Tag Archives: Divorce

Dear Jason’s Ex: About Last Night….

Approximate timeline of events, May 8, 2014:

8:00 – Jason’s ex calls him. Jason is awaiting a jury verdict in his trial. He tells Allison that the girls will call her back when he gets home.

8:50 – Allison calls my phone. Because she has a long history of being unable to use the telephone in a reasonable or adult manner, I do not answer.

A few minutes later – Hollyn notices what time it is, and asks, “Should we go ahead and call our mom on your phone?” I answered, “I don’t think your dad will be too much longer, and he’s already told her you’ll call her when he gets home.” She replied, “OK” and went to her bedroom, where she began texting her mother on her iPod. The text conversation went on for some time. At no point did I interfere in any way with this conversation.

9:45 – Jason arrives home. The girls immediately call Allison and speak for less than five minutes apiece.

This is the e-mail Jason got from her:

“From your text, you are in a trial and not yet home. I asked you to have our girls call me and I tried calling windy’s phone. She did not answer. Hollyn said that she asked windy if she could call me and windy refused to let them call their mother. You also said in your text that windy will not allow it.  This is not acceptable. If hers is the only phone available, our girls need to be able to use it.

It seems as if windy is deliberately keeping our girls from me.  Also, our girls are probably hurt and do not understand why they cannot call their mother when they ask to. I do not stop them from contacting you whenever they want. And I make sure you know how to get in touch with our girls if I will not be with them at the time of your call.”

As usual, she copied her attorney on this e-mail.

I (and my phone) do not exist to accommodate Allison’s phone calling schedule. The girls do not “need” to be able to use it, and I do not “need” to let them. She called at an inconvenient time, and Jason provided her an alternative time later the same evening. This wasn’t good enough. She demands instant, on-demand access. Anything less is “not acceptable.” The settlement agreement between Jason and Allison provides that they get a phone call every night. Fine. Guess who is not a party to that agreement? Me. If she wants me to do her the favor of letting the children use my phone, maybe she should consider not being a heinous bitch all the time. Just a thought.

They were not “hurt.” Hollyn did not ask if she COULD call her mother, she asked if she SHOULD call her mother – because she is well aware of her mother’s immature phone habits. I told her the same thing Jason told Allison – that they could talk when Jason got home – and that was the end of the conversation. She then proceeded to chat with her mother by text for the next half hour. This is categorized by Allison as “deliberately keeping our girls away from me.”

As an aside, I don’t know if she refuses to capitalize my name because she’s lazy, or because she feels it makes me somehow less of a person, but either way it does not make me inclined to work with her on this or any other issue.

This is the kind of nonsense we have to deal with constantly from her. She has never learned the phrase, “pick your battles.” Everything is a battle. Let me be clear – she contacted her attorney because she was told she would have to wait to speak to her children on the phone (as opposed to by text) yesterday, as Jason was still at work. That’s the whole issue.

Monday night, I called Tyler. He never called me back. It was irritating, but it certainly did not warrant this kind of overblown hysteria. I didn’t e-mail anyone. I didn’t notify an attorney. I didn’t repeatedly contact my ex, or call his roommate. I didn’t even text him. Sometimes you miss a phone call. It’s not the end of the world.

Want to take a guess how she’ll handle it if I happen to be in labor during Allison’s Special, Special Phone Time? I shudder to think.

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Conscious Uncoupling

Much ado was made last week about Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s announcement regarding their separation, which appeared on Paltrow’s GOOP website on March 25 under the unfortunate header of “Conscious Uncoupling.”

I admit, I bristled at the title. No married pair “accidentally” uncouples, or “unwittingly” uncouples, or “unconsciously” uncouples. They get divorced. Let’s call a spade a spade, folks.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve watched an increasing number of friends and acquaintances get divorced. Most of them start out with similar announcements – we’re still best friends, we still love each other very much, nothing HAPPENED, we’re just….. not together any more. But we’re going to do it right! We’re not going to be like other divorced couples! We’re going to be the Valedictorians of Uncoupling!

Because obviously, my inner horned devil whispers, “other” divorced couples set out to mortally wound each other, destroy their children, and spend a small fortune in the process. Of course.

A few months pass. One of the exes discovers that former friends have been socializing with the other ex. Or that it’s not possible to divide the family pets 50-50. Or that the ex is dating someone (hard) and your child seems to like him or her (harder). You suddenly NEED that crock-pot your ex took from the marital kitchen. You discover that your child has been eating chicken nuggets at your ex’s house. Every night. For a week.

And suddenly something snaps, and your good intentions crumble, and it’s TOTAL WAR, SALT THE EARTH. This is the moment when the “real” divorce happens, when you realize this is no longer your best friend, and maybe you don’t still love each other very much, after all.

And that’s okay.

In fact, after I got over the smug title, I applauded Gwyneth Paltrow for having good intentions. Getting divorced is like having a baby – nothing can prepare you for it, and the best laid plans tend to fall by the wayside. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to have lofty aspirations. Look at wedding vows!

Besides, what’s the alternative? “Hey, guys. We can’t stand to be in the same room, but are going to suck it up for the kids until we can’t any more, and one of us will probably develop a drinking problem and/or start dressing inappropriately for our age. Cheers!

I believe it’s better to aim high and fall short than to set the bar low and slide by.

However.

I think we need a new way to phrase the commitments we make during the process of separation and divorce. Stop using statements like “we are closer than we have ever been.” Because srsly, if it takes divorce to bring you closer as a couple, you’re possibly doing it wrong.

Maybe we should have divorce vows.

We are separating.

We will strive to be unfailingly polite to each other in all our interactions.

We will fulfill our parental duties to the best of our ability, and trust that our ex-spouse is doing the best they can, too.

We will not hold information or tangible items hostage, nor will we hold grudges over material possessions.

We will recognize that our friends and families are not ours to control.

We promise to be respectful, and to think long and hard before posting that nasty Facebook status, because that sh*t is permanent.

We will try to dismantle our life together with grace and good humor, and we appreciate your support during this transition.

Call it conscious uncoupling, call it divorcing like an adult, but it would be a step in the right direction.

Do I fulfill these divorce vows perfectly? Bleep no. But I aspire to. Just like in a marriage, every single day I am given a fresh opportunity to do it better than the day before.

 

 

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Backfire

Chapter 93475: How to Give Your Daughter Body Issues Without Even Trying!

Hollyn will be 13 in a couple of weeks. In the last year she has shot up to 5’6″ and is taller than me when she wears heels. When we went on vacation in July, Hollyn borrowed three dresses from me. They fit her well, and she looked great in them. The Sunday after we got back, she borrowed another dress of mine to wear to church.

So what’s the problem?

For the last six years, Jason’s ex has had only nasty things to say about my appearance in general, and my weight in particular. According to the girls, she referred to me as “the big fat girl.”

I’m not sure Hollyn has quite put it together yet, but pretty soon the lightbulb will go off. “I’m borrowing clothes from Windy, and they fit. My mom has always said Windy is fat. Therefore, I’m fat.”

It is unlikely that Jason’s ex thought this far ahead when she was feverishly judging me for my weight, but perhaps she should have. This is a perfect example of why divorced people need to watch what they say in front of their children, especially when they’re doing nothing more than being snarky about someone’s appearance. Think of it this way: Let’s say you discuss your ex-wife’s appearance in front of your child, pointing out the ex’s huge nose and weak chin and beady little eyes. Then you go to the grocery store, where you run into an old acquaintance. “Oh, you look just like your mother!” she says to the child. AWKWARD.

I have an aunt, my father’s older sister, who thinks that Hollyn and I look similar enough to be related. Every time I talk to her on the phone, she mentions it. And every time she mentions it, a tiny voice in my head whispers, “I hope Hollyn never hears that, because she’d be crushed.

As a general rule, I try to keep my snark limited to things which are choices. Leggings are NOT PANTS, for example, but they are a choice.  Selfies featuring duck face are NOT PRETTY, but they are also a choice.

The size of your nose? Not a choice. The quantity of your acne? Not a choice.

Of course, we should probably all adhere to the rule, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” but I have way too little self-control for that. I’m working on it.

 

 

 

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Four out of Five Divorce Experts Agree…..

Divorce experts (and non-experts! and anyone with a lick of common sense!) stress the importance of not using your children for information about your ex.

Here’s why.

This is a text conversation between Hollyn and her mother, from Saturday. What Hollyn didn’t know is that because she used Jason’s ID to download her texting app, copies of all her texts were sent to his phone.

Texts 3

To be fair, Allison did not directly ask about my medical condition – however, once Hollyn said something, Allison began pumping her for information. Also, Hollyn told us that her mother had been speculating about the cause for my unexpected surgery since Thursday – which is why Hollyn was confirming rather than informing.

Texts 2

Delete all of this. I’m no family therapist, but I’m pretty sure that instructing your children to cover up conversations with you is never, ever OK. Hollyn did delete the texts – she said she was “just doing what I was told.” Just following orders, sir!

Texts 1

When Jason picked Hollyn up from Carly’s, she lied to him about the conversation – lied to his face! – because her mother told her to.

The right thing for Allison to do, when Hollyn said, “it was a miscarriage,” would have been to say “I’m sorry,” and move on. But, of course, Allison is not sorry. She’s thrilled.

We spent the rest of the weekend having several long, hurt, tearful conversations with Hollyn. We have taken away her iPod – partly to punish her for lying, but also to limit Allison’s access to Hollyn, and by extension, our home. They continue to talk on the phone daily, but can no longer text each other.

It is an imperfect solution to a problem that has been going on for six years, and which shows no sign of improving in the near future.

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DivorceCare, or, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, co-facilitate.”

I have volunteered to co-facilitate a DivorceCare class that is being held at my church this fall.

STOP LAUGHING.

I know, I know. I barely have my own act together. I know, I know. I still struggle with divorce issues. I know, I know.

And yet.

There are so many people who are in a much worse place. There are people who need help, advice, resources, referrals. There are so many people who have suddenly found their life profoundly changed, who might like a friendly face and a snack.

This is not a therapy group. No one will be forced to share their sob stories. There will be no drum circle, no kum-bah-yah, and a minimum of Kleenex. The class comprises a series of videos with concrete strategies for dealing with many of the situations and emotions that arise during and after a divorce. Maybe you’ve never balanced your own checkbook, or bought your own car insurance, or you’re wondering if and when you should handle dating. Maybe you struggle with deep anger, or crippling loneliness. Maybe you have been abandoned by your “old” friends, your family, or even your church. Maybe you want to find a counselor for your children, but don’t want to make them feel like freaks.

Speaking of which, there is also DC4K, the class for children, which runs at the same time as the adult class.

If you’re separated-but-not-divorced, you should come. If you’ve just finished up your divorce, you should come. If you’ve been divorced for years but still feel you haven’t quite made it past the first hurdles, you should come.

And if you know someone who could use a little bit of help, you should make them come.

You don’t have to wear a black “D” on your chest. You can arrive in sunglasses and a hat. You don’t even have to sign up beforehand.  The door will be open. The class is free.

Plus, like I said, there will be snacks.

The adult class, as well as the children’s class, is being held every Wednesday for 12 weeks, starting August 31 at Faith Presbyterian Church, 2200 North Meridian Rd., Tallahassee, FL 32303. The phone number is (850) 385-6151. Church dinner is at 5:00, and the class starts at 6:00.

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A post about divorce? How novel!

Every divorce is unique. And every person who gets divorced reacts to it in a slightly different way. But the more I talk to people, the more I find that the divorced seem to fall in one of two broad categories – those for whom divorce is a traumatic shock, and those for whom divorce is an inevitable relief. It’s not always the same divide as “those who leave” and “those who do the leaving,” either. Some people leave their spouse and regret it intensely, while others are left and find themselves surprisingly capable of coping.

I was solidly in the “inevitable relief” camp. I am pretty sure my ex-husband was, too. Our marriage was brief and ill-advised, and the only good thing it produced was our son (which more than makes up for all the bad). We were entirely different people, and we wasted a lot of time trying to force each other into boxes. I don’t think anyone was truly surprised when we split up.

For the last four years, I’ve had a hard time understanding how the other half lived. I’ve had a hard time understanding people who are truly surprised by their divorces. In hindsight, they ALL seem inevitable. “Oh, Jack and Jill? Yeah, I saw that coming a mile away. No, I wasn’t going to say anything to her – why would I interfere?”

Yet, for some people, it really is a shock. Whether it’s through self-deception, delusional thinking, or actually unforeseen circumstances, they really don’t see it coming. Even when the ink is dry on the final judgment, they cannot comprehend that this has happened to them. And it destroys them.

A woman I recently met put it this way, “Everything I wanted for my life was gone. Everything I’d planned to build was destroyed. Everything that was supposed to happen, wasn’t going to happen. And I was stuck.”

(In the movies, this moment is usually followed by a montage of Crying To Dramatic Music, and Possibly Throwing Things. For examples, see the collected works of Julianne Moore, who cries awesomely.)

I never felt that way about my divorce. But I sure as heck felt that way about my house. I realize that the last three weeks have allowed me to experience, in some small way, how those other divorced people feel. Traumatized. Disbelieving. The floaty, displaced, dislocated feeling. The deep sadness that too often expresses itself as anger. I have a confession – Tuesday was the first day since the fire that I didn’t visit the house. Part of me couldn’t bear to leave it in the first place. I wanted to camp out in the unscathed sunroom, pretending that it hadn’t happened. That somehow, if I wished hard enough, closed my eyes and counted to three, everything would be back the way it was. Everything I wanted for my life was gone. Everything I’d planned to build was destroyed. Everything that was supposed to happen, wasn’t going to happen.

When she said that, I nodded. Because I finally understood.

And yet.

Long, long ago, a wise counselor told me we are teaching our children how to be married. If you persist in a bad or unhealthy marriage, your children will accept a bad marriage as “normal.” If you treat your spouse poorly, your children will assume that it’s acceptable behavior.

In the same way, after a divorce, we are teaching our children how to cope with life-altering trauma. If you give up, if you remain stuck, you are teaching your children to give up when life throws them a curveball. Or fifty. If you dwell on the past, pore over your wedding albums, fixate on how things “used to be” or “were supposed to be,” then you are teaching your children to avoid facing their problems head-on.

My new acquaintance described a woman who has been divorced longer than she’d been married, “She’s 65 years old, her children are grown and gone, and yet within two minutes of starting a conversation with her, she’s talking about her deadbeat ex.” She is stuck.

That same wise counselor described Jason’s ex in this way: “She’ll probably be stuck for a long time, maybe the rest of her life. Every morning, when she wakes up, it will be like that first day. The worst day of her life.” Some days I think she will always be waiting for someone to tell her that this has all been a terrible mistake.

People who get stuck may feel like they’ve had all their choices taken away, but this is not true. People who are stuck are faced with perhaps the most important choice of all. Stay and wallow, until the anger and the bitterness consume you like a cancer, or move on.

It’s tempting to stay stuck. There’s often a lot of perverse fun in it. It’s cathartic to destroy things, to lash out at your ex, to scream and cry and eat ice cream for dinner. But it’s not healthy. And eventually, people stop feeling sorry for you.

I’ve been stuck for the last few weeks. I have been eating poorly (well, it’s all been delicious, but you know what I mean), not exercising, and not sleeping well. But Sunday night I decided I was done using the fire as an excuse for holding the pause button on my life. I found a scale at the rental house and stepped on it.

Boy, was that a bad idea.

The key, I think, is making choices within the limited sphere of your control. I decide how much I eat. I decide when I will go for a run. I don’t get to decide when the adjuster will finish his report. I don’t get to decide whether the insurance company will cover everything I feel should be replaced. I don’t get to decide when we can move back into our house. Those things are out of my hands, and I am learning to let them go. I am teaching the children how to get un-stuck.

This has been a good week. Next week will be better. And eventually, all the “after” pictures in the previous posts will become “before” pictures for something else entirely.

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