Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Not This Time

Yesterday was a horrible day. We all have them, right? I've had a string of excellent days lately, so I guess I was due.

My ex husband has been bragging to everyone, including our kids and my own family, about this great new job he just got and how much more money he will be making. My ex made a pretty average living (low average, but average) before, but has always been truly awful with finances. It was a major source of tension in our marriage as he would never think twice about squandering our entire savings account on ridiculous purchases.

My ex is also a master manipulator. And for some reason, even though I know this, he can get to me every. single. time. When we drew up our divorce decree, he sat at my desk and cried, telling me he just didn't have the money to pay me child support. "You make more money than me! Why do I have to pay?" See this was how our marriage worked. I paid for everything important like the kids and school tuition and our mortgage, he paid for his own car and then anything else he wanted. I was a walking doormat through that entire 11 years. He wanted to continue that pattern in our divorce.

He convinced me with "I spend more time with the kids than most dads! I don't make enough! Dads get screwed! I'll pay for their clothes and haircuts when it comes up! Just don't take it out of my paycheck!"

So I agreed on a ridiculously tiny amount. Truly, I'm too embarrassed to actually write down how little my ex husband contributes to his three children's expenses on a monthly basis, because it barely covers the bread they use for sandwiches.

I felt like I couldn't win. I felt taken hostage. I knew I could survive on my own without his money, hell I'd probably be better off now because at least I wasn't covering his ridiculous expenditures. But I felt like if I asked him for more, he'd hate me, and I was terrified to send my children into the company of someone who hated me two nights a week and every other weekend.

So I dealt with it. I pretend the money isn't even there, and it collects on my state-issued debit card that the money is deposited to every couple of weeks. I think of it as a safety net if anything big ever came up, but that is all.

So when he began bragging to everyone about the new job with the big pay increase, I kept waiting (WHY?) for him to bring up the child support. Finally, an email, saying he would like to help out more financially with the kids. He'd like to start paying for things like soccer fees and haircuts. Wow....could we be moving forward?

I emailed him back and asked how much increase in child support he thought was fair? He was truly taken aback by my question: increased child support??? No no no, he said. He was just talking about contributing to expenses when they came up.


So I wrote him back and said, do you have ANY IDEA how often expenses come up? Every. single. mother-loving. day. School supplies. Haircuts. Orchestra instruments. Co-pays. Medication. Contact lenses. Uniforms. Shoes. My life is a constant series of "Mommy I need..."

Not to mention the fact that despite the fact that I work full time from home, I take all three kids to school, I help with homework everyday, I shuttle to various activities, camps, sports, rehearsals, doctors appointments...I am their after school care, and for my youngest, I am daycare. During the summer for three months, the three of them are at my house being sheltered and fed by me, every single day.

He asks for a list of expenses which I am none to happy to provide for him. He actually picks apart my list, one by one, and tells me what he will and will not help with.

To my expense of "food"- (I didn't even include the electricity, gas money, entertainment) to which I broke down only the portion that I spend above and beyond my half, he meets with "Come on, I'm not gonna be paying your grocery and bills for you, D."

At which point my head almost explodes and I ask myself a) WHY is it fair that he gets to pick and choose which financial needs of our children he will be responsible for...I don't get a choice! and b) WHY am I trying to reason with an unreasonable person?????

His mantra of "But I'm not a deadbeat dad! I spend more time with my kids than other divorced dads!" (he does, but I still have them 80% of the time) is his excuse. Well guess what, I spend all sorts of quality time with my kids too, where's my free pass to stop paying for their food, shelter, clothes, and so on and so on and infinitely so on?

I had to stop conversing with him because he's so incredibly amazing at manipulating me that I begin to feel crazy. He throws out digs that he knows will make me feel guilty..."You have two incomes now", "I don't want to have to worry about not being able to put food on the table for them", "I want to be able to take them on a real vacation", "Why are you making me feel like a bad father"....

In actuality, when I let myself think about it overnight, my ex himself has NEVER suffered. He always seems to have enough money to eat out everyday for lunch, he has cable tv and internet, he frequents bars and happy hours, he takes trips without the kids, he has plenty of new clothes and fun stuff for himself. However, when I ask for his help with birthday parties, haircuts, soccer camps, he never has any money.

I take responsibility for allowing this to go on as long as it has. He has held me hostage with guilt and I've let it happen. I don't mind carrying the full financial responsibility for my children, I love them and they come first and they will never go without. But it is time for me to stand up for myself and stop allowing myself to be taken advantage of.

This time, I'm calling a lawyer.


  1. as you should. it's not an easy choice, but breaking old patterns isn't easy. good for you!

  2. You and I have discussed this at length, but here's one thing I will add...

    No one gets the fear of turning over your kids to someone who is "against" you than me. Not just their father, but their soon-to-be-stepmother, get their kicks from acting out against me (as we all know). It's truly awful to think of the manipulation that goes on, out of my control, every other weekend.

    But here's how I reframe it - just like I can't control what he does with his money, what he feeds them, who he brings them around, what he does and does not hold them accountable for when they are with him...I can't control how he feels about me. It's an illusion to think that if you just don't antagonize your ex, he'll "like" you more, and thus your kids will have a buffer. He's going to feel how he feels about you. You have to do what is right.

    And what is right is standing up for yourself.

    Hope this helps reframe, just a bit.

  3. I agree with what Tracey said. It is right for you to be standing up for yourself and getting what you and your children deserve.
    I'm commenting anonymously today. You don't know me in real life, but I follow and comment on Jenny and Tracey's blogs/twitter, etc.
    I'm in a marriage that... isn't great. Isn't even good, really. There's is no abuse or infidelity (that I know about I guess), but my husband has lost interest and 'checked out' a couple of years ago. We went to counselling, and while he said all the right things when we were there, there was no carry-over. I think he stays because it's easy - I only work part time so I do EVERYTHING around the house. He only needs to focus on his work and his 'fun stuff' (that never includes me). I stay because as the person who's done everything for my 6-year old daughter, I can't imagine not seeing her 50% of the time. It makes me physically ill to even think about it. My husband's brother just divorced and settled for seeing the kids less than 50% of the time and my husband thought that was awful and unfair. So I know he wouldn't be happy with less than 50% of our daughter's time. And he's a good dad, but has a history of being way too critical of people and having such high (impossible to meet) expectations of people that it has ruined many of his close relationships. There are many times that I'm a buffer between him and our daughter when he's going overboard with expectations for her.
    So I'm scared to (a) leave her without that buffer 50% of the time, and (b) be without her 50% of the time. And I know that she wouldn't want to be without me 50% of the time.

    Good lord, I had no intention of being this wordy. Essentially my question is - I can tell you LOVE your kids like crazy. How did you manage in those early days/weeks/months to let them go? Did they miss you? Do you feel comfortable with them in ex's care?

    Again, sorry for all this. I really admire how you've handled yourself through your divorce, and am so happy that you're getting your 'happily ever after'.

  4. I work for an attorney. You can ALWAYS go back for an incerease in support if his employment and financial situation has changed since the divorce. I would do it immediately!

  5. I read the post, thinking the entire time, get a lawyer, get a lawyer, get a lawyer. So I was happy to see your last line. It's hard to put aside the emotional issues, but the facts are that you agreed to an amount based on certain circumstances and those circumstances have now changed, so it's time to renegotiate the amount. Good luck and all the best to you!