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Thank you for your question. I have a few questions myself before providing recommendations. First, how long has the parents been fighting? Has there been behavioral changes with the children? what are your expectations at this point on the marriage
my children are now 14 and 18. The pattern of our marriage has been that I take work assignments to avoid my wife's torrents and outbursts, thinking that I am better off away and so the kids do not have to witness/overhear the fighting. This has been the pattern for at least 10 years of the 20 we have been married
I do not fight back; I avoid conflict
Have you considered couple's therapy?
No. We are beyond that. We cannot agree on basic issues, financial strategy, etc. she blames me for everything. but her therapist tells her she's fine. Of course we are getting a divorce, but I was reading about Stockholm syndrome and it worried me that my wife is abusive (emotionally not physically) of my two daughters in persistent and subtle ways.
For instance tonight she text messaged me that my younger daughter does not trust me. There is no way for me to know what goes on when I am not home, and I worry that my daughter does not trust me because I have not stood up for her.
Have you spoke to your children about the pending divorce?
what do they think about this?
Yes, and they are both strongly in favor of it. They say they wish we divorced awhile ago.
Great! as long as you are open and truthful with your children, your relationship should not change.
Have you spoken to your soon to be ex regarding not talking bad about each other?
She swears she does not speak ill of me, but then tells me how bad the girls feel about me. I worry that they have no choice but to mimic her feelings.
she tells you that the girls are feeling negative towards you? Is that correct? Have you asked them directly about your worries?
Am I over-reacting by thinking they feel trapped emotionally to tow the line? Or worse, perhaps my wife has succeeded in estranging my younger daughter from me.
Whoops, to answer your question-- wife says younger daughter "can't trust her father." Then she says, "I swore that I would not tell you that she told me..."
I'm not sure if you are over-reacting, but I can see the conflict your soon-to-be-ex is causing by telling you this. I encourage you to speak to your younger daughter about how she felt about the divorce. Ask her if she has questions for you that you will answer if you felt comfortable in answering.
I will definitely talk with her. I just feel it is wrong to put her in the position of "taking a side," and that is what I am afraid she will think I am getting at. She's 14 and super smart, but I sense she is in pain-- not over the divorce-- but from the pressure cooker she is living in with my wife.
I don't want her to feel the same pressure from me as she seems to feel from my wife
Yes, let her know that you are there for her and that if she was not ready to ask you questions or talk to you about her current experience of living with mom, let her know you will be available whenever she is ready
Also, I suggest for you to check-in with her time-to-time to let her know you are available
I do frequently, but she is not responding or open to talk much on the phone. I believe she feels hurt by me but does not want to talk about it, or isn't able to define where it hurts and put it in words
Yes, please give her time...i know it is difficult for you to "wait and see" but she is grieving on her own. Have you considered family therapy?
I would do it for the girls. It may be the only safe place where they can talk to both of us without having to act for my wife. She has been in therapy and it has given her more confidence that her emotional outbursts are normal and that I am the one who is ill... etc.
Great! please consider family therapy if your daughter is not willing to speak to you about her concerns. Yes, therapy is a safe place to openly discuss issues that they may shy away from
My own guilt is that by avoiding open warfare with my wife, I have left my kids to deal with her and pay the price I avoid by working away for extended periods of time.
You fear that your daughters may be angry at you for thinking of yourself and not them
Yes, wouldn't you? I can get on a plane. I don't run away from them, I run away from my wife's tantrums. Besides telling my daughters how much I love them and will take care of their needs, what else can I say so they feel able to talk with me about their feelings?
You can tell them how guilty you felt for avoiding your wife by working and that you feel that you did not consider your daughters feelings.
and see how they respond
they may reassure you that you should not feel guilty or they may express their anger.
either way, you will know how they truly feel
I'll try that, especially the last part. Maybe they need to know/hear that I admit to that-- (even though my reasons were "honorable" to spare them all the turmoil.)
that is correct...tell them you did this so that you could avoid the turmoil your fights may cause them
and see what they say
Actually, I don't think they want excuses. I need to tell them that I know I did not consider their feelings, then give my reasons later. Thank you. I will do my best. This was helpful.
Please let me know if you have any further questions