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5 years on and he's back. Can you help me not spiral down please.(22 Posts)
This might be long but a part of me just needs to get it down and part of me is hoping that context might help someone who reads this to help me.
5 years ago I divorced my then H for unreasonable behaviour (adultery, emotional and psychological abuse, theft etc). We had been married 20 years and the last 6 or so were hell and when I looked back he had always been a shit, but just a very clever and manipulative one. I had two DS's when we met, had a history of SA as a child and I grew up in the care system. Understandably I hadn't had a great track record at choosing partners and was really a bit all over the place. But I was about to put my life in order, had got a place at a good university for a degree and I was pretty self sufficient on some levels (being in the care system made me realise I needed to do it for myself because no-one else would)
I didn't know about red flags - I didn't know that the excitement and rush to want to fuse with him was a sign that something might be wrong so when he proposed after a month I said yes. He seemed so kind and caring and wanted to 'know my story'.He wanted children, he made such an effort with my DS's whose own DF was absent and had never paid any maintenance. Because H was a psychotherapist I trusted him completely, I guess I idealised him because of his job. Yes, I know. So I did my degree, we rented and then bought a house and had our own DD a much wanted and loved baby. I didn't notice that gradually we all became very dependent on my H for everything, even though I went back out to work as soon as I could (money was a bit tight).
My eldest DS went off the rails at 16 and as a result was hospitalised and still remains open to the adult mental health system. During the time when he was completely out of control and putting his life at risk my H was teaching part time at weekends in london - on one occasion my DS was rushed to hospital in an ambulance and I had to follow with our baby daughter. H didn't come home to help or see how his step DS was because he was 'out socialising' in the pub after work. This sort of thing happened time after time. The public face was of caring kind and attentive step DF but my experience was that he put other people and his own interests to the fore. Yes, I know. We had so much counselling and couple work which didn't change anything. By this time I felt trapped by a mortgage, my sons doted on him and I losing any sense of identity and of my own abilities.
I could describe countless, countless ways in which this marriage was so very wrong but anyway, by the time the second affair that I know about for sure came to light I was on my knees and had seriously contemplated suicide because I believed I was mad and unlovable, a terrible person all round. He went to her. I lost our home and for a while he manipulated all my DC's into believing everything was "in mum's mind". His DD still sees him but my DS's , after a while cut contact when they realised that I was telling the truth and he was lying. I have spent the last 5 years trying to piece back together my identity as a woman and a mother, as a strong and capable professional who can live alone and find peace. The whole thing was traumatising. I have tried to support all my DC's through transitions to leaving home, becoming parents and having a serious mental health relapse.
Two weeks ago I was in a restaurant with DD and her DF and my DS came up in conversation. Something about it made me sensitive to her body language but i let it go. Before and since the divorce she has been positioned by her DF to lie to me, caught in the middle if you like. I have always modelled honesty with my children, having been subject to lies and secrecy in my family of origin, and having been the one 'ejected' by the family to cover their shame. It's really important to me, I can deal with the truth as I believe it offers choice based on what's really happening rather than suspicion, fantasy, conjecture.....
Ex H is back in relationship with DS. I discovered this quite by accident on Friday in a conversation with a crisis team psychiatrist who wanted to speak to me about admission to hospital. Ironically I found out about his affairs in the same way, through other parties, so it should not be a surprise that someone I don't know should tell me what is going on under my nose but hidden at the same time. He had been 'liaising' with the crisis team and wanted to know the plan. The loving, kind, worried step DF is back on the scene. I don't know what his intentions are, I don't know if it's the start of something longer lasting (I think he will attempt to restore relationships with both my DS's if he can).
It has brought it all back with a vengeance. The humiliation, shock, and sense that he has bided his time (although maybe not, I don't know what has been going on that I haven't known about) before coming back in to pick up the most vulnerable member of my family and make it all better. so, I know I should not give him any power. And I know to keep my dignity intact. I know my priority is my DS. I know my DD feels horribly positioned in the middle (again). But I also feel like I can't trust my DC's to be honest with me. They say they didn't tell me because of my anticipated reaction (which is how exH used to justify keeping things from me, such as my DS was then on class A drugs, like I can't be trusted to make an adult decision). It feels like history repeating itself. I have spent two days crying and feeling a whole range of things. I don't know what to do, what my reaction means (because I thought I had finally, finally moved on). By the time my marriage collapsed I was pretty alienated from my DC's, they looked to him for everything and I felt useless. I don't want to go there again but my initial response has been to ask for time and space. Is that wrong? I don't want to fight him for them again.
I don't know what I want from anyone with the time and patience to read. I have had absolutely buckets and buckets of therapy. I don't need therapy. It was never me who needed to change because I'm ok, I'm a good human being on the whole.
Anyone? Anyone been where I'm at? Can you help me to NOT be that woman who didn't stand up for what I believed was right?
I'm sorry you've been through such an awful time. How old are your DCs now? Have you explained to your DS's crisis team that your ex is an abuser? As he is not a relative of your DS they have no obligation or responsibility to communicate with him, and you need to get across to them that this man is a dangerous and manipulative narcissist, and that contact with him is likely to impact your DS's mental health negatively.
I've read your well-written post. I'm sure someone more knowledgeable will be along soon.
It sounds like your ex is a skilled manipulator (maybe to the point of being sociopathic? Wouldn't be the first mental health worker I've heard of who is...) and that's incredibly hard to deal with.
I guess all you can do is put as many people right as possible - your DCs have lived with him for long enough, and been fed his lies and insinuations for so long, that it will be hard for them - but your DSs health team need to know the full story (were you able to outline it to the crisis team?).
At one level, your ex has no right to be involved with DSs team - but of course DS is an adult, and if he allows ex to be involved, the team will agree - but they should be more guarded if they know things aren't as they seem. Might be worth making an appointment to talk to his GP who won't tell you anything but will document this.
Focus on your relationship with DCs - I would stop the cosy family meals with your ex, draw a clear boundary around yourself and he's not allowed inside it. He's not trustworthy.
No, I haven't been in that position; although XH does still try to encourage the DC to lie to me he isn't nearly as smart or manipulative as yours and they aren't nearly as vulnerable, so they see right through him. Consequently I don't know what to advise but want to offer shedloads of sympathy. Have you spoken to DS's crisis team to warn them that his stepfather is deeply charming and does a fantastic caring act but is in fact totally not to be trusted? It's not easy if you can't identify what he stands to gain... maybe he really is trying to help, perhaps to impress someone else? (No chance it's out of altruism given the history!) But yeah... someone needs to know before he gets them all wrapped around his little finger. He couldn't be in a better profession to provide the tools to manipulate people effectively.
Yes, tell the crisis team. If he has been 'liaising' with them already then either your DS has given him permission, or he's charmed his way in. As has been said, the age of your son is key here. He sounds like someone who enjoys being around 'unwell' people who he can be the wise, all-knowing one to and manipulate.
When you say you want to 'ask for time and space' do you mean between you and your kids, them and him, or what? I agree don't go to more meals with them and him though.
Gosh thank you.
To clarify - the psych knew she had kind of put her foot in it when I asked if she had it right that X had been in touch because he has been out of the family for 5 years and he was never the nearest relative anyway. (also I have been no contact all that time, sorry if I gave the impression that we are still in touch in any way - we're not). Mental health is a small world. I work in it too. I have deliberately moved jobs to avoid any contact - I have moved heaven and earth to try and ensure my emotional and psychological safety. But he always finds a way, even to letting me know he has my ex directory phone number by 'accidentally' phoning it to speak to DD when she wasn't even living with me. That's the kind of thing I'm dealing with. It's awful, and how do you get across to health professionals that he IS NOT A GOOD PERSON when they're in all likelihood referring patients to him? It's a fucked up situation.
The thing about adult mental health is that they're understandably reluctant to get involved in stuff like this, they tend to focus on the individual although DS's care co-ordinator is aware of some of the things which have gone on and that previously my DS expressly said he did not want his former step father to be able to access any information about him - one of the problems is that exH is now a consultant and could easily find out what's going on. He is well known, although not universally liked or respected professionally so it seems some have never fallen for the expert helper chimera. But the people who matter to me, might.
Yes, he's very clever and well-placed to charm the socks off folk. I can try, but I fear I will come across as bitter and controlling. That's what worries me about how to do this with my DC's. Adopt a wait and see and hope it all goes away? That's what I did before and it was not a wise decision. Shit, sorry, I am listening really I am.
What pocket said.
There is no reason why he should be getting involved.
Did your DS request he get involved, or have a say?
You've coped, battled and won over a huge amount of crap in your life. Don't open the door to it all again. Close it down now.
I don't know how anything has happened - that's what i mean about a kind of deja vu experience. I may ring the crisis team and ask if they have an alert on their system which tells the care co-ordinator if someone not directly involved with patient care attempts to read the notes. |They should have, we have one in my workplace. I don't know if they would tell me that but it's worth a try I guess.
By asking for time and space I mean I have asked DD and DS for time - I know DS has crisis team, his biological dad is back in his life in a watered down version of fatherhood, and obviously the step DF is around and I fully expect will be in daily contact with my DS, by phone if not in person. I need time. I will not be helpful to my DC's as things are, they will know if I am not being genuine as in a "i'm fine with all this, you're an adult" kind of way - because my DS is and adult but a vulnerable one at the moment.
I wish i had never met the fucker. I wish all kinds of other things too but they aren't sayable.
Surely there's professional regulatory bodies that can advise? OP, you're probably well rinsed mentally with this I sense it coming through your post. When you deal with a highly stressful situation over a long time it's hard to find equilibrium. I've noted that you've had lots of therapy and your grounded in that you're not a horrible person. Keep telling yourself this mantra style. Get a script ready and tailor it to each of your Dc. Have it noted on your Ds's medical records if your Ds doesn't want his step dad in the professional loop after ascertaining this to be the case. Your wellbeing is more important than worrying whether others in your field will think your bitter. Sod that for a game of soldiers. Can I suggest that you be selfish about your wellbeing.
Briefly ask your children to be honest. Accept nothing less. Oh I hate this type of professional abuse. Who does he think he is?
For you OP
I feel for you, I really do.
You say you've had buckets of therapy but surely those of us who have been done over by these types need ongoing therapy, on and off, for the forseeable? Ie someone in our corner.
Have you looked at the Melanie Tonia Evans site? She is good with recovering from narcissistic abuse. I appreciate you're a medic and may sniff at her stuff - but tbf we need everything we can get imo. It's often people like MTE that hold the key - ie people who have been through it themselves..
AStonishing how these scourges on the face of humanity plough on somehow, no-one spotting they're not the ticket. My scourge on the face of humanity died in an accident. Such a shame
joy to the world .
OK, on the back of your lovely messages of support I have just spoken with the crisis team and they are going to track who has accessed my DS's notes in the light of my concerns about the motives of exH for wanting involvement regardless of who made contact with who. I have been taken seriously, and I can't quite believe it actually.
I have also asked about whether the nearest relative can be biological dad instead of me as he legally should be due to his age. I am thinking that bio dad should be given a more active responsibility and involved role, and I think he will do it. I have explained that my DS must be desperate if he is in touch with exH because he knows why I divorced him and that what concerns me is that biological dad will disappear from view again, leaving my DS vulnerable to exH's remaining in his life or not depending on his whims and motives. She took that seriously too. She understood that my motives are genuinely about my DS's welfare. I must have moved on more than I have thought in the last couple of days.
springy I will visit the site you suggest, I am open to all perspectives. I have been considering recently that maybe I could go back to therapy and I think that's because underneath it all, I knew something wasn't quite right. Thank you for mentioning it.
About the crisis team taking you seriously. Rah rah!
Well done duff.
You have moved mountains.
We all need to be confident that these toxic fuckers cant control and pollute our lives and those who are especially vulnerable. Looks like the HCPs are now more attuned to abuse in all its charming disguises.
If you think your xDH is Narc or socio - could you or should you get your DD or DS to read up on it to see how there are being groomed? Maybe covertly?
Have you asked your DS about his involvement with your xDH? Again you might want to suggest or explore how this relationship might put his MH at risk - is this possible or is the situation too difficult?
Take care of yourself. You are enlightened and the distress you have felt is a good alarm to bringing you back to the emotional trauma this man throws around - you have felt the alarm and responded to it sensibly and effectively to achieve a great result. Were you worried that the alarm trauma would send you into a down ward spiral? It did nt - you have done really well, you are strong and clear thinking and you have protected your DS. The therapy worked but you have been kicked again.
Oh thank you so much! I thought I was alone but now I don't feel like that.
DD loves her DF but knows that she cannot trust him. That doesn't give her immunity though. I also don't give a shit whether exH IS engaged in a 'making it up to DS' act of apparent selflessness because even if he is it will all be about HIM and how he is perceived in the popularity poll. I know him. this was my reality.
My DD is angry with me at the moment. This is how it happens - she was put in an impossible situation, knowing that she ought to let me know her DF is around but not wanting to upset anyone. It's happened time and time again in various ways. I got most of the negative stuff when we divorced. But I am in a better place and I need time to re-group so she is allowed to be angry; I just don't allow her to make me the baddy any more.
Yes, I did think this was it, that's why I was so distressed. Thank you for noticing my strength and my unique knowledge of my situation, it means a lot. When DS is recovered we will need to talk about this but the time is not right, he needs hospital and psychiatric care first and foremost; the relational stuff can wait a bit.
Can you put your xDH in a personality box?
As if he is one of the classic abuser profiles or sociopath or narc you could share some online profiles with your DD so that she can recognise for herself what his behaviours mean and then pre-empt and protect herself from any hurt and manipulation. Knowledge is power.
This way you don't have to personally paint him as a bad guy just show her a universal standard profile and standard accepted ways to cope.
I know when I first saw classic personality profiles of the toxic people I have to deal with in my life it was incredible - that I wasn't imagining things and this was all real and well recognised - gave me incredible insight and power to deal effectively with destructive relationships which had previously overwhelmed and exhausted me for decades. Knowledge is power.
So glad your concerns have been taking seriously.
As an aside after a lot of psychotherapy I am now having "drama therapy" working purely on the limbic brain and it's a very different experience. My rational for past trauma is fine so I'm finally getting to work through core emotional bit instead. It's like my limbic response is starting to "catch" up to my rational knowledge. Just an option to consider for yourself?
Yes, I did a weekend drama therapy course and twas brilliant!
didn't trust the facilitators though
I haven't actually don't much "drama" yet tbh I think I'm obviously able to do the emotional stuff I need to without having to visual/do exercises etc. I'm rubbish at visualisation etc. think I've switched that part of my brain off!!!
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