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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi all, and forgive me for jumping right in with no introduction :/ ... but I so need to vent, and would love advice. I'm sure you know the feeling!

The TLDR version of my situation is - 10 yo DD, 9 yo SS, two years and change into relationship with SO, living together and on our way to marriage. We - technically of course SO - have 50% custody of SS. And SS has FAS, fetal alcohol syndrome (there are a variety of acronyms but that ones familiar, right?)

This leads to SO. MANY. ISSUES, but right now I am just floored by the extent of my anger, my seething rage, at the ex. I just can't stop thinking: she did this to him. She did this to this little boy. She forced the pregnancy on my SO -- neither of us really knows if he's SO's biological child' actually -- she knowingly, unilaterally, got pregnant and then - she drank. She used all manner of other drugs, too, all perfectly legal, just like alcohol is legal. She created these problems, the low IQ, the ADHD, the physical issues, the failure to socialize, the emotional delays, the slow academic progress, all this stuff that's a direct result of this diagnosis. The medications and the three different therapists and the IEP and the school aid and all of it. We look at the bright side - he's got the FAS personality, sweet and affectionate, trusting to a fault, open-hearted and gentle - but the problems! The potential that he will never be able to live up to, because of the cognitive problems! It's non-stop. He has to be managed, hands-on, every minute of every day. He's developmentally maybe 6. And now he's starting to express himself sexually. And the birth mother created this.

I've known all this for a long time, you know? I did my homework and thought long and had those difficult conversations before committing to blending our families. I didn't have strong feelings about the bio mom for a long time. But suddenly I am just so angry at her. It's been almost three weeks of anger, and I just can't move past it.

It doesn't help that the birth mother is, or was, a social worker who was licensed by the state to take kids out of the very situation that she created for her own child. It just makes me mad at the state, for trusting her an inch, in addition to the anger I have at her.

I'm sure I can't be the only one who gets these stages of anger. If you have any words of wisdom please, please share. I know it won't last forever but if I can turn this negative, corrosive feeling into something GOOD it would be wonderful.
 

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I think it is good to vent about this.
Curious about the sudden anger after so long though. Is it that you are just now realizing that this will most likely be a lifetime of care for SS? And while your SO has no choice in the matter, you do?

Curious whether or not your SO ever filed charges such that the ex would be held accountable and her position as a social worker revoked?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I think it is good to vent about this.
Curious about the sudden anger after so long though. Is it that you are just now realizing that this will most likely be a lifetime of care for SS? And while your SO has no choice in the matter, you do?

Curious whether or not your SO ever filed charges such that the ex would be held accountable and her position as a social worker revoked?
Thanks Ismewilde.

I honestly don't know why the sudden anger. Maybe it's getting closer to SO's family, especially his mother, who have told me more about the ex's behavior. Maybe it's getting more attached to SS. Maybe seeing how DD is both adjusting and suffering over time. Maybe it's the pressure of keeping my thoughts secret from SO, who holds on to the idea that "we will never ever give up and SS will be perfectly fine someday" - and I don't believe it. Maybe it's the way the ex tries to do the long-distance meddling in my home. Probably the combination just suddenly tipped some balance I didn't even know I had. I can't figure it out, and I've been trying to see what the trigger is.

As for reporting her, she's been fired from DHS - drinking probably contributed - but I don't know details.
 

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My kid had ADHD, PTSD and learning disabilities due to trauma at his birth father's hands. It's not FAS, but we've had a lot of challenges with him. Your SS bith mom's behaviour isn't excusable and I think anger is a perfectly normal response. For me it has just eventually evolved into disgust with my ex. Children deserve parents who aren't this self absorbed and reckless. My ex does the long-distance meddling, too... that just shows how little he's changed, because he's hurting the kids most with that crap.

Try to put your thoughts elsewhere... thinking about this won't make it better and it won't make you feel better. When you think of her, just think that it's got to be hell to be her. I think what your husband says about 'perfectly fine' that might just be his way of staying motivated when things get tough. No one in this world is perfectly fine, everyone has challenges. He probably just means that he's going to make sure his son has the absolute best possible outcome for the hand he's been dealt.

This time of year is really hard... I think even people who don't get depression are more likely to have blue days, or low energy at this time of year. It's possible you're trying to fight off a bug. It seems unrelated but these kind of things make it harder to cope, and when you aren't coping as well as usual it affects your frame of mind. So going for walks, eating healthy, trying to get good sleep, all those self-care things you hear about, all that stuff might help you let go of some of the anger.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks to you Mummoth.

That idea, "it's got to be hell to be you," is helpful. And I think I get especially rankled because of the way biomom is so proactive, so super-involved, in his medication, IEP, etc. Everyone else does everything wrong, all he needs is that magic pill that'll fix everything, his teacher hates him, the school sabotages him ... everyone else is to blame and she's always up in arms about "advocating for him" when, I keep thinking, You created all these problems!

Just a few hours ago she contacted dh, wants a sit-down meeting to talk about picking up from school. She doesn't want me to pick him up. I'm not sure if I should go or not. I WANT to go but I think I probably shouldn't. If I explode at her in any way shape or form, nothing good will result. I think even if I look at her sideways she'll get so angry nothing good could result ...

Aaaagh. I'm usually so forgiving but I swear I would love to see her punished for this situation. That's pretty horrible isn't it? :(
 

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It sounds like one of two things is going on-

1. She feels guilty and is trying to be super mom to make up for it. In this case, she IS being punished, having to live with the guilt. I'm sure seeing a competent, loving woman in her sons life makes that even harder. She probably feels very threatened by you.

2. She has a serious mental issue and legitimately doesn't see any fault in her actions. I hope this isn't the case because it's so awful to deal with.

For your sake, I'd just assume it's the first case and stay out of her life as best you can.

A lot of people make mistakes. I'm sure you've done loads of things that, looking back, you realize were irresponsible and stupid. Possibly even as a parent. She ended up in a point in her life where heavy drinking and drug use while pregnant seemed like a good idea, and now she has to watch her child suffer for her actions.

That's a heavy burden to live with.
 

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It sounds like one of two things is going on-

1. She feels guilty and is trying to be super mom to make up for it. In this case, she IS being punished, having to live with the guilt. I'm sure seeing a competent, loving woman in her sons life makes that even harder. She probably feels very threatened by you.


For your sake, I'd just assume it's the first case and stay out of her life as best you can.
I've just read an article written by a woman who is responsible for her (now 43 yr old) daughter having FAS and it is heart breaking. She feels great guilt, and is now the best mom she can be. I think you need to believe this of your ss's mother (please do not use the term bipmom). You have no right to be angry about what this woman did when she was pregnant. She did it. It happened. It sucks. Her son is who he is as a direct result. She is now doing her best to make sure he has the best help available.

You will soon be the stepmom, and you need to remember that that is all that you will be, no mater how involved and loving you may be. Having said that, you not picking up from school is not realistic if you and your husband co-parent both your children. From her point of view, it is her exh who has 50/50 custody, not you.
 

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Maybe it's the pressure of keeping my thoughts secret from SO, who holds on to the idea that "we will never ever give up and SS will be perfectly fine someday" -


My advice is relationship counseling. I have a DD with special needs, and her needs aren't anybody's fault. None the less, navigating raising her was tremendously difficult and often my DH and I didn't see eye to eye. Raising a special needs child puts tremendous strain on family relationships -- more than most outsiders can possibly imagine. Counseling helped us find a way to communicate.


I now work with special needs children, and some of the children I work with have special needs due to the actions of a parent. I let myself feel those feelings that naturally arise, and then I turn my attention to the present moment. There is nothing to be gained for the child by focusing on the past. For me, I've come to the conclusion that the only way that I can continue to do the work that I do is to continually develop the ability to look at reality for exactly what it is, not flinch, and just take the most appropriate action in this moment.


So, to apply what I do to your situation, the first step to express the anger, and then to drag your SO into reality, which brings me back to the therapy suggestion. This is tough stuff -- tough enough to wreck a relationship. So go in the right direction, but do it with outside support. Also, go that direction in love -- love for you SO, your DD, your SS, yourself.
 
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You have no right to be angry about what this woman did when she was pregnant.
I think this is a pointless sentence. For one thing, we feel how we feel, and others telling us that we don't have a right to those feelings doesn't change that.
Second, it would take the Sainthood of a Mother Teresa to be close to a child who has a serious, life-long disability due to the direct actions of a parent and feel no anger. I'm assuming that you don't have any such children in your life to make such a statement.
 
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It doesn't matter if HillyMum has kids with FAS or not. It doesn't matter if HillyMum is a saint who can manage to feel no anger at people who cause longterm damage with horribly irresponsible, selfish behavior. That's great! Good for you, HillyMum!

But that doesn't make anger an inappropriate response to this circumstance. Or sadness or pity or compassion or even gratitude or happiness. Different people have different responses to the same situation.

Shaming someone for their emotions isn't the right option.
 

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I'm not trying to shame anyone. Anger is an unproductive emotion, especially if she is holding on to that anger for any amount of time. It is miss directed, as she is angry at the mothers past behavior. It isn't helping anyone. Yes, feel angry, but then move on to more productive emotions. If the mother was still behaving in a manner harmful to her child then anger would be appropriate. JMO.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Well Hillymum with all due respect ... Thanks, I guess, for expressing your two cents, but ... really? My entire post is to vent and deal with the anger that surfaces, to beg for help and advice to dissipate it. I totally reject the idea that I "have no right" to feel my feelings. And being lectured about how misdirected and pointless that anger is seems to miss my point ... I'm asking for help in dealing with feelings which I experience as horrible and counterproductive.

Sillysapling, I'm afraid that your #2 is spot-on. She literally blames everyone and everything else for his issues and refuses to accept his diagnosis. The details are, oh God, I don't want to get into it, it will make me angry again - or deeply depressed - but she IS, now, apparently still the alcoholic drug user that she has been for the past decade. I say "apparently" because the behavior remains the same and there's been no declaration of sobriety: DH and I stay out of her business. She vacillates between using our family to give care when it's convenient for her - late pickups every Friday night, hmm, "why don't you just keep him Saturday," hmmm, MLK Day holiday, "oh I just assumed you guys would have him, so I didn't arrange a sitter!" - and suddenly making a big fuss about me being solo with the kids for an hour (which has been happening with her approval for a year and a half already, but it's a sudden problem this week.)

She also rejects her own diagnosis of bipolar, because the meds to treat that interacted badly with her drinking. She gamed the system to get a diagnosis of adhd instead, because she likes Adderall so much. For both her and her child, she considers a diagnosis to be like a parking ticket - something to weasel your way out of, or maybe to exploit. But not to take seriously and follow a treatment plan for. I honestly, honestly do not see, have never seen, the slightest hint that she feels any guilt, because she doesn't accept his diagnosis.

Really, like I say, I have kept my - I think understandable - anger very low for a long, long time. I have tried to focus on feeling compassion, and I've tried to keep a feminist perspective, to try and focus on the ways that we are in solidarity as women, as mothers. But sometimes I waver and I just feel so MAD - and oh, God, it really is so bad for me to get stuck there! Getting peeved because of her attempts to mess with my family, well, I can handle that, that's par for the course and most stepparents have something like this going on. But the burden of SS's issues, which are real, and serious, and 24/7, and exhausting ... Don't misunderstand. I can deal with it. I HAVE been dealing with it. But all this crap was so preventable. If anyone's been in this boat, I just wonder, is that thought ever going to go away?
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Linda on the move ... Well, you are so so right. It is very hard. DH is, and I mean this, an amazing man, amazingly loving, and committed, and so far we have had amazingly solid communication about some stuff that's really, really hard. I mean, for example, I wasn't speaking lightly when I said that we don't know if SS is his biological child. DH has serious doubts. But we have also talked through the options of genetic testing, etc and he has decided: This child needs me in his life, I won't abandon him, and if we do genetic testing it will be with his permission when he's an adult. That's who DH is, and that fills me with love and respect.

So, yeah, I really love his commitment and his optimism and part of me just wants to support him 1000%. But part of me recognizes - look, the cognitive challenges are real. There are intellectual capabilities that SS just doesn't have. We need to focus on giving him skills for the long term. "Oh, you can't take that IQ test stuff seriously, it doesn't take into account that he's dyslexic" isn't optimism, it's denial. Then I flip back and think ... we have time, SS is only 9, we will get there. Then I think, oh crap, his ex is infecting him with doubt about this diagnosis all over again, and he's expressing doubt that, for example, SS needs his medications. "When we get full custody we can be sure he eats good food every day, no dyes, no msg, and then we can cut out the meds. He just gets bad because his mom feeds him crap! He does so great after he's eaten with us for three days!" It makes me feel bitter and cynical, like, Am I the only realistic adult in this room? I'd love for the pixie dust magical thinking to solve our problems, but I don't believe it will.

That's really either here nor there in the big picture though. And we are in therapy, but, like I say! SS literally sees one or two specialists on his own, EVERY. WEEK. It takes a lot of time and effort. DD has trouble opening up to the therapist and is starting to feel like SS takes all the attention - of course - she thinks that these doctors are for him, not her, and she's starting to check out of the process. We just have to keep plugging away and believe me we will, we will make it work. We have a phenomenal amount of love in our relationship, just volcanic love for each other, for our kids, to and from our extended families. I know it will work out somehow, some way. But the ex is just such a toxic presence. DH says, "when I hear that news report, local woman killed in car crash, I just whisper, please let it be her." I used to think, Well, you guys were married, of course there's anger. But now sadly I understand him completely.

Anyway. Just a big thank you for the kind words and good advice. All things considered there is so much more good than bad in my life. I really do know that. And I really do appreciate it.
 

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Sillysapling, I'm afraid that your #2 is spot-on. She literally blames everyone and everything else for his issues and refuses to accept his diagnosis. The details are, oh God, I don't want to get into it, it will make me angry again - or deeply depressed - but she IS, now, apparently still the alcoholic drug user that she has been for the past decade. I say "apparently" because the behavior remains the same and there's been no declaration of sobriety: DH and I stay out of her business. She vacillates between using our family to give care when it's convenient for her - late pickups every Friday night, hmm, "why don't you just keep him Saturday," hmmm, MLK Day holiday, "oh I just assumed you guys would have him, so I didn't arrange a sitter!" - and suddenly making a big fuss about me being solo with the kids for an hour (which has been happening with her approval for a year and a half already, but it's a sudden problem this week.)

She also rejects her own diagnosis of bipolar, because the meds to treat that interacted badly with her drinking. She gamed the system to get a diagnosis of adhd instead, because she likes Adderall so much. For both her and her child, she considers a diagnosis to be like a parking ticket - something to weasel your way out of, or maybe to exploit. But not to take seriously and follow a treatment plan for. I honestly, honestly do not see, have never seen, the slightest hint that she feels any guilt, because she doesn't accept his diagnosis.

Really, like I say, I have kept my - I think understandable - anger very low for a long, long time. I have tried to focus on feeling compassion, and I've tried to keep a feminist perspective, to try and focus on the ways that we are in solidarity as women, as mothers. But sometimes I waver and I just feel so MAD - and oh, God, it really is so bad for me to get stuck there! Getting peeved because of her attempts to mess with my family, well, I can handle that, that's par for the course and most stepparents have something like this going on. But the burden of SS's issues, which are real, and serious, and 24/7, and exhausting ... Don't misunderstand. I can deal with it. I HAVE been dealing with it. But all this crap was so preventable. If anyone's been in this boat, I just wonder, is that thought ever going to go away?
Damn.

Alright, here's what I suggest you do:

Accept this as it is.

You're dealing with someone with serious problems. You are not dealing with an emotionally healthy adult. I think you've gotten there, but it can be very hard to fully realize this. Really, really, really hard.

Focus on yourself.

Don't focus on this woman- she doesn't matter. It feels like she does, but she doesn't. Your emotions have no real impact on her, they effect you. You're the person who matters here. Always remember that, you're the one who matters. Not her. People like this have a way of making you feel like they're the only one who matters, but they don't.

Does the anger serve you, or does it hurt you? It doesn't do a damn thing to that woman, so just cut her out of the equation. What about you? If the anger serves you, if it helps you stay focused and you can direct it productively, then that's okay. But if it hurts you, if it impedes your life and ability to care for your step-son, then it's time to find a way to let go. Forgiveness isn't about her, it's not about anyone else, it's about yourself. Finding a way to forgive these actions isn't for her sake, it's for yours.


Honestly, I think the anger is more for the present than for the past. If she were super mom and clearly suffering guilt and trying to make amends- I imagine you wouldn't feel this anger. Frustration that she makes your life harder, but you would probably wouldn't have this level of anger.

Because this crap isn't going away, you need to find a way to handle it.


I don't think it's feminist to try and put yourself in solidarity with someone like this. There are a lot of women who've been very toxic and nasty. There are abusive women. Is it feminist to stand in solidarity with abusers? No, no it's not.

It's true that most abusers have bad things in their past- but that's true for male abusers as well. Healthy people don't hurt other people, it's not a gender issue. Most abusive people are deeply wounded. But I imagine you wouldn't try to stand in solidarity with a toxic man. As adults, we still have responsibility for our actions. This woman has diagnoses, she's had opportunities for help, she's rejected them. This is a wounded person who is choosing to remain wounded and using that to hurt people. That's not someone to stand in solidarity with.
 

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I agree with sillysapling... if she were a changed woman, you wouldn't be this angry. She's continuing to hurt him and causing a bunch of stress in your daily life. taking care of kids is a massive job, and it's frustrating when all the parents involved aren't acting like adults ought to. You and your husband definitely don't need the additional chore of managing a difficult relationship with her.

My son always had trouble opening up to a counsellor until this year. The new school counsellor has a service dog and he loves to go talk to her. If you're looking for a new person for your daughter to talk to, try someone with a service dog. My son's counsellor is fantastic (and obviously that's very important), but he wouldn't have even given her a chance if the dog wasn't there.
 

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There are intellectual capabilities that SS just doesn't have. We need to focus on giving him skills for the long term. "Oh, you can't take that IQ test stuff seriously, it doesn't take into account that he's dyslexic" isn't optimism, it's denial. Then I flip back and think ... we have time, SS is only 9, we will get there. Then I think, oh crap, his ex is infecting him with doubt about this diagnosis all over again, and he's expressing doubt that, for example, SS needs his medications. "When we get full custody we can be sure he eats good food every day, no dyes, no msg, and then we can cut out the meds. He just gets bad because his mom feeds him crap! He does so great after he's eaten with us for three days!" It makes me feel bitter and cynical, like, Am I the only realistic adult in this room? I'd love for the pixie dust magical thinking to solve our problems, but I don't believe it will.


Oh honey, I'm sorry. The truth is that his challenges have the potential to get worse during adolescence. IQ testing does take into account known LDs, and is, in fact, part of how LDs like dyslexia are diagnosed.


What you and your SO are going through is really common among parents of special needs kids. It's common for one parent (often the dad) to be in denial, and the other parent (often the mom) to deal with the reality of the situation. Being a blended family complicates it a bit, but the dynamic itself isn't because you guys are blending.


Odd side note -- my DH and I had this dynamic with our DD, and when he finally had a moment of clarity about the fact that our sweet baby would never outgrow autism, I felt crushed and hopeless, even though I had wanted him to face reality for a long time. In some bizarre way, his denial had held a shred of hope for me, and when he saw the reality, my latest tiny hope extinguished.


"But all this crap was so preventable. If anyone's been in this boat, I just wonder, is that thought ever going to go away?"


I think that once you find a way to have peace with reality and more solid communication with your SO, the thought will be less prevalent in your mind and have less energy behind it. You'll go for days or weeks with out the thought surfacing, then something will jog it, but you'll be able to just let it go and bring yourself back to the present. For me, the quest is not how to make the thought go away, but how to stay grounded and in my own center either with the thought or without it.


What are you doing for self care? When was the last time you did something for yourself just to be good to yourself?
 
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
First of all, thank you, thank you, thank you. Being able to vent, just to be uncensored and honest and raw, that itself's so cathartic, but to be heard, and have such thoughtful, empathetic responses transforms it. I do have close and dear friends who I talk to, but you know how it is... there's some compassion fatigue at a certain point. And I don't want to be always the taker in my relationships.

Sillysapling and Mummoth, you both shared an insight that really gave me an "a-ha!" moment (not the 80's band though) - Yes, exactly, I realized. If I could see this woman shed a heartfelt tear FOR HER SON, if she stepped up to accept a share of responsibility, it would transform everything. I realized that I'm partly so angry at watching a person go through life leaving a trail of wreckage (bankruptcy, firings, betrayed former friends, two divorces, infidelities, my lovely partner who is still shedding emotional damage - etc) and taking zero responsibility. In fact, because she's so adept at using the language of therapy and intervention, she recasts all these facts as more proof of what a brave victim she is. That attitude - ugh, it just triggers something in me, you know? I don't know why exactly (though of course I'm sure it goes back to my childhood) but it's suddenly crystal clear to me. All that behavior is already an issue for me.

But then SS, wow. It's way beyond the other stuff. It's his life. His intellect. His options. It's - it's everything for him. And she insists it's just that his teacher and the school office ladies are "out to get him," and wears the mantle of "I'm here to fight for my dyslexic son! Admire my strength!" I feel that she's using him for self-aggrandizement. And you put it all together and POW, something dark in me just explodes!

I've made that connection because of you guys and it means so much.

And Linda, your advice is so concrete and so useful. I absolutely must keep finding ways to make sure DD's needs are addressed, and the idea of a therapy dog, something like that would be a game-changer. It would open her up, and it would be something special to her. And recognizing the dynamics of denial and acceptance, you're right about that too. it was much easier to write stuff off when SS was 7: "he's just young for his age. He's messed up from that horrible ugly divorce. They're mistaking his dyslexia and ADHD for impairment. I know he's smart, I can see it in his eyes." But at 9 1/2, to still not have mastered the 4 times table, to not be able to ever finish a sentence that starts "If ABC happen, then what's next...?" I don't want to be the one that MAKES his dad have that realization, you know. And like you I think I'll actually grieve it when he does accept this part of it.

In the OP, I was just nakedly begging: Give me something to make this feeling go away. And it has. You guys are right, I recognize it will come back, it's like the stages of grief - well, it IS the stages of grief, grieving what could-have-been. But the corrosively evil part has faded away for now. Thank you, thank you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
And you know what else? It's so cathartic, such a relief, to vent about this woman. I never, ever, ever, EVER speak ill of her. I will NOT let our kids ever hear that from me, for one, and I'm not going to stir up DH's self-professed PTSD from living with her, and as far as DH's family and friends - they're the ones telling ME what terrible things she's done to them. And my own family, well, I complain to a select few people, but there's that weird question: "So you're telling me your partner spent six years married to a psycho ... What's wrong with him?" (I have six siblings and only one of them's ever been divorced; they do love DH but they also don't really get the dynamics at all. They'd like to see me with someone "fresh off the lot" but y'all, I'm in my 40's - that ain't a realistic option!)

Yeah. Whew. I really do feel tons better. :grin:
 

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Is your husband in therapy? If not, he should be. Relationships like that can leave a lot of baggage and he needs to make sure that isn't carrying into his new relationship or his parenting. If just talking about this can trigger his PTSD, obviously dealing with her will and he needs ways to handle that.
 
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