If you’re here, I’m sorry. I mean let’s face it, you don’t read, much less write, about such a topic unless you’re knee deep in it yourself. But since you’re here, welcome to the club! I know, you’d much rather not have the membership. But know that you’re among people who ‘get it.’
My husband and I have an ex-wife. At least that’s how I see it. When I married him, I took ownership of his story, and he mine. His is that of a narcissist (the ex) and an empath (him); and while his story is much more common, my story has the preferred outcome, so I’m going to try to incorporate what we’ve learned from both experiences.
Our faith has played a huge role in where we are today on this journey. If that’s not your position, I would encourage you to consider inviting Christ into your life and circumstances.
It’s been nearly 4 years since our lives intertwined. In the beginning, I had little understanding as to why my now husband was so reactionary. Emotions ruled him. I thought reason and logic could be excercised with most anyone. Particularly when a then 10 year old child is involved. But I was wrong.
An empath feels everything. They take on the feelings and problems of others as their own. A narcissist uses these feelings to control and manipulate the empath into submission, while dangling love and affection just outside the empath’s reach. Finally, when the relationship is severed and the empath no longer desires the attention of the narcissist, the manipulation turns vengeful. She had been “poking the bear” for a number years. Of course he was reactionary! She didn’t mind though, that was part of the game. When he reacts, and later feels remorseful, that’s fuel for more guilt, and so it goes.
It took me a minute to wrap my head around the, “why,” of his position. He warned me, and yet I would still try to apply logic and reason to the situation. Surely, she’s not that shallow? Wrong again. Sadly, her own child isn’t even off limits if it meant she had to forfeit a ‘win.’ She’s mad at the world and going to make him pay, regardless of what emotional or developmental toll it takes on the child.
For roughly 18 months, the aforementioned child lived mostly with us and wanted little to do with her mother, even though we encouraged her, to at a minimum, visit some weekends, and remain in contact via phone. If she went to her mom’s, it was short-lived. She’d cause her mother enough stress that her mom would simply drop her back off with us. Though, early on even when visiting with her mom wasn’t an issue, her mother would often times drop her at her dad’s house unannounced, whether he was home or not. Eventually, she signed over custody.
Having unexpectedly, but willingly signed over custody, in her mind, that meant she could dictate everything about how we cared for “her” daughter. She raised hell about anything from how ‘we let her’ wear her hair to school, to which after school programs we chose. My then 13 year old son lived with us half-time, as my former spouse and I share custody. It’s important to mention that we’ve never had a legal agreement of any kind, never been to court, and never used our son as a weapon to injure the other parent. But, our ex-wife thought it was okay to demand that I adjust my sons custody schedule so that he only be there at our home when her daughter was not. Entitled much? Oddly, in spite of their very different personalities, the step-siblings have managed to stay in touch, and now even attend the same high school.
It didn’t take long after filing for child support for the alienation to begin. Initially, we had no intentions of filing, but since the ex-wife wanted to dictate everything and consequently cost us unnecessary legal fees, by abusing the use of the biased parenting coordinator assigned to our case, we figured what the heck. So we filed.
Let the alienation begin. Cue tears. There’s nothing like a good’ole fashioned guilt trip from your mother; especially when you’re 12 and you don’t yet have a grasp on what’s taking place, but realize you’re getting a new iPhone 7, a wet-suit, and 3 dogs, after your mom dries her eyes. Yep, she bought her daughter. What materialistic pre-teen wouldn’t go for that?
We did later discover that she truly just wanted to live in the house with least amount of resistance to her whims. Why choose to live live in a home with reasonable boundaries, where appropriate consequences are employed for bad behavior; in favor of a home where you can do whatever you wish and have whatever you want: [insert visual of nose piercing here].
There was just one problem: She didn’t have legal custody. So what do you do? You communicate with your child via text and formulate a plan to have your daughter draw a bruise on her face and then go see the school counselor. Yes, I’m for real. We wouldn’t have believed it ourselves if we didn’t have the text messages to prove it, and then witnessed it in action. When that doesn’t work, you get the child to verbalize lies of abuse, because you’ll do anything not to have to pay child support, even corrupt your own kid.
Once the ex began to believe her own lies, she then had the courage to ignore the court order and not return the child to her dad following a random weekend visit. In NC, this is enough to stop a child support proceeding, since you must have physical custody of the child to receive support. It doesn’t matter that she’s in contempt of the order. And don’t bother getting the law involved to retrieve your child. As a concerned father, my husband inquired about this option and was told by a courthouse clerk that this is frowned upon as it only causes detriment to the child. What she didn’t tell him is that it would take a year to get a hearing for the contempt charge.
A year later and a $500 slap on the wrist; and she gets to keep the child. Of course at this point, the child has no interest in her dad unless she needs or wants something; like money, or a ride to the school dance because she doesn’t want to be embarrassed by her over dramatic mother. A once close relationship, destroyed by a delusional female with a womb and a kangaroo court system. It’s a shameful reality and sadly all too common.
I am product of divorce, been divorced, and married to a divorced father. It’s safe to say that I’ve experienced divorce from every angle – as a child, a mother, a wife, ex-wife, and step-mother. Being female, there’s not a role I haven’t held in this arena. Am I proud? No, but I’ve learned a lot, and I must say, while the biggest disservice is to the kids, dad’s are a very close second.
So what do you do? Whether you’re reading this as a married couple or a single dad who’s trying to navigate uncharted waters, hopefully our experience will give you some insight. Here’s some practical steps you can take to hopefully find some peace amidst the storm:
• Don’t attend every argument you’re invited to. You are not required to respond to every call, text, or email. Choose to ignore your ex if possible. If it’s a matter regarding your child, where you must respond, then do so, but reply only to the facts. “Yes, I will pick him/her up at noon.” Nevermind that he/she called you a deadbeat 5 seconds earlier.
• If you need to hire a lawyer, seek one whom doesn’t take issue with you doing some of the legal leg-work. This will save you a ton of money and you’ll learn in the process. What do I mean by “legal leg-work?” Timelines and spreadsheets outlining custody, visitation, and payments; filing legal documents yourself, etc. Pay a friend to help you create these documents if necessary. It’s still cheaper than a lawyer doing them.
- Keep good notes!
• If your child has been alienated and refuses to see or speak to you, I’m sorry. Unless they’re younger than say, 12 years of age, unfortunately, there’s not much to do now, other than wait. Wait for what? For them to see the light. You can’t force a relationship. That will only further deteriorate your limited interaction with them. Just be there when revelation finds them.
As for your own preservation: Pray and seek God. He is our refuge in times of trouble. When He seems absent in the tough moments, know that He’s not. He has been faithful in all our struggles, sustaining us financially and making victory a reality, but only in His perfect timing. He loves your child equally as much as He loves you. Enough so, that He gave us each a free will. You are free to choose to love your child through this, from afar. You are free to choose to engage with your ex or not. And you are free to choose a Holy God to empower you when your world is crashing down as you grieve the loss of an alienated child as if they had died. As hard as it was my husband chose peace, so should you.
As always, Grace & Peace be with you ~