They're MY Children Not His Or Ours And I Won't Share!
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By Mandy Walker, Featured Columnist - March 20, 2014 - Updated June 30, 2016

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Reader Question:

My ex is a jerk. He does everything he can to make my life miserable. Why should I have to let my children have anything to do with someone who seems hell bent on destroying my life? I didn’t carry my children for nine months, breast fed them and make sure they survived to only end up “sharing” them with a man who no longer wants me.

You “experts” have such a silly notion about visitation and letting fathers have control of their children and make decisions. Please tell me why I’m supposed to care what he thinks or feels when it comes to MY children?

Answer:

It’s taken me some time to consider how to respond to this! Your question is quite disturbing and frankly, I'm not sure if your ex is evil or if it's your thinking that's flawed.

By your own admission, your ex is the father of your children. Without your ex, your children simply wouldn’t exist. Your ex has a fundamental and undeniable right to have a relationship with his children, a relationship that is independent of your relationship with him. The law is also on his side.

Now there are situations when it is clearly advisable for the safety of a child to restrict contact with a parent but your question doesn’t give an indication that this is a concern.

The effects of divorce on children are many and differ depending on the age of the children and the specific circumstances but experts do agree that children do best when both parents are actively involved in parenting and when children are exposed to minimal post-divorce conflict.

That means that if you want to help your children you will have to separate whatever happened between you and your ex from your current parenting relationship. You need to work towards a civil relationship that will allow for the respectful discussion of parenting issues.

You don't give the age of your children but generally, when they’re young there are lots of parenting issues but they’re often minor and easy to resolve. By the time your kids are teenagers, there are fewer problems but the problems are bigger with potentially significantly more serious, even life-threatening consequences. Getting through the teen years is tough but it will be much easier if you and your ex are working as a team to support and guide your children. 

It doesn’t mean you have to like him, it doesn’t mean you have to be friends with him. It just means you have to be able to communicate effectively about your children. You need to refrain from bad-mouthing him to your kids or when they’re within earshot and you need not obstruct or interfere with his parenting time.

I have four suggestions that may help you:

  1. Consider taking a parenting skills class such as Love and Logic. I think this may help you increase your own parenting skills, increase your ability to rationally assess parenting issues, develop solutions and also help you guide your children in responding to their father especially if he is unreasonable or even mentally unstable. If he’s willing to take the same class, doesn’t have to be at the same time, even better.

  2. Seek therapy for yourself. From your comment about “… with a man who no longer wants me,” I wonder if you’re feeling rejected and still grieving for the loss of your relationship. Working with a therapist may help you work through your grief, build your self-esteem and confidence and even work towards forgiveness for your ex and possibly for yourself.

  3. Seek more therapy or counseling on how to handle your ex’s difficult behavior. You describe him as “someone who seems hell bent on destroying my life.” You won’t be able to control how he behaves but you always have a choice about how you react. Drawing your boundaries carefully will help you to reduce the conflict between you. Learning to choose your battles, and ignoring some of your ex’s actions will be better for you emotionally.

    If your ex has a diagnosed psychological condition discuss this with your therapist so you can understand the type of behavior to expect, how best to respond, warning signs of episodes and to be clear that it’s not your fault.

  4. Get legal help. This might be in the form of restraining orders to protect yourself from his harmful actions but it may also be actions to help the two of you parent together such as supervised parenting exchanges or the appointment of a parenting coordinator to help you make decisions.

In closing, if I asked your ex to describe you, what do you think he would say? Why? Would he say you were a jerk?

Mandy Walker is a divorce coach and a mediator. She’s the creator of the affordable, self-paced, online divorce coaching program, My Divorce Pal which offers practical guidance on all aspects of divorce. She has a number of divorce publications available including free audio programs on deciding on divorce and preparing for divorce. Follow her Facebook page for more updates.

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