Of the many things that fathers from broken marriages endure, guilt can be one of the worst. There is guilt from the breakup of the family and from being removed from the daily lives of their children.
Worse than that, when the father comes from an abusive relationship, that guilt becomes a weapon used against him by the ex-wife. She uses it to extract money and cooperation, to continue her endless punishment of him for “failing” as her husband. She even trains the children in the same tactics, who often learn to manipulate and control the absent father in similar ways to their mother.
While this is typically the way these men have were treated while they were still married, it significantly worsens after the divorce resulting in alienation and often spilling over into whatever future relationships he might have.
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Counseling with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. Coaching individuals through high-conflict divorce and custody cases is also an area of expertise. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for more information.
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Thanks for this information, Paul and Dr. T.
Question: Wouldn’t family therapy be one possibility for mending a tainted relationship between a divorced father and his programmed-to-be-resentful children? By family therapy, I mean the dad and the kids — not the ex.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
It would, if you can get Crazy to agree to it and not interfere. Or, the court to order it and enforce it without Crazy’s interference.
I have been reading articles on your site for the past several years in regards to having been in an abusive marriage for over 15 years. Reading your blog entries helped me understand the abuse that had occurred in my marriage and why I put up with it for so long. Fortunately I got away about 5 years ago but am still recovering from the damage that she did.
Today’s webcast in regards to daddy guilt motivated me to join and comment. My ex’s alienation of my daughter from me is textbook. My ex has absolutely no respect for me and she has taught my daughter that this is how I am to be treated. I am not worthy of being respected as a human being, let alone as her dad. The sad part is that in looking back I can see that she was teaching her this while I was still living with them.
I made the choice about 2 years ago (when my daughter was 16) to walk away from trying to be in my daughter’s life. I went through the courts to get mandated reconciliation counseling with my daughter in the hopes that given the opportunity to work through things we could recover what we had. But you can’t work around crazy and her mom simply manipulated the counselor and the system to make the fact that I was forcing her into counseling to be yet another reason to hate me. The constant conflict in trying to figure out how to make the father/daughter relationship work was so destructive that it led me to the choice to step away.
As you describe in your webcast, there was a sense of relief which was quickly followed by a sense of guilt for feeling good when I finally walked away. I told my daughter very clearly that I wanted her in my life, but that I was going to not continue forcing the issue but that when she was ready I would be here for her. However, until hearing today’s podcast, I had struggled with how to share with people who ask about her the reasons for making that choice. I told my daughter that I was giving her peace by not continuing the constant conflict. In reality, I was saying to myself that I am not going to be disrespected by her and her mom by letting them control me. Of course, my decision has been thrown back in my face as abandoning her. Funny how she can tell me to leave her alone and stay away from her, but when I choose to do exactly that it becomes me abandoning her. Today I am a better man for not putting up with the disrespect from them.
I have been blessed by marrying a healthy wonderful lady. She has put up with a lot of crap from my past but has also helped me see that I deserve to be treated with respect. We discussed at length continuing the fight with my ex for my daughter. After hearing today’s webcast, I believe that my decision to walk away probably saved my current marriage from irreversible damage. I am loved deeply by both my wife and her son and respected by both and I want to protect that for the long future that we are planning on having together.
Thanks and keep up the good work.