Dear Melissa, How do you deal with an ex-wife of your husband’s who likes to manipulate him through their children?
Dear Someone Sweet,
I’m so sorry you’re experiencing this. I know this is putting a lot of stress on your husband and your family.
While I don’t have a lot of details on what specifically is going on and what his ex is doing to manipulate him through the kids, this sounds like this is a form of “parental alienation.”
By definition: Parental alienation is the process, and the result, of psychological manipulation of a child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent and/or other family members.
It is a distinctive form of psychological abuse (to both the child and the affected parent/family member).
Here are some common forms of parental alienation (shared from the goodmenproject.com):
- Bad-mouthing of a parent in front of a child
- Using guilt to make a child feel bad about loving or wanting to see the other parent
- Making a child feel as though he needs to take sides, spy, or defend one parent over the other
- Refusing attempts at contact (and then often telling the child that the parent doesn’t care or want to see them)
- Acting to turn the child against the other parent
It’s heartbreaking and is a form of child abuse, yet very difficult to prove in court, especially if you don’t have an attorney who is educated about PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome).
There are things you and your husband can do to help combat this behavior from his ex, including:
Document the behavior in the children. In other words, document what the children doing and saying that leads you to believe that they are being psychologically manipulated. Documentation will go a long way toward proving your point if you end up needing to go to court.
He can talk to his ex about it if they are on speaking terms.
Continue to be a loving and supportive stepmom and dad to the kids. This is the MOST important part of combating the toxicity of his ex’s manipulation. Being loving and supportive to the kids helps combat and counter the lies and negativity being spread by his ex.
Take every opportunity to remind your children of how much you love them and want to be with them.
Release your children from the pressure to choose and remind them that they’re free to love who they love and like who they like, and support their right to do so.
As much as you and your husband have the right to be angry at his ex for alienating him, take the high road and be sure to be civil and peaceful, especially in front of the kids. Let his ex own the role of being bitter and vindictive.
Don’t participate in her toxic campaign. Some people crave drama and controversy. There’s not much you can do to prevent her from acting out because she is mentally unbalanced. But your husband can do his best to ensure that his child has one mentally and emotionally stable parent.
If his ex is portraying your husband as a liar or a deadbeat, your husband can prove her allegations wrong by being honest and responsible. Kids are very intuitive and they will eventually notice incongruencies.
And lastly, seek court intervention if you feel it is necessary. Parental alienation is a form of abuse. So if it’s becoming unmanageable on your own, get help.
There is a lot of info and resources on the web that might be helpful to you and your husband about parental alienation and what you can do.
Don’t give up. Combating this type of abuse and cruelty is hard and emotionally taxing, but love will eventually win.
How to Bring Him Closer and Turn Your Relationship Around
Craving reassurance from him? Or obsessing over your relationship?
Two things may be happening.
You may have an anxious attachment style.
And/or you may be in an anxious-avoidant relationship.
Are any of these issues below coming up for you right now?
- Getting mixed messages or confusing signals about his feelings and/or his commitment toward you (and you’re left feeling rejected)
- Unsure where you stand in the relationship, and it leaves you feeling insecure
- Craving reassurance from him about the relationship, at the same time worrying about whether you’re being “too needy,” clingy, or sensitive
- Your relationship feels like an emotional roller coaster…. he’s super romantic and connected at times, but it feels short-lived
- You feel like this dynamic seems to happen over and over again in your relationships with men
If any of these issues are coming up for you, you may be in what’s called a “pursuer-distancer dance” or an “anxious-avoidant relationship.”
It’s basically the situation where you’re trying to get closer to him (make progress in your relationship), but (on some level), he seems to be resisting that closeness/commitment, or the relationship feels stalled.
And so, it leaves you feeling insecure and unsure where you stand with him.
Or…if you’re with a guy who’s really there for you, but you still find yourself obsessing and worrying, you may have an anxious attachment style and your insecurities are unconsciously pushing him away.
I’m hearing from some clients and readers that they need more support in this area.
So I’m hosting a free webinar in a few days where I’ll show you how to identify and finally free yourself from anxious attachment or heal an “anxious-avoidant relationship” so you can have the fulfilling committed relationship you really want.
JOIN MY FREE WEBINAR
The 3 Keys to Healing Anxious Attachment
How to Finally End the Worry, Confusion, and Insecurity and Have a Healthy, Loving, Committed Relationship That Lasts
Thursday, October 21, 3PM PT / 6PM ET
- The two reasons why he pulls away, acts distant, or sends mixed messages, and how to get clarity and find out his true intentions
- Four steps to knowing when to give him a chance or call it quits—so you can avoid wasting your precious time in a potentially dead-end relationship
- Why smart, strong women like you, who’ve been doing the “inner work” for a while, can still get trapped in the pursuer-distancer cycle and how to stop the emotional rollercoaster for good
- The 3 biggest misconceptions about love and attachment keeping you stuck in this painful cycle, and what to focus on instead
- The simplest way to bring your avoidant man closer and turn your relationship around and how to attract a man who is ready for commitment and eager to meet your needs
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How to Decide if He’s Right for You
Whatever the issues are in your relationship, if you find yourself agonizing over questions like…
Is this relationship worth it??
Should I give him a chance or walk away??
I totally get you. I felt the same way when I was dating, which is why I created a free guide to help you get clarity.
In my free guide you’ll discover:
- 30 questions to ask yourself to help you decide if you should give him a chance or if you’re wasting your time
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Want to avoid wasting your precious time? I hear you! Download my free guide Should You Stay or Go? Relationship Choice Assessment ↴