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Co-parenting with ex who can't move on


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Disco87

Hello, I am here to seek any kind of advice I can find that might help make things better between my ex and I, and better for our kids.  I left our 8 year marriage over 3 years ago now, and we have been legally divorced for 2 years.  The first year after separation was expectedly rough, and I ended up getting some counseling.  From what I have learned after the fact, the best description of what I went through during our marriage and still deal with on occasion to this day, is narcissistic abuse from my ex.  I am still recovering but doing much better now, and looking back I can see it more clearly.  She had always been the one who was starting fights, drinking, arguing, being violent and causing drama no matter how hard I tried to fix things and help.  She made me feel like I was the problem and the cause of all her unhappiness, and eventually I believed that I was a terrible person even though I struggled and gave every ounce of my effort and energy to her and our kids.  I eventually lost who I was and had no sense of self, I had no voice and was extremely unhappy.

We have three children together, who's ages now range from 5 to 12 years.  The divorce was hard on them as well, but I feel it was more difficult because she tried to turn the kids against me.  She told them lies and manipulated them and me to make things harder on everyone.  She used them as pawns and threatened to try to take them away.  It took years of just trying to not worry about the things she said or did and being the best father I could to fix my relationship with them, and now I feel the kids and I are in a good place and probably the closest we've ever been.

In the past year or so, things had started to settle down between my ex and I as well.  Our interactions have become less and less, just an occasional text message when schedule changes or other things came up about the kids.  I've learned that when she drinks, she would sometimes send me emotionally charged messages which I was better off just ignoring, because she was only trying to get a reaction out of me.  I started seeing someone new and we got engaged late last year, planning our wedding for this coming Fall.   My ex will sometimes message awful things to me, just calling my fiance or her kids the worst things imaginable.  But still I ignore it because I know engaging will just unravel things into an endless fit of her rage and incoherent messages.

In my attempts to keep things civil and keep her from being belligerent around the kids, I always agree to keep the kids extra days and nights when she needs me to.  We usually have 50/50 custody but I end up working from home and having the kids quite a bit more.  I also pay her more towards "child support" than I am required because we agreed not to have a baby sitter, as she is only working on weekends and before I had to pay support plus all of the baby sitters wages.  I also provide just about everything the kids need as far as clothing, medical costs, dental, anything at all because my ex says she is broke and can't afford anything.  She is still on my cell phone plan and car insurance and refuses to take over them though I have tried repeatedly.

Things have gotten worse again this year because my ex is having health issues, something with her heart which she has had surgery on in the past.  She is having appointments several times a month which again, I have to take off work to keep the kids every time.  I can't afford to get a babysitter or other form of childcare because all of the money is going to my ex, and she can't afford any less now that she is working only 1-2 days a week and with medical bills on top of that.  With her health deteriorating she has not been holding back as much and is texting me demeaning things late at night again, even after I have been nothing but respectful and continued helping her out with bills and everything else, and keeping the kids overtime.

It feels like I have devolved back to where I was in our marriage, with her being able to blatantly disrespect and ridicule me in messages and there is nothing I can do about it.  I just keep helping her and giving her an exorbitant amount of money for "support" for fear that she will come after me in other ways or try to manipulate and lie to the kids again to get her way.   Meanwhile I am trying to focus on building a new relationship, getting married and bringing families together while she is trying to tear it all apart.

I know that the best course with someone like this would be to go no-contact, but I don't see how that would be possible.  I can't rely on our 12 year old daughter to relay all communication between us.  Is there anything I can do legally in this situation?   How do I distance myself from her without causing more problems for the kids?

I wish I could just have full custody so that I wouldn't need to rely on her or deal with her at all, but that would not be fair to the kids.  They love their mother and have not seen her the way that I have, and I know they would resent me if I tried anything like that.   

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NuevoYorko

I don't blame you for your situation, but basically it boils down to boundaries on your part.  Please go back to counseling and get professional help to deal with all of her manipulative tactics.  As it is now, understandably, you are pretty much ruled by her behavior.  

Your kids are probably old enough and capable of going through the difficulties that will occur when you take your own boundaries seriously and stick to them.   

I have a family member with borderline personality disorder who did everything they could to ruin my life and that of our other siblings after the death of our parents.   I was in charge of their affairs and this sibling was trying with success to thwart my every effort.  I connected with a therapist who specializes in BPD and they gave me a lot of very helpful insights on how to handle this person when they were in "fully activated" mode and it probably saved my sanity and that of our other family members.  

You say you are planning to remarry.  Please take this step - of getting help - or I fear it will not be a successful union.

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Disco87
Posted (edited)
4 minutes ago, NuevoYorko said:

I don't blame you for your situation, but basically it boils down to boundaries on your part.  Please go back to counseling and get professional help to deal with all of her manipulative tactics.  As it is now, understandably, you are pretty much ruled by her behavior.  

Your kids are probably old enough and capable of going through the difficulties that will occur when you take your own boundaries seriously and stick to them.   

I have a family member with borderline personality disorder who did everything they could to ruin my life and that of our other siblings after the death of our parents.   I was in charge of their affairs and this sibling was trying with success to thwart my every effort.  I connected with a therapist who specializes in BPD and they gave me a lot of very helpful insights on how to handle this person when they were in "fully activated" mode and it probably saved my sanity and that of our other family members.  

You say you are planning to remarry.  Please take this step - of getting help - or I fear it will not be a successful union.

I appreciate the advice, this is something I will consider.  I had not thought of it in this perspective, of still being under her control as I have upheld many more boundaries than in the past.  I no longer respond to her messages when they are out of line and I will delete them.  But I fear she has been pushing more in other aspects such as our scheduling with the kids and financially where I should be holding my ground.

I have considered contacting my attorney and looking into getting a parenting coordinator to help ensure that both of us are sticking to what was ordered by the courts in our divorce.  Because I know she has not held up her end in some ways.

I do fear the backlash of suddenly firming up those boundaries.  What that would look like is shutting off her phone, her insurance, cutting my bi-weekly payments to her in half, and refusing to take the kids extra when she has an appointment.  I don't think that is going to look very well in our children's eyes.

Edited by Disco87
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tzorno

Disco, your being taken advantage of.  By all means, get ahold of your lawyer.  You have no obligations for her cell phone and car insurance.  That is just insane in my opinion.  Does your soon to be wife know about that?  You are also paying for all of the kids insurance costs.  She should be required to pay some of that too.

I'm sorry to hear about her medical issues and I realize that is hard, but that's out of your control.  I think you need to go back to court and have things adjusted at this point.  You are getting married soon and making a new life for yourself.  You can't be married to your ex too.

Will your soon to be wife be willing to accept your kids for the majority of the time, because I feel that's how this is going to go.  Your ex needs to find a better job and I know that's going to be hard with her medical problems, but again, that's not your problem anymore.

You have lived under your exes rule long enough.  It's time to cut the chord and get on with your life.

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Disco87
13 hours ago, tzorno said:

Disco, your being taken advantage of.  By all means, get ahold of your lawyer.  You have no obligations for her cell phone and car insurance.  That is just insane in my opinion.  Does your soon to be wife know about that?  You are also paying for all of the kids insurance costs.  She should be required to pay some of that too.

I'm sorry to hear about her medical issues and I realize that is hard, but that's out of your control.  I think you need to go back to court and have things adjusted at this point.  You are getting married soon and making a new life for yourself.  You can't be married to your ex too.

Will your soon to be wife be willing to accept your kids for the majority of the time, because I feel that's how this is going to go.  Your ex needs to find a better job and I know that's going to be hard with her medical problems, but again, that's not your problem anymore.

You have lived under your exes rule long enough.  It's time to cut the chord and get on with your life.

 

Thank you for that.  I am working towards exactly that.  I have contacted my lawyer to find out what options I have and what my actual obligation should be for child support.  I am contacting the insurance company since I'm pretty sure she can't legally be on my car insurance when we don't live together.  I am going to give her one more chance to accept the cell phone transfer and then I will cut it off.

Having the kids extra is not a problem so far, but it can be disruptive to our schedule and making plans.  If it happens much more I may look into getting a babysitter again, but soon the kids will be old enough not to need one.

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stillafool

How old are your children?  

On 7/9/2024 at 9:09 AM, Disco87 said:

She is still on my cell phone plan and car insurance and refuses to take over them though I have tried repeatedly.

You don't have to ask her to take these bills over.  Call the insurance and cell phone company and remove her from your account.  You don't need her permission.

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Disco87
2 hours ago, stillafool said:

How old are your children?  

You don't have to ask her to take these bills over.  Call the insurance and cell phone company and remove her from your account.  You don't need her permission.

Called the insurance company this morning.  They called her and she proceeded to blow up my phone with texts and expletives.  So I simply explained that I wouldn't be doing these things for her anymore and we could use the courts to settle the support payments if she feels like it's not enough.

I also told her that I wasn't going to tolerate her messaging me like that anymore.  That if it continues we would have to start communicating through a mediator.  I don't know if that's actually possible but I don't know how else to hold that boundary.

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Disco87

She went on to text a bunch of lies about the premise of our divorce, tried claiming that the kids hate living here and that if I try anything she will move away and take them with her😑 I know none of that is true and she can't actually take the kids.  They are very happy with me and I just hate that she is probably dragging them through all of this and feeding them the same lies.  I am just going to hold my ground.

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flitzanu

be sure to keep ALL of those texts that she is sending about her threats and about how she intends to break court orders for terms and provide it to your lawyer.  

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stillafool
3 hours ago, Disco87 said:

She went on to text a bunch of lies about the premise of our divorce, tried claiming that the kids hate living here and that if I try anything she will move away and take them with her😑 I know none of that is true and she can't actually take the kids.

I would also have her phone cut off and let her pay that bill.  How old is your oldest child?

Edited by stillafool
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ExpatInItaly

Yes, you needed to firm up your boundaries with her a while ago. 

Get her off your phone plan. And of course she was going to go ballistic taking her off the car insurance, but tough cookies. She is an adult and it is not your job to pay everything. How do you think that looked to your fiancée? 

Keep records of all the abusive messages she sends you. Your lawyer may need them later. 

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It is stressful but at the same time feels good to finally take these steps.  Of course she still thinks she has the upper hand and is in control, she will always believe that.  She is a textbook narcissist.  She sent me what the cost will be for her insurance bill because she expects me to add the amount to the child support.

I was able to get a local law office to set up a phone consultation with me on these matters in a few days.  I want to find out what my actual child support obligation would look like if it were court ordered and go from there.  Whatever it is I just want it to be non-negotiable with her so she stops trying to push the issue.   I shouldn't have to hear her stories about her struggles and have her bringing up our past trying to guilt me or manipulate me after all this time.

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