Relationship Connection: How will my kids know the truth when my ex has lied about me for 10 years?

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Question

Over 10 years ago I went through a divorce. Though it looked like an amicable separation to my family, they were unaware of the true motivations (an affair of my ex-husband with a co-worker). In deceit, he publicly announced to all his ground for divorce was because of my mental health and my refusal to continue in therapy. He also fabricated other lies about me, including accusing me of abusing my children, who chose to live with him.

I knew my innocence, the truth and that someday it would all come out.

The problem was that some of my family members sided with my ex-husband saying to me, “we didn’t divorce him, you did,” and they continued to invite him to family gatherings. This pained me. It was awkward, to say the least, to be together with him and his new wife but we maintained civility and I felt I had passed the trial to love my enemies.

The ongoing hurt has been my relationship with some family members. Some of my family chose to believe him and told me I am a “tortured soul.” Their betrayal has, in some ways, hurt more than the divorce. I’ve tried to live my life with integrity so that anyone who truly knows me would know the accusations are groundless and are part of my ex-husband’s defense so that he looks innocent.

I have been officially shunned to never see my children who live with him. They are young adults now. It has been four years since I’ve had contact with them although they keep in contact with my family through social media, et cetera. Because of the toxicity, I haven’t made attempts to have any contact with my two children since, as far as I know, they still live at home although it breaks my heart that they think I don’t love them or that my silence implies guilt.

Do I need to fight for my innocence and be more vocal?

So far, turning the other cheek has produced no change in the situation. I have forgiven my family members who sided with my ex and continue to see them at gatherings. But I miss the relationship with my children so much! I’m willing to endure as long as needs be but question whether I’m too complacent.

One time when I texted my ex-husband asking him to send me proof he was dropping a child’s health insurance so I could put them on my insurance plan, it resulted in a charge of harassment and a call from the police.

Should I try to contact my children directly as long as they live under his roof?

Answer

It is deeply painful to be misrepresented by another person. It puts us on the defensive, trying to clear our names when the message has already been sent. Additionally, it can feel like we’re spreading drama as we try to hold the other person accountable. I can understand why you chose to protect your peace rather than fight your ex-husband’s lies. At the same time, as you’ve explained, he’s not backed off and it’s creating long-term consequences for your relationships.

I don’t know the legalities around contacting your children who live with your husband. Even though they’re adults, there may be legal boundaries to you communicating with anyone in his home. Check with an attorney to make sure you’re not creating more problems with you or your children.

It’s also entirely possible that your children may not want to talk with you. Your ex-husband has controlled the narrative about you for the past 10-plus years, so it’s going to be difficult to clarify your story until your children are curious and initiate a conversation. You’ll need to be prepared for the possibility that this may never happen.

Obviously, I’m only getting your side of the story, so there may be reasons why your children aren’t speaking to you. I don’t know the entire story, but you do. So make sure that you’re being honest with yourself and make sure you are taking accountability for anything you’ve done to contribute to this situation. It’s quite easy to get caught in the back and forth of perceptions and accusations, but all you can do is take responsibility for your behaviors and work to ignore the misrepresentations.

Because you chose to stay quiet while your husband spread lies about your situation and your character, your children and your family members think they know the truth. It’s not an act of aggression to speak the truth about your situation. There are times when it’s important to defend yourself to stop the damage created by others who would seek your destruction.

If you want close relationships with your family members, especially those who have believed the lies about you, then I encourage you to approach them with an attitude of compassion and reconciliation. Let them know that you would like to see if it’s possible to rekindle a relationship with them in light of all of the terrible things that have happened over the past 10 years. Let them know that you chose not to defend yourself because you wanted to be peaceful and not stay in the fight. However, the lies have created substantial damage and you would like an opportunity to explain yourself. You’re not asking them to take sides, but rather, to hear your voice and consider another perspective.

Some family members may be open to your invitation and others may feel caught in the middle and choose to keep their distance. As long as your motive is to create connection with your family members, then you don’t have to apologize for wanting to clarify your experience. If your motive is driven by a desire to harm your ex-husband and pay him back for everything he’s done, then it’s best to leave them out of it. They were already pulled into his web years ago and there’s no need to continue with that pattern.

Your ex-husband accused you of some serious behaviors that are worthy of your defense. This isn’t a one- or two-time insult that you can simply brush off. He’s burned bridges between you and your family that you never had a chance to protect. You can decide when and where you should start using your voice to begin rebuilding these bridges.

Even though you’ve lived your life peacefully and out of the drama, adding your voice will help reinforce what others have hopefully felt and observed.

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 his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

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

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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5 Comments

  • comments April 11, 2018 at 11:41 am

    Didn’t read geoff’s answer yet, but ‘reading between the lines’ I can tell this person suffers from severe mental/psychological/psychiatric issues. The first step is being honest with yourself. Sometimes people need help. Sometimes you’ve got to put that pride aside and get yourself into a psychiatrist.

    • Striker4 April 12, 2018 at 2:30 am

      You should follow your own advice and the sooner the better

  • Hataalii April 11, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    What I see here is a typically manipulative substance abuser. The divorce was all your ex-husband’s fault. Your family isn’t close to you, but it’s all your ex-husband’s fault.
    Your children are growing up with their father, rather than their mother. I suppose that’s probably the fault of the court.
    Give your kids, your ex, and your family a break. Leave them the hell alone!

    • comments April 12, 2018 at 1:18 am

      That’s very likely. It read like it was from someone with severe issues, whether those be psychotic issues or drug abuse is anyone’s guess. Could be both. But she’s obviously not telling the whole story or the truth– “it’s everyone else’s fault”, of course…

  • Scott April 12, 2018 at 2:59 pm

    There’s always more to the story. This speaks to the need for all of us to care less about what others think, while still being compassionate. As someone alluded, courts rarely grant full custody to a man. There’s much more to this story.

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