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ASK ELLIE: Keep reaching out to detached adult children

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Keep reaching out to "detached" adult children through sending regular signs of your caring about them. - 123RF Stock Photo

Q – I'm a divorced male who was married for 25 years and had two children, now in their late-20s.

After having children, my ex-wife displayed terrible mood swings, extreme stubbornness, and unreasonable, manipulative, controlling, dependent behaviour.

She couldn't keep a job nor get along with most people. Every issue became an argument. She was never sorry for her behaviour, never forgave nor forgot.

Eventually, what appeared to be a bad psychotic break towards me and other family members, made it impossible for me to stay.

My children had just graduated university and college. The divorce was very bitter (her). I tried hard to be fair and reasonable. There's been no contact since we separated.

Unfortunately, my children also have had no contact with me.

She'd flatly refused going for counselling/therapy. Throughout our marriage, I saw doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, and marriage counsellors.

Their persistent advice: If she wouldn't seek counselling with me or alone, I should leave.

But I couldn't break up my family and felt some responsibility to look after her.

I was the sole bread-winner and worried about the financial impact of divorce. I also knew sharing custody would be a living hell, so I stayed, which jeopardized my physical and mental health.

I was forced to take medical retirement at 51.

Throughout our marriage, I researched manic depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia but her symptoms/behaviour were never a match.

Recently, friends and family, who worked in psychiatric health care and knew my ex-wife, said they were pretty sure she had a personality disorder.

I'm worried about what effect she's having on our children.

I'm concerned that personality disorders could be genetic and my kids could be susceptible.

Worries for Adult Kids

A – You're still a parent and your ongoing concerns are both valid and emotionally moving.

But without regular contact nor outreach from your children, raising the possibility of their having a gene for a mental health disorder could be very badly received, even considered harassment.

They're adults. If they have any symptoms which they'd recognize from having lived with their Mom, they may already have sought some information and counselling.

You can hope so, as far more is known now about personality disorders than when you were living in the midst of emotional outbursts and difficult behaviours.

Personality disorders are mental health disorders with enduring symptoms.

Research is easy to find on www.camh.ca (Canada's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health), www.mayoclinic.org and www.nimh.nih.gov./health (National Institute of Mental Health).

There are different types of personality disorders, from the unstable and risky behaviour associated with Borderline Personality Disorder, to aggressive, violent, remorseless Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Whatever characteristics applied to their mother, the kids may've been deeply pained and confused to see her struggles.

They even may've blamed you and had their anger about it "confirmed" by her.

Personality disorders (PD) are thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental influences: i.e. genes may make someone vulnerable to developing a personality disorder, and then a particular life situation (like a chaotic family life during childhood) may trigger the actual development of PD.

Is there any way you can re-connect with your children over your concern? It's unlikely, unless one or both contact you for some other reason.

Still, I believe that parents of "detached" adult children, should keep trying periodically to reach out to them, gently, over birthdays, special occasions, etc., to express your ongoing love and interest in them.

If they need you, they will respond.


Q – I'm a male, mid-30s, addicted to masturbation and some pornography. Whenever I'm lonely, I go on apps.

My biggest fear of marriage is being stuck with the same person/body/personality. In our hyper sexualized society, I see all types of women, bodies, etc.

I feel more comfortable on apps and casual dating than with the idea of settling down and meeting someone's family/friends.

My parents want me married. Recently, I've been finding new hobbies. I'd like someone to join me.

I also want certain values in my life and be more settled ... but there's sex and lust everywhere!

How do I accomplish the next phase in my life?

Seeking Help

A – When addiction and fears are an issue, and you seek change, therapy helps you confront these realities and your own wish to move forward.

Search online for a sex addiction therapist, and start the process of understanding yourself better, and building the courage to overcome avoidance of situations you actually value.


Ellie's tip of the day

Keep reaching out to "detached" adult children through sending regular signs of your caring about them.


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Ellie Tesher
Ellie Tesher

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