When I say to my ex-wife today, “Thanks for your patience,” I’m really saying, “Fuck you and your impatience.”
This week I started my new big job. A victory? Yes. A failure? Perhaps. But such a bellwether moment, when on the morning of first day at the new job, the ex-y sent me her recommendations on what type of insurance I should provide for the kids and how I should set the child support up on an automatic withdrawal. She even said, “Because it will be so much better for the kids, that way.” The crow in my mouth was hard to swallow as I thanked her for her support and advice. Of course…
When you are a parent you never quite get to part ways with the ex partner. Now we are co-parents. And everything we do can be couched in terms of how it best supports the kids. Except when it doesn’t. And the things that my ex-wife did to get me to this point (not the new job) are inexcusable. And yet, we have to let that pain and suffering flow right under the bridge of life, in the best interest of minimizing the ongoing animosity and friction between us.
But make no mistake. In the darkest moment of my single parent life so far, my ex-wife not only refused to give me some slack, she actually filed against me with the Attorney General of Texas. As I was struggling to find new work, and trying to keep my house around me and the kids, she struck her final blow. There’s not much else she can do. She’s done turned me over to the authorities for collection. And in that moment, I believe, she revealed the core of her anger. Only through a lot of work and self-reflection, I have come to understand that our marriage may have unraveled around the issue of money.
If she didn’t really want to go back to full-time work, she could prod, push, shame, and fight me back into the big corporate job, and she might be able to work a 20-hour flex schedule. Except we wanted to keep the nice house in the nice school district. And when the big job had spit me out with a 6-month severance, in stead of regrouping with me, she went on the offensive. She was determined and adamant about *my* next job. And she stayed focused on that issue for a year. Sure, she was retooling her ideas about what she wanted to do for a living, but if she could just shoehorn me back into a big job… Things would be so much easier. For her.
That’s not the way it went down. And in the end, when she made plans to divorce me, she also had to find gainful employment. It seemed easy once she had her plans in place. She got the new job, she met with an attorney, she made her *options* spreadsheet somewhere on her computer. We divorced.
But as we were both making our way in the world, as “co-parents” she turned much more pragmatic. It wasn’t about a relationship, or mutual support, it was simply business. And when I stumbled in my work, and I told her I would be late on a few payments, she took the harsh approach, much like she had when I was voicing my ideas about self-employment during my sabbatical. And when the complaining and anger didn’t motivate me back into a job (in either circumstance) she fired off her final weapon.
When we were married she chose to divorce me. When we were divorced she chose to file her anger by setting the office of the attorney general on me. And this ultimate anti-co-parenting action has lasting consequences. She’s removed the actual compassion from our relationship. It’s now just business. Perhaps that’s a gift as well. Perhaps that’s a more accurate representation of our core relationship anyway.
Her actions against me with the AG’s office stripped me of any options for keeping my house. I was forced to let it go. I had to withdraw my map and plan for the future, and I returned home, defeated, to my mothers. FK. I won’t ever forget it.
And some day in the future, when she finds herself in some dire straight, in some position of need, in the future, I will NOT do the same to her. I will have compassion and patience.
Here’s my closing statement.
You were my partner and mate for 15 years. I will always give you the benefit of the doubt. I will always err on the comfort and joy of our children over any animosity I have towards you. Now and in the future, I will remain calm and patient.
I want you to know, I am not thanking you for your patience today. As my income stream comes back online, I am slapping you with my gratefulness. When I say “Thank you for your patience,” today, I’m saying exactly the opposite. Fuck you for your lack of compassion and patience. And fuck you for putting your selfish needs above those of our children, or me.
I will never forgive you. Perhaps I will learn to forget.
The Off Parent
< back to The Hard Stuff posts
- This Is Going To Hurt – Divorce With Children
- Is Marriage a Cliché? How Mine Fell Apart Along Party Lines.
- What An Angry or Distant Divorced Parent Looks Like
- The Fk You That Keeps On Giving
- AG’s Office Round Two: Dead Beat Dad – 0, Bank $43,000
image: fuck this attitude, pierre honeyman, creative commons usage
Let me see if I’ve got this right.
When we met my ex-y was living in a rental house (really living with her boyfriend at the time, but I didn’t know this until later). She had a great job, and seemed to be making plenty of money. (Or should I say, money didn’t seem to be an issue in her life.)
At that same time, I was living in a pretty swanky condo downtown (thanks mostly to my father’s estate) and working full-time at my own consulting and marketing business. (Pretty much what I’m doing now.)
When we began talking mating and offspring we both agreed on a couple of things:
- Mom should get to spend more time in the early years with the babies
- Mom would probably have to work part-time, eventually, since we wanted to live in a really nice neighborhood
- Dad would work full-time and do whatever it takes to make #1 and #2 happen
- We were in this equally, equitably.
- We made a great team together.
For the most part, we were growing our family to plan, when 9-11 happened and changed the world for all of us.
In our little universe, which consisted of a one-year-old son, we had some cushion. But the fall of so many of our norms was hard to recover from. (I guess I’ve also shied away from telling the longer story of my depression… Hmm.)
So here’s what happened to me, personally.
- My long-time client transitioned all of their business to a new company the August before 9-11.
- In my rebuilding plans I had scored several new clients, both real estate developers. The day after 9-11 all of my income, 100% of it, froze. My income went to zero.
- My mental wheels began to come off about nine months in, though I did manage to land a few new clients in the new post 9-11 era.
- Finally, with the upcoming birth of my daughter becoming more and more medically complicated, I snapped. Something broke inside of me, and I no longer assumed that things were going to be okay. I broke down.
This breakdown took the form of me turning down a very stressful, but lucrative opportunity that my then-wife had helped secure. And I didn’t back out very gracefully. I freaked out of it. “I can’t do it. I can’t give them the presentation.”
Over the course of the next several years, my emotional sobriety was mixed. I had good months, good runs at work, and then I would go pop and drop back into the pit of despair. The good news is my pre-marital condo sold for a very nice nest egg. The bad news is, while this was taking place, we were burning through that nest egg at a pretty alarming rate.
Here’s where things got a little weird. And here’s where the money part of my marriage really came into question for me.
While we had agreed that Mom would get to stay at home with the kiddos as much as possible, I began to see how dependant we had become on MY income. Rather than beginning the process of collaborative work search, WE had somehow both become overly focused on me and my ability to earn enough for our new family of four.
Now, I’m not blaming her for this perspective. But it got a little absurd. And the depth of it, with 20-20 reviewing capabilities, goes deeper than I realised while I was married.
Okay, so back to pre-marital imbalance. I’m a home owner with some money in the bank. She is not. No worries, we’re in this for the long haul.
The thing that really became obvious, wasn’t obvious until she decided she wanted a divorce.
About six months before the shit hit the fan, the financial shit was still hitting the fan. As we were struggling to make a couple of mortgage payments, I ended up selling 10k of my music equipment to make ends meet. We were stressed out to the max about money. And “I thought” both of us were working together to find work to support our family.
Maybe she was having a mid-life crisis at that moment. But in this very cash-starved moment in our history together, she was thinking about going into a new field. Okay. And she was casting around for what to do next. Fine.
Thankfully, the Thanksgiving before our divorce, I got an amazing job offer that started up immediately. We were saved. Kind of.
As I began that path of “hi honey, I’m home” fatherhood again, and she was still “searching” something was different. The money was not enough. She was still extremely angry. And really seemed to be directing that anger at me. When the change happened from stress and anxiety to actual focused anger at me, as the problem, I don’t know. But it was palpable. She woke up angry.
Maybe she was mad that she was still having to look for a job at all. I don’t know. I tried asking, but it was fruitless. She was just angry. And when she got angry, she also closed off 100% of the intimacy. I guess that’s natural. You can’t really make love to someone if you’re angry with them. But months would go by, and I’d be the only one seemly noticing that we were not having sex. Like EVER.
So, she was mad. Woke up mad. Went to bed mad. Just mad.
Eventually this got me a bit angry back and I started looking at the dynamics of our relationship. Here I was working the “good job” again, providing the money and insurance for her to continue her search for meaning in work, and things were not getting any less stressful between us. What the fuck?
As we moved through the holidays and through January, my job continued to be stressful, and her work search continued to be fruitless. And while the idea of coming home to a happy family and a meal on the stove was kinda cliché, I was hoping for some of the fruits of my labor to be affection.
In February I began voicing my dissatisfaction with the status quo. And while I was primarily talking about our physical closeness and her obvious anger and angry outbursts at me, I was also talking about something more fundamental. In all this angry venting at me, I was beginning to get angry back. I started asking about her job prospects. I started asking about sex. I started asking about dinner when I got home.
And we were having to get our taxes together around this time. And I pushed the final hunting and gathering of the documents on her. I, after all, was working a job that was beginning to kick my ass more than I liked. But I was gung-ho, and we were doing soooo much better, financially.
Then a mini-crisis happened, just in this fragile time, as I’m beginning to stand up for what I needed. I got fired. A wrongful termination suit was brought against my former friend, because I was fired for someone else’s mistake, clear as day. But it broke the final ounce of trust and hope for my ex-y. SHE WAS DONE.
I was not done, I was certain this break would provide a pivot point for us to get back on even footing. For us to finally broach in therapy what was happening in our sexual relationship. But I was the only willing party, at that point. She was finished.
Then two amazing things happened in rapid succession. 1. She found a job. (Like magic.) and 2. She showed me the tax return documents for the previous year, and she actually had a negative contribution to the family budget for the year.
The YEAR that we were struggling, the YEAR that I sold two guitars I’d owned for 15+ years to make our mortgage payment, the YEAR that she was mad at my about 90% of the time, was the YEAR that she lost money?
How amazing that the minute she decided she wanted a divorce, her motivation for finding work changed dramatically. Or maybe it was just the marketplace. You tell me.
Anyway, in the divorce, while I chose not to fight about any of the money, I think she came out pretty well. She’s got the house. She’s got the child support income. (When I get caught back up.) And she’s got the kids a large percentage of the time.
I wonder if she’s still mad at me. Or if, now, she’s found something else to be angry about.
The Off Parent
< back to The Hard Stuff pages
- Losing Everything In Divorce; Learning to Carry On
- On the Turning Away: Fighting with Your Ex About Money
- The Close of Business Between Us
- Winning the Battle, Losing the War
- The Divorce Library (reading list)
- Songs of Divorce (free listening library – youtube sourced songs)
- Laugh It Off (building a resource library of funny videos and other diversions)
- Facebook (follow us on Facebook and keep up with all the conversations)
- The 5 Love Languages (a book on love styles by Gary Chapman)