Q.I feel like a horse that should be put out to pasture.
My husband, whom I divorced seven years ago, is now remarried, has a house and a younger, cooler wife, but apparently that isn't enough.
I never "dissed" him to my daughter -- the court told us not to do that -- but he is verbally vicious when he doesn't get his way and he quickly launched an aggressive campaign to poison her mind against me. As she once said, "No one knows the dad that you and I know."
These attacks were ineffective for years, but my daughter is now 15.
Perhaps adolescence has impaired her balanced view, for she has begun to listen to the stuff he says about me.
My daughter is an extremely intelligent girl and I sometimes think she's making the best deal she can for her childhood. She has an "awesome" room at his house, a large dog, a PC, a DVD player and the promise of a car. Her friends also think her dad is "cool," probably because he flirts with them, as he has always done with her friends.
It's so hard to see my daughter slip away from me. It's true that I have medication-controlled depression -- of which he's made my daughter terrified -- but I don't think I am the walking public embarrassment my ex seems to think I am.
What can I say to her? How much of her behavior is normal? How much is caused by his poisonous words? My heart breaks more every single day.
A.The essential question is not what your daughter or your ex-husband thinks about you, but what you think about yourself.
It's time for self-congratulation, not self-pity. You are that praiseworthy person: a survivor.
Although you are a depressive, you are responsible enough to take your meds. Many people with this disorder are too low to do that, or even to see a shrink.
And despite your ex's bribes and cruel words, you have maintained a strong relationship with your daughter.
She may act shrewish and self-centered now and this behavior may last for another year or so, but she'll return to you, a wiser, more mature young woman; and, one hopes, she will stay connected to her dad, too. He has flaws, but he's her father and, one way or another, he will always be a part of her life. The more clearly she can see him, and accept him as he is, the better she will judge all men and the more she's likely to marry a person who is right for her.
Maybe your daughter is making the best of her situation right now, as you say, or maybe she'd rather be around her cool dad for a few years, just as she preferred your company until now. Girls and boys switch their primary allegiance from time to time, whether their parents are divorced or not, and it's nothing to be too worried about.
Or maybe your daughter isn't as close to her dad as you think. She may be raking him over the emotional coals, just as she does to you, but he'll never tell you and she won't even know. Fifteen-year-olds seldom realize how hurtful their cutting words can be, especially to their parents.
You can deal with this situation more easily if you don't keep living your life through your daughter. Instead, reach out and make new friends and forge new relationships by developing your own interests as fully as you can.
If you like nature, join a hiking club. If you like exercise, take a water aerobics class or join a crewing club, and if you always thought you could draw or act if you tried, then take a life class or join an amateur theater.
The more your own talents flower, the more you will make friends who share your interests and the less you will depend on your daughter to fill the voids in your life. But whatever you do, give her the compassion you want her to give you. As long as you are nonjudgmental and keep the communication flowing, she will come back to you; but remember, when a child changes, her parents must change, too, if only a little bit.
To make these changes a little easier, read "Transitions" by William Bridges (DaCapo, $15.95). This revised classic is as relevant now as when it was first published, 25 years ago. And it was very relevant then.
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