I’m a divorced man in my mid-40s with two teenage daughters.
Though my ex-wife and I are supposed to have joint custody, which we had both agreed on, the two girls spend at least 80 per cent of the week at my place, and still constantly refuse to spend time with their mother.
She and I have tried to stay amicable after the divorce and we’re each doing okay on a personal level. My ex is not a nasty person, and I know for certain that she has never abused either of our daughters.
It’s not clear to us why they are so extremely angry with her. They’re also frequently feeling miserable and behaving badly.
How do I help my daughters?
Talk to them, gently, and separately. Don’t put ideas in their heads, but ask if there’s something their mother has done that makes one or both of them so angry with her.
They’re both old enough to be told clearly that, while neither you nor their mother wanted them to be so unhappy, but you both agreed the divorce was necessary and you’d both work hard to make it okay for them too.
Ask each, then, why they can accept having a full relationship with you and not with her.
You may not get answers – and they have a right to stay silent – but you may hear a clue as to why she’s the “bad guy” in their minds.
Do not push this conversation too far. It takes time for teenagers to come to terms with an involuntary major change in their lives.
They naturally want to focus on their own lives, wants/needs and freedoms, not on those of their parents.’
Perhaps they felt it was their mother’s duty to keep the family together, no matter what. Also, it’s possible they made a pact to punish her this way.
Still, one or both of them may, eventually, show a willingness to talk to a professional counsellor.
Introduce that idea without pushing it as something they must do now.
Then, show them you can still behave as dual parents and suggest that you and your ex see a therapist together to discuss how to handle your daughters’ rejection of their mom.
Readers’ Commentary Regarding the woman whose boyfriend “loves and cares for me” but has a sex problem (August 13):
Reader – “There’s a real issue here that’s being overlooked. To me that's a dangerous statement for women (or men) to make, e.g. it’d be more appropriate if she said/felt, “he supports me and my decisions.”
“But instead, he insists that he's right about everything in his life, especially their sex problem.
“It’s a major red flag. Many people in newer relationships write this behaviour off as she did. Until, unchecked, the behaviour becomes more controlling and extreme.
“He’ll always be right and she’ll always take a backseat, especially if kids come along.
“For him to not discuss his constantly premature ejaculation also shows that his gratification is more important to him than satisfaction for his lover.
“If he doesn't seek help or discuss it like an adult, she should ditch him because it's only going to get worse.
“So many people seem so desperate just to be with someone, even after counselling doesn't work, that they want to cling to someone with whom they’re very unhappy.
“Counselling should be for the woman to discover why she accepts such behaviour.”
Both my older and younger sisters are separated and in new relationships. I was close to both but the couples are now together every weekend.
I’m happily married (12 years) with three children, so past partying mode.
I suggest doing things that include everyone. But at my birthday get-together it slipped out that they’d gone out the night before and didn’t invite me and my husband.
They always say it was last minute, unplanned.
How do I get past this? We’re only invited for holidays/birthdays.
I feel isolated.
The Middle Child
Drop the self-imposed label of being “isolated” in the middle.
They’re in the throes of something new, and it’s all about them, not you.
So, say that you do want to join an occasional party night with them.
Arrange a lunch or brunch when you three can be together (invite all the children if necessary).
Find sister-time occasions – all three to mani/pedis, or a spa visit. Make it appealing, and they’ll come.
Tip of the day:
Teenagers rejecting a parent post-divorce need gentle encouragement toward professional therapy.