Forgiving Your Ex-Husband is Hard...what about The Other Woman?

Last week I wrote a little musing about how I seem to have mysteriously forgiven my ex-husband. Believe you me...this was a shock.  I never saw it coming, and I would have laughed in your face had you told me that one day I would reach this point, this good, healing spot.  I've heard from a lot of women, women so much like me, who aren't ready yet. I can feel the pain in their words, the anger and the sadness is tangible and heartbreaking. I know what that feels like. My advice to them is this: Don't rush it. Don't feel guilty or ashamed that you are not ready to forgive. Don't let anyone tell you what you should be feeling, or that what you're feeling is wrong or vindictive or bad. When you're ready, it will happen.

One comment, though, has been stuck in my mind, playing over and over like a stupid Ke$ha song (DJ turn it up up up up...sorry).  It was from an anonymous reader, and it went like this:

And another follow up question, Jenny. What about Secretary? Do you find forgiveness for her? I have nothing but anger and outrage for my ex's OW. Even more anger fueled by the fact that she herself was divorced from her cheating first husband. So, I am not anywhere near forgiveness, or even pity for her. Do you think the need for forgiveness extends beyond the person you thought you built your life with? Thanks again for you and your writing!

To be honest, I hadn't given my very own personal Other Woman, known here as Secretary, much thought. Oh, don't get me wrong: I feel some hatred for her. I don't toss the "hate" word around very much, but there's no question about it this time. I hate what she did to my family, I hate the fact that she's in my children's lives, I hate how she nabbed my husband right out from under my nose. I hate that she gets to call my former in-laws "family" and I have to call them "former". I hate that she sleeps soundly, and most likely doesn't wake up at 3 in the morning fraught with worry over her future or the future of her child. I hate that my heart hitches in my chest, still, when I see a car like hers in the parking lot of the grocery store, or when I say her name (unfortunately Secretary has a very common name, and it took me a couple of years before I could say it out loud...students at my school who have that name were addressed as "Sweetie" or "Hey girl!" for a looong time).

So yeah. I guess when discussing forgiveness, it's only natural that The Other Woman comes up.

The first issue I'll address is this question posed by Anonymous: 

"Do you think the need for forgiveness extends beyond the person you thought you built your life with?"

Short and simple answer: Nope. The only person I think you truly NEED to forgive is your ex. You need to forgive him for one simple reason, and that is for YOU. Your mental health, your physical health, your very life depends upon that one.  You need to forgive him, no matter how huge of an asshole he is, no matter how many ways and in how many different positions he screwed you over.  And as I've said before, when you do finally forgive Mr. Wonderful, it's not for him. Honestly, he most likely doesn't care, because that's the kind of guy he is. He's moved on, emotionally, so long ago and so far away that even the best CSI team couldn't find traces of him anymore. No, my dears, you forgive him because it helps you.  That's why you NEED to forgive him.

Her? The Other Woman? That homewrecking trollop? She doesn't need your forgiveness any more than she needs a conscience. She's achieved so much already without either one of those things. Does she want your forgiveness? I don't know that either, but I'm guessing not. She, like your ex, has moved on. Any pangs of guilt or shame have obviously been stifled.  She took what she needed from you, and most likely didn't even send a thank you note.

So, NO. You don't need to forgive her. I told Anonymous that in my case, I don't think enough of Secretary to care. I believe I used the words "She is beneath my contempt." Obviously, given the paragraph I just wrote about hating, that's not entirely true. But the hatred I feel for her is so different from what I felt for Big Daddy. It's not a painful hatred, intertwined with messy memories and goopy sentiment. It's cold and impersonal.  

In fact, now that I'm thinking on this one, I would like to replace the word "hate" with "disdain". To hate someone implies that there was, at one time, love. Love, or some other form of familiarity... there was once a connection of some kind. For this woman, this stranger who happened into my life, there was never any love.  We had one thing in common, and that happened to be that we both liked my husband.

However, underneath that disdain I feel, there is something else.  I don't know that I can call it pity, or sympathy...but it kind of feels like both of those.

To quote Mr. T, "I pity the fool." I feel badly for her sometimes. Only because since my divorce, I've seen the seamy underbelly of marriage. Not only my diseased marriage, but others as well.  I've been on the receiving end of tipsy texts from married men, listened to them complain about their sexless lives and their child-centered wives. Heard about how they "aren't getting what they need" and that they're only staying married for the kids.

I can see just how easy it would be to slip into the role of The Other Woman. I'm not defending the women who do go on and become her, I'm just saying: I kind of get it. I understand how it would be so simple, you are a young (or not so young), gullible woman, most likely with some issues of your own, and here is this guy in front of you, this great guy.  He's so sad about his life, and golly, he says just talking to you helps him feel better. I mean, really- you're actually helping someone in need when you decide to sleep with this poor fella.  Because the picture he paints of his marriage, of his wife and his home life, it ain't pretty.

So yeah. I have a tiny inkling of how a woman can become The Other. Married men who stray can talk a good game, a fun game, an exciting game. That nameless, faceless wife of his, and his anonymous gaggle of children...they actually kind of deserve to feel a little pain. After all, they've been taking this wonderful husband and father for granted.

What I don't understand, and hope to God that I'll never understand, is how The Other Woman can stick around after the wife and kids aren't so anonymous.  I'll never forget the first time a married guy put the moves on me (you can read all about Handsy here).  Yes, there was a momentary tingle, a little bit of "OMG, someone thinks of me in that way again!".  But man...after that feeling came the images of his wife and child. That sick, guilty feeling (even though I had done nothing wrong) washed over me and common sense kicked in.

That's where my understanding, and my empathizing, ends.  And that's also why I don't think forgiving The Other Woman is necessary.  Some of you may do it eventually, some of you probably already have.

Me? Forgiving my ex-husband took almost 7 years. I figure this one can wait.


The Hash-tagging of Tragedy

What happened in Boston was horrible. There really are no words, are there? I was at work on Monday when I got a text from a friend..."OMG turn on the news" she said. Which, of course, is impossible to do when wrangling 19 preschoolers in the large motor room. Instead, my co-worker and I took turns peeking at our phones, getting updates and spelling things out over the heads of the oblivious, happy kids: "They say it was B-O-M-B-S" and "Two D-E-A-D, so far." That sick feeling you get when you know there is something awful unfolding and you are, like everyone else on the planet, helpless to do anything more than think on it. Pray on it.

My kids were all home when I walked in the back door. They were their usual cheery selves (if you're the parent of a herd of teens like I am, you know that comment is only a wee bit facetious), and before I could set my purse down, the WHAT'S FOR DINNER questions bombarded me. I made a couple sandwiches, got out some cauliflower and dill dip, and then changed into my running shoes. "I'll make dinner when I get back" I told the kids. Grabbed the dog's leash, some poop bags and I walked out the front door.

Walter and I walked. And walked, and walked. It was about 6:15 when we started. When I escorted my panting, muddy dog up the front walk it was closing in on 8:15. I couldn't tell you for sure what I thought about for those two hours, or really even where we walked. I just knew I needed to be moving, to be far away from phones or televisions or laptops.

I had to run away for a little bit. Run away from the hashtags and the facebook candles and the instagram pictures of varying creative ways people were telling me to "Pray For Boston".

I started a pot of penne and began chopping. I chopped peppers and mushrooms and onions and sun-dried tomatoes. Took some chicken sausage out of the freezer, thawed it out and chopped that up, too. And as it so often happens, as I cooked..my kids talked.

I told them to turn off the t.v. To come into the kitchen and gab with mom. So they did. The two younger boys at first, then my Molly came out of her room.."Wait..are you guys talking about Boston?" she asked, as she sidled up next to me in front of the stove. As the warm delicious smells of sauteed goodness filled the kitchen, so did their words, their questions.

We talked about what kind of person would do this. "Do you think it was terrorists, mom?" asked Henry. I asked him what he meant by terrorists. "You know, like Osama Bin Laden guys." I told him what I really thought: that I think this was done by "our" guys. Homegrown lunatics. I also told him we'll know soon enough. "Will they catch him, mom?" asked my baby, my almost-teenager William. As I drained the pasta, I assured him that the bad guy will get caught. There's no way he won't, honey, I said.

After we ate, we turned on the news and we watched some of the video taken earlier that day. Watched as people went from cheering and smiling to screaming and grimacing. Watched dozens and dozens of heroes clad in fluorescent yellow (and dozens more wearing running clothes and spectator clothes) flew into unknown dangers to help the fallen. Interviews with people who were there, people who had been unknowingly standing in the wrong place at the wrong time (or, given the fact that they were standing there being interviewed, it seems as though maybe they were in the right place). We watched as our own local newscasters assured us that the Mall of America was safe and that we shouldn't worry about our own little marathon that's held in October. Watched as the screen flashed with Tweets from reporters and facebook updates from celebrities.

And then they started talking about Matt Damon's wedding.

"Time for bed, guys." After they went to bed I decided to check in online. Just for a minute, you know. Took a peek at facebook and after seeing the hundredth candle and several pictures of random, anonymous little kids running in marathons with the words "LIKE AND SHARE OUT OF RESPECT FOR THIS CHILD" (people, really??) decided to shut it down for the night. But..

I made a mistake then. I looked at some pictures. I saw a girl, a young woman, lying on the ground, eyes open wide, jaw slack. She was lifeless, obviously. A rescue worker had a blue-gloved hand at the young woman's neck, feeling for a pulse.

Then, a picture of a young man being pushed, a running, frantic push, in a wheelchair. He was awake and pale and obviously, in shock. He was clutching what was left of his legs, and a man running next to him was holding what appeared to be an artery. Pinching it, as he ran next to the injured fellow.

Why? Why is this okay? I know that this is what our world is now: a world with no privacy, no shelter from any storm. But who decided it was okay to run a picture of a dead woman? Did someone ask the man who was gone from the knees down if it was okay to take his picture? Not only take it, but splash it everywhere online?

What happened in Boston yesterday was brutal and wrong. But what happened online afterwards? That was wrong too. Our social-media driven world is cheapening everything, it's robbing moments like the one in Boston of its intimacy, of its solemnity. We have become a world of rubberneckers, a society of clucking pigeons. Hashtagging and instagramming what we should be thinking and doing. Putting somebody in the spotlight at the worst possible moment in their lives. In the lives of their family members.

I know how curmudgeonly this makes me sound. I know some of you are saying, "Suck it up, Grumpy Old Lady. It's the way things are now." Yes, it's the way things are now. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.

There is, literally, nothing I can do to help those hurt in Boston. Aside from pray, and donate whatever bit I have to their recovery funds. I wish I could hop on a plane and go to their hospital rooms and hold their hands.  Get them a glass of cold water. Offer to take care of their kids, walk their dogs or feed their cats. 

I can't do that. None of us can. But what we can do, is try to make a difference in our own neighborhoods. Put down our phones for a bit. Shut off the laptop. Smile at strangers, give out compliments. Hold doors open, let someone merge in front of us. Be a big tipper.

Let us never lose sight of the humanity around us. The world may be changing, but we are who we have always been. Fellow people. Neighbors. Co-workers. Friends. Let's not lose sight of that, okay?

Here are some other ways to help:

The One Fund Boston: Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino have announced the formation of The One Fund Boston, Inc. to help the people most affected by the tragic events that occurred in Boston on April 15, 2013.

The New England Patriots Charitable Foundation. The Kraft family has promised to match the first $100k in donations. Good on ya, Kraft...

The Richard Family Fund They went to watch Dad run the Boston Marathon. There are no words.

There are countless other places to donate, these are the first three I came across. 


Growing Pains

You know how, when you were little and you'd approach your mom or dad with some sort of mystery ailment? "Mommy, my legs hurt!" you'd exclaim, offering up your little shins for their inspection.

"Sweetheart...those are growing pains" they sometimes said, giving you a comforting touch or kiss.

I wonder, if I were to go to doctor today with these odd maladies I'm experiencing, what they would say. When I presented them with my symptoms: a twinge in my heart now and then, an odd pulled feeling in my soul...would they, too, offer me the same prognosis?

"Oh, Jenny. No worries. Those are growing pains, my dear."

Because I think I'm growing.

I felt the first symptoms not too long ago. The kids would mention something about their dad, or something about the Secretary or their little half-brother. And instead of snarling or feeling sick or thinking something awful about it, I felt....nothing. Okay, maybe that's exaggerating. I still felt a little bit of the old hurt, the scar from the knife wound in my back would throb just the tiniest bit, but still. It was becoming almost imperceptible. The conversation would come and go and we'd be onto the next dozen subjects before it would occur me: "It doesn't feel so bad anymore."

I started a rage-y and ranting post about the subject of forgiveness, and why I hate that word and all that it implies. How offended I am whenever I am told that it's my job to forgive, how my life will change oh-so-much when I finally, finally forgive my ex-husband for all the wrongs, for all of the grievous injuries he has inflicted upon me and our kids.

I was about a third of the way through that post when it dawned on me:

I have forgiven.

I forgave him, and I didn't even realize it.

Oh how I fought it. Tooth and nail, I did. I looked like a dog being dragged into the veterinarian's office, probably. Claws dug into the floor, neck straining against the pull of the leash.

"Forgive him? Seriously? Look what he's done, look at this mess he's left behind. How am I supposed to forgive him?"

In my mind, forgiving him was akin to presenting him with a "Get Out of Jail Free" card. It was offering him absolution.

Today, just this morning, I finally realized that the card isn't for him.

It's for me.

That anger, that hurt, that grief...it was necessary, I believe. Necessary and natural. Who wouldn't wail and moan after being hurt so deep? It got me through the darkest of days and it fueled me when I ran out of resources to just.keep.going. It motivated me and spurred me along and kept shooting imaginary bullets at my feet just to keep them moving. To keep me dancing this waltz of recovery.

I would read other tales of forgiveness and feel shame because I didn't have that capacity,nor did I have the desire, to forgive. I didn't want to let go of the red blanket of rage that I had snuggled with for so long. Its heat kept me warm. Made me feel safe.

Until I didn't need it anymore. I am marching forward now, taller and stronger than ever before. I know that what I've been through has sucked and at times, almost killed me. But I wouldn't be where I am today without it. For every tear shed, there has been a giggle or a guffaw or a hug or a smile. For every time I cursed the man who left me, there has been a sweet, shadowy memory of the man he once was, the best friend I once had. And for that, I'm grateful. Grateful that the hate and anger didn't wipe out those old images of him, nor did they squelch my ability to love and be loved in return.

I'll never forget what has happened. I don't think I could, even if I wanted to. I still drive past my old street and feel tiny tears spring forth when I catch a glimpse of our old, lost house. I still get mad when I'm dealing with a petulant, angry teenager and I picture my ex-husband looking at his toddler and singing "The Wheels on The Mother-Effing Bus". I still feel all of that, and so much more. But the feelings come, they flit around behind my eyes for just a bit. And then they go.

I don't have any secret recipes for forgiveness, no chants or how-to instructions. Maybe I had to wait until we had our last meeting in court. Maybe it had to grow at its own slow-as-molasses pace.

But I do know this: once you've forgiven, you will know. You will feel it, like a growing pain...in your heart, in your mind, and in your soul.

And only then can you get on with your life.

I'm taking my Get Out of Jail free card now, folks. I'm busting out. And it feels good.


What's Sex Got to Do With It? Part Two (finally)

I'm sorry this has been so long coming, but have we met? I've written this post about 100 times, in my head. While showering, while driving the kids around, while chopping veggies for my fabulous Leftover Fried Rice Dinner.  The only place I haven't written it, is here.

(Don't remember the first one? You can catch up here)

This is the day. The day I sit down, collect all of those flotsam and jetsam thoughts and give you Part Two of the Sex Post.

I closed the first post with these words:

 And that, folks, is why I think sex killed my marriage.  But what sex did to me, after my marriage died?  That may be even worse.

It wasn't until about a year after my husband left me that it dawned on me: I no longer had a sex partner. Prior to that, I was essentially a zombie, shuffling through the days, making sure the kids stayed alive and the electricity stayed on and the refrigerator stayed full. My libido went into hibernation.

And then one day, it woke up. It hit me, like a ton of horny bricks: my on-call lover was gone.  I'd been faithful to one man, and one man only, for the past 13 years. Before this sudden change of life, having sex had been as easy as reaching under the covers in the wee hours of the morning and giving my man a squeeze. 

As I have said before, our sex life hadn't been earth shaking or mind blowing or time consuming. But before he started humping someone else, it had been nice. It was comfortable and warm and sometimes sweet. And then it was gone.

This is when the trouble started. I wish, oh how badly I wish, someone had pulled me aside back then, and told me to wait. Told me to focus on rebuilding my heart, and rebuilding my family, before casting that big ol' net out into the rough seas of Dating. 

Of course, I didn't wait. I took the well-meant advice from friends (get on Match.com NOW) and family (if you don't get remarried right away it'll NEVER happen) and decided to get out there.  I had several post-divorce dates, and lots of post-divorce sex. 

What I didn't have, is post-divorce love.  

Maybe it was the adultery. Being dumped for someone younger than you leads to all sorts of self-esteem damage. Was I not pretty enough? Not limber enough? Did having four babies and then nursing four babies turn my body into something more like a household appliance versus something sexy and wantable (not that a Viking cooktop doesn't get me all sorts of tingly, but that's another story for another time). Bottom line was, I ventured out into post-divorce dating thinking this:

It's all about the sex. In my confused, hurting brain, I had equated sex with love. The more you have of the first, the better chance you'll get the second. I had come to the conclusion that sex, or the lack of it, had killed my marriage. So I went out there determined to never let sex ruin another relationship of mine again.

I'll be completely honest: the first few times, it felt good. It felt so nice, just to feel the weight of a man again, to hear that breath in my ear and to feel the heat from another human being radiating onto, into me.  Our bodies are wired to have sex, and I was relieved to discover that everything of mine still worked.

But after a while, the shine wore off. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't dead...my body still responded to the stimuli, and it still felt good. Sometimes great. It was how I felt after the deed had been done that left me wanting.  

I felt empty. There was no afterglow, no warm fuzzies. None of those butterflies nor that feeling of being held; both in someone's arms and in their heart, that feeling you get when you have just bonded with someone on a level that transcends physicality.  

There was no love.

I remember way back in the summer of 2006. My first summer as an almost-divorcee...I was at the home one of my dear friends shares with her husband. We were sitting around one of their legendary backyard fires, drinking some beer and gabbing about life while the kids ran amok, their shrieks of laughter piercing the hot bubble that is a July evening in Minnesota.

I was, as I was wont to do back then, discussing my life and all of the changes that had happened in it. This time, I was talking about the time Big Daddy and I had gone to the pastor for last-ditch marriage counseling and all I got out of my husband was that our sex life wasn't exciting for him anymore. I remember my friend's husband sitting there, a look of bewilderment and disgust on his face. He looked at his wife, and then back at me, and he said:

"It's not about the sex!"

I remember, at the time, thinking he was wrong. Thinking that this was coming from someone who had been lulled into a marriage-coma and had no idea what he was talking about. Of course it was all about sex...if it wasn't, why was I alone? For Pete's sake, my husband had admitted to a Man of God that he left because he wasn't excited by me anymore. What else could it be about?

It's taken me almost 6 years, and many glow-less mornings to finally get it. I think back upon my list of suitors and how I jokingly called them my "victims" and gave them ironic (and I still think, pretty funny) monikers:

Professor Plumb
Curiously Cheap George
Ben, the Mullet Man
Craig the Segway Guy
Cabin Boy
and of course, John McCain

I entered into each of these "relationships" with the mindset that sex=love. In order to have the latter, I'd need to provide the former. I'm ashamed to admit that sex happened early on in each of these relationships, oftentimes on the first or second date. And even more ashamed to admit that a couple of those "first dates" were the two of us drunkenly rolling around on the floor like fraternity brothers having a wrasslin' match.

After things with McCain came to an abrupt halt a few months ago, I felt something shift..like you can sometimes feel the barometric pressure change just before a big storm. I knew that I was done doing things the old way, the way I'd been told was the right way.  The way that our society tells us is not only normal, it's AWESOME and FANTASTIC and EVERYBODY'S doing it.

It was the words of my "friend" Becky..I put friend in parenthesis because Becky and I don't know each other outside of this blog..but I feel a kinship with her, and I hope that rustling sound I hear isn't her filing a restraining order against me.  Where was I? Oh yes. It was in her words that I finally started understanding what I'd been feeling. She wrote about how she and her now-husband waited until they were married before jumping in the sack. About how they'd both been hurt in their previous marriages and that together, they decided that they'd get to know each other...really get to know each other before sleeping together.

Now, with all due respect to Becky, I'm not sure about the "until marriage" part of this. Only because at this point, I really don't know if I want to get married again. Like, ever. But the waiting? Yep. I agree with her there.  However, I do know what it's like to get emotionally attached to someone, to fall for what's between their ears and then be really sad when I found out that what's between their legs didn't work. Because no matter how much I connect with someone mentally, it's still going to be important to connect physically. So that's the only misgiving I have with the "wait until marriage" thing. Sometimes it takes a test drive to find out how the car runs, if you know what I mean.  Yes, I just said that. I'm sorry.

And really, nothing is ever carved in stone. I mean, if Jon Hamm showed up in my bedroom, wearing a dirty martini and nothing else, I'd probably do a little back-pedaling (and I'd probably slip him a roofie*, but that's beside the point). I have friends who did take the sexy leap very early on in their post-divorce relationships and things are going just fine and dandy for them, which is so awesome. I'm over-the-moon happy for them.

Sex is fun and exciting and it's a beautiful thing. I love it, and that's not just my pre-PMS hormones and the fresh image of Don Draper and vodka talking. 

But I love myself even more. I love myself despite the fact that I've made some bad choices, and done some stupid things over the past few years. I love myself enough to overlook those things and to start fresh.

..what sex did to me, after my marriage died?  That may be even worse.

I think I phrased that wrong..it should have read, what I did to sex. I put sex on a pedestal, I made it my white whale. It became the elusive snake-oil that I was sure would be the cure to what ailed me. A decent therapist would probably tell me that I used every man I slept with as a stand-in for my long-gone husband...as an imaginary "do over".  Or maybe they'd tell me that I was doing what millions of people have done forever: looking for love in all the wrong places.  

So there you have it. What's sex got to do with it? Apparently, nothing.  And everything. 

I'll leave you with what should be the theme song for this post:

If you need me, I'll be wookin' pa nub...hopefully in all the right places this time.

*chill, people. It's a joke. Unlike date rape, which is definitely not a joke. But really, Jon Hamm? No judging.


Don't Tell Me How To Parent: Co-Parenting is NOT One Size Fits All

Eek! My first official rebuttal. If that's the right term...

If you are part of my facebook world (you should be, you know..go here and like it) you know that I have big feelings about things I read regarding divorce and ex-husbands and all that fun stuff. Two things, in particular, tend to get stuck in my craw and get me frothing: People who live in la-la land and think the rest of us do too, and people who tell others that there is one certain way to do things, and if you don't do it that way, you are either crazy or bitter or uncompromising. Also, your kids are going to end up as serial killers.

I've posted links to many of these articles, and said my piece about them. I post them on my facebook page for a couple of reasons: number one is usually because I can't believe what I've just read, and need to hear from "my people" that I'm somewhat justified in my indignation. Number two is I want to hear what YOU think about it. Doesn't matter if you agree with me or not, it's like bringing a friend along with you when you pick out curtains or a new haircut..sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes to offer up a new perspective.  And even if we end up disagreeing? I don't judge. Potaytoes, potahtoes.

The article that finally pushed me over the edge and drove me to write was published on Huffington Post Divorce earlier this week. You need to read it, if you haven't already, before I can go on.  Link HERE.

Now, I'm not going to bash the author, Judith Rabinor. I understand where she's coming from..really! I get it. Who wouldn't want the best for their kids? I know I do. And you, my awesome readers/friends, want the same thing. We all do.

But why is the onus on us, the other spouse, the one who does the majority of the parenting, to "help your ex be the best parent he or she can"?  When did that become OUR responsibility?  My ex is 45 years old. He wipes his own butt and can drive a car and I assume can tie his own shoes. And for sweet baby Jesus' sake, I'd like to think that by this time he should also know how to parent.

If he doesn't? Why is it up to me to help him?

Here is where some of you will say, "Because, Jenny, helping him be a better parent will benefit your kids. And aren't you the one who is always blathering on about how much you love your kids? Duh."

This is where Judith and I part ways. I'm skipping next to her, holding hands and whistling Dixie out of my nethers right up until she presented her bullet-pointed list of how to "Go To Bat" for my ex:

Helping my ex be the best parent he could be? Let me tell you exactly what that meant.
  • It meant prioritizing my children's well being. I didn't have to love or like their father, but I had to respect the significance he had and should have in the rest of their lives.
  • It meant moving over, making room for his way of being.
  • It meant being gentle.
  • It meant letting go of all that happened in our marriage.
  • It meant creating a new relationship centered solely on co-parenting.
First point? I have to respect the significance he had, and should have, in the rest of the children's lives. Got it. Nary a day goes by when I don't tell the kids, "You only get one Dad..." and "You really need to spend time with him". I know all too well the pain that comes with having an estranged father. It hurts, it hurts bad. I would never wish that upon my own children.

Second point? Moving over? Making room for his way of being? Sorry, but to me that sounds an awful lot like bending over, grabbing your ankles and hearing "Oops we're fresh out of lube. Sorry!". This is where I leave you, Judith.

I've done a lot of "moving over" for him. I've made plenty of room for "his way of being". Quite frankly, I think it's time for him to move over and make room for my way of being, which for the past several years has been solo parenting on a threadbare shoestring budget.

His "way of being", in my opinion, is being a non-involved parent. And not a very good one, at that. Am I supposed to go to bat for him every day he doesn't take full advantage of his parenting time? Should I have gone to bat for him this past Sunday, which was Easter and according to our divorce decree "his" holiday...and he didn't take the kids? No communication, no texts, no emails, no phone calls. Nothing. Judith, what should I have done?

Is it my responsibility to remind him that the next holiday is his? I don't think it is. I have four kids, and it's hard enough to keep THEIR obligations organized, thank you very much. Surely there's an app for this that he can put on his phone..an alarm of some sort that will nudge him out of whatever oblivion he lives in and tell him "GO PICK UP YOUR KIDS". (and if there's not an app for that, I demand royalties from whomever takes this idea and runs...)

And then I read this one: "It meant being gentle."

I have tried. And yes, I've failed some of the time. But since that ugly morning when he walked out the front door before the kids woke up, I have tried  to take the high road. I've tried being the better person and God knows I've turned the other cheek so many times I have plumb run out of cheeks.

There comes a time when "being gentle" becomes "being a doormat". And I won't do that anymore. I'm wiping off the big "WELCOME!" that's been printed on my forehead for so long, and replacing it with a shiny new "NO TRESPASSING" sign. Because I'm done being gentle.

Again, this is where I have to wonder, how did Judith determine it's up to me to be gentle? Why isn't she preaching this tactic to the other parent, the one who doesn't have the kids the majority of the time?  It didn't feel so gentle to me when my ex-husband once again decided to pay an attorney rather than start paying child support.  It doesn't feel gentle when not one, not two, but three of my kids tell me that they feel unwanted when they spend time at Dad's house.  And it sure wasn't gentle I felt when one of my kids said this: "When I told Dad that I needed to get a project done and couldn't go over to his house tonight, he sounded relieved." 

I want my kids to have two loving parents. And once upon a time, they did. But then things changed and I was thrust into the world of co-parenting. For a while, I did have a co-parent. He picked up the kids for his weekends and his school nights and his holidays. Once, he even took them for one of the two whole weeks per year that we are each allotted for vacation time. He played catch with them, talked to them, and showed up at concerts and games.  Slowly, but surely, most of this stopped.

I was no longer co-parenting. Simply put, I was parenting. And doing the best that I could (and can).  Judith, and many other co-parenting "experts" out there, espouse the benefits of exes working together, telling us how amazing it is for children to have two loving, involved parents.

Unfortunately, for a lot of kids...there's only one involved parent. And we're getting really tired of hearing how it's our job to light a fire under the one who isn't there. 
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