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During the first 3-or-so years post divorce, I found myself trying to keep everyone happy. My kids had issues with their dad, their dad would get mad at me and blame me if they were rude to him or voiced how they didn’t want to go to his house, the list goes on. He’d say I was turning them against him.

I found myself more in the position of mediator than mother/ex. I’d try to help my kids understand that their father wanted to see them, but they would reply with a, “That’s not fair! So-and-so invited me over tonight!” And so the battle would begin.

I took on the negotiator role–trying to make it a win-win for all parties. All that caused was more stress, more pain, and more problems for me. All of them were being heard, but I dreaded any time an argument would come up between one of them and their dad. I was stuck in the middle and a pawn in a vicious, frustrating game.

I learned a lot of lessons along the way. When my kids were younger, I supported more. I stepped in more to help with the communications with their father when he was being demanding in his “my way or the highway” style. They wanted me to back them and he wanted me to jump every time he said to. (Please note that when a decree says something, it doesn’t mean that you have to do it exactly HIS way. You just have to do what the decree says.)

The day has come where I’ve turned the kids’ relationship with their father over to them. I can’t force a 17 year old who is bigger than me to get in my car and go see his dad during the specific court ordered days. Hell, I’m lucky if he has time to squeeze me into his schedule!  But I always allow him to go when he gets an idea to spend the night up there, out of the blue. And if my 11 year old is broken hearted because she realized her dad has lied to her, I don’t defend him any longer and make up excuses for him. I simply tell her, “I’m sorry” and that she needs to reach out to her dad.

Just because some of us were once married to a narcissist and did everything his way, when and how he said, does not mean we have to continue to do it his way. Nor do we have to make his kids do it exactly his way. Now, try getting the NPD personality to accept that–that’s like moving the great pyramids of Egypt. Ain’t likely!

I know it may be difficult as a mother with young children to step back and not get caught up in the game your ex plays when he throws the kids smack dab in the middle of his manipulation. And your role now is important–first and foremost to look out for them and be an advocate for them. But as they grow, remember, you are a mother, not a mediator. Give your kids the confidence to speak their true feelings and not be afraid of people. Remind them that sharing how they feel about something is justified and human. They don’t have to put up with put downs, and it’s okay to tell a parent how they feel.

if a parent can’t respect that in them, that’s their problem.

 

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I was married to a bully for 17 years.

I think about that life and now it’s hard to imagine. I kept a spotless house for fear of angering him. I changed the way I dressed, dropped friends, and gave up hobbies to make him feel more secure. I admit: I pretty much changed everything about myself because of him. Leaving him opened my eyes to true love, integrity and loyalty in a partner.

So here’s the thing about bullies: once they know their control games and manipulation tactics don’t work anymore, their insecurities grow and so does their anger.

The man I was once married to was told about this blog by one of my children’s coaches.

He’s read each and every post on my blog. Multiple times.

Imagine my surprise when I was served papers to appear in court and attached to the documents were printouts of my blog entries.

Absent from the documents were the blog posts where I speak of my love for Brandon, his love for me, my healing, my moments of clarity as I’ve grown through the power of writing and love received. All of it.

The only things included were posts about him.

Documents state I’m harassing him. He states I’m vindictive and can’t move on.

Blogging about the journey to my wholehearted, vulnerable, authentic self has helped me and many others heal. And I’m proud of the roads I’ve taken. I’m also proud of my writing.

I know that many of you were once married to a similar type of individual. I know that many of you long for a healthy co-parenting relationship and dance the dance, still, just as I do.

I’m proud of myself for leaving a bully. I’m thankful for all of the connections I’ve made through this and other blogs. And most importantly, I’m not afraid to write.

My children see healing and strength in me. My husband sees my heart and my integrity. And everyone sees the truth.

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It’s not often when I run into someone’s personal post and share it on Facebook. I might share someone’s photo or a quote, but never a post. I’m not a big fan of “spamming” all over the internet by sharing other people’s postings. It just feels weird. That all changed when I read Sean Whalen’s post about his divorce, growth, and peace.

I saw this vulnerable, authentic post in my feed on Friday morning, because a friend had liked it. I was intrigued–the happy little girl in the photo caught my eye along with the first few sentences when he mentions divorce. I was curious to see what looked like a post about a bad divorce could have to do with a sweet photo of he and a baby smiling. So I read on…

Take a second to read and look into a moment of Sean’s personal journey:

Sean Whalen

Facebook Post

After reading his post, I had tears in my eyes. What a courageous thing for this man, a complete stranger to me, to share out into the Facebook world. What a hard journey he must have experienced. And wow, the reward he now enjoys because of his personal growth and ability to move forward.

Divorce isn’t a game to win. It’s not a side to choose. The two adults’ time is over. The time is now for the children, for giving them all you have, and for loving what they love. Including their mother/father in a new way. And Sean did just that–He loves his ex and he loves his ex’s baby, too. That right there is awesome!

There were approximately 3,000 likes that Friday morning when I first learned about Sean’s journey, and now this one moment of revealing truth has now reached over 550,000 likes! The numbers rotate through like popcorn popping in the microwave. This man has made an impact. People can relate to his openness and sincerity. I know I did.

What a wonderful thing healing can be.

*photo and post from Sean’s Facebook post: http://www.facebook.com/swhalen

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As a survivor of divorce, I often feel like there are two parts of me that make up the whole me. One part was developed during my childhood and first marriage–40 years made me who I was. The second part of me is the part of me that has evolved post-divorce. The stronger,more confident, survivor that I am.

Sure, I suppose that some of the qualities I’ve developed along the way could have taken shape during the first 40 years of my life–the confidence ebbing and flowing and retracting throughout my life is something I’ve seen come and go. But for the most part, the second part is the real me. It’s the me I fought hard to become. It’s the me I gave myself permission to believe in.

For those of you that are going through divorce, or are fresh out of the war of court hearings, I urge you to take a moment and look at yourself. ONLY yourself for a moment (not the kids, not the family as a whole…you).

Ask yourself this question:

Was I really happy in that marriage? Or was I just comfortable?

There is a huge difference between the two.

While you’re in the trenches, duking it out with your soon-to-be ex, you’re either in survival mode, kill mode, or eff him/her mode. Whichever mask you’re wearing to hide the pain, don’t fool yourself into thinking your “happy marriage” is coming to an end. If your marriage was a good one, it wouldn’t be ending, really, would it.

I used to think me and my ex were happy. I used to think we could have made it work. Even as recently as last week, when Brandon and I were having a particularly rough day, I wondered if my life would have been easier if I just would have never gotten divorced. Short answer to that question: um, hell no.

Choosing to be with someone and be in a relationship takes work. Getting married takes work. Getting married for a second time takes more work!

After a divorce, it’s easy to go into shell-shock mode and lose yourself. Don’t do it. The main reason you’re probably getting divorced in the first place is because part of you is probably already lost…at least to some degree.

Each day after divorce is a day to discover who you really are. My divorce has not been a smooth one. I still deal with abusive power struggles and I get bumped around a bit. I did not see this side of my ex until I blew the whistle on his misbehavior and ended our marriage. But rather than letting it make me who I am, I remember why I’m on this journey. To find the real me. Not the husband-pleasing me. Not the take care of everyone and forget about myself me. But the real me.

At times, that may feel like I’m selfish. That may make me sound like I don’t care about anyone. But really, what life is about is growing and loving people and growing into the you you are meant to be.

Divorce can be a blessing. Divorce can be hard as hell. Divorce can be both things all at once. But if you peel away all the masks you’ve worn along your path to divorce, and you take on each day as a new day to have a good day, you’re bound to go to bed each night and be thankful for the opportunity to live your life. And guess what? You may live that life on your own… Or maybe, you’ll find a “happy marriage” along the way.

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The last few weeks have brought so much reward to me and hopefully to my kids as well. Now that I’m working from home, we’ve spent time together. We’ve talked. We’ve been busy with sports and other things, but we’ve also had some downtime, which has been great for all of us. Last night, my oldest son had a softball game and he asked me if I would go watch him. Last year, he played on a team with Brandon and I and we all had a great time. Brandon and I are much too busy this year to play, but his dad asked him to play on a team he’s played on for a couple years and my son wanted our whole family to go and watch.

“Sure,” I told him. There was only a small part of me that didn’t want to go, and that’s because my ex has been pretty difficult with me (again) lately. But I’m not one to let my ex separate me from what my kids want, so of course we went. Our family sat out on the grass, and I was respectful to give my ex and his wife their space. My son wanted us to sit closer, but I was fine out on the grass having a picnic with Brandon and the kids.

My son had a great game, and it was so great to see him out playing ball again. And ya know, I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all watching my ex husband play in the same game my son was playing in. Some people would think I’m crazy to go and sit there watching my ex play–with all of the drama that man has brought to my life–but I was really there only to support my son, so it wasn’t strange at all. If anything, I watched with an appreciation that he and my son could play ball together. Now, I’m sure it could have been strange for my ex and his wife to have me on “their turf” but again, I wasn’t there for them.

The sun was setting just as the game was ending, and Brandon and I piled all the kids into the car to drive home. We all sang Flo Rida songs at the top of our lungs while we were all squished into the car, and it really was a memorable night.

The emotions started rolling in for me once we got home–after I replayed the evening in my mind. My heart began to break as I thought about how my son has to live his life with a gap as wide as the Grand Canyon right down the middle. Dad on one side. Mom on the other. Why does it have to be like that? I really don’t understand why it needs to be that way. Brandon and his ex’s are friendly with each other when they’re at the kids things. Why can’t my kids have the same?

I have longed for a “normal” co-parenting situation for so long. One where my son’s family goes to his games and support him and parents can be friendly and the animosity is void. But I know that will never happen for my kids. I’ve tried to be friendly with my ex. I’ve tried to speak to him as a respectful adult. He insists on acting childish and still won’t make eye contact–4 years later he still refuses to make eye contact with me. It’s almost as if he’s on a pedastal and he can’t bring himself to “stoop so low” to even look at me, the mother of his 4 children.

A few weeks ago, my daughter played ball on a Friday night during our “drop off time.” I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to pick up our older daughter from soccer that night or if he was going to so I walked over to her father to ask if he would be picking her up. He and his wife sat there staring off into the distance and wouldn’t acknowledge me standing next to their seats. He continued to stare off into the distance and replied, “it’s my parent time–I’ll handle it.” My response was calm and clear, “I just need you to communicate that with me so I know what’s going on.” His eyes rolled and he formed his hand into a puppet mouth pointed at my face and opened and closed his fingers and thumb to mimic my talking, and he didn’t respond again to me. This man is so mature.

I don’t want “normal” co-parenting as much for myself (but Jesus, that would be nice) as much as I want it for my kids. Imagine the love my son could have felt last night if BOTH of his parents were talking and communicating and cheering for him at his game. Imagine how safe he would feel if his mother could walk up to him and his team after the game and speak to his father about how well he played. Imagine if we acted as if we were two old friends who shared a child and the anger and insecurity was gone. Imagine if the two of us could stand with our son and tell him how amazing we thought he was–together–as his parents. But then I remember that my ex is a narcissist, and he cannot put the needs of his 4 kids above himself. And his insecurities, anger, and immaturity will always take center stage.

My ex’s lack of compassion and respect towards me doesn’t really affect me, but it DOES affect his children. They feel the discomfort. They have been told that during “his time” they sit with him and he has drawn the line in the sand. He has painted parameters and boundaries around their relationships with each parent and they are expected to stay within each boundary, seperately. My heart breaks for the way he has changed their lives. They are four innocent people who are trying to love and repair, and they won’t ever be able to fully heal until their father does. And I’m not sure that will ever happen.

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