Dear Annie: My ex-husband was emotionally, verbally and physically abusive, and he was a womanizer from the very beginning. So I divorced him in the 1980s; I then kept custody of our daughter.
All was good between my daughter and me for 10 years — before my ex managed to work his way back into my life with his usual charm. I really thought he had changed. What’s that old saying about a leopard?
I have to confess that we both drank a lot. But I seemed to be the only one at fault for everything. His abuse got worse and worse over the years. He did and said anything to destroy my self-esteem and credibility with my friends and even my co-workers. He managed to destroy my relationship with my daughter, too. They started to hang out in the bars together, and she started to treat me just as he did. They planned for weeks to throw me out when I temporarily lost my job, and they tried to hurt me in other ways. They would huddle in corners of bars together, kissing as if they were lovers, watching my reactions to their behavior. I had people ask me whether they were actually sleeping together, and to be honest, I wasn’t really sure.
It came to a head one night when she was getting ready to go out with her dad again while I was sleeping. She was going to leave her 18-month-old son with me without even letting me know I was baby-sitting. I woke up before she left and was very angry when I figured it out. I woke the child up and told him Mommy was going bye-bye and asked whether he wanted to go with her. At this point, she hit me and knocked me down. Before I could get up, she hit me again. Then she called her dad, and he told me to get out, which I did.
To this day, my daughter has never apologized for any of her behavior or actions. Trust me; having your child treat you like a piece of garbage isn’t something that’s easy to get over. She is doing exactly the same things her father did. I no longer drink at all, for the record. She says she has tried to have a relationship with me, but I just don’t see it happening, not with the hatefulness still coming at me. Should I try to repair the damage that has been done, or should I just walk completely away?
— Wits’ End
Dear Wits’: There is, unfortunately, much more to hash out here than the space of this column allows. But it sounds as if the years of abuse from your ex-husband saddled you with a lot of emotional baggage that you’re still carrying today, and I strongly recommend seeing a therapist. If you’re unable to see one in person, consider using BetterHelp or Talkspace. These websites connect patients with health care professionals via video chats, text messages and phone calls. I hope you and your daughter can build a healthy relationship together over time.