QUESTION: My ex-husband and I have been apart for nearly ten years. We now live in separate cities about 300 miles apart. He was an unfaithful, abusive creep, and I'm glad to be rid of him. Only I'm not rid of him. We have two children that are now in their teens. The problem is that when he's angry because he's not getting his way in a situation with, say, visitation, he doesn't scream or cuss at me. He takes it out on the kids. My kids are usually very well-behaved and respectful. They don't deserve to be told they're going to hell or to f--- themselves, as he has told them in the past. I tell them to hang up on him, but he just calls back, even angrier than before.
Why would a man choose to say such hurtful things to his own children? And what would you suggest I tell my children about their father's erratic behavior?
GARLAND: To steal a line from one of Chuck's earliest answers, I'd tell them that their father is a 'dick'. No, actually I prefer the term 'asshole' considering what seems to be coming out of his mouth.
Why would a man say these things to his children?
Honestly, I don't think a 'man' would say these things. Some foolish, petty, ignorant, uncaring scumbag would say that to his kids. But not a real man. Regardless of how low down and dirty a divorce may have been, a real man would accept and understand where the battle lines are drawn - squarely between him and his wife! Even if the kids were old enough to take sides, and even if they sided with the mother - a real man, no matter how hard it may be, would open [verbal] fire on his kids. I hate to say this - but your ex is a piece of crap. Regardless of who or what he used to be, he is now a full fledged, self centered, angry, crazed piece of crap.
What do you tell your kids?
Seeing as though your kids are teens, and he's obviously warmed their ears with 4 or 5 of major curse words, they're probably ready for some straight talk from you. I'd apologize for what they were told - even though you didn't do it. They need a dose of respect and compassion and sense after what was said. Then I'd just tell them that he wasn't always like that and you have no idea what happened to him. Unless, that's not true and he was screwed up when you married him. Then you may want to explain why you married him. I think they need to be reminded that just because they're his children, THEY are not him. They both may be wondering if his traits are going to become their traits. Encourage them to avoid that kind of behavior as they mature. If you have a girl, point out the characteristics to avoid in men based on her fathers tendencies. If you have a boy, don't let your husband be his role model as he grows up - don't be ashamed to say [once in a while], "Don't be like your father."
But most of all, I think you need to send a firm message to your ex that that kind of behavior will not be tolerated. Find a way to sanction him: changeyour number so he can't reach you, call your lawyer or your judge and see if you can use this crazy bhavior to impact his visitation or his child support. Do something! Just be your kids advocate and protector - don't let that behavior just roll off your back.
CHUCK: Yeah, your ex-husband is a dick, an asshole, and a bunch of other not-as-nice things I could think of to call him. But it goes deeper than that. Here is a person that I think is unhappy with his life, his relationship with you or them, whatever, but instead of trying to make things better, by taking his anger out on an easy target, he makes things worse. What kind of parent would willfully and pointlessly hurt his children, just because he could? This is a very small man, indeed.
Like Garland says, talk to your kids. Make sure that they know that you do not share their father's screwed-up attitude. You might think that would be obvious, but kids, even teenagers, still need to hear stuff like that. Inform them that being respecctful to their father does not mean having to be a target for him to exercise his aggression on. And let them know that, as they get older, contact with their father can become more a matter of choice than of necessity. If it is their choice to limit their exposure to this guy (and make sure it is THEIR choice), well, that can't hurt more than what they're going through now.
Also, I have one more suggestion. If your children can handle it, I'd ask them to subject themselves to one more tirade from their father. This time with a tape recorder rolling. I don't know the laws in your area regarding recording phone conversations between people. But your ex is probably so big and bad that even if they told him he was being recorded, his response would probably be, "Shee-it! I don't care. Record ME!" And hold onto that recording. That way, when you've got him in court again (and with this creep, it's almost guaranteed), you'll have something to play for the court's enlightenment. Sometimes revenge is the best revenge.