Dear Lisa, Reader Question

Dear Lisa-Reader QuestionIt’s time again for “Dear Lisa, Reader Question…” I received a good one a few months ago and have been meaning to share it with you. Why? Because the question represents a common problem: A new boyfriend (or girlfriend).  Although their intentions are often good, getting involved in the divorce rarely ‘helps’ the situation.

Dave* asks:

“Hi Lisa, I wonder if I could get your advice on something. I just read your post, “Divorce Bully” and I recognize all the signs in my girlfriend’s ex-husband. I’m doing a little research to try to help her. She’s been divorced for two years and she has two sons ages 5 and 7 with her ex. They share custody. The problem is, he verbally abuses her every chance he gets. He’s never on time bringing her sons back to her home and always changing plans they make so that she can never rely on his word. The latest problem is he won’t let the boys go on a summer holiday she planned. The reason? He doesn’t want his sons near me. I love her and it kills me to watch the pain he causes her. She continues to agree to his plans and still he always blames her when things go wrong. He will email or telephone her and verbally berate her. She cries after and I can see the physical toll it’s taking on her.

When I try to talk to her about it, she shuts down. She tells me not to get involved and that she will handle it. The most she has shared about her past with her ex is that this verbal abuse was a constant in her marriage and one of the reasons she left him. When I point out to her that she hasn’t got away from it, she won’t talk about it. She is being bullied and fits all the signs you mention. My question to you is, should I try to talk to him, let him know I won’t allow him to treat her this way? Or should I stay out of it like she has asked? I’m furious every time I see the pain he causes her. I need to fix this but I’m not sure if it will make things worse.”

Answer:

“Hi Dave, reading your email really hit me like an arrow in the heart. This kind of situation is more common than we realize. After the divorce, sometimes the verbal abuse not only continues but gets worse. I can understand your frustration in seeing this happen to someone you love. You don’t want to see your girlfriend in pain especially caused by the same person repeatedly. Here’s the problem though, it is ‘her divorce’ to deal. It is ‘her battle’. She has to be the one to decide when enough is enough. I know this is hard to hear but she is right. Nothing good comes of a new partner getting involved in child custody issues or any other divorce issues. Here’s what I suggest you do; be there for her. That’s it! No words. Just a safe place to land when she needs it. Strong arms to hold her when she feels she can’t go on. These simple acts will show her how much you care, love and believe in her. In time, you will give her strength and the confidence she needs.

Right now, telling her you want to intervene is actually telling her she’s not handling things properly and you need to fix it for her. Telling her how to deal with her ex is like saying she isn’t strong enough to do it herself. Instead, show her you believe in her. Give her some credit that she can and will handle it.

My only caveat to this advice is, if her physical safety is in question. If that is the case then keep a record of the events, report anything to the police and yes, by all means be a protector. Lastly, if you remain calm, she will open up to you. If you over react then she will worry about sharing certain things. Keep that in mind because you want her to feel safe and not judged when she talks about her divorce or her struggles. Opening up that communication will also keep you in the loop and improve things going forward. I guess in all this, I’m saying you can show your support in ways that don’t directly interfere and this will in turn, give her some self confidence to deal with the situation.”

*Not his real name.

The Take Away: Direct involvement isn’t always the answer in helping our loved ones. Sometimes it’s the simple gestures of showing support that will empower the one we love to take her own action to solve her problem. Divorce is such an emotional and volatile time that having third parties get involved isn’t always the best course of action. That said, personal safety should always be the priority.

Did I miss anything? Any of you Escapees have a similar situation?

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20 Replies to “Dear Lisa, Reader Question”

  1. Hi Lisa,

    That is a great advice…getting into other’s problems only fetches us bad name despite being helpful. It is better to provide emotional support so that the other person feels secure. Direct involvement may worsen the situation.
    I must congratulate you for your kindness to such persons who feel confused. A helping word is a great reassurance. Stay blessed. 🙂

  2. I think it’s wonderful that you are giving advice like this directly to people who have questions. And sharing it here is great because I know this situation is similar for so many people.

  3. Hi Lisa,
    Awesome advice!!! And–my hubby and this caring soul are two peas in a pods. Both love their significant other with all their heart and can’t stand to see them hurt.

    It’s taken a LONG time for hubby to embrace that the battles I face are “my divorce battles” and he’s finally come around to the best way to win is to be a positive, loving, supportive and safe place for me and the girls. Yes, he gets upset when my ex acts like a jacka$$, but he’s no longer trying to run the interference play. That’s my play. And I hope your reader hears how stressful it can be to feel judged or told they aren’t doing it the right way–that will only end up having his loved one burning at two ends of the candle–one, in dealing with the ex, and two, having to justify her decisions to the one person who is supposed to be ‘safe.”

    My heart goes out to her, and hope she can one day feel strong enough to raise more boundaries with the ex…for her sake and the kids’….it makes my heart hurt to see her in such struggles–i can totally relate since i’ve been there!! (I only respond to him via text and email, and even then it can be a drain. I keep trying to come from a place of: put the kids first, we have to make this work, i will take the high road, one day it will be better….
    even when !@#$ gets thrown at me. It takes a toll! So i can see where he’s coming from.)

    Anyway–thanks for the awesome post and advice!! Love and hugs!!

    1. Thanks, Jane. This is a tough situation because I get the boyfriend’s point of view and I also understand hers. 😛 Showing support doesn’t always mean taking action—I guess that’s the moral here. That’s awesome that your husband has come to understand that you are strong and can handle the problems without his direct involvement. I’m sure that has reduced a ton of stress for you and the girls. Of course, his intentions were all good. He can’t stand to see you suffer in any way. You’re doing an amazing job staying on that high road, Jane. You’re a role model!

  4. Hi Lisa,

    I like the advice you gave to “Dave.”

    It seems to me like men are always more likely to try to “do something” about problems and situations, whereas women are content to just have someone to talk to and be supportive rather than intervening.

    I guess it’s another Mars/Venus thing 🙂

    -Donna

    1. Hey Donna, that could very well be the Mars/Venus thing. Men are definitely more eager to ‘fix’ things for the ones they love. Although, I think this advice would come in handy for women, too.

  5. Hi Lisa! You gave excellent advice. While I haven’t been in that particular situation, I am married to a man I love and he sometimes feels the same need–to fix something I am challenged by. As you say, just being there to comfort me and allow me to talk things out is usually the best thing he can do. And if he tries to “fix it” that does make me feel like he thinks I can’t figure it out on my own. Thanks for this sound advice for this situation and so many others. ~Kathy

    1. Hi Kathy, right? They love to take action but especially where divorce is concerned, it only makes things more complicated. Trust and faith in her are key here.

    1. Hi Marcia, yes going through the divorce process is one of the most emotional experiences a person can go through (no matter who initiated it) and add new partners and it can get pretty tangled up. One good thing though is it does eventually end 🙂

  6. Unfortunately, when children are involved, the problems really do continue or escalate, huh?
    Your advice is spot-on. It boils my blood just to read!

    1. Hi Tamara, yes the children make it so that you ‘deal’ with one another long after the divorce is over. My question to myself used to be “will this matter five years from now?” if the answer was yes, I would take action or try to fix it. If the answer was no, I would try to let it go. That helps keep the escalation of conflict down.

  7. You’re right – his talking to the ex will only escalate the issue (and likely in ex’s mind prove his point). It does sound like she needs more help though. I understand the dilemma. Your advice was right – he needs to stay well out of it.

    1. Thanks, Liv. Yes, she definitely needs some support. Therapist and her beau’s support at home should be enough to get her through the tough spots.

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