Monday, August 27, 2012

My Kids Have A Therapist - Finally

Divorce is hard on everyone involved.  Even those outside the nuclear family are adversely affected by the trauma.  But it's hardest on the kids.  That is one of the reasons I stayed in a bad marriage so long.  As cliche as it may be, I "stayed in it for the kids".

We had relocated before the divorce.  The kids were unhappy so far from where they were raised and wanted to be back home.  As part of the divorce, Yzma and I agreed to move back to our family hometown (which was neither hers nor mine, but was "the family's").  Still, this left the kids in two new homes and having moved twice across state borders.  They were happy to be back, but that didn't eliminate the stress of the moves and the divorce.

So I told Yzma I felt they should see a counselor.  "They saw one when we separated.  They don't need it," she argued.  They'd had a single visit with her therapist the week of our separation.

Time passed, and I asked again.  There was always a reason why they should not go.  "It will stigmatize them", or "There is NOTHING wrong with those kids", or "Where I come from, we handle our OWN problems".  In any case, there was not going to be consent, and without consent our divorce agreement forbade me from getting the kids the help they needed to deal with all that had gone on.

I eventually went to a therapist for my own issues with the divorce.  Yzma and I had a very unbalanced divorce agreement, and she was using the kids and the agreement to run both households.  Turns out in the end, he was not the right therapist for me, but he helped me get started.  "Based on your dynamic with her," he said, "you will never get what you want interacting with her directly.  You need to gently shut her down and put a lawyer between you.  Otherwise, she will use all the tools she has against you --  guilt, shame, anger, and rage -- because she knows she can get to you with them."

A divorced friend gave me his lawyer's number.  And I called.  In the middle of all this, Bella and I had decided to move in together.  She suggested that if I was going to go through the effort of legal action, I should set everything right, not just the unbalanced custody and child support.  She had been living with the kids and witnessed their discomfort and anxiety over the divorce situation.  So, in my proposed revisions to the divorce agreement, I included that I wanted to get the kids some therapy.

This did not go over well with Yzma, and she never agreed.  With all the back and forth, the big things -- the custody and child support -- were never even challenged.  But unexpected things were, and one of them was therapy.  Our inability to reach agreement resulted in mediation, and she finally conceded when everyone in the room reacted in shock to her utter refusal.  And even then, she would not allow the kids to see the therapist Bella and I had been seeing for some "new family unit" therapy.  The legal agreement we came out with was this:  The kids would see a therapist once, and based on that therapist's opinion, would have follow-up visits (alone or together) and/or be permitted to see the therapist Bella and I have been seeing.  Despite this being an afterthought of the legal endeavor, it may end up being the greatest win to come out of it.

I sent Yzma a list of all the nearby therapists on my insurance plan.  She sent back three names, and I chose one of those.  The last time the kids were with her before their first visit, she explained to them that she did not see anything wrong with them and that this was all dad's idea.  She didn't tell me this, but the boys did.  I explained that therapy was not for fixing what is wrong with a person, but that it is simply an opportunity to discuss things on your mind with someone who is not an involved party.  That the therapist doesn't take sides, and she doesn't share secrets that they tell during their time together.  She will listen and offer tools to help you deal with your challenges in the healthiest way.

We went for the first session, and the boys came out visibly relaxed.  Secundus had already arranged his first follow up session by the time he emerged.  The younger two were very happy and entirely willing to go back.  The therapist agreed wholeheartedly that the kids need this.  She also agreed it would be good for us all to go as a group to Bella's and my therapist.  But Tertius felt he wasn't ready for that, so she asked us to give her some more time to sell him on the idea so he doesn't feel pressured.  I am good with that.

My question, and the one that is most commonly reflected back at me when I speak of this, is, "What could possibly make a person refuse to allow their kids to have therapy after something as massive as a divorce?"  The answer always filters down to one thing:  She will be revealed, and her power to manipulate the children will fade.  These children will be confident and emotionally healthy, and nothing scares the narcissist more than that!


  1. Full disclosure: I am a friend of a friend of "Bella"'s (you might say "besties"). She (my friend)recommended your website to me. I just want to say that your blog is an invaluable resource for anyone going through similar circumstances (which I currently am), although I have made many of the mistakes YOU made early on and my mess is seemingly unfixable. But I still have hope (and someone who loves me). It’s what keeps me going. I appreciate your insights and advice and look forward to further posts. Maybe we can bounce ideas off of each other (almost like “A.A.” for people struggling through divorce). I know we are not alone and any kind of support is a good thing. Hang in there and thanks for sharing!

    (a fellow “cliché”),

  2. Ethel,

    Thanks for your comment. I usually feel a benefit to sharing these experiences. Sometimes, even when there's nothing helpful to offer (or receive) in a given situation, just knowing that you're not alone in your experience makes a huge difference. We do need to support each other!

    Take care,

  3. Thanks. Just a few questions...did YOU initiate the divorce (I presume that you did)? If so, why? What was the last straw? What was her reaction? What was your children's reaction?

    1. Did YOU initiate the divorce (I presume that you did)? If so, why?
      I did initiate the divorce. There were so many reasons, but it really came down to a consistent lack of respect and/or concern for my feelings.

      What was the last straw?
      Yzma had always taken decisions away from me. So I eventually stopped partaking in them. But it wasn't enough to just make the decisions, they had to be ripped from my hands. So she started demanding I make choices about things. Then she would ridicule them, berate me, and override them. I eventually refused to offer answers, and she resorted to swearing at me in front of the children. I realized that I could not allow my children to see this as an example of how relationships work.

      What was her reaction?
      Shock, as in "how COULD you!". She was totally surprised by the idea that I could leave her. She asked if there were someone else, and when I said "no", she said, "Do you think you can find someone better than me?" I said I wasn't concerned with that at that point.

      What was your children's reaction?
      Also shock. Though theirs was genuine. None of them reacted at first. They didn't like it, but have since told me that I am happier since the divorce. I have asked about their mom, and they tell me "She doesn't share emotions with us. We don't know."