Dear Coleen: My ex is turning our children against me – I want to tell them the truth about him

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Dear Coleen

I divorced my husband four years ago after 20 years of marriage.

He was an emotional bully and was very controlling about things like my behaviour, how tidy the house was and how much money I spent.

But he was a good liar and appeared very charming and cheeky to everybody else.

After I left him, he started to turn the children (who are now 17, 19 and 22) against me.

Whenever they went to stay with him, he bought them expensive gifts and if I told them off, he’d side with them.

He told them, and some of our mutual friends, that during our marriage I spent lots of money, flirted with other men and always nagged him.

None of these things is true but slowly, over time, my children started to believe his version of events.

I never told them why I ended the marriage or the full extent of his behaviour because despite everything, he was their dad and I didn’t want to bad- mouth him.

But now I’m thinking I should have been more honest. I want to tell them what he was really like to be married to but I’m worried I’ll look petty.

Coleen says

I think you should sit them down. Don’t slag him off but say, “Let me explain my side of the story”.

Tell them the reason you haven’t told them before is because he’s their dad.

Explain that of course he’s a great dad and loves them, but that you have a side of the story that they need to know about.

Tell them exactly what did happen, and what didn’t happen – for example, you flirting with other men or being careless with money – and why you left.

You can do all this without criticising him unfairly – just state the facts.

Listen, kids aren’t stupid. Even if they believe one parent over the other for a while, they always figure out the truth.

They’ll also learn that when you tell them off or don’t buy them what they want, you’re doing it for the right reasons.

Even if they don’t realise it now, eventually they’ll realise you’re a great mum who is doing her best by them.

More of our agony aunt Coleen Nolan’s advice on your sex, family, health and relationship problems

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