Dealing with a psycho ex. Advice needed.

Many of you know the background story to my current saga. I’m now engaged to a man that has a 9 year old daughter from a previous relationship. The mother of said child is, well, a bit of a psycho. That’s actually being generous. The woman is a total nutjob, or, “waste of space” as I like to put it. Along with acceptance and love, she is also teaching her daughter to manipulate those around her, to not respect either of her parents and to not accept personal responsibility for anything.

But I digress. The mother and I had some email correspondence a few months back. To my credit, I stayed cordial throughout the entirety of said correspondence, while the mother more than let loose with the Crazy. Now, the daugther desperately wants her mother and I to get along. She’s always trying to concoct some plan to get us in the same room so we can officially meet (it’s been over 2 years and that has never happened, mostly because she’s threatened to physically attack me if such a meeting were to ever occur) and is always telling us both things we have in common.

Last weekend, the daugther suggested I email her mother telling her she’s “pretty and nice” to open the lines of communication. I sat down the daughter and told her that I had indeed done such a thing, to no avail. I told her exactly what I had told her mother (namely that I knew we’d never be friends but that I hoped, someday, we could at least be cordial to one another for her daugther’s sake) and that her mother wanted no part of it. I offered to show daughter my emails, but could not show her her mother’s, as they were inappropriate (that should say it all, right there.)

Of course, daughter immediately confronted mother as soon as she got home. After mother called my fiancee screaming about how I was “brainwashing” her child (to her, the actual truth, as opposed to her usual lies, constitutes “brainwashing”), all seemed quiet.

Then the finacee goes to pick up daugther last night. Apparently, mother told daugther that we could not be friends because “daddy cheated on mommy with lezlers” and that, if it wasn’t for me, mommy and daddy would still be together and they’d all be one big happy family. Now, this is a COMPLETE lie. My finacee and the psycho had not lived together for two years prior to he and I starting to date and when they were together, their relationship was of the dysfunctional freakshow variety. Of course, this all happened too long ago for daughter to remember. She also told daughter I wrote the mother a slew of horribly mean emails and was harassing her (again, I was the one who ended our correspondence and did not return a call to my voicemail calling me a whore.)

Daughter and I were doing really well the past few months. Hell, she’s been nicer to me than to my finacee! She was being respectful to me (while being horribly disrespectful to her mother) and we were having a great time. When we told her we were getting married, she was drawing cute little pictures of all of us getting married. Now, I am The Devil. She has barely spoken two words to me and when she does speak to me, it’s with total distain. I don’t want to sit her down and try to tell her the truth again, because she doesn’t deserve to be in the middle of all of this drama. However, I am livid that the psycho is telling her these blatent lies in a desperate attempt to get her daughter to hate me. I’m even MORE livid that it seems to be working.

My fiancee has tried to tell his daugther that what her mother told her isn’t true, but she’s too young to really understand why her mother would lie to her like this.

So, those of you that have made it through this mini-novel, any advice on what I can do to minimize the damage here? Daughter and I are spending a lot of alone time together this weekend, and I can’t deal with this attitude from her. She wouldn’t even let me hug her goodnight last night. I’m sure some Dopers have been through similar situations. How did you handle it?

Her father needs to find a pediatric psychologist or counsellor for her.

Oh, no doubt. She’s got clear emotional issues, she’s almost 10 and still wets herself sometimes.

I’d remove myself from the whole visitation thing and just let him deal with his daughter and hope it improves over time.

You can’t win and you can’t control what she tells her daughter. This is a situation that you really can’t do much about. I’d stop banging my head against the wall.

Well, it’s hard to remove myself from the “whole visitation thing” considering we live together and I’m the one taking care of her all day when her father goes to work (unfortunately, he works on the weekends and I don’t.) I spend more time with her than he does when she visits.

She’s thawing out a little bit, but it’s still quite obvious she’s got some serious issues with me. I know I can’t control what she tells her daughter, I’m not looking for advice on how to deal with the mother (no reaction seems effective), I’m looking for advice on how to deal with a child who apparently feels that I single handedly destroyed her family.

I think talking to the daughter about your e-mail exchange with her mom was a big mistake. You should have never discussed anything about her mom or your exchanges with her with the child. That just drew the child into the feud (with a “I said this, and your mom said that” situation), and put the mom on the defensive. The girl is just way to young to understand these situations. Maybe when she is 18 or 20, but 9??

I am in a similar situation. My boyfriend has three kids with a similarly crazy ex. She hates me for some unknown reason. She also has e-mailed me saying nasty things. I would never in 100 years say anything about that to the kids - even if they asked - or say anything negative about their mom to them, even though she is a nasty person. Saying something bad would just confuse the kids, make me look bad, and put the mom on the defensive. It’s a lose-lose-lose situation.

Family counselling and daughter counselling.

There is nothing you can do. Accept it. You cannot build a cordial relationshp with someone who does not want to do so. It’s impossible. I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is. If she wants to hate you, there’s no talking her out of it. Unreasonable people are not swayed by reason, after all.

It’s just not a good idea to talk to the child about her mother. She’s ten. She’s not going to understand all the issues, and it’s not right to bring her into it inthe first place. Her mother may decide to do so, but you should avoid adding to the girl’s stress and confusion. When she asks questions, simply say that you don’t want to talk about it and change the subject. If you don’t say anything at all about the mother (good or bad), then you’re depriving the mother of ammunition and the attenstion she so desperately craves.

This woman wants to upset you. She wants to be the center of attention and one of the major issues in your relationship with your fiancee. By trying to defend yourselves, you’re simply playing into her game.

The worst thing in the world you could do to this woman is simply to ignore her. When the daughter repeats something nasty Mommy said, simply reply, “I’m sorry she feels that way,” and change the subject. Don’t speak to her or communicate with her in any fashion other than what is strictly necessary. If she goes into a tirade, end the conversation. Don’t respond to any insults or accusations. Pretend you can’t hear them or that they’re beneath your dignity to acknowledge. Be ever-pleasant and never let her see you get upset.

Again, don’t bother to respond to this sort of thing. Essentially, the woman is using her daughter to argue with you. She’s probably sitting on the edge of her seat waiting until the kid gets home to find out how you responded to the things she coached her daughter to say.

What you need to do is ignore it. Take away her power. When the kid comes home to report on your response let her be crushed by the fact that all the girl can say is, “She just shrugged and said that it’s not something she cared to discuss. I told her you said that she was a man-stealing whore and all she said was that she was sorry you felt that way. Then we went to McDonalds.”

(Bolding mine.) This set off alarm bells with me. Are you allowing the girl to be disrespectful to her mother in front of you? Are you encouraging it? If so, stop it! That’s playing the mother’s game and I’m sure you’re a better person than that. Whenever the girl tries to curry favor with you by being disrespectful to her mother (which is what she is doing, no doubt) you need to say sternly that she should not talk that way about her mother. Even if what she’s saying is the truth, it doesn’t matter-- she needs to learn respectful behavior from *someone.

It’s not. Deep down, the girl knows that her mother is unstable, and it’s very frightening for her. She tries to win her mother’s approval by being nasty to you but when that doesn’t work, she swings to you to try the same thing.

No, you don’t need to sit her down and tell her the truth. At her age, she can’t handle the truth. What she does need is to see you always being calm, cordial and decent, no matter what wackiness her mother does. What she needs to see is that you never say anything bad about her mother and that you don’t respond in kind to nastiness. You need to be a role model for this girl, not indulge in these childish games.

So, why bother? If you’re good to her, the girl is going to care for you. As she gets older, she’s going to see the posion coming from her mother and get tired of it, especially if she doesn’t see the same coming from you. Kids are smart. They don’t always act like it, but they know when people are blowing smoke up their asses and they can see who’s being mean and who’s not.

Completely ignore it. Be pleasant and act as if everything is normal. If she won’t let you hug her, just smile and say “Okay, goodnight, honey!” and walk away as if it doesn’t even phase you. If you act as if nothing’s amiss, her hostile behavior will fade because it won’t be getting the desired result.

Lissa is wise. Please listen.

I agree, Lissa’s advice is excellent.
Have you talked to her dad about seeing a counselor? How did he react to that?

Yeah, I totally get that.

I know. However, I stand behind what I said to her last weekend. Daughter is constantly after me to make contact with her mother and can’t understand why we don’t talk. That’s why I told her. I wanted her to know that it’s not me who’s refusing to meet her mother, it’s her mother. I wanted her to know I tried everything I could do. I didn’t say anything nasty to her about her mother, I never have, no matter how tempting. Even when I told her about the emails, I just said I tried and that mommy wasn’t interested in meeting. I don’t think I did any harm there.

That’s true. But I’m human. If someone is telling a child that I am a homewrecker and ripped her family apart, I feel a need to defend myself. I do get what you’re saying, though.

That’s how I’ve been handling it the past two years. It seems to be working okay today.

I know she is. We always get an irate phone call the day after we bring her home, usually about stupid stuff, like me brushing her daughter’s hair.

Again, I haven’t said one mean thing to her about her mother, no matter how tempting.

No, no, never. I’ve never been around her and her mother. My fincee tells me about it when she’s not around. It’s just how she acts towards her mother when it’s just the two of them. Which is because her mother lets her do and say anything she wants. She doesn’t act that way with me because I do not tolerate it.

Yeah, girl’s got issues, unfortuantely.

I know it and that’ s how I behave, except the email conversation last week. It does get to be difficult, always having to be the bigger person in the face of all this irraturity and hostility, but I do.

You’re absolutely right.

And because you’re human, it might be wise to get some counseling yourself, to reinforce Lissa’s excellent advice. Stay focused. You’ll be tempted to behave badly in response to this maniac’s behavior from time to time. You’re human, as you say, and humans need support. Get some.

You can’t do anything about what she thinks without talking about her mother. So you really can’t do anything and hope when she gets older she decides for herself.

Can’t he take off weekends or make different arrangements to have her come over when he’s off? To be honest, if it were my daughter I wouldn’t appreciate the fact that on the days my daughter was supposed to spend time with her father she spent all day with his girlfriend. Who would watch her if you weren’t around? I can see wanting to have a relationship with her but your not going to given the personality of his ex-wife. It’s really unfair that you are in a situation where you are getting treated like an abused babysitter. I feel bad that your in this situation. Lots of new girlfriends/wives could care less about the ex’s kids, and it shows what a nice person you are that your really trying with this little girl.

I really hope it works out. It sounds like she could really use someone like you in her life, especially considering the type of mother she has.

Yes, you did. You made her mother the “Bad Guy” in her little dream scenario of you two getting together. You most definitely did some harm there.

See above.

Please engage a professional to help you understand how and why your behavior might be harmful to this child, even with the very best of intentions on your part, and to learn exactly what role you should take and what boundaries you need to respect so that she suffers the least emotional damage from this situation her parents have put her in. I wish you the best of luck – it’s not going to be easy.

It’s not that easy. In his job, the only work you really get is on the weekends this time of year. So if he takes every other weekend off, he’s really only working 4 days a month. Can’t really pay the rent with that type of schedule. It’s better in the summer, when there’s more steady work during the week, but for the winter? We just have to deal. If I’m not around, his mother watches her, who lives 10 minutes away.

We can’t get her during the week because her mother lives an hour and a half away. That’s a pretty long drive to and from school. I can see why Mommy Dearest doesn’t approve of the situation, but you know what? It’s this or no visits at all. I’m sure daughter would rather have late afternoons and evenings with Daddy than no time at all.

I can see it that way, I guess. I was more just trying to get her off my back and to quit making myself look like the bad guy. Her mother spends so much time lying to her, if I truly didn’t want to say anything that would escalate the situation, I’d pretty much have to go with the lies. THAT, I refuse to do. With the type of things her mother is always telling her, I found what I said to be mild beyond words. Looks like I’ll have to suck it up though, and react to all of these insane lies with zipped lips and a tight smile. Aint being a stepmom great?

Speaking as someone who grew up in a situation similar to your step-daughter (well, future step-daughter) never say anything which could even be interpreted as being negative about her mother. It doesn’t matter if you’re telling the truth or not, just don’t do it! She’s a little tape recorder and everything will get repeated back to her mother in a garbled form.

Given that she is incapable of understanding what led to the divorce, don’t even try to explain to her that it’s her mother who’s preventing the two of you from getting along. Just say something vague like the time isn’t right, and that you have to accomplish certain things in your life before the time will be right. Be vague about the reasons why or when it will be. Try to make everything as innocuous as possible (difficult, I know). As she get’s older, she’ll begin to understand that momma’s a nutter.

Also, encourage her to be respectful of her mother. If she’s staying with you for a long period of time, make sure she calls/writes her mother regularly (and you do it, not your fiancee). If she brags to about being disobedient towards her mother, gently indicate that you think that this isn’t something she should do.

Absolutely the worst thing you can do is allow your step-daughter to be a pawn in an emotional war between her mother and your squeeze. You can’t control psycho mom, of course, but you and yoru fiancee can sit down and talk about things when the little one is not around. The two of you have deflect anything nasty that your stepdaughter is fed by her mother. Don’t do it aggressively, don’t do it negatively, just treat it as a misunderstanding. (I’ll be the first to admit that this will be difficult.)

Your fiancee’s ex is obviously feeding off of the emotions in the situation. Anything you can do to stop the emotional exchange will decrease the friction in the situation. If psycho-mom figures out that telling the kid you’re a whore doesn’t get much of a response back, she’ll eventually tire of the “game” and move on.

My parents squabbled back and forth for decades after their divorce. What settled things down, finally, was that mom got herself a boyfriend to bang the cobwebs out of her coochie, and us kids decided that we weren’t going to be a part of it any more and that they were both nutters. (Well, mom less so after she got a boyfriend.)

Make sure that your stepdaughter knows you don’t intend to replace her mother and gently compliment her mother. If you need any more thoughts from someone who’s had a prospective similar to your stepdaughter’s let me know.

Ironically enough, I also grew up in a situation like this. My dad never really got over he and my mother’s divorce. He tried to tell me that my mother cheated on him with her boyfriend, which I believed for awhile. Finally, when he tried to feed me the same bunch of lies when I was 22, I called him on his B.S., finally realizing what a sad, lonely, bitter man he really is.

You guys are all right in everything you say. I shouldn’t have said anything to her about the emails and I was complimenting her mother this morning (there’s a stray cat who wants to adopt us, but we’re not entirely sure if he’s a stray or not so I went on a rampage about irresponsible pet owners who don’t put tags on their pets then let them outside. I asked if her dog at home had tags (knowing full well that he does), she said yes, and I told her that was very responsible and her mommy knew that was the right thing to do.) j

Then I didn’t say anything about the fact that the child comes to us smelling like piss every other weekend because she still wets herself and her mother sends her to our house with clothes that smell like piss- ugh!

Good for you! :slight_smile:

But damn, is mom doing anything about that? A 10-year-old is old enough to be embarrassed by wetting, and is also old enough to want to change out of those clothes before she goes anywhere.

Does she wet at your place?

The next time the kid tries to get you together with her mother, just say, “Sure! I’d like that. Let me know when your mom wants to come by” or whatever. Put the entire situation in mom’s court.

As everyone else has said, it will take time, but the daughter will eventually see the situation for what it is. In the meantime, you have to take the high road in all cases. If she doesn’t want to hug you, no biggie.

Occasionally my niece will smart off to her mother in front of me, and I say “Susie, please don’t speak to your mother like that.” You can do something similar – “Sally, please don’t speak about your mother that way.” Your boyfriend should do the same thing. Simply make it unacceptable to disrespect others in your presence. Hopefully it will rub off on her. “Mom, please don’t talk about Dad or Lezlers like that.” She’ll learn that the civilized approach is the best way to deal with people.

Good luck. It will get better. Just don’t give her a reason to believe the lies. She will learn to accept you for who you are rather than who her mom wants her to think you are.

How interesting - I’ve been really curious about why you’d put yourself through all of this misery. Now it makes sense.

One other thing you might want to consider is YOUR intentions. It’s been alluded to above, and I want to really emphasize this because I’ve found it so helpful myself – when you’re stuck and embroiled and it just doesn’t seem like you can do the “right” thing, really ask yourself what your intentions are. It can be quite illuminating. Sometimes our intentions extend far beyond the situation at hand.