St George News

Relationship Connection: My daughter wants nothing to do with my ex-husband

Question

My husband and I divorced a few years ago after he refused to give up a relationship with another woman. My oldest child found out what was going on and told me that she lost respect for her dad and didn’t want anything to do with him. I was required to have her spend time with her dad due to the divorce decree, but now that she’s an older teenager, it doesn’t make sense to require her to spend time with her dad. My daughter also told me she doesn’t want me sharing information about her life with her dad (like who she’s dating, where she’s working, etc). This seems a little over the top and I don’t want to feel like I’m caught in the middle between them. My other kids still like being with him and don’t seem to have the same issues. Any advice on how I should handle this situation with her?

Answer

Your daughter isn’t being unreasonable. She is simply asking you to respect her voice. Even though it sounds like you didn’t have many options about the outcome of your marriage due to your ex-husband’s choices, please recognize that your children had even less influence over the outcome.

Your daughter’s feelings about her dad should be validated and understood. She needs to know that it’s okay for her to desire space from him, even if that may not be entirely possible due to the fact that she’s still a minor. I encourage you to do everything you can to respect her wishes.

Even though your divorce decree may still legally require her to have visits with her father, what she shares with him is entirely up to her. This is an area where she can be respected and guaranteed a voice, even if only by you.

Promise her that you’ll respect her wishes for privacy and that if you feel you need to share something with her father, you’ll work through it with her first. For example, if there were serious medical issues with her, it wouldn’t make sense to leave him out of the loop.

Regardless of their marital status, a parent needs to form an individual relationship with each of their children and not only rely on the other parent to facilitate the relationship. Now that you’re divorced, it’s even more critical for him to be in charge of his relationship with his daughter. If he has things to repair with her due to his poor choices, then he needs to do everything he can to fix the broken trust.

It wouldn’t hurt to let him know that you’re not going to be responsible for keeping him updated on your daughter’s day-to-day activities. Let him know that he’s going to have to build the kind of relationship with her where she’ll feel comfortable sharing this information with him.

Remember, you’re not keeping her secrets. You’re respecting the relationship he’s created with his daughter and allowing her to set the parameters between them. In a few short years when she’s on her own, this will be more pronounced and you won’t have any say about the kind of relationship they have with each other. Now is a good time to let them both work that out in their own way.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, StGeorgeUtah.com Inc., 2013, all rights reserved.

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  11 Comments
  1. Maudie Fricker October 23, 2013 at 12:17 pm · Reply

    I couldn’t agree more! She lost her trust in the man who was supposed to love her mother. That happens. It is up to HIM to repair the damage, if he can. He can’t FORCE her to have respect for him, he has to earn it back. Every last bit of it. Sounds to me like he hasn’t given it much effort, which creates an even greater wedge. Sometimes adults don’t grow up and expect the children to come crawling back. Sad and shameful. Your daughter has set some boundaries for herself, and sounds like she’s handling things to the best of her ability! GO GIRL!

  2. Hatalii October 23, 2013 at 12:40 pm · Reply

    I have to wonder if the daughter’s dislike of her father, is springing from something much more serious than she is letting on? Did he molest her? If so, not only should she not be forced into contact with him, he should be prosecuted.

  3. Concerned Dad October 23, 2013 at 10:37 pm · Reply

    Dear Dr.,
    I am in a similar situation with my 16 year old daughter. She is living with her Mom and doesn’t want to see me because I don’t condone her behavior i.e. Sex with boyfriend, underage drinking and complete independence. Parents have different roles with their children and both are very important and should be encouraged by both. I feel like your response to a one-sided perspective is irresponsible and premature, as there wasn’t enough information to give proper counsel. I have pushed my ex-wife to get her into a therapist and she refuses to do it. I hope she changes her mind and takes the time to seek better counsel then yours!

    • peacefulinstgeorge October 24, 2013 at 6:05 pm · Reply

      i say to you concerned dad, you are the rock. And if that’s the reasons that she doesnt want to see you then you are doing good. You don’t need that in your life, she will make your life feel like you are fighting hell.

  4. Craig October 24, 2013 at 10:01 am · Reply

    Your daughter is quicker to realize what a pig your ex-husband is. Leave her alone…she’s smarter and WISER than you.

  5. Teresa Moore October 24, 2013 at 10:27 am · Reply

    Why would you ever condone a daughter not having a relationship with her father??? It seems like rather than encouraging her “space” from him, she should be encouraged to work through her issues with her father via a counselor/therapist (and I agree with concerned dad above- not you!) or with him to mend the relationship, not end it. What good is avoiding him going to do? Avoiding things doesn’t make them go away!! She needs to talk about it, hear his side. Men don’t usually just leave marriages because everything is wonderful. Children need a mother and a father in their life. Children need to learn to resolve problems not avoid them. Children need to talk about their feelings, especially after divorce, with someone neutral in the situation like a counselor who can help them see both sides!!

    • peacefulinstgeorge October 24, 2013 at 5:59 pm · Reply

      teresa your comment is so innocent. There are some evil women out there that tell there kids bad things about their father just so there own sin (perhaps cheating) are not revealed.

  6. Shane October 24, 2013 at 11:03 am · Reply

    This does not seem like advice that would come from a licensed family therapist and most probably a father. First of all you are only hearing what could be a very bitter ex-wife’s story and a teenager with an agenda. You are suggesting and encouraging her to go against the visitation requirements of a legal divorce decree and to allow a daughter who is under 18 to choose not see her father who may be very fit. Fifty percent of marriages end in divorce regardless of the reason. Mine did and my ex-wife is very bitter, has not moved on and doesn’t seem to have a life. Therefore, she is punishing me through my children. She is also a mother who has told my children lies about me to try and turn them against me. She also doesn’t have rules, boundaries or anything else so they will “like” her and want to be with her. The children who she hasn’t turned against me get pumped for information about me (financial, etc.) and are treated badly for wanting to have a relationship with me. Oh, and she doesn’t want to give up the child support…she just doesn’t want my kids to have a relationship with me.

    Don’t children of divorce often learn to play games and manipulate their parents? Especially when they are teenagers and it might be easier to be with a mother who is more interested in revenge than in being a good mother to her children?

    Why in the world wouldn’t you encourage this mother to try and work out a solution with the FATHER of the children that includes family counseling (hopefully from a doctor that is more open and fair minded than you seem to be) or a religious leader or some other third party that is not biased?

  7. peacefulinstgeorge October 24, 2013 at 5:55 pm · Reply

    I have a 17 year old daughter who didnt want to live with me and ran away from my home at 15 to go party. Her biological Father who she met on facebook when she was 15, told her he would let her party at his house ( i found this out when she was 16) So I feel he contributed to her teenage pregnancy (twins at 15) by condoning this behavior. Everything I was teaching her, like Morals…go out the window when a parent or grandparent(also in my case) tell the child your parent is too strict, I’ll let you do this or that, I wouldn’t make you take out the trash,I’ll let you party and play games ( come on people I was not strict, My kids did good, got good grades, and were learning life lessons)…I moved to St George because thats where my daughter is.(until they moved last month up North) She still lives with her biological father, her step mom, her twins, it hurt for a long time, but it comes down to this, she wants to underage drink and party and momma won’t contribute to a minor. I am still the one that she calls for advice…I’m still the one that loves her…the payoff she gets for this underage drinking hope that she has, is her biological father hangs out in the garage smoking pot….before some folks come at me with go to court…this biological father is DCFS approved. The world is upside down…and it’s God that gives me peace…thank you Jesus!!! Galatians 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Back to this news story, a story like this needs details, you are treading on thin water because there is not enough room in a couple of paragraph news story to report on this…I cant tell my whole story in a couple paragraphs so this isnt the whole story I wrote NOR DID YOU WRITE….there is Shane and concerned dad that have very good points also. BAD STORY TO WRITE ABOUT ON ST GEORGE NEWS AND BAD ADVICE.

  8. GriselTheDivorceCoach January 18, 2014 at 4:25 pm · Reply

    There is not much information to give suggestions about a teenage daughter and her wish of distancing her from her father.

    There are, however, a few mentions that has caught my attention. For example, calling the Dad “my ex” in the question and explaining the reason for their ultimate divorce may have a negative impact on the child and future relationships.

    I have found that a child of broken families is able to live healthy, productive and supportive lives with both of their parents. I may suggest to hire a coach (life coach who specializes in divorce and family dynamics). It is quite amazing to see the results arising from coaching.

    Through my own divorce and experiences with my children, I became interested in divorce mediation and coaching. I have worked 25+ years as an executive, but I cannot tell you the fulfillment I get helping other families.

    Do yourself and your daughter a favor and give her a wonderful and caring gift….hire a coach. I wish you the best of luck as you navigate through this.

  9. Tre July 30, 2014 at 10:26 pm · Reply

    My parents divorced because of infidelity and my Mom didn’t lie to me about it. She respected my opinion and when I didn’t wanna go to my father’s house, she didn’t force me. She instead made me call him and take responsibility for my feelings and choices not to see him. She never used me as a pawn, or treated me like an imbecile who didn’t know that my dad was messing around with another lady. Don’t lie to kids. My mom let me form my own opinion about my father and never called him names. Because of that, I have a good relationship with him now as an adult, after growing out of a selfish me-phase as a teenager. I may have resented my mom had she circumvented my request for privacy and respect. I love her more for letting me have a voice. I love my father for owning up to his stupid decisions. I think this therapist has it right.

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