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Dangers of manipulating your child in divorce

MissL's picture

I am new to this group - and boy do I need this.  I have been married for three years.  My husband has two children from a previous marriage - a daughter who is now 16 and a son who is about to turn 14.  From the first day I met his children, their mother has been actively telling the children terrible and untrue things about both me and their father.

I should point out that it was their mother who repeatedly told my husband that she wanted him out of the house.  He slept on a couch downstairs for over a year while he tried to make the marriage work for the sake of the kids.  It was just not possible, and they ended up divorcing.  

When I met the kids, their mother immediately told them that I was trying to replace her - a lie which she continues to perpertrate.  NO ONE can ever replace a mother, and I have no interest in doing so.  MY SS totally understands this.  But the mother also tells them that I broke up the family, and that their father cares more about me then he does about them.  Not true in the least, as evidence by the large amount of time that I spend alone while my husband gets much-needed quality time with his son, just the two of them.  I have gone through extremes to make sure I am not domineering or interfering at all in my husband's relationship with his children.  And, his ex-wife has never had a conversation with me in the five years that I have been in the picture.  What sort of mother wouldn't want to know who her children's stepmother is??

Because of the reaction of my SD to her father dating (and, truthfully, my husband allowing her to be quite rude), I admittedly did not spend much time with his kids before I moved in with him.  We both wanted to give her space to get use to the "new normal," which, sadly never happened.  I could tell even then (she was I think 9 at the time), that she was a very controlling, nasty young girl.  When we were married, she decided not to come over when it was my husband's visitation weekends.  This devastated my husband.  For the past three years, he has attended school concerts, plays, soccer games....anything that his daughter was involved with despite the attempts of her and her mother to withhold this information from him.  Her anger only continued to grow.  Just last night, she told him that he could attend her college tours and he "may pay for" college (how gracious of her...), but she wanted nothing to do with him.  She claimed that he ruined her life and he knows what he did.

I was incensed.  This is the type of attitude she has had ever since the divorce.  I had repeatedly told my husband, gently, that when she makes wild accusations, she needs to be asked to back them up with an example.  He claimed that, last night, he "didn't have a chance to" even ask her that due to her screaming,

While I am not a parent myself, I can not understand how this type of behavior is tolerated.  I know this is his daughter, but if it were me, even if it was my own child, if someone spoke to me like that, I would be done. I would tell them I was sorry they felt that way, and assure them that I would ALWAYS be there if they change their mind, and move on.  

She is encouraged to behave this way by her mother.  I know that.  But there are never any negative consequences.   She says she doesn't want her father in her life, but has no understanding of what that means.  She has received birthday and Christmas presents, most of which she returns.  Her bedroom at my house remains the same as when she last visited three years ago.  Her behavior is constantly excused by my husband and in-laws as being brainwashed by her mother.  She gets very upset when this is all discussed, and I think she knows on some level that she is wrong.  I think she is afraid of her mother.

As much as I personally do not care to ever see her, I know how important it is for her to have a relationship with her father.  I pray for them to reconcile.  

I should say that because he has effectively lost his daughter, my husband is terrified of also losing his son.  My SS is allowed to pretty much do and say anything he wants on our visitation weekends.  He is immature for his age.  They talk to each other like their grade school buddies (even though my SS is in 8th grade now) and not father and son.  So, when my husband DOES try to correct his behavior, its not taken at all seriously.  He either laughs it off or pouts - to the point of actively ignoring my husband.  

I can not tolerate this behavior from either of the children.  My husband has begun, a little, to confront his ex about her own behavior, but there is alot he will not say to her because there are things he only knows because his son confides in him.  He would expose his son for telling, creating more trouble for him.

I would really appreciate any advice or comments....

Kes's picture

This kind of story is sadly, very common on here.  It might help you to read around the subject of PAS (parental alienation syndrome) a little bit, there are books on Amazon etc.  It is extremely common for our spouses to put up with behaviour they really should confront, for the sake of holding on to ANY sort of relationship with their child, even if they are treated like shit and permit us to be treated like shit as well.  This is my story too - although thankfully my DH saw the error of his ways some 6 years ago - if he hadn't - I doubt I would have stayed with him.  

I would just ask your DH whether he feels that a relationship on any terms, even where he is constantly abused - is preferable to no relationship.  For me it is not.  I went through a sticky patch with my bio daughter about 4 yrs ago when she was getting divorced, when she used me as a human punchbag - and I eventually decided that I was not prepared to put up with it, and if that was what she was offering, I didn't want it.  Fortunately she stopped and we are still in close touch. But every parent has to decide on their own boundaries. As you must decide on yours. 

tog redux's picture

Well, when kids are like this, it's very tough for the bio parent. It's obvious she's been manipulated by her mother, so counter-rejecting her and "moving on" is not the answer. But neither is being a doormat and giving her (or the brother) everything they want in a desperate bid to hang on to their "love".

Unfortunately, many target parents buy into the idea that they have done something wrong and therefore have to repair it, which just makes it worse.

The solution would be for him to set boundaries and not allow her to abuse him, but also continue to be a parent to her - going to some games, buying some gifts, maybe even paying for college if he values that.

It's very hard to watch as the partner of someone dealing with this, and it sounds like his fear of losing his kids is so huge, he's never going to be able to overcome it to set some boundaries on them (at least not without an epiphany of his own). So the best you can do is detach and decide if you can live with this situation.

juststressedbeyondbelief's picture

It's easy.

The kid is a nasty bizzysnatch.

Separate all of your accounts with your husband. 

Demand all bills be split 50/50.

Do not help him pay for this brats entitled attitude about school.

And yes, I hope he makes too much for her to qualify for FAFSA when he can't afford to foot her entire bill.

Siemprematahari's picture

While I am not a parent myself, I can not understand how this type of behavior is tolerated. 

He tolerates and puts up with this behavior because he feels guilty and if he stays in her good graces things will improve (they won't). This child has been alienated and brain washed by her mother. He has to create strong boundaries and remain consistent with them. He's damned if he do, damned if he don't so either way he might as well keep his head held high and teach her how to treat him.

My SS is allowed to pretty much do and say anything he wants on our visitation weekends.

Your H is allowing his guilt to affect how to parent (or lack thereof) and is enabling poor behavior. I understand he's operating on fear but he has to create boundaries with his son also and not allow his kids to bully him.

This is difficult especially as you stay and watch your H going through the motions but you also have to think of your well being. If he continues like this it's only a matter of time before it takes a toll on his health.


Harry's picture

By paying for or part of his DD college cost it's not going to anything.  Just makes him an ATM. She not going to change her attitude , about her father.  Unfortunately he is fighting a losing battle.   Ever if he gets a positive result by buying his way in.  She only just find another way to be mad.