06-01-2021 02:33 PM - last edited on 06-01-2021 04:24 PM by Janine-RO
I separated from my ex 9 years ago and have been divorced for nearly 7 years. My ex has narcissistic traits and even admitted once that he puts himself first (thinks that makes him a better parent). This means he often lets my kids down and can be quite aggressive in the way he responds if anyone challenges him or calls him out on anything. My son (now nearly 18) was really angry with me for the first few years follow the split but has since said to me he thought I did the right thing in leaving. He has accepted the way his Dad is and knows what to expect from him. My daughter (now 16) however, who has always been challenging, suffers most deeply from her Dads behaviour and I have often had to pick her up early amidst a flood of tears when she has felt betrayed and hurt.
I always seem to be mopping up the mess he leaves behind. I have had to bite my tongue and have done my best to avoid criticising him except where I have supported her decision to leave him by agreeing that his behaviour was unacceptable. I run myself in rings trying to make up for his shortfalls and make sure I am there whenever she needs me (the same with my son of course). But, I really struggle because my daughter criticises almost everything I do, criticises the state of my home (I work full time and have an elderly father to look after too. I also prioritise time with the kids over housework), so much about me that at times I feel she really does not like me. She constantly chides me like I am a child. She loves cooking but won't cook anything at my house but is so difficult to cook for. However, she is always cooking at her Dads and I am always hearing about it.
Her Dad is a neat freak but he also has his Mum who cleans for him and he is a shift worker with much more time to keep his house clean. My daughter is very protective of him and if I go over to his to drop anything off for the kids or anything else she gets very hostile if I don't ask permission before I go to the bathroom or go to the upstairs room where my son hangs out etc. She has no such issues with her Dad walking in here and going where he likes. She is like a puppy with her Dad. She gets kicked and runs away but as soon as he offers a treat she comes running back and bares her teeth at anyone she thinks might get in the way.. and that it seems is me. So I am wanting to know if anyone else has experienced this and how you have managed?
06-01-2021 04:46 PM
HI @June68 ,
That sounds like a really complex situation, and I can hear how hard you are working to manage a relationship with a really difficult ex partner, and your young people and their emotions. I can hear that you have a lot of insight into what might lie underneath your ex's behaviour - but I can also acknowledge that having some level of understanding of things like narcissistic traits doesn't mean that it's any easier to cope with. It sounds really tough, and I feel for you a lot.
I'm also a parent whose child has an absent biological father and all of the associated complexities that come with that, so I can really empathise a lot with what you're facing.
One piece of advice that I was given when my eldest was having a rough time was that I needed to remember that I couldn't regulate her emotions for her- that didn't mean that it was OK for her to act terribly, but it reminded me that our teens aren't as capable of regulating their emotions as we are as parents. So when I focus on regulating my own feelings and reactions in a situation, it does seem to help calm things down.
I'm also hearing that you are doing a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of having to compensate for your ex's behaviour - mopping up someone else's mess is exhausting, draining and sometimes thankless work in my experience. I have also been there, unfortunately.
But you are also doing a wonderful thing for your children in providing them with stability, consistency, and at least one parent who is reliable and meets their emotional needs. Unfortunately it also means that you may also bear the brunt of their frustrations, or in the case of your daughter, even experience hostility.
The dynamic where your daughter also sees herself as her dad's protector also sounds really hard for you to navigate.
We do have some content pieces that might be helpful, that have been developed with experts in this area
I also wanted to ask if you have any support for yourself to help you navigate this really difficult and fraught dynamic? A skilled counsellor can be a wonderful ally and you also deserve to feel supported.
Finally I did also want to say, that children , and young people, often act out the most to the people who make them feel the most loved and secured. The fact that your daughter has been treated in such an inconsistent and unpredictable manner by your ex may mean she doesn't feel secure enough to express her anger to him -but she knows that you love her unconditionally. So, she can express that to you. It can be heartbreaking as a parent to be faced with that kind of anger and hostility I know
If you think it would be helpful to get some one on one support, we do have a parents one on one support service you can access here - it's totally free of charge and available to all parents and carers of young people aged 12-18 in Australia.
I can also vouch for Relationships Australia as a great place to start for skilled family counsellors.
We are always here to listen, and I hope that talking a bit about what's been happening for you has been helpful- being a sole parent can be really lonely and isolating sometimes I know.
Do you have any activities that you enjoy/ do for yourself to give yourself some time to recharge?
06-02-2021 02:40 PM
Thank you for your letter of support. The reminder that I can regulate my responses instead of focusing on the fact that I can't regulate her behaviour was just what I needed. That will help me a lot and hopefully also help to diffuse situations.
I do do things for myself when I can but it is hard to find the time and it's often rushed. However, I do do what I can.
I was seeing a counsellor but I haven't of late. Luckily I have many great friends.
Thank you again