my ex does not support my relationship with my teenage daughters

Q: Here is an excerpt from e-mail that I received from my ex-wife. As you can tell by the tone of this message, she is very angry, for some reason. And it is obvious that she has no inclination to help me with my relationship with my children. I appreciate anything you could suggest...

A: The email in question, which I did not include in order to preserve confidentiality, was about trying to schedule time with his older teenage daughters. His ex is refusing to facilitate this, and his daughters are not responding to the messages or texts he sends directly to their cell phones. Below is my reply:

Ouch! There does indeed seem to be quite a bit of hostility in her communication. How disheartening and discouraging this must be for you.

In situations like this, I think all you can really do is continue to take the high road, even when your ex does not. Especially when she does not.

At some point, (and I believe, the sooner the better), you will want to drop the idea or hope that she will support your relationship with your girls, and stop seeking her assistance in any way.

I know this is a huge thing to let go of, because yes, it is reasonable to hope that your co-parent would be your ally. It's just not likely to happen in this situation, from what I can tell. And almost certainly not likely to happen before your daughters come of age. So I think your communication efforts would be more likely to bear fruit if invested in the girls directly.

I suspect you'll eliminate a huge energy drain if you can adjust your expectations to include your ex's hostility. In other words, stop hoping/expecting that she will be reasonable or nice.

After doing so, you can make appropriate accommodations like contacting the girls directly, and not asking your ex to fill you in, run interference, bring you up to speed, or in any other way facilitate your contact with them.

I suspect it will be a huge relief for you to mentally remove her from that role. Resisting how she is and trying to make her how you wish she would be costs a lot of energy. It's like tilting at windmills. It might be a lot easier to just go around the obstacle she represents rather than knock her down or convince her to join forces with you.

So basically, I'm suggesting you may want to permanently remove your ex from your list of ways to contact the girls/have a relationship with them. Don't ask her for her help again.

Continue meet your financial support obligations, of course. And keep contacting the girls, kindly and gently, with no expectation of reciprocity. Do this to satisfy your own integrity, so that you can know that you have done your part by being available.

The rest, up to and including how often you see them, is not within your control. Please understand that I don't mean to minimize or misrepresent how painful it can be to have something so important to us be out of our hands! But the sooner we can accept the truth about what we can control and what we can't, the sooner we can acknowledge the pain of feeling powerless, and the sooner our grieving and healing process can begin.

When you lift off your hopes and expectations, and have done some grieving work about the losses you have sustained, you may find that your daughters begin to approach you on their own terms -- not because they should, or because you deserve it, even though both of those may be true. Rather because they WANT to have a relationship with you. Your job is to make sure you are the kind of person they would want in their lives. That's all you can really do...

I hope this helps. My sympathies are with you - challenges like this are the hardest thing many of us will face in a lifetime. I hope you have some good friends who are willing to listen while you vent your perfectly normal and natural feelings of sadness and frustration.

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