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struggling to bite my tongue

(8 Posts)
masquerade Wed 05-Feb-14 11:37:47

I'm really struggling with the situation with my daughter's dad at the moment, I know what I would advise others in the same situation, I know what I should do but I just don't seem able to manage it and I'm so worried I might be having a negative impact on my daughter which is the last thing I want.

Dd is 10 and as she is getting older her dad has started to exhibit the same emotionally abusive behaviour towards her as he did to me. This resulted in a period of 6 months where she didn't she him when after he was horrible to her and then accused her of lying and demanded an apology, she decided actually she just wouldn't see him. After constantly texting me accusing me of turning his daughter against him, stopping them from seeing each other etc (I didn't at all by the way, it was completely her decision, I didn't say anything to influence it other than telling her I would support her), then sending a couple of solicitor letters he said he would apologise. His apology was complete crap, he still denied he'd done anything wrong but said he was sorry she had been upset, it was obviously a misunderstanding and he shouldn't have said she lying. But she was happy with it and contact was reinstated.

I have tried as much as possible to not have contact with him since them. I've encouraged dd to arrange discuss contact with him herself - she does not want to go back to a set regular arrangement 'because maybe I won't want to go one week' I think this is her kind of a safety blanket for her.

There's been another incident since where he's accused her of lying again, he tried to convince her to stay overnight but denied saying the things she said he did, sent me a recording as 'proof' and is trying to make out she has these massive issues with lying all of the time (remember he had apologised for saying this previously). In hindsight I should have just said she doesn't want to sleep and not elaborated.

Dd says she's not upset about it anymore, or really bothered 'because I know I am not lying and so does he'. But I am fuming about, I hate him, I hate that he is manipulating her, I don't want her to be walked all over. I'm finding it really hard not to show this, not to say 'but aren't you annoyed that....' I struggle not to question her about what has gone on when she has been with him, and not to point out the flaws in his manipulative arguments and conversations.

I don't want to make her feel she can't talk to me about him (or other things) because of my reaction. I don't want her to end up more upset by me questioning things than the actual things he does. I have said to her if I annoy her or upset her when I'm talking about him she can tell me stop. Its almost like for years and years I've never said anything bad about him, but now I've started I'm struggling to control it. Don't get me wrong, I still don't let her hear me talking to other people about him etc, but she knows how angry I am at his behaviour.

I feel like I've managed to find a way of dealing with him myself, based on minimal interaction and not ever trying to defend myself. But I find it so hard to see her continuing to have a relationship with him when I know he is being emotionally abusive.

Its not an exaggeration to say I was devastated when she said she would see him again (I blame myself a little because I directly quoted a text from him saying it was breaking his heart not seeing her, I could see that for the bollocks it is but understandably she was drawn in), I was surprised by the strength of my reaction. I suppose I had hoped that that would be it, he would be out of our lives. That is what I want, but I know she needs to come to her own conclusions.

I feel like this isn't going to have an ending where she isn't in some was emotionally damaged by him. I don't know how to minimise this, and even worse I feel like I might be contributing to it if I can't manage to control my reactions. Its so hard. How do other people get it right?

Where's the limit? How do I make sure she knows what is good behaviour in a relationship, but not make her feel bad about choosing to have an ongoing relationship with him, or damage our relationship by expressing my opinion?

masquerade Wed 05-Feb-14 11:38:19

Sorry its so long.

Monetbyhimself Wed 05-Feb-14 17:54:41

OP I understand the issue. DD was also physically abused by her dad. It's really hard because he now has court ordered contact. When all goes well it's great,
I do find though that she's actually developing strategies to deal with him. There was an issue over his response to a present she was going to buy. I would have spent ages trying to make things 'right' She simply told him he was ungrateful and closed down the interaction. She's had a lot of counselling though to help her deal with whats happened. It's incredibly difficult to hear them relay things which trigger alarm bells for you though.

Noregrets78 Wed 05-Feb-14 23:45:51

I really know where you're coming from OP. I've agonised over how to speak to DD about her Dad, not wanting to say 'bad things' or force her into a position of having to defend him. Our DDs are a similar age - mine has also started to decide for herself what is, and is not acceptable. They're getting to an age where they're not stupid.

I've had a real turnabout in terms of how I talk to her about it now. I'm careful not to say 'Daddy's a wrong'un' instead I say Daddy's behaviour when he does x is unacceptable. I think it's vital that they know what is and is not OK, otherwise how can they grow into humans that can stick up for themselves?

Also - now she's making her own mind up, you saying what's unacceptable is merely validating what she already thinks. I don't think you'll damage your relationship, instead she may feel more able to tell you if there is an issue.

Don't feel guilty about encouraging contact - ultimately deep down we dream of a father who's going to be good for our children, and every glimmer we see of that makes us think it might happen. I concentrate on 'grown ups are responsible for their own feelings, you're not responsible for making Daddy feel better'. Someone suggested it to me once, and it has really stuck in DD's brain.

Ignore his rants that you're preventing him from seeing his daughter. He's done this himself, through his own actions, although you'll never get him to see that so it's pointless trying to explain. You do right telling your DD that you'll support her - I think it's a really important message that they don't have to go through it if they don't want to. Others may disagree, but you have to understand the dynamic of an EA man, and the slow impact it has on the kids' self-esteem, constantly trying to please someone, when it's never good enough.

Hopefully that's useful advice for you - I think I've written it a bit to myself!!

Frogbyanothername Thu 06-Feb-14 06:43:56

I'm finding it really hard not to show this, not to say 'but aren't you annoyed that....'

While you may feel annoyed/pissedoff/angry at behaviour your ex displays towards your DD - she will feel very differently.
She loves him, he's her Dad. It doesn't matter how he treats her, she'll still love him. And so his behaviour won't affect her in the same way as it affects you.

That's not to say she shouldn't be protected from distress caused by his emotional abuse - and as her Mum, thats your job. But, it sounds like she is developing her own ways of dealing with it without causing her distress, and she will be confused by the message she is receiving from you which is that she should be upset.

Noregrets78 Thu 06-Feb-14 09:09:20

frog but don't you think when dealing with an EA man, there are times when DD is not upset, but should be? I think they need to know what is unacceptable. Otherwise they will grow up and go into relationships where they accept things which to the outside world seem insane. This is how the cycle of EA continues.

Frogbyanothername Thu 06-Feb-14 09:46:45

Surely, by its definition, abuse causes harm? If a "victim" is not effected by a perpetrators actions/behaviour, are they victims?

I agree, that it is important to teach DCs about boundaries, and empowered to put them in place - but as she gets older, your DD will create her own boundaries that she is comfortable with, and they may not be the same as yours.

You only need to read the relationship threads here to see that what harms one person, another person considers a positive part of a relationship.

Noregrets78 Thu 06-Feb-14 11:30:45

She will indeed put in place her own boundaries, but based on her childhood experiences. She will be affected by this behaviour whether or not she realises this at the age of 10.

Personally what I read from a lot of the threads in relationships is that people put up with EA for years before they recognise it for what it is. Anything I can do to prevent my DD falling into that cycle is a good thing.

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