Giving In

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acc1984

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Giving In
« on: April 29, 2021, 02:28:32 PM »
Has anyone ever been in a situation with a PD where you've just given up? Even if that means handing the PD parent the bulk of the timesharing? I'll spare everyone the whole story (the beginning of which I posted a month or so ago) but my step children's uBPDBM has manipulated and worn the kids down to the point that the kids are telling professionals involved that DH is abusive and they want to live with her. Therapists, parent coordinators, and lawyers have sniffed what's going on and all but blatantly said she's alienating them from DH, unfortunately, without any concrete physical abuse (which we've never seen but you never know) I don't know what anyone can do. DH hasn't been able to work because of the constant drama, conflict, and upheaval. The kids are getting torn apart in the meantime. They love their dad, but if WE can't go up against their mother how in the world can they? Therapists and lawyers are costing us thousands and our attorney has pretty much said that if the two older kids say they want to live with BM the courts probably won't argue with that. Maybe there's some room/time with the youngest but I don't know. It feels awful and unnatural and so, sad but DH just doesn't know what to do. It feels like having her involved in any way, is going to make things impossible. DH keeps saying "I feel like I just have to take the bullets out of the gun" the bullets are the kids, obviously, because it's the only means of control she still has over him.   

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Stepping lightly

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Re: Giving In
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2021, 04:48:35 PM »
Hi acc1984,

In a sense, we did this.  I wouldn't say it was "giving up", but stopped fighting.  Everytime we thought someone saw through BM, even the judge, something happened to swing the situation to her benefit.  We literally had a judge on the edge of taking custody from BM, and wanted a full trial, and that Judge went out on medical before the hearing.  We had a PC sit on the stand and say DH was abusive to BM because......he didn't respond to emails quickly enough!  I could go on...and on....and during it all, it was destroying us and the kids.  We ended up in a situation where we knew we couldn't win, she had successfully manipulated every professional and both the kids to weigh in on her side.  The very professionals who specifically told us she was emotionally abusing the kids, refused to stand up for the kids in court.

BM now has full custody and we get EOW during the year with shared holidays.  During the summer, it switches to BM getting EOW- so we absolutely live for the summers. 

There is a lot to consider in this decision- some good, some TERRIBLE.
- The very bad- BM no longer has DH as a punching bag, so she switched to DSS.  She always claimed DH was a sociopath, and when she no longer had the same access to make the accusations, she turned those accusations on DSS.  DSS is more or less Out of the FOG, and wants to live with us- but one of BM's manipulations for court was getting the kids their own attorney- and manipulating them into "choosing her".  They thought it would "make mommy happy", but within a week both realized their mistake.  That, sadly has made if very difficult for us to save DSS.
-Not being involved in the kids' day to day live is really devastating.  BM really put a smackdown on the kids calling DH (will scream at them for asking to call him), so in between weekends we don't hear from them much.  But...on our time, she has a pre-scheduled time for them to call her  :stars:
- BM doesn't have the ability to directly torture us on a daily basis.

Our major concern was that with less time with the kids, alienation would really take hold of the kids and we'd lose them altogether.  So far that hasn't happened, and we work really hard to make sure they know how much we care about them.  I posted recently that DSD (golden child) reflected on the tough years and told DH how much she appreciated his consistency in the crazy times- they always knew what they could expect when they came back to our house.

Nothing is going to make everything better, and every situation is unique.  The PD doesn't ever stop being PD, but how do you help the kids through it the best you can. 

how are the kids doing?  How do you think they would handle that decision?

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Boat Babe

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Re: Giving In
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2021, 05:52:37 PM »
I cannot imagine how difficult these situations are for the non PD parent and the step parent. And for the children.  I have no words of wisdom but am sending you so much love and validation. Hang on in there.
It gets better. It has to.

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acc1984

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Re: Giving In
« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2021, 06:18:29 PM »
Thank you so much, Boat Babe. Just knowing someone gets it makes it a little less isolating.

Thank you, Stepping lightly. That is more helpful than you know.

Unfortunately, BM has always used the kids as a means to get what she wants. The youngest (12) has been the most vocal in saying he's okay with the way things are. Of course, when he's back with BM as his mouthpiece, she reports that he cries when it's DH's time and doesn't want to go. With the older two (15 and 17) they're not even saying that they just want to live with BM... they're telling therapists that they want no contact with DH at all. It's heartbreaking. This exact scenario played out with his oldest (20) a few years ago and DH hasn't had any contact with him for almost 2 years. I think with the older kids, the freedom she gives them (no structure, no accountability, no focus on school or extra curriculars... it's kind of a free for all) is motivation to do what she wants. If I had been in that situation at their ages I probably would have done the same thing!

I think when BM starts with this again, she turns into the nurturing, caring mother they've always wanted. It's always short lived but they need/want that so badly that they'll say absolutely anything they have to in order to make her happy so it continues. So, to answer your question, I think the older two would go with BM and never look back (at least not for a while), I think the youngest would absolutely prefer to continue with 50/50 but because he's currently at BM's with the other two kids I don't know if he'll be strong enough to vocalize that. Maybe if we keep pushing we can at least keep things normal for him? I don't know.

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Stepping lightly

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Re: Giving In
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2021, 10:57:34 AM »
Hi ACC,

For the older kids, are they still coming for your custody time?  How are they at your house? 

The clincher really is the 12 yo who doesn't want things to change.  He wants to spend equal time at both house?  Does he elaborate on how things are for him at BMs?

We dealt with a lot of the same issues with the kids telling therapist things.  In our case, the kids were younger and we highly suspect BM was telling the kids what to say and rewarding them when they did.  One therapist was on to her, and as soon as she found out she went after the therapist...so the kids never saw her again.  She strung along a "therapist" that was terrible, but easily manipulated by her...and she used her to leverage things for years.  Even that therapist saw what BM was....called it out as a PD....but refused to step up to the bat when asked to help the kids.

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acc1984

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Re: Giving In
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2021, 01:56:30 PM »
Stepping Lightly...

For several reasons, we haven't seen the kids for several months. Initially, when they all started seeing a family therapist referred by the PC, she was buying BM's story. She said she didn't think it was "safe" for the kids to be with us because they claimed they were self harming but only when they were at our house. After a fairly explosive meeting with the family therapist (BM announced that the kids didn't want to continue with therapy and wanted no contact with DH. The kids wouldn't speak to the therapist and would look at BM when asked questions, the older two eventually sort of lost it on the therapist and were yelling about how much they hate DH and didn't want to continue with therapy- they said they don't trust therapists because "every one they've ever seen says their mom is alienating them and it's not true"). After this the therapist changed her tune and admitted to DH that she believed the kids were being alienated and the self harm threats were being fabricated and coached. The, next week they were supposed to be with us, the youngest was exposed to Covid at school and they were all quarantined at BM's for several weeks. They were scheduled to come over for the last part of last week but BM said they were refusing... so that's where we are currently. They're supposed to come back this Sunday but I suspect the "kids will refuse" and BM won't make them.

Prior to and even through most of this DSS12 seemed okay. He was just trying so hard to make things normal. The older two were completely non-responsive to DH and I and literally stayed in their rooms for a week at a time, only coming out to eat. So that was pretty miserable for everyone.

DSS12 expressed to the therapist and to DH that he wants things to stay the same, but once he's back with BM she reports that he cries before coming to our house and wants to live with her. None of the kids will say A WORD about BM's.

Now that BM knows the therapist is on to her, she's fighting to discontinue therapy. She claims its too expensive and the kids don't want to do it. This therapist is also overseeing the kids' individual therapists so, based on history, the kids will soon quit participating in therapy at all (they show up but sit silently and won't interact).

Initially the therapists blamed DH but that has definitely changed over the last month... I just don't know how it matters. I have a hard time seeing a road forward with BM involved in any way. And no one takes kids away from a parent for undiagnosed mental health issues. So I just don't know what our options are. As long as she has that hook in DH the kids are torn in half and everyone is miserable. I half joked (half not) to DH last night that BM is LITERALLY the only person in this situation NOT currently on meds for depression/anxiety and the only one not seeing a therapist.

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pushit

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Re: Giving In
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2021, 06:17:46 PM »
I don't have any direct experience with this as my kids are younger, but I've had multiple discussions with my lawyer about involving a child and family investigator or a parental responsibilities evaluator.  The purpose of their involvement would be to discuss the situation with everyone involved (therapists, teachers, parents, family, kids, etc) and offer a recommendation to the courts on custody.  That way even if the therapists won't talk to the courts, they would still provide input to the CFI or PRE to help them arrive at their recommendation.  Have you considered something like this?

I know with the older two kids it's likely not going to change much, as the courts will likely let the kids decide.  However, it could certainly put DS12 in a better situation if the recommendation is that he should live with his dad.  The other hopeful thing to keep in mind is that you only have 1-3 years left of this until the older kids are adults anyway.

Just a thought, I know there is no magic formula to solve this.....and I'm sorry you're dealing with it.

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Stepping lightly

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Re: Giving In
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2021, 06:40:10 PM »
Gosh ACC- this is tough- we were there so I totally understand the situation you are dealing with. 

- the older kids- honestly, it seems like they are old enough that if they don't want to spend time with you guys, the effort being put isn't going to go anywhere.  When my SKs "chose" BM, DH told them, "I will always for you, but never against you- so that is why I didn't fight your choice".  I thought that was extremely powerful.  You reinforce that you love them, want to see them, but if they are miserable at your house- it's hard to see that improving before they are 18.  Honestly- it may make them more bitter because they are being forced to do something they have plainly said they don't want to.  Stay involved where with them where you can, show you still love and support them (sports etc, if they are doing anything in person).
- DSS 12- hang on to him- sounds like he wants to see both parents and nothing anyone else is doing should impact that.  Disregard what BM reports about him crying, we know that's hooey- ours said similar things.  Sometimes I wonder if they subconsciously realize the kids may not want to return to them, so they project the situation on you. Have you guys had any heart to hearts with him about the situation beyond what he is telling the therapist? 

Your joke- I referenced something similar in the thick of it for us- Everyone but her was in therapy!!  SHE didn't need it :stars:

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Associate of Daniel

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Re: Giving In
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2021, 07:33:31 PM »
My uNPD exH and his uNPD wife poisoned ds against the school he was attending and hyped up the brand new school which was conveniently built directly opposite their apartment.

They live over an hour's drive away from me.

We went through the farce of seeing a court approved psychologist to get a family report written up.

What can any psychologist pick up in 2 and a half hours?  I didn't stand a chance of keeping my boy with me.

But I also knew that if I didn't let him go it would be detrimental to the good relationship that he and I share.

The living situation is now reversed.   I see him on weekends, one evening per week for a few hours and half the holidays.

I'm heart broken and worry a lot about him living with the upds.

But our relationship remains strong.  He is happy to come home to me and so far, at 14, is a wonderful young man.

He's still enamoured with his uNPD smother.  Hasn't yet realised her antics.  He worked out some things about his emotionally absent father several years ago, but seems ok.

I hate the situation.  No parent should be an empty nester before their child is 14. And every child should have the right to be brought up by their biological parents, if their parents are sound.

I struggle to know my purpose now that I'm no longer a part of my ds's daily life.

But I absolutely cherish the good relationship we have.

I say all this to suggest that dropping the rope for your DH's older children may be the way to go.  Once the fighting over them stops, they may have the emotional energy to look outside the situation and start to see what's really going on.  They may then be able to start to individuate from their BM and come back to DH.  It would take a long time and a lot of therapy, and a lot of gut wrenching grief for DH in the meantime, but it may be the chance they need.

The younger child - I don't know. It's a matter of weighing up the bad with the bad.  I wish I could help you.

Please keep us in the loop.

AOD

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oak_tree

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Re: Giving In
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2021, 09:28:53 PM »
acc1984, so much of what you say is so, so familiar.  DSS says he "wants to keep the current schedule" despite the fact that he has a ton of fun with his dad and me (and does homework too, it's not all fun and games), and loves his dad, but only sees us eowe and 3 hours one weeknight. A couple of times he has dared ask to stay with us longer, but he's met with "I don't think that's a good idea", which really means "I'm going to scream until I hyperventilate and it's your fault and I will bring this up any time I feel in the least bit insecure or like you're being disloyal".
Be the steady, calm, kind influence the kids need, regardless of custody/access. That's the best advice I've received here, I think :)
:bighug:

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acc1984

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Re: Giving In
« Reply #10 on: May 03, 2021, 05:53:51 PM »
From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who has responded.

DH and I have had many of the same conversations you all have offered/suggested. He does feel like continuing to fight is only going to drive a wedge further between he and the older kids. They blame him for everything anyway so the more he tries, the worse it gets. Yesterday was the day they were supposed to return to normal timesharing and only DSS12 and DSS15 returned. DSD17 texted DH and said she "wasn't comfortable returning and didn't feel safe" DH assured her that she was safe, told her he loves her and misses her, but that he wasn't going to force her to do anything. She (via BM) pushed to get DH to specifically say "I give you permission to stay with your mom" but he didn't bite on that one. I'm really surprised that DSS15 came back... he and DSD are VERY close and he's pretty easily manipulated. So far, he's gone along with everything DSD and UBPDbm have done. It honestly makes me a little nervous. In the past, when the oldest of them (DSS19 who hasn't had contact with DH in 2 years) was in the center of the chaos they would intentionally have one or more of the other kids stay back at our house to destroy things, record us, etc. Honestly though, what's left to do? 

Stepping Lightly "I will always fight for you, but never against you" I have said this exact thing so many times. If they were asking for help we would both give anything and fight until the end. But we can't fight against them. And until they get some perspective on BM and what she's doing to them, it feels like our hands are tied.

DH has a meeting with BM and the PC tomorrow to discuss moving forward (or not) with family therapy. Obviously, BM is the only one who isn't in agreement so I expect we'll end up going to court if the PC isn't able to wear her down. The last time we were in court it was because she was fighting against DH taking DSS (then 7) to tutoring for dyslexia. BM wasn't being asked to pay for any of it, or even transport DSS, she didn't want him to go because it "cut into her time with him." So, I'm thinking fighting family therapy may not play well with this judge after the last round.

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Stepping lightly

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Re: Giving In
« Reply #11 on: May 03, 2021, 06:41:59 PM »
Has DSD17 specified what makes her feel "unsafe"?  Or is it just a general statement that never has anything to substantiate it?  I'm sure you guys have had that conversation, "what makes you feel unsafe so we can address it and make you comfortable".

The idea of the kids recording you is terrible, but I don't think a judge would look kindly into BM bringing any type of recording the kids did at your house into court.  That just stinks with manipulation. 

Our hands are tied too, DSS wants us to fight for him, but getting around the fact that he "chose BM" is really almost impossible.  She is quick slick, and if she was able to nail a win before, she certainly has the power to maintain custody.

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acc1984

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Re: Giving In
« Reply #12 on: May 03, 2021, 11:52:45 PM »
Stepping Lightly,

The catalyst for everything was homework and virtual school. Generally, everyone did okay until the end of last year. The kids started, pretty consistently, coming to our house with entire weeks worth of homework that wasn't done at BM's house. We would help them sort everything out, DH would sit at the table for hours helping with math homework and emailing with teachers. For months we did two weeks worth of homework every week they were with us. The kids lose privileges at our house when this happens... no phones, no computer games, but as soon as the homework is completed all privileges are restored.  From what we can tell, not only do they not get any help with school at BM's but they also get to do whatever they want regardless of what homework and grades look like. After months of this we got pretty frustrated. DH emailed BM a few times, tried to be as vague as possible so it wouldn't instigate anything and she mostly just wouldn't respond. At some point in February, he emailed her about a pretty big reimbursement that we received a bill for (something she was supposed to take care of but didn't, so we owed quite a bit of money, and she would have owed half). I think DH may have also gotten a little more firm with her about the homework issue as well. She responded and absolutely blew her lid. Literally the next week the kids came back all of the self harm claims started. They said DH screams and yells and terrorizes them about school (BM's words). It couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, I get a little annoyed because I feel like being a little more tough could put an end to some of it, but that's just not who he is. DSS15 also had a meltdown about how DH is trying to ruin their mom's life because he constantly emails her about money and stresses her out. When they met with the PC to try to discuss all of this, BM announced that DSD17 had been recording us again and sending her terrible videos of what happens at our house. DH took her car away (we've gone through this recording stuff with her before and although nothing happens at our house that would would care to be recorded, it's such a violation of privacy- pictures of medication and personal documents have been sent to BM- not to mention illegal). After the car was taken away DSS17 started telling school counselors that she was self harming (but only at our house) BM also began gaslighting the counselors and now here we are. BM also has a boyfriend that lives in another state... so we suspect she may be trying to get full custody so she can try to move with the kids. I think that's a pretty unlikely outcome though.

I'm sorry about your DSS, Stepping Lightly. It's so hard to know you can help, and to see the kids' lives being impacted negatively by the PD parent and not being able to do ANYTHING. How has your DSS expressed to you all that he wants help?

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Stepping lightly

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Re: Giving In
« Reply #13 on: May 04, 2021, 11:26:12 AM »
The invasion of privacy stuff really turns my stomach. I am always worried  about that, and I am very careful to keep things out of site or lock them up (i.e. financial documents).  Luckily, I think my step kids just don't want to go there, they don't really notice things and I wonder if that is a bit intentional on their part so they don't have to tell BM.   We have nothing to hide, but your worst enemy knowing personal/private details is really nauseating.   When we went to court, I thought I was going to lose my mind because she got to have our tax returns and see full out my salary etc. That's always been private to me, my own family doesn't even know that type of information.

I think if you ever have to go to court, you have a decent timeline to lay out.  The sequence of events is pretty interesting, I would think, to a judge.  We were accused of similar things, and DSD "had anxiety" at our house, etc.  I mean, she didn't seem to at all, she was a happy kid....but if she did perhaps it was because her mom was spewing garbage about how DH is abusive, I have no interest in the kids, our house is "dangerous".  BM has convinced DSD that she has all kinds of mental health disorders, I guess they sort of bond over it (and I'm not even being mean when I say that).

One of the things that DH put in the order when he released some of his custody- the kids MUST stay in a school within our county through HS.  BM had changed their schools so many times, and without DH's agreement.  Now she can move their schools around like she would have, but at least it limits the amount of driving we are forced to do (currently both kids are in different schools on opposite sides of town from each other- and us).The custody situation was at a point where, BM was going to do what she wanted no matter what, and she would have no consequences at all.  So...DH gave up some of his worthless "decision making" to leverage for time with the kids.  He gave up medical decision making, it was a joke- BM got the kids kicked out of TWO pediatric offices and ....you guessed it.....she spun it on DH (even though we have hard evidence from one that it was because of her).  When he would go to the kids appointments, BM and her BF would verbally abuse DH in front of the kids/staff...it was horrendous.  I went to one appt. and I seriously thought I was going to have an aneurysm by the time we left.   BM tried to use allergies, diet, everything you can imagine to deem DH an unfit parent.   All of this to say, when you guys are working through you decisions, weigh some of these things.  By giving up medical decision making, we get the kids every summer.  And having a chunk of time to reconnect, does wonders!

The situation for DSS was just so over the top.   BM was on a tear trying to have him deemed "mentally ill"- and would stop at nothing to do it.  When he was 10, she instigated an argument with him to get him upset and then called the police on him.  I think that was when he really came more Out of the FOG.  I am not sure if he thought we would be mad at him when he came back after that, and all he got was love and support.  We were devastated for him, and we really listened to his side of the story.  I mean, BM's BF started literally throwing him around the yard, picking him up and dropping him.  Based on what he told us it was clear that BM really pushed to trigger a response in him and kept working him up until she could call the police...and kept him worked up until the police got there.  Threatening to lock a kid up in a mental institute....great parenting.  And for reference, DSS is absolutely the most mature and stable kid I know.  We had some talks about "just because someone else has an elevated emotional state, does not mean you have to elevate too"- we wanted him to be able to manage the triggering from BM.  Apparently he has done a great job, now she calls him apathetic and a sociopath because he refuses to be baited.  So, all of that to said, DSS counts the days between being at our house- he'll confirm with us around holidays "Ok, so I go back for X days, and then I'm here for 8???"  He's had some major crying meltdowns where he has just told DH/me that he just can't take it.  During that hellish period, we started exploring options, but the advice we got is that we had just as good a chance of making things worse and losing our summers.  DSS doesn't give us specifics about what happens at BMs, and we don't ask.  But we hear DSD parrot some of the things we are sure come from BM, and it's pretty chilling.

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acc1984

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Re: Giving In
« Reply #14 on: May 04, 2021, 12:54:33 PM »
Stepping Lightly,

That whole story just makes me sick. It's a double edged sword... on one hand you're so glad the kid recognizes the behavior for what it is, and doesn't think it's normal (one of my biggest fears with DH's kids). On the other hand, how terrible that he has to live that way. DH's kids are still pretty enthralled with BM. From what I can tell (what I've heard from DH and observed in the kids) BM has never been very nurturing or attentive with the kids. When this drama gets kicked up I think she really turns it on and becomes the kind, loving mother they've always wanted. And, as we all know (and all of the therapists have pointed out) the kids are going to lash out against the stable parent they feel the safest with.

How sad that we're in a situation where you consider giving up medical decision making in order to get more time with your kids. We've pretty much thrown our hands up with that one. BM goes through spurts where she's obsessed with making appointments, dental, medical, vaccination, haircuts, etc. and then we'll go years with nothing. I know that's all really normal with PDs. She was on a dental tear a few years ago and then I waited... and waited... and a year later when the kids still hadn't been to the dentist again, DH and I made appointments and took them. DSD17 ended up needing her wisdom teeth removed and a friend of mine is an oral surgeon, so we set all of that up. This was RIGHT before everything hit the fan so I think BM was probably pretty mad about all of that as well. We ended up canceling the surgery because DSD went in-patient for the self harm threats that same time and I think we're just kind of done. BM can take her or not. You're stuck between a rock and a hard place because BM wants control of everything but she doesn't actually want to do it, but she doesn't want US to do it. So we just rush to do all we can with little to no communication because you feel like it's the only way you can get the kids what they need... but you just brace yourself for the fireworks the whole time.

I'm off topic at this point. Sorry!