When is it necessary to involve your kids? (MIL Issues)

Ok, so when is it okay to involve your kids in a divorce or failed relationship?

Let’s say you’re a mother. Let’s say you were married, oh, 17 years, and then got divorced.

Let’s say you get divorced when you have a 12 year old daughter and an 18 year old son. Is it okay to mail your court papers to your 18 year old son and ask him to reason with his father to work out something fair for you? Is it okay to subpoena your son and his girlfriend to testify against the ex in court?

Is it okay to send weekly, sometimes daily emails, detailing the unfairness of the court process and the legal abuse you must suffer at the hands of the father? Is it okay to constantly report back to the 12 year old and encourage her to record phone conversations you have with your ex while he isn’t aware his daughter is listening?

Let’s say, hypothetically, this goes on for 6 years, and now the daughter is nearly 18 and the son is 25.

If your ex threatened to throw you into jail for violating a custody order, how involved should your kids be? Can you call your 25 year old son and plead for him to help you stay out of jail? Does this answer change depending on whether or not you actually deserve to go to jail or not?

Is it okay to blatantly disregard your child’s repeated pleas to leave you out of it? Is it okay for you to approve and encourage when your 90 year old mother calls your son and bitches about how disappointed she is in his behavior because he is the only one who can save his family from the abuse of his father?

Here’s an important one – let’s say you, the mother, endured an emotionally and occasionally physically abusive marriage with the ex. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, the ex is now trying to destroy you financially. Does this fact justify involving your kids? Do you have a right for your emotional truth to be heard no matter how upsetting it is for your children to hear about it constantly? Are your children, in asking you to please leave them out of it, engaging in blaming the victim behavior?

And say you’ve repeatedly been told that your children are in no way denying the abuse you have suffered or the pain you’ve endured, they simply do not feel it is appropriate for them to be involved in your divorce or to hear about it constantly?

Is the following response batshit insane denial, or true justification:

*’'Anyhow, I remain that you are family members and just don’t want to know about bad things that have happened to us. Better to know the problems that are there than cover them up and have them seep into your lives in other ways - and I know as a therapist and from my own experience, that the things not faced and sometimes difficult to recognize can be very damaging and their very murkiness (from difficulty defining what went on or from denial) have far reaching effects.

I am staggered about the amount of money (ex’s wife) must have to keep up the living expenses, etc. I wonder how it is though to take money from someone in need and spend it on extras. I’m glad I don’t have to carry that one with me - karma or accountability to God.’’*

My final question – and the most important one – IF this is wrong, then how in the FUCK do I get this crazy bitch to leave me and my husband alone? We’ve tried everything from supportive loving kind requests to telling her she’s looney tunes and unfit to be a therapist. I would walk away in a hearbeat if it weren’t for the need to be supportive and a part of our sister’s life. At present I just set my email account to filter out all emails that contain ex’s first name.

I’m totally open to hearing that she is totally justified in this behavior, because I’m getting to the point where I’m starting to wonder if my husband and I are the dysfuncitonal ones for trying to silence the truth about her abuse. But I am also at my wit’s end. 6 years of this. The kid will be 18 in November, and it can’t come soon enough.

Thank you that will be all.

It seems to me that you are not so much in search of opinions as in a chance to vent.

Vent away.

IMO you are not the dysfunctional ones. My credentials (ha!) for saying this is I am the child of two divorces, and was divorced myself when my children were in their early teens. I chose not to use my children as go betweens–they didn’t ask for us to get married or to have them and they certainly didn’t ask for us to get divorced.

IOW our divorce was entirely OUR business. Yes, it affected our children but they weren’t the cause of any of our issues.

Sorry you have this going on. I think continuing to ignore the ex in this case is your best bet.

On preview, I don’t entirely agree with you tdn, I think she is looking to see if others can provide her with a rationale behind the ex’s behavior. I for one cannot.

So maybe this should have gone in MPSIMS.

Yes I need to vent, and yes, I believe I’m completely right, but I am also open-minded and I want people who are not involved to give their reasonably objective opinions. I am being generous about facts – we are assuming that her ex is currently doing everything within his power to destroy her life. This is the way she sees it, so I want to know, if her perspective is correct, is she therefore justified in involving us?

I know enough about the relativity of truth to be open to the possibility that my husband and I are not being fair to her. If that’s the case, I want that to be made clear. I need to get some objective perspective on this.

To me, the answer to the first question is absolutely not–son could maybe be asked to reason with this father, but the rest of it is NOT the son’s problem. And the answer to the second question is maybe.

But part of being a good parent means that you work out your issues with the other parent without involving your kids. Involve friends, siblings, therapists, lawyers, clergy, or whoever else may be appropriate but not the kids.

Unfortunately, not all divorced parents avoid involving their kids.

Also unfortunately, once you (general you) accept an unreasonable responsibility for someone else’s relationship, it becomes much harder to change the status quo. And after six years, good luck establishing an appropriate arm’s length distance from the parental divorce issue.

Beyond that, I’m seriously unqualified to answer any questions as my parents are still happily married.

ETA:Frankly I’m not sure that any amount of abuse from one parent to the other justifies making the problem the child’s problem–that’s what police and lawyers are for, not children–even Adult children. There’s some serious space between covering things up and pretending everything was kitttens and rainbows and examining every bad act in excrutiating detail. It sounds to me like the MIL is not acting in a way which is likely to be healthy for anyone involved with her.

I’m not clear on the relationships here - the person who is involving her kids so heavily in her divorce is your husband’s sister, olives? Regardless of her relationship to you, her actions are all extremely inappropriate. It is a difficult line to walk, validating abuse that kids may have witnessed or experienced and not dumping all your emotional baggage on them, but she needs to find that line - her kids are not her therapists, her lawyers, her process servers, her mediators, or anything but her children.

No, not his sister, his mother.

My mother-in-law.

We are the kids she will not leave out of it.

That’s fucked up, is what that is.

Grit your teeth and bear it until the daughter turns 18. My guess is, they’ll be so relieved they can get away from her, she won’t be able to use them anymore.

Do you have an opinion you are withholding because you think I’ll react unfavorably to it? I don’t want you to feel that way, if that’s the case. I’m sorry if I’m coming off as less-than-receptive. I’m just in a very negative, grouchy, bad energy sort of place right now. I am genuinely seeking opinions and solutions.

You MIL is as batshiat insane as mine. For that, I am sorry, no one should ever have to deal with that shit. It is a martyr complex – she needs someone to validate her victim status as often as possible. What we do with my MIL is to validate her before the need builds up too much in her – my husband calls her, listens to her whine and rant and feel sorry for herself for an hour or so about twice a week. When he remembers to do that, then she acts almost human the rest of the time. When she starts her little martyrdom act in front of me, rather than doing what I’d really like (get the hammer and ask if I can just pull her off the fucking cross), I turn it around on her, telling her “oh, I know, it’s so very hard but at least you have family here – I mean, <husband>, <kids> and I as well as your brother and sister – we all love you and are here for you. My family is all either dead or in another country. Count your blessings.” I can play up my victim status when I need to – and out-victim just about anyone still alive. It works for me. Perhaps it would work for you guys?

Or do what I have had to do with my own mother – delete her from accessing you and yours. Tell her she is not welcome to call, come by, mail, email or any other form of contact and if she does you will slap an restraining order on her. Either way, sorry you have to go through this – I know firsthand the suckitude of it.

Ah, mother/mother-in-law. Yeah, that truly sucks. Can you husband figure out where his boundaries are, and begin to defend them? Yes, it’s his mother, but no, she doesn’t get a free pass to make him miserable with what are, in the end, her problems.

Olives, I’m so sorry you guys are going through this. My parents went through a four year, acrimonious divorce when I was an adult (they’ve been officially divorced about a year and a half now, and I’m 29) and I’d always had a relatively decent relationship with both parents until after the split. Because of my dad’s behavior during their separation and divorce (and even still), I no longer have any sort of relationship with him and neither do my sisters. I even questioned whether or not to invite him to my wedding in March. He did a lot of the things you describe your MIL doing - playing the martyr, involving the children. It got to the point where I would no longer open an email from him but instead had the Superhero read them because he’d mention stuff I wanted to know about in between all the vitriol.

It sucks to be the kid in a divorce situation, no matter how old you are, I think. It sucks even worse when one parent decides it’s a good idea to get the kids involved. My dad sent nasty email after nasty email to my mom, copying my sisters and I, and sometimes would send nasty emails to us about our mom. And we knew she was in the right and he was in the wrong and everyone (except him, perhaps) would have been happier had they split up years before they did. The email you quoted sounded just like something my dad might have written - she feels you need to know about it/be involved so you know SHE IS RIGHT and your husband’s father is WRONG. Bringing up the therapist psychobabble is something else my dad did. It’s funny, I’ve never heard of anyone else having this sort of thing go on with divorcing parents before, but your story really struck a chord with me.

So hear this: You and your husband are not dysfunctional. She is not justified in her behavior. It is not right for your husband or her sister to be involved and I wish I could give you more advice. I hoped my dad would get better after the divorce was final, but he hasn’t, but I’ve chalked it up to his undiagnosed and unmedicated mental illness (I suspect he is bipolar) and resigned myself to the fact that I’ll never have the father I actually want. Once your husband’s sister turns 18, you probably won’t have to deal nearly so much with his mother. Until then, any way you can invite the sister for visits or do stuff with her that doesn’t involve your MIL?

It sort of goes in cycles. Most of the time we just delete the emails without reading them, or we skip any paragraphs that include mentions of the ex’s name. But every once in a while, we get emotionally into it. Last week was one of those times, because she kept pleading with my husband to keep her from jail, as if he had any control over it. He fired off an angry e-mail to his Mom last week (’‘this is really unnacceptable, just leave me out of it, I’ve talked to Dad a million times and nothing I say affects his decisions’’ etc) which prompted constant phone calls from his elderly grandmother to chastise him for abandoning his mother, which made us both even angrier, and I just wasted all weekend on a 9-cycle email war with this woman. She lured me in with guilt, about how sad she is about the timing of this since we’re moving away from one another soon, and how we’ll always be in her heart… I responded, she jumped on the opportunity to do the exact opposite of what we requested, and it just got out of hand from there

So this is really my fault – I let her hook me.

I just wanted to make sure that it’s okay for me to say ‘‘no’’, to walk away, to ignore her, to do whatever it takes, and that it doesn’t make me an insensitive, hypocritical meany to forget her. I feel a lot of guilt. I don’t have just anger for her, I also have love. She’s totally cool when it doesn’t have to do with her ex.

I wrote her an email this morning telling her I wasn’t reading her emails anymore and if she kept it up the long-term prospects for our relationship weren’t good. So hopefully I’m on the right track again.

What exactly is she asking you to do in the present? Are you able to tell her that you’ll do a deposition and then that’s it?

You’re lucky. My MIL told me that if I left my husband that she would have to raise my kids, because her son would kill me.

I don’t know what she wants us to do. She seems to think we have any control over what he does. Frankly if we did a deposition her ass probably would go to jail. There’s absolutely nothing we can do to help her short of lying under oath, which I refuse to do.

Yes, I’m very lucky I didn’t marry a violent man. He’s so totally worth his mother.

Oh, sorry, that’s not what I meant. He doesn’t have those tendencies, she was just trying to scare me into staying. (because a threat of course would make me want to stay)

I think the simplest thing would be to tell her that you would do a deposition for her, and that you wouldn’t lie about anything, including incident numbers 1 through 248.

Could I ask what could possibly be violated about custody on an almost 18 year old?

It’s a long story, but basically they are so incapable of working with one another over their daughter everything has been made into explicit court order. Daughter had a number of issues, she basically hates her father so much that she runs away every time she is forced to go over to his house and the police have been called multiple times. She has dissappeared for days at a time and would call us but refused to tell anyone where she was. I don’t want to get into details about her other issues, but she has them, and the courts have become involved. Currently she has an explicit court order not to use the internet (this WAS, by the way, totally not due to anything she did wrong, but that’s beside the point) and custody is explicitly court ordered. MIL was told if she kept her daughter from seeing ex, she would be held in contempt of court (or something equally bad, sorry I don’t know legalese.)

I’m not a lawyer, but me and my husband have both pretty much witnessed MIL blatantly ignore those court orders and encourage her daughter to do the same. So while MIL views this as unfair persecution, I have a hard time feeling very sorry for her.

So your MIL refuses to make her 17 almost 18 year old daughter spend time with a man that she hates and she’s going to go to jail for it? Ya know, it may be a pain in your ass but I kind of feel for your MIL. If her almost adult daughter really doesn’t want to spend time with this man I think it’s sort of nice that her mom is going to bat for her.

Everything else sounds like she’s bat shit insane, but if that’s your take on that particular situation, perhaps everything is coloured in the same way.

She wouldn’t hate him, though, if it weren’t for the MIL bashing him every freaking second she gets. Regardless of whether it’s fair or not, she’s breaking the law.

I’m sorry if that sounded glib, alice. It’s just that I’ve known my SIL since she was 12 – she had a grudge against her Dad to be fair, and a justified one, but she was also very torn and begged her Mom, often, not to talk bad about her Dad in front of her. She was ignored. I’ve watched this girl grow up, and the Mom has come to us for every single thing that goes wrong. So believe me, we’ve been there, sometimes at points feeling more like my SIL’s parents than the parents themselves. There is enough mud to sling on BOTH sides of the fence. SIL has every right to be angry with her Dad, but she treats him deplorably, no matter how he treats her. She’s absolutely awful to him, constantly, in public. She delights in his suffering and even punched a hole in his wall–it’s not healthy. We lived with my MIL and SIL at one point, and I had to move out because it was such a depressing environment. It’s a very sad situation, and when it makes me angry, it does so because it hurts my husband and my sister-in-law.