Is it better to allow visits or discontinue?

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Nohigherjoy

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Is it better to allow visits or discontinue?
« on: February 07, 2019, 12:51:55 PM »
I know itís not a black and white issue. I have been divorced 2.5 years. BPDEH is also a sex addict (porn and prostitution), along with alcoholicism (3 DUIs). The divorce decree clearly states I can withhold visitation (only 2íweekend a month) if I believe EH is unsafe or drinking in excess. My boys 15 and 13 have been most effected by EHís verbal and emotional abuse and manipulation. He constantly demeans me when he has kids, but makes it seem like heís their friend and just confiding things to them... so itís more in a buddy/buddy way where he talks negatively about me and my decisions in some way, our past marriage, etc. He calls my 12 yo daughter a ďblabbermouthĒ bc sheís told me some things in front of her brothers that EH has said. The constant trauma of the past, them knowing about his adultery (not full extent), his past drinking, is causing a lot of disruption in our home. The anger is coming out against me from the kids. EH still drinks although heís promised on multiple occasions to stop and also not drink in front of kids, which he continually does. My questions are:
1- would taking visits away help in the long run? Or just make children blame me more? BPD EH would take me to court to fight it and have his temper tantrums and cry fears and ďvictimizationĒ and lies to further traumatize the children and make them feel sorry for him. EH would would also fight to remove part of child support if I reduced visits. Iím concerned if court could make my children 12,13,15 testify? EH travels all the time and his criminal record obviously would keep him from full custody. Iím concerned that family services may question why Iíve allowed visits based on 2.5 years of detailed records Iíve kept of emotional abuse, verbal abuse, and drinking.
2-is there a value to kids having visits with BPD EH? .... they love him and he is able to do fun things- take them bowling, play games outside, take trips with his new wife and her kids, etc. Thereís now extended family of grandparents of new wife and step siblings. Will they see the truth on their own in the end? Iím concerned if I stop visits, then I become even more of the bad guy in kids eyes. They lost seeing him by court order for 6 months he lost license for 3rd DUI- he passed all random drug and alcohol tests and finally visits resumed.
Anyone have experience with this or have any wisdom. Dealing with safety and childrenís hearts and mental state is extremely difficult... itís not always easy to make a decision- especially when I know it will cause soooo much drama from EH.

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Penny Lane

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Re: Is it better to allow visits or discontinue?
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2019, 02:34:27 PM »
Hi nohigherjoy! This is such a tough question and I think it varies person by person. You are in the best position to decide what's good for your kids - what is your gut telling you? I will say, if you feel like your ex is too dangerous for your kids, you've come to the right place. I know we all hear a lot about facilitating the other parent's relationship with the children. But here we KNOW that sometimes that's not the right thing for the kids. (For context, even if I could I would not stop my stepkids from being able to see their PDBM. But everyone's situation is different - what's right for us might not be right for you.)

 I do have some thoughts/questions for you to think through that might help you come to the right answer.

1. It might help you to separate out what he did to you vs what he's currently doing to the kids. Prostitutes, porn addiction ... unless he's exposing the kids to that, it's not really relevant to whether they can see them. That doesn't mean you don't deserve to be mad about it, because you do! One of the hardest things about coparenting with a pwPD, in my opinion, is that you have to take the high road every. single. time. And they never do. But you put the kids first even if they won't. But drinking, that does affect the kids. Especially if it worsens abuse.

2. How much of the problem is physical danger (like drinking and driving) vs mental manipulation? I'm not saying that one is a better reason to end visitation than the other. I just think separating those two things out in your head might help clarify the issue for you.

3. If you do this your ex is going to throw a giant tantrum. But he probably throws a tantrum over pretty much anything he doesn't like, right? He's not really your audience here. Your audience is your kids and potentially a future judge. Can you explain this to the kids in a way that they will understand or will understand when they're older? Your kids are just a few years away from adulthood, at which point they'll be in control of whether they see him. Will they thank you for this, or will they feel like you were putting them in the middle of your conflict with him?

4. On a similar vein, can you address some of this on your end, without ending visitation? My therapist always tells me that we can't control what happens at the other house, but we can make the kids resilient. That means stuff like teaching them how to make their own dinner if mom is gone. But it also means giving them skills to mentally/emotionally resist the manipulation, maintain boundaries and learn to live with the difficult parent. I think it's unlikely that if you do end visitations that your kids will continue NC after they become adults. Would it be more helpful to give them the tools so that they can navigate a relationship with him, and then go NC on their own time if that's what's best for them?

5. Is there a middle ground solution? Like maybe he can keep visitations but not overnight (if that's when he usually drinks) or they have to be supervised by a sober adult you trust.

6. Are the stepmom and her family a good influence or bad? Do the kids like her? Does she encourage your ex's problems or moderate his behavior?

7. Court is hard. It really sucks. And the kids get dragged into it even if they don't have to testify. (I know BM is telling the kids about the ins and outs of their court process and it's been really hard on them.) From my experience, if you think ending visitation will lead to court, I would definitely factor that in and ask if it's really worth it.

8. On the other hand, if you know he's drinking and you don't put an end to visitation, does that hamper your ability to put an end to it in the future? You alluded to this and I think you might want to talk that through with a lawyer.

You don't have to answer all these on here unless it's helpful, but I do think that thinking through some of this stuff will help you get clarity on the right way to go. This is definitely extremely difficult like you said! And there's no right answer, only two bad answers. Your job is to pick the less bad of the two bad options.

All that being said, here's my take: Your kids are old enough to have a say in this. In a few short years they're going to be adults making all of their decisions for themselves. It sounds like the older ones want to see him and maybe the younger one doesn't? I would take that into consideration very seriously. Your kids are also old enough to not be in physical danger from neglect. I think the best thing you could do for them right now is to teach them how to set appropriate boundaries (with everyone, but it will help with their father) and give them enough guidance to navigate the lies he is saying, without making them feel like they have to choose between the two of you. Basically teach them the healthy emotional coping skills that you usually don't learn from the PD parent. I think they will look back and appreciate that a lot. No matter what you do now, he will be their father for their whole lives and at some point they will have to deal with him the best way they know how.

Good luck! Whatever you decide, you'll be doing your best with a very tough situation. Wishing you lots of strength as you continue your recovery and help guide your kids through this tough time.

 :bighug:
« Last Edit: February 07, 2019, 02:38:51 PM by Penny Lane »

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Nohigherjoy

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Re: Is it better to allow visits or discontinue?
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2019, 05:19:50 PM »
Thanks so much Penny Lane! This helps me process the big picture. All kids love new wife. She is gregarious and loves on all of them. She is driving after EH has been drinking, so sheís covering for him. At least I know itís keeping them from harm with him drinking and driving. Great idea of setting them up strong with boundaries and coping strategies for everyday life, which will hopefully help them deal with him in a healthy way as they get older as well. Do you have any book recommendations or suggestions of what that looks like? We discuss that there are adult issues that they should not be involved in, as in EH telling them his story of ďwhyĒ he got his 3rd DUI- because he was grieving that our marriage came to an end and I wouldnít reconcile. EH blames it on me in an underhanded way with the kids- again, heís the victim. Iíve gently told children this is not the dream I had for any of our lives and I wished EH had made different choices. That we wouldnít be having the conversations they bring to me if it werenít for EHís poor choices. I also tell them itís not something that he should even be discussing with them or confiding in them... adult issues are to be dealt with between adults and he shouldnít be frightening them that ďMommy may try to take you away from meĒ kind of talk. Iíve reassured them that they will continue visits unless something major happens again... like another DUI. The porn, IMO, has effected his brain about wise choices of what he allows the kids to watch and games they play. For example, the 13 and 15 yo were allowed to play Cards Against Humanity with EH and new wife- very inappropriate if you know anything about the game- itís basically an x-rated version of Apples to Apples. So, itís just a constant managing of him more or less. Heís the one out of control and without any sense. But, Iíve thought the same thing... and told both my older ones that custody will be a non-issue in a few years when they can drive. EH travels extensively and does not know how to have a relationship, so the kids donít see him or hear from him in between visits. Itís really sad on so many levels. New wife doesnít have custody of her 9 and 15 year old boys- she chose her job over them. So, I think my kids will see the truth as they get older and experience his detachment even more. Itís just sad and hard. I worry about how it effects them bc the boys, especially, see the way women are treated with disrespect and are just objects. Sigh. Itís a lose-lose situation. Thereís no good answer. 

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Penny Lane

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Re: Is it better to allow visits or discontinue?
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2019, 01:09:57 AM »
Oh my gosh, do I ever have book recommendations! When I met my now-husband and his kids (I don't have any kids) I tried to give myself a crash course in parenting. THEN I tried to give myself a crash course in toxic divorce/coparenting dynamics.

Here are some of my favorites:
Parenting with Love and Logic and How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk: These are both standard parenting books (ie not geared toward difficult coparenting relationships). What I like about both of them is that they emphasize giving the kids autonomy and putting the responsibility for making age-appropriate choices onto the kids. Love and Logic comes at it from a kind of severe perspective whereas How to Talk is more like, collaborative between you and the kids. But at heart they're actually fairly similar. They also both emphasize natural consequences over punishment. All in all I think these books gave us really good strategies to help the kids develop their own decision making skills and their values while still setting appropriate guidelines. I also think one or both of them might have a supplemental book just for teens.

Don't Alienate the Kids! Raising Resilient Children: This book has an incredibly helpful theory about parental alienation. It basically says, both parents can teach the kids skills that encourage them to be alienated or help them love both parents. And it lists skills to instill in the kids. One of the things that really resonated with me was using flexible thinking vs. everything being black and white. I know the kids' BM thinks everyone is good or evil, she's always right and DH is always wrong, etc. So we try to teach the kids to see both sides of a disagreement to assess what they think is right (not a BM/DH argument just in general), to look for ways compromise, stuff like that. It's been really good for all of us! The author, Bill Eddy, actually has a whole series of books on dealing with difficult people and I've read pretty much all of them - he actually runs an institute for dealing with high-conflict people and I've found his tips incredibly useful.

Coparenting with a Toxic Ex: This gives some good insights into how the conflict might be affecting the kids, where your ex might be coming from and what to do about it.

Divorce Poison: This deals specifically with when the other parent is badmouthing you and trying to drive a wedge between you and the kids. It is very scary to read! But extremely helpful as well.

As far as what we do, the kids are younger so some of this might not apply. But one major thing we've done is to give the kids as many choices as they can handle and give them increasing responsibility. So maybe for older kids that's stuff like, choosing their own extracurriculars, giving them freedom over when and how they do their homework, letting them make decisions about jobs and money. (For the younger kids it's more like, letting them choose from options of what clothes they're going to wear the next day and giving them a choice between two different sports or camps).

Also, I know the kids have learned a lot about boundaries from watching us. This means setting our own boundaries (between ourselves, between us and BM, with the kids, with our own parents ...) respectfully and firmly. It's also respecting THEIR boundaries as much as possible by encouraging them to express those boundaries and if we HAVE to do something contrary explaining why. I think this would be a good way too for you to mitigate the disrespect of women thing (I am totally with you on how concerning that is!) by showing them that you expect other people to treat you with respect and that you respect yourself.

Another thing we do is help them identify and express their feelings appropriately. Even when they're mad at us! And we do try to validate their feelings even if we're not happy about it (like BM is riling them up). They're not allowed to behave badly, but they are allowed to say they're mad and we will accept it and hear them. This isn't a cure-all for the things BM says about us and the anger the kids feel, but it helps.

Really, overall, they're going to be learning about healthy behaviors from you - so the better state you're in, the better it is for them. So take care of yourself too!

A lot of this is so hard and it involves a LOT of letting go of the things we can't control. Even if those are things BM is doing that are really bad for the kids. We just try to focus our energy on giving them these tools, and eventually we'll have to trust and hope that it worked. You are so right that often it's lose-lose. Sometimes that thought does comfort me - remember, he's making bad choices and all you can do is your best to mitigate it. But other times it's sooo frustrating and sooo sad.

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Rose1

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Re: Is it better to allow visits or discontinue?
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2019, 02:18:36 AM »
I agree. The kids will make this choice soon anyway. I found it very necessary at that age to make sure kids understand how to say no to a pd. This was very difficult. Like no I don't want to ride in the car with grandad because he makes me sick when ex was standing there ordering d in the car. How to deal with things Like not getting in the car with anyone who's been drinking, friend or parent.

Like what is plan b under those circumstances. Cab money always on hand? Get a cab and I'll pay it when you get here. That kind of thing. I found the kids were coerced against their own values and better judgement and needed permission and strategies to say "I don't want to do that". Politely but firmly.

It's also the time when lots of discussions around family values is important. They will need to firm up theirs and know why your values are what they are. Not exhs family values but your family which includes the kids.

They shouldn't grow up thinking covering for bad behavior is right, or bad mouthing is ok, or porn is ok, or getting drunk is justified because "I was upset". I've had to deal with most of those.

Oldest d is now 33 and has good values. This is not an accident and they are not the values of her father and his wife, they are her own. Which she developed by reasoning on consequences, effect on others, law. Most importantly we have a religious household and if you are that way inclined,it gives you a higher authority than either yourself or your ex and values that aren't just yours to discuss. I found that very valuable.

Coping with pd behavior is something they are going to have to learn and a big favour you can do is teach them how.

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hhaw

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Re: Is it better to allow visits or discontinue?
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2019, 02:15:08 PM »
I'd do my best to make sure the kids get to do the fun stuff, particularly the things in public, and limit the times the PD has the kids behind closed doors, in private, where he's more likely to bad mouth you and be drunk.

That way, the kids can't complain they don't get to do the fun stuff, and you haven't cut off visitation... you're enabling him to be the best parent he can by, while understandably limiting his ability to do and say harmful things while drinking.

If he did take you to court, it would be good to be able to prove you've based your decisions on the PD's drinking, and inability to comply with the Judge's order that he not drink around the kids.  That's tricky to prove, and puts the kids in a tough place if they're going to provide the sole evidence.  I so feel for your daughter, who shares information with you while being punished for it.

That's a problem, IME. 

You want to try to limit ex's ability to weaponize the boys against their sister and you.  Can you involve a therapist who'll advocate for all your kids.... particularly your dd?

Sometimes kids need to hear things from people the PD isn't raging against all the time. 

good luck,
hhaw



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