Co-Parenting With An Abuser
All of us survivors know that our ex will at least verbally and emotionally abuse our children. We survivors also know how hard that type of abuse is to prove, and even proving it doesn't mean your ex will have less time with our children. Proving non-sexual or non-physical abuse typically results in therapy if it results in anything at all. Therapy doesn't work unless the abuser wants to change. They don't want to change which is the reason you left them in the first place.
If you are in this position, then you have to fight back through education and love. That is easier said than done, but it is very important to "do it" more often than you don't.
- Educate your kids about bullies, sexual predators, and dating violence.
- Empathize with them when their other parent hurts them, remind them how great they are, and have faith that your children are smart cookies who will continue to talk to you about their problems.
- Introduce your children to therapy, keep your eyes open for signs and symptoms of abuse, and report any allegations or proof of sexual or physical violence as soon as you see it.
- Create a new safety plan with your children. Make sure they know what they can do if they feel afraid while at your ex's house. You may have to be very careful about this because focusing on "what to do if you're at mom's house and she starts hitting you" could have negative effects. Instead, create a safety plan for your home, the babysitter's, grandma's, their friend's and your ex's. Make it a general "what to do if I am scared" plan without singling anyone out, then practice it with them.
Yes, it feels horrible to know that your kids cannot escape the emotional manipulation and pain like you did through separation or divorce. It is very difficult to cope with your kids' visits to your ex when you truly believe it is but a matter of time before your children are injured on the outside too. It is a helpless feeling to watch them go off to your ex's home, knowing "something bad" is waiting for them there. However, you cannot allow yourself to remain attached to your abuser through the children. So long as you feel like a victim (out of powerlessness to help your kids like you want to) you will remain a victim.
Remind yourself that now you are free of your ex's daily abuse, much stronger and smarter, and therefore in a better position to support your children in helpful ways. When you lived with abuse, you did not have the freedom to combat it that you do today. Remember to be grateful that you set an example for your children and try to stop beating yourself up every time they visit their other parent. Your kids visit your abuser because the court says they have to do so, not because you want it that way.
Forgive yourself for being unable to protect them 100% from their abusive parent. You can't protect them all of the time anyway. Children must learn hard lessons about all kinds of things on their own. They will be grateful that you were there for them, their safe place, if the other parent abuses them. They'll see the difference in the two of you in time. Let that awareness be as natural for them as possible (meaning don't habitually point out the other parent's flaws even if they talk badly about you).
You are no good to your children if you allow yourself to be abused by your ex.
- If you stay on the phone while your ex admonishes you for your poor parenting skills so you can eventually talk to them about the kids, you're allowing the abuse to continue. Hang up the phone at the first insult and send an email instead. Write only about the children.
- Don't allow your ex to enter your house without knocking and respect their home in the same way.
- Keep your personal boundaries strong. Let your children see that your ex can't get to you (at least not for long). They need to see you as separate from your ex; they need to know they have two homes, two parents, two different families to love. (They do love their other parent, always will - let them, and be there without "I told you so" if your ex lets them down.)
Your way of parenting will not affect your ex's ideas about parenting. Don't let their way of parenting affect yours. The idea is to work with your ex when it is reasonable to do so, but remember that you have separate homes and separate lives. You get to set the rules at your house.
- Don't let them talk you into spanking when you prefer time-outs, not even "for consistency between households".
- If your ex grounds your daughter from her cell phone (for good reasons) but you feel more comfortable if she has it on her at school, then take it from her as soon as she gets home.
- Drop any expectation that your ex will enforce a punishment you set for your child while the child visits them.
Realize that your children will play you against your ex sometimes. Your kids are smart; they know both of their parent's well. Our kids do not label us "bad" and "good" people. We're "mom" and "dad". If you think you're being played and that your child is doing something dangerous, email your ex to tell them about it.
- You may get no response or your ex could degrade you for your thoughts, but keep in mind that, most likely, your ex wants your children alive and well too (If they don't, you probably have proof of that and already took it to the authorities).
- If you receive a nasty reply, read it (I know you will), then archive it. I add my ex's emails to a folder labeled "Jerk" - it feels really good to hit the button sending it to that folder! I save them just in case I need proof of something in the future. I don't reread them, and I don't give them a second thought. I did what I needed to do when I informed him about our child.
Remember that you cannot see the future. Your gut instincts and intuition do not determine destiny. Your fears may never come true. Trust that if they do, you will have the presence of mind to do the right thing at the right time for the right reasons.
Do the best you can today. Take a deep breath, hug and kiss your kids, and talk to them. Parent the best way you know how, keep educating yourself so you can teach your kids how to live free of abuse, and keep your ex abuser's voice out of your decisions.
Keep your focus on your relationship with your child. How your ex fixes or screws up their relationship with your child is beyond your control.
You can do this. It isn't easy, but you can do it.
*Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so do not take my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.
Holly, K. (2012, December 6). Co-Parenting With An Abuser, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2012/12/coparenting-with-an-abuser
Author: Kellie Jo Holly
(i am not the voilent type) and they have been giving my son a hard time about my refusal to take him there or drop him off anymore. He has even called me names, pretended to punch me and said i am a coward for not fronting her. This is what she wants, I believe. I have no idea what to do. I can't escape this situation or move on with my life. I even tried to committ suicide over a year ago, just to end it and give myself peace of mind. This time I am not letting her get to me and I will be teaching my son that these are her issues not mine. I can deal with this. I can cope and i can show him what patience, love, respect and caring is about.
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I'm so sorry to hear about your situation. If you're worried for the safety of your children, you should call the Child Abuse Hotline (Child Abuse Hotline 800-4-A-CHILD). If you don't feel that your children are in imminent danger but their father's verbal abuse is doing long-term harm, could you arrange to see a lawyer to discuss your custody options? It might also a good idea for your kids to see a therapist if that's something they feel comfortable with. Do you have a family doctor who could arrange this? The situation you're in doesn't sound fair or healthy for you or your kids, and it sounds as if you're very worried about their welfare.
I don't know your backstory, however, there are organizations that can help with situations like these. Please refer to our <a href="https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/" target="_blank" rel="noopener nofollow">hotlines and referral resources page</a> for more information, and good luck.
<a href="https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/domestic-violence/domestic-abuse-help-domestic-violence-support-shelters-groups/" target="_blank" rel="noopener nofollow">Abuse Resources</a>
Sadly, having escaped from such a situation, it has been an uphill battle in the courts for the children to see me. Hopefully some year, in the future the lawmakers will be able to recognise that men get abused too.
Illness will lead to proof that he is unfit...probably a long shot.
Before we actually divorced, when we only talked about it, he said he would take my children, house and money away. He didn't work. He told me the courts would award him alimony because he earned nothing. Where I had the good hospital job. He said the kids would give him both our kids because he told me he would tell them I was bipolar and an unfit mother who was mental. He said maybe I could see my kids 3 years later. During one of our fights he told my son he didn't love him and accidentally hit my daughters head on the hallway wall as he told her he loved her more than I did. I knew I had to leave. This wasn't our first fight. He once even threw both me and my daughter down onto my bed and threw a closet hanger at me all while my kids cried for him stop.
I live in CA. This is a 50/50 state during divorce. 50 goes to him and the other to you. After years of this not changing I realized my actions needed to change. Obviously my technique of trying to fix the situation wasn't working.
Taking advice from friends I started calling the police. I documented his abuse to me and the times when he took my kids and left me crying alone at home. Not knowing where he had taken them. I also started emailing him about what happened hoping that he would admit to things. He did. I keep these email confessions from him just incase it happens again.
When I met my paralegal she told me that all he had done to me prior wouldn't help during the divorce. Nothing really matters until after I filed. So I filed. More abuse happened so I called the cops and documented those situations too. Six months after I filed I was awarded the house and the kids 50/50. I asked for no hold support and no alimony from either of us to the other. I didn't want the exchange of money to be more reason to upset either of us. He was thankful I asked for no child support. Though sometimes I wished I asked for it. He still tries to control me. He says he can't coparent unless he gets me too. We constantly argue, usually not in front of the children, unless he puts his hands up my skirt and down my shirt. Even after divorce I have to deal with this. I wish I had more help. 15 years too long. And I'm in my early 30s.
Emotionally scarred and feeling like I wasted so much time wondering what to do, I respond to your comment hoping that after reading mine you will take more action. People say people don't change. My ex did. He changed every other day. Back and forth. Told my son he didn't love him one day then the next he did. Told my children one day I was an unfit mother who didn't love them. The next I was a wonderful mother. In the end it was obvious he never really changed.
The only way courts would keep one parent away from the children I believe is if one poses danger to the children. What kind of evidence you would need in not entirely sure. But I recommend speaking to a professional and to not just wait and hope. What you collect may be all wrong or not good enough. After speaking t my paralegal and her lawyer husband I took their advice and just filed. They told me to document everything during the 6month CA divorce waiting period. I ended up not needing to provide it but I had it ready just incase. I may need it one day. He's better now.
He only says bad things to me.
One more thing. Unless he has been diagnosed with a mental illness what you feel about his current mental condition doesn't really help. Maybe situations of him being unfit and documented would help. But seek a professional to be sure. Don't wait.
I am at my wit's end right now. I left my ex years ago but we share custody of our 13 year old daughter. He is a power and control type of person so he lies and manipulates a lot. My daughter was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder last year after him and his wife got ugly over a child support increase( I believe that him and his wife are psychologically abusive to each other as well as the kids in their home). After my daughter was diagnosed her father and stepmother sat her down to tell her that she has not anxiety disorder and she is just manipulating people and lying. He has yelled this at me in front of my home after bringing her home at one point. He keeps going to her therapist and insinuating she is a liar and manipulate. Her last visit with him he asked her how she was and when she said fine he said she was lying about school and took her phone. Her phone is actually her lifeline to me. She doesnt really communicate on the phone with anyone but me and her older sister because of her anxiety. This triggered an anxiety attack. I called their house at one point that night because I got a weird text from her phone. They put her on speakerphone and when I asked her if I needed to send someone to check on her I could hear her dad saying no you don't. I could hear my daughter breathing heavy and sniffling so I kept asking her if she was okay but she wouldn't answer. Apparently her stepmother was standing right next to her telling her to lie to me and say she was okay. I called the cops and for some reason they felt they should send cops to me first. The next morning I found out from her father that she wrote a suicide not. This was not him informing out of concern. He was using this note as weapon. I ended up calling the cops about the note because he claimed he was taking her to a hospital he wouldn't tell me where. To this day I am not sure if he would have taken her if I hadn't called the police. Oh yeah and he did call the police on her when he found the note but he didn't take her to a hospital for 10-12hours). I also don't think when he took her it was out of concern. He told the psychiatrist he brought her there for his own evaluation. Coincidentally I didn't realize that I have the sole right to consent psychiatric treatment until I got home that night. When I figured out where he took my daughter he had the hospital deny my rights to be there for my daughter's evaluation by having his court order stating I have that right and saying he didn't want me back there. When I tried to assert my rights he started yelling security. Eventually they did read the court order but it wasn't until after I haf sent my eldest daughter back to my place to find my copy of the court order that says exactly what he says. Its a sad world where I have to think oh my court order when I am worried about my daughter hurting herself. She ended up in a great hospital for a week that stood up for her and didn't force her to see her dad. The first time they told him she didn't want to see him he threw a huge fit and they ended up calling the cops. Unfortunately by the time they got there he had left and the hospital was just across the border from the state we live in. Since then, which was back in May, she has been refusing his visits. Everytime I tells him no he calls the cops. Some have been very nice but the one I dealt with yesterday started scare tactics and I pointed out to him that is how my daughter ended up in the situation she is in by her father using scare tactics. I keep seeing that somehow I am supposed to co parent with him but it's not possible. I either give things his way or he throws a bloody tantrum or better yet his wife does. I am tired and frustrated and really annoyed that I am expected to encourage my kid to accept the abusive behaviors because if a court order. She is a teenager what does that teach her about future relationships? My daughter was more confident and did really well in school until she was told she wasn't wanted at her dad's house by her half brother and stepmother. Before she was told her child support would cause them to give up the family pets. Before she was told the cost of her child support would leave her dad in such dire straights he probably wouldn't be able to afford gas to pick her up and he reinforced that by not seeing her for nearly a year. She has made progress but we have days still that she just cannot cope. Those days are exhausting but I keep reminding myself of the progress she has made. Her dad wants to claim I have turned her against him. I had moved her away for four years and he didn't complain. I moved back because stupid me forgot that abusers generally do not grow out of it and he has blown every chance to make a loving relationship with her and traumatized her so that she does not trust people.
I really don't know what I am trying to say. I want my daughter to feel like a princess again and not think she is the cause of someone else's problems. I don't understand how someone can treat their child this way.
I haven't read many of the comments, but so far I've only read women writing on here. I am a man, I unfortunately was completely dealt a really bad hand in divorce because I was weak, had desperately pleaded for a peaceful divorce with my ex, and at the end of the day, I wanted out of the abubsive marriage so bad that I gave the farm away without fighting in court. All I cared about was having a great relationship with my 4 year old son and to be out of the marriage. I didn't care about the house, the cars, the 3100 a month in support I currently pay, I let her have it all. I thought after all of that, she would be nice to me and we would be able to co-parent. The abuse has continued and now she uses the only thing left to use against me, my son. She plays constant mind games with me and him like accusing me of not wanting to see him whenever I have plans and she's asking me to come pick him up because she knows it kills me when I cant see him. She tells him nasty things about me. I'm almost positive she acts like she calls me without actually dialing my number and then acts like I tell her that I don't want to talk to him. She sends random photos of my son playing with her boyfriend or at a park, etc. While I've made strides to limit personal communication (blocking her while I don't have our son, using a new email address, will only pick our son up when he's at school or not with her), its just very stressful and I don't think it will ever get better. My MAIN concern is if my son will come out of this ok and if he will still me my loving and sweet little boy who adores his Daddy. Lately I can't call to talk to him because it never ends well. It's not that I don't want to talk to him, but having to deal with her is just too much right now. We've only been divorced for 6 months, so maybe I'm just freaking out for nothing. If anyone here has any helpful advice or insight, it sure is welcome. Thanks
Switch the location of take to the phone shop or get ride of it.
About a year ago he wanted to get to know the children and stupid me said..ok.His wife you see divorced him and stated a new family..so he needed a purpose in life(his words).
Well, it did not go well.We have two sons( one will be 18 in few weeks, one will be 17 and our daughter will be 16 in three months).From the start he was interested only in our daughter..not the boys. His explanation..I don't know how to deal with sons.
His interest with our daughter became obsession..he would stalk her( she would go many times somewhere with her friends and he would simply show up)..still have no idea how he would know where she went.He bought her a phone,however if she did not hug him or tell him she loves him..he would have the phone turned of.He would offer her money to go to places with him..when she refused he would call her b..word,c.. word..call her ugly and that her half sister is way prettier..and so on.Our daughter once a very happy girl..A student became withdrawn..her grades went down.I have to mention also..he would constantly mention if he "goes down" if she will not talk to him..he will quit his job..so no child support..and he would say this to the children.
Our son..who will turn 18 soon has sent him a letter about how he feels about him,for him to get out of our lives..that he had enough of his abuse towards me..and his brother and sister.(Did I mention he would call me in front of the children and ugly..old hag..and how he hopes I just die. He has also hit the '18" year old..all reported at school.
This man now wants custody of his daughter. Claiming I have not allowed him to be her parent..she wants nothing to do with him because of me..he makes good money so can take better care of her..and so on.
As I am typing this I have received another text from him( number 38 from yesterday)..asking if our girl and this time her 17 year old brother can go to movies with him.Same thing as yesterday..when I asked them..response was no..somehow he does not want to hear it.He also stated he will pay me if I convince them..and he will pay them if they go.This is madness..We moved..my daughter's friends still live where we live.Well, one of her friends called her to tell her he was seen at the place. So now ,she refuses to leave the house..this is her summer time.
And when you wrote, "God, I need help," I see that you must ask for help. Ask God to help. Ask people to help. You need a support network outside of therapy. Try domestic violence group meetings. You'll find understanding people there, and your experience can foretell the future to other victims of abuse. You can save some while the others save you.