Daughter’s Confused Feelings for Antisocial Parent

Reader’s Question

My daughter is 8 years old. By court order, neither she nor her brothers have been allowed any contact with their father for 5 months. I believe their father has some type of antisocial behavioral disorder, but I am not an expert. My daughter has been in counseling due to threatening to kill herself if I did not divorce my husband and go back to her father. It has been established that her father was programming her to use her against me. He has told her that if I love her, I will divorce my husband and come back to him so we can be a family.

The children have a guardian ad litem, and the guardian’s requirement to the father is to get into counseling. But, he refuses. There is massive evidence of his mental instabilities, such as violent pornography left for the boys to view, massive amounts of e-mails from him asking me for money, etc.

His behavior has not modified. But, my daughter is heartbroken and so wants to see her Dad. The boys don’t ever want to see him again. They have no emotion one way or the other for him. I would expect anger or resentment because he made such a difference between them and my daughter…she had special privileges, such as sleeping in the bed with Dad, or watching TV with him in his room.

My question is that what can I do to alleviate her pain? I cannot change him; he refuses to acknowledge that he has done anything wrong. Moreover, his Mother is enabling him to continue in this path by supporting him financially to sue me for custody and child support. My daughter’s mental well-being is my primary concern. She begs to see her Dad. Thus far, we have not been able to establish supervised visitation because he refuses to start counseling. Any suggestions?

By the way, the children have a safe, warm loving environment in my home. They are involved in TAG, and have many hobbies. Thanks.

PS: I would love to receive a copy of your newsletter.

Psychologist’s Reply

I’ve written an introduction to personality disorders on this website, and from your description, your ex is probably a good fit for Antisocial Personality (AP). People with an Antisocial Personality are totally selfish and abuse, intimidate and manipulate others. The majority refuse to work or maintain any level of adult responsibility and as you describe, often have an “enabler” in the family system — typically a spouse or parent. Antisocial personalities have a tremendous sense of entitlement and for that reason, feel entitled and justified in their abuse and torment of others. As in your situation, they have no concern for the feelings, rights, or health of others which allows them to use their own children to punish their spouses.

When dealing with Antisocial Personalities, it’s helpful to use strategies that consider their basic selfishness and narcissism (self-worship) in their personality. The court system has known this for years, quickly recognizing that a simple requirement for counseling, psychological assessment, or participation in a treatment program (anger-management, alcohol treatment, etc.) protects their victims. While healthy adults/parents are concerned about their children to the point they will participate in any court requirement, the Antisocial Personality is not self-sacrificing and rarely completes any program or court requirement lasting more than two visits. For an Antisocial Personality, two one-hour visits for the sake of their children is too much to ask. If something doesn’t directly benefit them, they’re not interested.

Keep in mind that he doesn’t want custody — he probably just doesn’t want you to have custody or wants to lower child support. He also wants to cause difficulties for your new life if possible. What can you do to help your daughter:

  • As a parent who is concerned for the health of the child, you may be making excuses for her father’s behavior, hoping to ease her disappointment. Making excuses confuses the children. Rather, simply state the facts such as “Your Father won’t do what the court wants him to do. I don’t know why.”
  • Continued involvement in counseling will be helpful for her.
  • Antisocial Personalities only do things for their benefit and for that reason, as time passes he will actually fade away and out of your daughter’s life. They can quickly detach and not look back.
  • You can substitute the attention she received from her father by having special Mother-Daughter activities. Your husband can also do things to make her feel special such as buying her a popular pre-teen DVD. Your daughter will gradually adjust to the situation and to whatever level of communication is available with her biological father.
  • I’d recommend reading other questions on Personality Disorders by selecting that topic from the sidebar menu of this page.
  • You can also enroll in our email newsletter by selecting “EMAIL” in the upper right corner and enrolling with your email address. In the newsletter, you’ll find that questions about dealing with Personality Disorders are very common.

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