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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Just Wow

It’s amazing to me how much Brad continues his abusive behavior in spite of the divorce, and in spite of how much better he says he is.  He is currently very upset that I dropped off the kids at play center Friday night for a few hours instead of letting him have them.   Items below are from a series of conversations over the weekend and Monday at gymnastics.


Under the category of Verbal abuse / Emotional abuse
1)      He says he has not cared about me for four years.
2)      He says he wants me to be happy and to date because if I am not happy or if I am stressed, it negatively affects the kids.  (As if his bad behavior did not / does not affect the kids.)
3)      He said we should never have gotten married because we are too different and I am not emotionally capable of appreciating him, he thought he could change me, but was wrong.

4)      He says I am the least attractive person on the planet because of my personality  and that I am ‘boring’ and that’s why I had such a hard time with guys when I was dating before I met him.  I am boring, apparently, because I don’t open up emotionally on the first few dates.  (Whatever that means  - I would think opening up emotionally too soon would be a big red flag to most guys.)

5)      He says he would “drop everything including a date” to be with the kids.   (Implying, of course, that I would not).

6)      He says I am a narcissist because I told him some of his behavior seemed jealous so I am completely focused on myself and not him or the kids (This is rich. He is firmly in the narcissistic camp, classic projection).

7)      He’s furious because I ‘lied’ about what the kids were doing that Friday night and that I dropped them off to play with McDonalds food  while I “went to have a nice dinner.”  He thinks I am a terrible mother because I put my needs above the kids’ needs.  (I had told him we did not any have special plans, and he’s assuming I went to dinner, I never actually told him that.)

8)      He insists that I not tell him what I am doing when he has the kids because I might ‘use it against him later’. Well when he asks “Will you be available later for a call from the kids if they miss you” and I say “Yes, I’m just going to Walmart”  - I don’t see anything wrong with that, but he does somehow.  It’s all very complicated and controlling and vaguely jealous.  He’s telling me what I can and can’t say and then blaming me when I don’t do it right.  He thinks I should discuss this problem I have (about telling him what I doing) with my therapist, so I can get past it.

9)      He says after he’s been working for two years, he can go back to court and get 50% custody of the kids.  He says he won’t do this as long as I let him have the kids as much as possible.  (Clearly a threat).

10)   He says I am too sensitive and too defensive, and am reading things into what he says, so it’s my fault if I think he’s being condescending or whatever. (Heard this a million times during our marriage).

Under the category of Physical abuse
1)      He followed me outside the gymnastics place when I tried to get away to stop the discussion.

2)      He prevented me from leaving in my car by standing in the door and insisted we finish the discussion.

Under the category of Really?
1)      He thinks the physical abuse “wasn’t that bad” and that he only did it when I was screaming “to protect the kids” (So let me get this straight, you put your hands around my throat to stop my screaming and that was better for the kids? Got it.)

2)      He says he did everything he could to make me leave, like the not working, and the gaining weight, and the abuse.  (Why didn’t he just leave?  He would alternatively threaten divorce and then say he would kill me before we got divorced).  Crazy, crazy, crazy.

3)      He says if I had appreciated him he would not have abused me.  (Of course, it’s all my fault).

4)      He did not accuse me of cheating because he was jealous.

5)      He says he accused me of cheating, so I would cheat, so I would realize how good I had it with him and appreciate him. (I heard this while we were married.  I can’t possibly imagine how this thought process works).

6)      He wants to know what day in December he can take Cassie for her birthday dinner because he needs to make plans. (In August for December?)

7)      He insists I don’t have the kids’ best interests at heart if I would consider a babysitter instead of him.   (Sure – it can’t possibly be the fact that he is an angry abusive man and I don’t want him to have them more than legally required.)

8)      He says if I get depressed or upset over a break up with a future boyfriend – I can send the kids to him for a while, so they don’t have to be affected by my bad feelings.  (I guess he thinks I am an emotional weakling.  Everything I have done over the last year and a half has been very emotionally stressful and yet I manage to keep it from affecting my job or my kids.  He, on the other hand, quit working, became an alcoholic and extremely abusive because he was ‘not happy’ with our marriage.  You tell me – who’s the emotional weakling?)

9)      He’s worried when he sees strange cars out in front of my house, not because he’s jealous, but because he’s afraid it might be a burglar.

10)   He says he had to tell me when we were married how beautiful and wonderful I was to convince himself that I was worth being married to,  because I am such an unattractive person to him. (This in between the torrents of verbal, emotional and physical abuse).

11)   He said he was glad to hear me say (quite a while ago) that I would never want to speak to him again it if weren’t for the kids. (Not sure what to make of this at all, I would have thought that would go without saying).

12)   He says we can have a ‘good divorce’ if I would just lower my defenses when dealing with him  and stop assuming negative meanings behind his words. (Again, all my fault).

 Under the category of I might actually believe that
1)   He agrees the name calling was bad.

2)   He agrees he cornered me a lot, which caused some of the ‘screaming’ mentioned above.

3)   He said he was sorry that I felt every interaction with him was stressful, essentially ruining all extracurricular activities.

So is this a good basis on which to proceed?   He clearly has not learned what verbal abuse is, or how not to do it. He clearly has not learned that following me around to argue with me is not acceptable.   At one point I was trembling and almost in tears, remembering all of the other fights in the past, because all his tactics were so similar. 

A lot of what he says is demeaning or condescending. A lot of what he says seems crazy.   A lot of what he remembers is just flat wrong.   But I’ve gotten a few things off my chest.  He is so manipulative and controlling, that at one level I feel like I can’t believe anything he says.  However, it feels a little like he is trying to come to terms with the past and move forward.  I do believe he wants to spend more time with the kids.  It also feels like he is still in la-la land about what happened in the past and how bad it really was. He clearly has some bizarre ideas about me and how I will react in the future, and about my motivations.   I really struggle with this. 

He will never understand me, and I can’t change that.  He will never understand how bad he was and why I did what I did, and I can’t change that either.   Can we come to terms and proceed peacefully when he is so deluded about even his own emotions?   I cannot let myself get sucked in to his beliefs,  otherwise it will be like when we were married all over again.  I have to remain objective and make the best decisions I can based on his actions and not his words.  The difference between us is, he thinks he is right, but I know I am and I have to keep reminding myself of that.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Why it’s so hard to call 911

One of the things that a lot of the pamphlets and articles say about domestic violence is that if you are in immediate danger, call 911.  And apparently a lot of people do – I've read statistics that say, depending on the police department, between 35% and 50% of calls to 911 are related to domestic disturbances.  I find this encouraging and disturbing at the same time.  Encouraging because that number is much higher than I would have expected.  Disturbing because domestic violence is often touted at one of the most under-reported crimes.  So how much violence is happening behind closed doors that never gets reported to police?  The numbers must be staggering.

I know for me, calling 911 was a huge struggle for a lot of reasons.  I’ll go over them here and list a few more that I have come across in my research.
One big reason I was hesitant to call was because it seemed so drastic.  Calling the police puts it out there in the open and it’s scary. If he was taken away, would I press charges, would I testify?  How could I live with him until the trial?  I was sure the violence would get worse once he came back home. Therefore, I felt like calling 911 was the same as filing for divorce,  because I knew if I pressed charges there was no way I could live with him.  Which meant, I would have to take the kids and go somewhere temporarily.  All very complicated on short notice and late at night when the worst usually happened.
Another big reason was that I felt if he was convicted of something after I called 911, he would have a criminal record and possibly go to jail.  Not that he didn’t deserve it; but if he had a record, could he get a job?  I wasn’t sure.  By the time the physical abuse started he had not been working for a while.  I was afraid he’d never be able to get a job and pay child support, and he would blame me for that.   I think to myself sometimes, "perhaps he should have thought about things like this before he tried to strangle me with a bungee cord in front of the kids," but it doesn't really matter now.    I’m sure this is a factor for other women as well - if their partner is in jail, he cannot be working, especially where the father is the only wage earner.
A lessor reason includes not wanting to have the kids see their father hauled off by the police.   It happened the one time I did call, and it was horrible.   The kids did occasionally bring it up.  I explained that the police were helping mommy and daddy, that daddy needed to spend the night somewhere else. What do you say?

A not insignificant factor was that there were many times when I was ready to call 911, I was scared, and did not care about the consequences, but I could not call.  Brad would preemptively take the phone, or would beat me to it and throw it across the room,  or simply physically prevent me from getting to the phone.   Once the fight was over and he was drunk, asleep, or watching TV, I could have called 911.  The problem was that by then he would have been very calm, and would not have been threatening. In contrast, I would have probably seemed hysterical to the policemen. 

Brad only left bruises one time because his ‘go to’ physical abuse was strangling, combined with a lot of pushing and shoving and threats to kill.  The strangling never left a mark.  Even the worst time when my throat was sore for two weeks, there were no actual bruises on the outside.   So if I called the police what would I say?  It would be his word against mine and he can be quite convincing.
Some other things I have come across about why women don’t call 911 include not thinking the abuse was bad enough to warrant calling the police, being deported, and the woman thinking that the was abuse her fault.  I can relate to the first one, but not the second two.  I feel truly sorry for women in those situations.   It must be horrible to be trapped in an abusive relationship when you feel you cannot do anything from a legal perspective because you and possibly your children would have to leave the country.  Or worse, you’d have to leave and your abusive husband would get the kids.

As far as the women who feel the abuse is their fault, that is such a shame.  Luckily, for me, I never felt that way, but I know it’s very typical.  These abusive men are extremely manipulative  and brain wash their victims to believe a lot of stuff that’s not true.  It typically goes something like this “If you remembered to buy more bread like I asked you, I would not have had to hit you.”  The really sad thing is that a lot of abused women truly believe these statements.   It’s ridiculous from the outside looking in, but I can totally understand having been in it.   These men are so convincing with their manipulative and controlling behavior, it’s hard to have an independent thought sometimes.

Bottom line, I never really wanted what I perceived as the ‘bad’ things that would result if I called 911, but I was afraid of how dangerous he might get on many occasions.  I did not want him to hurt me or kill me, and there were a few times when he came close.     I just wanted him to stop hurting me and to leave the house for a couple of days.  I tried to convince him many times to do this.  He  would even agree to this in theory when he was not upset.  He said he would leave if he got too angry, but he never did.  He absolutely could not be rational when he was angry, which is why it was so terrifying.
Do I wish I had called 911 more than once?  I think so.  I might have left sooner.  He might have a ‘record’ that would have kept him from getting the kids unsupervised longer.  But might he still be unemployed?   Questions that will never be answered, yet still bother me from time to time.

I’m sure I felt the same as most women in this situation, we don't want our husbands arrested, we don’t necessarily want a divorce, we don’t want to split the family up.  We just want the fighting and the abuse to stop, we need to feel safe, and if that means calling 911 when you're scared, do it.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I just don't know what to think

Some jealous behavior

Brad continues, in my opinion, to be somewhat obsessed about knowing when I am dating and whether I already have a boyfriend or not.  On Sunday drop-off, there was a car in front of my house that had been there since that morning.  I have no idea who it belongs to.  I knew Brad was going to make a comment, and I was not disappointed.   The first thing the kids asked when they came to the door was “Who’s car is that?”   I said I had no idea, and here is Brad’s response.

08/14/11 Sunday – said “your mother is lying” to kids about unknown vehicle in front of house, said he didn’t care and that it was a girl’s car anyway
08/15/11 Monday – asked if I ever figured out whose car that was

So he told the kids I was lying.  Nice. Then he said he didn’t care, and that is was a girl’s car, which meant he had looked in it enough to see the girly thing hanging from the mirror.   Then he even followed up the next day.   He’s probably still convinced I had my ‘boyfriend’ secreted away somewhere in the house.
Next, on Wednesday he was picking the kids up at the house to take them to Six Flags for the day.

08/17/11 kid pick up for six flags – asked if I could be home early tonight and I said I had plans, then he called and texted and emailed later to say he had to work, he had a call at 7:30pm, so he would bring kids back at 7pm.   On phone - said “I want to know before you introduce someone to the kids so I can tell them who their father is”.  Says he doesn’t trust me to tell him beforehand.   At drop off  - I was 4 minutes late.  I had texted at 6:59 that I would be there shortly. He was angry and confronted me aggressively – told kids to go inside so we could talk, insisted I should have texted sooner and that he was angry because I “kept the kids waiting" and that he had to lie to them and tell them I was shopping

Three things.  First  - he made up a work meeting once he found out I had plans, so he could spoil them.  I am convinced.  His work event was a conference call and the only phone he has is his cell phone, so there is no reason he could not have dropped them off at 7:25 and still been on the call by 7:30.   Second, the crack about wanting the kids to know who their father is?  It’s just ridiculous, as if I am actively looking to replace him.  I couldn’t even if I wanted to.  As long as he takes them when he has his visitation, he will be in their lives and they will never forget him.    It’s entirely up to him.  Third, he was visibly angry and intimidating when I came back four minutes late.  I refused to be alone with him, which he wanted, so he could rant and rave about it without the kids being there.  He kept repeating   - it’s not fair to the kids .  Most likely, though he was furious and jealous because he finally had confirmation of one date. 
Two days later, Friday morning.

08/19/11 AM – on phone – wanted to talk about kids – Haley and breakfast, Mark and DS – asked if I was going to have a babysitter this weekend – really pushing to babysit if I have a date, said he wanted right of first refusal and he was going to get something written up
This was a very tense conversation in the morning about the babysitting. I was very nervous to see him later afternoon when we all went to ‘Meet the Teacher’.  I was afraid he would bring up again that he wanted to get a document or something giving him the right to babysit, if he wanted.  It’s preposterous of course, but not to him.

08/19/11 PM  at meet the teacher – furious I was late, even though he had the time wrong and I was not late, condescending and snippy the whole time.  Insisted I tell him how long I would wait before introducing someone to the kids

He did not bring up the babysitting again, and he seemed to calm down quite a bit when I said maybe three or four months would be long enough to date before introducing the kids to someone.  I thought thought it was because he felt like he had some time to deal with the thought of that happening.   Boy was I wrong.  Later that evening….

The bombshell
Brad told me Friday night at swim lessons that he has a girlfriend  - someone he’s  been dating for two months,  and he thinks maybe the three month mark in September will be the right time to introduce her to the kids, or maybe Christmas, he said.  

I have such mixed feelings about this because, on the one hand, I am elated he has someone else so maybe he can focus on her and not me.  On the other hand, I feel sorry for her.  There is no way she is going to avoid being abused by him.  It just a matter of time.  On the third? hand, I am upset because he has been so focused on my dating and telling me  “I don’t live to date” and other things that implied he was not dating, that I feel angry that he has moved on before me, mostly because he seemed to be so insistent that he was not. 

I  am not at all surprised, however.  With his extreme focus on sex ,  I expected him to get a girlfriend right away.  When it seemed that it was not happening, I didn’t know what to think.  Now I feel like he’s been lying to me all this time and it hurts a little. 

Primarily, I am happy, because it’s a sign he’s moving on. At least I think it is.  But he still seems so focused on me and my dating situation that I am worried that it has made no difference in his behavior at all.    Most of my friends and family assumed that once he had a girlfriend,  he would stop obsessing about my situation, but that certainly seems not to be the case.

Another theory floated by myself and others is that there is no girlfriend.   He’s made it up after finding out I had a date, to make himself seem better than me.  Or perhaps to get me to open up and talk about my relationship.   I will probably never know, unless the kids start mentioning someone in September.  Regardless, I am now reviewing everything he said in the last two months in a new light, trying to figure out if there is another way to interpret his behavior assuming he did have a girlfriend.   I still come up with jealous. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Theater of the absurd

This post has a few random things that happened in the last month to bring us almost up to date.

08/03/11 Wednesday – kids drop off – asked me why police had been to my house, said he was on the police blotter and saw and ‘alarm’ call on my block
Whaaat?  He was on some website checking for police activity at my house?  Hmmm.  I really don’t know what to make of this. What was he hoping to gain or learn?   The people I have told this story to are speechless .  I’m not even sure what that alarm call is he is referring to,  but I did have the alarm company call me once when the patio door blew open because it had not been locked.   That might have been it.  I told them it was a false alarm and returned immediately to the house to lock the door.   I find it very strange that he would be doing something like this, and then even stranger still that he would mention it.   This is not the first time he’s openly admitted his stalker-ish behavior.

Second up on the on the bizarre list:
08/09/11 Tuesday  - kids drop off – asked me about Internet dating and if he could take my pictures – asked again if he could babysit – says he doesn’t care about me dating and said “I don’t live to date”

He said he wants to take my profile pictures because “I know your best sides”.  I told him I did not think that was appropriate.  And the remark about “I don’t live to date” – to me clearly implies he somehow thinks I do.  Even though it’s been eighteen months since I left him and five months since the divorce was final, and now I am finally thinking about dating.  And he want to babysit while I'm on a date?  I can't imagine the hand-wringing and stress he would experience if he knew I was out.  He says he doesn't care, but his actions clearly indicate otherwise.

Third - he has occasionally made remarks to me that he says the kids have said to him about my interaction with them.  I never know whether they are true or not, but I try to discuss with them with the kids and make adjustments.  For instance, Cassie allegedly said that she didn’t like it that I ate separately from them and Luke allegedly said he wanted more ‘Mommy time’. I have taken great pains to adjust my schedule accordingly to do what’s right.  So I was particularly frustrated when Brad made this comment below.  I'm really trying to do the best that I can, but it’s very difficult working full time to get a much time during the week. 

08/10/11 Wednesday – gymnastics – said the kids said they only watch TV with me and that he wants them to be more social, said he will help since I don’t want to “because of how I was raised” – very patronizing and manipulative

This whole conversation was extremely painful, and I don’t know what he was hoping to accomplish.  Most annoying of all, this is categorically not true.   They watch one hour of TV before bed on weeknights and on weekends we always go to the park, pool, museum, or something.    They watch a few cartoons before we leave for the day and then another hour of TV before bed.  Also, he has this notion that I am ‘anti-social’ because I am a somewhat shy person.  So he somehow thinks that means that I don’t want the kids to have friends.   He’s afraid my shyness is going to rub off on the kids, I suppose.    Well I’m afraid his ‘anger management issues’ are going to rub off on them too, and that has much bigger consequences.   I win.

And finally, a really awkward situation.  He has not read the divorce papers, it seems, because he thinks he has more time at Christmas than he does.  I have twice tried to tell him gently to read them, but I don’t think he has yet.   So he’s pushing to make plans (in August, no less) about the weekends at Christmas.  He thinks he’s being nice by agreeing to ‘switch’ some dates with me.  The problem is that he doesn't even have these dates in the first place.  So if I agree to anything, I will be giving him extra time.   It’s quite a tricky situation.   Here is how one of the conversations went.
08/13/11 Saturday kid drop off – pushed about Christmas, I said I would send email, he said “I won’t read it”

This is very minor, I know, but it shows his attitude.  I’m trying to be nice and cooperative and I volunteer to check in with my family on plans and get back to him with an email.  That he says he won’t read.  How is this helpful?  It’s just so immature.  He has to talk about the plans because that’s the only way he can control and manipulate the conversation, just like he has always done.   I still don’t know what I’m going to do about this. It feels like there's a volcano rumbling and it’s just a matter of time until it erupts.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Better?

So June was, I suppose, a bit better, as far as the number of incidents.   The routine changed to six hours on each of Brad’s days which gave me a little more time to do a home clean-up project, or take a nap.   Either in April or May, Brad had said he wanted to take the kids to Six Flags, and I thought he had given up on it, because he had not brought it up in a while.  I was wrong.  In mid-June when he had the kids for his dinner visit and I was at Wal-mart, he called to discuss this.  It was a little stressful because since I thought he had given up on the idea, I had planned to take a day off the next week to take the kids.  Here’s what he had to say.

06/14/11 on phone  - discussing Six Flags - said “there must be something wrong with your brain”, later at drop-off - further to conversation about Six Flags extra time – said “you’re the worst mistake I ever made”  and “I only married you because I felt sorry for you” – in front of Cassie
Nice.  Since I was not whole-heartedly on board with the project, he decided I was crazy and felt it necessary to be verbally abusive in front of Cassie.  He fundamentally does not understand why I don’t want him with the kids.  They would have been at school otherwise, so it does not affect my time with them, so he thinks I should be happy for him to have them.    He seems to have completely forgotten all of his ‘anger management issues’ as my mom calls them.   

Here is an exampleof why I do not trust him. I was picking up Luke to go to a birthday party and Cassie was going to spend time with Brad while Luke was at the party.

06/18/11 – picking up Luke for b-day party – Cassie was crying – heaving sobs, Brad said it was because she was trying to sit in Luke’s chair and he told her no, when I asked Luke in the car, he said Brad had yelled really loudly at her and spanked, Brad called to say he did not yell or spank, later when I asked Cassie she said he yelled, but did not spank

What to do?  I totally believe he yelled.  He even felt it necessary to call me in the car when he still had her and explain to me that he had not yelled at her or spanked her.   Guilty conscience maybe?  I’ll never know.  I wrote in down in my journal and left it at that. 

The next incident was related to soccer.  He had mentioned a few weeks before that even if I did not want to do it, he would do it on ‘his own time’ and pay for it.   I don’t know how he thought he could ever pull this off,  because it would be one practice and one game for each kid every week.  It doesn’t make any sense that he could do it on ‘his’ time.  Anyway, I was feeling cash poor after paying for gymnastics, t-ball and swim lessons and I sent him an email asking if he wanted to sign them up for soccer, implying that he would pay.   I thought this was a nice way of asking him to pay without coming right out and saying it.  I was wrong.  He was mad for almost a week about this.

06/29/11 Wednesday afternoon – mad because I asked if he would set kids up for soccer – threatened to “tell Cassie the truth” about how I was wrong to ask and not be ‘straightforward’ – threatened to go back to court, said I was wrong and must apologize , then did not show up at Luke’s ice cream party

06/30/11 Thursday – very brief drop off of Luke after haircut

07/1/11 Friday -  did not show at swim lessons – radio silence since Wednesday afternoon
07/03/11 Kids drop off – told me he’s going to ‘stop arguing’ with me about stuff, said the soccer offer was last year (but it was not), we are both to just be straightforward in our communication, said ‘are you moving someone in?’ when I gave him box I had filled with stuff from office

Almost a week of anger because I had the nerve to ask him to pay.  He said he was more mad that I asked in a sneaky way, rather than coming out and asking directly.  Whatever. And the court threat? Again - whatever.
About the moving someone in comment  -   I had cleaned up the office and found some odds and ends of his while he had the kids that day. When I gave him the box, his first reaction was “Are you moving someone in?”   The first words out of his mouth - not only does this cross his mind, but he actually says it out loud.  This was about two days after I thought I he finally understood that I had not started dating yet.   It’s just unbelievable. 

Every time these things happen, my world tilts.   I just can’t believe it’s happening and yet it is.  He is so unpredictable, so jealous, and so much in my life that sometimes I feel like I can’t stand it.  Luckily, I have a good support system and I will call my friends or family, rant and rave for a while, laugh at the situation, and then move on.  I forget just how obnoxious he is sometimes until I go back to my journal, which I suppose is a good thing, because otherwise I’d be a bitter and crazy lady.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Just grin and bear it

I’m not sure if it was because the divorce was final and had it finally sunk in with Brad or what – but May was a terrible month.  It could also have been related to the fact that we were seeing each other all the time.  T-ball practice was once or twice during the week, games on Saturday, swim lessons and then Brad’s dinner night.  There was a period where I saw him almost every day for two weeks.  It was excruciating.   He might have been recognizing what he was missing, and trying to hang on somehow.  I'm not sure.

This first event set up more than a week of painful exchanges.
05/05/11 Thursday – at t-ball practice asked “is that a new bra, I don’t recognize it” when he saw my green bra strap

I was upset about him saying that, so I really did not want to talk the next morning when he called. I had the ‘nerve’ to push back a little and he freaked out.
05/06/11 Friday AM – called because I had accidentally called him earlier and hung up – said that I have to text him if that happens again so he’ll know nothing is wrong, said I sounded tired and when I replied “it sounds like your trying to be buddy-buddy and I don’t need that” he said “that is just my personality and it’s not going to change” then said goodbye in a snippy voice and hung up

If you’d heard his voice you’d understand how angry he was.  I did not feel like ‘chit-chatting’ with him and when I tried to express that he got furious.  This was on a swim lesson day and I was nervous to see him that evening because I had no idea if he would still be angry or not.  He was.
05/06/11 Friday PM – at swim lessons – first words out of his mouth “Are you going to be nice?” – I said yes, he said “that was all you this morning, you were really being a bitch, nothing was on me” in other words, it was all my fault he got upset

So he’s furious and thinks I’m being a bitch because I said, “it sounds like your trying to be buddy-buddy and I don’t need that”.   Curious - I felt like I was just trying to express my opinion. 
The next morning he came to take Luke for a haircut and was clearly still angry.  He waited a while until I noticed his car was there, because apparently my doorbell had recently broken. This was his response.

05/07/11 Saturday AM – got mad because he rang doorbell and I could not hear it  - said “you put Luke in the car” and walked away from door angry
He also said “the doorbell worked when I lived here.”  And how is that relevant?  It also worked last week, but now it doesn’t.

He was still mad almost a week later when he called.
05/10/11 Tuesday AM – called to talk about child support, etc and said  “about that fit you had last Friday morning” – said he needed to know if I was in a bad mood or upset because of the kids – I explained I was a little upset about the bra comment and he said it was because I was “inappropriately dressed for a kids’ t-ball practice” and that he did not want the kids to be embarrassed or other parent s to make comments, PM – continued in this vane and brought up that one time at school you could see my underwear – said I should either “not wear underwear or wear some that don’t come up accidentally when I bend over”

This whole conversation was so wrong at so many levels.  So he thought I was ‘having a fit’, over that one statement I made last week.  And he felt he had the right to know why I was having a fit ‘because of the kids’.  He turned it all around and tried to imply I was not dressed appropriately because my strap happened to show when I was leaning over putting Cassie in the car.   And he still insists “I don’t care about you or what you do.”   Really?  Because it’s seems awfully jealous to me.
And here are some examples that are almost stalker-ish.

05/13/11 PM – before swimming lessons – called and asked where I was coming from, I said school and he said he was two cars in from of me at light and saw me coming down a side street and wanted to know why,  I explained that the traffic was bad and I had to make a long u-turn to get back going the right way
05/14/11 PM – kid pickup – asked how much I weighed and if I was starting to date, re-iterated bike issue, asked if I was going to get the bike so we could have my brother-in-law help

05/18/11 noon-3pm – left text about whether I had told t-ball lady if Luke was going to be out of town for a game, left another text and called me three times, like one an hour until I responded,

05/18/11 at t-ball – asked why I did not respond and I told him because my  phone was on silent and I did not know he was calling – said he wanted to make sure I was not deliberately make him wait
So he wants to know if I’m dating, he wants to know if I’m going out of town and who I'm going with, he wants to know why I was driving a particular road, why I didn't call him back immediately.  All the while professing he doesn’t care what I do, and even at one point saying “I don’t care if you date the whole football team”.  As if. It’s gets even worse, at the dentist office while we were waiting on my son’s treatment this happened.

05/19/11 AM – at dentist – asked about beach trip and I said it was just a beach trip, he repeated the question three times and I finally said  anonymous beach town in the South and he asked who was going – I said Papa and Papa’s wife, he said “only them?” and I said “it sounds like you are trying to find out if I have a boyfriend” and he said “I am” – I said “I’ll be back in an hour” and went out to the car  - he came out to the car and was physically intimidating, and telling me I have to answer his questions, and I was being immature, and he has a right to know where his kids are – then he kept following me around the dentist office every time I tried to get away to keep talking to me to prove he was right and I was wrong, threatened to go back to court, said he had right to fight for custody anytime and that “the psych evaluation” will prove what's wrong with me

Again with the threat of court and getting more custody, and yet the divorce is final.  Note how he thinks the psych evaluation (we were both going to get one at some point, but it was cut out at mediation) is going to prove what wrong with me as a person and parent.  At some level he really believes he is the more fit parent.
 Also, he's still hammering on the boyfriend issue.   It’s just so tedious.   It's so obvious that he is obsessed with my dating status and yet professes not to be.  I think I would respect him more if he would just admit that he’s having a hard time moving on rather than constantly denying it. 
What I learned from this is that it's not worth to push back.  If I had just answered, "Yes, I'm tired" back on May 6th, I could have probably avoided a lot of what followed.  It's similar to his pattern when we were married of continuing an argument until he's satisfied.  It's sad to say, but leaving his ridiculous, inappropriate, or condescending comments alone; or answering his invasive questions as briefly as possible leads to a more peaceful experience overall.   It's better to just listen, react at little as possible, and move on.  I hate that reality, but there it is. I've got much more important things to deal with than his assinine behavior.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Finally the divorce

I’m doing what was agreed on in the settlement, weekly dinners have replace the phone calls that were so stressful.  Brad had the kids for a Christmas visit, and then it started to snow.   This issue is apparently as big as the riding a bike issue.    Brad insists that if it snows, a rare occurrence, he can come over and take the kids outside to play.  Scheduling this is problematic at best.   I don’t want him in the house, since it’s only been three weeks since the bad argument on moving day over the bike. Here's how 'snow day' went.  

01/09/11 Sunday PM – Brad came to play with kids in snow, agreed on before, insisted on coming inside, said “I won’t ever let another man play with my kids in the snow”, told the kids “mommy’s making me leave” when I asked him to go, argued back and forth about how I have to “agree” to something with the snow or he is going back to court, said “I hope you die” when he left  after I insisted he leave
So he plans to go to court to get a judge to agree that he can play with the kids when it snows.  Really?  This just shows how out of touch he is – I’m pretty sure a judge would laugh him out of court.  Every time things don’t go exactly his way, and on his timeline he gets mad and he frequently threatens to go back to court.  The final paperwork has not been signed, so I take these threats at least somewhat seriously.     After much delay and after Brad’s lawyer is back from maternity leave we finally have a date scheduled in mid-March.   Then it gets cancelled due to some court issue and will be rescheduled.  Finally we find out with about one week’s notice that it will be March 31.   I am happy because now it will be over and scared because I don't know what's going to happen.

Throughout this time frame, Brad’s attorney made several requests to change what was in the mediated settlement agreement.  He wanted more time in the summer, he wanted more time at the holidays, and he wanted official notification of any man moving into my house as well as information so he could run a background check on said man.  It seems neither Brad nor his lawyer understand 'legally binding mediated settlment'.  There are no do-overs or take-backs.  My lawyer basically said to Brad’s lawyer in a nice way “The settlement agreement was signed and it’s legally binding, so get over it, were not agreeing to any changes.” 
Right after this Brad exploded at swim lessons.

03/25/11 Swim lessons – Brad attended and took pictures – all was ok, then I mentioned about t-ball and two practices a week, he seemed eager to help take Luke to practice, I mentioned he might have to bring him home late or I’d have to come get kids if practice happed to be on Wednesday, he got very upset and said he would want to trade dinner nights if that was the case and that it was “not fair” for him to lose and hour because of practice (even thought he would be watching) – said I was being selfish and the reason our marriage failed was because I was so selfish (said this in front of kids), said he would call his lawyer to get it written into the agreement to change  Wednesdays if it was a practice night 
Again with the court threat, this time over t-ball practice.  The weird part is that he never mentioned about the court date coming up in less than a week. 

The day of the court dates comes, it’s a Wednesday, so I know I’ll have to see him tonight, regardless,  but I am so nervous to see him at court and have barely slept.  I have no idea what he’s going to do.  My lawyers and I feel certain we are on good legal ground.  We have a signed settlement and the worst that could probably happen is that Brad will bring his proposals forward and the judge will agree to all of them.   Or he might just realize that it’s over and come to court and sign the deal without a fight.   What happens is something none of us expected.  

We wait and wait, but neither Brad nor his lawyer show.   Technically, he does not have to be there.  We finally go before the judge and explain the situation and the divorce is granted, pending a 30 day period where he could challenge it.    I leave the courthouse elated and confused.  I am divorced, but I still have that 30 days hanging over my head.  Brad's not showing up is so out of character, I discuss with my friends and family and we finally decide this is his passive/aggressive way of indicating he’s not happy with it, but not fighting it.  I’m very surprised his lawyer didn’t at least call my lawyers to indicate they were not going to show.
I drive in to work, and on the way home eagerly go by the driver’s license office to change my last name back to my maiden name.  I have had very mixed feelings about having a different last name than my children, but at the end of the day, I did not want to use his name for the rest of my life, and who knows if I would ever get married again. 

He has picked up the kids for dinner and brings them back to my house.  I had to give him a check the day of the settlement (don’t get me started again on the money issue), so I handed it to him when he arrived saying something about ‘per the agreement..’.  He then asks “So when it the court date to sign scheduled?”  I explained that it had been today and that he had missed it and that we were divorced.   Awkward.  He seemed genuinely surprised, so I guess his lawyer never told him.  We had some words about not notifying him and more threats, etc.  It was horrible.    
I have actual emails sent to his lawyer and copies of faxes notifying her of the date, I can only surmise that she did not read them.  A week later after he’s talked with his lawyer comes this.

04/08/01 Friday at swim lessons, brought up court date – threatened me with going to court to “start over” and said this is going to cost you fifty or sixty thousand – because you won’t agree to my demands for summer and thanksgiving – mocking me and said “I’m enjoying this” when I tried to explain what I thought would happen with court and how he does not have a good reason to “start over” – continued throughout lesson and to school event- basically trying to manipulate me into agreeing to his demands, drove Cassie home, not sure why- I was a little afraid to meet him at the house
This incident was terrifying and stressful beyond belief – it went on for two hours.   He started the conversation with “so you know there are a bunch of court dates coming up, right?” When I said that I did not, and started to explain he’d have to have a good reason to contest it, he got very angry. He followed me around swims lessons to argue with me, I went inside and outside several times to try to get away, but he would not let me.  Then we had to go to a school function and he kept at it there.  He was making snide remarks and generally being a jerk.  He decided to take Cassie to my house in his car and I took that as a threat.  I was afraid he was using that as an excuse to get to me, so he could continue to abuse me.  Luckily, he did not.   I agreed to forward him the emails where his lawyer was copied.  At this point he was mostly mad at me and my lawyers.

At the next kid drop-off (he was seeing them unsupervised now), he mentioned he had read the emails and had calmed down considerably.   He recognized that perhaps his lawyer was indeed the problem.  I’m not sure what all processes he went through in his own mind,  but the 30 days came and went. 
Of course he couldn’t let it go completely.   I had verbally agreed to more time at Thanksgiving as my only concession to his fit, and to get him to back off of ‘starting over’.   The day before the 30 days were up he said something to the effect of “Are you going to start being mean and not living up to our agreements now that it’s final?”    Well of course not, but that's how his mind works.
May 1st, 2011, The journey that started the day I met him more than eight years ago is over.  The hell l was in living with him for more than five years is over.  The limbo I've been in for the last fourteen months is over.  We are no longer married and I can officially move on.   Praise the Lord.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

2010 Year in Review

Well I finally did it.  I left him.  At the beginning of the year, I was living with an abusive husband and hating every minute of it, waiting for the right time to leave.  At the end of the year I had him out of the house, I had his stuff out of the house, I had a mediated settlement agreement, I had new dishes, I had a new kitchen table, and I had a new outlook on life.  It was great to be making my own day-to -day decisions without worrying about Brad.  It was great to be free from the constant stress of dealing with him at home.   The divorce was not over yet, but I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The disappointing, but not surprising, part was how much Brad’s behavior really had not changed.  I knew he would probably be a jerk to be divorced from, but I had no real idea what it would be like.  It’s been both better than I feared, and worse than I had hoped.  He has not threatened to kill me, but he has said “I hope you die.”  He has not stalked me, although I'm pretty sure he drove by the house regularly until the end of the year.  He has not harassed me with phone calls, except in a few instances.   
He is still jealous, he is still controlling and manipulative, he is still angry and threatening.    The only difference is the frequency. I can’t tell you how many times he’s said “we’re going to court” or “this is going to cost you a lot of money”.     I always initiate any contact via email or text.  He always calls.   I almost never answer the phone, but sometimes it’s unavoidable when trying to work out arrangements for the kids.  Every hot topic while we were married continues to come up to this day.   I’m a bad mother, I’m a bad communicator, I am controlling, am I dating? (which replaced cheating).  The only thing he doesn’t bring up is sex.  
The effect all of this has on me is at times dramatic. After some incidents I get more upset than is probably necessary because I keep remembering all of the incidents before that were similar.  I think “this should not be happening, I left him, he can’t be doing this to me.”   But he can and he does.   He never really crosses the line to where I should call the police, except that one time in December.   I could have called the police on him for violating the protective order, but then what would have happened to his stuff?  I wanted it out of the house, so I did what I had been doing for years and I compromised.   I did tell him that what he did was wrong, but I did not call the police.    This will probably be an ongoing battle until the children are eighteen, but I can only hope it will get better over time.

As I was going through all of this, I never knew when things would hit me emotionally. For example, the day the movers came to take as much of his stuff as would fit in the storage unit as possible, I took the kids to school, and then got in the car to come home and wait for the movers. I burst into tears and I called my sister sobbing.   I guess it was because this finally felt like it was really the end.  Most of his stuff would be gone and would stop haunting me, but I would have to tell the kids something because it was going to be noticeable.   This was one more step in the divorce process, and one more nail in the coffin for a ‘happy family’.

Every step of this process made me emotionally stronger. Each time he hurt me, it strengthened my resolve.  Each time I was scared and faced my fears, I came out a more confident and stronger person.   Each time I knew I would face him at a legal juncture, it was extremely nerve-wracking, and I would think “I can’t do this”, but I did, and it was definitely worth it. 

My biggest concern overall was the interaction between Brad and the kids.  I felt some level of guilt for ‘taking’ them from their father.  But I knew, also, that is was the only way for the situation to get any better.     I would sincerely like them to have a good relationship with him, if he can be a good role model, and at least an acceptable father.   But I fear this will never be the case.  Before I left him, he had never taken care of them both together for more than a couple of hours when I’d occasionally  go to the store.  Even then he was calling constantly – partly due to jealously, but often because he seemed not to know what to do.  

And yet he thinks he’s a great father.  He even mentioned to me once after he left about how  “of course you’re not afraid of me spending time with the kids”.  Well of course I am.  He just doesn’t get it and he never will.   He pushes constantly for more time with the kids.  “It’s all about the kids.”  In reality -  it’s still a lot about me, because he takes every kid interaction as an opportunity to chat me up. He says he wants to be ‘friends’.   

Based on reports from the supervisors and a few interactions at the dinner drop-offs, I know  he is very sensitive and pushes the kids to get their affection and then acts immature when he does not get it, he threatens to not let them come see him if they don’t behave, he is constantly barking orders at them (even in my house), he has argued and said bad things about me in front of them.  And then there’s the stuff he did while we were together that is unforgivable.  

So, I’m going to go with “no”, he’s not a good role model.  I think he has the potential to get much worse,  as the number of unsupervised hours increases.   Up until now it’s only been two hours for weekly dinners, and a four hour period at Christmas.  The longer time he has them, the larger potential for disaster. I especially don’t ever want Brad to have the kids overnight because bedtime is so stressful and I’m afraid of what might happen, but he will get them overnight starting 2012, unless he does something wrong between now and then.    

Kids can be very frustrating, and I know it’s very easy to get really angry with them for seemingly small things (like the eighth time Cassie gets of out bed at night). The difference is, I have worked very hard on my patience and I know when I’m at my wits end, and I know how to walk away when I feel like I want to scream at them or spank them. I’m not a saint, I do yell occasionally, but I know what line not to cross.  I don’t call them names, I don’t push or shove, I don’t say emotionally damaging things, and I don’t threaten drastic things I don’t plan to follow through on.  This whole experience has made me a better parent.   Brad doesn’t know any of that.  He doesn’t even know what is emotionally damaging and he can’t control his anger at all.  This is why, even though I hope he can also be a better parent and not hurt the kids physically or emotionally, I’m pretty sure he will hurt them at some point.  It’s just a matter of time, so I am ever vigilant.

At the end of the day, though, we are all better off right now.   Brad is allegedly sober, he is working, he has much less opportunity to get angry; the kids are doing well and have a much more peaceful life; and I am reveling my glorious freedom from an abusive life. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Not one little bit

Already
In typical Brad fashion, he has to make everything a crisis.   Since none of the furniture or belongings were handled during mediation, we did it afterwards with spreadsheets,  and a lot of pointed emails back and forth.  Part of the mediation, however, included me giving him back the car seats that had been in his car.  Why he focused on that one point, I have no idea.  It would never have occurred to me not to give them back, plus he could have bought two more for less than $100 at Wal-Mart.  Whatever. (I say that a lot when I deal with him now).   To him, however, it was all out war when I did not respond to him quickly enough about when he would get them.  He needed them for his first dinner with the kids and I knew that, and I would never have stood in the way of that -  I could not legally do it and I would not ethically have done it either.  Here is what happened.
11/27/10 Friday – left vm threatening to “void the deal” because I had not responded within 24 hours about when he would get the car seats and Cassie’s birthday and Cassie’s surgery, said it would be my money, “$1500” every time to spell out in child-like details how we would handle things  - said I was difficult to deal with

Four days.   Four days after the agreement and he is already threatening to call it off for the first of many times.   He seems not to understand it was legally binding. He seems not to understand he’d have to have some really good reason to void it and go back to court.  Not responding to his question in 24 hours is hardly grounds, but he does not see it that way.  (I also say that a lot when I deal with him now).

The mountains of stuff
One thing I have not talked about up until now is all of Brad’s stuff.  He had a lot of it.   Most of the furniture was his, he had a crystal collection, a DVD collection, and a lot of cloths.   I’m talking probably 80 pairs of slacks as an example.  Early on I had boxed up some of it and given it to him and had slowly been boxing stuff over the months.  Finally I ran out of room in the dining room where I was stacking everything, so I got a storage unit to put it in. This was key to my plan because I needed to be able to move on emotionally by getting rid of his furniture and move my old bed in from the guest room instead of sleeping in the ‘marital bed’, which was his and went to storage.   
I kept slowly packing, but I really had no idea when Brad would need it because he was still living in a hotel in late November, even though he was required to get a place in July.   Part of the agreement included him doing a ‘walk-through’ of the house to ensure I had packed all of his stuff and to note what was left that might be his.   He had been asking for this since March, but I was had been able to prevent it due to the protective order.  Now it was unavoidable - so we set a time for when someone else will be in the house.   Brad is still convinced I have a boyfriend as you can see here – the day before when he dropped the kids off after dinner and the day of the walk-through.

12/1/10 kids dinner with Brad – went fine, he asked me about bruises on Cassie and her nose scrape and her haircut, asked if I let Luke jump on furniture and if I let him ride in car without straps of car seat, asked if I would be introducing a new boyfriend to the kids soon
12/02/10 Brad walk-through – very annoying but not threatening, got angry about baseball cards because I got upset when he asked me if I would let my “boyfriend” sell them on ebay if he left them here, says he “gave up a lot” at mediation

So two things, he thinks he gave up a lot at mediation and that if I had a boyfriend, I might let him sell Brad’s baseball cards on Ebay – ludicrous.   I am an honest person, and I’m not vindictive, but he thinks I am.  I think this is a clear case of projection on Brad’s part – he is accusing me of doing harm to his stuff when he is the one who threatened to burn my clothes more than once.

When he was going through the house, he kept pointing out things I had not packed yet saying “I'll need all of this, of course that’s mine, I bought it in 1998,  etc.”  It was excruciating and he wasn’t even right all the time, but I did not put of much of a fight unless I really cared, because it just wasn’t worth it.

At this point in time he mentions he has rented a house and will be moving in the middle of the month.  I am in full-scale panic now, because I have to get everything packed, I have to get a new washer and dryer, a new printer,  I have to make sure all of the remaining furniture of his is ready.   I finally have everything sorted out, and we arrange that the movers will come to my house first to pick up what's left here and then go to the storage unit.  Despite what I have put in storage, there is still a lot of stuff in the house.
The night before moving day, Brad drops the kids off and insists on ‘seeing’ that everything is packed, where it is, and he wants to pick up the printer.  I have to walk around the house and show him, and as we are in the master bedroom in a little area in front of the closet, he just starts idly chatting, about what I have no idea.  I am having an episode of post-traumatic stress.   We have been standing in this exact position so many times when things were going horribly wrong.  I feel like my head is going to explode, I feel cornered, I can’t think straight.  I think I’m hyperventilating.  I guess at some point he realized this and he asked me if I felt uncomfortable and I said yes I did feel uncomfortable in this confined space with him.  Trapped was what I was thinking, but did not say.  Here is his reaction.

12/15/10 – kids dinner – dropped off kids and came in to get printer, said I need to “let it go” when I told him I was uncomfortable with him in a confined space
I need to “let it go”, years of abuse living with him, continued abuse in dealing with him about the kids and I just need to “let it go”.    He’s truly clueless , and this is after almost a year of the batterer’s intervention program.

Moving Day
When Brad gets there, I am working and still quite tense from the night before.  I try to ignore him, but he keeps bothering me and brings up how/when Luke is going to learn to ride a bike without training wheels.  This is very important to him, apparently, and he wants me to promise that “no other man” will be there when Luke first rides successfully, even my Dad.  It has to be just Brad and me.   I try to explain that this is not practical, since you never know when the ‘a-ha moment’ will be, and it might take several times before it would be successful.  Brad keeps saying “it’s a trust issue, it’s a trust issue, we both have to be there.”
I have no idea what he means by that, but I do understand it’s a sensitive topic.  The discussion gets heated, so I decide to leave the house.  Keep in mind, there are people there, three movers and he’s still getting very upset and raising his voice over the training wheels issue.  And then

12/16/10 – moving day – at house with movers, blocked my way when I tried to leave because the conversation was stressful – said he will “tell” me when he wants to be there with the kids, followed me to car, said “f**k you” and “you’re the worst wife ever”  - refused to apologize later and said it was my fault he did those things, later said he would “have a fit” if I got a vacation with the kids and he did not, much later said he was a little bit sorry he had cussed at me –

So when I tried to leave, he blocked my way – physically holding the door closed, finally I get out and he cusses me out as he follows me to the car.  Any of this sound familiar?
I’m go to my car sobbing and stressed, I call my mom, I go to Target, I come back home not sure how he’s going to react.  He comes out to the car and confronts me telling me it’s all my fault that he said those things.    Ten months after I had him forcibly removed from the house and he hasn’t changed,  not one little bit.