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Abuse and Manipulation of Kids

MrGrumpyPants's picture

I'm not sure where I should best post here, but if someone could tell me if there is a specific place I might get a lot of feedback for new step parents dealing with abusive ex husbands I would greatly appreciate it.


Where we're at:


I've been dating my SO for two years now.  She was separated when we met, and I was with her during the entire divorce.  On her lawyers advice we agreed to stay a secret to her kids until the divorce was final.  He told us it could complicate things like alimony etc, and that her ex could try to use it against her in court by saying she was unfaithful and then she might get nothing.  I was hesitant about this because I knew if the abusive narcissist somehow found out about me that it would just give him so much more time to manipulate his kids against me before they even got a chance to meet me, but I agreed anyway.  So of course about halfway through the year and a friggin half divorce he dragged her through he found out about me. (She offered him a dissolution btw that would have ended up being just about exactly what the court decided minus having to pay her ANY child support or alimony, but hurting her as much as he could on the way out and bankrupting her with attorney fees was apparently much more appealing to this asshole.)  Once he found out about me he lost it, at first refusing to allow the kids to visit my girlfriend but then when he would he would drive by six or seven times a night and call and text the kids incessantly.  He started stalking her and eventually tried to literally break down her door when me and her were inside her apartment together.  We called the police and she got a restraining order and custody of the kids for awhile until he went to some anger management classes, but her lawyer still told us it was a bad idea to introduce me to the kids until the divorce was over.  I won't go through all of the bullshit he put her through, except I should mention that he put the kids directly in between the divorce at every stage.  He had his 14 year old daughter take pictures of her birth control pills at one point.  He DEMANDED in court that the kids be video taped and interviewed about who they wanted to live with.  He knew all the things he could do to bully and intimidate my girlfriend, and so many times she wanted to give up.  She is the kind of person who will never say anything bad about him to the kids because she's too kind and he is their father, yet he told the girls things like 'your mother left you because she doesn't really love you' and 'your mother has mental illness and can't handle being a mother' etc etc.  He talked shit about her constantly and kept the kids FROM her the entire period they were separated before the divorce proceedings started.  He is physically abusive to the children and overtly emotionally abusive to everyone around him all the time.  I highly suspect he has been sexually abusive to all three girls since they were young.  Yet children being children, and abused people being, well, abused people.. of course they stood up for him, covered for him, and shit on their mother during the entire divorce.  It's extremely sad for me to watch  I could go on and on about it but for now I'll leave the context there.




So fast forward about six months from the end of the horrible year and a half ordeal and I have met all of her daughters by this point.  Her oldest only met me by accident because she stopped by her gradmothers while i was there.  She was her fathers propaganda minister, spymaster, and greatest defender during the divorce, treated her mother like garbage and (along with her father) influenced the younger two.  She even gaslighted my girlfriend WITH her father and the middle daughter.  


The middle daughter stays in her room almost always when I'm over there.  She's a good kid but since her older sister has left for college she is the one her father is working on the most, and I honestly just think she is so stressed from him incessantly hounding her for information about me that she doesn't want to acquire any to give.  I think eventually she will come around but it's going to take a lot longer than we had hoped.  She just turned 16 and she tries to either be out or in her room when i'm around.  


The youngest is a different story.  She's about to turn 13 and she's the black sheep of the family.  She immediately took to me and seems to be affected very little by her father’s bullshit.  She is the ‘difficult’ child so her father has always abused her the hardest physically, because she’s so much less manipulatable psychologically or emotionally.  She still repeats the lies he tells, and he is constantly trying to buy her love (just bought her a brand new ipod and a keyboard, yet he tells them all the time he’s so broke because he pays their mother so much in child support, which is also bullshit she gets barely enough to cover food and clothing for them and ZERO alimony because of his and his shady attorneys efforts).


Anyway, I’m not concerned about my relationship with the youngest, and after watching what the oldest put my girlfriend through I frankly do not care very much to have a relationship with her, but the middle child is a really good kid, she’s just being pulled so hard by her father and sister against me it’s concerning.  We were planning on trying to move in together next summer, but it somehow doesn’t feel right until I have some sort of relationship with the middle daughter.  The problem is that she won’t allow any relationship to develop and I think her abusive shitbag of a father knows that we won’t move in together until every one is comfortable and is actively pressuring her not to have a relationship with me.  So far my strategy is just to be polite and yielding, not trying to push myself on her in any way.  What else can I do?


There’s a lot more I could write but this is long winded enough and I just want to start a post so I can talk about the other concerns I have and hopefully get some good feedback.  I guess my main questions are:


#1  How do you deal with an abusive ex who constantly tries to instigate and create confrontation is the most white trash ways you can imagine?


#2  How do you approach a 16 year old who won’t give you the time of day because of pressure and abuse from her father and older sister?

Kes's picture

One thing I don't understand, from all you have said about the ExH, his emotional and physical abuse of the kids, breaking your SO's door down etc, why he is allowed any access to the kids at all?  OK I live in the UK, we have different laws including one recent one against "coercive control" but still.  

I'll answer #2 first because that's the easier question - don't even try at present to approach the 16 yr old. It sounds as if she's under a load of pressure from her bio Dad, so don't add to it.  Be pleasant and civil when she DOES come out of her room, but leave her be.  Hopefully she will see that you are good for her mother and soften towards you over time - it can happen.  

#1 - hmm.  I would suggest you engage with him not at all, and your partner as little as possible.   The contact between them should be limited to practical matters to do with the children and she should not respond to anything else whatsoever.  If he behaves in illegal ways, eg stalking or physical damage to person or property this should be dealt with by the police. 

MrGrumpyPants's picture

Thank you for your reply Kes.  Unfortunately the US is not quite as civilized as the UK.  We brought up plenty of evidence of abuse during the divorce proceedings but that asshole still managed to get shared custody.  It's very backwards here honestly, and very sad for children who have to continue to endure abuse because the courts are too stupid to recognize it.  The other problem we had is that not one of the three girls would talk about any abuse, even when asked about specific times and situations relayed by relatives.  They were completely pressured to shut their mouths about it all.

I haven't engaged the abuser at all yet, but it's coming to the point where I feel I might have to step in.  I plead over and over with my girlfriend not to have any contact with him either, and sometimes for months she won't, but he knows her, he abused and controlled her for twenty years and he knows how forgiving she is and what a short memory she has.  The template so far is he does something ridiculously abusive and provocative that hurts her, she agrees with me when I impress upon her AGAIN that the only way to stop being abused by a narcissist is through very very long silences, then she doesn't answer his texts for maybe a month.  This is when her ex uses their oldest daughter to repeat his talking points.  "Well you have to talk to Dad you guys have kids together"  "The court ordered you two to co-parent so why are you ignoring Dad's texts" etc.  So she breaks down and starts answering him again.  The problem is, i've never seen this asshole go two encounters before pulling some shit, he never parented in the first place so co-parenting is a joke.  She asked him once last summer if he could go to the school sports field to sign a paper they needed for her youngest to play softball.  Now he lives literally ACROSS the street from the school.  If he walked it might have taken him all of ten minutes to get there, sign the paper, and be back on his couch drinking beer.  He refused, of course, because it would have been a help to her.  She had to leave work early and drive twenty minutes there to sign the paper and twenty minutes home, losing an hour or work when she makes 1/3 of his salary.  This is the kind of "co-parent' he is and it's not like 10% of the time it's at least 90%, if not 95% of the time.  I can't think of one instance where he's co-parented at all since the divorce.  But he'll text her drunk at midnight on the days when he knows she's with me, he'll send her old pictures of them when they were young, and the kids when they were little and pull on her heartstrings, and most of the time she's resilient but he knows that occassionally he'll catch her in the right mood and be able to reel her in just to set up another abusive incident. 

This is one of my major frustrations right now.  I know my girlfriend really WANTS this to be a normal divorce.  She wants to be able to communicate with him FOR the kids sake.  But history has shown that he is not, and probably will never be able to act like a responsible adult.  It doesn't help that her oldest daughter is so active in taking up the baton when she is strong enough to ignore him for a long period of time.  And it also doesn't help that her mother just doesn't see why they can't talk and be civil.. even though she's well aware of all the abuse.  I'm basically dealing with a girlfriend and her family who have their heads up their asses and don't know a thing about abuse and what it means and does and what narcisism means etc.  It's very difficult for me because I hate seeing her get hurt over and over by walking into the same trap.  But when I have her mother telling her 'well just don't tell your boyfriend when you talk to your ex because it upsets him' and a girlfriend who is struggling between knowing it's not a good idea, but being made to feel bad by everyone else around her for ignoring him, what can I do?  I become the bad guy who's trying to control her all the sudden by being angry that she walks into the same trap over and over, by being angry that I have to sit silently and watch her continue to be abused by this piece of shit and I'm expected to keep my mouth shut?  

I forget what my original point was here.. there's so much I need to vent about.  Any perspectives on anything I've said will be appreciated.  Thanks.

tog redux's picture

Read up on Parental Alienation. It's a way to continue domestic violence after a marriage is dissolved - using the kids as a weapon.

Just be kind and civil to the kids, don't get too close and don't trust them (any of them - though the youngest sounds more resilient than the other two).

As for him - you just stay away from him entirely. I know it's hard because you want to protect your GF/wife, but believe me, he wants you to get in a confrontation with him and will use it against her, in a big way.  So just bite your tongue and avoid him.

Your SO needs to continue to parent, keep strong and clear boundaries with him, and take whatever measures she has to in order to protect the kids, including court filings as needed.  In this case, since she's a woman and he's prone to showing his anger openly, she would have an advantage in court.

Just be her support, that's all you can do.  It helps, a lot (per my DH, who was completely alienated from his son for a while   Smile )

MrGrumpyPants's picture

I looked Parental Alienation up, yea, that's exactly what he does, except it hasn't been just since the seperation, he's been doing it for years, since they were small children.  I really think there's some level of sexual abuse going on here, because I know with sexual abuse the pedofiles very often try to alienate the abused from every other adult around them and ingratiate them towards themselves only.  I see signs of this in so many places it really concerns me, but my girlfriend is in denial about it even though as recently as last summer she was telling her ex that her 12 year old is TOO old to be sleeping in a bed with her father.  She has some level of disassociation about it, memory blockage, she's told me things that when I bring up a few weeks or months later she doesn't remember at all, and her memory of the early marriage is foggy too.  I really think there's a lot she's had to block out to survive all those years.. but anyway.. he's definitely been very actively trying to turn all the girls against their mother for a very long time and it frustrates me that she just will NOT defend herself most of the time from their father's lies about her.  She (and her mother) hold it as sacred never to talk bad about their father, so that gives him an open field to do whatever and say whatever he wants about her and her mother.. not to mention me because how can I stick up for myself in the midst of this?  If I 'talked bad' about their father to them at this early stage it could fuck everything up forever right?  I don't know.. i'm overwhelmed.

tog redux's picture

Yes, PA usually starts during the marriage.Your GF is an abuse victim. The place for her to start is with her own therapist, figuring out how to set limits on the man who abused her for years and is abusing her children.

Don't say anything bad to the kids about their father, alienated kids are black/white thinkers - mom bad/dad good.  They are being abused too, and they are doing what they need to do to survive.

Please  just stay out of it with the kids and with the ex and support your GF in finding the strength she needs to protect herself and the kids.  She shouldn't "talk bad" about him either, though she can tell the kids the truth when appropriate (but in the right way - not in a way that tries to make HIM look bad).

SM12's picture

At 16 is will be nearly impossible to develop a relationship with the MSS.   I have three SSs.  The oldest was 13 when I met him.  He and I hit it off immediately.  Within 6 months BM and her SO had ruined that relationship and eventually his relationship with my DH.   He was the quiet one but BM made him the king of her home and told lies about DH and myself and made him choose.  He chose BM.  MSS was the trouble maker who followed along with OSs.   He was the mouthy one who pops his head out of the depths of hell every once in a while to berate and verbally abuse DH for kicks.   All along DH has refused to say a negative word about BM or her SO despite their affair ending DH/BMs marriage.   The youngest SS was 5 when I married DH.  He is also shy and quiet.  We have a politely distant relationship because I learned to stop trying after the older two.   DH and YSS are close and he still comes around.   He hasn’t fallen for the manipulative....YET.  We are starting to see signs of him pulling away but it hasn’t happened...YET.   

My whole point is, you will never be able to gain the trust or relationship from the older two as long as XH is in the picture.  They are being verbally abused and brainwashed and it is easier for them to go along with DH then to stand strong against him.   You have to try and look at it from their perspective.  They had an abusive scary parent who if intimidating them.  They aren’t going to risk more abuse by going against him.   Not saying the kids aren’t jerks, but at that age they still cannot get away from the XH so they are stuck...either hate the BM or risk getting abused verbally or worse. 

After years of hating my SSs I had to change my perspective.  They are constantly being brainwashed and subtly forced to choose between DH and BM.   Since DH refuses to play the game, they only hear BMs warped version of things.  

You have to decide if this relationship is worth years of this frustration.   I know it was hard for me for a long time.  I would get angry at DH for not handling it the way I would.  But it wasn’t my battle. 

Take some time before you move in together.  Maybe wait until the middle girl moves out.  I’m not saying the kids are not partially in the wrong for their behavior, but think long and hard before you go all in.

MrGrumpyPants's picture

It's difficult for me to see it as 'not my battle'.  I've kind of been the one battling since the divorce started.  My girlfriend was so beaten down by this man that if I hadn't pushed her to fight she would have signed off on anything just to stop his harassment.  I'm still stunned that it worked out in 50/50 coparenting, her lawyer basically promised us that at most he would get the girls two weekends a month and one weedkay, but he hired a creepy lawyer who was really just as abusive as he is and they found a way.  Anyway.. what SHOULD my role be now that the divorce is over?  I can't just sit back and watch her continue to be abused by him because everyone wants to pretend that this is a normal divorce and now that it's over she should be his BFF and talk all the time.. that isn't reality, the reality is that the more they communicate the more my girlfriend sinks back into the mess she was when I first met her.  I mean when I first met her she would say things like 'I should just take this whole bottle of xanax, my kids would be much better off if I were out of the way'.  I mean he really beat her down to a nub by the time she found the strength to leave, had her convinced that she was the problem.. "why do YOU make me beat you so much" kind of thing you know?  I hate this man with a passion because I know he does the same thing to all three of the girls.  So do I just back off and allow her to make the same mistake over and over and be used and abused by her own children without saying anything?  How do you live in a situation like that 24/7?  We don't live together right now and it drives me fucking NUTS watching all of this.. how do I just let it go?  This isn't a rhetorical question, I"m really struggling with this all, protecting my girlfriend AND her children almost against their will sometimes.. I feel like I'm the only sober person at a mushroom party sometimes. Sad  (or vice versa)

tog redux's picture

You can't force her to behave how you think she should behave - she's dealt with a lot of trauma and she's learned maladaptive ways of dealing with it.

Urge her to find a therapist who understands domestic violence.

You may have to decide if you can stay in the situation - you can't save these people, trust me. I've been there. 

MrGrumpyPants's picture

Can you elaborate tog?  You said before you spent a long time getting frustrated because the situation wasn't being handles right by your SO, how did you get through that?  I don't know how I can just stand back and watch her continue to be abused without trying to protect her from her own mistakes I guess.  Did you just decide mentally to back off and let the situations play out or was there some sort of conversation about it where you both decided on a strategy?

Ms J's picture

In regards to the middle daughter, I’d suggest consistency and stability is what she needs to feel safe. Give her time, and meanwhile, let her see how good you are to her Mum. Sounds like they have all been through a lot, and probably need some kindness in their lives. Good luck :-) 

CLove's picture

How to deal with an abusive ex. Take some advice here - we are all here mostly because the ex was abusive in the relationship and because they share children together the abuse is "allowe" to continue.

I say "allowed", because your SO continues to have contact with this cretin POS (lets call him POS for short) and this gives him all the jollies, and opportunities for game playing, which I thoroughly understand. She needs to learn by herself how to create and maintain firm boundaries. Our family wizard emailing, to keep phone calls and texts to a minimum. "darling daughter, I DO maintain contact with your father for YOUR sake, via emails, because we need to have civil and proactive interaction for your best interests"

I have to deal with a boundary-breaker myself, and have had to really emphasize boundaries with DH. Troxic Troll, from the beginnings of their relationship, would rage at him and bully him. She pretended that the separation was good with her, because she had a boyfriend at the time, yet when divorce proceedings started, she got ugly, called him names, told him she wished he would just die. Etc.

NOW, she is alone without a man, and shacked up with her degenerate daughter, Feral Forger, who has no job, no license, does nothing, and they argue on a near constant basis. We have Munchkin SD13 50/50, and shes very sweet, kind and respectful. We have a good bond, but I came into her life when she was 8.5 yo. The eldest was 15.5, and we never got along for various reasons.

So - what I do to deal is, I try to articulate to my DH how important boundaries are. When we got married, we eloped to a non-cell area. Toxic Troll texted all day. We just ignored it. When she texts him about boyfriends and how she is going away with so-and-so and he is going to treat her like a princess, he ignores it. In your situation its almost impossible to ignore, so try to help your SO create and enforce boundaries. Research Our Family Wizard, minimize contact whenever possible.

#2. Just be respectful and keep distance. She might come around but probably not.

Rags's picture

Your SO is going to have to grow some testicular fortitude and schred her X to protect her children.

If he is physically abusive school counselors, CPS, etc... are going to have to be called to get them involved.  

If she will not get officials involved nothing will change.

Once daddy is burried in legal trouble and the kids are protected from him then your SO will have the opportunity to work on her relationship with her children.