How do I heal?
Some days, I feel strong, confident, patting myself on the back, proud that I managed to “get out” of a terrible situation. Other days, absolutely not. Instead, I’m wracked with guilt, anxiety, fear and worry.
How do you manage these feelings? Yes, I’m in therapy. On a logical level, I know I have to transform my thinking that everything will be okay, that I don’t need to worry like I did before.
And yet, I do worry, because there are worrisome things that come up. The trigger, the person who hurt me and my children for so long, is still around, still present, doing what he can to needle me and to influence our children (not all in good ways), and in the face of that, sometimes my positive outlook and love and hope—any bit of strength, is sapped down to zero. I become anxious, numb, afraid. I tell myself, he is no longer in my house, he no longer can come to my house, actually, he is gone, he cannot hurt us like he used to, but…he still hurts us. Little by little.
He sends emotional blackmail messages to our children, interfering (especially with DD1) with their bonding with our blended family. Turning them into his emotional caretakers (daddy is sad, daddy is so poor). Sending nitpicky, accusatory, messages about how I may have jeopardized my children’s safety by allowing them to ride horseback on my brother’s farm, or that I absconded with the children’s belonging. I know I shouldn’t let it bother me, and I get angry at myself for letting it send me into a whirlwind of fear. His words do not have merit—he crafts them mildly on the surface, the undertones exist, and I need to learn to disengage, to not let the undertones get to me, but they do.
My mantra since divorcing and ‘winning’ custody: I cannot control what he says or thinks, I can only control what I say or do. Some days I’m strong and those words are my wonder woman invisible force field, other days, all the mantras in the world can’t stop my worries.
The latest situation is that he is now formally requesting a meeting with my husband. This gave me pause. It gave my attorney pause. It gave my attorney friends pause. Yes, any parent has a moral right to meet the person who lives with their children. Legally, there’s no negative ramification if we refuse. My attorney and therapist both agree that there needs to be a third party, neutral witness present, if it were to happen. I also agree that at some point, they need to meet, but not under the guise of my ex-husband’s to “talk about the children.” Anything that has to do with the children must come through me. But otherwise, a sighting at a school event, or perhaps present at a non-school pick up might be okay. (I would want something similar, merely to lay eyes on a would be step-mom, but no need for a 30 minute meeting. As long as the person didn’t have a criminal background, I’d be fine, because I respect the boundaries, am actually grateful for the boundaries.) Under normal circumstances, I can see how this would be necessary and warranted.
Except for all of the things the ex has done since our engagement was announced last year and our marriage that followed. DD1 used to be my husband’s little “buddy” during our courtship, for lack of a better word—wanting to hold his hand, helping him cook, demanding attention, i.e. her turn to read the book with him etc. Then slowly, little by little, daddy being “sad” about the marriage, and being “uncomfortable” with her having a stepfather, has bled into our family home, has given DD1 inner turmoil and conflict. We sit by, supporting her with neutrality, with positive messages like, “it’s okay to love all of your family,” or “our hearts are big enough for all of our family,” or “just because you have fun with us, doesn’t mean you love your daddy any less.”
I note the many times post-divorce the Ex has put himself before our children—the children, even with fevers, were going to spend a late night with him to celebrate his birthday, because by golly, it’s his time (rather than agree with a day time visit). Or his “strategic” request for summer vacation, he started it in the middle of the week, and at the end of its duration, there was so much back and forth due to holidays and ex’s birthday, that the children weren’t allow to settle back home before more transitions. The play therapist agreed that was very stressful for the girls.