Divorce can be a messy thing. Sometimes, it takes all you have, and then some.
Divorce is an extraordinarily difficult and trying event. Having children only complicates the issue. Trying to be a good, engaged father to the children after the divorce is not the easiest task either. It would be, if it was just the kids to manage, but like it or not, you are forever obligated to contend with the other parent and their family. For better or worse, indeed.
My former marriage should have never happened, but being in my early twenties and still immature, I couldn’t be told anything. I was happy to be out of my parent’s house and having a great time in college. I was the master of my own destiny, bulletproof, and best of all, free. And I took full advantage of everything I could afford—short of study hall, that is.
My sophomore year I was suffering the consequences of my poor study habits and in danger of losing my student loans. Adding to that stress, the girl I was dating at the time was quickly showing that she was not ‘the one.’ Making things worse, she started getting sick a lot, clingy, and very needy. I couldn’t take it anymore and I broke off the relationship. A few weeks later, the reason for her sudden illness was discovered—she was pregnant.
I don’t know how to categorize my mother’s beliefs, but I do know that the phrase I heard stated to the men in my family from puberty on was “If you dip your stick, you pay the consequences.” As eloquent as that sounds, it was also the end of the discussion. She offered no other advice or explanation, so I assumed that she meant very simply, you stay and deal with the situation, get married and accept your fate. In short, my ‘fun time’ had come to a screeching halt.
I attempted to stick it out. We got back together, but I resented being with this girl and now I had her parents to deal with. I was the typical long haired, tattooed, thug that all parents strive to keep their daughters away from. And I was the sole cause of the pregnancy. ‘Their baby’ (who, mind you, had been caught with a boy in her room a few years earlier—in her parent’s house) was the innocent victim in this ordeal. The nonstop looks and snide comments were getting to be too much. I knew what they (mostly her dad and brother) wanted, and that was me out of the picture.
It wasn’t long before they got their wish. She refused to stand up to them, and I had enough. So I left again. Months passed, the news of twins was thrown in my face not long after, and she had been ‘rescued’ by her White Knight (WK for short) —my roommate at the time. With that news was an eviction notice from him. My year was not on the upswing.
This circus of errors played out for some time. I had dropped out of college to find work after the pregnancy announcement, luckily finding a job at the university, so the eviction wasn’t too much of an upheaval. I had missed the birth of my boys, but I would not have been welcome there anyway, what with the WK and her father there. I had also moved two more times before settling into an apartment. Things were, however, slowly starting to level out. My job was going pretty well. I was regaining a little of the happiness I had enjoyed the year prior. That’s when I received the phone call asking if I wanted to see our sons.
Of course I accepted. I was terrified, but we arranged for a meeting during my lunch hour. The two were such beautiful boys. They were growing like crazy and getting ready to start standing and walking. They took to me pretty well, also. It was a great first meeting.
This happened again a few days later, but I knew something was amiss. After questioning her, I discovered that she and WK had split up and she had been living at home for a few months. I also discovered that the boys’ grandfather had started acting like a father to them, which, at the time was understandable, but slightly unhealthy and a little weird to me. Worse than that, he didn’t know she was bringing them to see me.
Once he found out, the shit hit the fan. In a screaming fit of rage, he ordered her to stop letting me see them. I was not welcome around them, her, or my sons. Around the same time, my boss had issued me a similar warning about having them at work so frequently, and I couldn’t afford to lose my job. Again, the ultimatum was issued—stand up to them and fix the situation or I could no longer be in the picture. Yet again, I was the one to leave.
A little over a year later, I found myself at my parent’s house, looking for work and trying to make a fresh start. Finally settling for a factory job back in the college town, I was getting into the rhythm of my nightly commute and schedule. Another phone call came, this time asking me why I had stopped being there. We argued, then, finally came to the agreement that I would try harder, but the situation with her dad needed to stop. I was informed that she was tired of it also and was moving into her own apartment. One that was conveniently located next to the factory I was working at.
The next few months were a blur, but I had found myself believing that she had changed and matured a little, not to mention my sons were now at the forefront of my life. I was ready to take them on full force, and she sort of came with the package. We ended up married shortly after.
I was worried going into that marriage was a mistake, but with everybody constantly in my ear about what to do, I blew them all off and swore that I knew what I was doing and everything would be fine. Not long after the nearly called off wedding, I knew for sure it had been a mistake. Seven months passed and, after fighting over furniture and ironing out child support, we were standing in front of a judge, deciding whether or not her last name would revert back to its maiden version.
Since then, it has been nothing but the same. One call will be polite, the next a knock-down, drag out fight about me not putting forth enough effort. When I put forth the effort, the boys responded wonderfully, only to be sabotaged by her in fear of them choosing me over her. Every visit started with de-programming behavior they knew I did not allow, coasted into pretty good times, then bribes and promises of things that would happen when they got home—normally causing them to want to cut our visit short.
The year following the divorce, I married my wife of now ten years. We have always assumed jealousy was the cause, but my sons’ mother’s immature antics and tactics since then only got worse. Every statement I ever make about wanting a daughter, the fact that my wife had a daughter coming into the marriage, and the ever present alpha-female struggles all were turned against us. My sons were constantly lied to and told that I never wanted boys and that my wife’s daughter was actually mine. (I would have been sixteen, in another state, and didn’t know her mother yet, by the way—there’s zero chance that this is possible.) The worst and longest enduring one was that since I had my daughter(s), the boys were now unimportant.
My wife always practiced killing her with kindness. She never played into her bullshit and always put her best face forward. Since it was clear that my wife was not going anywhere, and I assume out of desperation, the boys’ mother changed her tactics slightly. We were given full access and were let to take them as often as we wanted—sort of. What it actually became was a chance for her to get away from them as often as she wanted. Our visitation schedule never stayed consistent. Our weekends were constantly changed to suit her schedule and activities. At one point, we had them more than she or her parents did. Several weeks went by during which we had them from Friday night until Monday morning, then again on Wednesday night until Thursday morning. We knew we were being used, but we had my sons. It was a disruption to our schedule, but I benefitted from them being there.
When I joined the military, however, the BS started again. She was losing her babysitter and she wasn’t happy about it. The lies started again, telling them that when I was deployed to Iraq the first time, I was actually close enough to drive up and see them, but didn’t want to. I even caught a ton of crap from her, saying that I should have been writing them daily, even if it was just on a scrap of carried paper and calling them instead of my wife on the odd occasion that I could call at all. It was ridiculous.
The second deployment was even worse. My wife sent care packages to them, only to have them sent back, rejected and unopened. She even added instigation to her bag of tricks. Telling my wife that I had been writing to her while I was gone, making plans to get back together, and telling her I had made a mistake in marrying her and that my daughter (my youngest with my current wife) should have been from her (the ex.) There seemed to be no end to her antics.
Eventually, the boys were old enough to talk to without vetting the conversation through her every time. When their emails weren’t screened or when they weren’t grounded from their phones, that is. The time also came when I believed that the boys were old enough to be talked to about the past and given the complete truth as we knew it. It was an eye opening experience for all of us; them hearing the truth and us hearing more lies and the details of her family’s unwarranted feelings toward me and my wife. I thought it would make the difference we needed to pull them from their masqueraded, deceitful surroundings. Even the son closest to his mother told my wife that she had been more of a mom than his biological mother was. Progress—or so we thought.
They will be fifteen years old this year. I have spoken to them perhaps a handful of times since their visit last summer when the big talk happened. They had gotten to the point of actually wanting to move with us, until the rug was yet again pulled from beneath our feet. Her claims that it was their decision as to whom they moved with, and that she wouldn’t stand in the way were more lies. How can a child, even a teen, make that decision when she tells them that she wouldn’t be able to live if they left; and that if they chose us over her, it would be like they were killing her?
My sons have been purposely kept immature and sheltered from everything but sports, school, and home. They are social, but lack the capacity to do even the simplest of things, like basic grocery shopping and making thoughtful decisions. It hurts to see. It hurts even more knowing that they could be so much more if it weren’t for her and what she has caused or let happen over the years. I sincerely hope that one day they will realize what we all know about her. Until then, the ultimatum is now in their hands, and I can’t help but think that it will be more of the same—me doing my best and still having to be the one to have to walk away empty handed. I guess sometimes your best simply isn’t good enough.