The biggest mistake in my divorce was thinking I was giving my children at least one safe and loving place to be what and who they are: children. I knew if I stayed in the marriage, he would never be the parent I wanted him to be, and never treat me the way any human, let alone a partner in marriage, should be treated. I could have borne his constant criticism, neglect and bullying if my children were loved and nurtured and raised knowing self-worth comes from within. This was not the case.
They were in a house where a tyrant ruled and we never knew from day-to-day if Dad was going to be kind and loving and spend time playing catch or Dad was going to yell about finger prints on the walls by the stairs, toys out in the family room and complain about how much longer do we have to help them brush their teeth. I couldn’t stand them being told that they needed to be tough and be ready to attack the world before it attacked them. I couldn’t stand them being told that certain careers were “women’s work” and not acceptable for a man to do. I could not stand that my children were living in a home where their father treated me has a servant and where they saw no love, and such an unhealthy adult relationship. So for them, for myself, I decided we deserved more. We deserved a better life and my children deserved to see me as a strong woman and who gave them a life without his bitter, self-entitlement.
I was fine with them spending time with their father. Well, not really, but I knew there was no hope in preventing it. I drew comfort in knowing that while they were with me they could be free from his views and influence and that I could nurture them in a loving and supportive way. I was happy to be able to give them a safe place to discover themselves, and be who and whatever they wanted.
But I was wrong in assuming we were safe in my world. I did not anticipate that he would use any means possible to destroy the life I had built for them and myself. It started with him calling me last minute to say he was going to our son’s baseball practice and that he was bringing him home when I already was on the way to picking him up and did not ask for or need his help.
Or I would be in the locker room getting our other son dressed for hockey and he would come in, kneel down and nudge me out of the way. He would curse at me in front of the children, and point and yell at me and get in my face, leaving me no choice but to call the police. The children saw all of this, not understanding any of it. All they knew is that when Daddy is around Mommy the police usually come. They had no idea that he called me and texted me weekly with demands on how I needed to do things, with claims I stole his retirement money, cursing criticisms about me as a mother and as his former wife. They had no idea the glares, the flipping me off as he drove away, the nudging me when he walked past, the withholding of money owed and taking me back to court to fight the JPA, telling the courts I was doing hurtful things HE was in fact doing.
During his time with the children, he tells them how I left him for no reason, that I am to blame for him seeing them as little as he does. In reality, he accepted the first visitation schedule I proposed and never asked for more time. He tells them I deserved how I am treated because I disrespected him. Anytime he makes a request in regards to the children and doesn’t get his way, he tells the children how I am being unfair and uncooperative.
The children come to me looking for answers to why I do such things to Dad. All I can do is tell them they aren’t hearing the whole truth. I explain it isn’t something they should even be discussing with their father. The children want to know why I left their dad and how he was abusive, because their father claims to them he was not. But how does one explain manipulation, neglect and gas lighting to a child. These are difficult concepts for an adult to understand. And, again, he should not be telling them these things. I tell them that all they need to know is that Mom and Dad both love them and they should love both of us. All the details, all the fights should stay where they belong: between their father and me. But their father feels differently. He feels the need to enlighten them to how he was the victim here and how I just want his money.
So how do you protect the children? How do you continue to protect yourself from the abuser you left who will not stop his attacks? Even a restraining order will not stop him for bad-mouthing you to the children. This is what you need to understand: This is HIS game. One you do not want to ever engage. You cannot stop the damage he is causing to the children with his actions, but you can choose not to do the same thing. Be strong, set boundaries and stick to them, but never get sucked into his game of, “Who is the better parent?” or “Who was in the wrong?”
For one, you will never win. He will never accept your true worth and value. He didn’t while you were married and he definitely isn’t’ going to do it now that you left him. His motive is to hurt and punish you through the children, the thing you value most. Your children want answers. Your answer should always be the same: I love you. I am here for you. Your daddy loves you, too. Although I don’t agree with him sharing adult problems with you, I cannot stop that. All I can tell you it’s not the whole truth, and something with which they need not be concerned. They are simply to know they are loved and that it’s okay to love both your parents equally.
Sadly, it won’t end his attacks. Sadly, your children will still be in the middle. The true damage left to be dealt at a later date as it impacts their future relationships and how they choose to parent. But you will know you did not add to it. You were the constant in their lives who simply loved them, nurtured them and reminded them how you are always here for them. In the end, all we have is our relationships. And when you build relationships with your children out of love and doing right by them, they will eventually understand and love you all the more for it.
- Misogyny: Did It Play A Role In Your Marital Problems?
- Turning Lemons Into Lemonade: When The Ex Is Hurtful To Your Children
- Your 3-Step Plan For Leaving An Abusive Relationship
- 7 Things I Learned After Divorcing My Abusive Husband