My ex-husband of ten years effectively abandoned me while I was pregnant with our 2nd child (our oldest, now 8 years old, is mildly disabled) due to his emotional affair with a ho-worker. I had to go back to full-time work at 7 months pregnant for the first time in 7 years because XH flat-out insisted that supporting the family (he wasn’t making any money at his job, but stuck with it because of his “friendship” with the ho-worker) wasn’t his responsibility. He later had a physical affair with another woman, and ultimately, insisted on rushing the divorce so he could pursue her. She dumped him before the divorce was final (and wrote a hilariously narcissistic blog post about dumping him), so, um, yeah, that worked out.
Fast forward to now. I have been divorced for 5 months. All things considered, I am happy with where my life is right now. My commute is long and my job is not glamorous, but it is a government job with a nice assortment of benefits, relative job security, and opportunities for advancement. My children (ages 8 and 18 months) are happy, I have an active social life, my finances are in good shape (something that was seldom true when I was with XH), and I am very slowly finishing my master’s degree. (Passed my final comp a few weeks after the divorce finalized!) I was never overweight, but I am now two dress sizes slimmer than I was pre-pregnancy and looking and feeling great. I am just starting to date again.
The problem: I have to see my XH on a fairly regular basis due to visitation. The “why” isn’t important; it cannot be changed. I have to see him so that I can hand off the children to him 4-5 times per week, and he often does his visitation at my apartment while I am at work. You say that these NPD cheaters only have 3 channels: rage, charm, and “pity me.” Well, he’s been stuck in “pity me” mode for some time now, and it’s getting to me.
He mopes about how depressed he is. He sends me texts that say things like, “I have decided that I am of absolutely no worth to anybody and the only thing I am good for is paying child support so I’m just going to keep on working and doing that and let that be my life.” He reminds me of how broke he is because of how much child support he is paying. (In actuality, I am letting him pay $200-$250/month less than what he agreed to pay in the divorce; he’s broke because his job sucks and he refuses to even look for a new one!)
If I offer constructive suggestions for bettering his life, he shoots them down. If I try to show sympathy and concern, I get stupid crap like, “I’m surprised you even care.” If I dare to point out my own feelings and frustrations, it’s, “Why do you have to make everything about you?!” He has an amazing talent for making me feel horrible about myself, even though (as I said earlier), when I am not interacting with him, I usually feel pretty good about how my life is going, all things considered.
I know that this is about ego kibbles for him. What I don’t know is how to interact with him daily without being sucked into his “pity me” routine. You’ve written some great columns on “no contact,” but “no contact” isn’t much of an option for me. Maybe you could give some pointers on “defensive contact”?
You wrote: The “why” isn’t important; it cannot be changed.
Yes it is, and yes it can. Your children are minors. Nothing in custody is set in stone. You or your ex can take matters to court until the kids are 18. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of breeding with a litigious fucktard (raising my hand!), you’ll know that custody can be challenged over most anything. (I was once sued for moving 5 miles across a river. No kidding.) Doesn’t mean they’ll win, but it will be heard.
I’m not implying that either of you are litigious fucktards, I’m just trying to jolt you out of the notion that whatever you decided in the heat of trying to divorce this creep, is NOT irrevocable. Document, document, document. Focus your arguments on the best interests of the children, and talk with your lawyer.
Because Rarity, weekly contact with this idiot, having this idiot in YOUR HOME, is enough to drive the sanest and stablest of chumps totally bonkers. So my first bit of advice to you is — change this arrangement. The best cure for crazy is prevention.
Also, if the goal is to get Mr. Mopey into the regular workforce, he can’t be watching the kids in your apartment while YOU are at work. So you’re working at cross purposes here if you want the guy to have a steady job. He may actually like the arrangement just fine. Something tells me you would prefer less contact and more child support. Meditate on that.
Okay, now then, let’s say you are stuck with this situation indefinitely (you’re not!)… the person who has to change here is YOU.
You can’t change him. He’s going to keep being a sad fungus moldering in dark corners, crying “Woe! Woe!” He’s got the sadz. Your sunshine will not be the disinfectant that can bleach him.
Why? Because his “poor pitiful me” act gets a reaction from you. You care! You react! You advise! You listen! You get exasperated!
Seriously, stop talking to him about ANYTHING that does not pertain to the children.
Now tattoo this on your forearm and read as necessary: HIS MOOD IS NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.
He’s dejected? Not your problem.
He hates his job? Not your problem.
He doesn’t like child support? Not your problem.
See, he fired you from giving a shit about his life when he cheated on you. You’re divorced now, so his problems belong to HIM, solely! They aren’t your problems!
Should his problems slop into how he manages the children? Like he’s so sad he sleeps in and doesn’t pick them up? Document. He loses his job? Document. His moves in with his latest girlfriend? Document. And then you’ve got some substance to work with when you go to court to change this arrangement.
But — big picture — HE IS NOT YOUR PROBLEM.
So, stop taking the “poor me” bait.
Consider your visitation exchanges to be less like two friends catching up, and more like a hostage drop off.
Are we chatty at hostage drop offs? Do we make idle chitchat at hostage drop offs? Do we discuss our sad existential feelings at hostage drop offs? No. We do exactly what the
ransom note court order says to do.
How do you manage that? Let’s practice.
You leaving for work. “Here’s the diaper bag. There’s extra wipes under the sink and here’s Motrin for teething.” Move towards door.
“FINE! Must be nice for YOU to have money for extras like baby wipes. Not me. I hate my job. Heck, I can’t afford toilet paper. I have to steal it from gas station bathrooms and stuff it in my pockets, all because I pay so much child support. Yes, Rarity, that’s what you’ve reduced me to — a man with no wet wipes. Or toilet paper. I HAVE TO STEAL PAPER TO WIPE MY ASS!”
“DO YOU EVER THINK ABOUT ME?!”
See — that’s how a person who knows his shit is not HER problem acts.
You’ve been mighty in every other way. You’re rocking this divorce thing with your degree and your finances and your social life. So now be mighty in your apathy for your ex.
He. Is. Not. Your. Problem.