Miracle of Miracles…A Civil Conversation with My Ex

Submitted by: Erica

I actually had a cordial conversation with my ex last week. It took 7 years, a big crisis, and my daughter’s therapist being away for the summer for it to happen. 

Here’s some background. I’m 66 and my adopted daughter is 11, my ex husband is 14 years younger than me. Why did I adopt a child at age 55? A misguided attempt to keep my marriage together.

Of course the opposite happened. The stress broke up my already shaky marriage. I was much too old to deal with a baby, especially a hyperactive baby like my daughter, who had been drug exposed in utero. 

My ex and I fought constantly about what he saw as my “selfishness,” because I expected him to do the lion’s share of parenting. A “friend” from the office who had been in love with him for years saw her opportunity and she pounced.

The woman he left me for is ten years younger than him. They were much better able to supervise my emotionally disturbed daughter than I was, so at age seven she left to live with them. She kept visiting with me but to make a long story somewhat shorter, the conflict between me and them escalated as my daughter acted out more and more with me, and they blamed me for her problems. 

My daughter finally wound up in a psychiatric hospital and in special ed. They badmouthed me to her more and more as time went on, and I accused them of parental alienation which they denied. Things got so ugly and heated that we started communicating only through the therapist who ran her Special Ed program. 

I didn’t see my daughter for an entire year-at her request. The therapist said she couldn’t handle the conflict between the two families and since she was living with them, and more dependent on them, she felt my daughter had to choose.   

Her therapist ran interference between them and me very skillfully, so my daughter and I started visiting again six months ago. Things were going well until this summer.

Of course school is out in the summer, so there was no one to run interference. My daughter, who may be emotionally disturbed but is also extremely intelligent, is no slouch at playing both ends against the middle.

She told me a bunch of stuff that they said that really pissed me off, so I wrote one of my famous inflammatory emails to my ex. He calls them “toxic” emails. Things went downhill from there. The kid got furious at me for revealing her secrets and refused to visit with me again.

They actually talked her into changing her mind, and she did make one visit, but got furious for another reason and stalked out, saying she didn’t want to come back. At this point there was no therapist to talk to so I had to call my ex.

The ex and I actually had a civil conversation where we both expressed bewilderment about what was going on with her, and we both agreed that she was better off not visiting with me until the fall when she had the support of her special ed program and therapist. 

We discussed the parental alienation issue and he said, “do you really think I did that?” He obviously was totally clueless and in denial about the whole thing. I said, “I don’t think you did it intentionally, but yes, you did it.”  

Actually it was much more her stepmother than him who did the badmouthing but I didn’t want to get into that. Anyway we had an agreeable talk, I apologized for the toxic emails, and he said he’d contact me if she changed her mind and wanted to see me.

I am very sad about not seeing my daughter for God knows how long yet again, but I think it’s best for her. I’ve been harboring a huge amount of rage against him and his wife for years, and all of a sudden it’s gone. I finally realize they did what they did and the damage has been done, there’s nothing I can do about it now but accept it. I feel a whole lot better not being angry although I can’t say I’ve a come to a place of forgiveness yet.  

I will write more about forgiveness in the future.