I won't be dropping them off until tomorrow at 5pm. They shouldn't be spending so much time around your bitch wife."

Your DH, "Page 4, line 15 of our custody agreement states that I have visitation from Fridays at 5pm until Sundays at 8pm. I will be expecting the kids to be dropped off at the assigned time. Tomorrow at 5pm is not an option. See you tonight at 5pm."

He ignores all the inflammatory comments and goes ONLY to the facts.

BM: "Hey loser. I know you give a sh&t about your kids and I have to do everything, so here's a bill for a $500 emergency room visit. If you don't pay it to me asap, I'll take you to court for a modification of support. I tell the kids all the time that you're a lousy father and they can see it, too."

DH: "Our court order states that I will pay 50% of any necessary medical expenses that insurance doesn't cover within 30 days IF you stay in network and provide a receipt. Please send me a receipt and I will get back to you."


He's got to stop getting sucked into her drama and allowing it to upset him. He needs to set strong boundaries on how and when she can contact him. Shut her out and limit her ability to reach ANY of you. You should have crazy blocked and your husband should ideally be using Our Family Wizard as the main method of communication. Phone calls should very rare and for emergencies only. Everything should go through Our Family Wizard so the courts can see her craziness.

Check the laws in your state for recording conversations. If you're in a place where it's okay for one party to record the other without them knowing, he should record ALL phone calls if you can't avoid them.

SopranoKaty's picture

This is great advice, and the grey rock is definitely starting today. Unfortunately I live in France so laws about recording conversations are different and we don't have anything like "Our Family Wizard" but I wish we did, it would be enormously helpful. Thanks for taking the time to write!

futurobrillante99's picture

Since you live in France, stick to strictly written communication: text and email. If you must have phone calls, send her a letter through your attorney to inform her that all phone calls WILL be recorded going forward.

GRAY ROCK! Never react. Have your DH pretend like he's a robot.

Warning, it will likely increase her level of crazy at the outset.

Strictly follow the court order on visitation. If you do her any favors, it will be used against you and used to manipulate you.

Aunt Agatha's picture

I'd also encourage him to insist on getting My Family Wizard or go to email communication only.

My fiancé's ex sounds like she could be the sister of yours.  After getting some good advice from a lawyer, he went email only.  He allowed text messaging but only if she behaved.  She started acting up and it was back to email only and text would be shut off for a while.  Phone calls go to VM.

Then, he only answered emails or text if it was about the kids and necessary. If a phone call needed a response, it was done through email.

I have nothing to do with her. 

Its been about 10 years, and she will from time to time raise her ugly head, but she has found we are not so much fun so she moves on to other victims for her supply.

At first, my fiancé was worried about them having an emergency or being hospitalized.  However, even though she had phone/text access, she never called him when she took the skids to an ER.  He would find out later, usually when the bill came.  So that solved that.

You both deserve the peace that will come with boxing her into the smallest amount of access she can have, and making sure there is a delay in any response.  If they only talk about the kids (and any abuse is walked away from/ignored), your lives will get easier.

Now his kids are all teens, so 99% of communication is through them.  He still follows the same rules for communication with BM.

CastleJJ's picture

Our BM is also cut from the same cloth. DH and I believe she is undiagnosed NPD. She originally had texting and email access with DH but after various stints emotional and verbal abuse with text blasts happening for as long as 3 hours, she was sent to email only. Eventually, even her emails because aggressive and abusive, but in a gaslighting and manipulative way. Our attorney said he had never seen anything like it, written so that individually, a single email seems so concerned about SS and like an effort to coparent, but as a collective of emails, there is a pattern of abuse. Our attorney also said that DH provided too much information and spent time trying to defend himself, which only made her attacks worse. You never let a narc know that their actions bother you. 

Our attorney advised us to "grey rock" or use the BIFF method. You can look up the BIFF method on Google. Your SO needs limit everything to email and use the BIFF method, keeping all responses to 3 sentences or less and only as it pertains to the children. This doesn't feed the narc supply BM so desperately needs. BM will likely have tantrums due to the boundaries being put in place, he needs to stand his ground. If she continues her crap, he can insist on Our Family Wizard. Luckily, the courts monitor that app and if he ever took her to court, they can pull an entire communication record. Communications cannot be deleted or altered after sending. 

There is very little communication from HCBMs that is actually important so we have come to find out. They only send crap to make you feel involved while they make all the big decisions behind the scenes and without your knowledge.  For years, we received lunch menus and spelling lists, but never anything important. DH was always concerned about emergencies, but like someone mentioned above, we were never notified of ER visits until after they happened or until a bill was received. If your SO is only getting crap for communication, then he really doesn't need to communicate with her at all, outside logistics for pick ups and drop offs/parenting time. Have him get all of the school and medical information directly from the source and limit communication with BM. 

tog redux's picture

Yes, OP - this. He needs to respond only to what is relevant and ignore the rest. Block her on text and respond only to emails, and only those that have to do with parenting. IGNORE the rest.  In the old days, the expression on here was IGNORE THE WHORE.

If the email says: you are the worst father ever I'm taking you back to court and you'll never see the kids again. Johnny will be ready for pick-up at 6.

Then he says: Pick-up time is fine. 

Ignoring these women takes the wind out of their sails. If she's being nice but there's nothing to respond to - ignore. If she's being hostile - ignore. ONLY respond to what needs a response, and then, make it an "ok" whenever possible.

Ignoring BM here made a world of difference. AND, it pisses her off, SS told us so.  Smile

CastleJJ's picture

Yup - every communication is like a business transaction. Respond in the same way you would respond to a coworker. Keep all emotions out of it. DH received something similar to this from BM:

"SS's teacher is Mrs. X this year. I think it's really crappy that you won't provide extra money for school supplies and the school fees. My CS is not enough to cover this. I wish you cared more about your son. When you decide to actually contribute to your child, please let me know." 

DH's response was "Thank you for the update regarding SS's assigned teacher. I have already contacted her to be added to the classroom email list." 

BM always liked to send DH stupid updates like lunch menus and spelling lists. DH ignored those. When BM emailed about scheduled doctors appointments or anything, he would simply respond "Thank you for the update"

We once received an email from BM accusing my BIL of sexual misconduct in very graphic detail. DH had just taken BM to court and she was retaliating. My BIL has never met BM or SS. Our attorney advised us to say the following: "Your sudden recollection of events seems intended for court purposes, rather than for coparenting. Please turn over any evidence you have to my attorney within 24 hours." Guess what, allegations were dropped. 

If you grey rock, she has nothing else to do and no response to give. When emailing about parenting time exchanges, always be sure to reply with: "I will pick skid up at x location at x time on x date for visitation" (just so you have proof confirming the time/date). 

tog redux's picture

BM here rarely emails anymore - she did last May, hoping to get some money out of DH that wasn't court-ordered, and included, "I would appreciate a response".

NOPE. She apparently needed one last training session to just STFU and leave DH alone. SS is 21, there is nothing they need to talk about.

AlmostGone83's picture

Hand your husband a bottle of smelling salts and tell him if he insists on sweeping this under the rug, the next time he passes out you'll make two phone calls - 1. to the paramedics and 2. to the police to come pick up the kids before you walk out the door. It's not your job to clean up after hurricane BM. 

Gimlet's picture

Seriously.  It's in his power to hang up the damn phone and set some boundaries. She's going to be crazy no matter what he does.

I would be a heck of a lot less nurturing if my husband passed out from letting BM abuse him, that's for sure. 

tog redux's picture

I had to hold DH back from wanting to get her back in some way. He's not the wilting flower type, I guess.

lieutenant_dad's picture

Persoally, I'd tell your DH to send everything up to "witness" in an email, written in his voice, and then tell him to tell her that all future communication will be done via email due to her inability to control herself.

And I'd tell your DH in no uncertain terms that this is what HAS to happen for the health of your marriage.

As soon as this caused issues for YOU is when it became okay for YOU to voice your frustration over the situation. YOU don't have to get over it just because he does because HE'S not the one taking care of his concussion and his kids while he's laid up.

Yes, all communication can be done via email. With smartphones, it's incredibly easy to get notifications from emails, and easy to set up rules so that certain emails ping through while others don't. There is absolutely ZERO need for the two of them to continue communicating by phone, especially since she abuses that privilege.

If he isn't willing to do that, then you need to insist that all phone calls happen outside of the house, that he identify someone else he can stay with or who will come take care of him the next time it happens, and that he pay for family therapy so that each of you (his kids included) can work through these abusive exchanges he has with his ex. If he wants to put himself through it, fine. But you shouldn't allow him to make you the nurse and maid who cleans up his messes afterwards.

You don't have a good thing going here. You've been passive, thinking of your DH as a victim without recourse. You've managed to find a forum with helpful tips, and he can do the same. Point out bluntly that he is effing up, he needs to find help, and he's killing your marriage by not doing so. Yes, he is being victimized, but he's not helpless. Stop letting him get away with acting helpless.

Harry's picture

He must block BM.  No phone calls.  Email only.  
only Email on pick up drop off. Important things. No crazy talk 
You can not continue going this way    Or else DH will be in the hospital over this nonsense 

Ispofacto's picture

I agree with everyone about email only.

I'd just like to add, that as soon as the skids start a sentance with "Mom says---", cut them off.  "Nope, you are not Mom's messangers.  I will not accept any more messages from Mom through you.  If she has something to tell me, she can email me."





yougotthis's picture

I would suggest to your DH to communicate with her through email only. If it's a nasty ranting email, it's ignored.

If she's verbally abusing him and yelling at him on phone calls, there's no reason he should be speaking with her on the phone, I would ignore her calls. 

If he's unwilling to do this he should at least just hang up the phone if she ever starts to speak to him that way again.

strugglingSM's picture

I agree with all the feedback above. Grey rock BM. If DH has to reply, short direct replies only, no emotional engagement. Let DH deal with his own emotional fallout (he's an adult). Accept that you will not be able to save the children from a mother who is not above pulling them into her emotional undertow. Find a therapist for yourself to help you deal with your own trauma from all of this, because it is crazy making and because she will not change. Try to find some way to remove all traces of her existence from your life (sounds crazy, I know, but it's one or the few things that's helped me - erasing BM from my life - it's difficult, but worth it). I've experienced all the things you have many people on Steptalk. Sadly, it's all too common. One of my stepkids is finally starting to wise up to BM, the other is enmeshed, so he may never figure it out.