Was I the only kid who read the ads on the back of comic books and was enchanted by the idea of Sea Monkeys? I recall the ads, depicting entire kingdoms of tiny smiling creatures who would magically come to life when added to water and be trained to perform amazing tricks in a variety of habitats and extra accessories one could buy. The ad said they were a “bowl full of happiness!”
A mail order pet marketed to kids, sold for pocket change, and depicted as resembling miniature citizens of Atlantis…what could go wrong?
To say my expectations of the “world’s favorite insta-pet” didn’t match reality was an understatement. I was less than dazzled by the specks of dehydrated brine shrimp that failed to do any of the things I interpreted from the ads, let alone survive!
Alas, Sea Monkeys were one of my first memorable experiences of disappointment and suggestive advertising. A word to the wise: read the fine print, and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Decades later, I still find myself perplexed and forlorn as I find that my expectations of life after divorce don’t meet my expectations of what I thought it might be like. Unfortunately, I know I am not alone in this because I regularly receive pleas for help from other people living in various divorce relationships who are frustrated by their inability to have peace after divorce.
We divorced because we wanted to be free from someone who hurt us or drove us mad. Am I right?
We divorced because we no longer wanted to have to spend time with our ex or have their choices and actions affect our lives. Correct?
So, why do some of us feel like we were conned out of thousands of dollars to purchase relief from chaos only to discover that we got dehydrated pond creatures instead?
What happened between taking all the steps to sever ties and erase drama from our lives and the realization that it’s still present, sometimes years later?
The first mistake many of us make is in assuming that an ex will exit our life just because of a piece of paper.
If you share children with this person, it’s simply not possible. As I have referenced before, I am a two-time divorce veteran. The first time I was able to walk away and never look back. Although I deeply desired the same experience from round two, my dream quickly hit a snag when the fact that we had to endure co-parenting together woke me up to the bitter truth that our situation might even be uglier than it was while married!
Secondly, as much as we might be ready to move on from a bad situation and take steps to establish a brighter future, some of our exes simply cannot move on! Some of you have already discovered that divorce (even if it was their idea!) is not always an ironclad solution to remove an unwanted person from your life. If someone can’t (or won’t) let go or has punishing you ‘til the end of time on their agenda, you may well be stuck with a parasitic relationship!
Next, I have learned that some people absolutely cannot survive without a daily infusion of turmoil! I swear, drama is the drug that keeps some people alive, and unless they can start an argument, complain about something, or cause trouble, they cannot function!
Allow me to share an example of what I mean by this:
A follower of mine on social media shared her troubling scenario with me. Her every day trial demonstrates how maddening co-parenting can be when one or both parties refuses to communicate or cooperate. I’ll call her Sharon.
Sharon lamented that no matter what she does, her ex refuses to simply be a decent human being and exercise give and take or fairness. Her example was that she had already made plans for her and her kids to attend a special event, but then her ex demanded the kids on the same date (even though it was her time), and refused to even consider a trade or a reasonable discussion.
Since the kids will be coming from their dad when Sharon’s plans begin, she is stuck between a rock and an unrelenting ex who clearly just wants to exert control over her life and punish her just because he can! She can drive to his house, she can demand the kids be returned to her, she can yell, she can beg, and she can cry. She can even call the police; but, most of us know they will only say that they “don’t get involved in domestic matters” and to “take it to court!”
Sadly, Sharon’s ex may win this battle; but, to what end?
The war won’t be won with one smart maneuver or victory. Instead, it may take years to consistently demonstrate that she will not take his behavior.
No, that’s not the answer any of us want to hear. Sorry. We want quick justice and for an ex who behaves like a donkey’s rear end to suddenly see the error of their ways and change. It’s a huge disappointment to realize that we can’t wish someone into suddenly becoming nice or sane. They will only change if it suits them; however, perhaps we can make it worth their while to step in line.
Here’s what you need to do:
Set boundaries and stick to them no matter what. Jerks can smell weakness a mile away, so if they can play at your emotions, manipulate, or strong arm you, they will!
Stick to your court orders. With unreasonable exes, deviation is a tool of the devil. You slip or play nice once, and they will stomp on you every time!
Limit communication to the absolute necessities. When the excuses, insults, and arguments start flowing, hang up or turn the phone to silent. Seriously, it’s like teaching good behavior to a toddler: ignore the unwanted behavior and respond and reward the positive!
Document every infraction in detail, and don’t be afraid to take evidence of your ex’s inability to co-parent to court. A judge will not appreciate an ex who plays games, doesn’t follow the plan, treats the children like pawns, practices alienating behavior, engages in abusive behavior, refuses to communicate, and so on.
The last bit of advice I have on this matter is that, on some level, we have to accept that we all got dried pond scum when we thought we were getting magical sea creatures. In this case, those of us with less than stable exes envisioned a future free from conflict, and things appear way too similar to what they were before the divorce.
As the brand new owner of dehydrated disappointment, it’s on me to establish the rules of my aquarium and make it as awesome as I ever hoped it could be. In a way, I have to work part time as a sort of bouncer, kicking out the drama and enforcing the rules of my world until the crazy finally gets bored with this game and swims off to other adventures!