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The Damage of An Angry Co-Parent

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The divorce was only the first blow she struck. She struck again during the collaborative divorce process when she revoked our agreements and went for the power divorce instead. (Dad gets 30%, non-custodial, and a $2,000 month child support payment.) She struck, yet again, when she filed against me with the AG’s office to put our case under their collections arm. I was a week late. She didn’t want help. She wanted blood. She wanted her pound of flesh. But wait…

She Orchestrated The Divorce

I was in couples therapy working ON the marriage when my ex revealed she had been to see a divorce attorney. “What are we doing in couples therapy, then?”

As I collaborated, she filed away all the important points. She secured the deeds and money. We agreed to a financial arrangement. We started to negotiate a parenting plan, and that’s when things switched tracks. We’d been putting the divorce plan together for months, now was the big reveal, the schedule. We were working with a $200-an-hour coach, to help us find what was best for our children.

I brought out the book and some sample calendars about 50/50 parenting and how that is ALWAYS best for the children.

Our therapist took me aside when I got upset. “This is how it’s going to go if you go to court. She knows that. You’d best play friendly and accept it.”

Fk. I was not being supported by my therapist, I was being sold out. I didn’t have the energy, money, or fire to lawyer up and sue my soon-to-be ex-wife. She knew I would not fight it. So, she ran with the narrative that the divorce brochure was the best course of action for our kids. Regardless of the two months, we’d just put in cooperatively putting together the financial plans. She didn’t want to give me 50/50. I suppose it was just losing too much time with her kids. Whatever happened, it was not in the best interest of the children.

Each Passing Blow

She got the house, the kids, and the money. She played nice for about a year and a half. Then she got greedy. She didn’t like my new prosperity and happiness. She didn’t like hearing from the kids how I was better at getting them up and ready for school. (It had been my role in the marriage as well.) She didn’t like to see me happy. She filed our decree with the Attorney General’s office opening a new level of harshness on my life.

It was not because I was a week late on the payment. She wanted to hurt me. Punish me for being happy. She didn’t care if it meant I would have a hard time keeping a roof over myself. Or, be able to have the kids on my weekend. She didn’t care about me. She wanted to burn me.

And for the next 12 years, until my youngest child turned eighteen, the AGs office rode my ass, rode my credit report, and even complicated my job hunting. It was an effective and destructive move. I have no idea how someone could take action to hurt their co-parent’s livelihood. How was it in her best interest, or “the best interest of the children” for her to damage my livelihood or restrict my ability to pay for housing?

As I tried to be positive and flexible about her bad behavior, I worked on a loving relationship with my kids. I think, because she had them, and their teenage hassles, she got tuckered out. She became bitter. Vindictive. I’m not sure how that translates into me being her antagonist, but that’s how it went down. She still behaves in shitty ways when it comes to our children. Her husband is even worse. She married someone even more OCD than she was. I guess that’s why it works for them. Also, why it could never work for us.

She Did Me a Favor

As we go along, kids now finishing up college, and her unresponsiveness and unwillingness to be rational are causing trouble with both. She’s not their friend. She’s often mean. She’s stoic and rather dead emotionally. And, I’m sorry to say, my kids are both rather stoic themselves.

That will heal. They will grow to know and trust love. My ex-wife and her husband will continue to fester in their house remodel project, now in the third year…

Getting out of that marriage turned me into a writer. It got me more committed as a parent. I began to refocus on myself, my health, and my ideas of what a healthy relationship should look like. I didn’t know. I wasn’t shown healthy love by my parents. I had to do some primary research (date) and some deeper studies (a few LTR attempts) to learn some of the most important lessons. I needed to learn these requirements about myself

  • be with someone who expresses and receives affection easily
  • emotional availability and emotional intelligence are intertwined
  • Benre Brown’s BRAVING is a framework for building loving partnerships
  • love me, love my kids
  • feeling loved changes everything

I think I’m growing a healthy relationship for the first time in my life. I have the knowledge, I have the experience, I have some financial solvency. Things are looking good. For her, whenever I have to engage with her, life always seems like a struggle. She can create drama out of a simple update. She still tries to control things she doesn’t understand. And she’s still oddly in charge of much of my kids’ current daily needs. I hope as they grow up and away from her, they will begin to find more holistic ways of dealing with their own lives. Her example has been poor.

Mine, at least in intent and energy, has never wavered in love and support. Yes, I’ve gone through some dark periods, but even during those I found ways to let them know I was close and available to them. I wish things could be different, but I am glad I was relieved of my duty to deal with her.

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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good dad's guide to divorce - john oakley mcelhenney

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