The Adult Child and a Difficult Ex – Parenting

Last week, I stopped by to visit a friend who used to live down the street from my old house. She said that my daughter has been hanging out with her daughter. My friend was conflicted about discussing this information with me, but she felt as a mother, I should know.

Apparently, something happened between my daughter and her stepmother where she was told that she has until next May to move out. Something to do with dishes being left in the sink and her stepmother began counting them and said she owed her $10 for ten dishes. Obviously this is all word of mouth and I just wish my daughter felt comfortable enough to share this information directly with me. There is also probably more to this story than the situation with the dishes.

My friend said it seemed like she may not want to acknowledge that things weren’t working out so well. That maybe I was more right than I was wrong two years ago when she choose to move in with my ex-husband. My daughter is unaware of my ex-husband’s financial motivations. She believes it was her choice or that he did it for her. She doesn’t know his ulterior motivations.

Unfortunately, I strongly believe that my ex-husband only sued me for custody of a near adult for two primary reasons:

  1. Get out of paying the max child support for 18 months
  2. Hurt me and force me to incur added attorney/court expenses

Unfortunately, I do not believe any of this ever had to do with my daughter. My ex-husband spent years manipulating our daughter, asking her questions, pitting her against us, and making her feel like our rules were extreme. He fostered a permissive environment with few boundaries and limitations. Once her counselors described his home as one of “excess”.  So whenever she returned home, she would often be deflated and miserable to come back to rules and the structure we tried to maintain in our home.

My ex and his wife often used manipulation and other tactics to make our daughter feel at odds with her stepfather and stepsister. Unfortunately, some of this had more to do with my ex-husbands insecurity than anything. For example, telling her things like “He isn’t your real father.” or “You only have one father.” My experience with my ex-husband was that you learned how to behave to avoid his reactions. I actually used to believe I could piss him off or prevent him from getting pissed. My ex’s rules are not always clear or verbally stated out-loud, but you knew how to follow these rules never-the-less. Plus, these rules were often subject to change or pop out of nowhere. No matter what you did or didn’t do he was likely to get pissed. What an excellent way to keep you off-balance or unsteady.

He did his best to make her believe that her stepfather and stepsister were against her. Some of this was due to my ex-husband’s insecurities and being threatened by my husband.  So, it does not give me much of a reason to believe his goals actually had to do with our daughter. My ex-husband has exhibited narcissistic behavior over the years. Plus, he often tells lies or makes attempts to rewrite history.

Apparently, he was also discussing our sex-life with our daughter. It sounds like he said these things to paint me in a bad light. Saying I slept with him right away. First of all, I seriously doubt I did that because that type of behavior would have been very out of character for me. Still, why is he discussing this type of information with our daughter? This was literally two decades ago, so what does it matter today.

He also told her that the only reason he got custody of her is because he could see how depressed she was over here. First of all, could some of her depression, anger, and acting out have to do with being in the middle of a high-conflict divorce? Could the fact that she had two parents not working together on any issue be frustrating and confusing? In fact, I would go so far to say that he and his wife worked against us most of the time. Their actions were definitely not in the best interested of our daughter. No child should have to deal with all of that crap. Maybe my responses were not perfect all of the time, but I certainly did not want to manipulate or her or make her choose sides.

Over the weekend, I had a discussion with my husband about this information. He said that they really have not been full-time parents for all these years. Surely this was a culture shock for them to go from weekend parents to 100% full-time parents. Plus, my ex-husband did not appear to change anything about his life, and so this probably affected his wife the most. Perhaps she was use to taking care of all his needs and now she had an extra person to pick up after. It sounded like my ex-husband continues to frequent his bars and clubs. Plus, it seemed like my ex-husband continued to focus on me for all these years, could that be pissing his wife off?

Additionally, my ex-husband may have saved some money on 18 months of child support payments, but they picked up a ton of other expenses. Start with the lawyer’s fee, new ‘used ‘ car payment, insurance for a teen, pulled out two of her teeth. Plus, he let her bleach her hair blonde and all the other additional expense that go along with young girls. My ex-husband sold her on believing how easy it would be to live there and it seems like she has less control and freedom two years later. If you start parenting when your kid is over 18, you missed the boat.

Although last May, my daughter did get caught in a lie and my ex blew up at her and his wife ignored her for three week. I wrote about this situation in Rising Above Parental Alienation and the Narcissists. On this day, my daughter chose to share some information with me. Since May, she has been forbidden to come to the city where I live. He claims it is because he does not want her to see a particular friend. Our daughter is now 19 1/2 and has a full-time job. It is time to allow her to make decisions on her own as an adult.

We do not tell our other adult child where or with whom she can or cannot visit. There are certain ground rules. If she is going to come home really late, we just ask her to call so we do not worry. Some of our rules are that she cannot drink and drive. She does contribute to insurance part of a room. Plus, we added in a small portion of the utilities. Actually, adding the utilities led her to make the decision to cut her cable. If we had not added utilities, she would probably have been happy to keep cable. Our primary goal is to help her prepare to leave our house and be ready to take on her own bills.

Anyway, I will not share this information with my daughter. Obviously she has decided she is not ready to share this with me yet. She has her reasons. She may need more time to process and establish trust. She also will need years to sort out all this mixed information she has been told for all these years. One day, I hope she will discuss this with me because I am not so sure she will be ready to live on her own by next May. My ex-husband has promised to help her, but he has never been good at keeping his promises.

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