I’m a soon to be divorced dad with primary custody of my two adorable kids, 8 year old boy and 4 year old girl. It’s been about 10 months since D-Day, although I was naïve enough not to notice the affair with a married co-worked that was probably going on under my nose for at least a year. My wife started to seriously abuse alcohol last summer, to the point where she was falling down and injuring herself. We entered marriage counseling under two conditions – no contact with the OM and a serious attempt to cut down on drinking. In the ensuing months, while we were in therapy, she promised at the beginning of each session that she would stick to the plan.
She didn’t and it got worse. She was drinking by 4:00 PM and passing out by 9:00 on nights where she was home. Or she was out at all hours with OM while I babysat our own children. When she wasn’t out with him, she was locked in the bathroom talking to him on the phone (including Christmas Day) or texting him openly while I sat next to her on the couch. She eventually took to drinking for breakfast on weekends to the point where she was legitimately unfit to be alone with the kids.
In March, she was removed by the police from our home, while drunk, after persistent neglect (bordering on abuse) of our kids and a complete disregard for me, her husband and “best friend” of 12 years. It’s been a long slog of court appearances and custody hearings since then, and she has had her ass handed to her every time by probate or (if we made that far) the judge. I’ve been working very hard to let go and get to meh and thought I was making progress.
However, when going out with family friends, drips and drabs of information keep finding their way (innocently) into our conversations. Last night, a stream of particularly disturbing – check that, infuriating – new details fell into my lap and I find myself back at the beginning, hating her, her boyfriend, and what they’ve done to my family with the power of 100 suns. Except for once a week, court supervised visits, I’ve been pretty good about going NC. But after a night without sleep, I feel an overwhelming desire to lash out, confront, and wreak as much havoc as I can. She is without question a pathological liar, and I could pull a few cards to make things very uncomfortable at work and with her family.
I’m sure a lot of chumps out there have been in the same position. How do you step back from the edge when I’m continually reminded of what a terrible person she has become and what I complete and utter rube I was to let all of this happen?
Dear Opposite Spouse,
Yeah, you’re still in the throes of trusting that she sucks. How much more can she suck? Well, apparently more and more! as you have found out from friends and family.
But before I get into the particulars of how you can get your meh back — huge kudos to you for gaining custody of your kids, going through the meat grinder of court, getting supervised visits, and managing no contact. What you’ve accomplished is MIGHTY. So please take a moment to bask in the admiration and bro hugs from Chump Nation. You get the Sane Parent award. You are modeling incredible strength and resiliency to your children, and you are protecting them from abuse and neglect. You’re a hero.
As for your ex — if all of her crazy is due to addiction, you’re also doing right by her as well. (Not that you expressed any guilty feelings about that, but you’re a chump, so I’m just checking.) As they say, “never get between an addict and their bottom.” By imposing consequences — calling the cops, leaving the marriage, receiving custody of the kids — you’re allowing hitting bottom to happen, IF it’s going to happen. (Of course, for some epic fuck-ups it never happens.) But it wasn’t going to happen if you stayed in that mess, trying to manage chaos. So, more kudos.
Now, about that meh. Part of no contact means you need to cut friends and family members off at the knees the minute they mention her or what she’s up to. You don’t need to know. It’s only going to upset you and ruin your precious meh.
As you have custody and the time she gets with the kids is “court supervised” — you’ve done everything in your power to protect your children from her fuckupedness. Excellent. So you don’t need to know particulars to spare them from harm, you’ve done that.
So, the only horrors left to learn are either a) what fresh hell she’s up to now, or b) shit she did behind your back before that you didn’t know about.
On “a” — you don’t need to know. If you truly trust that she sucks, you can only expect more tales of chaos, drama, and self destruction. That is who she IS. That’s the path she has chosen. And if she gets off that path, toward sobriety and responsible living, I’m sure she will inform the court and you’ll hear about it.
On “b” — there’s a point at which you don’t need any more information. You’re past that point, my friend. You can do the calculations and arrive at “she sucks” right now. You don’t need more evidence. If someone were to tell you something new along the lines of she once saved Haitian orphans from earthquakes, okay, you might have to recalculate. But you’re not learning those things, you’re probably learning she slept with more people, or fucked you over in some other fresh, imaginative way. You don’t need this, because it just underscores what you already know — SHE SUCKS. Trust that. Stick with NC.
Explain points “a” and “b” to your friends and family. You’ve got enough on your plate trying to maintain your precious equilibrium and raise two kids, you don’t need to know about the ex’s life. Put it out there and then enforce that boundary.
Next, on the revenge and telling people at work how horrible she is? Bad idea. First off, if she’s as drunk and crazy as you say, they know it. Her having a job helps you, gives her incomes, keeps her occupied. Don’t mess with that. Second, revenge is poking a tiger and you don’t need the blow back. And third, it messes with your precious meh. Protect your hard won tranquility.
As for feeling like a rube? Oh, join the club, Opposite. We’ve ALL been there. You’re in the company of chumps here. Here’s something you can work on — exploring who you were in that relationship. Were you codependent? Did you ever enable? Did you make your needs small? Did you accept continual disrespect and violations of your boundaries? Did you grow up doing that? Go explore this stuff in therapy, or online, or with a host of self-help books. But do take a hard, unvarnished look at yourself and say NEVER AGAIN will I stay in a relationship that chumps me. Fix the picker, as we say here. You do get to control you and your vetting process for the people you allow in your life. You don’t control the ex’s crazy, but you do get to control your own shields and forcefields.
And remember too, Opposite, when you’re feeling like a rube — you are an AWESOME person. I’ll say it again — you’re a HERO. You saved your kids. You saved yourself. Think of how hard you worked to stay in that marriage and hold it all together. You’re Atlas. You take all that strength and love with you forward. And now, instead of wasting it on this dreadful woman, you have it to give to the people who are deserving of you — your kids, the loved ones who’ve had your back, and some day (when that picker is recalibrated) to a good person who can love you right.
Better days ahead, OS. You’ve been through the worst of it already. Don’t look back at the crazy you left behind. Just keep moving forward in mightiness. (((Hugs)))