-Girl Gone Authentic: Step-Parenting is Challenging Enough Without a Psycho Ex-Spouse (Part 2)

WARNING: Vulgar language in this post


Elizabeth was continuing to do well in school. She was not exactly an “A” student, but so much better than before. She adjusted to having a new sibling, but the relationship between her and the baby was not close because she only saw the PES once or twice a month. This situation (living with us, seeing the PES occasionally) continued through her 4th, 5th, and 6th grade years.


Fast forward a bit, to Summer 2018. The baby was now a three-year-old, and Elizabeth was almost 11 years old and getting ready to start middle school (7th grade). The PES figured that Elizabeth was old enough to help with the younger kid, so she suddenly decided that she wanted Elizabeth to spend equal time with her. Mind you, the PES hadn’t had Elizabeth on a school night in four years. Now, we were supposed to let Elizabeth spend a full week at a time with the PES. Elizabeth wanted to give it a try, so David reluctantly agreed.


Within the first month, we knew it was a mistake. Elizabeth’s behavior started deteriorating at school and here at home, her grades started dropping, and she started missing a lot of school. She averaged a day a week missed, always on the weeks she was with the PES. She missed more school in the 7th grade (when she was with the PES) than she did during 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade COMBINED.


Elizabeth started dropping hints to me that things weren’t all rainbows and lollipops at the PES’s house. When I’d ask her if she still wanted to continue the living arrangement, she said that she would just stick with it so the PES would not be mad at her. I suggested that she speak to her dad about it, but she didn’t want to do that because she didn’t want the PES to scream at her father.


A couple of months after she started dropping hints about the situation over there, she finally told me some specific things that were happening at the PES’s house. The PES started telling Elizabeth that she was “mental” and needed to be hospitalized. She lured Elizabeth to the house with the promise of her own bedroom (PES lives in a 2-bedroom duplex; she was going to move the little one to her and her husband’s room so that Elizabeth could have her own room). Within a couple of weeks of the new arrangement, the PES reneged on her promise and moved the little kid back into the bedroom. Anytime Elizabeth wanted to spend some alone time in the room, the PES would put the little one in the crib for Elizabeth to watch. The PES would claim that the little sister wanted to be in the room and that Elizabeth needed to quit being so selfish.


Elizabeth told me that she no longer wished to spend equal time at the PES’s house. She just wanted to see her on some weekends, but not all of them. I told her we would have to tell David because I did not have the power to change the arrangement.

I knew that Elizabeth was telling the truth about the situation at the PES’s house, because a month or two earlier, the PES told me that she was seriously concerned about Elizabeth’s mental health. She said that Elizabeth couldn’t tell the difference between facts and lies. She told me that Elizabeth didn’t know what the truth was anymore and that she was becoming mentally unstable. This didn’t mesh with the Elizabeth who lives in my house, but I did listen to what the PES said, until the PES used this opportunity as an attempt to convince me that David was mentally unbalanced, a pathological liar, etc. I had to continually steer her back to the topic of Elizabeth. I had to tell her that I didn’t care what she said about David because I would not discuss him with her. She then told me that she was not trying to cause problems in my and David’s relationship, to which I replied that no offense, but she did not have that kind of power. As soon as she realized that I would not “trash” him with her, and that nothing she said would change my feelings for David, she stopped contacting me about Elizabeth.


Elizabeth finally told her father that she did not want to go to the PES’s house on school nights. She told him that the household is too chaotic, she didn’t have her own space, the PES and her husband fight nonstop, etc. She told David that she was tired of overhearing the PES telling her husband that Elizabeth needed to be committed. She told David that she was too scared to tell the PES herself because (in her words) the PES would get “psycho” on her.


So, David told the PES that Elizabeth no longer wanted to spend school nights over at the house. Initially, she didn’t seem to mind, but within a week, she blew up on him. She accused us of “turning Elizabeth against her” and that it was our fault that Elizabeth didn’t want to spend equal time with her. David held his ground, telling the PES that it wasn’t about what he wanted or what she wanted; it was about what was best for their daughter.


Elizabeth’s behavior did start to improve a bit once she was no longer spending equal time with the PES, but we still had concerns about her. She seemed withdrawn and prone to extreme outbursts at the slightest provocation. In May 2019, she exploded on me one night while David was on his way home from work. She told me how much she hated me, that she knew I didn’t care about her at all, and that she didn’t want to live with us anymore. I called David, and she got on the phone and started screaming at him at well (something she RARELY does). She then went into her room and kept repeating over and over again that she just wanted to die.


When David got home, he went into her room and talked to her for a very long time. She told him that she was harming herself (cutting), that she tried to kill herself at the PES’s house, and that she felt like she no longer wanted to live. She begged him to see a therapist; she even accused him of ignoring her when she asked to talk to a therapist.


Prior to this, I suggested to her (more than once) that she may want to see a therapist, just to have a “neutral party” to discuss her problems and learn some coping mechanisms to deal with stress and anxiety. She has suffered greatly at the hands of the PES, and I was worried about her. She was very resistant, telling me that she wasn’t “psycho” and that the PES said that therapy is a waste of time. I didn’t press the issue, because I’ve been in therapy several times, and I know that for it to work, you must want to be there. So, for her to tell her father that she WANTED to talk to someone, we knew it was beyond serious.


The night she told us about the self-harm and thoughts of suicide, we decided that she needed to talk to someone about all the things that are troubling her. We would not allow her to say “no” to receiving help. Even though she said she wanted to talk to someone, I knew there was a good chance that once she calmed down, she would change her mind. We were losing our daughter emotionally and mentally and could even physically lose her. I found a child psychologist and set up her first session in June 2019.


Within a few days of the outburst, she told me that she didn’t actually need a therapist and that she was just tired that night. I told her that we still wanted her to talk to someone and that there is nothing “wrong” with admitting you need some help. I told her that it takes a strong person to reach out for help. I told her that we weren’t giving her a choice because it’s our job as parents to make sure that she is cared for not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.


She started therapy. This is probably the best decision we ever made for her. She has been seeing her therapist weekly for the past couple of months. He has helped her to see that the PES virtually abandoning her has nothing to do with Elizabeth as a person, that the shortcomings belong to the PES and not to Elizabeth. They are working on coping mechanisms for when she feels like she wants to harm herself, and the art of walking away to calm down when she feels like lashing out at someone.


However, I am not sure that the PES would agree. Now that Elizabeth is learning to value herself, she is speaking up with the PES verbally assaults her. The PES does NOT like this at all. In fact, what is happening now is that when Elizabeth goes to see the PES, she is not staying for the full visit as originally planned. I will say that this is not totally unusual, but the visits are lasting for shorter and shorter amounts of time (previously, the visit would be cut a day short).


For example, Elizabeth went there on July 2nd and was supposed to stay until July 7th. She ended up coming home on July 3rd because the PES was being so hurtful that Elizabeth could no longer take it. The last time she went to the PES’s house was a few weeks ago (the Monday after she came back home on July 3rd). I dropped her off at the PES’s house after her Monday morning therapy session. She was supposed to stay for 4 days. She was not even there for 2 hours when the PES started texting David (at work), demanding that he tell me to come get Elizabeth. She said that she was tired of Elizabeth’s attitude and she no longer wanted her there.


David picked her up when he got off work because I refuse to deal with the PES. According to Elizabeth (and we have no reason to doubt her), she asked the PES if they could have take-out for lunch. The PES blew up on her because she didn’t want to spend the money, and Elizabeth said that she would make herself a sandwich. Then, she asked the PES if she could take her to the store to buy a new pair of shoes (hers were damaged and the PES owed her some money for doing some extra chores). The PES said that she wasn’t getting shoes because she was no longer going to give her the money as promised. She said that money was for the LAST time she was there, and since she came home early, she no longer gets the money. Elizabeth said that wasn’t fair, and that’s when the PES told David that she didn’t want Elizabeth in her house. The PES also told Elizabeth that when she’s not there, the house is so much more calm, and that all Elizabeth does is causes drama and she doesn’t want that in her house. How do you tell your 12-year-old daughter that she is not wanted in your house? FUCKING BITCH. I don’t usually judge people, but how can I NOT in this situation?


I brought this up with Elizabeth’s therapist. I told him that David and I want to do the right thing for Elizabeth, but it’s growing difficult. Visits are never according to a set schedule; it’s just whenever the PES decides she wants to see Elizabeth. Once the visits start, we must be on 24/7 alert because we never know when the visits will end. Not only do we believe this to not be in Elizabeth’s best interests, but the lack of structure is causing issues with our relationship. We can never make plans to spend time together as a couple because we never know when we will have to drop everything to pick her up from the PES. We have canceled plans on numerous occasions over the past several months, or had to cut date nights short, because either Elizabeth or the PES decide to end the visit early.


Elizabeth and I discussed this issue with her therapist on July 14th. Her therapist said that this is not healthy, and that from here on out, visits must be structured. Elizabeth said that she wants to see the PES two nights every other week; she wants to spend Friday through Sunday with the PES (every other weekend) and the remaining time with us. Her therapist told me to have David be the one to tell the PES, and he offered to write a note on his letterhead if the PES didn’t want to agree to this. Elizabeth wanted the structured visits to start on Friday, July 26th (she was going to spend the coming weekend with her BFF because her BFF was turning 13).


On July 16th, I left town for a couple of days on a work trip. When I came back on Thursday (7/18), Elizabeth was excited for her BFF’s birthday celebration the following day. They were going to a waterpark on Friday and then she was spending the night. She said that she asked her dad to go to the PES’s house to get her other bathing suit, but that David said he and the PES weren’t talking at the moment so she would have to wear her other suit. She told me that she didn’t know what was wrong, just that her parents weren’t speaking.


Friday evening, after David got home from work, I asked him what Elizabeth meant by him and the PES not speaking to each other. I assumed that this was something relating to the structured visits, but I was wrong. According to David, the PES texted him the morning that I left for my work trip, asking, “What’s up with Elizabeth?” David was at work, but when he had a chance, he asked her what she meant. She asked when Elizabeth was coming over again, and David told her that Elizabeth’s therapist is stipulating that visits need to be structured/pre-scheduled. He told her that Elizabeth wants to spend every other weekend with the PES. He told her that the visits would start on July 26th because of the BFF’s birthday. A few hours later, she texted him, stating “whatever” and then asking if they were just going to sweep it under the rug. David had no idea what she was talking about, so he didn’t respond to her.

He told me that she texted him one more time that day, later in the evening. She said that she couldn’t believe he was marrying me when he was still in love with her. He didn’t respond, and he didn’t hear from her for well over a week, until he finally had to ask (on 7/26) if she was going to see Elizabeth over the weekend (by the time she responded, we had already told Elizabeth that she could spend the weekend with her friend).


What.The.Fuck.


When he told me about the text messages, I started laughing. I told David that I knew the PES was obsessed with him. I’ve been telling him this for many years now, but he didn’t believe me. I told him that this explains SO MUCH of what has happened over the years with the PES: Elizabeth’s attempts to break us up, the PES’s texts to me trying to convince me that David was a piece of shit, the PES always contacting David to solve her problems. All her actions have been attempts to get him back, even though she is the one who ended things with him. Even though she had a third child. Even though she is MARRIED TO SOMEONE ELSE. Was she sitting next to her husband on the couch when she was texting David about him still being in love with her?


The PES has shown a blatant disrespect for our relationship the entire time I’ve been with David. A part of me would understand this IF I had been the "other woman" in their marriage. However, this is not the case. I started seeing him long after she had kicked him out of their apartment.


I think that if I’d listened to my inner voice all those years ago, and told her about herself, maybe she would have backed off. I know that she did similar things to her oldest daughter’s father, and it took the stepmom telling the PES off for the PES to finally start leaving them alone. However, I didn’t say anything to her because David repeatedly asked me not to, and I wanted to be respectful of his request.


You know, I’m not even mad at her for trying again to come between me and David. Partly because I am very secure in this relationship and being mad at her serves no purpose, but mainly because I see how miserable of a person she is. I feel incredibly sorry for her and how delusional she is. I’m thinking back to the interactions I’ve witnessed between the two of them over the years (texts he’s shown me or conversations I’ve heard/he’s told me about). David has never given this woman ANY INDICATION that he has any positive feelings for her. I’ve heard him tell her that he has no concern for her wellbeing, that it does not matter to him if she’s doing well or doing poorly, etc. He’s told her repeatedly that the day Elizabeth turns 18, he will block her phone number, we will be moving, and she will not have his address. How does she take these things to mean that he’s still in love with her? How sad for her, and how terrible for her current husband to have no idea that she’s still infatuated with her ex-husband.


The PES is one of the main reasons that I didn’t marry David years ago (my ex-husband being the other reason, which I mentioned in a previous blog post). I wanted to wait until Elizabeth was a legal adult before we married, because I knew that us getting married would cause additional issues since David still has to interact with this woman for another 5+ years. When we got engaged, we both decided that the PES would not be told that we were getting married. Unfortunately, Elizabeth told her without our knowledge, so the cat is out of the bag.


It’s been over 2 weeks since the PES made the “you’re still in love with me” announcement, and David has never acknowledged that he even saw her text. He thinks she was probably intoxicated when she sent it. At least now, though, he realizes that I’m not overreacting or imagining when I tell him that she is still obsessed with him. If anything, her text message has made us even closer, and I didn’t think that was possible. I know he trusts me enough to show me something that could cause me to doubt the extent of the relationship between David and the PES.


The hardest thing for me is to sit here and say nothing. David is right, though. Saying something to the PES would be a complete waste of time. She would either chalk it up to being so drunk that she didn’t even realize she texted him (she’s used that excuse before), or she would think that she was getting under my skin. If David says anything to her, she will take it to mean that she’s hitting too close to home. So, we just remain silent.


In the meantime, I just keep trying to be the best mom I can be for Elizabeth, because it’s what she needs. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.


~Denise


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