How do I stop the pain and do what is best?
November 21, 2014 3:15 PM   Subscribe

A little over two years ago I posted a question regarding a very difficult situation I was in. The result is - eventually after much trauma we got divorced. Two years have passed and whilst in some respects I have made progress, a terrible situation has now occured and I am weighed down with the weight of the world. Desperately need some hivemind perspective if possible.

Sorry for the long post I will try and keep this as short as I can. Following the situation discussed in my post back then I decided to go through with divorce. It was incredibly painful and in many ways I am still recoverying. I have recently begun therapy as both me and my ex-wife seem to be having difficulty moving on with our lives. I fought in court for custody of our children and gave it my all but she was able to manipulate and paint herself as a victim of me ignoring the fact I decided to divorce her. It is only with hindsight I see that I was in abusive marriage and that she was the abuser.

My ex-wife told me this evening that she is very self-destructive and cannot give love to our children as she does not feel love. Furthermore that she has in recent months become involved with someone who is abusive towards her (she said he hit her and then when I reacted she backtracked and said had not hit her but was abusive and had bitten her and bruised her). She also told me in tears that she knew this person was bad but got weak and invited him to her home that she shares with our children recently. They came in one morning and saw her having sex (they are both at primary school age) and told me she shouted at them. I am incredibly upset and she did not seem to realise how deeply it will have effected them. I know my ex-wife experienced a lot of early childhood trauma and I feel like these destructive patterns of behaviour are a result. She has been on and off medication for many years and is currentlly off them. She told me she knows that she will end up with this person because even though she knows he is bad she is strongly attracted to him and she is not strong enough to reject him. She told me that this was as a result of my abandoning her and that I need to understand the consequences. She also told me she felt suicidal but again after I reacted she downplayed it and said she did not mean it.

I know this is absolutely emotional blackmail and manipulation, but, I also believe her entirely that she is seeing this person and he is the way she has portrayed. I know I am being manipulated but also that my ex-wife who I still feel very strongly for is in a world of pain. My immediate priority is my children and I want to take them away from that environment. I want her to get professional help but know I cannot make her. She seems to think the solution is me moving back in and protecting her/looking after her and our children. I know it is easy to say she is just trying to get me back but the destructive behaviour is real. She is deeply damaged and our children are undoubtedly suffering. I want more than anything to protect them and to help my ex-wife. I miss my children so much it is unbearable at times. In my weakest moments I wonder if the best thing for my children is to try again and cope with the behaviour come what may? The reality is overwhelming. (Throwaway email -
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You need to document and use the information to get your children out of that situation and away from her. You need to get a lawyer.

The next time she threatens to commit suicide, you need to call 911. If she's lying, there need to be consequences. If she's not, there needs to be help given by a professional.

Any other choice you make would be selling out your children. I wouldn't normally say this to a co-parent but it's time to start thinking of your ex as an enemy. Helping her is not your problem, saving your children should 100% be your focus.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:24 PM on November 21, 2014 [42 favorites]

Document, call social services, call 911 if she threatens suicide, get the kids to a kid psychologist and call your lawyer.

YOU ARE NOT GETTING YOUR MARRAIGE BACK. Let it go. Grieve it for it, do whatever you have to to keep your kids safe and stop caring about your wife. You have to harden your heart to her for your kids sake and your sake. The sooner you accept this the better.
posted by fshgrl at 3:31 PM on November 21, 2014 [18 favorites]

Your wife is now the enemy of both you and your children. She is telling you she is going to be bringing a PHYSICALLY ABUSIVE man into their home.
You yourself are in danger, as she can accuse you of things that may result in no contact with your children. She is not taking her medicine, so you really cannot count on rational behavior.
Since you've lost custody you need a better support team, and better strategies to deal with her. Have you read Bill Eddy's books?
posted by Sophont at 3:39 PM on November 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

Take your children, as quickly as you can. Get a lawyer. Immediately. Get custody.

Leave the woman out of your thoughts. She is her own problem, not yours.

Let me repeat: She is not your problem. Do not let her be your problem.

Don't let her be your children's problem for one second longer.
posted by erst at 3:50 PM on November 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

This lady is such bad news you are well out of that relationship.

Start a case with child protective services yesterday and move heaven and earth to get custody of your children.

Your ex-wife is damaged and she's beyond your help. It's criminal to allow her to care for your children one instant longer.

If it's legal, tape all phone calls with her and any discussions you have. Get as much proof as possible.

Insist that your children get therapy, and keep fighting for them.

Your ex-wife can help herself, let her do that.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:39 PM on November 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

Document everything she tells you by phone, email, etc. (Time, date, situation, medium, etc.)

Get advice from your attorney about the best way to do this (email to your attorney, perhaps?).

Document everything you notice about your children and how they seem to be affected.

Be strategic. Find out the best way (via your attorney) to reopen the custody case.

You cannot save this woman. You can model returning to an abusive relationship. But that's not what you want to model for your children. And that misery is not the life you want.

With luck and pluck, you may, however, be able rescue your kids from being raised by an ill mom and her abusive, soon-to-be partner.

Don't give up! This is a nightmare situation but it won't always suck like this. When people start to change and refuse to accept bad treatment, their abusers often start acting out even more. That is what your ex or soon to be ex wife seems to be doing.

Remind yourself of that. Remind yourself of the misery you are moving away from by refusing to allow her to continue to abuse you. It's a shame that she cannot seem to care for herself or your children. But don't be the person who jumps into the river to save a drowning loved one only to have both people die. Don't do that. Please.

Also, your wife will never know if she can become a better adult if you keep stepping in to take care of her. That's not your job. Your job is to take care of your kids. Use outrage or fear or sorrow or grief or whatever else you need to stay focused on caring for both yourself and your children without going back to the hell that was your marriage.

That is easier said than done. Much easier. But you don't have to fix everything all at once. No one can do that. Take it one breath at a time and keep track of everything you do as a reminder that you are making progress even though the outcome isn't known yet.

Love your children, love yourself. We wish you well.
posted by Bella Donna at 4:44 PM on November 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

You have to remember that you are not capable of dealing with the issues your ex has. As much as you might want to help, she needs a trained professional, not some nice guy who got caught up in her life. Whatever you try to do might be the WORST thing for her, which you are stumbling into unawares. Only a professional will be able to actually help her. Again, whatever you try to do could very well make her worse, not better. You just don't know. And any help coming from you will probably only delay her shot at getting the help she needs.

So. As their father, you ARE capable of making decisions based on what's best for your kids. And that's the thing that you do have a responsibility to do. Yes, take action. But take the right action. And getting custody of your kids is absolutely the right thing to do, no brainer.
posted by raisingsand at 4:53 PM on November 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Your first reaction is probably to go rescue the children. Considering her past behaviour I would hold off on that and contact a lawyer ASAP. Discuss how to document her claims legally and then bring them to CAS and ask the lawyer how to get full custody.

I'm sorry, but your wife is most likely severely ill, making poor choices, and in a crisis neither you or your children can resolve. A day to two (or even a week) more will most likely not harm your children (especially if they have taught skills for resiliency) but pulling them out of their mother's house illegally and making it that much harder to get custody WILL cause lasting harm.

Get a bulldog of a lawyer.
posted by saucysault at 5:04 PM on November 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

I'm glad that you acknowledge that your wife is engaging in emotional blackmail and manipulation. I'd also like to suggest that you consider that she's lying about at least some of the stuff she's telling you. Not that this makes things better - just keep it in mind. She knows how to push your buttons. It's not hard to envision this person getting on a roll and just laying on a heavy layer of bullshit: "I know he's bad, but he made me [censored] in front of the kids!" I'm not trying to second guess you - but bullshit happens.

For once, I agree with almost everything that others have said so far. The only thing I might add is that order is important. Getting a good, sympathetic lawyer should be #1 on your list. He will undoubtedly give you his opinion on what things your ex- might be lying about. This doesn't mean he's not on your side.

At #2 on your list is "get custody of your children". This should be #1 on your lawyer's list. Don't try to kidnap your kids - it will hurt your cause.

You need to accept, at a very deep level, that you need to get your ex- out of your life. She's poisoning you and your kids.

You should check the law on it, but yeah, this is also the rare case where recording any and all conversations with her might be worthwhile. The point isn't to have something that's admissible in court; the point is to help you remember and help you document.

And yes - your ex- is now your enemy. Don't ever forget that.

Good luck on this. Stay strong. Endure.
posted by doctor tough love at 6:24 PM on November 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would assume at this point that everything she is telling you is a manipulative pack of lies. Have you even met this "bad boy"? Have you seen the bruises? Does he even exist? The whole thing sounds like a bad Fifty Shades fanfic. Have you heard the "walking in on her having sex" story from the kids, or just from her?

Honestly she sounds mentally ill. I would avoid any conversations with her that are more involved that "hi Jane, pick-up's at 4". Ask your lawyer what to do if the children say anything to you, and maybe speak to your children's teachers if your lawyer oks it. But mostly try not to interact with her any more than you can avoid. I expect this is 99% fantasy on her part. Why else would she be making such a huge point of telling you about it? If this was real you're the last person she'd tell. She sounded nuts in your last question, doesn't sound like things have improved. Do whatever your lawyer says to get custody.
posted by tinkletown at 7:51 PM on November 21, 2014

Do NOT go back to her.
The relationship is not salvageable and never was.
Your children, however, might be.
Do as all these good people say.
Do NOT just take the kids.
Document, get children's services, law enforcement, and lawyers involved, and get them and you permanently OUT of her destructive path.
Good luck. You all have my sincere prayers.
posted by stormyteal at 9:41 PM on November 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am going to repeat what other posters said, but I am going to emphasize something different.

You need to get a lawyer (who practices family law) who you can trust and confide in. The lawyer will guide you and your children to a relatively safe place & will be knowledgeable about your and their rights.

Here is why you need a lawyer: you need a dispassionate advisor who can keep an eye on your best interests. I don't think that you are emotionally equipped to handle this situation alone, but I only say that because essentially nobody is emotionally equipped to handle this situation alone.

AskMeFi is best for answering small and relatively unimportant questions. You need an advocate and counselor who can help you answer big and important questions pertaining to you and your children.
posted by Mr. Justice at 6:35 AM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

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