Last week I started my big corporate job again and my ex-wife couldn’t be more excited. So excited, in fact, that the morning before I started my first day she sent me instructions about how I should set up the kid’s insurance and recommending that I set the child support on auto-withdrawal. “It’s better for the kids.”
It’s not much different than the way she acted the last time I got the big corporate job that pulled our family up out of an economic recession. That time I was on my orientation trip to San Francisco, and the first morning, before I’d even had a chance to meet my new colleagues she was hassling me about what day the kid’s insurance would kick in and when my first check would be deposited, and why didn’t the company pre-pay for the hotel room, before I checked in. We got in a dramatic yelling argument about how I was being irresponsible for not getting this information upfront. I hadn’t even made it to the office to get my employee packet, and she was angry with me for not doing it right.
I couldn’t fathom back then, six or more years ago, that she could be mad at me when the tap was about to be turned back on, in a big way. How was it possible that at the moment of my start she was pissed about how I was treating her, how I was behaving. This seems to be a pattern. And unfortunately it does not seem to have abated in the nearly five years we’ve been divorced.
On Monday of this week, day four of my job, she was asking for the insurance card, even though I gave her the group number and company on Thursday (day 2) and said the new plan would kick in on Feb. 1. Even with that information she said she wanted the card to schedule an appointment for our daughter. When I told her about the Feb. 1 start date and the number that I’d already given her, she snapped back that she was just getting ready to set up our daughter’s annual physical. She said, of course she could wait until the policy started.
And there are a few more things she’s on-top of at the moment. It’s as if, the moment things look up, improve, she’s got to act quickly so she doesn’t miss anything. Or is she so aggressive when I have new changes, usually for the better, that she feels she needs to bring me down a notch, knock a little sense into my euphoria.
In San Francisco, I asked her to come join me. I had made arrangements for the kids to be taken care of by my mom and sister. We needed a romantic break. We needed something nice. She got even more mad about this fantasy. She was incensed that I was considering spending the $450 dollars for her round-trip ticket. Of course the hotel room was already covered. And we’d need to be buying and eating food no matter where we were. But she was pissed.
And in some ways she’s never gotten un-pissed. And I’m still not all that clear what she’s mad about. She hasn’t always been mad. But she got mad at some point and stayed that way. Mad when going to bed. Mad when waking up in the morning. And somehow I was usually the recipient of the antagonist’s laurel. Well, I’m sorry she’s mad, but it’s really not my problem any more. Oh yes, I still have to deal with it, but when she began blowing up my phone on Monday morning with angry text messages, I did not have to respond.
And I’m sure it has been hard for her, having to do with less in the nice house. Not being able to afford a maid. Having to work full-time. I’m sure those are things that could be pinned on me, as the issue. But I’m no longer there to stand in as her target. And I no longer need to respond to her every complaint or rant. And sometimes silence is the best response.
The culmination of all this angst yesterday came in a text that started, “I hate to text you about this, but…”
I didn’t respond.
She sent the same message 15 minutes later via email.
I am learning to let go. And perhaps she can still be influenced towards a more empathetic approach. Or maybe not. Either way my response, or non-response is up to me. I can only control my own actions, and that’s fine. As a divorced parent, there are a few things I still have to engage with her about. But that tick list is short. And if it’s not about the kids… Well, silence and not attacking in-kind is my compassionate repose.
The Off Parent
< back to The Hard Stuff posts
- Back to the Beginning: Serenity with Your Coparent
- she says yes
- Entitlement & Narcissism: The Blurry Lines Between Divorced Parents
- The Best Will Come Out, Eventually… But First This
- Texts From the Ex. What’s the Crisis?
- Give Me a Bullet to Bite On: My Ex and Her Anger
- Patience Please, I’m Doing The Best I Can
image: beach blizzard, scott o’donnell, creative commons usage
Today I am angry. It takes a lot to get me urgent and angry. My sense of urgency has been triggered at this point. I am sitting in my mom’s house with a $43,000 (about triple the disputed child support amount) hold on my credit card. And I can’t get my lawyer on the phone. I wonder what would happen if I was thrown in jail by the AG’s office rather than just frozen out of any access to my money. I guess I need to plan for the worst and understand what my options are.
I am grateful that I’m not in jail at this moment.
But I have to say, the AG’s office thing, that my ex-y triggered in September of last year, sure has done a lot to dampen my optimistic outlook today. I’ll be back above it shortly, but at the moment, I am essentially paralyzed. It’s better here on my mom’s couch, with AC, electricity, and a strong wifi signal. But I’m a bit tranquil for the situation. (see: AG’s Office Round Two: Dead Beat Dad – 0, Bank $43,000)
I’m not exactly sure how I came to have this low-level of reactivity. I guess my father’s response, would’ve been to blow up at everyone possible. And maybe my lack of blowup-ness is part of my anti-dad training. But I should be mad right now. Instead I’m feeling a bit defeated. A bit dead.
And what I know about myself is that these feelings are the harbingers of depression. Fk that! The opposite of depression is high-energy and activation. So today, I’m going to fire up the jets and get mad. What’s the risk? There’s nothing more that she could do to me, other than have me thrown in jail, and I guess it’s really not up to her, right…
Except the coup de grâce was hers. In some sense of fear or entitlement (the opposite sides of a coin as well) she made a decision that it was better to attack me than negotiate and talk to me. Somewhere in her muddled little mind, she took the path of war. And in all the work I’ve done to get healthy, this is the one attack that I still have a hard time accepting. Divorce me, sure. Expect and count on the child support, yes. But when one of us stumbles, as a divorced couple, as co-parents, the response HAS GOT TO BE HELP, NOT ATTACK.
I stumbled. I am still stumbling forward. And rather than deal with me, or hear my plea for patience, my ex-y took the harshest action at her disposal and filed against me with the AG’s office. And the machine was started and the damage is still being inflicted.
Today I will respond in-kind. For the first time since my marriage began to crumble, I am genuinely mad at my ex-wife.
There is no reason to attack a parent who is being transparent and cooperative
When there is financial hardships on either side of the divorce, the impact by everyone
If your reaction to your ex-partner’s struggle is to attack them, you have lost touch with any and all compassion you once had for them
Attacking your ex-partner for any reason, hurts your kids
Is it always the best approach to be the bigger partner and not attack back? Is it always the best approach to maintain a positive outlook and find the pro-active solution? Or at some point, do you need to pull out your own guns and fire back? I’m not sure I know the answer to this. For over four years I have been taking the buddhist approach and attempting to rise above the blame and anger, and NOT attack my ex-wife FOR ANY REASON.
Today, I don’t know. The lawyer, when he finally calls me back, will have to advise me.
First blood, second blood has been drawn. At this point, I’m a bit like the Evil Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. He is still taunting his enemy when he has lost both arms and legs. I am standing on my stumps at the moment, and I’ve got nothing else to defend myself with. And today I will shout my anger to the hills. Perhaps at some point I will (to use a very different metaphor) FLAME ON, like the human torch.
At my son’s cross-country meeting at the middle school this morning, she stopped me in the hall. I was certain she was going to say she was sorry. She wanted to tell me something about their acne medicine. Um, yeah, thanks, and fk you.
This is not my natural or comfortable state. It’s like I have to spin up the anger momentum for a while before I actually get angry. I am certain that I learned this subversion of anger from the overbearing and abusive anger of my father. He shouted the anger right out of all of us. I see my sister and mother get terrified when I get angry with them. I have to stop for a minute and reassure them, “It’s okay, this is what healthy anger looks like.” They look at me with deer-in-the-headlights expressions.
But it really is okay to be angry. And as a counter-measure to depression, anger is a powerful tool.
And I guess, since this episode started at 6:00pm last night, and I still haven’t heard back from my lawyer, I’ll have a touch of anger to give him as well.
There’s plenty of anger to go around, I’ve got enough for everyone. Still I am cautious not to lash out. Today is one of countermeasures and planning not vengeance. That is better taken when the dust has settled and the evening sun is setting over the battlefield.
The Off Parent
back to The Hard Stuff
- I Was a Happily Married Man, and Now I’m Not: Tiny Hints of Doom
- My Divorce: A Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory
- Waiting for the Other Person to Change
- Maybe My Unhappy Ex-Wife Is Simply Unhappy
- What You Took Away; What I Get To Remember
image: la coup de grâce, connie ma, creative commons usage
I guess it’s good that I am not refusing to pay…
From the Texas Attorney General’s Office FAQ