Q. I’ve been divorced from my ex-husband for five years. Our daughter Avery, 15, spends every other weekend and a month during the summer with her father. During the last five years and even before the divorce, my ex-husband has been angry with me and seems to take it out on our daughter. He and I fight on the telephone several times a week over what Avery needs while she is with him. For instance, he refuses to take Avery to tennis practice and matches when she is staying with him, despite her and my pleas. The more we beg, the more he refuses. She is hoping her success on the tennis team will lead to college scholarships, so we both feel her attendance to tennis functions is extremely important. Why does he behave like this and how can I get him to focus more on Avery’s needs?
A. One possible reason for your ex-husband’s behavior could be that he may still have hurt feelings from the loss of your relationship and the circumstances around the divorce. He might be refusing to take Avery to tennis events to upset her, which in turn upsets you. The more upset you and Avery get, the more encouraged he is to keep aggravating you.
Another possible reason for his behavior is that he may prefer to spend time in a different way or at a different place with Avery instead of taking her to tennis events that you may also be attending. A third possible reason for his lack of cooperation is that he may feel like you are trying to control his actions and time.
I assume that you and Avery have told her father about her desire to get a tennis scholarship. If not, it could be productive for Avery to write her reasons for wanting to attend practice and matches on his weekends and give them to her father (it is always wise to keep a copy). It could be more productive if Avery takes responsibility for working with her father on this issue rather than you fighting her battles. Another option that encourages Avery to do more of the work in getting her needs met would be to have her ask the tennis coach to talk to her father. If none of these options work, you will have to abide by his decision. You can control what happens during your time with Avery, but you can’t control your ex-husband’s actions during his time.
Hopefully, turning more of the responsibility for getting her needs met over to Avery encourages your ex-husband to be more accommodating and also helps your daughter become more self-sufficient. It should also reduce the number of frustratingly unsuccessful interactions with your ex-husband. Good luck!
Betty Richardson, PhD, RNC, LPC, LMFT, is an Austin-based psychotherapist who specializes in dealing with the problems of children, adolescents and parents.
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