What can you say to your adult children to make them understand that the gaslighting, lying, cheating, stealing, abusive break up and divorce is not “People grow in different directions, so all relationships are temporary.”?
Background, my EX, her father, started gaslighting, lying, cheating, stealing and being abusive and I, like most chumps, only saw the surface stuff and thought he was just going through a bad time in his life. When I would ask what was wrong because I thought I was in the relationship by myself, he said No, he was engaged. (Engaged in what is open to interpretation).
Turns out he was ramping up for the big reveal where he would pick fights when the kids were not around, accuse me of things he was doing, up until the great discard. Oddly enough, he was let go from his job for being inappropriate (constantly angry and saying inappropriate things to co-workers- I found this out later) at the same time. Hmmm. Go Figure. The story is long and similar to others.
Whether the kids have actually drank his Kool-Aid and believe his lies that “People just grow in different directions” or they just are trying to keep the peace, I don’t know. What I do know is my D now 24 NOW thinks that marriage is useless since “People just grow apart.” But that maybe she’d like to have someone for a while until they grow apart.
I am not one of those people who insist you should never tell your side of the story, but I also don’t ram it down their throats. I only mention things when something comes up in passing. (Like when my son said I didn’t let dad get his things and I had to say “That is not accurate. Your father refused to come and get his things unless I was out of the house, and since he had already stolen things from me, he didn’t get to come into the house unsupervised. I offered to put them in the garage and leave the door open, but he still did not get his things.”)
I’m sure the kids still believe lots of lies because the mask is firmly in place. It’s always hard because while on the one hand I don’t want my kids abandoned by their father, on the other hand he is an ass and is saying BS and teaching them crappy morals.
So I have told my daughter that marriage may not be for everyone, especially the ones who have no honor or integrity, loyalty or morals, but there are people who show up and stay. They don’t decide that their marriage was a 12-23-35 year inconvenience, or blow up their family. It’s called commitment and something that seems to be lost in the “all about me” folks. It’s where two people care at least as much about each other as they do about themselves, pay attention to each others likes and dislikes and bring grievances to the table instead of letting them fester. It’s hard work, not always happy, but if you put in the effort definitely worth it. Anyone who tells you life is always supposed to be Happy and if you EVER argue something must be wrong with you is selling you something.
I don’t know if what I said sank in or not. What their father did was not normal. Life does not have to be that way. I have no relationship of my own to show her what one could look like (it’s kind of covid out there, and I’m good in my own skin on my own, though I’m open to what the Universe throws at me). When the opportunity arises, how does one convey to their children that what happened to their family was not normal, and that they are not doomed to the same fate if the one who is willing to show up, shows up, and do it without sounding like a “I wuz so wronggggeddd” crazy person? I do NOT want them thinking that “People just grow apart” so you blow up your family by doing insane things is normal.
To your first point, you can’t make anyone understand anything. It’s beyond your control. As the saying goes: “I can explain it to you, but I can’t understand it for you.”
to make them understand that the gaslighting, lying, cheating, stealing, abusive break up and divorce is not “People grow in different directions, so all relationships are temporary.”
The two parts of this sentence are not connected. Lying, cheating, stealing — every person since age 2 understands that these things are wrong. You don’t need to explain that. “People grow in different directions…” is the excuse given for lying, cheating, stealing, etc.
And like all good mindfuckery, there is an element of truth here. It’s just the conclusion that is wrong.
People DO grow in difference directions. Mr. CL, for example, is obsessed right now with Viewmaster slides. (The Sault Locks! Big Bend National Park! The concession stand at Fenway Park! circa 1963.) He buys these dusty things off e-Bay and they arrive daily and I excuse it as pandemic eccentricity. I have not grown in the direction of his Viewmaster obsession. Growing in different directions is pretty normal, unless you’re Siamese Twins. It’s not a pretext to end a relationship.
“People grow in different directions” is often the euphemism for “People have an entirely different set of values.” Which became apparent after some catalyst, like if I found Mr. CL had been strangling puppies to feed his Viewmaster obsession.
So, your ex is pointing to a divergent set of interests or “directions”, to hide his divergent set of values. His interest was fucking around. You grew apart. See how that works?
In a sense, he’s right. You did grow in different directions. He just left out the puppy strangling/dating profiles.
Also, all relationships ARE temporary. We’re all going to shuffle off this mortal coil some day. You can also have a temporary relationship and be ethical about it. My local barista isn’t going to poison my latte. The length of the relationship has nothing to do with how you should conduct yourself.
What your ex is really saying is, “I use people.”
Now then, your kids.
Whether the kids have actually drank his Kool-Aid
They’re adults and that’s their business. They have to figure out their relationship with their dad themselves. Let go. You don’t control the Kool-Aid they drink. But if they bring it home? Pass the cup. You have no obligation to drink it too.
That refusal does more to denounce the lie than any lecture you can give about relationship ethics.
Dad says you’re ruled by Lizard overlords.
Hmm. You want cheese on your taco?
Remember the lessons of Cool, Bummer, Wow. Don’t engage.
when something comes up in passing. (Like when my son said I didn’t let dad get his things and I had to say “That is not accurate. Your father refused to come and get his things unless I was out of the house, and since he had already stolen things from me, he didn’t get to come into the house unsupervised. I offered to put them in the garage and leave the door open, but he still did not get his things.”)
You don’t have to defend yourself to your son about the division of marital property.
You didn’t let Dad get his things.
Your father didn’t collect them. You want cheese on your taco?
No further details are necessary!
And then… this is the important part…. you go live your life.
If your ex going to lie and spin and make you out to be a Crazy Bitter Woman Who Can’t Get Over Him? Sure. That’s what they do. You don’t control it. You just control you. What’s on Netflix tonight?
Quit being broadsided by your ex. Trust that he sucks. And his narrative does too.
What I do know is my D now 24 NOW thinks that marriage is useless since “People just grow apart.” But that maybe she’d like to have someone for a while until they grow apart.
I’m glad you set her straight that good people exist and commitment is possible. Intimacy makes us vulnerable, if you’re doing it right and bond, so you’ve got to work on your picker. Nothing wrong with a casual fling and there’s nothing wrong with wanting more. People are not helium balloons, who just drift away. Ethical people honestly state their desires.
When the opportunity arises, how does one convey to their children that what happened to their family was not normal,
Well, sadly, it might not be “normal” but it’s common. That doesn’t make it okay. Abuse is pretty common. Abandonment too.
The opportunity arises every day to be better than the shit hand you were dealt. You do NOT need your ex’s misdeeds as contrast to your good deeds as the sane parent. Your kids don’t need it. Live YOUR values. Did you dump this cheater? Are you rebuilding? Do you make a mean taco? You’re demonstrating your mightiness. That is your “side of the story” — a fuckwit tried to destroy you and failed.
Resiliency is the only closing argument you need.