I was married for 12 years to a man I thought was the one.
Five years ago my divorce was finally done. The two years leading up to that day were pure hell.
He had already been through two failed marriages and was the father of four children, ranging in ages from 19 to 5 when we first met. He hadn’t seen or spoken to the first three in almost 5 years. They wanted nothing to do with him.
I knew, though, that we were going to make it and would have that fairytale life that all young girls dream of. I was wrong.
I didn’t realize when he said, “Third time’s a charm,” that he actually meant that this would be the divorce that he would win everything, and by everything, I mean our son.
It’s hard to live with a narcissist and an alcoholic, much less love one. After 12 years I had to call it quits. Not only for my own sanity, but for all of us.
I firmly do not believe in staying in a relationship, married or not, for the “sake of the children.” There is nothing good that comes out of two adult role models arguing on a constant basis. Eventually you both become two ogres in a house that was once filled with love and was called a home.
People will say that small children don’t hear the words that are slung through the air like samurai swords: “They’re busy playing their video games,” “They were asleep,” or “They are too young to know what we are talking about.”
Yet if you have kids, you know damn well that’s not true. Those little grub worms are ear hustlers, listening and hanging onto every word you say. Watching every fist you slam on the table in anger. Every sob you let out into your pillow or under the stream of water in the shower. They know.
That’s why I decided to file for divorce. I was calling in the demolition crew to tear down everything good I’d tried so hard to build up over the past decade, and before you say that it doesn’t have to be that hard on a child, that the parents can be civil and make it as humane for a child as possible, I have to intercede.
My soon-to-be ex-husband was out for blood. Not mine, though. Our 8 year old child’s. He was out for his heart, soul and, most importantly, his mind.
I didn’t fight for anything in the divorce except joint custody.
I did try living in our house and making the mortgage payments for six months just so I could say I tried, but I was going from a dual income of $150,000 a year to $40,000. That’s HARD.
I didn’t even ask for child support. I knew I wouldn’t get it anyway. He still owes over forty grand in back child support to his other children. I did, however, ask for alimony for two years to help me get on my feet.
That went over like a lead brick.
“It’s your decision to leave; you support yourself,” was his go-to comment at every mediation meeting.
In the meantime, I spoke not one ill word to our son about his dad. I gritted my teeth so hard those two years leading up to the finalization of our divorce that I’m surprised I don’t need massive dental work. On the other hand, his father was filling his head with every lie imaginable about me:
I was cheating on him.
I left them for another man.
I was crazy and this is what crazy people do.
I didn’t love my son because if I did, I wouldn’t be doing this.
I was having parties with several men and having sex and doing drugs.
I was a loser.
I was a fat pig.
This is why my son’s grandmother died — because she did the same things and God was punishing me for it.
The list goes on and on.
This crafty man dragged this divorce out for two years. Long enough so that when we finally went to court, our son was old enough to choose who he wanted to live with on a regular basis when asked by the judge.
That’s when I put my foot down.
I chose to wave my white flag and tell him that our son could live with him. Anything as long as he didn’t drag this precious boy into a courtroom and make him pick who he loved the most. Let’s face it: that’s what that really means to a child, right?
By this time, my son hated me. He never wanted to come visit me or spend the night. He rarely wanted to talk over the phone. I don’t think I have to tell you that the first three years after our divorce was final were the hardest years I have ever gone through.
I was not going to fight a young pre-pubescent boy over whose house was the coolest, discuss who I had or hadn’t slept with, and continue to argue that I was not, in fact, doing drugs or any of the other ridiculous seeds his father had planted.
I did, however, tell him I loved him every day. I put myself at his disposal. I made sure that my apartment had two bedrooms so he’d always have a place to come home to if he needed.
Sure, I cried myself to sleep most nights, and on the nights I didn’t, I sat on my couch, whiskey bottle in hand, and drank my pain away. I was lost.
Somewhere deep inside, though, I knew I was doing the right thing. At least for us. I knew that eventually my actions and words would speak louder than the malevolent things coming out of his father’s mouth ever would.
For once, I was right. For one damn time in my life, I was right.
Our son is now 17 years old and on the cusp of manhood. He’s a smart and witty young man who is so empathic and loving of all people. He is caring and loving but an asshole at times as well. He is unique in his own way, and although we don’t talk about those dark times and probably never will, I know he now sees who his father really is.
Our relationship has grown ten fold over the past year. Jacob confides in me the things that all teenagers wish they could tell their parents but are afraid to. We openly discuss sex and drugs and alcohol and the effects of those things on his life at this time. He trusts me enough to confide in me about his relationships with the opposite sex, and while I still grit my teeth daily, the headaches are worth it.
I put my son’s needs first 5 years ago, and while I had to let go of many family members and friends because they didn’t agree with my choices at the time, all that matters now is that my son believes in me.
I suspect he always has.
This post was originally published on Rustic Musings of a Scattered Mind.