your co-parent's house

Understanding My Co-parent’s Malfunction: My Easy Indifference

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I’m sorry for this post, ahead of writing it. I have been weaning myself off of my “divorce” rant for some years. This year, I’ve even started slowing my coaching business in the divorce realm. I’m not thinking much about divorce these days. I’m focused on dating and relationship-building. But today, I cannot repress the frustration and joy of this moment. I apologize.

What Are You Thinking?

When my then-wife asked for a divorce 12 years ago (divorce final for 11 years in August) I was shocked. We were in couples therapy. We were working ON our marriage, or so I thought. Perhaps she was using the therapist as a buffer for when she dropped the bomb. Or perhaps, as she feigned, she was surprised when I asked her, “Have you been to see an attorney?”

In the ensuing 2 months, I negotiated, cajoled, raged, and reset hundreds of times, as we weathered the final months of our kids’ 3rd grade (daughter) and 5th grade (son) years. I remember asking her several times, “So you think… That when I walk out the door you are suddenly going to become a happy person?” She never could give me an answer to that. But I’m pretty sure, that when the realities of divorce were upon her, and the requirement that she work a 40-hour a week job, I mean really work, she was more pissed than ever. But she wanted to keep the nice house in the nice school district, so off to work she went. More hours and more responsibilities than she’d ever had since we’d started dating.

What pushed her over the edge, I don’t know. She didn’t ever tell me much about what was going on inside of her head or heart. She was a bit more analytical, driven my Excel spreadsheets and budges. I was leading with hugs and affirmative action. We weren’t really that good of a fit. But we met in our late thirties, we both wanted kids, we both found the other attractive. And we quickly moved to become married and then parents. That part worked out to plan.

At This Moment, 11+ Years After My Divorce

Today, I am sitting in my recently purchased house. It is the first cold snap and rainstorm of the season, breaking months of hot dry Texas heat. I am as happy and warm as I could be. And there’s a sadness too.

I cannot understand how my ex-wife would take action to deliberately hurt me. Sure, I understand how she made her own decision about divorce and taking the “divorce package,” and the majority of the kid’s time, and the child support, I mean, I understand. I would not have altered our 50/50 plan for any reason. But I don’t have to understand her. What I understand is she made this decision in some fit of survival. She was convinced that continuing to be with me was going to eventually kill her. Either through frustration and anger, or depression, or something else. During the last year of our marriage, she was egregiously unhappy, and she was letting me know it as often as possible.

I’ve written about this Hurting Your Co-Parent several times before:

And I’ve even written a book about how this coup d grace went down around my house and my livelihood. (SEE: Fall of the House of Dad) But today, there is a different melancholy mood brooding around in my soul, clouding my happiness, blocking some of my energy and verve.

What We Want for Our Kids

As I am comfortably back in a home, 11-years after the divorce, and 5-years after the events leading up to the loss of my first post-divorce house, I am still saddened by the idea that my ex-wife cared more about hurting me than she did about protecting our children.

You cannot attack, belittle, or damage your co-parent without damaging your kids.

When my ex-wife took actions that forced me to sell my house, she was doing it vindictively. She assigned the decree to the Attorney General’s office of the State of Texas, “enforcement division.” Now, if you know anything about collections, you know a little bit about the effect this “fk you” had on my life.

I was not a deadbeat dad. My employer had lost a major client, and let me know we were going to go lean for a bit and would not be getting full paychecks until the business was replaced. I alerted my ex-wife, “I will probably get a few weeks behind on my child support, but the company has assured me that we will get it back.”

I pleaded with her to be patient. I asked her to understand that I was not hiding any money and was not avoiding paying my child support. She knew that I was not trying to avoid my child support. She knew that I was going to pay 100% of my child support. And yet, she decided, after I was exactly ONE WEEK LATE, to file against me with the AG’s office. This officially set off the deadbeat dad massacre that has been part of my life for the last 9 years.

In June of this year, I completed my child support payments. My daughter turned 18 and is now away on college. Whatever that leverage my ex-wife wanted, she got in spades. But today, that leverage is gone. And I’m sad. I cannot fathom how her anger at me was so toxic that she attacked me and damaged my financials, my employment opportunities, and most potently, my credit rating (which affects everything). I simply don’t understand how a co-parent could lose their moral compass to the point that they would attack the father of their children in a way that severely damaged his ability to even make the child support payments, that were apparently at the core of the complaint.

She Was Okay with My Suffering

As the years went on, I made offers to complete the child support obligation so I could get the AG’s office out of my livelihood. Each time, she said, “I don’t see what good this is going to do for me. It is my job to protect the assets due to our children.”

“Yes, dear, but you see, if you kill the dad, he can’t make any further payments.”

She didn’t care. It was like attempting to negotiate with a rageful Tasmanian devil. There was nothing but the noise coming back. And once she was remarried, and her husband was in charge, she pawned conversations between her and me, off with the phrase, “talk to N**l about it.” Um, yeah, I’m wasn’t married to N**l. He’s not the parent of our children.

All of my offers were either rejected or counter-offered with some bullshit option. They were not interested in letting me out of the prison of the AG’s office.

Do You Know What You Are Doing?

One example of the fury of the situation was about two years after she’d unleashed the AG’s “enforcement” goons on me. I had just picked up the kids for my weekend, and we were eating at a local TexMex restaurant. When the bill came, my CC was declined. I pulled up my banking app, and my account showed $45,000 overdrawn. Fortunately, my daughter had $40 cash for the weekend, so we were able to pay and get out of the restaurant.

The AG’s office goes for the dramatic option. They put a lien on my bank account for 4X the amount I owed my ex-wife. (I had been struggling with a long period of unemployment at the time.) And the ZERO dollars to spend supporting my kids for the weekend was MY PROBLEM. The fact that I was behind on my child support and not talking to the AG’s office every week… It was my fault that they froze all of my assets. Of course, it was my fault.

Today Is a New Day

I think both parents should be responsible to parent their kids 50/50. With shared expenses. With shared custody. And a shared commitment to “work with the other parent” to make life post-divorce as easy as possible for BOTH PARENTS.

My ex-wife did not agree with that idea. She probably still does not agree with that idea. Even after she and her husband have been paid 100% of the money they were owed, I cannot carry on a civil conversation about our kids. She so furious, STILL, that I get paragraphs and paragraphs of venting and BS anytime I try and engage her in a conversation.

I guess I don’t have to deal with her much at this point. I’ll see her and her odd husband at the weddings of our kids. And other than that, I’ve asked my kids not to share anything about my life, my happiness, my work, my relationships. It appears that anything good for me is a trigger for her to do or say something nasty.

Yes, I can understand why she would be furious about this blog. I understand some of her urgency to get remarried and take a new name, a fresh start. Maybe she can put this chapter and this bitterness behind her. Obviously, from the last text we shared a month ago, her anger is still just as fresh as the day she asked me to “give me and the kids and break and move out today.” Um, no. That’s not how it’s going to go down.

Namasté dear ex-wife. I do hope you find a way to release your anger elsewhere now that my whipping pole has been taken down. Good luck to you and your husband. Our kids are doing fine, in spite of your brutally selfish and vindictive actions. I release you and your partner to live in peace with an easy indifference.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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