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Toxic ex(es) - How do YOU deal?

StepMomT's picture

HI everyone and thanks for being here for me! I am one of the new step parents that found a place to vent and learn. I don't know all the codes yet LOL - but I promise to learn!

I am a stepmom to 4 kids now, aged twins10 (from DH ex2), son24, son22 (from DH ex1) + I have a bio son21. Only the twins are in the picture really, we get them every other weekend.

I love all the kids - get along great with the twins, they accepted me from Day 1 in the picture 3 yrs ago. This was huge as I came in when their parents were splitting. As many relationships are (my 1st marriage previously included) - they were separated already - just living in the same house until logistics were worked out.

So I read a lot on here over the past few years, esp as step parenting relates to discipline etc. So I do not discipline the kids, I defer any big issue to my DH. I do correct behaviour though, as I would expect any adult in their lives is able and should do.

So what brings me here today? Well, I feel like I am living with my DH's two exes. They are constantly in our lives. If not one, the other. We get what we call"shi#" emails pretty much every Monday morning after we have dropped the kids off, as ex2 digs and grills the kids for any detail she can jump on re: me and reports me to my DH. ALWAYS out of context. The latest? That I told the kids there was no Easter bunny...yeah - keep in mind they are 10 and likely know this already - but I DID NOT say that at all. We, my DH included were joking that they would be too old for an easter egg hunt next year and they told her that. That was the extent of it - no bursting any bubbles at all, but she came up with this accusation and how Dare I ruin her kid's imaginations etc...any excuse to talk shi# about me, when in fact the relationship I/we have with her kids is loving and caring and fun. We only have them maybe 6 days in the month - so we treasure every moment. I think that's what's driving her to find fault with me - is that there's no dirt she can throw at me.

Everyday I feel a heaviness in my chest about these exes. Ex1 is extremely manipulative and so is ex2, but she has a wicked temper and irrational and was physically abusive to my husband. If I hear her voice on the phone, I instantly get chills. Seriously. They both knew how to manipulate my DH - I can see how they did it - but now that I am in his world I am his voice of reason and have worked very hard to build up his self esteem again. We have two lawyers now so that we can get a fair agreement sorted for both as Ex1 keeps coming back to get more $. Another tale to tell at another time. But my ex is so afraid of both that he didn't look at protecting himself and ultimately the kids in a fair way. We are amending the Agreement for ex2 to add a written down visitation schedule and she is livid!! She thinks her verbal agreement is enough - but I said we need to be sure he can get the kids on schedule - what if she is angry and withholds the kids? What if she gets a new partner in her life and things change? Ugggh.. Makes me sick again...

I would love to hear your experiences with ex(es) and how do you keep them out of your world? Just seeing an email pop in our mailbox is starting to make me ill - and I feel dread everyday the other shoe will drop. I love my husband beyond words, I want to be supportive, he's an incredible Dad, but these women want to see him suffer.

FYI - we are going to start seeing a family counsellor as a couple, to find coping skills for us to deal with this toxic situation.

Thoughts and advice are appreciated. I'm hoping this will be my new safe zone.

StepMomT's picture

Thanks Heaven - lots more to the story as you can imagine, but I definitely need to step away from the exes. I don't speak to them ever - but when it affects our finances - I need a say in how we manage it.

They of course have a legal Court order - but we just moved into the same State, 30 mins from the kids, so until now - there was nothing in there about visitation in the way it is now - we just want to amend to reflect that. She is balking at getting something in writing about the new visitation as she feels her verbal agreement is enough. My reasoning comes into play here as DH would have gone with that out of fear of her never giving him the kids, but I am practical in these situations and want protection legally moving forward.

I totally hear you about him needing help to run his world and how he needs to step up - that's what made him choose the women he did. His Mother is very controlling too. But - we will see the counsellor and hopefully hear what needs to be said to both of us.

I guess I am hoping to hear how others handled the exes.


Rags's picture

BM has no say in the matter of your DH going to court for an amendment of the visitation order. Don't allow DH to give her that control. Guilt is a choice. So is fear. He need not choose either.

hereiam's picture

Why is he dealing with ex1 at all? Those kids are grown, right?

As far as ex2, he does need a legal custody/visitation order so that he does not need to be afraid of her withholding the kids. She can still try but at least he will have a legal leg to stand on.

The key to him not being manipulated, is to know his rights. Women like his exes try to use scare tactics but a lot of it is them blowing smoke and hoping he doesn't know any better. He needs to know better.

As far as the Monday emails, if not important, he should just delete without responding. The best way to deal with toxic people, is to interact with them as little as possible. Any kind of interaction, gives them encouragement to continue the behavior and it will never end.

Being supportive of your husband in this process is not a bad thing but you have to determine how much you can handle. Personally, I wanted to know what was going on and I had valuable input and ideas on how to deal with my DH's ex. There is nothing wrong with two people working together to stay strong. The person dealing with a high conflict ex, sometimes cannot see what another person can. Not to mention the fact, that it does affect you.

I never dealt with BM personally, in person, on the phone, or otherwise but it never bothered me for my DH to talk about his ex (I usually talked about her more than he did). We are a team and we were going through it together. My SD is 25, now, so BM is not a factor AT ALL, which is why I use past tense.

I cannot stress enough, that your DH needs to know his rights, get that visitation legal, and just stand up for himself.

StepMomT's picture

Heriam! You totally nailed it all! He is very afraid to stand up for himself as he has always lived in fear he had no rights. With his divorce from ex1 he lost out bigtime as she manipulated the kids, even with a court order. 100% parental alienation that continues today. (FYI she is still in the picture as their 22 yr old son has Down Syndrome.) It would be his weekend with the kids and he would go to get them and she would tell him they were sick. When he was working out of State - and arranged flights for them - she would cancel day of. Lots and lots of nonsense - so he has irrational fears of that happening again with ex2.

That's exactly why I wanted lawyers involved - so we get fair and accurate info - as you are so right where you said they use scare tactics! "I will take the kids and disappear"

Oh wow - you verbalized exactly what I need to remember to say at the counsellors. The scare tactics are what has immobilized him, so I come in as you say you did, and see things he doesn't. I am NOT scared of them - I actually know exactly what they are doing - so maybe I am like them!? (Except I ended my 1st marriage and never played our son against my ex ever.)

Thank you for helping me put some perspective on this.

hereiam's picture

I actually know exactly what they are doing - so maybe I am like them!?

I once told my DH, "I may not use the tactics that BM uses, but I'm a woman and I know how she thinks. I know all about manipulative tactics."

StepMomT's picture

LOL - ok good - I don't use the tactics for sure - but you're right that I know how they think. And Ex1 has this way of spinning stuff - I had heard about it from DH but I didn't believe him - until I was listening on a call where we were trying to get his (disabled) son to our wedding - and she did this wild thing of spinning stuff he said! Let's see if I can write an example:

DH: Can you get him to the airport for a 10am flight?
Ex1: Yes
DH: OK so then we will get the gate pass to get you through security.
Ex1: I can't get him there! I have a job!
DH: But you just said you could?
Ex1: I can only get him there after 5pm
DH: OK, we can try for the 7pm flight and get you to walk him to security
Ex1: I don't drive in the dark

Get it??? It was futile and she knows just how to wind him up to confuse him. BUT - I can somehow stop the spinning and I hear it clear. Maybe because I'm not connected to her? I don't buy in or let her hypnotize me with her crazy-talk. But who loses out? The son...poor kid was devastated, and he conveyed to his Dad later that his Mom told him that his Dad didn't want him at his wedding. She pulled the same shit AGAIN when we wanted him for Christmas!ARRRGHHHHHH!!!

101Stepmom101's picture

They go out of their way to make life difficult. It's so exhausting... I will never understand.

StepMomT's picture

Just to clarify - my husband wasn't with "multiple women" - my husband was married 17 yrs with the two older boys, then common law for 12 and had the little kids, always taken care of all of them - so not keen on the implication he was out there free wheeling.

I do need to be involved to some extent, as I parent the kids when they're with me - and I do need to be in the decisions regarding finances. Otherwise I do disengage - I can have opinions, but only share with DH. I never email, talk or even see the exes.

Rags's picture

The only way that I have found to effectively deal with a toxic blended family opposition is zero tolerance and total destruction if they so much as twitch toward being unreasonable. First lets address XW-1. The kids are 24 and 22 and that manipulative money mooch should get shit for nothing. DH no doubt paid off her womb rental services long ago and that she is still looking for payment on the prostitution installment plan after the two children are adults is just nauseatingly pathetic. And that is how you and DH should deal with her. Any time she contacts DH the answer has to be "I am sorry to hear you are struggling. Good luck. Buh-bye." Lather, rinse, adust, repeat. Tolerate no crap from her. As for XW-2. You are doing exactly the right things by going after a Court Order to establish the frame work under which you can smack her with a rolled copy of the Judge's order is she so much as sneezes out of line with the CO (figuratively of course). Of course she doesn't want a CO. That will instantly contain a large portion of her ability to keep sucking DH back into her toxic manipulative world. DH needs to block her email. If she wants to contact him she can text or call and no matter what if she starts to mention her usual crap he immediately cuts her shot, informs her to mind her own business, and hangs up. A CO is the best tool for limiting the machinations of a toxic blended family opposition and when combined with a complete zero tolerance for crap perspective it can work very well. On thing about a CO is that it is not the only legal tool that can be accessed in many Jurisdictions. Research any supplemental rules that may be in effect in the County where your CO will be issued as well as any applicable State regulations. The party that knows the CO, and any applicable supplemental rules or state regulations will own the asses of the party who does not. It amazes me how many good people wilt right out of the starting gate when it comes to protecting and enforcing the rights they have to a relationship with their kids free from interference from and X. Once DH grows some balls and gains some confidence in full connection with the fact that he is a good person focused on the best interests of his children he will find that these two toxic harpy breeders will fade in their influence and ability to manipulate him and interfere in his life and the lives of his family members. Just because he chose poorly regarding who he had children with does not mean that he has to suffer for the rest of his life due to his previous poor judgment. IMHO the best thing he can do for his children is demonstrate an example of being a confident father and man to his boys and that includes barring the asses of the BMs with the full facts of their manipulative crap. These young men need the facts in order to protect themselves from the manipulations of the shallow and polluted halves of their gene pools. Even as adults these young men will have to minimize the crap their BMs will attempt to saddle them with. My bride and I have always been a team in dealing with my SS-24's toxic SpermClan. I had her back and when necessary I had a great time smacking the piss out of the SpermClan when they got particularly toxic. My favorite hobby for the 16+ years we lived under a Custody/Visitation/Support order was barring idiot SpermClan ass. We used every legal, financial and social tool available to keep them pummeled into submission. That included court actions, Private Investigators, having the police collect SS from their church and their home in full site of all of their friends an d neighbors when they failed to return SS on time at the end of visitation, delivering of Subpoenas to their work, etc, etc, etc...... It took a while to get them under control but once they realized their toxic manipulative crap would not be tolerated they for the most part kept with the program. Zero tolerance works. Try it. All IMHO of course. Good luck.

StepMomT's picture

I will save and re-read this! Zero tolerance is something I have been saying DH needs to do. Stop them in their tracks and just stay focused on the kids and issue at hand ONLY.

She blames ME for him adding an amendment to their Court Order? That I made him change his mind to put it on paper? Our lawyer said he was crazy not to have it in there now that we are living close enough to share custody for one thing - but it's as common as putting insurance on something - why she would be angry or not expect this is beyon me - but my DH is to blame for not addressing this earlier.

Thank you for putting perspective on this and I need to soak up the courage you are sharing.

Tuff Noogies's picture

why is he even dealing with bm1? they are not kids anymore, they are full-grown ADULTS. i understand one has down syndrome, but downs does not make someone a drooling idiot. sounds like bm1 is using his condition as a way to keep on getting $$ from dh.

they are adults. if they are unable to have a part-time job, the state offers help. dh should have no interactions w/ bm1 (especially since you guys moved closer).

StepMomT's picture

You nailed it with Ex1 - she has always used their son as a tool of getting more $ - she bankrupted him actually all those years ago. Their son gets gov't funding - but she just presented DH with an itemized expense list for their highly functioning son (he's a sweetheart btw) to the tune of $3000/month (clear!). Saying DH has to pay for half. MY personal expenses do not equal 3k per month! (It was quite the imaginative list let me tell you. Do you have a $500/month travel fund set aside??)

But she pulls the feel sorry for me card all the time, so my DH knows how it worked last time - and is afraid he will be portrayed as a deadbeat Dad. We have offered to have the son (who doesn't live close to our State) come live with us - but then she twists it all around. Like I said earlier - she's a spinner. Which is why we are getting a lawyer involved - we want to pay what's fair and help if we can. KIds first. But we need to put a stop to both these women and be able to just pay what's fair and move forward with the kids/grown sons.

Before this they dictated to him what was going to happen - so slowly we are trying to get the control back.

Reading these responses has helped ENORMOUSLY!!!! I'm feeling so much better and not alone.

StepMomT's picture

THank you - very inspiring! Their son SHOULD be living on his own (in a care apartment arrangement) but his ex1 refuses. (She would lose the tax benefits she gets from him living in her home.) He is going to college under a special plan - she works there so we know tuition is free - but she made him ask his Dad to buy him an IPAD for's endless. We have to let the lawyer deal with her as she is a nutcase. I refuse to think about her if I don't have to. Not to mention - she withholds communication from his Dad no matter what - so it's a frustrating battle no matter what he does. "If you want to call him - pay for our phone bill."

CLove's picture

I have a Toxic BM in my life as well. We started as partners when he was "separated-not-divorced" and he tells me I am a big part of getting the divorce final and in his words "pushed through". Before the divorce was finalized, he was jumping through SO MANY HOOPS, trying to keep things nice and "keep her happy", because he knew once the process was started, she would go ballistic. She did. She wanted him to wait (even though she would tell anyone that would listen that their marriage was JUST a piece of paper, it was NOTHING, etc.)

The reason she wanted him to wait was so she could have her 10-years of marriage = alimony in perpetuity, and higher social security benefits. He went ahead anyway, and she threw a huge fit. She has thrown many - before and since, but things got so ugly. She would drink and text him that she hopes he dies, that shes going to force him to sell everything he has...she even attacked ME in an ex parte document she filed. The woman has a mean nasty temper, and was physically as well as verbally abusive to my SO. He never lifted a finger against her physically, and because of the children he stayed for a long time to try to make things work out. 21 years they were together - he is not a player type at all - he is a solid rock.

Toxic BM drama - SO just plods along and doesn't respond, but keeps his ducks in a row at all times. He hired a paralegal and now he does not pay child support, they have complete 50/50 of the 2 girls (now one is 18, and stays with us 100%) and only $300 alimony which he is 1/4 complete with.

I get very angry at the BM - she texts SO in the evenings asking for things, asking him to come over and help her out. She will text early in the morning on his b-day (when she knows we are in bed) "Good morning, happy birthday crazy". Or whatever. She shares intimate details of her relationships. The woman actually physically abused her eldest daughter while drinking. I handle it by staying away and apart from it all. The kids know who I am, and love me. And my cooking. I do not try to be a mother, but am very firm with SO that BM needs to stay out of our lives and not involve him in her drama anymore.

StepMomT's picture

Wow - thank you for that. Good for your SO - his life was very similar to my ex x2. Ex 1 is furious he is adding the visitation portion to their agreement. She is blaming me. I don't get it? I should not be surprised as she is irrational. I will keep doing as you said you do and be a solid support, best I can.

CLove's picture

Well that's comforting that you don't get it - maybe because you don't "get" crazy? LOL.

My BM once accused me of giving her precious daughter head lice, because I had given her a wild birds nest (no eggs) and so therefore it was ALL my fault. She raged at SO in a store parking lot as he was getting ready to purchase the lice kits. He said she was cursing at him.

Just a month ago - she burst into our home and began yelling at SO and calling BOTH of us names. Just crazy crapola. I am a little weird, but in a good way. She is pure toxic illness, that cannot be fixed.

Healing and hugs your way - you sound pretty solid.

StepMomT's picture

OH my God! The wild bird's nest story causing lice could totally be my world!!! I would not be surprised by that and must now prepare!

She was so ENRAGED that I had said there was no Easter bunny (I did NOT say that!) but she freaked hard on that - but the sick thing is that SHE has been buying their son Call of Duty video game since he was 8!!!! Can you fathom that! BUT I apparently crushed their innocence via Easter bunny...

Thank GOd I am not alone in this crazy-town!! hahahahaha!

Goodluck's picture

RAGS oh RAGS I spat out my almonds in laughter. TOTALLY agree with your comments Rags.

Ma'am please read and re-read Rags post. Maybe have your dh read it too. He has hit the nail on the head.

DH can block her email any time. UNLESS he is court ordered as in writing by a Judge to have communication by way of email, telephone, text, etc. So pull out the court order tonight and read if it is in there. IF not, block.

There is such a thing named a telephone IF a true emergency occurred. There too, bm should leave a message with proper notices. DH will do his best to respond physically or by calling back WHEN he can. HANG UPS verses message does not mean it is required of dh to return her call.

Good friends of ours son has downs. They are divorced and there is very little contact unless his medical requires notification.

THIS dawned on me. Please tell us your dh is completely chimed in with the twins school, teachers, medical info? IF not maybe he should start. This way there is more reason for very low contact with BM.

Just something to think about. Dh should not depend on one thing from bm. Heck half the time in court some parents fail to be transparent.


Goodluck's picture

StepmomT you wrote that your husbands x provided dh with an itemized expense list for his one child with downs. Correct?

Is it handwritten maybe typed UP on a spread sheet for dh? Has this list be authenticated ie notarized? Are they EOB's included? Or are they Drug store receipts? How about Department Store receipts that also include purchase for AA size bra's /undies for BM? Just what ARE these expenses.

Until there is proof and I mean actually proof they are factual expenses for the child's junk mail. A good lawyer will have that junk tossed out in the trash..

PROOF PROOF PROOF, handwritten is not proof it's junk.

StepMomT's picture

Hi Goodluck - Yes, DH is on board with school etc.

He actually has very little actual communication with ex2 - but when she decides I've done something is when she sends a zinger email to him. She did send me a shit email one time 3 yr ago - telling me all the shit about him she thought I should know, but like all people, we are not always the same person now as we were then.

The advice here to DH to only respond to them briefly and stick to only kid related is the way to go. She sent her shit email yesterday with blaming me for interfering in the Agreement by "making" him put in the visitation is being ignored. It is what is is - she only needs to sign it - no lawyer necessary - but if she wants to lawyer up - fill your boots. She is threatening to go back for spousal support (3 yrs later) too - so guess we will see how that plays out. Our plan will be that IF this gets as far as court - we will go for full custody. We are trying to play nice - but this ongoing irrational behavior is enough.

OK - so ex2 and her list of expenses was basically a grocery list of his expenses. Pretty sure he doesn't need $500 in travel expenses and she says he pays $1000 in rent to her/month. His gov't support covers those expenses. The one that killed me was the $100/mnth for caring for his dog - on his list. His food/entertainment including food/then subway etc she had listed all separately was over $700/mnth, He is obese, which is bad for anyone, but for him it is almost debilitating - so right away we see there are shenanigans going on. No receipts or proof whatsoever btw.

That's why we got a lawyer... I was tired of these women throwing out THEIR threats and him believing them. He is so shellshocked I cannot tell you. That's where I came in to stop this game they both know they can play, and said enough. Until we hear from someone in a legal position that this or that needs to be paid - it stops.

StepMomT's picture

Hi everyone!  Thought I would send an update on this circus I posted a year ago.

As far as ex1 - her list of irrational expenses for their disabled son went all the way to court in the fall.  In our preparing for the case we discovered that Ex1 was actually frauding the government and was not claiming the child support she was receiving! Due to her fraud - she would have owed my DH over $50k in overpayment.  We also uncovered that their disabled son receives over $39K/year in funding and support!  So after a 9 month battle with her - the judge read her bullshit and threw the case out!  He even denied her any support from my DH as their son does not need it - nor is he allowed to be getting support money if he's already getting some.  So we beat her.  We actually beat her. 

Ex2 - Signed a CO regarding the visitation AND we got her on trying to move their children without telling my DH - there was a law saying she had to notify him 60 days prior to any move and had she moved outside of the area - we could have put an injunction against the sale of her home.  SHe was IRATE!  But we had her.

We have completed a year of counselling and what stood out from our therapist was when she advised DH to say NO.  Just NO.  SO both exes got a huge NO - and so far so good. They aren't living in my house anymore. 


Rags's picture

success.  You and DH are a true team and you managed this exactly the way it should be managed.  Just a word of caution from my own experience... when my DW would put her foot on the throats of the SpermClan she would  start to feel guilty and back off stating "they understand now and they have changed".  Once she would give an inch they would immediately go back to their historic toxic behaviors.  This followed an ~18-24 mo cycle.  It was not until a number of cycles had progressed that I was able to get her to recognize that they could not be given a break without immediately returning to usuall toothless moron manipulative crap.  She did gain clarity and never again removed her foot from their throats.

Keep an eye out for your DH softening.  It really shouldn't be allowed to happen. 

Keep up the good work... .and NO QUARTER!!!!!

This really did make my whole day. Biggrin

StepMomT's picture

Thanks Rags! And you are totally right about my husband weakening. I've had to catch him a couple times. Even though she didn't come after us after the decision, I still know that she's capable of pouncing at some point. This is such a toxic person, and I think I mentioned it possibly in another post, that she refused to tell him when their son went for major surgery. She doesn't tell him anything except when she wanted money. So as horrible as this image is, if their son passed away, because he has a very limited life span due to his disability, she wouldn't tell him. So her revenge would be that. Both the X's have always used guilt to get what they wanted, but now he has me here to filter through what's being said. I'm just happy it's over, but there's the one part of me, the little devil on my shoulder that wishes I was in that room when the ex was told the case was being thrown out and that she was busted. She apparently screamed and ran from the room. Prior to that we had all been sitting in the same vicinity of a waiting area and we could hear her and her newest victim, talking about their trip away and renovating their house. She totally thought she was going to walk away with a cheque.  She actually left with nothing. Less than nothing because they cut the monthly allowance we were paying on our own.  

Thanks again!