Still not speaking after 23 years

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: I was divorced 23 years ago from a physically and mentally abusive husband. We had 3 children; our oldest 2 were daughters and the youngest being our son. We both adored our children, which made the divorce a very difficult one. We had joint custody, but I had the physical custody. Here is my question; my ex-husband does not speak to our 2 daughters or me after 23 years. He has a very close relationship with our son who chose to live with his dad when he turned 14. Our daughters wanted to continue living with my husband and myself. He will speak to my husband that I remarried should we be at my son’s house, but will not speak to us. Nor will his wife. He remarried shortly after our divorce and had another son. Of course we speak to his son. This bothers me because I would love to talk to him about our children. And worst yet he continues to hurt his daughters. Is there anything that we can do?

A: Unfortunately, your ex-husband is still in a fight with you. Even though he went on with his life and remarried and had another son, he apparently can’t forgive you and his girls for leaving him. It’s very, very sad. He is willing to sacrifice his relationship with his daughters and the pleasure of sharing them with you because of pride or some need to prove superiority. Unfortunately, he is also modeling for his sons that the way to be a man is to hold grudges and cut off any woman who doesn’t comply with his wishes. It seems that you’ve invited him to have a different kind of relationship but he’s still giving you the silent treatment. I don’t know if his wife agrees with that tactic or if she is too afraid of his reaction talk with you herself. I don’t see much reason to hope that things will change. My best advice to you is to refuse to let him upset you (which, I imagine, is his goal) and also refuse to participate in any attempts to argue. Let your children all know that you’re willing to have pleasant contact whenever your ex is. Then put your energy and your love where it is returned: in the relationships with your husband and your children.
I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Aug 2006

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2006). Still not speaking after 23 years. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2006/08/27/still-not-speaking-after-23-years/