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My wife and I are in a kind of quasi-separation situation. My wife is emotionally abusive, resorting to the silent treatment, gaslighting and projection regularly. She moved to a different city with our two children (nine year old girl and five year old boy) some years ago, and I have been coming every weekend. Last year I finally realised that counseling etc was going nowhere and set up a small place of my own in the city where they live. I switched to a Fri/Sat schedule so the kids would have Sunday at my wife's place. But my wife surprised me by being deeply upset about this move, and we agreed that we'd work on the marriage. We've been in this kind of half separation since (I have posted on this situation earlier here).

As noted in that earlier question for the last several months my wife has turned hostile and abusive again. My daughter has become reluctant to come to my place, however, since she feels that she's losing time with her friends and she generally just likes being at home. The "losing time" thing is partly encouraged by my wife, since in practice her friends are often not free in any case. I've had several discussions with my daughter, who is quite articulate with her emotions, and she says she understands why I'm not able to stay with them ("because of the fights") and she wants to have time with both me and her friends, but she still doesn't like having to go back and forth. My wife has also been encouraging them to see her house and her family as theirs, while insisting that my place etc. are "your father's" (I'm posting a separate question on how to deal with this question of who is their "family").

I've also negotiated with my daughter that as I miss one weekend a month typically because of work, she can have Sundays and that weekend for her time at home. But she continues to ask if she can return early, not come some days,etc., and for the last few weeks this is becoming a conflict every weekend. Today she half-jokingly referred to the weekends I don't come as her "free" weekends.

I've just found a new place closer to my wife's one that will allow the kids to go to the same park and hopefully therefore share more of their activities when I'm there.

What else can I do to address this problem?

NB:Her closest friend's mother has reportedly refused to allow that girl to come to my place, ostensibly because she does not want to have her in a place with only a man present (I am not sure if this is true, but hope to check directly with her later).

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I saw this question after I answered the other, so I’m borrowing from my answer to that one…

Try to find out what she feels she is missing by coming to your place. Is it her friends? If so, can you bring her and her brother and her friends out somewhere special, once a month? Out for pizza, or ice cream, or a ball game, or boating, or take them shopping some place that they usually can’t get to?

Is she missing time to read or watch movies when she is with you? Can you just kick back and watch a movie, once a month?

Can you guys learn a new skill together? Learn to ice skate, or find a T'ai Chi class that you can take together?

Can you re-paint the apartment? If so, have them each pick a room and ask them what color they would like it to be, then let them decide – even if they choose a crazy color. (You can always repaint it before you move out.) Let them pick out new furniture, even if it’s just a bean bag chair and a lamp.

Can you build things? Try to make this new place special. Google “cool teen room ideas” with her, then work together to make something pretty. Let her (and your son) do as much of the work as possible.

Beyond that, tell her that you guys are family, and it is important for people’s mental health to have a strong family. Sometimes it is not easy, you have to put work into it, but doing things with your family makes it stronger. Tell her later in life she will feel more grounded having spent time with you and her brother now.

  • This - the childern (daughter in particular) are more than old enough to talk to. Find out what they want, and see how you can arrange something. It's surprising how many problems can be tackled by talking to each other :-). – sleske Oct 26 '18 at 8:20
  • Thank you, i have in fact been talking to her every week and trying to figure this out. It's clear that this is partly about her not wanting this arrangement at all because she wants us back together. I've talked that through with her and tried to have other discussions like the ones you suggest, and though she keeps circling back to the fact that she doesn't like it and in fact rejects things on that ground, some of them have clicked. We do movies etc already but some of your suggestions - especially the cool teen room idea - sound really good. – SGo Oct 27 '18 at 1:55
  • The friends issue remains a problem as those parents apparently refused to even allow an outing with that girl. I hope to talk to then about that. Meanwhile since this answer seems like it might be most useful for other readers I've accepted it, thanks! – SGo Oct 27 '18 at 1:58
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You need to formalize your separation, and obtain a custody agreement from the courts on how to handle visitation with your children. Right now your wife is able to abuse and manipulate your children without consequence because you don't have a court-ordered agreement in place. She can be hit with contempt if she continues to speak negatively about you to the children, and if she continues to influence them to not want to see you. Getting a divorce doesn't mean you can't rekindle your relationship if and when your wife changes her fundamental personality, but it will mean you have some power in a relationship that she seems to be dictating at the moment.

Beyond that, you may have to acknowledge that there might not be anything to be done. The daughter in particular whether she's 9 or 9+years of separation is beginning to reach a point where her opinion would have some influence in court regarding custody and visitation.

That being said, once she's outside of her mother's influence and a little older you may be able to rekindle a relationship down the line. Just be there for her, support her decisions and dreams, and make it clear that whatever her feelings or her mother's feelings you will always be there for her. She may not appreciate it now, but she will down the road.

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    I appreciate your point, but court can't really help me with this since it is not open obstruction. My question is more about how I should relate to my daughter in this situation and what I can do in terms of practical steps in the short term to ease her coming (she is not flat out refusing to come, as explained - I just don't want her to resent me). – SGo Oct 19 '18 at 23:05
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    I completely understand--however, the reason I brought up a court agreement is that there's two ways to judge behavior as a problem. The first is big, obvious, and out there (i.e., her preventing the children from seeing you against their and your wills), and the second is a pattern over time. I think you're experiencing the latter, and it's clear that she is only taking advantage of your unwillingness to pursue a divorce. Given the lack of time spent with your daughter, and the time you do spend being diminished rapidly by her mother's actions, I don't think you can ease the transition. – Marisa Oct 23 '18 at 11:33
  • While you do raise good points, I would be wary of fla-tout telling OP to go to court. Yes, it is an option, but it's something OP must decide on their own. Maybe you could consider toning it down to a recommendation? Otherwise a good answer. – sleske Oct 26 '18 at 8:18
  • @sleske, Absolutely. But this user has posted several times regarding his wife to the point where I recognized who he was before I got to the user name at the bottom of the post. At this point, given his past history and indecision and the actions of his wife, I don't see how this can be resolved without going to court. – Marisa Oct 26 '18 at 11:27
  • @Marisa, I appreciate your point, but while court may help clarify the end of our marriage it really won't do much for this. As I posted in my other question just now, I'm not sure a court can tell my wife how to speak to her children at sucha level of detail (much if it is not even verbal) and the abusive behaviour is not anywhere near severe enough for a judge to direct that the kids be taken away completely, nor would I want that at this stage given how deeply traumatic it would be. – SGo Oct 27 '18 at 2:09

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