Dear Thelma: Hubby wants to send adopted daughter away when she's naughty

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Dear Thelma,

I suffered a miscarriage long time a go. I almost went crazy cause of the depression after losing my unborn child. So I decided to adopt a baby.

The biological mother wanted to give her up for adoption cause the biological father didn’t want to be responsible for the baby.

I met the biological mother when she was three months' pregnant. I supported her financially throughout her pregnancy. My husband was unaware of this.

When the baby was born, I tried to hide her from my husband as I was scared he might get angry with me, so I always went back to my kampung where the baby was staying with my parents and a maid.

There’s one time my husband called me and he heard the baby cry, so I told him the truth – that I had adopted a baby.

He was excited to meet the baby. So we came home together with the baby.

The baby saved me from depression and also saved our relationship. So we started our family. I couldn’t have asked for more. We are just so happy. My husband adores her so much. She’s lovely, sweet, smart and very loving.

Then I got pregnant.

Both the children are lovely, simply loving each other. But there’s a problem...

Whenever our adopted daughter does something wrong, and if she doesn't listen to my husband, he gets very mad but never physically or verbally abusive. He would just tell me to send her back to my parents. And he wouldn’t talk to me or our adopted daughter for a few days.

Don’t get me wrong – he is a good provider, a very loving father, and I know he loves our adopted daughter. But it just really hurts me whenever he reacts over small things that she does wrong. Her doing these things is normal because she’s a kid.

When he asks me to send her back or ask my parents to take care of her, it hurts me a lot. She’s our daughter, not a cat.

I don’t know what to do. I've tried talking to him but he wouldn’t talk to me for a few days and it’s very stressful for me.

I simply can’t give up the child; if it wasn’t for her, I’d be long gone.

Of course, I love my husband dearly.

I feel like I have to choose between them, but I can’t lose either of them – they’re my life.

I hope you can help me.

A loving wife & mother

I'm sorry for your miscarriage. They are devastating, aren't they? But you've asked for advice and I'm going to tell you some things you won't like to hear. I strongly suggest you read to the end, because I see disaster brewing.

You were afraid of your husband, so you lied to him, went behind his back, and adopted a baby. This is a huge red flag.

Couples argue, but there should be no fear. Being terrified of your spouse is no condition for marriage; it is abusive. On your part, lying is a serious problem as it undermines a relationship too.

I will get back to this later because I think these events are significant.

You claim your husband loves your adopted daughter, but this wonderful caring man punishes an adopted child by symbolically abandoning her and then also giving her the silent treatment. This is breathtakingly cruel.

Love should be unconditional, not wielded like a whip.

Parenting is about guiding kids from babyhood to becoming an independent adult. It's a process. When kids don't get it, parents guide. Lovingly.

Sure, when a child is deliberately naughty, there are consequences. But your husband treats that little girl with vicious brutality for being a child.

This grown man rules with terror, topping off abandonment with the silent treatment. This is textbook emotional abuse.

By calling your husband a wonderful father, you are gaslighting your child. Call him what he is: An abusive man.

Some adults treat children badly because they don't think. Or they lack empathy. Or they copy their parents, not realising that the old ways weren't always healthy.

Normally, I'd suggest that you talk to your husband and explain how he's damaging your child. However, to get back to your secret adoption, you have been terrified of him from the start. Even so, you have tried, and been punished yourself with his silent treatment.

Therefore, I believe that you may be in an abusive relationship, and you are too afraid of him to see what he is. You wrote to me because on some level, you know this is serious trouble.

That is why you need to hear this.

Children who are emotionally abused the way you describe typically grow up with serious mental health problems that include anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicidal ideation.

As they have suffered so much cruel treatment, they can be severely dysfunctional in their relationships, finding it hard to establish warm, open, loving, trusting connections.

Kids who are tormented by abusers can suffer the consequences all their lives. Therefore, you must take action to change the dynamic now.

You cannot do this alone, so I urge you to reach out to the numbers above. Get a mental health professional who is skilled in dealing with abuse and adoption for your daughter.

You need help too. Apart from the fear, I suspect you have issues including helplessness and hopelessness. Maybe your daughter's therapist will also take you on. If not, find a second therapist skilled in abusive relationships who can help you.

You haven't mentioned your other child, but they're watching this and likely to be affected too. Get them some sessions so a professional can assess them.

As for your husband, he needs help too. Typically, abusers resist change. They enjoy bullying people because they get their own way all the time.

However, do try to get him into therapy. Not with you! And not with your daughter! Abusers hijack therapy in order to keep bullying.

He should go on his own, and if he makes some effective change, he can try to repair his relationships with you and your daughter next year.

Should you stay with this man? If he doesn't resort to physical violence, then you have options. You are an adult and you make your own decisions. Talk possibilities with your therapist.

But your daughter needs to be removed from his cruelty right now. You say you don't want to give her up. Frankly, when you decided to adopt her, you promised to put her first. That little girl is in a dreadful situation, and you must do the right thing.

Talk to a professional and ask to craft a plan that puts this little girl's needs first.

I appreciate this will be a difficult read for you, and I suspect you are afraid and feeling guilty. Please try to put these thoughts aside.

At this moment, you have an opportunity to fix it. If you do nothing, matters may end very badly. Push through the fear to make a positive change.

As for the rest, we all make mistakes. And analysing the past is rarely pain-free. But beating yourself up won't change it. And remember, you have reached out for help. Your heart is in the right place.

So, focus on putting this right. Help your daughter, help yourself, and help your family. Please, call those numbers right now.

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