Category Archives: Divorce

What kind of a man?

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I now have the answer.

It’s been the question (other than my favorite: What was he thinking?) that everyone’s asked me over the past two years.

What kind of a man abandons his wife and children?

And now I have the answer: a coward.

I didn’t know this, know this, deep down in a visceral way until I saw him this weekend.

I had been dreading this visit for almost two months. He had moved out of the state, he had stopped all communication except occasional responses to my emails, and he hadn’t visited for 13 months. But then his mother had to go and have an 80th birthday. And want a big party. With all her kids. And grandkids. And she asked me, specifically, in person, to be there.

I didn’t want to go. I don’t like any of his family. I don’t particularly like his mother. But part of me really wants to be a “nice” person. “Nice” people show up when they are invited, bring food and a gift, are pleasant, and stay an appropriate amount of time. Part of me really, really didn’t want to be nice.

So I started by emailing Robert to ask if he was going to be there.

And that’s when the typical shitstorm hit.

Why? Would you let me take the girls?

Um. No.

Not only no, but hell no.

You see, he disappeared on me, abandoned me and two little girls under the age of ten, didn’t write, call, or try to contact us. Took his money and ran with no warning. You think I’d let him have access to those same two little girls without me being there, watching like a hawk?

But, if you are a rational-minded person, you would deduce that I asked because I was interested in arranging visitation on the chance that he would make an effort to be at his mother’s milestone event.

Turns out, he wasn’t planning on being there at all. Not until I rattled his cage by asking him if he was going.

But he couldn’t straight-up tell me that. Instead, he answered with questions, went on a tirade, call me names, and was yellling in email. Yeah, that’s the way to score points with the mother of your children.

Anyhow, push came to shove, and he finally decided to buy tickets and fly down. In his emails (he only ever emails, by the way), he expressed that he wanted to spend as much time as possible with the girls, and that he would be in town through Tuesday. I let him know that taking so long to tell me his plans meant that I’d already made some plans – it was Halloween weekend, after all – and so we could swing the birthday party and maybe lunch on Sunday. After that, we’d play it by ear.

The birthday party rolls around. On the way there, I tell the girls that Robert will be there. I had saved that tidbit of information so that they didn’t build anything up in their heads about seeing him again. I let them know that I had contacted him a few weeks previously to find outif he’d be there so that they could see them. My older daughter took that with a nod. My younger daughter put two and two together and said, “Is he the one you were emailing who made you so mad and sent you mean emails?”

Oops.

“I’m sorry. You weren’t supposed to know about that.”

“It’s okay, Mommy. I’m glad I know.”

I set down some ground rules: You can say whatever you want. You can ask whatever you want. You get to choose the level of interaction you are comfortable with. You are in control of you. You must remain within five feet of me so that I can overhear conversations and simply know what was said. (I had to put in that last one because Robert takes the truth and twists it to his ends, bless his little sociopathic heart.)

We got there, and it went smoothly. I didn’t even feel the least bit violent toward him. I realized that I could avoid almost all need to have conversation by the simple expedient of not making eye contact with anyone but my kids and my husband, my wonderful husband who went with me to support me seeing this enclave of lunatics. As we left, I confirmed a lunch with Robert the following day.

We show up at the McDonald’s at the appointed time, and the same ground rules are in effect. Lunch proceeds smoothly, and the girls run off to get ice cream, and then play in the play area. My husband goes to supervise.

Robert and I sit there across the table from each other, me cocked back, relaxed, staring into his face.

And he can’t make eye contact.

All his bravado, all his bluster, gone.

And he cannot bring himself to hold any real conversation with me.

And he gets up and leaves to go watch the girls in the play area.

And it hits me: he is a coward.

Here he has this one perfect chance, this one quiet moment that he can say anything, and he slinks off. He chickens out and runs away.

Now it also struck me listening to the girls try to talk to him that he had no idea how to really talk to the girls any more. He was so wrapped up in his own sociopathic self that he missed all the verbal cues the girls were giving him, all the conversational bait that they were proffering to try to get him to show a genuine interest in their lives. He just glossed over the things that they were sharing, the things that were profoundly important to them there, that day. And instead, he talked about his “invention,” an aluminum fire fighting suit that is just another of his crazy crackpot ideas. Last year it was flying cars and jet packs. And he talked to them about getting to spend the night in hotels in Las Vegas because the rental truck company he works for flies him out to drive the trucks back to Utah. But did he ask about anything my girls were trying to get him interested in?

For that matter, did he offer to buy them ice cream? Did he offer to buy them lunch? Did he bring them anything? Any token? Any trinket? Anything?

No.

We met again for dinner Monday night, an hour drive for me, Fifteen minutes for him. I picked the place; I wanted to go somewhere I’d never want to go again, and this place was pretty close to my husband’s brother’s house, so it was more convenient to ask him to come since my husband was out of town on business.

Again, things went smoothly. The girls were entertained by their nephew, and Robert was entertained by my brother-in-law. And it was fine. Fine until Robert started talking about the new math curriculum in schools and had the temerity to say that was why he was no longer teaching. My bullshit meter fell off the wall, screaming a bloody death. I don’t remember exaclty how I reacted. I just know that I ended by saying, “I get about a hundred million points just now for not saying anything.” And I was gratified to see the look in Robert’s eyes. The look like I’d just shown him a ghost, punched him in the gut, and yanked the rug out from underneath him. Because the truth of the matter is he was no longer teaching because he walked away from his jobs, all of his teaching jobs, the moment he was expected to work hard to actually teach. Well, except for the teaching job he lost because he was ticketed for drug paraphrenalia possession. I at least did not call him out in front of my kids for being a dirty, rotten liar.

Before that, he dropped the bombshell that he wasn’t going to be available Tuesday after all. I guess seeing his kids three times was enough for him. I guess that made up for thirteen months of absence in his world. Because the rotten thing is that they knew, they knew, that he was in town, not leaving until Wednesday. That if he wanted to make it a priority to see them, I would have brought them. And he pulled out. A coward and a cheapskate liar.

So, what kind of a man abandons his children? A coward. A yellow-bellied coward with fear in his eyes and lies in his teeth.

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Responding to a Sociopath

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Ever heard the phrase like oil and water? Oil and water never really mix. Oh, sure, they can be shaken up into such tiny globules that they look completely and wholly integrated with each other, but, given time, they separate out into visible splotches. Given enough time, one rests on top of the other, separate and apart.

It’s the same with a sociopath and reality. When a sociopath puts on the charm and shakes things up, it can appear that person has completely integrated with reality; they looked really well blended. But over time? Over time you see how the sociopath pulls away from reality, separates into occupying another space.

The best part is that they can do this on their own. So long as you don’t feed the belief that they are truly present in reality, you will begin to see how their stories contradict themselves, how they write their own reality to be some kind of oily mimic of the truth. Sure, they might still be able to incorporate some aspects of the truth – the best liars always do. If they’re truly good, they can make you question the truth, make you still see the blend when it’s just a sham.

They start with something to get you fired up, to make you not really look at things rationally, to respond emotionally.

Then they play into your emotions, telling you how unfair life is, how misunderstood they are, implying that you drove them to their own particular sociopathy.

Then they might compliment you, make you feel as though there is some validity to what they’re saying, because, hey, who doesn’t want to believe a compliment – especially when it’s true?

And then they slam you again with insinuations, dancing surefootedly around the truth so that they cannot be accused of outright lying.

If they want something out of you, this is when they strike.

This is when they make a demand or request, hoping you might rise up to the bait, responding to all the little emotional jabs and slights they’ve so skillfully used over the course of communicating with you.

By this point, you are an emotional wreck. You are averse to any contact with them, but they’ve drawn you in. Perhaps it was a need to defend the truth, perhaps to defend your own ego, perhaps because you were stung and want to get something back.

You won’t win this.

The only way to win is to know that no matter what you say, it won’t make a difference. That the only reason you would respond is to document the truth, but not to convince the other person of it.

The only way I’ve found to get some satisfaction out of it all is to respond as briefly and factually as possible. If there’s no outright question asked, leave the insinuations alone. The shorter your response to their impassioned tirade, the better. There is no prize here for verbal sparring. The best you can hope for is documentation in a calm, rational tone. They win when you give in to the temptation to put in a dig, however justified. Unless you just need to document that you’ve negated a comment, they win when you deign to acknowledge an insinuation or accusation. Demands? Unless they’ve specifically asked that you respond to their request, the best way to frustrate a sociopath is to ignore. They feed off the drama and confrontation and manipulation and control. They will get all of that if you give in.

If you have no legal ties to them, block them. Don’t respond.

If you are court-ordered to have some contact with them, keep it on topic, civil, unemotional, and back yourself up with documentation. Dates, times, quotations – any data you have. This is not to convince them. It’ll never happen. Their version of the truth is so skewed it’s a Gordian knot. This is to support you. This is your ballast against the waves of oily lies splashing at you.

Lastly, sit on it.

Give yourself all the release of responding to the sociopath on some kind of media that you cannot accidentally send. Write everything you’re thinking, acknowledge all of your emotions.

Then sit on it.

Go through it with a fine tooth editorial comb and extract the nits of emotion, the wordiness of your response, any indication that you care. Take the moral high ground. Keep it short, factual, and civil. And at the end, wish them well.

That’ll bug the ever-loving shit out of them.

The Power in Forgiveness and Gratitude

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So my mom died.

And there was a funeral.

And I was dreading it.

Not because I couldn’t say goodbye to my mom. She’d been declining for years, had many health problems, and had one last round in the hospital and been released to hospice care. I’d been to see her and said my goodbyes. We parted on good terms.

No, I was dreading it because of who would be in attendance. Namely, my dysfunctional family.

So there’s my dad. He has Parkinson’s, disowned me, seated me with several thousand dollars in bills, and then asked me to take him back into my life to care for him.

Then there’s my sister. Well, half-sister. She disappeared nine years ago and hasn’t made any attempt to stay in contact with me. She got disowned, too, but she’s a pathological liar, morbidly obese to the tune of about 350 pounds, bisexual drug addict who introduced me to marijuana when I was in grade school, and is 17 years older than I am.

And my brother. Well, half-brother. He stays out of touch. He lives in California. He had been silent on Facebook and then started posting conspiracy, right-wing, bigoted, inflammatory spam all over his feed. When I saw my ex had recently friended him, I un-friended him. There was nothing worth seeing.

And lastly my two full brothers. The older, who had always used my parents as a personal cash cow, who had ruined their credit by failing to pay for his car that was in their name, who had worked to move my parents out of the nursing home I’d put them in – behind my back and with no notice to the nursing home, also a bisexual drug addict incapable of keeping a job who had moved to, what? Ohio? Iowa? some random state and finally gotten a job managing a pool supply store. The one closest in age to me had largely been a screen, hiding any facts from me, actively lying to me, and generally pretending that he wasn’t hurting anyone. Yeah, he was the one who finally got saddled with “taking care of my parents.” Such as that was. I have it on authority from the nurses that he had so rarely been to see them at the most recent nursing home move that they didn’t know what he looked like.

Oh, and then the family *I* divorced. My ex-mother-in-law and my ex-sister-in-law, i.e. my daughters’ other grandmother and my daughters’ aunt.

What’s remarkable in all this drama is that, the way it played out with my blood family, there was a detente.  We nodded at each other, and they kept their distance so that I didn’t have to use the sympathy pineapple to bash in the sides of their heads, which was my plan if they tried to hug me. (They give domineering bear hugs. Wet, domineering bear hugs. Crushing, wet, trapping hugs.)

So, they didn’t try to hug me. I didn’t draw blood in the church with my pineapple.

The part that surprised me was the interaction with my ex-mother-in-law. Everything was done. Everything was over. We’d gotten through the viewing. I’d gone and welcomed them and even let them hug me. We’d progressed through the service. I’d gone to bury my mom at the gravesite in the bitterly cold rain. We’d returned to the church reception. We’d made it through to the time when people should have been leaving.

And she attacked.

“So, aren’t you going to introduce me?” she demanded, walking up to me and Fiance-Man.

So I did.

And then she did it.

“I’m her mother-in-law. I’ll always be her mother-in-law.” Those actual words came out of her mouth when I introduced the woman to my fiance.

And I’d had enough.

“Point of order,” I said, choosing to fight this battle. “No, you’re not. I divorced your son. I am no longer married to him. You are not my mother-in-law. You are my children’s grandmother, but you ceased to be my mother-in-law when the I divorced your son.”

And she had the audacity to try to contradict me.

And I think I tore her a new one about the way her son acted and treated the girls and me before some very kindly-meaning friends worked to herd me away from her.

I was so angry at the time, but I needed to be shepherded away because she never would have been the first to back down. I was so livid at being “handled” that I made Fiance-Man upset by implying that I “didn’t need him.” No, I just didn’t need to feel “handled.” Looking back, I know now I needed it. There was no other way out of that forsaken conversation.

And so I apologized and admitted I was wrong.

And I stewed a few days and then called my ex-mother-in-law and apologized for essentially holding her son’s behavior as something she could have any responsibility for. However, really truly thinking about it now, I basically was just trying to get her to see that the REASON I was DIVORCED was BECAUSE of her son’s behavior. And when you’re divorced and moving on, you cut some ties quite legally. But I called her and apologized… and MOVED ON. I was able to let go of that horrible experience, let go of some of the hold that horrific memory has on me.

And then this morning I wrote thank-you notes to the ladies at the church who had done all the things to make my mother’s service a lovely event, a celebration of life, a true memorial of her vitality. It felt so good to express all the gratitude in my heart. It was the only other time I truly cried.

Reasoning with a Sociopath

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I realized my main problem in trying to communicate with my ex, with trying to figure out what to say to him that will actually begin the healing process, that will allow us to work together as a functional team to ensure the best for my daughters.

He’s a sociopath.

a person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocial,often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.” – http://dictionary.reference.com/

What’s a sociopath?  This definition by Sue Fitzmaurice is very tangible:

  • “Charming
  • Delusional
  • Never Wrong
  • No Empathy
  • Plays the Victim
  • LIES & CHEATS
  • Twists Your Words
  • Has to Win
  • “Gas-Lights”

And so there IS no reasoning with him. There is no point in trying to lay out facts or expect him to act like a rational human being. Because he isn’t. He’s a sociopath.

Now that I can put this into words, I hope this will help the healing process. I hope this will help me let go. I’ve been holding on to conversations in my head, just things I wanted to tell him, but it’s no use. The mechanism for him to understand simply isn’t there.

The interesting thing in the above definitions is that neither of them mention ego-centrism. Because that’s the other thing I’ve noticed. It’s all about him, even when he says it’s about the kids or me. I don’t think it was always this way. I think there genuinely was a time when I was in a functional relationship. But that broke, crumbled, and disintegrated.

All I need to really remember is that there is no reasoning with a sociopath. I will think I am getting something out of a conversation that just isn’t there. All I can do is document, stay factual and polite, and follow the letter of the law.

I need to let go.

Let go of the emotional attachment to seeing his attempts to communicate.

Let go of the reactions when I actually read what he’s written or listen to what he says.

Let go of ever thinking that I can express to him in a meaningful way how much hurt he caused my daughters.

Let go of bitterness.

Let go of thinking that I could coach him how to have a relationship with my daughters.

Let go of thinking of him as their dad. He isn’t. He relinquished that title when he left without word the second time.

Let go of worrying at all about what his mother thinks or does or is. She is my girls’ grandmother, so I will continue to facilitate their relationship, but I just need to let go of caring about it. I don’t own that relationship, either.

Bailey’s Irish Cream is Always a Good Idea

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At this point, I have NO idea how much alcohol I have consumed.  Suffice to say, enough that I allowed my children to stay up until 10:30 pm without me pitching a fit, and still playing Settlers of Catan with them.

Apparently, Bailey’s Irish Cream is a GOOD THING.

It sounded appealing.  I mean, when we got out of yoga and out of the gym tonight, it sounded good enough that I was willing to make a liquor store stop for some.  And that’s when I realized I’d left my debit card at the house. Cue the theme music, because that’s when Fiancé Man came to the rescue.  He offered to run in and buy the Irish Cream I requested.  (At the time, I had no idea it would only come in a 1.75 Liter bottle at $50)

So we got back to his house and the girls and I settled in to let them have some warm milk and me have some Bailey’s.  It was somewhere in the neighborhood of 9:15pm.  And at 9:50, I called it as time to stop the game at 10:00.  And then I kind of really enjoyed the Bailey’s and decided that it was maybe a good night for us to keep playing just a few more minutes while I refreshed my glass.

And then I noticed that my younger daughter hadn’t finished her milk yet, so it was a good enough reason to still have some company while I sipped my Bailey’s.

And then it was Time To Go To Bed.  And my glass was empty. Sadness.

But there was still a whole giant Costco bottle of Bailey’s right there on the counter. And I was Doing Dishes so I deserved a Reward. Full glass. Bonus.

And then snacks sounded like a good idea. So far, I have had almond butter, almonds covered in burnt caramel and dark cocoa powder, plantain chips, a caramel chocolate robin’s egg, a couple of pecans, almonds, and Brazil nuts, and another happy spoonful of almond butter.  I  have officially decided that the world is right when there is almond butter.  The world is even more right when you get to make the almond butter freshly ground at Whole Foods at the push of a button.  It’s SO MUCH FUN!  And then it tastes good, on top of the fact that you got to use a heavy-duty grinder like a mad scientist to fill a little plastic carton, all crunchy and smooth and rich and a hint of sweetness all at the same time.  I am ADDICTED.

My cup is now empty again.  Well, empty is a relative term.  It has ice cubes.  Hypothetically, if I wait long enough, they will melt and combine with the Bailey’s residue to create enough liquid to be sipped.  Either that, or I could pour myself just a teensy bit more, just enough to finish blogging, even around all my increasingly amusing typographical errors. 

Ah, that’s better.  A teensy bit more.  Fleshed out with more fresh ice cubes.

That makes me think about the wedding and the party.  How will we handle alcohol?  I mean, we both like to drink.  Not to excess (all evidence notwithstanding in this particular post), but we do enjoy a hearty adult beverage with good company.  I know some venues just charge per person on alcohol and you have to hire one of their bartenders.  I’m actually completely agreeable to that.  I just want it to be as hassle-free as possible and to have us all have a good time.  

And speaking of weddings, it may be crazy, but I was looking forward to selling the house I’d bought with my first husband because it looked as though this deal was going to go through where I would be able to sell the house and walk away with enough money to cover my high-interest debt.  I’ve been drowning under this house for the past five months what with repairs and house payments.  I’ve been renting it out, but the rental fees are only going to cover the cost of the sewer system and roof repairs I had to have done.  I’m supposed to have even been giving them more money on top of all that, but I’m tapped out.  

See, Robert, my first husband, decided he’d had enough with pretending to be a responsible adult and a high school physics teacher, so he “walked.”  Actually, he drove away from me and my kids without any warning, without any word, without any contact.  And he took his paychecks and cashed out his bank account and went to live with his mistress Lynette in Utah – and her kids, her husband, and her dad.  And Robert changed his name to Jack and started living a completely different life and created a new Facebook profile (because who can live without Facebook, I may ask) and decided that he only felt moved enough to try to contact me around major holidays – such as just before Thanksgiving, right at Christmas, cards for my daughters’ birthdays, mid-February (Valentine’s, perhaps?). He didn’t actually show up for any of the divorce proceedings – not for the temporary orders, not for the final decree.  The only time he drove through was when Lynette decided to visit her family, and he tagged along.  One thing and another, he missed seeing any of us because we were all out of town that week.  Okay, so that’s the sob story in a nutshell.  But the hard truth of the matter is that he has sent absolutely NOTHING in child support. Not. A. Dime. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nothing to cover the children’s medical, nothing to cover child care, nothing to cover new clothes, nothing to cover food. So here I am stuck with a house that’s in my name with a loan in his name that is not transferable and nearly $1000 a month house payments on top of everything else.  Honestly, if i just didn’t have to fork over the house payment for that rental property, I’d be doing okay. But back in March the sewer system went out. Then in April the roof went out. And that was a total of nearly $10,000 I had to find. And that was on top of $4000 in taxes for the house I live in plus about $7000 in attorney fees. So in the course of six months or so, I lost my husband and his income, incurred debts nearly equal to 40% of my annual income, and have been scrambling to cut costs and reduce financial entanglements everywhere I turn. Did I mention that Robert hasn’t paid a dime of child support? That money would have been exceedingly helpful almost the whole time. But it’s a lost cause. There’s no way to get blood out of a turnip, and there’s no way to get money out of a deadbeat dad.

The important thing about all of this was that I was going to sell the one house to get myself on  solid financial footing. I was going to become the kind of person financially that I wouldn’t be afraid to marry.  I was looking at this financial deal as a kind of permission to go through with getting married to my fiancé because I didn’t want to have him supporting me. I didn’t want to be a drag on him financially. I wanted to bring something to the relationship, something tangible and of concrete value.

His argument is that I am bringing myself and my daughters to the relationship, that we complete his life and make him feel fulfilled by being with him and sharing in his life, pursuits, entertainments, and interests, that he has always wanted a family and he realized after a certain point that if he was ever going to connect with a woman, she would be divorced, she would have kids, and he would have a “ready-made” family. And somehow I was that woman.

Even knowing that he is completely supportive, even knowing that he would drop everything to come to my rescue, even knowing that he is my rock, I still feel as though the rug was ripped out from under me when this house deal fell through. I saw it as a way to validate myself and show that I am capable of taking care of my messes, that I don’t always need rescuing, that I am rock-steady in my own right. Instead, it was a day when he held me as my body was racked with gut-wrenching sobs, as I fought to pull myself together and get a new perspective, as I had to come to terms with more months of living lean and denying my kids some of the basic things they want and need in order to squeak by.  

Because regardless of how much he cares for us, I will not ask him to be the sole provider and breadwinner.  It may take me another month or two to get on my feet, but I will persevere.

Hell, I’ve lived through all of the bad days with 100% success rate so far; I might as well embrace the fact that I can live through more.

And, some nights, a glass – or two – or four – of Bailey’s might just help with that.

Top Conversations I Never Wanted to Have

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So far, 2013 has sucked.  It’s been basically one hit after another – and a lot of mud.

All this has led me recently to have some of the worst conversations in my life:

I don’t know where your Daddy is.

This is an all-time great conversation to have with kids.  The best part about this conversation is that you don’t have to have it right away.  Usually, they don’t notice for a bit that Daddy isn’t there.

Your Daddy lost his job.

This is the soft-touch to explaining that you have no clue when Daddy will be home, because when he lost his job, he went a little crazy, yelled and screamed swear words at you, and cut off all contact.

I am divorcing your Daddy.

This one takes some preparation and forethought. You don’t want to time this one wrong. Yes, you need to answer their questions honestly, but wait until they are home from school, done with homework, done with gymnastics, etc. There will be a lot of crying.

Your parakeet died.

Okay, I admit, it seems a little out of place, but the parakeet really did die the night he left.  Now, if you have a kid with a sardonic sence of humor, she might put it together that it was the only male parakeet, and Daddy was the only male in the family…

Hi, I’m looking for CB.  This is his wife.

Not a conversation I had with my kids.  No, this was me calling Colostomy Bag’s mistress and trying to locate him in order to serve him divorce papers more efficiently.  The more times they have to try to find him, the more it costs me.  However, on the balance, the emotional cost of this voicemail was probably far greater than any monetary considerations would have ever been.  I was literally shaking for half an hour afterward, coming down from the adrenaline high of the potential confrontation.