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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. 

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