At what point is it acceptable to cut ties?
July 22, 2012 7:00 PM   Subscribe

How do I keep my sanity, the little dignity that I have left, and not completely ruin my daughter's life?

I apologize for the length, but I'm going to try to include all the relevent details. I met a guy through my work a few years ago. He was funny and kind and had such a big heart--he lit up when he talked about his son. I came out of a rough relationship right as he broke up with his girlfriend, and we started seeing each other. He told me how awful she was to him, and I remember thinking how anyone could do those kind of things to him. Should have been a red flag, but things moved quickly real fast, and about three months into it I got pregnant with my daughter, now 1. Things got terrible pretty quick.

The person whom I thought was kind, caring man told me he never actually broke up with his girlfriend. The whole pregnany was tumultuous--he was not around, then would come around when he broke up with her, then would leave for a few months and tell me he had to work out a custody arrangement with his son before he could help me out with my daughter.

After my daughter was born, he disappeared for 4 months, never asking about his daughter or how I was doing. It was only after months of going to court to get child support that he began showing up. It seemed like he had a genuine interest in her. He broke up with his girlfriend once again and started seeing our daughter more frequently. We started to pursue a relationship--I know that was stupid but I was convinced that he "saw the light" and, to be perfectly honest, it was nice to have a partner because being a single mother is lonely and overwhelming.

The relationship itself was awful. We argued alot and my self esteem plummetted because he made fun of me so much. He also took a chunk of money from me, and I'm afraid there's nothing I can do about it now (I gave him my credit card number to buy brakes for his car, he maxed it out, and he "forgot" his wallet multiple times.) I'm out about $2000 altogether. There were always arguments about him favoring his son (only getting Christmas presents for his son or only visiting his son on holidays), and I don't want my daughter to ever feel 2nd.

In the past month, I have found out that he was cheating on me with his ex, and I had to go in for STD testing (much to my relief, normal). I also found texts from his ex to him calling my 1 year old a "little rat", "piece of crap", "mongoloid". He has missed the past 2 weeks visits, and once a week he asks about her.

He tells our once-mutual friends how "crazy" I am and now people that I once cared about hate me. He told them I stalked him and got pregnant on purpose and ruined his life by asking for child support. When I confronted him, he said it was just guy talk and I shouldn't worry about what other people think about me. His family wants nothing to do with me or my daughter, and I feel so bad about not giving my daughter the family she deserves. I can't even describe the rejection and guilt that this situation has plagued me with. I see our once-mutual friends all the time and I'm always hearing through the grapevine about how wonderful of a father he is to his son.

I have transformed from a happy, energetic young woman to a frazzled, underweight, depressed shell of a human over the past year. I am educated, attractive, and have a nice job, but this has wrecked my personal life. I've been seeing a therapist for a phobia and have touched on this issue but I am so embarrassed to tell anyone about all the details because I look so stupid for putting up with it and taking him back.

Am I wrong to completely cut him out of my (and my daughter's) life? How do I go about doing this? How do I even bounce back from a relationship this bad? Every time he fakes an interest in our daughter I come crawling back because I feel so bad about leaving my daughter without a father, but I know it is unhealthy and I would keel over and die if my daughter ever was in a relationship like this.

tl;dr - Horrible relationship, should I/how do I cut him out of our lives?
posted by andariel to Human Relations (46 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know how, but yes, you should. Until your darling daughter is old enough to ask (and you're relaxed enough to explain) keep him out of your life. I'm sorry you're dealing with this.
posted by Grandysaur at 7:07 PM on July 22, 2012 [8 favorites]

I think a useful way to frame it to yourself is this:

Even if you want your daughter to have a father, you don't want it to be this guy.
Both you and your daughter deserve better. If he makes you feel badly and lies to you, how can you think he will treat your daughter any differently?
posted by Muttoneer at 7:08 PM on July 22, 2012 [34 favorites]

If you have the opportunity to cut him out, cut him out. This could get complicated legally/&c. (I don't know the custody laws and so on) so I'll leave the details to others, but no, do not do NOT feel guilty. As a daughter with a piece of shit step-dad, two of my greatest sources of pain are 1) knowing what an fucking asshole he was to my mother and 2) watching my mother be crushed under his abusive, manipulative bullshit. Fuck him. This is not a grey area, he's a piece of shit. It's unclear to me how emotionally involved with him you are, but if you are in any kind of romantic relationship, you should absolutely end it. And you bounce back by getting him out of your life as much as possible and coming to realize his shitty behavior has nothing to do with who you are as a person.

This is NOT your fault, and you should not feel stupid. You were a good person who gave him the benefit of the doubt, he is a terrible person who takes advantage of people emotionally and financially and makes them feel crazy and stupid so he can get what he wants. You should most definitely tell your therapist about this-- you absolutely don't come off poorly, he absolutely does. He/she will be able to help.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:12 PM on July 22, 2012 [12 favorites]

Also, if he's "faking" an interest in his daughter he's very likely doing it to maintain control over you. He knows it gives him an in and he can use it to make you feel worse or get what he wants out of you (whether that's money or validation). People like him hate knowing that someone has gotten free of their disgusting cycle of abuse. Kick him the hell out of your life, as unceremoniously as possible.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:15 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Please tell your therapist everything you've told us. The therapist will not judge you; they've almost certainly worked with other clients who have similarly misjudged their partners' integrity.

I am so sorry you're in this difficult situation. My suggestion would be that you work with your therapist first to establish your own boundaries with your ex, then to decide how much contact you are comfortable in him having with your daughter. (You didn't mention any legal agreements about visitation, so presumably that's something you and he can resolve informally?)

You know how they say on the airplane that you have to put your own oxygen mask on first, then help your child? Same goes here. You seem like right now you can't imagine having any kind of co-parenting relationship with your ex that doesn't include your being in a sexual relationship with him and being exploited financially by him. But that's your depression and shattered self-esteem talking. You aren't going to be in a position to make a good decision about your daughter's relationship with her father until you're 100% solid on not being taken advantage of by him ever again.

Best to you. I wish you healing and happiness with your daughter.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:17 PM on July 22, 2012 [9 favorites]

Sorry for the triple post, but if I can take the selfish daughter perspective for a moment, staying with him is doing her a disservice. She wants a happy, full you, not a drained, abused, crushed version of you, should she get the choice. As much as I love my mother no matter what, watching her change to fit the mold my step-dad wanted her in was almost like actually losing her altogether. I know you want to be your happy, life-loving self for your daughter's sake.

I'm not saying to feel guilty about what he's done to you-- I believe that people are elastic, and getting him out of your life is a major first step in being the person you were before him. Don't give it a second thought, don't second-guess yourself, just get him out and you'll come back in.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:18 PM on July 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

Am I wrong to completely cut him out of my (and my daughter's) life? How do I go about doing this?

I think your daughter will be okay with a bit of a break from a man who calls her a piece of crap and a mongoloid.

As for cutting him out of your life, all you probably have to do is offer to not ever pursue him for child support. If you get yourself in a position where HE suggests this, all the more successful it will be.
posted by cairdeas at 7:20 PM on July 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

I should also say that it sounds like "no relationship" or "very limited relationship" might be the best option, given everything you've shared about this man's lack of integrity, but you need to get past lumping the two issues together. His being a part of his child's life doesn't give him license to fuck you or to fuck you over.

Also, as I often do, let me recommend Facing Codependence by Mellody, Miller, and Miller. My guess is that you'll find a lot of it resonant.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:21 PM on July 22, 2012

Response by poster: Just to clarify, my lawyer had drafted up an agreement, which he signed and the judge approved, stating that he has visitation every Saturday, and if for some reason he misses two visits without explanation, his visitation rights are terminated. He's missed somewhere in the vicinity of 6, but I haven't pushed the agreement yet.
posted by andariel at 7:22 PM on July 22, 2012

My mom stuck around with my dad (whom this man reminds me of) because she thought I "needed a father in my life." It wasn't until I was about ten and I asked her "Mommy, why are you still with Dad? He makes you cry a lot and he's mean to us," that she realized how dumb she was being and filed for divorce.

Trust me on this - the absence of one parent is much better than the presence of a crappy parent. Keeping him in your life will only hurt your daughter even more.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:23 PM on July 22, 2012 [12 favorites]

About this --

I've been seeing a therapist for a phobia and have touched on this issue but I am so embarrassed to tell anyone about all the details because I look so stupid for putting up with it and taking him back.

Now you've told us, right? And none of us think you are stupid. Look, I went back to a guy who told me I couldn't come with him to visit his family at Christmas because there was no space for me (so I spent Christmas alone in a city across the country from all my friends and family) and instead flew to try to have sex with a girl he had met that summer. Do you think that I am stupid now that I told you that? Also it might help to read this. A lot of people favorited that comment because it helped them understand and have empathy with people who keep going back. Some of the rest of us favorited it because we have personal experience with how it feels.
posted by cairdeas at 7:24 PM on July 22, 2012 [9 favorites]

How do I go about doing this?

I believe you and the father talk to a lawyer about" voluntary termination of parental rights." The laws will be different depending on where you are (Texas law is here), but it's a pretty serious thing to do. It is forever, and the man is not the father of your child anymore. He does not have visitation, he does not pay child support, and so on. He has to sign off his rights.
posted by Houstonian at 7:28 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Whoa! As shitty as it may be, you have no legal leg to stand on if you attempt to cut him out of your daughter's life. You may try to barter his not contacting her for non-payment of child support, but nevertheless, he has a legal obligation to pay support, and you have a legal obligation to let him see her according to the custody arrangements.

That said, you need to get into productive therapy that will allow you to stop letting this a-hole run roughshod over you. Your choices up until now are forgivable. Your choices for you as the mother of your daughter have to be made with both your interests and her best welfare in mind. Find a support group if you can. Hang out with strong friends that have good relationships with men.

Also: Document Document Document! It's hard work, but be the responsible adult in this. Systematically and as unemotionally as possible document everything he does with regard to your daughter. Skips a visitation? Document. Doesn't pay child support? Document. Talks shitty to you? Document the conversation. Disappears? Document. No Birthday, Christmas, etc? Document.

What you are doing is setting up proof of a pattern of behavior that you can take to a judge to ask for supervised visitation. You DON'T want your daughter to go visit her father alone when he doesn't have her best interest at heart, and you certainly don't want her to be in a house where he's living with someone who calls her those kinds of horrible names. If you don't have full physical and legal custody, for the sake of your daughter, please see a lawyer and start proceedings for that. Wouldn't hurt to see a family lawyer anyway, to see what you are missing in terms of protecting your child.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:35 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Keep those texts. And keep that man away from your daughter. She is orders of magnitude better off with "only" you than she would be if exposed to someone who doesn't love her, doesn't want her, doesn't care for her, calls her awful names, and treats her mother like crap.

You are doing right by your daughter. He is not, and his family is not. Give up the dream of these people being your daughter's extended family, take care of you & her, and create a "family" (or village) out of people who care for you both.

Refuse to settle for less than a joyful, love-filled life for your daughter.
posted by headnsouth at 7:35 PM on July 22, 2012 [10 favorites]

I look so stupid for putting up with it and taking him back.

You don't sound stupid. You sound like someone who is in a complex, unhealthy relationship--the complexity of which is compounded by sharing a child with this person. All kinds of people (smart, stupid, and everything in between) get into unhealthy relationships, and many of them need support to get out. Your therapist will not think you are stupid. I urge you to discuss this with her, to get the emotional support and determine the practical steps you need to take so that you can work effectively with your lawyer to make the best decision for yourself and your daughter.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:36 PM on July 22, 2012 [6 favorites]

You and your daughter don't need this man in your lives. He has repeatedly demonstrated that he is not capable of being a good father to your daughter, let alone a good partner to you. A lot of us here- myself included- have put up with assholes at times and survived to tell the tales. Sure, we felt humiliated, embarrassed, stupid, ashamed, but we got over it. You will too.

It sounds like you need is better friends, people who will give you emotional support and people who will help you with your little girl. Are there any support groups for single moms in your area? In addition to continuing with your therapist you might also consider seeing a counselor or getting involved in a group at a domestic abuse center. This man is emotionally abusing you!

I hope things get better soon.
posted by mareli at 7:42 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I missed your comment. IF his visitation rights can be terminated, WHY haven't you done it by now? Get on it, kiddo! Why are you dragging your feet with this?

Also, do NOT negotiate with him. All contact for anything regarding your daughter should be through a lawyer or mediator. Talk to the lawyer about getting a guardian ad litem for your child. They will advocate for the best interests of the child. Their only concern is to see that the child is protected from bad situations and will help you protect her.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:43 PM on July 22, 2012 [21 favorites]

Please just print this out and take it to therapy with you.

And I think it's more than acceptable to cut ties with him. Your daughter deserves better, and so do you. Good luck.
posted by bunderful at 7:45 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Drop him. Seriously, cut ties. Push the agreement--terminate his visitation rights and move on with your life.

Don't assume that this man is your child's only chance for a father figure, and don't assume that she'll somehow be missing out of she doesn't have one. I met my partner when my daughter was four. She'll be ten in a couple months, and he's the only father she's ever known--and she's just fine with that, because he's awesome and she adores him. She's never met her biological father, nor his family--for all I know, they don't even know she exists. And you know what? She's missed out on nothing.

Why deal with the emotional fallout from this guy who's clearly a horrible partner and a failure of a father? You and your daughter both deserve so much better than this, but you're not going to be able to find it if you're still kicking yourself and investing all your emotional energy in this situation. Please move on, for both your sake and your daughter's.
posted by MeghanC at 7:47 PM on July 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

Just joining the chorus of "Cut him out of your life." This guy sounds like a piece of shit. You sound like a very nice person with a lot going for her who got unfortunately tangled up with a shitty guy due to being perhaps a little too trusting.

This guy deserves nothing from you. I'm glad to hear that you can cut off his custody rights – I think you should. I think it sounds like his manipulative, self-centered, two-faced, immature behavior is likely to make you and your daughter miserable for as long as he is in your lives and you should do everything you can to make sure that the only interaction you have with him in the future comes in the form of regular child support checks.
posted by Scientist at 7:48 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't advise you on what to do legally (that's for your lawyer), but I can suggest, as the daughter of a sucky alcoholic father and an awesome mother? Be the best mom to your daughter than you can. Listen to her. Do fun things with her. Love her. If/when you date, don't put your new partner above her. One great parent can overcome a lot of obstacles. Waste less time beating yourself up over your daughter's crappy dad and put that energy into being a rockin' mom. It sounds like you love her like crazy. GOOD. She needs that, and you.

Good luck. This is a terrible situation and I'm so sorry that a nice person like you was lied to and mistreated by suck a miserable person.
posted by Aquifer at 7:50 PM on July 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

this is an absolutely classic case of emotional abuse: you've got support available - a therapist, a lawyer, the legal system - but you won't use them. dealing with this guy is ruining your life and threatening to ruin your daughter's, but you think that *not* dealing with him will ruin your daughter's life. black is white, up is down.

please, get this filth away from you and your innocent daughter. tell your therapist and your lawyer absolutely everything. everything.
posted by facetious at 7:54 PM on July 22, 2012 [11 favorites]

One of the greatest lessons you can ever teach your daughter is that she doesn't have to put up with shit.

but I know it is unhealthy and I would keel over and die if my daughter ever was in a relationship like this.

She already is, hun. Now it's up to you to remove her from it.

If he's violated his agreement, you work towards terminating their relationship legally.

Talk to your therapist about it. Your therapist is there to help you and support you.

And in no way shape or form are you stupid. You were lied to by someone you trusted. You are not responsible for his actions. Please remember that.
posted by heyjude at 7:55 PM on July 22, 2012 [36 favorites]

You're not stupid at all. It was worth giving him a chance, he couldn't handle it, time for a new plan.
posted by amtho at 8:06 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Nthing terminating the visitations. This is not equivalent to cutting him out, should he (miraculously) change later. The reason to terminate the rights is that it gives you all the power to decide where and when visitation occurs. Give yourself that power.

When I first read your post, I thought, "She should move out of state."

Your daughter deserves to NEVER be around someone who calls her a little rat, a piece of crap, and a mongoloid. A father figure who is even capable of calling her those things will do damage.

Your job immediately is to protect her and get her away from that.

It's a shame this happened. You can take all the time you want in therapy and on your own to grieve and process the situation, and to build yourself back up. That will take a while. Months or years. It will eventually feel better... as long as you protect your daughter now. Good luck.
posted by kellybird at 8:14 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

When people have the audacity to ask why my parents are not in my life, and now not in the lives of my son and husband, my GoTo Answer is....

"Because I don't want my son to think it is acceptable for family to treat each other the way my family treatsme."

I leave it unsaid that the way they make me feel, and sometimes had caused me to react (act out over, really) is super unhealthy for my child and husband to experience.

Draw this healthy boundary. You will never ever regret it. I'm proof!

(It goes without saying there is no room for healthy and positive relationships while you hang on to any connection with this guy.)
posted by jbenben at 8:16 PM on July 22, 2012 [6 favorites]

Chiming in to say that you are definitely not stupid. Not at all. You were trying to be optimistic, and trying to do the right thing by getting child support for your daughter and trying to leave space for her father to build a relationship with her. There's nothing stupid about what you've done.

I'm so sorry that you and your daughter have been through this.

What I would love to see you do now is protect your daughter by not leaving her open to being harmed any further by someone who refers to her as a piece of crap and a mongoloid. Terminate the visits from this man -- you have the legal room to do so, per your agreement as you mentioned. This man thinks of you as a spineless, gutless wimp? PROVE HIM WRONG. So he went back to his ex. So what? You should feel sorry for her, she's stuck with a man like that and evidently she's not going to strive for better, which is just sad. You should feel sorry for his son, who will have to learn how to be a man at this man's knee. That poor kid, he doesn't stand a chance. (And totally ignore the claims that he's a good father to his son. I guarantee you the people who are telling you that have no idea what goes on at home, when no one's there to see how the boy is treated. People who treat others this way usually don't stop with one small subgroup in their lives.)

Your daughter, on the other hand? She wins. She has you. And you? You win, because you can move on with your life, and without this man in your life, without any mutual "friends" who bought into his bullshit, you have room for people who are worth your time and energy.

Please talk to your lawyer about enacting the visit-termination clause in your agreement, and do it tomorrow. And please print this thread out and take it with you to your therapist -- they're there to help you get stronger, and this is one area where you definitely need someone to lean on right now. Please don't be ashamed for needing the help, or for being in this situation. Believe me, this happens to more people than you realize. You opened your heart and trusted someone, and you're not a bad or stupid person for having done it.
posted by palomar at 8:46 PM on July 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Protect your baby from this man. He is a bad man.

Protect yourself as well -- but if that's sometimes a hard goal to see and hold onto, the goal of protecting your baby should be easy.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:48 PM on July 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

I am educated, attractive, and have a nice job...

Keep telling yourself this because it's true. Dump this man like a hot rock and remind yourself that you deserve much better, as does your daughter.
posted by patheral at 9:02 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

The sooner you dump this guy and terminate visitations, the sooner you can get yourself back in a happy, healthy state of mind and potentially meet a great father for your child. You and your daughter deserve someone better. Dump him so you can move on to that something better.
posted by Joh at 9:39 PM on July 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Sounds like you have a good lawyer with foresight. Use her. Enforce the agreement. Don't look back.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:47 PM on July 22, 2012

1. A kid only needs one loving adult to turn out okay. Really. You have to believe that.

2. If your ex (and god I hope he becomes your ex soon), wants visitation rights, he can go get a court order. I think you've reached a point where handling this informally is not going to work. I would lawyer up. If makes noises about wanting to see your daughter tell him you'll see him in court and the court can decide if he gets visitation rights.
posted by bananafish at 9:54 PM on July 22, 2012

Do you know other single moms? You sound scared that if you cut or limit this jerk out of your family's life, being a single mom may be worse for her.

It isn't. One good parent is much better than a good parent trapped with a terrible parent, and he is awful. He and his family are fools to miss out on being close to a very loved little girl, but that's their stupidity.

There's a lot of media and cultural stuff about how single moms' children suffer, and you need to ignore it for your own sanity. It doesn't apply to individual cases and it's usually driven by politics. Read memoirs of other great single moms, connect to a support group of single moms, seek them out for advice, support and inspiration.

And don't compare his treatment of his son to your daughter. You're getting second-hand reports from probably biased people. Maybe he's a sexist asshole who only cares about his male child, maybe he's just as lousy with him. All that matters is that he's barely interested in your daughter and making your lives miserable.

Your daughter is blessed with a great family already - you. Go find more people who will love her and you, and protect her from those who mean her no good.
posted by viggorlijah at 10:15 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Nthing you need to get out of this, for your daughter's sake.

This will affect her in the long run. My childhood wasn't horrible - there were no beatings or anything - but my family dynamic was such that growing up I was honestly baffled at friends who cared about their parents, like, truly cared out of more than a mere sense of obligation. My dad was the jerk, but my mom allowed him to act like this - never standing up to him, and yelling at us if we tried to stand up to him.

Your guy sounds like a jerk. Your daughter's going to growing up hating him for being a jerk, and, once she's old enough to understand the situation, she'll probably hate you for continually exposing her to that.

He's missed more than two visits, so no more visits. Let him know that you call the shots, now. If he wants to insist on visits you tell him he has to show responsibility. He needs to do give you phone calls once a week to check up on her. If he's able to do that consistently, then maybe video chats. Then supervised visits. Mainly he needs to show that he wants to be and is capable of being there for his daughter. Some people demand parental rights not because they want to be there for the child, but because the child is something of theirs they don't want taken away - it's more about power than love. So don't believe him even if he says he wants to see her - believe his actions.

And get that child support.

He told them I stalked him and got pregnant on purpose and ruined his life by asking for child support.

...Wait - do they know how women get pregnant? Do they know you couldn't have gotten pregnant on your own, and that there are forms of male contraception? Also that child support exists for precisely these circumstances?
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 12:00 AM on July 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

I think if your friends were so eager to believe this lying scumbag, they weren't your friends and you're better off without them.

I always think its funny-sad when men say they were 'trapped' into becoming fathers. Geeze there are a lot of free roaming dicks out there.

(seriously, I knew a 24 yr old man who truly believed that 'pulling out' was all the birth control he needed. I think he's a grandfather now)
posted by jaimystery at 4:54 AM on July 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

My mother tossed my father to the curb when I was young, and I grew up with a single mom but knowing that I didn't have to put up with being treated badly by any man and that women, especially moms, are strong. The thing she'll miss out by not having a dad are nothing compared to what she'll gain by having a healthy, loving mother.
posted by toerinishuman at 5:09 AM on July 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

Any friends who believe the "she got pregnant on purpose" line and don't see right through this guy and find him to be utterly repulsive are not friends worth having. I've had friends who have children tell me it helped them to instantly prioritize who was worth keeping in their lives and who had to be let go. Think of it as these jerks showing you their true colors and doing you a favor.
posted by Lieber Frau at 5:22 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

There is a great difference between a Daddy & a father. A Father is a biological
neccessity. A Daddy actually loves & cares about a child, regardless of who the father is.
posted by misspat at 7:06 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The best thing my mother ever did for me was cut off contact from by biological father. Since we reached majority, two of her three children by him sought out a relationship, and two out of three of them got burned as a result.

You sound smart enough to know what to do with that termination clause.
posted by Jilder at 8:00 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Look, you're gonna have to harden up, stop engaging with this whole scenario, create your new reality ... and I say this as someone who has had to do the same. He's screwed up on visitation and that's your "out." Stop thinking it over and take it. Those "mutual friends" need to get cut out, pronto, as well as all communication/touchpoints with anyone who is not 1000% supportive of YOU and YOUR GIRL. You don't mention your own support system -- your family, your friends? -- but you must swallow your pride and confide in someone who loves you who is not connected to him, because you need a place to go, maybe physically, definitely emotionally, in addition to the therapist's office.

Don't be so preoccupied with this ... this ... loser that you let it all taint this incredible time in yours and your daughter's life.
posted by thinkpiece at 8:26 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

This guy does not sound like someone who should be in anyone's life, but most assuredly not yours or your daughters.

You made mistakes. You should discuss this all in therapy so that you understand why you made these mistakes and so you learn from them and don't repeat them. Your therapist should give you some great tools for helping you with this.

Go to court and start terminating his visitation. Take the texts, have them printed out. Get it notarized, etc. You don't want anyone around your daughter who will say those kinds of things about her. Have them put into your court file.

If and when he decides that he wants to be in your daughter's life, for real and for true, then we can re-visit.

As for your mutual friends, why would people who know the situation talk about how great he is with his other child? Tell them that he rejects his daughter and that it's hurtful to hear about how well he treats his son. If they persist, drop them, their assholes.

If you can avoid it, don't talk to this douchebag, don't deal with him at all. If he miraculously shows up for visitation again (before you can terminate it) then do the exchange at the police station.

As for his family, the apple didn't fall far from the tree. Ignore them. At some point someone may want to have contact with your daughter, and you should be the bigger person, unless the people aren't very nice to her in which case, they can whistle down a well.

Hang in there
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:24 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Your daughter will thank you for cutting him loose. My mom didn't mean to choose bad dads for her kids, but that's what happened. The best thing she could have done after that would have been to give us lives free of their interference.

You will thank yourself for getting his negative influence out of your lives. My daughter will not have the ideal family structure and beginnings I'd so hoped she would have, but I learned the lesson from my own upbringing and the rules for being in her life are based on respect for both of us, which makes our lives easier because I'm not beset by drama and grief, and she's not being exposed to same. Yes, this is the harder path in some ways, but she didn't ask to be here and I know we'll both ultimately be happier for it.

Your therapist needs to know all of this. Please do not be ashamed. This is classic abuse response on your part, and it's time to move to the next stage: getting appropriate help. Tell your therapist. You will be helped. They will understand. They've heard it all before. Don't make excuses for him. Don't suppress your own responses to all of this.

You also need to contact the lawyer/judge involved in the custody arrangement and enforce the custody decree.

I'm not going to sugarcoat this: parents with that type of attitude toward their offspring - particularly when other people are participating in ugliness toward the child - are more likely to abuse or allow abuse. You would have no way of knowing until it happened, and I know you don't want it to happen even once.

Nevermind all of those other people. Forge a happy new start for you and your little one, and good things will flow into and from that. I promise. Again, no, it won't always be easy, but it will happen. It will get easier as she gets older. She needs to see that her mama insists upon being treated with respect and that her mama insists upon the same for her. People who denigrate her humanity do not deserve to be in the same space as her, people who do not give you the benefit of the doubt do not deserve mindshare from you, and people who actively make life harder for you (stealing and emotiona/verbal abuse certainly don't make it easier, eh?) need to be kept far away. This is how she will learn that boundaries matter, that you both deserve respect and love, and that your mutual well-being is more important than any other relationship. These are VITAL lessons to impart to your growing girl, and, best yet, they will keep both of you happier and healthier.

Feel free to contact me via memail. I'm good with confidences. Nothing in the realm of this dynamic on any side of it can shock me.

Strength to you!
posted by batmonkey at 9:49 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm not going to sugarcoat this: parents with that type of attitude toward their offspring - particularly when other people are participating in ugliness toward the child - are more likely to abuse or allow abuse.

This is absolutely true. My children's father is an irresponsible, immature person but our divorce had very little drama because he wasn't interested in custody of any sort. Unfortunately, 3 years later he hooked up with a woman who took full advantage of the fact that he didn't care about his children by becoming a stepmother straight out of Disney. The damage that that woman did to my boys, while their father stood by and let it happen (sometimes literally laughing along with it), and while their mother kept sending them back for more (legally bound), resulted in real and lasting damage.

Your daughter, like everyone, will know suffering and confront hatred and mean-spiritedness in her life. But she should not have to endure it coming from people who are responsible for her care and upbringing. I can tell you that there is not enough mother's love in the world that can undo the damage caused by a father who calls his child horrible names. Trust me on this.

You need to dig deep and find the mama-bear inside you so you can protect your baby girl.
posted by headnsouth at 10:06 AM on July 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

You don't want your daughter to grow up and marry someone like him, right? You're her role model. Don't let her grow up thinking this is an acceptable way for a man to act.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:56 AM on July 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

You need to face the cold, hard truth that this guy is NEVER going to be the partner you want or need and also will NEVER be the parent your daughter wants or needs.

I am the daughter of a man who didn't want to be my father, and consequently he has not played a role in my life. That is the good news. Seriously. It may be hard to believe that your daughter could be better off without an abusive father in her life, but trust me, it is definitely the lesser of the two evils.

If this guy wanted to be a decent partner and a loving father, he would have done it by now.
posted by strelitzia at 12:35 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your therapist (if that person is competent and decent, which most are) is a really important tool and you should consider putting a lot of energy into sessions. Not only can you be honest with your therapist about the details of this relationship, but if you do therapy right you will end up being more honest with the therapast and yourself than you can even imagine. I'm not "blaming the victim" here—obviously Mr. Fabulous has deep issues of his own—but the fact that you got into this fix strongly suggests you're carrying baggage that needs to be unpacked. It is a long and harrowing process that will take you places you'll wish didn't exist. Keep in mind that baggage won't just disappear if you leave it packed up. It will linger on, and it will be passed on to your daughter and her descendants. Let that give you the gumption to go inside as deep as ever you can.

The best thing ultimately, for you and your daughter alike, would be to bring him on this journey. But that will require iron-strong boundaries and discipline from you, and I'd think separating from him completely at first. I wouldn't recommend attempting or discussing a reconciliation with him before you are well advanced in your own therapy and by that I mean probably a year or so at the very minimum. If at all. Don't let yourself cling to that hope.

I'm not a therapist. I'm in a good but difficult marriage and trying very hard to tackle our deeper problems for the sake of our young daughters. There are no shortcuts with this stuff and it will test your courage to the max.
posted by maniabug at 2:21 PM on July 23, 2012

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