The Family & Parenting ForumsFamily dynamics can be exactly that - dynamic! Post here about family related issues such as parenting, blended families, step-families, new relationships with children involved, family of origin issues, in-laws or sibling issues.
I need some unbiased input. How do I deal with an ex-wife who's going out of her way to strain my relationship with my kids and make my life difficult? Here's my story:
For the past year my ex-wife has been extremely difficult to deal with when it comes to parenting the 2 girls we had together. She has gone to ridiculous extremes to minimize my time with them, has become totally inflexible with the schedule, has fed them false information to discredit me (this is documented in court documents), and has no issue using them as weapons as a way to get to me.
She is not considering the kids needs and well-being but doesn't seem to see that.
We have been divorced for 9 year and I remarried 3 yrs ago. I still live in the house we owned together. We have 2 girls (ages 12 and 9) and I have a 3rd daughter with my new wife. We all live in the same small town and I have my older girls once night per week and every other weekend (Fri PM to Mon AM).
I have always paid child support and pay for nearly 100% of activity costs for the girls. This is not a money issue but the point is that I am not a deadbeat or uninvolved father.
I have great relationships with my daughters and I know they like being here. My new wife is wonderful to my daughters and everyone gets along great in our household.
My ex-wife has been engaged 3 times since our divorce but is still alone. She seems lonely and desperate to change that but I really don't know for sure if she is unhappy. She never seemed happy in her career but was not happy as a stay at home mom either when we were married. But maybe that was because of me. She loves our daughters and they love her too. The 3 of them seem very close.
Given the proximity of our homes we used to be able to cooperate as needed. If she had a date, she would ask me to have the kids. If she was working late she asked me to pick them up at school. If I had a business trip I'd ask to switch my night. We could work together and there were few problems.
All of a sudden in 2009 her attitude changed from cooperative to hostile. Examples of her sudden extreme behavior:
She now uses daycare for the kids before and after school when I am available to take them and pick them up. She has made it clear that she does this to minimize my time with them and gloats that there is nothing I can do to stop it. I took her to court over this and won.
She refuses to share any information with me concerning school or their health. And she has manipulated the kids not to discuss these issues with me. If I ask them about reports cards or Dr. appts they say "ask Mommy". And "Mommy" refuses to discuss. I follow up with the schools and the Drs. myself. Again, this wasn't always an issue but has been for the past year.
she now routinely calls the police during pick-ups and drop offs just for the drama of it. There are no records or history that could suggest this is necessary. This did not occur in the first 8 years after our divorce, just in the past year. The police are tired of her and it upsets and confuses the children.
She does not allow the kids to bring anything back and forth between our homes, except their school books. No personal items. no clothes. Further, she tells the girls to change into specific outfits for coming home with me - Clothes I would never let them where out. So I have to always buy clothes which eventually make there way back to their Mom's. This is silly and sends the wrong message to the kids.
She refuses to take the kids to any activities and won't allow me to do it unless it's scheduled on my time with them. We used to both share the duties here and were both supportive of the kids' activities
She askes them about what goes on in our home and refers to them as "informants. "Did Daddy have any wine with dinner? How many glasses?" This was asked of them as they walked from our front door to her car. Again, no history on this.
She verbally abuses me in front of the kids and then gets others (eg, her mother, sometime a boyfriend) to gang up. They embark in a name calling and empty threat session that doens't hurt me but the kids shouldn't witness this. And I don't know where the hostility came from but I admit I have a hard time not getting sucked in here and throwing my own verbal abuse. But I never instigate.
I have done nothing to this women except cooperate during the divorce she wanted, pay her alimony and child support without interruption, try to do best parenting I can, and remain flexible in how we manage our situation to acknowledge that the kids needs are going to change a lot. I am a normal guy, no bad history or anything to be ashamed of. And we had 8 relatively normal post-divorce years. Suddenly since about a year ago I have got nothing but open, unbridled hostility from her. And she's using my kids as weapons to get to me.
I have been through court sessions and counseling sessions (ordered by the court), and it's actually getting worse.
The kids often end up crying anytime we have a phone conversation or during a drop-off/puck-up.
What would make a women act like this all of a sudden? and use the kids as weapons?
Is she threatened by my wife's realtionships with the kids?
Does she fear as the kids get older she's losing the only people she has any closeness with? And why would that be my fault?
Could I have done something to bring it on?
Does anyone out there have any suggestions/experience on how to approach this issue and get life back to normal? Aside from giving up all contact with my kids. It won't seem to blow over as each week she seems to incite some conflict that leads to a blowout. It's affecting my kids (not my relationship with them from what I can tell) and I hate their life to be like that.
Unfortunately, she is an only child and there is no family that she keeps in contact with except one living parent who thrives on the confrontation. And their relationship is stormy. I would not consider her mother someone I could consult.
I have also taken her to court and the courts really don't care about anything except overt actions against the kids (i.e physical abuse that can be proven). Being a bad parent or a parent that puts the kids in bad situations or parent that uses the kids as weapons is not considered by the courts to be their jurisdiction. They say to seek co-parenting couseling but don't enforce it.
How old is your wife? You have been divorced for 9 years and she's been engaged 3 times, yet still is unmarried. You are remarried and it sounds like things are going well in your home. You've even produced another child.
I'm wondering if this could be plain jealousy. Who began divorce proceedings? I'm sure, at the time, she envisioned a different future for herself than the reality she's facing.
Strange! When was your 3rd daughter born?.....wondering if that had something to do with her behavior. Did she have fantasies you all would be one big happy family again? And now that illusion has been shattered.
I don't think my ex-wife ever had any hopes of getting back together. She initiated the divorce and was very excited about this new life she envisioned for herself. She was very in-my-face about it too.
There was a time she liked my new wife and appreciated her help once in while in picking up the kids at school, activities, etc. (my wife stays home with our daughter). But it all abruptly changed.
I think Janie is right with the "old maid syndrome". She has no family, her kids are getting older and Mommy isn't the center of their world anymore, she can't seem to stay in a long term relationship (Her 3 engagements were shockingly quick), and I don't think she has many close friends (She had none when we wre married. Even all her Bridesmaid were my relatives). So the Million Dollar question: Why would a fear or even depression of being alone make her hostile to me and my wife? Why would she create a hostile environment for our kids? How is keeping the kds away from me and trashing me in front of my kids a solution to her problem? It Just doens't hang together.
Do you think that your wife is aware of the toll of her behavior is taking on her children? has she seen them cry when she instigates a arguement? as frustrating as it for you, if you can try to be civil & not let her get a "rise" out of you - might be a solution.
Just like a toddler, if you don't pay attention to their tantrums, they will eventually stop because they are not getting the attention they wanted. Again, I realize this is much easier said than done but try to not react & hopefully she'll stop when she gets no satisfaction from it anymore??
Have the girls spoken to a counselor? if not, maybe that would be helpful to see if they open up to a professional to see how this is affecting them.
It is very sad that your children are being put in the middle. But if you can continue to be a part of their lives, let them know that you love them & are there for them if they need to talk or need support in anyways.
They are getting older now & can see for themselves how their mother is acting & will be able to draw their own conclusions.
I really hope your x -wife's behaviour mellows out for all of your sakes. Good luck!!