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Hi, I'd like to help you with your question.
Your hurt over the relationship your children have with their father is understandable. He was abusive and it sounds like he never took ownership of what he did and tried to make amends. He left you with the children and did not do his part to help raise them. Not wanting to be around him or see him is completely within your rights. You are under no obligation to do so, either.
However, your children see it differently. I have no doubt they care deeply about you and probably understand pretty well what you feel about your ex husband. But you have moved on with your life and they need to too. In their point of view, this is their father. Even when abused children still, in most cases, gravitate towards their parents as adults. Very few children have the ability to cut their parents off completely. And your ex may have apologized to them at sometime (they could tell you if this is so or not). They developed a relationship with him that they did not have as children. The benefits of that relationship may outweigh what happened in the past. This does not mean in any way that they care less about you. They just also care for their father.
The issue here is not so much what they are doing but how you still feel about what your ex did to you. If you have not had a chance to work out your feelings, you may still feel the same as you did when you were in your marriage with your ex. You can carry those feelings for years without resolution.
Have you considered talking with a therapist to work on your feelings? A therapist can help you pinpoint exactly how you feel about what happened to you and help you find ways to heal. It doesn't mean it won't still hurt, but it will be much more manageable and you can finally feel free from the marriage you had with your ex.
To find a therapist to help you, try talking with your doctor about a referral. Or, if you attend church, your pastor can help. Also, you can search on line at http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/.
You can also help yourself. Try some of these resources to get started:
Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse by Ann McMurray and Gregory L. Ph.D. Ph.D. Jantz
Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence: A Workbook for Women (New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook) by Edward S., Ph.D. Kubany, Mari A. McCaig and Janet R. Laconsay
Do your best to not express your feelings to your children. You want to avoid having them feel they have to hide their relationship with their father. It is ok, however, to let them know you appreciate the relationship they have with him but they are not obligated to tell you what they do with him. That way, you have time to work on your feelings without the fear of being re injured each time you hear about your ex.
I hope this has helped you,Kate
Thank you for the additional information about your relationship with your daughter. It helps me get a clearer picture of the situation.
It sounds like the situation is a bit more complicated. You feel that her planning the party was a direct disrespect of you because your daughter did not ask you first before she planned the party. Has there been a history of a bad relationship between the two of you? If so, then this would explain your feelings about the relationship she has with her father.
If she did plan this and intentionally excluded you, then this is more about the problems between you and your daughter. She should not be using the feelings you have about your ex and your marriage against you. If she includes her siblings, then she is trying to have it look like they are all against you. Not a good way to handle things.
Is she willing to come to counseling with you? It is probably the best way to work this out between the two of you. You can try talking with her without therapy, but if she feels hostile towards you, it may not get very far. But you can still try. If you decide to, try using "I" statements, such as "I feel the party was about hurting me" for example. Hopefully she will be willing to work this out. If not, try therapy. It will help you both settle this and become closer as mother an daughter.
It is good that you continue to clarify the situation for me. I appreciate it. It is hard to see the whole picture with just the information that can be explained in a question, so the additional information helps.
Yes, it does sound like your daughter has a strong personality. It is good, however, that you continue to try to work things out with her. Sometimes it's just a matter of sticking to it and letting time move on. People mature with time and see things differently. Hopefully, this is the case with your daughter. A deep breath and moving ahead is sometimes the best option.
Try your best to stay neutral when dealing with her. I'm sure you have been doing your best but sometimes the stress can get to you, especially when she does something like excluding you from everything when you can't make it to an activity. Although you can't do much to change her, reacting the best way you can will help her see that she can't get to you as much as she'd like. It will also help your other children to see how you handle the situation so when they have the same kind of encounters with her, they can remember how you handled it.
Still, keep the idea of counseling in the back of your mind. If you feel that the relationship takes a downturn at any time, a counselor can help you overcome the problem and get back on track with each other.