My Wife Thinks My Son is Evil and Dangerous

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Reader’s Question

I have two sons from a previous relationship (call her ‘Cathy’). I dated my wife (call her ‘Crystal’) for two years and have been married for 18 months. Crystal has three kids who live with us from a previous marriage.

My wife and I had one child together, a baby boy who is now 10 months old. My 9-year-old son (Crystal’s step son, call him ‘Hayden’), took our guinea pig out of its cage without permission and hurt it badly. He says it was an accident. My wife’s reaction was to permanently ban him from our home. For the past 7 months I have had to go to my parents’ house to see my son during my visitation time.

This issue has caused serious problems. My wife thinks my son is evil and dangerous. My mother-in-law agrees. I have tried to reason with my wife, but she says there is no compromise on this issue and gets extremely enraged when I bring it up.

So just about every two weeks when my kids come to visit we would argue about this (if I brought it up). As Christmas was approaching I told my wife that I would really like to have my kids at our home to visit for Christmas. I asked her to please just consider it. She claimed she would. The weekend before Christmas I asked my wife to take a look at the calendar and pick a few days for my boys to come during the holiday break. (I had that whole week off work). She became enraged and said no she doesn’t want him in the house. She’s now afraid he’ll hurt the baby for some reason. I got mad and said if you can’t work something out with me on this issue then we are going to eventually have to split up.

That didn’t go over well at all. She immediately kicked ME out of the house and is now seeking a divorce.

So I’m staying at my parents’ house; I have tried to reason with her and get her to look at the big picture. I ended up missing my baby’s first Christmas because of her. It’s been a month now, and I thought she would have cooled off and seen that she was overreacting. No luck. She has talked to me on the phone a few times and now claims that it’s not because of Hayden, it’s because she thinks I was mean to her kids. I wasn’t. Her mother has hated me from the beginning and has been stirring things up since I’ve been gone too. She has since tried to get a restraining order claiming I threatened one of her kids. It was denied and thrown out of court. She then had Children’s Protective Services investigate me, claiming I threw my baby son on the couch and emotionally abused her kids. I just got the letter in the mail from the CPS and it says they found I DID NOT abuse any of the kids and they will not be opening a case for her.

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I think my wife has snapped and lost her mind. I try to tell her to look at reality, to remind her how good I was to her with example after example. She says none of that matters. All that matters to her is her kids. Things were not going that badly between us other than the issue with Hayden. I am lost. What is going on here? How can she be buying me Christmas gifts one day and decorating the Christmas tree with me, and seem normal — and the next day I am kicked out of her life for good with nary a second thought.

Psychologist’s Reply

Here is a situation where we learn something critically important: we do not have the power to change problems that are not our own.

Gil Kliman wrote a book called “Responsible Parenting”. In it, he wrote that acknowledging that you were causing a problem gave you the power to change or solve it.

There have been times when readers have said that I’ve guilted people who write in with questions. By pointing out that a problem might be their own, some readers think that I’ve blamed the questioner. This has not been my intent. Rather, I intend to make the same point that Dr. Kliman makes. If we are the source of a problem, then we can change it.

In your situation, it sounds like your wife has a personal problem that she is blaming on you. You assert your innocence, and that appears to be corroborated by CPS. Your wife, on the other hand, is supported by her own mother, who has held influence over her for much longer than you. The result on your family is nothing short of tragic.

It’s important to remember your role. You are not your wife’s therapist. You are her husband and the father of your children. You cannot be a therapist to your own family members. Fortunately, you do not need to be.

Let’s assume that you are in the serious divorce process. The first step in it, as you know, is to try to work things out through mediation. That process deserves all the hope you can give it because it holds the greatest chance for reconciliation. (Even if you do divorce, still you could find common ground on which to base your co-parenting.) If that fails and you are not able to come to understand each other, then it falls to you to set priorities in your relationships and to take care of the children.

Children have a natural tendency to think that they are the cause of problems between their parents. Being at fault helps a child who would otherwise feel helpless. Being at fault and guilty is not as bad as feeling helpless. It will be difficult for you to address this with your children, especially Hayden. It will be especially difficult to address this if the children are being exposed to ‘divorce poison’ — that is, one parent is talking down the other.

In high-conflict divorce court, the judge is also in a difficult situation: he needs to decide who to believe when parents are pointing the finger at each other. One thing that would be very helpful to the judge and your children is to ask that the children have an advocate appointed to them. The job of that attorney would be to represent the best interest of the children. Therefore, if it was in their best interest to be with the mother even over your objections, that would be the argument made to the court. If your priority was the best interest of the children, then you would need to stay centered on demonstrating your own fitness to parent. It would not be your job to demonstrate the lack of fitness of the mother. Your role and responsibilities would be very narrow and it would require boundaries of steel for you to observe those limits. It sounds like you could do that, because the children are your priority.

Your question to me was about the mental health of your wife. My response here is to limit your curiosity about that if you are already in divorce proceedings. You may wonder about her mental health forever, and it may affect the way you choose your friends and partners in the future. For now, you have the result of her behavior to deal with. The motives for her behavior are not available for you to consider.

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