Help! My Ex Is Manipulating My Children.
Dealing with divorce is never easy. In fact it is probably amongst the most stressful and grueling experiences one can go through. When we get married we start off with a tremendous amount of hope and expectation. Intellectually we know it will take work but it is truly impossible to really know what kind of work it will take until we are already down the path of the marriage. I believe the reason it is difficult to get an idea of what the work of marriage will look like is because I believe it is individual to each marriage and the specific issues which exist between the partners.
Whatever the issues are which end the marriage being divorced can often be harder than it ever was being married, especially if you share children. When divorced couples share children there is no ending to the relationship which makes moving on difficult because the children bind us together for our lives. We not only have to deal with our ex but we have to often deal solely with all the aspects of them that we tried to divorce. This can be the most frustrating aspect to cope with. Here we have divorced this person to get away from their negative traits and we seem to deal more with them post-divorce then we did married.
This is where the children often become the victims because control (especially for the spouse who was left) becomes the big issue in these circumstances. When this happens so often does parent alienation syndrome. If children start distancing from the other parent we can be sure parent alienation is occurring. There is nothing more debilitating emotionally then when our spouse manipulates the children against the other. The loss of one’s children to manipulation is maddening and very difficult to recover from because the children are not old enough or mature enough to really see what is happening.
When our ex is manipulating our children it can be the hardest thing to let go of. There is no greater pain then watching our children being poisoned. We often feel powerless and heart broken. The only cure for this is time. In time children always come to see the bigger picture. When these circumstances occur, which sadly is more often than not, it can feel impossible to keep any balance in our lives or in the lives of the children because there is so much manipulation being inflicted upon them that they cannot see or understand.
When this type of situation is happening there is only one recourse. We have to stay focused on the love we can give our children when we have our time with them. We have to stay focused on our individual lives and make them so strong that we have fulfillment individually which will make us a happier more emotionally available parent. When we have control in our own world it gives the children the space to feel their own emotions and go through their own experience of the manipulation. In scaling back and focusing on our own lives this will not only start to bring stability back into our world but it will also begin to slowly bring stability into the world of the children when they are on our custodial time.
If an amicable relationship cannot be had regardless of our efforts with our ex-spouse then learn how to treat that person as a business. This relationship should be minimized to talking only about the children and their needs. This is not an easy thing to master especially when you are aware the children are being manipulated and decisions regarding the children are being made without our full agreement or consent. We have to keep in mind that there is no way to control our ex’s or what they covertly do to the children emotionally. The only thing that can heal that wound will be time. See, the truth is like the cream in coffee it will eventually raise to the surface.
Ten steps to take to make the relationship with your ex a business:
1.) Only communicate the necessary information to your ex regarding the children
2.) Get wages garnished to eliminate money games.
3.) Communicate only through writing so you have a line of documentation if necessary to review with your legal team. If your ex responds to your communication with attack, re-read what you sent and see if you communicated all the necessary information and if so, do not respond to the attack. Be cordial but say very little when in person with your ex.
4.) Become aware of covert tactics and manipulations by your ex. Educate yourself so you can see them so you can avoid getting sucked in.
5.) Repsect the custodial schedule. Minimize asking favors from the ex like switching weekends as this will be held against you in the future. Also respect your ex's time when he/she does not have the children.
6.) If your children have athletic practices on your ex’s custodial times do not attend them. Attend practices on your time and attend all games.
7.) Remember that the children love you both and deserve for you to both love them rather than barter and fight over them. If one partner stops the fighting the other will soon have nothing left to fight with and things will calm down.
8.) Refrain from telling your ex how to parent. Let the children experience your ex in the truth of who they are. Manipulation can be hard for the children to see so just be patient…time will heal this
9). Focus on yourself and making your life happy. You have paid your dues.
10.) Stay out of manipulating offers of friendship by your ex when friendship means that you do whatever your ex wants so they won’t manipulate your children. This is extortion not friendship.
These steps will help to clean up the power struggle which often occurs when people divorce. There is a lot of grief adjusting and loss when our nuclear family falls apart and many of us get caught up in being more commintted to our ex’s in fear or in hate than we were ever committed to them in love and this makes the divorce even harder than the marriage. We can only be committed to fearing or hating someone until we decide it is not worth the energy and time. If we have divorced we need to remember why we made this decision. The decision was made in the thoughts of getting our lives back to happy and we did it for the health of our children. Stay with that mindset. We made this decision to make our lives more at peace and more open for love. No matter who our ex is or how difficult they are to deal with it is up to us how much of this we will tolerate or not.
After a divorce it is our time to focus on loving ourselves. Giving ourselves the love we were in drought of in the marriage. We have to find the places, out of the marriage, where we can see freedom. We have to be creative and enter into new adventures. When we have our kids we need to make the world about them with love and discipline, and when they are with our ex we need to let them be with our ex. When we have our alone time we need to take advantage of this time to focus on ourselves by setting some goals and taking the steps to achieve the happiness we chose to find in making the decision to divorce. It is a new time in our lives and a time for us to celebrate and find love again. It is not a time for us to waste all kinds of energy in trying to either control our ex or spending too much time defending ourselves to our ex. If this is happening then we are not free yet. If the manipulation by our ex has given us the feeling that we have lost our children we need to find people who we can love and trust to share our grief with. Find a good therapist and legal team. Be assured that with time children always see the truth.
Advice: Focus on the best interest of your children and focus on the best interest of you. If your children ask you questions answer them honestly. It is in no one’s best interest to stay committed to negativity. Let go. Let go of the need to control, let go of the need to defend and let go of the need to fight. Start to make a list of all the things you would like do and achieve as a single person and make steps each day to reclaim your identity and your life.
When you stop allowing your ex to engage you in drama, you finally sever the last bit of commitment between the two of you. It is a real lesson in humility to do this but it is the one thing that will set you free. At the end of the day we have to let each soul walk its path. The only path you have to focus on is your path. Whether you like your ex as a person or not you will always have to respect that to your children that is their other parent. Not always an easy pill to swallow but those are the facts. When your children see that you accept this it takes pressure off of them to not have to take sides or to feel as if they are somehow flawed and defective if they still love their other parent. Guilt is one of the most covertly manipulative tools used on children.
We all have lessons to learn from the relationships we have, and what we have to trust for our children is that they were meant to have the exact parents that they do or else things would be different. There will be many learning opportunities provided to the children through your ex that they could not get from any other person good or bad. They are meant to have these lessons and so try and back off and trust that. If they come to you in pain be there to understand and comfort them and this will build deep bonds between you and your children based in understanding by experience.
For now, focus on renewal and rebirth. Separate all your emotions from your ex and let them go to be whoever it is they are. If they choose to stay connected to you through their own hate (whether overtly or covertly) then so be it. That is their waste of life and energy and you do not have to engage. Focus on you. Add love to your life. Eat right, laugh, go out with friends, love your new romantic interest if you have one, exercise, sleep well and love your children. That is what life is all about.
Little Life Message: When we take good care of ourselves and our emotions we teach and model our children to the same.