My ex and I both filed for divorce, in a rush to the courthouse, in 2004. Our divorce judgment was granted in 2006. I like to say I’ve been divorced for eight years, even though it’s only been six years since I received the final judgment, because filing was the first step towards liberation.
In that six- or eight-year span, I have been restrained in what I write about my ex. I am mindful of the fact that he is my children’s father. My memoir project has stalled in large part because I’ve been conflicted about what is and isn’t OK to reveal about our relationship and marriage. One of the best pieces of advice I received about divorce came from one of my former law partners and mentors, who told me, “Do not discuss your ex, his failures or his shortcomings, with your kids. That’s between the two of you. He’s their father, and kids have a right to their parents. Your relationship problems are your business, not theirs.”
I agree with that advice 100%, and I give it to divorcing parents today.
And yet, there’s value in writing about what I went through during my marriage, and continue to deal with. I write about my life – my family, my lovers, my children, being a single mom, dealing with a psychotic ex, etc. – because my life mirrors that of so many smart, professional women: distinguished and accomplished professional life, and a personal life that is messy as hell. I don’t know if anyone has studied this phenomenon. We tend to hide behind the façade of the perfect life. Everyone assumes that women who take no shit professionally behave the same way at home. Sometimes our closest friends and families don’t even know how bad things are beneath the surface.
My friends and family didn’t know how bad things were in my marriage. Until I stopped hiding.
Choosing the wrong partner to be the father of one’s children has lifelong consequences. My ex exemplifies the saying, “Hurt people hurt people.” My ex still wants to hurt me. He’s chosen to try to hurt me by hurting my children.
It’s gone too far, and it has to stop.
In my post about my son’s recent medical ordeal, I mentioned that my ex saw my boyfriend at my house, and flipped out. Had my ex left it there, I probably wouldn’t be writing this now. He hasn’t stopped. And his behavior has been so reprehensible, it deserves to be exposed.
My ex apparently was upset about seeing a man in my home. He doesn’t appear to be worried about how this man has been treating our children. I don’t think my ex has even bothered to ask the kids whether or not they like my boyfriend, or whether or not my boyfriend treats them well. Instead, my ex has made up things to tell the kids about my boyfriend, a man he doesn’t know at all.
For instance, my ex told my son my boyfriend is an “uneducated handyman.” He happens to be neither uneducated nor a handyman, but so what if he were? My ex has also told my kids that my boyfriend is married. He is not, but he has sown in the kids the seeds of mistrust about my boyfriend’s true feelings and intentions towards me.
The insane side, of course, is much, much worse.
My ex discovered the NPR interview I gave last year to help promote R. Richard Banks’ book, “Is Marriage for White People?” He didn’t like the characterization (which was the author’s, not mine) of professional women marrying blue-collar men as “marrying down.” My ex decided to strike back by making up things about me to tell my kids. He has told the children stories from a past he has invented for me, to expose to them what a slut their mother is.
My ex has texted my children the following outrageous statements and outright lies:
* that I “fucked the Harvard football team”
* that I was committed to a psych ward for attempted suicide
* that he regrets meeting me because “nothing good” came out of our marriage (including, apparently, our children)
and most damaging of all,
* that he is not the father of my son.
On this last point, his most recent – and now last – text to my son read, “Remember to ask ur mother about DNA test.”
It is incomprehensible to me that my son’s father would tell his son, out of the blue and in such a cold, cavalier manner, that he is not my son’s biological father, simply to get back at me. Of course, my ex is my son’s father, in both the biological and legal sense of the word. My ex knows this. In the ten years my son has been alive, my ex never once questioned my son’s paternity. We even used to joke about knowing the exact moment when I became pregnant with my son – while we were celebrating my becoming a law firm partner. If my ex weren’t my son’s father – or believed he wasn’t – a text message would hardly be the way to break that news to him.
This is beyond hurtful. It’s sick. It’s monstrous. It’s abusive.
My ex has demonstrated time and time again his willingness to use our children to hurt me. What he doesn’t seem to comprehend is that he’s not really hurting me, he’s hurting them. I’m the one who has to try to heal the damage.
Out of my awful marriage came two beautiful children. I don’t regret the marriage because I don’t regret my kids. But I do regret that my ex has never received treatment for whatever mental illness drives him to attack my – our – children in this way.
My ex has no visitation rights, thanks to his own refusal to comply with various court orders. When he has seen them, it’s been at my discretion. As long as he continues on this destructive campaign, his access is blocked.
The kids will be all right. I will do what needs to be done to protect my children and ensure that we all come through this situation intact.
I just wish I didn’t have to.