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we can't be the only ones in this position...
December 28, 2005
7:50 pm
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outsidelookingin
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I am new here because I can't find anything anywhere - any book, article or website - that offers any suggestions in dealing with our issue. My background in a nutshell is as follows:

My husband of less than two years has custody of his daughters, ages 7 and 11. His ex is diagnosed bipolar and borderline personality disorder (and probably undiagnosed codependency from our observations) who seems hell-bent on alienating the children from their father. The older daughter already exhibits signs of codependent behavior as well as oppositional defiant disorder, although no diagnosis has been made. The ex wreaks absolute havoc in our home with her constant phone calls (up to 20 a day!), dropping by our home (usually arranged behind our backs with the children), crying on her children about everything (including inappropriate adult situations children shouldn't even know about), and more. She has had so many men in and out of her life that we have lost track of how many (and there were 3 or 4 she was supposedly going to marry), has changed her place of residence 4 times and is about to move again, and has gone through 4 or 5 jobs all in the span of about 2 years. All of this instability and reliance on her children to "take care of her" (her own words) is damaging to her children, not to mention disruptive to our household.

This all saddens me for a number of reasons: It prevents me from forming any sort of bond with these kids because their mother has twisted things their father and I have said to suit her and make us look bad; it robs us of having any peace and harmony in our home; and it is robbing these children of having a "normal" life.

I am not here to judge my husband's ex or anyone else who suffers from any sort of mental illness, but I am having an awful time dealing with her fallout. I don't understand how it is that she doesn't see that she is harming her kids by feeding them her angry, bitter hatred of their father and by telling them every sordid detail (whether true or not) of her life. Is there anyone out there who is in a similar situation? Any advice on how to deal with the ex, children and fallout? The ex has been on meds in the past, but has a history of "feeling better" and going off of them so I have no idea whether or not she is currently taking anything and I do not believe she is in any sort of counseling. We have begun therapy (again) for the older child, but as we have had all of 2 sessions, it is too soon to tell if there will be any progress this time. Any suggestions (books, personal experience) would be greatly appreciated.

- outsidelookingin

December 30, 2005
12:50 am
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Mishy2sons
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Wow! Tough! I feel for all of you. The children's mother is mentally ill. She can't be blamed for her illness, however, she has a responsibility for taking her medication, continuing her therapy and whatever else she must do to maintain some mental and emotional stability.

The harassing phone calls and other inappropriate behavoirs are damaging to the children. You may have to revisit the court to redefine the custody and visitation situations.

Removing the children from her completely seems cruel to them and to her, but surely something can be arranged to ensure that she does not have 24 hour a day disruptive access to the children and your household. Keep up the family therapy. That will help.

December 30, 2005
1:03 am
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Lass
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If you can get the ex before a counselour willing to make a solid diagnosis, you might be able to get supervised visitation only instituted. Best wishes, sweetheart. These kinds of situations are so sad. It is good that these kids have at least one family pulling for them.

LL

December 30, 2005
1:26 am
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Lass
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This is called parental poisoning. It is illegal. It is grounds to have the children removed from her care. But it is extremely difficult to prove, and usually the children themselves are the only witnesses and victims. There are, in some states, guardian at litums who come in and advocate for the children. These can be sought from the courts. They sometimes are called child advocates. CASA is one such organization in some states. However, anytime anything rocks the boat and makes the mom feel insecure, it will likely lead her to protect herself by engaging in this kind of behavior. It is easy to say that one party is all bad and the other all good, but that is rarely the case. I would do your best to come alongside her and be of emotional and financial support. Fighting is really very futile in the end. It does untold damage all by itself, and makes the children feel really insecure. The truth is that even a bad mommy is preferred by children over no mommy.

LL

December 30, 2005
2:30 am
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Matteo
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Maybe so, maybe a bad mommy is preferred by the children when they are small and they have no way of knowing any better. Later on in their lives they just fill up the counseling sites like this one.

Your husband has custody of the children, and his ex has visitation rights? He has no obligation to support her financially then - shouldn't the person who is taking care of the children be financially supported instead?

But aside from money, which I would ignore knowing her history of not being able to hold a job, she probably is unable to support them in any way.

Instead of this she is damaging the children big time. And guess what? When the children will be older, they will ignore her but blame you and their father.

She has no right to harass you and your family the way she does. I would go to the counseling with the children, to someone who would be able to assess their condition and how their mother's behaviour affecting them - and back to court, and try to get supervised visits or no visits at all.

Maybe it sounds cruel but the right of the children to have peaceful and secure childhood is grossly violated. The abuse she inflicts on her children has to stop, and your husband and you are the only people who can do it for the children. Their wealth is the most important here, no matter what and why she suffers from.

I believe this situation must be very difficult for you as a wife and as a stepmother. You are between a rock and a hard place. You will need a lot of patience and good will because the children understand more and more, but if you will protect them, one day they will appreciate it. Good luck and all the best to you.

January 6, 2006
4:10 pm
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outsidelookingin
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Thanks to those of you who responded to my "novel." Things have been somewhat peaceful since Christmas, due in part to the fact that the kids' mother has a new job which prevents her from calling all day long and dropping by unannounced. Ironically, she is caring for a mentally ill boy (I don't know the age of this young man) in his home. Obviously these people don't know her very well...

In response to the suggestion of the guardian ad litem, my husband has been down that road already. Initally the mom had custody of the girls - my husband was given some very bad advice and did not fight her for it when they divorced in 2002. After just a few months of living in her filth; her "forgetting" to pick them up at a movie theatre in January with no coats, no food and no money for over 2 hours; and making what the principal of their school determined might be a suicide threat (which involved the police who referred to her filthy living conditions in the police report) among other things, my husband took her back to court to get custody from her. He considered trying to get supervised visitation for their mother, but was advised that it is very hard to do and so did not pursue that option. The guardian ad litem did not recommend supervised visits; in fact he recommended that the kids spend MORE time with her than what was outlined in the court papers. Guess you can fool some of the people some of the time...

January 6, 2006
4:40 pm
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Lass
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There is more bs in the custody courts than anywhere else. It is almost guaranteed that the wrong parent gets screwed.

I am very sorry. As I suggested before, coming alongside the mother as a support system may be the best possible option for the kid's sake.

Let me know if I can be of further advice or support, okay?

LL

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