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How to handle a bullying ex? Help! (long)(46 Posts)
I don't know where to start with this really. I split up with my husband six years ago after an unhappy 11 year marriage. We have two children (now 14 and 11). For reasons that are much too complicated to go into the children went to live with him almost 6 months ago (potted version of events - I moved with the children to London for work reasons, they hated it, I had a breakdown, was made redundant, the kids wanted to go back to their old schools and live with their dad and I agreed to it, thinking it might be good for them and him).
The reason I am posting is that I am utterly and completely pissed off with my ex's behaviour and I need to rant. The split was acrimonious and he is still incredibly bitter about it. I know you're only hearing my side of things here, but he was an AWFUL husband. He refused to get a job in the whole time we were together, so when ds was a year old I went back to work and college because I was sick of being poor and feeling there was no future for our family. God only knows why I stayed with him for so long. I was 20 when I married him. Far too young. I was 23 when I had dd, and once the children came along I felt I owed it to them to give the marriage my best shot. But I lost all respect for him over time - because he made no effort to support me and the children financially, then accused me of being "selfish" when I went back to work and college. When I was pregnant with dd (our first), he told me he thought he was bisexual and wanted to sleep with the bloke living in the flat downstairs (!). Although I don't think that actually happened, this became a recurring theme over the years that followed, and, honestly, I don't think I ever forgave him for telling me that at a time when I felt so vulnerable and scared about the future, and needed him to affirm his commitment to me and our child, not tell me he wasn't sure about his sexuality.
We went through two long bouts of relationship counselling during our marriage, which was helpful in many ways, but nothing could have saved that relationship. I was growing older and realising I didn't want him, I didn't respect or even like him any more. Eventually I met someone else. I told my husband 2 weeks later (I should have had the guts to end it before getting involved with someone else, I know). He threw me out and the kids followed to live with me at my mum's. Ironically, he went out and got a job almost immediately - something he had never been prepared to do when we were together. Understandably he was full of rage at my betrayal.
The trouble is, six years later he is still full of rage. Since we separated he has come out as gay and has had a number of gay relationships. I don't have a problem with that and neither have the kids, but I do wonder why the hell he doesn't seem able to see that, despite the fact I was the one who betrayed him, he had betrayed me in so many ways before that. We have spoken about this a number of times since we broke up, and a number of times he has admitted that he was a terrible husband, and that it wasn't all my fault really, but then a few weeks later he is back to ranting and raving about me as if that conversation hadn't taken place.
Now I don't care if he hates me, as long as he doesn't drag the kids into it. But he does. He has said dreadful things about me both to the children and in front of them ("she's a f*ing slag/liar/bitch" etc). And now he has decided he doesn't want to talk to me any more, so he uses our daughter as a messenger. That's OK about minor things, but he expects her to talk to me about financial matters. I tell dd that I won't talk to her about things like that because it is parents' business, not something she should have to worry about. She goes back to him and repeats that, and he gets angry about it.
I am so sick of this situation. I wish I could get my children and run away with them so none of us ever have to see him again, but the kids love him, he is their dad, so I can't. For six years I have been scared to rock the boat, so I've pandered to him because, if I don't, he screams and shouts in front of the children. He has never paid any child support (his argument being that he shouldn't have to pay it because his babysitting services equate to what he would be paying), and I have never chased him for it for fear of the consequences. This is why I haven't divorced him yet. I have realised he is nothing but a bully.
Now my kids are living with him - naively I thought it might be good for him AND them. What a stupid mistake!
When I talk about this to friends/family the only consolation they can offer is that one day the children will realise the truth of the situation for themselves.
Can anyone offer any advice about how I could get this relationship onto a more equal footing, or, if not, how to cope with his constant undermining of me and my relationship with the children? I would really like to divorce him - although this would inevitably rock the boat I've been so scared to rock, perhaps it would force things to a head, perhaps that would be a good thing? He is the father of my children, I will always have to deal with him - how can I deal with him without feeling bullied, manipulated and, most of all, in fear for the emotional wellbeing of my children?
First of all, where do you live now Spacedonkey? If you are living close to the children can you re-address the living arrangments and have the children 50/50? I suspect he is behaving like a child because he gets away with it. As for the betrayal my first instinct is that he betrayed you long before he forced you into someone else's arms and he obviously realises this. A bully is expert at making you feel like the wrong-doer. Your children are quite old now so presumably have their own thoughts. How about dealing with exh via email instead of through dd?
jampots, I'm in London, the kids are in Colchester. I am thinking of moving back to Colchester, purely so I can have the children living with me full time again. I can't afford to move back there straight away though - it would be end of this year or early next year at the earliest. Right now they visit at weekends and holidays.
He doesn't have a PC so sadly email isn't an option - I guess I can write him letters, and sometimes I do, but they don't often get sent.
Hand him the divorce papers,he may think as your still married he's part of your life,once your divorced he has nothing to do with you except for the children.You only need to speak to him where the children are concerned,and it's not as if their babies so you don't need to arrange visits as the children can say when their coming to see you.It may get a bit nasty but once you've gone through with it you'll be glad.
I think you're right that a divorce will make a difference, even if it's just a psychological one. I will look into it. It's more than 6 years now so I don't need his consent.
Forgot to add a recent example of his manipulative behaviour - he asked dd to lend him her birthday money because he is "much worse off than any of them" (meaning me or my family). Dd is staying with me at the moment and asked if I would swap 25 pounds worth of HMV vouchers (which she also got for her birthday) so she can buy some school shoes "because dad can't afford them".
Sounds like he hasn't got over this and he's uses the kids to get to you.My dh was married before and has 2 children from that marriage and we have the same sort of problem,his exw always sends the kids with some message that they need something but she can't afford it.We don't mind getting things for them but she only makes them come and see their dad when they need something which really annoy's me,their 12 & 14 so can make their own mind up.If she got a job she could afford things but she would rather live off benefits.You exp probably has enough money when he needs things but when it comes to the kids he expects you to get it.Sorry i changed the subject slightly but its nice to have a moan about ex's.
Spacedonkey I am so sorry to hear the stress you must have suffered over all this. I agree, divorce him! your relationship can't be worse than it is now and this way it would be clean cut. It would feel so much better to be free of this man, surely? For what it's worth I'd imagine some of his viciousness towards you stems from deep unexpressed guilt but that hardly helps you,does it?
God, I wish I could say something wise and helpful that would be really useful but I'm useless myself atm. I do think a divorce sounds like a very good idea, as does getting the children to live with you again (if it's what you want, is it? I thought one of them came back, no?), as is applying to him for maintenace if that happens, He is a bully. Thinking of you sd, this sounds awful.
spacedonkey - I can so relate to your situation, in a nutshell the man is a bully and you must divorce him to show once and for all he can't control you. spend a little money (or get legal aid) on talking things through with a decent family lawyer - the first hour is usually free anyway. My ex is the same - a manipulative bully, ranting and raving in front of the kids - I also made a mistake in moving out of the house (thus reducing my claim on it although I eventually got a lump sum) we share the kids 50/50 and now live 3 doors apart (which despite everything works) thankfully its a busy road and i haven't seen him since december! we communicate by text/note/occasional phone call mainly. I have accepted that I will always be to blame for everything in his life and that I cannot have a rational discussion with him most of the time. I know exactly what you mean about rocking the boat (sometimes ex says he wants the kids all the time and sometimes that he wants them never!) but you need to move on with your life psychologically, thankfully the kids will grow up soon! You need to sort out residence of the kids/finances etc I really wish you the best of luck!
How do the kids feel about their living arrangements SD? And how do they feel when he slags you off?
Thanks for your messages - I'm not online at home at the moment so I've only just seen them. His ranting and raving really upsets the children. They have been staying with me for the past two weeks while on holiday from school, and, from what they have said, his attitude towards me seems to have got a lot worse since the kids went to live with him (6 months ago). Dd told me that he refuses to talk to me and will not answer his phone if he sees that it is me calling (I knew that anyway). She also said that he has been badmouthing me "at every opportunity". They are loyal to their dad and I don't want to push them too much to give me details. I felt so upset about this that I sent him a text a few days ago asking him to stop ranting and raving about me in front of the children - whatever he thinks of me, he should keep them out of it. He sent a text in reply that was frighteningly abusive ("YOU ARE SCUM WHY DON'T YOU DO THE WORLD A FAVOUR AND DIE" is one of the printable extracts). I had no idea he was so full of hate. I have decided to keep the children with me and am seeking legal advice now to start divorce proceedings so that I can get a written arrangement for the care of the children in place. I believe this sort of behaviour is causing emotional harm to the children. They were supposed to be going back to their dad tomorrow and I haven't answered his text or informed him that they won't be coming yet. I'm frightened to be honest. I've spoken pretty frankly to the children about the situation (difficult to do this without slagging him off, but I've tried!) and they seem worried but relieved. What a nightmare
Yes, I can't bear the thought of them going back to him - he's a nutter!
I'm glad they're staying with you. Sorry, can't remember what ages they are - are you going to have big hassles sorting out schools etc?
Really sorry you're having to deal with this. I can completely understand you not wanting to rock the boat - but as he is being so out of order anyway, maybe there's not a lot to lose?
They are 11 and 14. Ds is due to start secondary school this september and dd will start year 10 in september. The timing isn't too dreadful in that it's nearly the end of the school year (they've both finished their SATS). I am very happy to have them back with me - life has been meaningless without them.
SD - you are doing the right thing. My parents used me as a messenger when they separated - it took me years (most of my 20s) to come to terms with how they treated me.
Yes, children from a stable family background can make up their minds and see what is happening, but in a situation where a parent has a strong, bullying and selfish personality, it is very difficult for a child to really see where they are and ultimately emotionally damaging. Your husband is letting your kids down big time and well done you for recognising this and putting their emotional interests first.
Divorce will certainly put certain issues to bed finally and also formalise any arrangements you have to have with him in the future so you can deal with him in a much more detached way.
My parents took 12 years to divorce and I remember virtually every bitter and twisted day of those 12 years Good luck, you are doing the right thing.
Franke, I'm so sorry you had to go through that and thank you for posting X
When you say you were used as a messenger, that's exactly what he does - even about official/financial matters. The kids have unwittingly become peacemakers - earlier on today ds spoke to me about how he is worried what dad will say when I tell him they aren't going back and that he thought it would be better if he and dd told him "because we can always calm him down when he starts ranting and raving". That made me feel so sad. Children shouldn't have that on their shoulders.
He's a sweet boy. He should be worrying about his next football match and filling his pockets with conkers and bits of string, not about how to pacify his crazy father
It's just awful SD - awful for them and awful for you. But it's good that they can talk to you about it - the calm voice of reason. Sounds like your husband is the third (and youngest) child in this situation - as you say, ranting and raving at one's kids are not the actions of a rational grown-up.
I'm so sorry you are going through this, but you sound full of resolve now, and that gives you the upper hand - no more feeling bullied.
YOu are doing the right thing donkey, you have 2 wonderful kids and they deserve to grow up without being shaped into mini versions of their father, which is likely to happen if they stay with him.
Am proud of you, you know where i am xx
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