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AIBU to try and get along with my ex abusive partner for the sake of my DD

(44 Posts)
mamatomoomin Tue 04-Mar-14 18:49:49

Whenever I've posted on mumsnet it has always helped me to work through difficult situations and I've found the advice given on here invaluable. So I'm experiencing another issue and would really appreciate anyone's opinion.

Background:
One DD who will be 3 on Sunday, broke up with ex over 2 years ago. He was emotionally and physically abusive and DD and I ended up spending some time in refuge. However, not excusing or minimising his behaviour at all but to update, he has been doing a perpetrator programme for around 5 months now, has admitted to everything even in court and is basically playing a much more positive role in DD's life. I have no plans to get back with him and I truly believe he has no plans to get back with me. Although it is sad and of course I have thought about it, the reality is it would never work, I would never trust him enough and I now have far more confidence than I ever did and know I deserve better.

This year will be the first year that it may be possible for XP to see DD on her birthday. We have been working well together for DD and very rarely argue - any arguments have always been resolved and no physical violence has occurred since the end of our relationship. we have split Christmas presents and now all the costs for her birthday between us and he has offered to make food for her party and has bought things for party bags etc. It's annoying (beyond belief really) that this is the first year he has done this but all the same I am glad to have some help and it is so good to be able to cooperate and do nice things for DD together.

DD is having a traditional party at home with her friends and a few of my close ones. She has asked several times for her Dad to come. As I no longer fear my ex and seeing as things have been going well with no major abusive situations for about a year and half , I feel that I would be comfortable with this and would be happy that DD would be happy to have her dad here. I thought I should run it by a couple of friends first just to give them a heads up that he may be coming and I've had quite a negative reaction. They've said things like 'he doesn't deserve to be there' 'it would make me (friends) feel awkward' 'why would you want him in your house?' and just generally made me feel like I must be mad for even thinking it might be a nice idea. I appreciate they care and I understand why they say these things but perhaps they don't understand that actually this is our life and we have to live with it everyday!

I personally feel that I have lived with abuse and the after effects for several years now and I am sick and tired of domestic violence being associated with who I am. I'm not just a victim, I'm a strong person, a mother, a friend, a real person with interests and ambitions. I'm not depressed and scared every day and I hate having to be reminded about that terrible time. I'm not in denial, I will never forget or make light of what he did to us and how much pain he caused me but he is going to be in my life and DDs for at least the next 15 years , so if its going well and we are being amicable and he is helping out, then surely this is the best thing? yes he doesn't deserve to be there but DD deserves to have a nice birthday and the best possible relationship with her dad as is possible. my dd is becoming more aware of relationships and life in general and I don't want her to pick up on anything or think her parents have a weird relationship because we can't communicate when in fact we are able to get on very well. Sorry this is so long, just want to know what you think, is this a step too far to try and have a good relationship with DD's dad despite the past and is it reasonable to have him at her birthday party?

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 04-Mar-14 19:56:22

I don't think it's unreasonable but I don't think it's especially wise either. You don't have to be defined by domestic abuse at all but I think many ex couples find it easier to get on with each other and with life if they set clear boundaries and approach things separately. He's only been on this programme for a few months, backsliding is very common and if you put him in a position of any trust whatsoever you make yourself and DD vulnerable to being let down and disappointed all over again.

DD deserves a nice birthday, of course. But she's only three and she really won't know that Dad celebrated it with her on a different day to other people.

LyndaCartersBigPants Tue 04-Mar-14 20:08:20

If you feel confident to have him in your home and your DD would like him to be there, then I think it's a great idea.

Whether your friends feel uncomfortable about it is neither here nor there, they don't have to invite him to their house for their DD's party!

My ex was EA, although thankfully no PA, but now that we've been separated for 2 years we get on fine, I've forgiven and forgotten, he's stepped up as a dad and makes much more effort to be involved with the DCs and we have spent Christmas and birthdays together for the sake of the DCs.

There is no animosity or atmosphere, so there's nothing negative about the situation, I think people just imagine that you should both hate each other and find it hard to understand how you can get along with someone who treated you badly. The truth is, when you have DCs you have to make the effort if you are both willing and able.

I think it's brilliant that you are willing to do this for your DD and I'm sure she will thank you for it in future. Yes she could celebrate separately with her dad, but she doesn't have to if you are both mature enough to spend a few hours in each other's company.

mamatomoomin Tue 04-Mar-14 20:39:05

thank you both for your replies.

cognito - you're right he may mess up again, and I'm realistic that it is quite likely to happen as he is an abusive person, no matter how much effort he puts into 'changing' it is who he is (plus also has a personality disorder)... I suppose I am eager to get along now as he has already missed out on so much of DD's life and she has missed out on input from him, she changes so quickly and the early years are crucial to bonding so I want to encourage a relationship between them where possible. However, you have a point about things being easier when done separately, I think we have both found it hard to fully move on from one another because we are in contact because of DD. Again though, I have felt it more important to put DD's relationship with XP above my own feelings and am just hoping that with time the feelings will fade and eventually I'll be totally over him.

Lynda- it's good to hear of someone in the same boat as us. Thank you for your kind words. You're so right about people expecting you to hate one another...don't get me wrong I have despised him at times and that has helped me to get through the rough patches. But it's not a helpful emotion to hold onto for years and years. I don't hate him now, it would be a punishment on myself and on DD to carry those bad feelings around forever. No matter what, I had a baby with him, my DD loves him and so I will always hope the best for him too. If you don't mind me asking, how have your family reacted to you getting along with your ex? Telling my friends is one thing, but my family think I have nothing to do with him and I feel that would be a hard one to explain (not a great relationship with my mother , and my mum never encouraged a relationship between me and my father).

ChocolateIsYummy Tue 04-Mar-14 20:49:08

Hello mama

I think it is not unreasonable to include your DP on this occasion if you feel/think it's appropriate. I can understand your friends feeling a bit protective of you. However, it's not like you would expect them to be friendly towards him, just polite/non confrontational which isn't too much to ask. You could tell them that you appreciate their concern but even if they don't understand/agree with your decision that you would like their support in this situation (I.e not to pressure you into not having him there if that's what you decide).

Please be clear though that the gesture is just as much for your ExP as your DD. Although she is asking for him to be there, at 3 it's easy to manage their expectations, a simple explanation such as 'Well Daddy has to work that day but he's taking you to x, and you'll have a,b and c at your party!' would do the trick.

I do personally believe that everyone deserves a chance to step up, I don't think it's fair to write people off when they've done something bad! Not including him is a way of punishing him for past behaviour. Not including him may help protect you/DD to serve as a reminder of his bad behaviour which may act as a barrier to backsliding? However, ongoing punishment of him is not likely to have a positive outcome for anyone involved. There is the option of course of waiting until you've seen a continuation in his good behaviour before you include him in events such as these? How long is long enough is of course a very subjective question, and all the while your Dd is growing up.

When it comes down to it you have to do what feels right to you.

ChocolateIsYummy Tue 04-Mar-14 20:53:29

Ok the new information about him having a personality disorder and you still having some feelings towards him has changed my view. I would err on the side of caution and wait until you've seen a lot more good behaviour before involving him any more than necessary

mamatomoomin Tue 04-Mar-14 21:30:24

hi chocolate, thanks for posting. Can understand what you mean about erring on the side of caution. He has been having psychotherapy for personality disorder for quite a while and I've really noticed a difference. My feelings are just annoying more than anything. I don't think I'm wanting him to be there because of me, I think a certain amount of distance is a good idea though. Like, trying to only keep conversation about DD and keeping visits with me present to a minimum. I've actually no idea how you are meant to get over someone who you have to see on a regular basis!

innisglas Wed 05-Mar-14 01:19:01

I sympathise with your friends as, apart from their natural concern for you, I hate being put in a position where I have to be hypocritical, i.e., be nice to someone I can't stand.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 05-Mar-14 06:25:17

" I've actually no idea how you are meant to get over someone who you have to see on a regular basis!"

Not inviting them to tea parties is part of it. You don't have to see him on a regular basis at all, simply facilitate contact with DD which can be done via a phone-call or a text. It doesn't confuse children that Mum & Dad live separately.

I wonder if your friends are not simply anti this man because he abused you. Maybe they see something in your too-eagerness to forgive, forget & have him around allegedly 'for DD' that concerns them.

Licketysplit123 Wed 05-Mar-14 06:59:34

I think this is a bad idea, and I think having him them would be inconsiderate towards your friends who have no doubt supported you through the break up.

You're not just asking them to be polite to someone they don't like, you're asking them to celebrate alongside someone who abused you! And only a short time ago. I would also feel very uncomfortable and probably not want to go.

Isn't this all going to create a frosty atmosphere at your daughter's party?

mamatomoomin Wed 05-Mar-14 08:06:02

I do get it, I understand that my friends would feel uncomfortable, but it's not their special day. When do we get a chance to live a 'normal' life? Without DD having to see her dad in a grubby contact centre a couple of times a month? When I was growing up I used to feel guilty if I even mentioned my Dad because I knew my mum hated him so much, I never want to impose that on my daughter. I can definitely see why for a lot of people doing things separately is the best option , but in fact, we can get on well for DD and surely DD seeing a positive relationship between her parents is going to best for her in the long run?

I'm not just forgiving and forgetting, I've gone through hell because of him, I've had months of counselling as well as improving my life in all sorts of ways. If I was forgiving and forgetting then I'd be back in a relationship with him whereas the truth is that he is only allowed supervised contact until he completes his DVVP.

My friends did support me and I'm so grateful of that but wouldn't a real friend support your decisions even if they didn't always agree with them but saw it made me and my DD happy.

There's a chance could be a frosty atmosphere, Id hope people can be adult enough to not act that way and risk spoiling my daughters birthday.

Just feel like I'm being punished for wanting to do what I feel is best for DD.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 05-Mar-14 08:15:40

I'll tell you a story from my own life. My very best friend from childhood was in an abusive relationship. She was beaten up so badly on one occasion that she ended up in hospital and was at risk of losing her unborn child. She got away from him with her DD and asked for my help in setting her up in a location a full 200 miles away - which I did, of course, even though I also came under attack. It all went quiet and I found out a few months later on the grapevine that she had moved him back in.

I've only seen that friend once in the 20 years since. Her youngest DD (the one nearly killed by her father) asked me 'how come you and Mum stopped seeing each other?'. What could I say to that? I was a 'real friend', went the extra mile, helped when asked.... but I could not be in the same room just because she wanted to play Happy Families. You're going to say I'm unsupportive. I beg to differ.

mamatomoomin Wed 05-Mar-14 08:32:54

Hi cogito, really appreciate your comments, thank you. I'm sorry to hear about your experience with your friend. I don't think you were unsupportive, I can see why it would have been hard for you to se your friend get back into the relationship that you had helped her to flee. However, in my case, I am not getting back in a relationship with my ex, all I'm trying to do is get along for DD and have him at important events such as her birthday. I too moved away from my ex, about the same distance as your friend, but my ex then moved to where we are now so that he could see DD. I know what it must look like, but it's really not the case. I still have some feelings but they do not impair my day to day life and I've been on a couple of dates and slept with other people. He's moved to where we are so he's not disappearing, I cannot bare to live the next 15 years of my life with animosity and more importantly, I don't want DD to have that either.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 05-Mar-14 08:35:45

It doesn't actually matter than you're not getting back together. Your friends, like me, will be very uncomfortable with that man, knowing what they know and given that your DD is only allowed supervised access in a contact centre. Those kinds of arrangements are not handed out lightly.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 05-Mar-14 08:36:55

You are going to have him at the party anyway, that's clear. But just be aware that, if your friends are unhappy about your decision, it doesn't make them bad friends.

mamatomoomin Wed 05-Mar-14 09:11:37

I know, I'm.gutted every day that that is how life has turned out. wheb I gave birth to dd I never envisioned that dd's dad would ever miss a birthday, let alone have to see her in a contact centre. I'm not definitely going to have him there, what you've said has made me think and I'm going to talk to my friends about it again. I just wanted to put forward my reason for feeling as I do on here.

FancySpaceGloves Wed 05-Mar-14 09:13:56

I grew up in an abusive household.

It's great you got out while your DD was still tiny. It is great that your ex is making an effort to resolve his mental health problems.

Letting your DH come to a party is a HUGE reward. He doesn't deserve it yet. If he keeps it up, then maybe maybe next year. If he has truly changed then he'll be fine with that.

5 months is nothing. You said he hasn't even completed the course yet. You said the court only allows supervised contact until he has completed the DVVP course. You are giving him a huge reward when he has barely started earning it.

In my childhood home we could go months between "incidents" if DF felt he was at serious risk of getting in trouble. He'd be as nice as pie. Until eventually he wasn't.

If I was your friend I would be wearily disappointed at yet another abused woman following the victim script, letting him back into her life "he really has changed this time everyone!"

TBH it sounds like you are desperate to have him back in your life. You protest loudly that you don't but your actions say otherwise. If it truly was about your DD's needs then you'd be keeping him at arms length until there was much more proof that he has completed the transformation to being a good bloke. You are setting her up for pain by letting him get too close too soon.

FancySpaceGloves Wed 05-Mar-14 09:26:00

Imagine one of your friends posted in AIBU about how their 3 or 4 year old DD has been invited to a party at a friend's house. After the poster accepted the invitation she discovers that the party child's abusive father will be present. Only two years ago the abused mum had to run to a refuge then move hundreds of miles away. The ex recently moved to live near them. The court does not allow unsupervised contact. He is doing DVVP but hasn't completed it yet. I told her it is a bad idea and it would make me feel very uncomfortable. She just said that it is not fair to punish her ex by keeping him away and it is important for the DD to have a relationship with him. I really think she might let him be there. WIBU to keep my child way from the party?

What do you think the response would be?

FancySpaceGloves Wed 05-Mar-14 09:27:13

* away from the party!

<must learn to proof read>

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 05-Mar-14 09:28:37

OP it's not wrong to want things to be amicable or to model good behaviour to your DD. It's clear that you want her to have as happy and stable a childhood as possible and not to suffer as a result of anything her parents have done. However, you're not talking about normal person when it comes to your ex. He has some serious problems and whilst he appears to be improving and you want to encourage that, he has to operate within the restrictions placed (I'm assuming) by a court that had your DD's best interests uppermost.

Your friends are not as invested in him as you are. They will purely care for you and DD and they won't want you to get hurt again. Explain where you'd like to get to eventually, ask for their support, but listen to their opinions at the same time. There's really no rush. Children remember precious little from before the age of five.

mamatomoomin Wed 05-Mar-14 11:38:47

facnyspacegloves: thanks for your reply, what you have said about what other parents of kids coming has made me really think, the only thing is, what ahs happened will never go away, won't people always feel funny about it? I've been crying because I'm so devastated for my daughter, she'll be gutted if I tell her that daddy can't come. Yes she may not remember but when she looks back at photos ands sees : 1st birthday - dad not there, 2nd birthday - dad not there and now the same for 3rd? She may forget all about it but the feeling of rejection and let down could stay with her in the subconscious forever.

cogito: thank you, yes I really do want the very best for my little girl. I remember reading lundy Bancroft, and I'm pretty sure he says that sometimes abusive men can be good parents and it is also sometimes in mother and childs best interest to encourage that as its protects them both. ... anyway, I'm going to think some more but perhaps he could come see her in the morning and help out with getting house ready/food etc then when her friends come her could go...

gutted though, wish so much we could have a normal family where a birthday was a happy day not a day of sadness, regret and tension.

ChocolateIsYummy Wed 05-Mar-14 12:05:55

I just wanted to re-iterate that given the additional information, I don't think it is a good idea for him to be there. There was nothing in the original post that said the only contact allowed by the court was through a contact centre! I have a friend who left an abusive relationship (mainly emotional but some physical) and the court imposed no such restriction, in fact he has joint custody. SO for the court to impose that his behaviour must be very very serious. I would only entertain the idea of including him on these kind of events once the courts actually agree to him having unsupervised contact.

I do think you are over dramatizing the possible negative effect on your daughter him not being there....it seems to me you want to see him as somebody he is not! I know you must feel awful that she hasn't got a 'normal' father, but that is something you cannot change, and certainly not by pretending he is different to what he is, this is potentially far more damaging. As your daughter gets older you can explain that his mental health problems have meant that he hasn't always acted in an appropriate way, and for both yourselves, you have maintained a safe distance, there doesn't need to be any hate/animosity there.

mamatomoomin Wed 05-Mar-14 12:34:39

hi chocolate, I think the reason why he is in a contact centre is more to do with the fact that he admitted to everything and said that he was happy to do dot he perpetrator programme. many men do not admit to abuse in court and so get away with having unsupervised access. I have a friends who's husband was far more violent than my ex ever was to me but yet the court has given him overnight contact! the courts would be happy for him to have unsupervised contact as cafcass have asked me whether i'd now agree to it however it's actually been me who has put my foot down and said not yet, not until he's proven he's serious about changing. he can only have supervised / supported contact due to it being a pointless activity for him to undertake a DVPP but still get full access to DD. As I say, still thinking about it all though and I really do appreciate all your comments and thank you for taking time out to post.

To throw a spanner in the works my sister thinks it would be a good idea for him to be there too :S . She said kind of same as me, that it has to happen at some point and it's not fair to upset DD.

mamatomoomin Wed 05-Mar-14 12:36:23

P.S. can see why you think I may be being dramatic about this issue affecting my DD but bare in mind, she has had constant let down and rejection in her life from him and other family members. At least she was only a baby but now she's not and will notice that if he isn't at her party.

hellsbellsmelons Wed 05-Mar-14 12:40:14

Why does it have to be a day of sadness, regret and tension?
The day is what you make it for your DD.
As a PP has said, you just explain that Dad has to work but you will see him on xx date. He will bring a cake and we can take photo's etc...
Just because it's a different day makes no difference.
I split from my Ex when DD was 11.
She hasn't had her birthday with both of us since.
She gets to have 2 now! Make it exciting.
"DD, you get to celebrate twice - how cool is that!? etc... etc...."
And you are a normal family.
I'm a normal family as a single parent.
There is nothing abnormal about it.
Couples parent separately all the time. Note the word 'separately'.
You will never be the happy family you wanted, that has gone now as it does with so many people.
You need to learn to do things differently now that's all.

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