Editor’s note: Lovefraud received the following email from a reader whom we’ll call “Gloria.”
I have been divorced from my abusive husband (mental, physical, sexual against me but he NEVER LEFT A MARK ON ME.) for 11 years and we have 3 teenagers together. I have known him 20 years. For most of this time, I have been puzzled about why I could not “move on” after the divorce.
Yes, I left him. During the marriage I did not know the name “abusive,” so I just kept trying to be a good wife and mother, fulfill my marriage commitment, etc., but then I woke up just enough to know that it was “abusive” and I left. We had gone to about 8 couples counselors during the marriage, and I always ended up feeling much worse, and he never took any of the responsibility, just smirked and was derisively contemptuous.
I kept trying to get along with him following the divorce, to “co-parent” (we have joint custody) as the courts seem to require. I have a lot of good will and keep forgiving and trying, but I’m not a pushover! I’m an assertive person and I do assert myself with him constantly, respectfully. Though he is not respectful in return. I tried for all these years to say to the kids, as I was advised by mental health professionals, “your dad is a good man. I’m sure he doesn’t mean it. We just don’t love each other anymore, the way married people should… but I loved him when I married him, and he is your father, and I will always support and respect him.” I am so angry at the mental health professionals for steering me wrong! Seriously, I did all of this in such GOOD WILL, but ignorance. I only, always, wanted what was going to help my children.
After everything I tried, nothing seems to work and now we are barely speaking. I mean … he has been trying to control and shape how I am “allowed” to communicate with him. Basically, instructing me, I could email him, but only once a week, only one topic per email … and so I would, and then it would be something else … I mean, just impossible demands and hoops to jump through. I finally realized, there is no compromise with this man, unless I do all of it. He does none of it.
Scares the children
There are some interesting, colorful problems that go along with my story. One daughter cut her wrists a couple years ago (one time), she was frightened of her dad and refused to see him, and he blamed me (instead of coming together with me to help our daughter in crisis) for her refusal to see him, and threatened me with legal action (he threatens repeatedly).
He attacked her physically in her room, locking the door, menacingly advancing, pushing her to the floor, yelling at her. He has rage attacks frequently. He scares the children.
I should mention that he is very wealthy, a lawyer. Not a con-artist profile! He never bilked me of any money … but I am struggling financially due to having been focused on raising the kids all these years, and the kids have difficult personalities. He could, for example, take me repeatedly to court, just for the pleasure of impoverishing me further. He did this during the divorce — his family has a lot of money. He is an upstanding citizen, good employee, no criminal record except that one time I called 911 and he was arrested and charged with DV
I have tried to lay low with him. I have tried to “appease” him just to get off his radar. We have joint custody and the kids go back and forth. We have tried a few times to go to counselors to help with “parent coordination,” but the counselors always fall for his lies OR they look at both of us puzzled and say stuff like, “with the two of you, it is hard to know where the credibility lies …”
He is more interested in them as prized possessions than in them personally. This follows the pattern of how he treated me (as an object) during our marriage. It is a very cold thing.
Now not only do we have the one daughter refusing to see her dad, our son is also refusing to see him. He will not say why, “I just don’t feel like it.” This, I should say, is an adamant refusal — there is nothing I can do to force it. My ex-husband blames me and has accused me of “parental alienation.” He does his own alienating — he needs no help from me!
I have been advised by these counselors, “The conflict between you and your ex-husband is very bad for the children. You need to stop.” And I am so hopeless, hearing things like that. I am not the one doing it. I am not the one attacking, or ignoring, or being rude and disrespectful. Though I do sometimes assert myself to him (not defend, not counterattack, not withdraw). I say, “You are lying.” He smiles and says, “No I’m not, you do it too.” There is just no getting to integrity with this man. It is maddening.
My own parents have admonished me to try to give him the benefit of the doubt and get along with him for the sake of the children. 🙁
My ex-husband is assigning “roles” to the daughters: the daughter who still sees him is the “good;” child and the one who refuses is the “bad” child (they are twins). He has offered $100,000 in college tuition to the “good” daughter, and he has told the other daughter that his $$ help for college is conditional upon her return to a “full relationship” with him. I assume he means that he comes back to live with her — not that they have a real relationship based on love.
I should mention … he lies, lies, lies. He smiles like there is no problem, making me out to be the crazy one. He has been remarried for the past 5 years, and I think she is possibly more sociopathic/evil than he is. For a long time, I thought maybe he has BPD. Then I thought — no, he lacks empathy, must be a narcissist. Then, now, I see the sociopathic connection. I see the fake display of emotions. I see the lack of remorse. Well … both he and his wife have the fakey-nice sing-songy way of talking to the kids, it sickens all of us, and I worry about my one daughter who still goes over there. I worry about my son who sometimes exhibits thoughtless behaviors.
Which brings us to today, where the story got very interesting all of a sudden. I recently got a full-time job, which requires my being gone from the house for the usual number of hours (instead of being home as flexibly as possible, which I tried to do all these years, working part-time or flexibly). The kids were having a rough adjustment to it, but I said, be patient, it’s a transition, we will get through it, but yes you have to help out more (teenagers). I have been a good mom. I have been there, I have done stuff with and for them. I am not perfect. I think I have been utterly normal and healthy. Despite the PTSD I’ve had to deal with.
So, the one daughter who refuses to see her dad, she reacted badly one day when I had a “lecture” to all three kids (it was a stern lecture about wanting them to help out more — I have to be very careful and precise and honest in presenting this to you: My kids are not used to me being stern — they are used to me being “nice” — so this was new and different to them, but I assure you nothing abusive or out of the ordinary in what I think is pretty common and normal parenting — especially with teenagers. I really am a very even keel person. So this daughter goes to her counselor the next day and rants about me, she is so upset, and the counselor reported me to CPS, which began an investigation, and I will cut to the chase:
We now have mandated family therapy: me, the 3 kids, the ex-husband and his wife! This is very interesting since I would really prefer “no contact,” and that would be much healthier and more appropriate for me. It is interesting and maybe useful for the kids now to see the way their dad really is during these sessions, which send chills down my back (especially the new wife and him together). The kids are getting very angry and fed up with him and his lies and his “impression management” at each session.
CPS “found” me “unsubstantiated neglect,” which is such a sad blow to me. Because I know it is unfounded. I know they did not do a fair and thorough investigation. And I know the investigator had her mind made up before she even came to see me. It was a hostile interrogation and she told me the allegation was that I “hate” my daughter and that I am “mentally unstable.” So this will be on my record (searchable database for prospective employers/volunteer agencies) for the next 5 years, until my youngest is 20 years old. I think this is insane. This is what the system is like … I think, why would the state expect a victim of domestic violence to be in weekly mandated counseling with her abuser? It makes no sense to me.
And this is where I am now … some things in the way society views sociopathy, domestic violence, etc. just do not make sense. My friends are even shaking their head and nervous … they say, “Gloria, if this can happen to you (CPS), this could happen to any of us. You are such a good mom!”
Why all the urging to women to leave our abusers, and THEN we are expected to co-parent with them? And the children are supposed to just be okay with all this?