Hostile-Aggressive parenting is another evil that often raises its head in split custody arrangements after divorce. It is one methodology used by a parent to degrade the child’s view, perception of, or thoughts about the other parent. With the absence already an issue, this method can have far-reaching and long-lasting, deleterious effects on your kids, and your relationship with them.
In late May of 2010, I got an email from a family counselor near where my kids live. As I read, I learned that she’d been seeing my kids with their mother twice a week for three weeks. It took her six full visits before she felt it was time to include me in the “family” counseling sessions. Meanwhile, my sons and I are still enduring this hostile-aggressive parenting from their Mom.
Her email included a form for me to fill out and return to her prior to our first session together. It read like a request for my confession to all of the many violent crimes I had undoubtedly committed against my ex and our kids. I wish I were kidding.
Around the same time, I learned that my ex was pregnant, and due during what was supposed to be my visitation period. Given the tone of this counselor’s initial interactions with me, and this bombshell dropping, I put two and two together pretty quickly. She was trying to take my summer visitation from me, and she pulled out all the stops. This is what hostile-aggressive parents will do. She was only slightly afraid that the expected summer birth of her new daughter wouldn’t be enough to convince me, or the judge, to cancel that summer’s visit. So she went full-court-press with her hostile-aggressive parenting.
I dropped another $2,500 on an attorney and started the process of trying to protect my visitation with them. By the time we had a hearing about it all, two weeks of what should have been my summer time with them had already passed. Meanwhile, I kept attending the counseling sessions with my sons via phone.
Get very familiar with the laws governing recording of phone calls in your state, and in the state your ex lives in. According to my state’s law, I could record calls if at least one person in the conversation (even if it were just me) knew it was being recorded. The law wasn’t any different in their state. Telephone recording under “one-party consent” is legal, federally, but only 38 of 50 states follow the “one-party consent” requirement. That being said, check this resource and perhaps consult with an attorney before recording phone calls.
I recorded the counseling sessions. Call me crazy, but I didn’t trust this counselor, and of course I didn’t trust my ex. I was extremely upset that my sons had six counseling sessions with a family counselor, and without my knowledge. She wasn’t doing this to help my sons. The hostile-aggressive parent was doing it to manipulate everyone and everything into making sure she got what she wanted.
So, if my recording these sessions sounds underhanded to you, well… I felt like I was doing what I needed to do to protect myself. I would encourage other Dads in similar situations to do it as well. Just make sure you’re complying with the law before you do so.
In one particular session, I learned that my ex had spent a lot of time telling my kids more truckloads of lies. She told them that I was never around, never did anything with them, and never showed any interest in them. I told the counselor that any response with words would be a weak defense. She sounded pretty convinced that every nasty thing my ex said about me was true. I then asked her to give me a day or two, and I would respond to these allegations with an email.
I created the video below from pictures stored on my computer. Most of them I took with my own phone, but some were saved from my ex’s phone as well. I asked the counselor to call me after she’d seen the video, and she did. She agreed to show it to my sons in a session, and in front of their mother. Have a look, and then we’ll continue.
Hostile-Aggressive Parenting Comes Alive in the Counselor’s Office
When the fateful session came, I was nervous as hell. I’d designed this video to create an emotional pull. I did it without malice, and made my point without pointing fingers. I believed this was going to tug at my precious kids’ heartstrings, and knew it was going to piss the ex off.
Too. Damn. Bad.
So the video begins, and I can hear the music playing over the phone. Then I began hearing things I couldn’t believe. She was standing there, watching the video over my sons’ shoulders saying “He wasn’t there,” for damn near every picture in the slide show. Yes, even the ones my ugly mug is in. “He wasn’t there. Those pictures are from my friends’ phones…”
And on, and on it went, for almost the entirety of the video. Then, when the last note played, I could hear her again saying, “No. He wasn’t there.”
At that point, the counselor asked the boys to leave the room, and the conversation got uncomfortably real… for her.
I can’t remember what she said verbatim, but the counselor let loose. Over the few weeks we’d been in session together, the counselor began to suspect I was being more truthful about things than my ex was. She started asking my ex questions about things I’d alleged. Her answers sounded scripted, panicked and dishonest.
“You don’t understand. He wasn’t there. They don’t WANT to talk to him, or visit with him. What am I supposed to do? NOT protect my children?”
Ooh… she was PISSED. And for you ladies out there reading, I’ll ask you to simply pardon me here. Fellow dads in similar situations need to hear things like this. They need to know that some professionals have the courage to call Moms out. Dads need to see the importance of being honest. They need to understand the importance of demonstrating integrity and character. Dads can get “wins” by walking the high road, and putting their kids best interests over their own feelings. Indeed, these are the only tools that can help them win. These things are how the counseling sessions intended to hurt me ended up helping me. She exposed herself for what she was, and now someone else knew her true self, too.
I wish I could tell you this small victory paid immediate dividends. It didn’t. The judge ruled that being present when their half-sister was born was more important than their time with me. “You can make up for this time with them at some other time.”
So I got 18 days with my sons that summer, and no, the time never got made up. There was never a “convenient time,” despite what she said in the court, and in emails to me about arranging to make the time up. No one would hold her to that. Flying three kids to Hawaii ain’t cheap. Neither is spending a week in a hotel with a rental car, feeding and entertaining three young men. And she knew it.
Life is still writing the last chapters of this tale. I got high marks from that counselor for handling things the way I did. I also got high marks from the first counselor she took my boys to. That’s great and all, but I’m primarily concerned with how my sons feel I handled things, and how I behaved. I’m beginning to see what I think are answers to that, but can’t be sure. I am confident however, that by walking that high road, and by standing up for myself and my kids, I’ll eventually get an outcome very similar to the one I desire.
Time will tell.
If you are a father who’s ex is engaging in hostile-aggressive parenting, please educate yourself. Search for other resources, and connect with other Dads. I remain ready, more-than willing, and quite able to help you weather this storm, and do your best by your kids.