New Year’s Day: A Divorce History

On New Year’s Day 2011, the year I discovered that my NPD/sociopath ex-husband was living a double life, I woke up at a friend’s house with a hangover and the discovery that my her sweet puppy had died during the night.

After hot coffee and tears, we all trudged out into the January rain, probably a dozen of us, to bury the dog in a field behind the barn. I had no proper shoes, and my toes froze, and red Virginia mud covered my fancy party boots.

It was a grim beginning to a grim year. Back in the city, my ex-husband would become more elusive and stranger than ever, disappearing on business trips where hotel operators could never locate his name on their guest lists. Distracted by my two little children, I couldn’t keep up with all his lies. By September, things would reach a fever pitch, until the day I opened up his secret email account and everything became perfectly clear.

2011 was not a good year, and it was followed by several agonizing ones.

***

But by 2014, things started turning around. On New Year’s Eve, a friend turned to me and announced it was going to be a good year, and an interesting one. I smiled. “Perhaps, I said. Life is long and mysterious.”

Several hours later, at midnight, this same friend received some big news. Her 47-year-old bachelor brother had gotten engaged that night. This was an event no one predicted. “Life is mysterious,” we laughed.

For him, I suppose, it was a year filled with love and light. And for me, it was a good year, a good start to a good new life.

***

This year, New Year’s Day didn’t start out well  – my brother and his family left for a tourist attraction without us. I was packing our car to go home, and I took too long. They did not offer to help as I took trip after trip up and down the stairs of my parents old colonial, carrying my children’s suitcases and toys and hair dryers and stray boots. It took me forever to load our little SUV, and I got angry and furious and raised my voice and said some truthful but not very kind things about a certain relative or two.

I couldn’t fit everything into the car. I was furious.

But then I looked at my children’s faces, teary because they were missing this precious time with their cousins. I took a deep breath and pulled all the packages out of the car. I placed them on the driveway and slowly started all over again until everything finally fit.

We salvaged the day by skipping the tourist attraction and meeting my brother and his kids for lunch in the city before setting out for our long trip home.

In 2017, I will have to remember that sometimes we need a break. And I might need to redo the simplest of things – thankful that I have a second chance to make things right.

But also, I can’t depend too much on undependable people, even if I love them and my kids adore them. Make my own plans and stick to them if they are important. Sway, but don’t bend to theirs. Don’t agree to do things that make me angry and resentful.

***

But the drama wasn’t over yet. As we pulled into our driveway in the dark that evening, I noticed a light in our garage. I said something about it.

And then it went out.

We all gasped. We had been away for a week, the house should have been empty.

Very reluctantly and apologetically, I called the police. On New Year’s Day, I thought. What did this foreshadow for 2017?

One officer arrived, listened, and told me that others were on the way. Out here in the suburbs, the officers park up and down the block, no flashing lights, silent helpers in the dark. I started adding them up then lost count. They brought a dog. They fanned out across the yard and finally went into the house. I sent my children to a friend’s house. And I sat in the car alone and watched the flashlight beams in my house. Ah, they’re up in the attic, I thought. They’re in the basement. My bedroom. My closet.

And finally, laughter, as the officers came outside, ducking under the plastic sheeting protecting the newly painted door from the rain. For me, relief, and complete embarrassment.

Was someone in there? We don’t know. The officers were nice. Really nice. They told me I did the right thing. They said it could have been my painter, and I could have just missed him by a moment or two – the light stays on for exactly 4.5 minutes. Or it could have been a thief who slipped out the back door and jumped over our fence and into the darkness.

I thanked them, and it was over. My children came back, a friend came over, we poured wine and ordered pizza, and somehow the evening was saved in our bright, warm house.

***

When I think about our start to 2017, I will think about the helpers – those solid men and women in the night. I will marvel at the courage to walk into a house where danger might be waiting. I will remember that we all need help sometimes. And we are ridiculously thankful when people arrive to offer it, even if we’re also embarrassed.

For better or for worse, 2017 probably won’t be dull. I’m guessing another year of moving forward, falling back a bit, trying to do it myself, having to re-do it, and asking for help sometimes. Hopefully offering help too – and maybe even some happy endings.

 

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Divorcing a Cheater NPD: Dealing with the trauma

For two decades, I lived with a serial liar and serial cheater. He is also an alcoholic, a sex addict, a narcissistic personality disordered person, and a probable sociopath.

We call him Genius because of his great spiral downward, his fall from grace, his descent into insanity in his forties. It’s a reference to when he was called “Boy Genius” by some very important people way back when he fooled us all – just before his spectacular descent into insanity. I suppose I’ll never really know if he was always sick and hiding it, or if he started spiraling downward, faster and faster down the rabbit hole, after he turned forty and after his bipolar, domineering mother died from lung cancer after chain smoking cigarettes for decades.

They were not speaking at the time of her death. She cut her son out of her will and dissolved her grandchildren’s college accounts and would call our voicemail repeatedly and scream, “You can’t ignore ME.”

I would shudder. Somehow I knew that those voicemails had Power.

I am not claiming that the problems started with those voicemails. But they signaled the end of life as I knew it.

. . .

My ex-husband is a man that made a distinguished judge finally scream, “You are a liar. You would lie about anything. I don’t believe a word you say.”

This is a man who came up with regular fake business trips. He would tell me he was traveling to Houston, but then go to New Orleans and other cities to meet women he met online.

This is a man who used an app that sent him fake emails from clients thanking him for dinners that never occurred, late nights at the office that never occurred, and business trips that never occurred.

This is a man who would text anonymous sex partners on an app on his phone while driving in a car with his wife, children, and brother-in-law. An app that would erase everything if he tapped it.

The judge was correct: this was a man who would lie about anything.

. . .

So what is the legacy of the ex-wife?

One day I realized my marriage was sham, and my ex-husband was a crazy lying cheating thief, and that some anonymous sex partners might come knocking on my door at any time to attack me and my babies. My brain brain changed. My reality met my nightmare.

Afterwards I was told that good metaphor is that my skin was stripped off, and I am sometimes raw, exposed. If anyone touches me, I scream.

That is the legacy of the ex-wife.

. . .

There are many other legacies, still unknown, though I like to think that some of them are positive: honesty and courage and resilience and expanded empathy to others who are struggling.

But another legacy is this: you can’t trust your instincts.  Your instincts have spent years telling you that something was terribly wrong, and then when you speak up,  someone convinces you, over and over again, that your instincts are wrong.

This is a terrible thing. You stop trusting your judgement. And you need your judgement to live in this world. You need your instincts to survive. Without these things you can no longer tell when the world is a safe or dangerous place, or when someone is trustworthy or evil. You are so confused that you become paralyzed. Or you make bad decisions about which situations and people to trust, which is why I have to assume that women get caught up dating a certain kind of man over and over again.

And on the other hand, if you can’t trust your instincts, then you become hyper vigilant, and then maybe everyone is evil and cheating. Because that is the safest way to think about things. That way you won’t get hurt ever again.

Or maybe you just get caught up in the cycle that is so familiar to you: hyper vigilance, snooping, not trusting, second-guessing, never really knowing what reality is. It’s an ugly and stressful and soul-sucking place. It’s a place between two worlds: Madness and Euphoria.

And then the hard work begins. Because Madness is not an acceptable place to be. Not for a survivor, not for someone who wants to live again.

. . .

Divorcing a NPD, Part 5

When you’ve divorced a narcissistic personality disordered person, and things have been going well for months, you will get email like this out of the blue:

This is serious. I can see his ribs in the bruise.
How did this happen?
Did he get x-rays?
Why didn’t you tell me?

And attached to this email, will be a huge photo of your son’s latest bruise, which he got by pretending to be a famous baseball player in the shower. Until he slipped.

And you will think to yourself about how much you love your child, and how gentle you are with him, and how you have never laid an angry hand on him, and how you would do anything for both of your children.

And then you think of the terrible, horrible things that your ex has done to you and your family. You will even think of the time when he threw you up against a wall, at the very end of the marriage, when you finally finally got hold of his cell phone. And how you banged your head on the wall before falling down in a heap. And how he calmly pulled the cell phone from your hand and got into bed. And how you were staying at your friend’s home on holiday, so you didn’t make a sound.

And then you will feel the fury building in you, the unjustness of it all and how it seems like it will never ever end and you will never, ever get away from him.

And then your survival instincts kick in. You will need to take a breath and be smart and answer his email calmly as if a judge was looking over your shoulder reading it. You will write that by lucky coincidence you went to a social event at your child’s pediatrician’s house right after the bruise occurred. You will briefly and succinctly point out that the pediatrician looked at it – and called it a bruise, nothing else, no x-rays or anything else required.

You will thank your lucky stars that you are friends with a pediatrician and that the stars were aligned the night she had a barbecue and your son got a bruise that would be blamed on you.

You know you shouldn’t, but you also point out in your email response that you think it’s wrong for your ex to be lifting up your son’s shirt and taking photos of his back – that it must be upsetting and confusing for your poor child. Traumatizing, really, though you don’t use that word.

And you feel the anger for hours afterwards because every time your children go to their father’s house for visitation, you worry about their physical and emotional safety. You know that they are finally truly thriving after the long divorce. But you know that this is a tenuous place to be when their father is a sick NPD.

When you divorce a NPD, it’s never over. You just hope and hope that he fades away into the background, hoping that more and more time passes between these accusations and episodes. You followed all the directions and detached. But can you really ever really escape?

My NPD Ex is a Complete Shithead

There’s is no way I can do that in time. Sorry

This is the reply I got from him yesterday, asking him to sign a piece of paper this week so that I can sell an asset – one that was given to me in our court order after I had to pay him 1/3 of its value.

He happily took the money months ago. Now he knows that unless he signs this piece of paper (in front of a notary public), I’m stuck with a huge, huge problem that is not my fault. He knows it will become a problem at COB on Friday if not handled.

He knows I’m desperate. And he loves it.

I’ve written here before that he is a borderline alcoholic, an addict, and a narcissistic-personality-disordered individual who “engages in sociopathic activities” according to the expert.

He’s also a complete ASSHOLE.

I’ve been able to detach so completely from him lately that I nearly forgot all of this. Anything to do with him is so upsetting and traumatizing that I prefer to dwell on just about anything else in the world.

But I’m thankful for two things: that this asset is the only legal thing left linking us together (uh, except for two beautiful children); and that this is exactly the reminder I needed of how much better my life is now that I have divorced him. The chaos, the manipulations, the game-playing, the lies, the abuse. Now I remember it all, more clear-eyed than ever before. I remember that he never paid anything on time, or met a deadline, or did anything properly or by the book. My life was always like this, running after him, trying to head off problems and sweep up his messes while other people proclaimed him a “boy genius” without irony.

My little kids today pointed out just today that I am a “big rule-follower” because I didn’t want to park my car facing the wrong way on the street, even though many others seem to do it around here. I agreed with them and said that rules exist for a reason, and unless a rule seems really rotten or unfair, we should follow them. Most rules, like them or hate them, are what make the world work, like Stop Signs and telling the truth on a resume.

But my Ex is too good to follow anyone else’s rules, and too vicious to help me stay in compliance with the law.

I’ll have to pay my attorney again to send him a letter. But then, finally, I know that we won’t even have this one last asset together anymore. I also know that part of his refusing to sign the letter is because he knows he can’t control or influence me in any other way anymore. And it drives him crazy.

So, deep breaths. Onwards and upwards.

Crazy Crap My Ex Wants

I know I should be above this. I know it. I shouldn’t blog about it. I should smile serenely and understand that these are just things. And that things don’t matter; people do.

But a full three years after EX left this house, and after three years of refusing dozens of requests by me to come and pick up his clothing, books, personal items, photographs, baseball hats, winter coats, suits, old pants he’ll never fit into again, hundreds of ties, boxes of personal papers. . .

He now wants to fight me over a bunch of crazy crap.

In reality, he doesn’t really want any it because he refuses to pick it up, despite dozens of email requests from me. Countless people have warned me that his stuff is a fire hazard stored in the utility closet in my little home. And it looks terrible to potential buyers looking at the house, which was just put on the market last week. These things make him so happy because he knows they upset me.

But here are some highlights of the things he pretends to want:

  • the never-used KitchenAid mixer that was a wedding gift 19 years ago
  • some long-lost Waterford glasses – another wedding gift never taken out of the original boxes
  • five $8 champagne flutes
  • all the wedding china
  • all the wedding stemware
  • artwork purchased by my parents
  • outdoor furniture purchased by my parents
  • the wine he left here three years ago, a few bottles, which he now claims was a dozen bottles – and has escalated in price to more than $3,000!
  • baseball hats – dozens and dozens of them that he claims I threw away
  • the smallest little broken table that I bought at a flea market eleven years ago as part of a set for $20.

But then again, he doesn’t really want any of this. I am a free storage space for him. And as I slip away more and more into blissful No-Contact Land, he gets to continue to engage me and try to fight me.

So I’ve told him he can have most of it, at least if it wasn’t purchased by my parents.

Oh, except the wine. That’s long gone.

One Crap Day in the Life of a Divorced Working Mom: A Vent

I’m still new to this. It was always so easy to get babysitters. I live in the shadow of one of the best colleges in the country, which gives me an ever-evolving group of cute, eager babysitters. 

But I didn’t anticipate that the vast majority of students don’t have cars and don’t really want to babysit every day in the afternoon. And that competition for girls who do have cars and want to babysit every day is fierce, especially when you get a very late start on your babysitting ads because you assumed it would be so easy. Like back when you were a SAHM.

So I’m in between babysitters. My new babysitter starts next week, just in time for school. But today I had no one. So I did what any working single mother would do: I cobbled together a mess of a day.


7:00 am  Dragged the kids out of bed. They are still jet-lagged from our trip to California a week ago because their father allowed them to stay up each night until 11 pm since that trip. They actually called me at 11:30 pm last week, making me realize that I can no longer always control my children’s schedules or health or welfare. 

8:30 am  Dropped the children off at my friend’s house. She is a pediatrician and at work, but her nanny will watch them. A fun double playdate. They are thrilled; I am thankful.  

8:45 am  Mystery traffic. I will be late for work. I think inappropriately mean thoughts about the cute young stay-at-home-moms pushing strollers along the sidewalks. I think appropriately mean thoughts about why every other person in my neighborhood suddenly seems to have a white Mercedes SUV. I try not to beep because my children’s school sticker is prominently displayed the back of my car. It’s a small city and I don’t want any Mercedes drivers to start talking about the crazy divorced beeping mom. 

9:15 am  Had to park on the roof of the university parking lot because I’m late. I worry that I might have been tailgating a very important workplace person all the way up to the roof. I hustle out of my car and hope that she doesn’t spot me.

10:50 am  My friend calls me, breathless. She tells me that her nanny just contacted her, and that my son is terribly sick. The nanny says he became blind for a few moments and had no pulse before vomiting. Oh my god, I think. It’s Ebola. Or meningitis. I babble something incoherent to my thirty-something, childless boss and rush out of work. She seems sympathetic but somewhat skeptical.

11:20 am  I pull up to my friend’s house. From a block away, I have spotted my dying son running around in the street with the other kids. He looks pretty healthy to me.

11:30 am I finally get my son in the car after listening to my friend’s nanny describe the situation in detail. She wants me to bring my son to the emergency room immediately. She will later tell my friend, the pediatrician, that my son has blood pressure problems and had a stroke. (Meanwhile, my daughter chooses to stay there with her friend. She is unimpressed with her brother’s illness or by the nanny’s panic.)

11:34 am  My friend calls, mortified, and tells me that her nanny is a little crazy. And that there is probably no medical rhyme or reason behind why my child’s heart would stop beating and then start back up frenetically, and he would be blinded by vomit and then have a stroke at the age of nine. But it’s too late. I’ve already called my own pediatrician’s office and put them all in a panic. They will squeeze us in at 2:30, even though I promised to be back at work by 1:15.

Noon: It’s quiet in my house. My perfectly healthy son with no fever son plays Minecraft. I edit something and send it off to my colleague. And then there are suddenly voices downstairs and I realize that today is cleaning lady day. It’s usually my favorite day of the week because I cannot afford these wonderful ladies but their weekly work keeps me sane. I explain the situation and they laugh, relieved that they don’t have to change the sheets or clean my children’s shared bedroom. I start feeling better.

1 pm  My sweet college, car-less babysitter shows up with my daughter. She has obviously heard the story from Crazy Nanny. I explain that my son isn’t really sick. It’s all a big misunderstanding. Her eyes grow large, but she has perfect manners and doesn’t say a thing. 

1:30 pm  I roll back into work, into my same spot on the roof. When I arrive, there are workmen in my office. They want to know if I smell garlic in the mornings in my office. I think about it. “Not today,” I say. They ask me if there were any other odors around breakfast time. “Yes, today it was eggs and some sort of spicy meat,” I tell them. They wrinkle their noses in disgust, and I somehow feel responsible. You see, my office is above a massive venting systems that vents the entire complex of buildings where I work, including several areas with cafeterias and fast food restaurants. The men advise me to never, ever open my windows. I tell them that it’s necessary because the average temperature in my office is 58 degrees, and I need some warmer air. They ask if I want them to turn off the air-conditioning, and I nearly scream NO, just thinking about the last time they did that. I worked in a swampy 88 degrees for days. They leave, telling me that the exhaust system is emitting “very dangerous” fumes and warn me not to ever open my windows again. As soon as they leave, I shiver and want to open the windows despite the fumes that would make me sick. But then I remember I can’t die, because then my EX will raise my sweet children. I leave the windows closed and take out my illegal space heater and plug it in.

2:50 pm  My pediatrician’s office calls. I forgot to cancel the appointment. I tell that they he’s perfectly okay now. That I am back at work. There is a long pause on the other end. 

4:45 pm  I ask my childless boss in her thirties if I can work at home tomorrow. She says yes, because she knows she’s only in charge for two more days, and because she is a very nice person. Our real boss starts on Tuesday. I suspect that my temporary boss is worried about me and whether I can pull it together in time before the new boss realizes that I’m a mess right now.

5:15 pm I get to my car and realize it’s filled with moving boxes. I had packed them up last night, ready for the storage space I rented. I need to declutter my house and stage it for sale in a few weeks. I had meant to drop off the boxes at lunchtime. Now I know I can’t leave them in my car overnight, or someone will break into the car. Sigh.

6 pm  Home to my healthy children and my sweet babysitter, I give her $100 in cash and think about all the things I could buy with that money. 

7 pm I feed my children microwaved chicken fingers, an heirloom tomato, an avocado, and organic raspberries. NOTE: I did not expect them home tonight; Wednesdays are their night with EX, but apparently he is traveling. Again. (Which is fine.)

7:30 pm  Off to the storage space. Fun! The office is closed, and there is no moving cart visible. I give my son my cell phone and some vague and hopefully non-threatening safety directions, ask my daughter to hold open the door, and I start carrying boxes into the deserted complex. My daughter holds her nose and keeps asking why our particular storage unit smells so bad. My son tells her he bets that homeless people sleep there. He seems sure of it, and my danger instincts kick in – something is wrong in that place. I know that a civics lesson is in order, but I’m scared, which happens very rarely, and we all hustle to the car. 

8:15 pm  My daughter tells me she’ll never take a shower again. She hates them. I smile calmly and try to convince her.

8: 35 pm  Standoff. I let my son explain Minecraft to me and ignore my daughter who keeps telling me how much she hates soap and water and that soap is bad for the environment. She is eight.

8:45 pm  I give in. “Fine, don’t take a shower, ever again, I don’t really care,” I tell her. She looks at me and shrugs her shoulders and finally turns on the water.

9:15 pm  I read two chapters of a Judy Blume Fudge book. I wonder if it’s a little sassy for them, but they like it. I like it too. We laugh and my kids ask for a dog. And a parrot. I realize that my daughter used no shampoo in her hair and probably no soap on her body. I put everyone to bed anyhow. Hugs all around – showers or no showers, parrot or no parrot, divorce or no divorce.

10 pm  My daughter comes downstairs and tells me she can’t sleep. I walk her back up, tuck her in, and hug her again.

10:15 pm  See 10 pm.

10:30 pm  See 10 pm, but I’m writing this vent, and I tell her to go and sleep in my bed. It’s been a long day, and I know it will work. She will be asleep within minutes. 

10:40 pm  She’s asleep. I drink a glass of wine. I’m working from home tomorrow. 

Missing my Babies: Divorce, Custody, and Visitation Sadness

I’ll just say it. I miss my children. I worry about them. It’s the first time that they’ve ever been away from me for more than two nights at a time. In fact, until EX’s visitation started a few weeks ago, they had never been away from me for more than one night. 

Now they’re away for five nights, in a faraway state. With my EX, who is quite possibly the world’s least responsible father and most reprehensible role model on Earth. A man who lives without conscience and who walked out on his wife and children for 13 months, never once asking for an overnight with his children until he realized his wife was asking for full physical custody. And then he began the most vicious fight my seasoned attorneys have ever seen.

I know he’ll be on his best behavior for this trip, and he’ll fake being a nice guy and good dad. He might even fool my children. But I know the truth about him. And it makes me sick with worry. 

One mom in my town said that she crawled under her kitchen table after her EX took her children for the first time. I did not do that. But it sounded perfectly reasonable, and somehow comforting, as I looked out the window and watched my children walk away from me and our home, with their little sandals and knapsacks and freckles and sun-bleached hair. 

They come home tomorrow, so I guess I’ve nearly survived these six days and five nights. I’ve gotten things done. I caught up on sleep and emails and bills and phone calls. I started packing the house up – years of toys and clutter and photographs and artwork and baby shoes and little chewed-up board books – a life. A good life somehow, despite the divorce. 

I am so ready for my children to come home. We need to continue this life.