A shallow and abusive husband shares custody, a friend’s terrible paint job, and a husband unsure about his kids seeing him smoke pot.
This article originally appeared on GoLocalProv.com.
Divorce is like breaking up. Except it’s not. This is long, sorry.
My husband treated me terribly, in the most awesome subtle way, during our marriage. He withheld love, sex, affection, etc. to punish me for not remaining thin. He put me down about things others found good about me. He’d do things like smooth my hair and makeup, or tell me not to say or use certain words with others because I was alienating them or sounding harsh. Turns out I wasn’t. Slowly, I lost confidence because according to him I was too sensitive, too abrasive, too strict, too loose, too this and too that. I gained weight. I believed I was a “f****** fat idiot” and life sucked. I believed I didn’t deserve a husband who remembered my birthday or took me out, which is what he told me. (His response in front of his parents one day to me changing my clothes from a dress to jeans and a T was, “This is why I don’t take you out, you don’t dress for it.”) He and I don’t believe in divorce and come from non-divorcing families, but after he cheated on me, he asked for a divorce out of nowhere. He said it was because “I lost my looks too soon,” I “gained a million pounds and made him cheat” and I was “unaccomplished and not funny and just not good enough for him” anymore.
It took me a year to realize he’s an ass and I’m OK. People like me, I’m decently attractive, I’m funny, people enjoy my company, etc. He kept telling me people thought I was emotionally unstable, I wasn’t pretty, no one would want me, no one would love me as I am, that his therapist told him it was OK to not sleep with me because I doubled my weight, etc. (Not true, but it’s what he told his therapist.)
If it was just us, and we were done, great. I’m finally reclaiming myself. I’m alive again. I realize living a sex- and affection-starved life wasn’t right, but more importantly, I was living with someone who killed my soul daily and I assumed I deserved it. What hurts me about this divorce is that we share a kid. And this man has done nothing through the entire year of telling me why he wants to divorce me to guarantee our son has a decent transition or life. He complicates everything, lies to others that I’m alienating our son from him, says he doesn’t see our son because I “assail” him, etc. All excuses and lies. The man “punishes” me by not seeing his son on weekends – he leaves me alone with him all day and then blames me for it. Like, yes, I don’t get a break, so in a way I was punished, but most importantly, your child didn’t get to see you ALL DAY. You punished me at his expense. What a wonderful father.
Most importantly, I’m angry. I go through ups and downs but recently I’m boiling with rage at the fact that I have to share custody with that horrible man and his passive-aggressive controlling family and that at its best, it still remains a very crappy deal for our son, and that my STBX thinks it’s OK to offer our son a “less than optimal life.”
When he talks to me about our son, he uses the pronoun WE in terms of what’s best for our son. And the WE refers to him and his family. Anyway, I am going to have a nervous breakdown realizing that I married an a******, remained married to him and now, though divorced, will still never be free of him. I have to co-parent with a high-conflict person who thinks he’s God’s gift to women and the world. (At one point with a straight face he told me we had to band together through the divorce because both our families wouldn’t understand, and he trusted me by sharing that he had feelings for another woman, and he was always special and different and his family and friends don’t get him so I had to band with him. NO JOKE – the man who spit on me told me that.)
But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is I just see the damage he and his family are gonna cause my kid. And I panic. I didn’t realize any of this when I was marrying him (I was dumb and stupid and assumed good Christian family was a good thing). Then his sister cheated on her husband with his friend and divorced him because he was too short and the family never once talked about it or told her she was wrong. And now my husband is divorcing me because he “knows this can work but doesn’t want to try.” And I “lost my looks too soon.” I don’t want my son to grow up around people who think it’s OK to marry someone, cheat on them and divorce them for BS reasons. I don’t want my son to grow up thinking passive aggression, withholding love, and judging people based on weight is OK (every one of them does it). I don’t want him to grow up around people who seem to lack empathy (they don’t feel for anyone going through anything and people are to blame for their mistakes). I “was acting like I want the divorce” which is why I’m being divorced; his sister’s husband “must have done something” to warrant being cheated on. When his sister was on drugs it was “her bad friend’s fault” and when my husband was a bad husband it was because he “had a thyroid problem” that was never diagnosed. I, in fact, had a thyroid problem that contributed to my weight gain but no one cared. Anyway, I cannot do this. I don’t want my son to grow up around or with these people. And I know he will. There’s one of me, and there’s him and his family. My family is on a completely different continent. How will I make sure they don’t ruin my son? How do I make sure he grows up to be the sweet, empathetic, wonderful boy he is today and that throughout the years he won’t turn into a passive-aggressive, judgmental jerk? I seriously cannot breathe thinking about it. I know every boy needs his father and I don’t want my son for a second to think his dad didn’t love him enough to fight for him. So as much as I want sole custody, I understand that it could really hurt a most wonderful boy. But I cannot co-parent. I cannot. I wish I was a better person, but the idea of interacting with that jerk for major life decisions and the day-to-day parenting of our son makes me want to just sleep and never wake up. Dramatic, I know. But it’s how I feel.
I hate my soon-to-be-ex-husband and I know the right thing to do is to forgive him, but most importantly, I hate myself so very much for being dumb, falling in love with his fake persona and marrying him. I hate myself for staying after everything he put me through so I could have a baby with him and ruin that baby’s life and future. We vowed we wouldn’t have a baby until we were ready (so we waited four years), then vowed we’d put our marriage first and never divorce once we had the baby. And now we’re divorcing because he no longer “felt the money and effort were worth it.” How do I protect my son and keep my sanity?
Divorced Does Not Equal Free
Dear Divorced Does Not Equal Free,
I think in order to recover from this hellish experience, there are two things you should do and two things you should think about.
First, see a therapist if you’re not already. You’ve been through a very traumatic experience that has you questioning your judgment and your sanity, even if it no longer has you questioning your worth. You may have been duped, but you weren’t dumb, and you shouldn’t hate yourself for failing to see what was very well hidden. You owe it to yourself and your son to talk to a therapist at length about what you’ve been through already and to come up with effective strategies for dealing with this guy. Because you’re right: since you have a kid with him, you’re going to have to continue to interact with him. You should definitely get help and support to do so.
Second, since you’re getting divorced, I assume you have a lawyer, right? Make sure he or she knows all the facts of your case and is a forceful advocate for your interests. No one can force your husband to be a good father, but the courts can and should force him to fulfill his legal and financial obligations to you and his son. It’s very important that your attorney be extremely committed to making sure this happens.
Now for a couple of things to think about.
Your husband only has the power over you that you give him. He drives you crazy because you expect him to meet some minimal standard of behavior. The sooner you stop expecting anything of the kind from him, the sooner he will be unable to manipulate you by failing to meet those expectations. The same goes for his family, his justifications, his lies…everything. He was someone you thought you knew and it turned out you didn’t because he’s an accomplished manipulator and liar. That’s all.
I’ve saved the most important thing for last, and that, of course, is your son. It would be great if he had two parents who loved each other and him. Short of that, it would be nice if he had two parents who could put aside their differences to do what’s best for him. He doesn’t, but here’s what he does have: a mother who loves him and who understands that she is not just the mother of the boy he is today but the man he will be tomorrow. He will take all his cues from you. Will he see a woman who allows herself to be embittered and defeated by a selfish, narcissistic man? Or will he see a strong, resilient woman who endured a horrific marriage that she now realizes was a mistake?
Yes, it would be wonderful if your son had a dad who loved him, but he doesn’t. He has a mom who does, though. I’d be hard-pressed to describe him as lucky, but with just one great parent, he’s already better off than an awful lot of kids.
I can’t urge you strongly enough to continue to address these issues with a therapist. Thanks for writing, and good luck.
I hate it when I can see something is a mistake from a mile away and I do it anyway. That’s what this situation is.
Long story short, I have a buddy who’s been out of work for quite a while. A couple months ago, lacking any other decent options, he decided to set up shop as a house painter because it was something he could do without having to invest in a lot of equipment.
He convinced me to let my house be one of his first jobs, saying he’d do it for an unbeatable price and he’d want to show it to prospective customers so he’d be sure to do an excellent job on it. I was a little reluctant because I’ve always known him to be kind of a “that’s good enough” kind of guy, but I wanted to help him out so I said yes.
Without bogging you down with details, the job was a disaster. The paint job is terrible and on top of that, the flower gardens around my house have suffered a lot of collateral damage as well. Do I talk to him about it even though I don’t have a lot of faith left in his painting abilities? Or just bite the bullet and hire someone else to take it from here? I like this guy, I’ve known him my whole life, and I do want to help him get back on his feet. But I take a lot of pride in my house, too, and am just trying to figure out the way to approach this that is least damaging to our friendship, my house’s appearance, and not least of all my wallet.
Cheap Is Expensive
Dear Cheap Is Expensive,
Your friend is going to have to learn how to deal with unhappy customers, especially if people hire him because his was the cheapest quote. So you may as well give him a lesson.
Make a complete list of the problems he’ll have to address in order for you to be satisfied. Be realistic – he’s obviously not going to strip the house and start over – but include anything you feel you just can’t accept without seething every time you see it.
Then let your friend know this is nothing personal, but you have some issues with his work that you’d like to discuss. Walk around your property, point out the things on your list, and ask him to suggest a solution. If his proposal sounds reasonable, give him a chance to make amends. But if he gets annoyed or defensive, I’d cut my losses and hire an experienced painter to fix his work.
My husband smokes a little pot every night to help him sleep. He suffers from terrible bouts of insomnia and this is an easy, reliable way for him to get the sleep he badly needs. (He works in construction.)
We have two kids. My question involves our 15-year-old son. My husband wants to tell him about his nightly ritual because he’s afraid he’s going to get caught by our son one of these nights and he would rather talk with him about what he does and why rather than get found out by surprise. I am not convinced this is a good idea, though. I don’t have any specific reasons. This is just something it seems better for our son to not know. I would appreciate your opinion on it.
Clear The Air?
Dear Clear The Air?,
If your son is fifteen, a long talk about all the drugs he will encounter, including marijuana, alcohol and tobacco, should have happened three or so years ago. But a parent’s own current drug use is not usually a part of this discussion. In your case, whether or not this is a good idea depends on what kind of kid your son is and what kind of guy your husband is. If your son is mature, responsible and trustworthy – and your husband is, too – I can see some benefit to having a frank, no-holds-barred dialogue. If your son hasn’t already tried pot, he probably knows someone who has. For better or worse, it’s part of a fifteen-year-old’s world, so it would be great for him to feel like he can talk with his parents about it and get honest, straightforward information.
I’m not exactly sure what’s compelling your husband to want to discuss his own pot use with your son. You say he’s worried about getting caught, but surely he could avoid this if he tried. And after the main revelation, where does the conversation go from there – what’s the point? “Just thought you’d like to know”? Is your son the kind of kid who is likely to go looking for Dad’s stash when he and his friends are unsupervised? Your husband has to think all these things through before hand if he decides to have this particular conversation.
Overall, I agree with your husband’s inclination to talk instead of barring uncomfortable topics from discussion. But this is your decision, too, and it should be a mutual one. If you continue to have misgivings, your husband should hold off.
Photo credit: Flickr / goblinbox (queen of ad hoc bento)