My ex is so selfish

My ex is the most selfish, immature man possible. I finally gave up on him and divorced him and I did hope he might grow up and treat his children right but he shows no signs of doing it. He’s late on visits, often cancels or changes the arrangements. My new husband is a total contrast – loving, caring, totally reliable. So why on earth does my son refuse to accept him? He idolises his father and it is like having an enemy soldier in the camp – he spends the whole time battling with my husband, who’s just bewildered by it all. He tries so hard and my son just throws it in his face.

The contrast may be what baffles your son so much. Children love their parents, come what may. But they can also be angry with them.

The problem for your son is that expressing the anger he might have for his father is very risky. The man has shown graphically what he does when things get uncomfortable – he leaves and avoids coming back. So your son’s negative feelings have to go somewhere and it sounds as if some of it doubles back on himself – he sounds both depressed and lacking in self worth – and the rest is dumped on his stepfather.

The best strategy is twofold. One would be to tell your ex that his behaviour, while understandable in that he’s avoiding pain and loss himself, is severely harming his son. If he needs help he should get it but since he’s the adult he should pull his socks up, stop only thinking of himself and think of the effect he is having on his boy.

The other strategy is to focus on your son’s behaviour as a way of expressing needs. He needs love, attention, affirmation. Give it to him, from both of you. Acknowledge, openly, how painful it must seem to him that his father lives away from him, how much he must miss him and how disappointed he must be when his father doesn’t see him as much as he’d like. Be positive and don’t criticise his father – your son is his representative and it may be that it’s criticism he has overheard that makes him take such a stand on his father’s behalf.

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