Ex vs. Kids — Who to Believe?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I sent in a question about this issue a little over a year ago and have received a useful response that I thought was workable. However, the situation is still not resolved. I’ve been divorced from my ex over five years. He has two domestic violence felonies and has been incarcerated for domestic violence (against me). Since his release from jail more than five years ago, he has sought community based mental health counseling. He’s been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, PTSD, and OCD. He’s on social security disability. I still love him. But there are a number of issues: 1) He claims he’s no longer mentally ill and only takes his psychotropic drugs shortly before he’s scheduled for his monthly appointment with his psychiatrist. The rest of the time he doesn’t take his meds. 2) He’s isolating himself in a very messy apartment, has grandiose ideas about rewriting the Bible, believes in all kinds of conspiracy theories, and engages in magical thinking; for example: he’s more enlightened than other humans because of his spirituality. 3) He is pushing me to let him come back to me again despite my three grown son’s objections. My youngest son (now 28) is in counseling also for PTSD because when he was a child (from the age of 10) he has witnessed his stepfather’s (my ex-husband) abuse toward me. My ex tells me if I really loved him I wouldn’t leave him, that in the eyes of God we will never be divorced, and if I did decide to move on without him I would betray him like everybody else in life. When I tell him about my sons’ objections he says they should get over it, and that I shouldn’t allow them to control my life. 4) I have forgiven my ex, but feel he might be playing on my emotions. I’m afraid if I allowed him to live with me again he might become abusive again. 5) Most importantly, I’m torn between loyalty to my sons and loyalty to my ex. I have a good and loving relationship with my grown sons. I feel my relationship with them will suffer if I go back to my ex who is diagnosed with mental illness but is noncompliant in taking his meds regularly because he feels he’s no longer sick. My sons want my ex out of their lives and out of my life. I feel torn between my family and my ex.

A. I would concur with your sons who contend that reconnecting with your ex is a bad idea. To paraphrase Maya Angelou: “people always show you early on who they are and if you don’t hear it, it is because you are just not listening.”

Your ex has a history of abuse. History of violence is the most reliable predictor of future violence. No one can predict for certain if he will abuse you again but the fact that he is noncompliant with his medications and is currently experiencing symptoms of psychosis significantly increases the likelihood of violence.

It is often difficult for an individual to control their behavior while they are actively psychotic. By definition psychosis is a break with reality. In other words, individuals who are psychotic have difficulty distinguishing what is real and what is not real. Their judgment is significantly impaired. His misinterpretation of reality could result in violence.

If you choose to reconnect with your ex, then you should do so slowly and with strict boundaries placed upon the relationship. For instance, don’t allow him to return to your home until he has at least at least six months of proven medication compliance and there is clear evidence that his symptoms are under control. He’d have to prove to you that he is taking his medication on a consistent and daily basis, not just in the period before his psychiatry appointment.

Given the information provided, I would not advise you to continue your relationship with your ex. He is not mentally stable, he is noncompliant with his much-needed psychiatric medication, he has a history of violence towards you, and you already suspect that he may be manipulating your emotions. However, I understand that my knowledge of your situation is limited. There are likely many more details about the relationship that were not included in your letter. It would be advantageous to meet with a therapist to discuss your situation in further detail. A therapist could gather the necessary information to objectively evaluate your situation, and assist you in making the best possible decision about how to proceed.

Please take care. I wish you the best of luck.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 1 Mar 2012

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2012). Ex vs. Kids — Who to Believe?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/03/01/ex-vs-kids-who-to-believe/