Still abused by ex-husband
I'm new at this but, I feel I need some help. You see, I was married for 15 years to a man who used to mentally abuse me. Now, I have been divorced from him for 5 years and when I call him about sending child support he always messes up my mind again. He brings up the past EVERYTIME and reminds me of the one thing I did wrong in all those years. I wish I could change history but, I can't, I just go on. I have 3 beautiful children by this man and he proceeds to tell me that he is the better parent even though the children prefer to live with me.
They tell me I am a good mother and that I shouldn't listen to him and I don't, really but I guess I don't understand why this man says those things to me. I wonder why he won't grow up and get over it. I never mess with him, needless to say, I can't deal with it. Then, because he doesn't pay his child support on time I have to call him and ask for it and this is when he gets his digs in. I am so sick of not having a response to him except that 'I didn't call to talk about that I just want to know about the support.' I wish I knew what to say to someone like that.
Thank you for your letter. I know that you know that a sophisticated system exists which can force your ex-husband to stay current with his child support payments. Since you have physical custody of your children, your ex-husband is required by law to pay whatever child support payments your divorce decree mandates. You have really no role at all to play in this, Sissy.
Depending on the jurisdiction where you live, family support matters are handled methodically by governmental agencies. I'm sure you know all about the resources they offer you, and that all you must do is report him to these authorities, so that they can process the court order and forward the monthly payments to you.
You have been divorced for five years, so you know all about this, I'm sure. You do not have to have a reason to report him (like missing or late payments). The fact that the interactions with him become difficult, uncomfortable or abusive is enough. These agencies are often understaffed and overworked, but they have one sole goal, which is to impose the structure set down by the court order for support. They do this by demanding payment, attaching wages or tax refunds, or through criminal prosecution of "dead beat" parents.
But you must know all this, since you have been the custodial parent for five years. If you do know about the resources available to you so that you can easily and painlessly receive payments every month through an impartial source like your county controller, it's interesting that you have not made use of this service.
What do you make of that? An intricate, nationwide system exists to help you with the exact problem, which plagues you, and yet you remain confused and manipulated by this man who abused you for fifteen years. I am suggesting that this behavior of yours suggests self-esteem issues in relationship with him still. As you say, he is still abusing you and your children, and the fact that you have not accessed the widespread resources you have to stop him is significant.
Unconsciously, you are still more comfortable with his abuse than you are uncomfortable with it. That might be difficult to read, but what other conclusion could ever be reached from this situation? Imagine that your house is on fire, and the fire station sends men and equipment to put it out, but you refuse their help. In a sense, that's what you are doing. The resources available to you could easily put out this "fire," but you have conflicts within you about whether or not you, in fact, want it extinguished.
I'm suggesting that you have complex self-esteem issues which may need to be dealt with through counseling or in a support group, before you will be able to allow yourself to accept the effective help you need for this problem.
Maybe reaching out to this online counselor will prove to be an important step towards addressing your own needs and wants, and to look at these underlying issues of self-worth. I sure hope so.
Margaret "Peg" Burr, MA, MFT
This question was answered by Margaret "Peg" Burr. She is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC34374) with a private practice in Santa Clarita (near Los Angeles). She performs psychodynamic psychotherapy with individual adult clients as well as couples, teens, and families. She also runs groups for adults and adolescents. Her specialty area is Object Relations Systems Theory. This branch of psychodynamic psychotherapy uses a client's interpersonal relationships as windows into his or her intrapsychic structure.For more information visit: http://www.pegburr.com/