Fearing the past can strangle the future

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I thought there was abuse in his past, but I had no idea of the extent of how much trauma she had put him through. (See PTSD – new baby arrives, mum checks out.)

There was excitement from my husband when we first became pregnant, which was good because it gave me confidence things would be alright. He happily went around telling everyone (much to my initial shock as it was so early).
Then something happened. I’m not sure what, or how I realised there was something wrong to start off with, but I knew there was something different.
I became annoyed initially that he started to take on more work and seemed to me less interested. Less than, I thought, my ex-husband had been the first time? So I tried to get those feelings out of my head and asked him how involved he had been in his previous pregnancies (with his ex).

She had not let him be involved at all!

So I asked if he would like to be and he again resumed his interest in the process. Especially when we found a pregnancy app on the iPad, which also had handy ‘new dad’ tips…

“Wow, she never told me that!”

I began to see that by asking him more about how he felt I had a better understanding of where he was at. Sometimes he would let me know, sometimes he wouldn’t, which just meant I went and got time out to be with friends and get support in other ways.
Getting closer to the end of the pregnancy his head became stuck in a very scary place (PTSD), which I didn’t really understand fully until the birth of our baby.

In my head, I was going to be doing a whole lot more work after all this pregnancy thing and not to mention the labour thing as well!
Little did I realise that he still had an inbuilt fear that he was going to be the sole carer of another baby, just as he was with his previous wife.

I worried how my husband must’ve thought I handled the labour, but gratefully took the new baby and she happily suckled straight away. When the hospital staff wandered off eventually, I was surprised he told me how amazing I was!

He had never experienced seeing what a real new mother was like!

Of course I loved her, of course I couldn’t take my eyes off her, of course I was able to share food with her if that’s what she wanted right now.

I was shocked by his awe!

I was just doing my normal thing, no big deal.
Baby was looking around and responding alertly just as my others had done, no big deal.
Baby decided to drink straight away, no big deal.

But to my husband whose eyes flooded with tears of joy and relief, it was the most amazing thing he had seen after the trauma of his sons births!
His face fairly radiated and glowed and I felt completely humbled, I felt there was nothing I had done special to receive such praise.

I guess I just am mum.

PTSD – A new baby arrives, mum checks out. Dad & baby left alone

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Imagine a man having to take over the care of a newborn baby from birth with no warning or preparation at all. That is, except your usual childbirth classes with the mother of your child. Mostly they prepare the mother however, not so much of the “what if you now become the sole carer of new babe?”.

Why are there no preparations in the classes for that I wonder?

A truly harrowing experience when suddenly you realise the mother of your baby will not care for him, or increasingly hate the very thought of him near her.
It’s now up to you, the father, to feed, clean, clothe and otherwise care for this amazing, yet completely helpless little person. Not only that, your wife who you thought wanted this baby together with you has now been admitted to the psych ward!

Work has to be cancelled to take on this responsibility, your whole life to be changed to be there for this little one. Many would run at the mere thought, others never consider that they could take up this challenge.

What to do when co-parenting won’t work

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What to do when co-parenting won’t work
(Article shared from Huffington Post Divorce)

“In a good-enough divorce, exes work through feelings of anger, betrayal and loss and arrive at a place of acceptance. Frustrations over the other parent’s values and choices are contained and pushed aside, making space for the Holy Grail of post-divorce life: effective co-parenting.

Co-parenting is possible only when both exes support their children’s need to have a relationship with the other parent and respect that parent’s right to have a healthy relationship with the children.

But some people never get to acceptance. They become, essentially, addicted to anger. They convince themselves that the other parent is incompetent, mentally ill, or dangerous. They transmit this conviction directly or indirectly not only to the children, but also to school staff, mental health professionals and anyone who will listen.

High-conflict exes are on a mission to invalidate the other parent. No therapist, mediator, parenting class, or Gandhi-esque channeling will make an anger-addicted ex take off the gloves and agree to co-parent.

If this scenario feels familiar, and you are wondering how you’re going to survive raising kids with your high-conflict ex without losing every last one of your marbles, I offer you this counterintuitive suggestion: Stop trying to co-parent!

Try Parallel Parenting instead.

What is Parallel Parenting?

Parallel Parenting is radical acceptance. It means letting go of fighting reality. Divorce is terrible enough, but to have a divorce that is so hellish as to make co-parenting impossible is another kind of terrible altogether.

It’s helpful to conceptualize Parallel Parenting as an approach many Alcoholics Anonymous folks use when dealing with the addict in their lives: they stop going to the hardware store looking for milk. Why are you trying to have a reasonable conversation with someone who isn’t reasonable, at least with you? Stop expecting reciprocity or enlightenment. Stop needing the other person to see you as right. You are not ever going to get these things from your anger-addicted ex, and you can make yourself sick trying.

How to Practice Parallel Parenting

You tried to co-parent so your kids would see their parents get along, and to make them feel safe. That didn’t work. Now you need to limit contact with your ex to reduce the conflict in order to make your kids feel safe — and to keep yourself from going nuts. So how do you do this?

1. Communicate as little as possible
Stop talking on the phone. When speaking with a hostile ex, you will likely be drawn into an argument and nothing will get resolved. Limit communication to texting and e-mail. This way you can choose what to respond to and you will be able to delete knee-jerk retorts that you would make if you were on the phone.

2. Make Rules for Communication
Hostile exes tend to ignore boundaries. So you will have to be very clear about the terms for communication. E-mail or texting should be used only for logistics: travel plans, a proposed weekend swap, doctor appointments. If your ex tends uses e-mails to harass you, tell him you will not respond, and if the abuse continues, you will stop e-mailing altogether.

3. Do Not Respond to Threats of Lawsuits
Hostile exes frequently threaten to modify child support or custody arrangements. Do not respond! Tell your ex that any discussion of litigation must go through your attorney. This will require money on your ex’s part: phone calls between attorneys, disclosing financial statements, etc. It is quite possible that your ex does not really intend to put her money where her mouth is, so don’t take the bait.

4. Avoid being together at child-related functions
It’s great for your kids to see the two of you together — but only if they see you getting along. So attend events separately as much as possible. Schedule separate parent-teacher conferences. Trade off hosting birthday parties. Do curbside drop-offs so your child doesn’t have to feel the tension between you and your ex.

5. Be proactive with school staff and mental health professionals
School staff and therapists may have heard things about you that aren’t true — for instance, that you are out of the picture or mentally ill. So be proactive. Fax your custody order to these individuals so they understand the custody arrangement. Even if you are a non-custodial parent, you are still entitled to information regarding your child’s academic performance or mental health treatment and the school and therapists want you to be involved. Talk to school staff and therapists as soon as possible. Do not be defensive, but explain the situation. When they see you, they will realize that you are a reasonable person who is trying to do the right thing for your child.

6. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Parallel Parenting requires letting go of what happens in the other parent’s home. Although it may drive you crazy that your ex lets 6-year-old Lucy stay up until midnight, there is really not much you can do about it. Nor can you control your ex’s selection of babysitters, children’s clothing or how much TV time is allowed.

Your child will learn to adapt to different rules and expectations at each house. If Sienna complains about something that goes on at Dad’s, instruct her to speak to him directly. Trying to solve a problem between your ex and your child will only inflame the conflict and teach her to pit the two of you against each other. You want to empower your child, not teach her that she needs to be rescued.

Parallel Parenting is a last resort, to be implemented when attempts at co-parenting have failed. But that doesn’t mean you have failed as a divorced parent. In fact, the opposite is true. By reducing conflict, Parallel Parenting will enhance the quality of your life and most importantly, take your child out of the middle.

And isn’t that what a good-enough divorce is all about?” ~ Virginia Gilbert

Virginia Gilbert, MFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist practicing in Los Angeles. She specializes in the treatment of high-conflict divorce, challenging children, adoption issues, and sex and love addiction. Her approach is active and solution-focussed: she helps clients create strategies to manage challenging problems so they can manage their lives. You can learn more about her at http://www.virginiagilbertmft.com. Follow on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/@VGilbertMFT

5 Tips for Divorcing / separating from a High-Conflict Personality.

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5 Tips for Divorcing a High-Conflict Personality.
( From an article by Virginia Gilbert, MFT on huffington post divorce)

1. Minimize Contact
High-conflict personalities thrive off of battle. Their agenda, which is often subconscious, is to maintain your relationship by creating drama: bad-mouthing you to everyone under the sun and especially to your children, cyber-bullying, multiple, intrusive phone calls and any other way they can find to keep you from moving on with your life.

While your gut reaction might be to defend yourself, you cannot reason with a terrorist. Anything you say can and will be used against you. To mitigate the chaos caused by a high-conflict personality, you must keep communication to a minimum. Avoid face-to-face contact. Cultivate a “just the facts, ma’am” style of e-mail and text correspondence. When possible, arrange neutral places such as school for the drop-off and pick-up of children.

2. Keep Your Feelings to Yourself
High-conflict personalities are bullies. They like to “win” by making you angry or beating you down. Do not act on your feelings. If you yell, cry, plead, or otherwise tip your emotional hand, you will invite more attacks. Being stuck in the cross-hairs of a narcissist is traumatic, so by all means seek support through safe means: therapy, and online support groups for people with personality-disordered exes are two examples. But whatever you do, don’t let a narcissist know how you really feel — especially if you have a different point-of-view, which will always be interpreted as a threat.

3. Plan for the Worst
Do not listen to conventional wisdom that your ex will “move on” in time. Well-adjusted people move on; high-conflict personalities never quench their thirst for revenge and their desire to feel like “the good one.” Anticipate being dragged into court for minor indiscretions, or worse, total fabrications.

Do not say or write anything that might make you look bad. Respond to even the most frivolous accusations with factual, non-defensive e-mails detailing what actually happened. Document everything; save hostile e-mails, take screen shots of abusive texts, note every violation of your court orders.

You never know if a narcissist will follow through on threats to sue you, so you must be prepared if they do.

4. Never Admit a Mistake
You can, and should be, accountable for your part in the end of the marriage. But be accountable in a safe environment: therapy, 12-step groups, or in the company of trusted family and friends.

Do not admit wrongdoing to your high-conflict ex, especially in writing. Apologizing will not create a more amicable relationship. A high-conflict ex will interpret your apology as proof that you are the mentally ill, incompetent, stupid person she says you are. Even admissions of minor mistakes can be twisted into admissions of heinous acts and spur a high-conflict ex to take you to court, or simply broadcast to everyone with whom they come in contact that you are a terrible person.

5. Stop Trying to Co-Parent
I have written before about the one-size-fits-all co-parenting model. Well-meaning, but misinformed therapists do targets of high-conflict personalities a huge disservice by advising them that they can, and should, co-parent. Certainly, an amicable co-parenting relationship is ideal for children. But attempts to co-parent with a narcissist or a borderline will keep you engaged in battle. You will forever be on the receiving end of intrusive, controlling, chaotic behaviors which will make you and your kids crazy.

Parallel parenting is the only paradigm that should be recommended to people with personality-disordered exes. This means that you give up the fantasy that you can have consistency between homes, or appear as a united front. The more high-conflict your ex is, the more you will need to separate yourself and your parenting. This may mean hosting separate birthday parties, scheduling separate parent-teacher conferences and not sharing what goes on in your house.

While you may feel that you are sending a terrible message to your children by limiting contact with their other parent, you are actually protecting them by minimizing the potential for conflict.

Targets of high-conflict personalities need to accept that it isn’t wise to be “authentic” with their ex. Strategic, limited disclosures and iron-clad boundaries are essential tools in managing a high-conflict divorce. While it may seem paradoxical, true authenticity comes from holding on to one’s sense of self while gracefully disengaging from a narcissist.

Brutalised in head and heart

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Being badly abused as a child it leaves us open to being abused as an adult.

Brutalised around the head and the heart, crushed so frequently round the soul.
Constantly being told they were worthless
Always being told they were no good
Never trusted with anything
Never allowed to explore their own person
Not being allowed to fit in to where they were supposed to feel safe

Where does that leave a man who was brutalized in the head and heart as a child? It leaves them open to being abused by the next woman who comes along as soon as he leaves his mother.
Abused so badly that he could put up with her cheating and lying even though he knew she was doing it.
Put up with her abuse of how stupid he was, even though he was smart enough to move quickly up the corporate ladder without even going to university like the said abuser.
Put up with her getting rid of his baby because it inconvenienced her successful life (maybe because it really belonged to her lover who was married to someone else, even though she told him it was his).
Put up with her telling him to buy a house with him because it convenienced her.
Put up with her wanting a baby and making plans for a shotgun wedding so she could give up work and live off him.

Put up with her deciding she no longer wanted to be a mother and him having to organise to work from home to look after the two children while she wallowed in her own self pity and went out and did her own thing with his money.
Put up with her going out a couple of nights a week while he stayed and fed, bathed and put the children to bed.

Put up with her stealing his children, his flesh and blood, away from him.

Father’s Day – part 2 (thank you)

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This Father’s Day was slightly different. So much going on, the pain my husband feels over not seeing his own children and the fact I can’t stand watching any commercial TV helped me forget there even was one coming anyway, despite the fact I know it can’t be long after my own father’s birthday in August.
The Father’s Day stall snuck up on me, but because my children aren’t into commercialism that much either, they didn’t even remind me.

A present for dad, a present for other dad and one for grandpa were purchased or made by the kids with the school activities.

My mother had already asked to have my children for the weekend as she hadn’t caught up with them for sometime. So when she asked I didn’t even think about it being Fathers Day weekend (also the children’s birth father hadn’t mentioned it, or asked to see them). “Of course, sounds great.”

My husband and I had some quiet time, just pottering round the place and enjoying the first warm sunshine we have had in months.
I rang my dad to say happy Father’s Day, who chuckled when I said, “I got you some grand kids for the day”
My husband also chatted happily away to his father who lives a fair way away. Which made me feel good that at least it could take some of the sting of the day out of it for him to focus on someone else.

Every Father’s Day is like another dagger that reminds him of when she stole his own two children from him. The lies his ex-wife tells to them about him are extraordinary. He used to be just about the sole carer of them before 3 years ago, as she was never able to cope with the children, saying she didn’t want to be around them. A different situation when she made up her mind to use the kids against him.

When the children arrived home later Sunday evening they rang their birth father.

(Even though things didn’t work out the way we originally planned, I still love the gift of children he gave me.)

He said to me, “Thank you for getting them to ring. I really appreciate it.”

When was the last time you let anyone else enjoy the wonder of your children’s happiness and smiles and love?

Father’s Day

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When I first moved with my children to another town, after I had told their father I was going to move, we were going to continue to keep the same visit arrangements.

When I asked the before the first visit what would be the best way to catch up, he told me his car had broken down. So I said, that’s ok, when its better let me know and well catch up again then.

The next visiting date something else came up. The children were asking me why I wasn’t taking them to see their father. That was a curly one!
So I rang him to find out how we could come up with a better arrangement and he told me not to contact him anymore.

The children asked me again when were they seeing him. All I could tell them was I couldn’t contact him, couldnt get through to him, on the phone.

So the first Father’s Day cme around that they hadn’t seen their birth father. It was also the first Fathers Day that my partner had not seen his own children, but his reason was because his ex had refused to let him see them.
So between the children asking me about cards and me trying to think of how to make my partner feel better, I just told the children, so well make the cards for new dad!

We made him breakfast in bed and littlies felt like they had someone to celebrate. We all had a great time.

I know we will never replace the children he lost though.

Early the next week the children’s father called me and said he wanted to see them.

People who have never been isolated from their own flesh and blood will never understand a parent will never get over the pain of not having them in your life…

Starting out co-parenting

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The first stages of co-parenting were quite hard to negotiate. Lots of raw emotions.
Going to see someone to help us write out a plan, or schedule the first time was confronting, but well worth the effort, as it helped us to see objectively the needs of the children, not just our own. But also how one person alone would not get all their wants and needs met and both sides were printed, plain as day, to refer to.

Putting the plan in action was a little more difficult as both of us were still sorting out our own stuff and trying to comes to grips with how different everything had become.

There were nasty things said to each other with our hurts so close to the surface. Things, that when you’re really over tired, are hard not to let slip. The frustration of the whole situation falling hard around you.

Things to do with tiny children that were out of my control, illness, school stuff, car maintenance, just basic necessity.

Loving father

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Bringing children into our lives seemed to be something my husband wanted more than anything.
I was reluctant and scared at first, but I observed him really taking a great interest in his brothers children and seemed quite helpful. I watched his doting looks as he admired his first baby niece.
What a loving father he will be, quite attentive, I thought.

We talked about how we would bring up children and we both seemed to come to agreements that our goals were similar.

How did that reality go so wrong?

I tried to be perfect with my first baby, do everything, let hubby sleep when he needed to…

Somewhere down the track of being completely tired and having another child in my belly and being so overwhelmed with what was never supposed to be my life, he left.

Having me not being so bubbly and being able to do everything for him became a hassle.

The first stages of his trying to take his first born child for a play was completely too much for him. As I slept being pregnant with my second, I awoke to find him looking distraught sitting on the end of the bed.
“I just can’t do it! I can’t look after little one. Every time I look at her I feel horrible about myself”

I held him while he cried, but I was the one in need of support. He left me with them again.

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