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DSS emotionally 'empty'/repressed

(8 Posts)
allnewtaketwo Thu 23-Jun-11 11:25:16

I would like some objective views on this please:

DSS1 is 15. Parents split a long time ago, when he was 5/6. His mother had an affair and instantly moved in another man, kicking DH out. Refused to let DH back into the house or to see the children. He had a long slog through the courts to get access, and got the usual 1 afternoon a week & every other weekend. He had tried for 50:50.

Despite her instigating the split, for whatever reason, she has continued, after all this time, to be very spiteful towards DH. She is what I (and all of DH's family and in fact anyone I've ever met who knows her) consider to be a 'control freak' in the extreme. She sticks to the access rota to the second, and kicks up an enormous fuss if the children are so much as 2 mins late (shouting at them, causing them stress etc).

She has gone on to have 3 more children. From what the DSSs say, the household is very hectic. She controls 100% what the children do. If DH tries to ask her if they can visit outside of the access rota (e.g. to attend a family birthday celebration etc etc), she refuses.

A number of years ago we had assumed that as DSS1 got older, he would start to challenge her and things may become a litte easier. This has not happened.

What is much more disturbing though, are some trends I have been observing (the purpose of this thread - all the above is background as I feel it is relevant).

DSS1's behavious gives the impression that he is almost emotionally void. In the 9 years I have known him, I have never seem him excited or look really happy. When asked for his opinion on anything, his standard response was always 'I don't know'. Now though, this is increasingly interspersed with 'Mum says ....' In short, he doesn't display any opinions of his own at all.

Over the past year, his verbal bullying of DSS2 has been increasing and we are tackling this as best we can. His mum is a bully and unfortunately he is now himself attacking the 'weaker' individual.

Recently, during a conversation where DSS2 was talking about missing DH when his mum 'wouldn't let us see you', DSS1 commented that he 'never misses anyone'. DH was shocked and disturbed about this, but to be honest I didn't bat an eyelid because it is completely in keeping with my impressions from him.

Despite his age, he does not seem aware of himself as an individual who should be voicing his own thoughts. The impression this gives is that he doesn't have any thoughts of his own - or it could be because he has become so used to not being able to voice his thoughts (because his mum goes mad), that he no longer even thinks of voicing them. I don't know - I am not a phschologist.

I could go on with examples, but don't want to write an essay. In short, I really do think now that he has some sort of emotional disorder. I have read extensively, and the things to ring similarities are pieces I have read on 'repressive disorder' i.e. when the controlled part of your brain, the part linked to orders, completely overrides any 'sense of self', or drive. This rings true to me because DSS1 displays no initiative, proactivity or drive whatsoever. He does well at school - but his mother again polices all that. She has chosen his GCSE subjects, his future career, and physically supervises his homework, correcting it with a red pen. He is not allowed to do homework at hour house or to revise (and so he wasn't 'allowed' to come on the previous 2 access visits).

DH knows all this and is also struggling with what to do. I'm not at the point where I'm thinking we should be arranging some counselling (although how this would practically occur is another matter, as his mother would explode). Do any of you have any thoughts on what sort of counselling might be helpful, and how this might be arranged?

Marne Thu 23-Jun-11 11:37:07

You DSS sounds similar to my DSS (similar background and behaviour).

It must be hard for him to express his opinion if his mother makes all choices for him. Its going to be hard to arrange counselling without his mother voicing her opinion and i'm guessing she would not agree to it. It sounds like he is lacking confedence (doesn't think his views count), its going to be hard to help him when his mother is still making choices for him and not letting him make his own choices.

allnewtaketwo Thu 23-Jun-11 12:06:59

Yes there would in effect be 'WW3'. That's one of the difficulties - weighing up that risk, and its impact on the children, with the need to have him objectively 'assessed' in some way.

I already feel sorry for the poor woman he ends up marrying. I've read a number of threads recently from woman married to adult men whose mothers still control them, and can see it coming here a mile off

allnewtaketwo Thu 23-Jun-11 12:11:39

Also the thing is - I used to think it was a lack of confidence/maturity/whatever. But some recent happenings, not least including the fact that he never misses anyone, leads me to think there are much deeper issues. And lack of emotional empathy at that age surely can only mean trouble

madmouse Thu 23-Jun-11 16:03:24

How is your dh with him? Do they do stuff together like bike rides, assault courses, real father and son stuff? Does dh set clear boundaries when he is with you? Plus lots of positive touch (shoulders, hugs etc) and attention?

I'm not blaming your dh in any way - just saying he may have to step up to the plate to make up for the damage that mum is doing.

dh may also need to be more assertive with the ex - preferably within view/earshot of his ds.

I can see why you are worried, as I was like your dss until only a few years ago - I had failed to bond with my mother in the normal way (due to her being very overbearing and not allowing the normal and important 'leave and return' thing to happen that young children do to develop a sense of independence) and on top of that there were abuse issues outside the home and I ended up frozen and not feeling strong emotions. The good thing is I have managed a loving and stable marriage for the past 13 years and am doing well relationally - bad thing is that it took hard graft in therapy.

If you feel he needs to be assessed speak to his or your GP (you can, dh has parental responsibility) and ask for a referral to CAMHS or another suitable avenue. Then discuss this with ex and if she blows up tell her he is going, she's welcome to come too but he's going. Looks like your dh is a bit scared of her, or too much used to her being in control and that is not going to help.

allnewtaketwo Thu 23-Jun-11 18:50:04

Thanks madmouse, and sorry you had to go through all that yourself.

Yes DH does loads with DSS1. He has always been very attention hungry, and as a result actually gets more attention than the others when they're here. Also I often do stuff just with DS and myself so DH gets to spend lots of time with the DSSs when they're here.

Re. DH and ex - not scared, but the reality is that there is nothing he can do. If she says she is not letting the DSSs come round, then the only thing DH could physically do would be to turn up at the door and there would be a huge row and altercation. And DSS1 wouldn't say to her that he wants to come. DSS2 does but she takes no notice or screams at them. There is no point DH going to court again because no judge would make a court order for a 15yo - he would be asked what he wants to do and she would coach him on what to say. In theory, asking a teenager their own wishes works well, but not with someone like DSS1 who either doesn't have wants of his own, or if he does, isn't aware of it or is shit scared to say so. I've actually heard her words coming straight out of his mouth on many occasions. It's like she talks, and he speaks her words, without any intervention or interpretation happening in his head in between.

When, on the odd occastion they are left back 5-15 mins late by DH (eg family over and taking ages to get away, or DSS2 taking ages over dinner/collecting his stuff), DSS1 gets physically and very obviously anxious. Looking at his watch, "mum will want us home now" etc etc etc. So it's not DH being 'scared' that stops him acting, it's actually to reduce the level of stress she puts onto the children if anything is said.

madmouse Thu 23-Jun-11 19:56:06

Thanks for explaining all that - it is great that dh rather than going tit for tat considers the stress levels of his children. It was however with dss being a teenager in mind that I wondered if it would be good for the dss to see their dad standing up to their mum so that they see that she is not all powerful or the only one who dictates what happens.

another thing that could happen is dh going into school to discuss the problem with dss teacher to see if there are shared concerns.

allnewtaketwo Thu 23-Jun-11 20:15:48

Yes I think that's a good idea about the school

I know what you mean about the standing up thing. It's such a delicate situation. Tbh she's said that DH can't even enter the property, so he doesn't actually go through the gate. DH turns up in the car, phones the house and the kids come out (eventually!) hmm

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