What do all the mighty people tell themselves when it’s too much? When you’re struggling for air? When not even your family understands? When you’re not allowed to complain? When you can’t show weakness? (After all, anything that can be used against you in court, WILL be.) When your kids fall for his lies? When he files yet another case? When your finances just can’t handle another case, but you gotta fork it out anyway? When he just won’t let you move forward? When it’s already been 4 years, and there’s no end in sight to his games (at least until the last child graduates or he dies)? When you probably won’t have a relationship ever again (because who wants to deal with a woman with 4 kids and a narc X)?
In a way I’m comforted knowing it wasn’t me. I know it was him. I’m confident of myself, happier than I ever have been. But he won’t stop hurting me and hurting my kids. (I’ve gone no contact but for necessary kids stuff.) He insists on dragging the kids through lies and court. So in a way I’m more disturbed at how common all this is because why haven’t the courts wisened up? If it’s so common, why do they get away with it? With harassing good moms just trying to move forward doing what’s best for their kids?
What do you tell yourself? How do you get back up every day and keep going? Even though your heart is breaking? Even though all your life has been crushed in front of your face and thrown out without a care?
I know I need to pick myself up and keep going, but what do I tell myself?
Dear Happily Free,
Tell yourself you’re mighty. That you’re stronger than a fuckwit. And that you’re going to be okay despite him. Better than okay. Maybe not right this heartbreaking minute, when you’re exhausted and feeling wobbly. But eventually, you’ll be free.
When you’re struggling for air?
Take a deep breath. And another. And another. Motherfucker doesn’t own air.
When not even your family understands?
Not everybody understands. Find a safe space like Chump Nation where people do understand. Vent here. You can vomit your grief anytime. We get it, we lived it.
Around those that haven’t lived it, tread carefully. You might have shared history, or shared DNA, but not everyone does grief and vulnerability. Doesn’t mean you have to ex-communicate them (I will allow you, however, to think a bit less of them), but perhaps they can distract you with conversation or a movie or some superficial normalcy.
For those you can trust with your grief, hold them close. They’re the best sort of people. Show up in return when life throws them a sucker punch.
When you’re not allowed to complain?
Says who? There are no stoicism police. You are not doing this wrong. There is just getting through it. We will not be awarding medals for stiff upper lips. (What would that look like anyway? A mounted titanium lip? Profiles in Frozen Facedom?)
Everything wounded cries. Either no one hears it, predators hear it and come in for the kill, (don’t do grief around fuckwits), or your pack hears it and circles round you to defend.
Find your pack. Need to howl? Do it online (anonymously!), in a shrink’s office, on a best friend’s soggy shoulder. We’ll comfort you and snarl at him until you can carry the load again.
When you can’t show weakness?
Let your lawyer be your professional fighter. You just go about the business of sane parenting and putting your life back together.
(After all, anything that can be used against you in court, WILL be.)
There is a difference between being devoid of emotion, and being discerning about sharing emotions. It’s not that you can’t show weakness or anger, it’s that you cannot lose your shit in court, or in public documents that could be shown to a judge.
Need support online? Do it anonymously with the utmost of cybersecurity. Don’t use usernames your ex might know. Create a new email account that’s not tied to Google or gravatars.
He baits you by text? Humiliates you in a thousand subtle and not-so-subtle ways? Give it to Jesus. Don’t respond.
Is this shitty? Yes. But as my husband the trial lawyer likes to say about being in litigation, “If it feels good — don’t do it.”
Don’t tell him off. Maintain your dignity. Whatever the other side is trying to paint you as — batshit crazy, hysterical, emotional — don’t be that. Be calm. Exude sane parent. Because you ARE sane, you’re just going through hell at present.
If you do the work, document the work. Time stamp it. Don’t get invested in the injustice that HE (a fuckwit) doesn’t get it. He doesn’t WANT to get it. He needs your bad guy status like he needs his Woobie. Stop trying to achieve consensus about your value or your children’s feelings, or the truth of how the marriage ended. Just do you. Parent. Show up. Love consistently. Valiantly. In spite of his chaos. Do. It. Every. Day.
When your kids fall for his lies?
You don’t control that. Kids also believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Why? Because some trusted adult told them they exist. They grew out of those myths and they’ll probably outgrow Daddy Is an Honorable Person. But maybe not. A lot of people we love have delusions. And we generally love them despite those delusions.
Try not to take it as disloyalty. The BEST thing you can do to counter his narrative is build a better life for yourself and model resiliency. Do NOT pick me dance for your children. You still have to bring your sane parent game and do the not-so-fun stuff like enforcing book reports and bedtime. You may not always be the popular parent, but you’re the Sane Parent. This is a long game.
When he files yet another case?
I’m sorry. I know how deeply this sucks. I had a freak who sued me four times for custody (and lost four times) — who sued me while owing thousands in back support. Pro se. Because he could. It’s about control. It’s abusive and it’s legal. And if I think about the money spent on defending stupid lawsuits from a fuckwit (money that could’ve paid for a college education or a house) — my head will explode. I’m sure your head wants to explode. So I don’t think about it. (Okay, some times I think about it and I treat the high blood pressure.)
I just want to tell you, I’m many years out from the experience and I survived it. And I keep this community alive so you all can survive it.
Postscript: My son is great. He still sees the fuckwit occasionally. But he calls us his “parents” and his father his “bio-dad.” (I first heard it in passing, when he was 20. I could’ve cried.) Like I said, it’s a LONG game.
When your finances just can’t handle another case, but you gotta fork it out anyway?
I don’t know your financial or legal situation. Talk to your local court about going pro se. Or mediation. Or read everything you can over at www.womenslaw.org — they’ve got all the divorce and custody laws there, by state. Be your best goddamn advocate.
When he just won’t let you move forward?
He doesn’t control forward. But wouldn’t he love that? YOU captain this ship. Leaving him is a huge step forward. Build the new life. Enjoy every single fuckwit-free minute. There’s still joy in being a parent. (Really, despite the book reports.) There’s still ice cream and trilliums and puppy videos. There’s still Mozart and Alice Neel and P.G. Wodehouse. There are still a bazillion prophets of joy.
He is not Master of the Universe. He’s one singular fuckwit. Do not kiss his ring. Do not give him power.
When it’s already been 4 years, and there’s no end in sight to his games (at least until the last child graduates or he dies)?
He flings bait? Reject the bait. Hell, have a good think if every single provocation deserves a response. Use parenting software. Keep it to logistics and surgically remove all the emotion.
When you probably won’t have a relationship ever again (because who wants to deal with a woman with 4 kids and a narc X)?
Are you a fortune teller? You don’t know the future. I lived on one street in a small town in Texas and within 400 feet were TWO women who each had four kids with fuckwits and who both remarried very nice men. By the time I met them, it was 30 years later. Long game, Happily. LONG game.
Anyway, you will have relationships again. With your kids. With yourself. With people worthy of you.
How do you get back up every day and keep going? Even though your heart is breaking? Even though all your life has been crushed in front of your face and thrown out without a care?
And yet here you are. With the strength to write a letter. To fight and breathe another day.
How do you do it? You just do it. And then you do it the next day, and the day after that, and eventually the pain stops, and you’ve got some fine young adults, and the fuckwit is on a bender, or book tour, or was elected emperor of a piss-pot republic. And he’s a nonentity. A yawn. A mortifying relic of your past. He’s feathered bangs in your yearbook.
And you survive. It happens on a Tuesday. ((Hugs))