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My Angry Ex-Wife and Her Ongoing Malfunctions

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I want to make this clear: I am grateful today that my ex-wife pulled the pin on our divorce hand grenade. Today, exchanging any meaningful information with her about our kids is rewarded with passive-aggressive texts that just go on and on. She can blow up my phone for an hour. Doesn’t happen much, since our divorce 14 years ago this August, but it happened today.

Now I See Clearly

I was trying to survive an unhappy marriage with a woman who appears to be highly-functional and batshit crazy at the same time. She used to do this with our kids’ teachers. Bombing them with questions, data, and advice. Unsolicited advice. It went over better with 3rd-grade teachers. It’s not going well with me, today. I’m no longer responsible for her disappointments. I gave her the biggest one of her life, if you’d hear her speak. I don’t hear her speak at all, if I can help it.

Something has happened, our son is requiring some interventions with his health and well-being. We, his mom and me, had a mini-intervention one month ago. At the peak of the action, my ex-wife volunteered to come over and help with the massive redirect that was in order. It all went as planned.

What I was amazed by, however, was how emotionally unavailable my ex-wife still was. Even in this most emotional moment, she was barely able to muster a concern that didn’t involve spreadsheets and apartment rentals. She was focused on the details, not the feelings. But, it was the feelings that were needed to reach our son in his defiance. It took most of the afternoon, but at some point she broke down and expressed her sadness and anger about the situation. (Welcome to the meeting.) And with that, my son, also broke through to some moment of revelation. Something has got to change.

A month later, I’m still amazed at the drama my ex-wife can gin up over a single meeting with my son’s therapist tomorrow afternoon. At first refusing to come. Then calling it my ultimatum. Then agreeing to come. Then saying, she’s worried I will fight with her during the session with my son. STFU. She’s off the rails. And my phones messages are still flickering. I posted (I’m out for the evening.) But, that only pauses her.

Feelings Are Essential

It is impossible to feel love for someone unless you are willing to take the risk of being hurt. Feelings are messy. My ex-wife has never been capable of accessing her feelings. At least, not willingly. When we were married, she would burst out in tears after a several glasses of wine, and apologize for how poorly she was treating me. She said, “I feel so awful. I’m sorry.” The next day, sober, she would go back to her mechanical bull responses. She was hiding something. She was hiding from herself and her hidden terrors. It is ultimately what flipped her out to the point where he survival seemed to depend on her divorce from me.

In the last month, I have been amazed at how damaged she appears to be. I am saddened by the example she has given to both of my kids: emotions are to be avoided. Our kids were little balls of feelings and laughter before I was excised. It’s a bummer to hear my daughter talk about how she really doesn’t have much emotional access. I thought she was more like me in that respect. She lamented that she was not.

Where you avoid your feelings of sadness and regret, you are avoiding your access to higher levels of joy and happiness. Love is an essential feeling. But many people have warped ideas about love. Their love looks more like a business partnership. More about appointments and deadlines. More about insurance, and next summer’s vacation. When feelings come into play, which they do for me more easily, it’s difficult for the non-feelers in the group. I’m not afraid to feel deep feelings. And crying is a sign of strength and pride, not a shameful act.

What I’ve Learned Since the Divorce

As I was asked to leave my house and my kids behind, I have been on a journey. Seeking love. Seeking a new way of relating. Seeing honesty and transparency. I have failed. But each time, I have learned a valuable lesson along the way. That’s the trick. Keep learning. Breakups aren’t failures. They are opportunities for self-reflection. You’ve got to understand what went wrong, to work on yourself and your relationship skills, so you can avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Relationship lesson number one: someone who expresses joy and love easily. Once you understand how important this is (it’s not my love language, however) you will never go without it. My ex-wife had a hard time expressing genuine affection and love. (I guess that’s true of her ability to relate and thus demonstrate healthy loving relationships for my kids.)

Relationship lesson number two: alcoholism is a BIG NO for me. I needed to find out for myself with one of the funniest people I’ve ever been with. She chose the booze over the boy. Ho hum.

Relationship lesson number three: unhinged sex is usually an indication of unhinged emotional issues. Sex is often not the best measure of a long-term partnership. Good sex can keep you in an unhealthy relationship longer than needed. I knew I should leave. I stayed for the sex. Nope. Bad idea.

Relationship lesson number four: considering your partner’s needs is not optional. And the ever-popular mom’s over-obsessed with their young sons. Enmeshed doesn’t begin to describe it.

Relationship lesson number five: Love my kids as you love me. I learned this with the alcoholic. She liked the idea that I had kids. She was not friendly or encouraging to either of my children. She resented the weekends they were with us. She would often go off drinking with friends and old lovers.

Finding A Path Forward

Working with my ex-wife is something I’m going to be required to do for a long time to come. It is fine to avoid all contact for a time, but something usually comes up. This one surprised both of us. I would’ve preferred a reunion around a marriage, perhaps. Oh well, we’re going to do mental health and defiance disorder. Okay.

I can take a break from her blasting texts. I can hold my boundary. I will try again tomorrow. That’s usually my mantra. Well, things didn’t go as planned, I’ll try again tomorrow. I always try again. She does not. Somehow, she’s still angry with me about the divorce. Odd, how people get stuck in the mud of their own making.

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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