Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Find a Counselor. Don't Bother Me.

For all people who have gone through agonizing separations or divorce, I have a tale of an ex who I label as pathetic for his inability to grow up and accept the consequences of his actions. Please read on.

This Saturday, my called 2 times in the afternoon to check on me and the kids. Since we were not on friendly terms over the past week, I could not understand the sudden concern. Just a few days ago, he called me several four-letter words (like F.B.) and stormed outside. I was simply annoyed at this display of concern since we are not a couple or even anything close to resembling friends.

On Saturday evening just before a dinner date with a friend, my ex called again and told me he was depressed and that he would not see the kids on Sunday. He also apologized for treating me poorly during our marriage and said he might be gone on Sunday. He said no one cared for him anymore and that it was not worth being around. He then got upset at me for not wanting to listen--saying that I did not care. To me, he sounded suicidal. I told him to call a crisis prevention hotline for advice--what else could I say?

Sunday started out as a peaceful day. I went on a nature walk with the kids, and we threw tons of rocks in the water. Then we had a late lunch together. In the afternoon, my ex starts again with the strange phone calls and nobody loves me comments. I finally told him that I was not there for him anymore as when we were married. I said we needed space and that he needed to talk to his family or find another support person. Again, he got mad at me. (Before talking to him in depth, I called the crisis prevention hotline to confirm my approach for dealing with a depressed ex. Never go blind into a conversation with a depressed person who wants to cling to you.)

My saga continues on Monday when my ex calls me and asks for help in scheduling a doctor's appointment. I help him on this because I am hoping a doctor will prescribe something for my ex so he will stop bothering me. He does not get an immediate appointment, so I let him know he has to wait and if there are issues, to go to an ER. He finally goes to an ER and then calls to ask how to get a prescription for Xanax filled. After telling him to just go to a pharmacy, I stopped answering the phone. I could not believe my ex needed his mommy for the most routine of tasks. Even my kids could figure this one out.

I called my ex's brothers to let them know my ex needed someone to talk to and that person should not be me. His brothers did reach out to him, and he told me to not call his family again. Too bad for him. If he's using me as a support, I am telling his family. They are a nice bunch and have always been helpful to me.

Anyway, my ex in his narcissistic tendencies asks me to keep quiet around mutual friends and his family. I don't think so. My solution to dealing with issues is to talk to friends and family and let the secrets out of the bag. I learned long ago that bottling up the world goes nowhere.

My ex just will not leave me alone in some ways. He wants his girlfriend to adore him and me to comfort him. I think he needs to get a life and realize he does not get everything he wants. I am not part of a harem now and never have been.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Children: Meet Significant Other or Wait?

My ex has started nagging me about having the children meet his girlfriend. This is the same girlfriend that was in part responsible for breaking up my marriage. I know that eventually this woman may meet my children, but I consider it too soon in my ex's relationship. My opinion is that young children first need time to adjust to their parents being in separate homes. Then, they should only be exposed to new significant others when the relationship is serious enough to warrant an introduction.

I am protective of my children. I research everything from the foods they eat to the preschools they attend. I know I am not alone in being overprotective, but young children (which I classify as under the age of 5) do not have the broad set of social rules and context needed to navigate complex relationships. Young children do understand many things like hostility and danger, but these concepts are limited to tones of voice, words used, or simple rules like stop at a red light.

My instinct to protect my children includes knowing the people in my children's world. I believe that creating a connected and well-defined environment gives them the security they need early in life to build confidence, explore their worlds, and develop a solid understanding of trust. My ex never thinks about these ideas and considers such thoughts paranoid.

At the end of the day, my goal is not to control my children or their lives. Rather, my goal is to establish a foundation so that my children have a base to explore their world. As my children get older, I hope this background gives them confidence to explore their world proactively rather reactively. I want my children to be able to think first before acting and understand the concept of consequences. I also want my children to consider life full of possibility.

When children's worlds lack security, their lives start with with living by reaction. Life is more likely to be lived in survival mode. While survival is important, a survival-based lifestyle impedes curiosity and the ability to develop trust.

I wish my ex would consider the ramifications of something as simple as introducing his girlfriend. I wish he would think about the children's development and readiness for such an experience. Children grow so fast and nurturing the early years is one of the best gifts any parent can give a child.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Child Suport is Not A Gravy Train

Every time my ex and I argue about money, he tells me that if he loses his job, then I'm off the gravy train. He seems to think that child support is optional and that I am a freeloader to his benevolence. I just do not think he will ever get over the idea that he can't live at his desired standard of living because he has to pay child support. I also don't think that he feels the same obligation as other parents when it comes to supporting his children.

Paying child support is no easy task. Imagine giving money to someone else after spending hours at a job. Think about living at a reduced standard of living and having little money to save. And the kicker is that this can go on for eighteen years. It takes a strong reality pill to adjust to these circumstances and to find a mindset where child support is acceptable.

I am on the receiving end of child support and I do appreciate the tough life-adjustments resulting from child support. For the past few months, I have taken less than our agreed upon amount because I wanted to help my ex get started in his new life.

But in the time I have been helping him, he has become bitter toward me and sometimes even hostile. My willingness to help through our transition to living in different homes has cost me sleep and money that I need to support two kids-one a special needs kid. I have come to the conclusion that I just need a new arrangement on child support where I do not help him at all. If my ex had a different attitude and would work with me, I would continue to return the favor of helping him. But his lack of change has made this possibility a moot point.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Single Mom Not "Out-of-the-Closet" and Ready to Date

Being single for the first time in 15 years, I wonder what it's like to date again. How do you get started? What about online dating? I know a few who have tried it and not totally slammed the concept.

I first looked at at Match.com out of curiosity and wondered why some guys use really strange handles like highestluv, out-of-the-fog, or five_elements. Not to mention some with names like "carpediem man." Why would I date a guy who is telling me he's now out of the fog. Am I suppose to assume enlightenment? And highestluv? A flaky name. Am I dating God? Maybe he wouldn't like me either. Five_elements of what? Does this guy like Shirley McLean? Is he into New Age medicine and yoga? And, if I see a name like carpediem, I'm thinking the guy's a one-night stand. The handles some guys use are right out of 40's mid-life crisis.

If you log onto eHarmony.com, you get asked tons of religious or spirituality questions. I don't mind some of the questions, but if I am suffering through them wondering who I could meet at the end, what are others thinking of as they struggle? Can I really answer grid-upon-grid of questions with any accuracy? I felt like I was making up answers to get out of a chore. I hope eHarmony makes dating easier than the screening. Maybe that's the test. If you are patient enough to go through a hundred questions, you're patient enough for a long-term romance.

After looking at the online stuff, I just gave up the idea of dating for awhile. With two little kids, I am not sure how I would even start. Maybe using a catalog of guys from a foreign country who will stay home and take care of the kids while I work?

Oh well, maybe dating is not such a scary idea. I just feel like I'm "in-the-closet" and not ready to come out yet.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My Ex's Bittnerness Could Be Averted

Today at the park my ex said he wasted the first 40 years of his life. How dare he. Living through one difficult period in life does not constitute 40 years of life experience. His parents are wonderful people who worked hard to give him a safe and happy upbringing. He went to top-rated universities for undergraduate and graduate school. He has traveled and seen more of the world in the past 20 years than most people see in a lifetime. Finally, he wanted and has 2 beautiful children who need a positive role model--not an excuse-generating, negative, bitter parent.

I believe my ex's fatalist attitude is what keeps my ex in his state of depression. He won't seek help and refuses to talk to his family. At the end of the day, if he does not face his issues and begin to cope in some way, his issues will never be resolved. At best, his issues will be buried.

I use the word "issues" often because my ex went through 3 years of career confusion, online gaming addiction, responding to craigslist personal adds, recklessly spending money, and a long-distance affair. This is simply a short-list, but it is not difficult to understand the complexity of his troubles. He got lost in an ocean and does not know how to find land.

To go through a few years of difficulty and to react to circumstances instead of coping can lead to big life changes. I believe there is also a big attitude adjustment that comes about as well--positive or negative, just not neutral. When my ex said he wasted 40 years of his life, i believe he is experiencing a negative outcome to a few bad years of life and not using his experiences as a a catalyst for positive growth. Unfortunately, the nexus of a few difficult life episodes left him grieving for himself and then becoming narcissistic. The end result is no good memories about the past and only self-gratification as a source of happiness for the future.

If he would do the work to move out of this dark point in life, he might see some light in the months and years ahead. Unfortunately, this work is not easy. It involves introspection and a review of potentially difficult questions about self-image. I hope one day, my ex realizes that he does have a choice in creating a better future and that his past was a growing experience toward building a better future.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Find an ounce of happiness one day to be happier the next

Recovering from a bad relationship is like traveling on a long, jagged road that takes weeks or months to travel before the road ahead straightens. It's an exhaustive journey that you never really expect to travel. One way to survive the daily mire is to find or do something that makes you happy.

For me, happiness comes from time spent with family and friends. Every time I have dinner with a friend or do something with my kids, I feel a little better about myself and how my life is progressing. This gives me a little reinforcement that happier times are ahead and that there are other paths to achieving what I want out of life. My last relationship was not the end.

Every person has a different experience of happiness and finding that source of happiness will make surviving a bad relationship go faster. Try focusing on small things that are easy to achieve. Some ideas to consider are:

1. Go to dinner at a new restaurant. Use this as an opportunity ti try making small changes in your life.

2. Have a sleepover at a friend's house. A mini vacation without the cost of a hotel.

3. Try a new class in something different. Consider trying a dance class or jewelry-making course.

4. Join a book club. Book clubs offer the opportunity to discuss different topics of interest and explore how those topics relate back to your life.

5. Get a new hair style. A new haircut can quickly give you a new image. If you don't like the style, it simply grows out.

6. Talk to a stranger while waiting in line. Consider striking up a conversation with someone in a Starbucks line. You meet a variety of different people and gain confidence in your social skills.

Building happiness into your everyday life will jumpstart you to moving beyond a broken relationship.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Lying in marriage is disbelief when separated

My ex called this weekend and said he may lose his job or could be reassigned to an uninteresting position. He said his boss' job was potentially on the chopping block and the same could hold true for his job. This information immediately evoked two reactions from me. The first was that my ex needed to give me proof that any pink slip was not a resignation. The second was how am I suppose or take care of two babies when my ex can't or won't keep a job. Needless to say my ex did not stop by to visit the kids for several days because he was upset at me about my lack of sympathy for his situation.

My ex has a strong history of lying about his transgressions. He lied about his affair, the money he spends on his girlfriend when the money is suppose to go to the his kids, and about his feelings toward me. My ex has also recently been saying he needs to move because he can't afford to live where he's at. Given that he has issues being honest with me, a girlfriend in Canada (3000 miles away), and a desire to move, it's not out of the question that he would lie to me about quiting his job. Even today, I put this scenario forward during a phone call and he got defensive although he did not disagree with what I was saying. As far as I have ever known, you just can't regularly lie and then expect someone to believe you.

Aside from my ex telling too many lies, he never seems to place his kids as the highest priority in life. He wants his kids taken care of, but he's not willing to go the extra mile or make the extra sacrifice for his kids to have a good life. Now it may be too much to expect someone to live by this ideal, but this is how I was raised. My parents went out their way so that I could have more opportunities in life. When my ex spoke of a possible lay off from his current job, he did not bring up the subject of how to take care of the kids if his job does not work out. The only topic of interest was his need for sympathy concerning his career. Given my beliefs about family first, I did not understand his self-focus. I know that maintaining a career is important, but family well-being is more important to me. My thought is that he should have been focussed on making sure he could provide for his family even if it meant looking for work on the side or looking for other jobs should his current one come to an end.

I think my ex believes he deserves sympathy from everyone in his life. He expects people to put him first. I believe one reason reconciliation with my ex will be painstakingly difficult is that he has difficulty putting others first unless they out him first. There is no sense of selflessness in his beliefs.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Disagreement on parenting can make a relationship fail

My marriage started to fade soon after my first son was born. He was a beautiful and apparently typical child during his early months of development, so all seemed fine when he first arrived in the world--well, except for my ex's child-rearing capabilities. My ex thought that putting my son in a playpen in front of the TV or putting him in a crib with a bottle was the answer to most of my son's needs. I often disagreed with this viewpoint, and it became a source of contention in our marriage.

My ex's desire to have children quickly faded after my oldest son turned one. He had no desire to do activities that took time like swim lessons. He also would pull out jars of baby food instead of preparing a meal. He preferred to spend time on video games or movies. I became frustrated because my belief was that children needed ongoing interaction and attention. I did not believe in quick fixes like TV for playtime.

I am thankful that my mom was around to stay with my son while I was working full-time because she took my oldest son out for walks or trips to the park. She spent hours constantly watching him, interacting with him, and eventually noticing that something about him was just not right--my oldest son was eventually diagnosed with autism.

My ex wanted kids, but was not into kids. My perspective is that he wanted kids like he wanted all the toys in his life--things there for his amusement. He rarely spent time interacting with the kids, just patting them on the head in passing. I think his desire to fulfill an idea placed him into a predicament of choosing between himself and children. He did not want to make space in his life for kids.

My ex and I still have enormous differences on how to raise children. For example, my ex is a believer in letting kids run free in a highly unstructured environment while I believe in structure. These differences were the nails in the coffin of our marriage.

Had I known my ex's positions on raising children, I would not have had children with my ex. He just does not understand kids, and I can't explain them to him. Liking the idea of kids is a far cry from the daily reality of raising kids. I would recommend to other parents or would-be-parents to explore parental viewpoints before kids come along because it will be easier to make decisions together when the time comes.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Excessive Flirting Is Not OK!

Over the past week, I found out that my ex excessively flirted with female friends during the last few years at parties we had at our home. The most recent flirt was with a female friend who was visiting from out-of-town--a woman I'll call K. According to guests at the party, K and my ex were rubbing toes under the table or K was sitting in my ex's lap for a good part of the night. Apparently, a number of friends saw this behavior and were disgusted because my ex was still "happily married" at the time. Had I known about this incident, this event would have been the warning that my ex needed to go.

My ex thought there was nothing wrong with this behavior. He said he sometimes flirted--which includes a little feeling around--when he drank. I did not know what to think at first. I was a little surprised because I don't consider this appropriate behavior if in a committed relationship. I also thought that this behavior was degrading to anyone in a committed relationship. My rule for this situation would be no groping outside the relationship.

I realize that everyone is different in what's deemed acceptable flirting. Sometimes, an arm over the shoulder or a small comment may fine. For some people, the act of a significant other sitting on a another person's lap is fine. But where is the line drawn on innocent flirting? When does flirting transition to a pick-up? For me, this definitely includes "copping a feel" of another person's private areas-- a rather obvious place to draw the line. But I also think excessive time spent on the phone or IM may also go too far. In today's world, this is one way to start a relationship based on emotional connection first followed by physical connection. Everyone has their own boundaries about flirting when in a relationship, but flirting should have some boundaries.

Excessive flirting with others outside of a relationship can be hurtful. Why be in a relationship if the desire is to seek out other people? Being in a relationship should mean being committed to another person and only to that person. If there are issues that lead to flirting, deal with the issues first before going too far. This will solve years of future pain and suffering.

To me, flirting is disrespectful. My expectation of a partner is for that person to want to be with me over other people. I expect this choice to be a conscientious choice not made lightly. I understand that the world have millions of people and therefore, millions of choices. If my partner has the choice of being with me, then I expect my partner to respect me and let me know when there are issues. I also expect my partner to have some restraint even when attracted to another person. Restraint in certain behaviors and open communication are two symbols of being respectful. Excessive flirting violates the respect of a committed relationship.

I can't change my past relationship with my ex. I can only carry on what I have learned to a future relationship. One lesson will be I do not tolerate excessive flirting.

Friday, August 10, 2007

What to Do When the Ex Plans His New Next Life

It may be inevitable. The person you married has moved on and is making new commitments while you are still coping with the aftermath of a break-up. Your ex may be planning on moving in with someone else or even relocating to a new city for the new significant other? What do you do?

First, if you are in the middle of separation or divorce paperwork, see if there are any issues with the legal process. In many states, both parties may be required to complete certain paperwork before a move is possible. If there are kids involved, this could mean amending any existing child custody agreement. Talking to a legal professional is a great way to prepare for this scenario.

Second, make sure you have copies of necessary personal information like date of birth, social security number, credit card numbers, and recent pay stubs. This type of information makes it easier to track someone as they set up a new residence or look for new employment. Even go so far as to have an up-to-date photograph of the person in case his or her appearance has changed over time.

Third, mentally prepare for this event in some way. If you are fortunate enough to have been the one ending the relationship, then this may not be a difficult step. For the rest of us however who were caught off-guard, this event will take time. Sometimes, you can deal with this event simply by talking to friends or family. Other times, it may take talking to a counselor. I have even known some people who took a year off to travel because of the need to use distance as space to heal. Whatever pain you feel will soften over time. To me, the biggest lever to preparing is time. Six months of time to gradually cope will leave you more prepared to move on than a two-week intensive boot-camp experience.

Fourth, find ways that you can move forward even if this means forcing your hand. Go out with friends more often to dinner or to other social venues. Think about what type of partner you see yourself with in the future. Take an online personality quiz and see how you fare, There are many ways you can move forward even if it's one step at a time.

As for me, I know that my ex has been dropping hints for a few months that he wants to move on with a life that includes a new significant other. He has been saying things like "I can't afford to live here anymore." or "I may need to live with a roommate you won't like." His inability to be subtle in his comments or actions makes it easier for me to see where he stands. Oddly enough, this behavior has helped me to gain perspective and prepare for whatever may come next.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

I Won't Rescue A Non-Existent Relationship

TheRescueMarriage.com has an article entitled "Improve Marriage Tips." Once upon a time in my formerly married life, I spent time looking for advice and ideas such as those contained in this article to improve my marriage, but found out that all the advice had underlying assumptions. For examples, relationship advice makes sense if you believe you marriage is salvageable, but not if your choice is salvage yourself or salvage your relationship. Or it does not work if your relationship is simply non-existent. My choice was really that my marriage was non-existent, but the sad part of my story is that I had to force this conclusion out of an ex whose cowardice made my life much more painful to reach the conclusion.

My marriage started to fade after my first son was born. My ex wanted kids, but was not into kids. My perspective is that he wanted kids like he wanted all the toys in his life--things there for his amusement. In fact, he collected things he wanted--power tools, a pick-up truck, computers, etc. He rarely spent time interacting with the kids, just patting them on the head in passing.

After having two children in two years and having to face a business that failed, my ex became extraordinarily disinterested in his home life. He lived in his office and came to bed long after I went to sleep. He spoke for hours on end to the people in his Everquest (EQ2) guild, and Everquest had become his daily lifeline. The only stable factor in his life was his job, and he constantly talked about quitting. He had all the hallmark signs of wanting to leave our marriage and find a new life. He just could not admit it to himself or to me.

Instead of being honest, my ex dragged his feet for months. I would ask him the typical "What's wrong?" questions and tell him that we (or he alone) should see a counselor. I tried to engage him at different levels like asking about Everquest. In the end, all I ever got was "I don't want to hurt you." After a 15 year relationship, this was all my ex had to say--like I was some china doll!

To add insult to injury, he started an affair with someone from his Everquest guild before even letting me know he had issues. He spent vast quantities of money (e.g., buying a custom gaming computer) on his girlfriend. He planned a couple weekend trips and made up weak excuses to cover his tracks. I constantly caught him lying and spending money, and he would create new lies. It was almost like he was an addict! Silly and naive me. I thought he would confront me first about our relationship issues and then try to start a new relationship after ending ours.

The advice sites that tell you to be honest and to forgive the transgressions of others mean well, but these rules do not apply when both parties are not on equal ground. The honesty factor to me is the most important advice because it is the basis of trust. Both parties in a relationship have to be honest for trust to exist. Forgiveness in my book is predicated by making amends--atoning for wrongs.

My ex is still not honest to this day about his relationship. Even though we are separated, he still tries to give big gifts to his girlfriend that come close to interfering with child support. (He does not even remember his sons' birthdays.) With no honesty, I have no trust in him. And what forgiveness? With my ex's constant lying and inability take make any amends, forgiveness is a long-term goal.

FYI. I personally think my ex went shopping for a girlfriend because he's the type of guy who could not survive emotionally on his own. He needs someone to constantly feed his ego. As he once told me, "Wife first, then kids." He's Mr. Fabulous, I have no issues, let me introduce you to my girlfriend who thinks I'm fabulous. He needs a woman who is insecure enough to cowtow to his ego in public and at most, berate him in private. We all need to have some self-importance and need a positive self-image, but at what price?

What is infidenlity? A sign of rebellion? Cowardice? What?

Last week I was talking to my ex on the phone and it was on of those days where we end up right back to his girlfriend--a key reason for our break-up. During our conversation, he actually said he was being rebellious by having an affair? Rebellious? Now I can think of a few words such as escapism, cowardice or seeking comfort as ways to describe an affair, but not rebellious.

I am not a professional psychologist, but I believe that my ex may have felt alone and unhappy. I believe my ex sees himself as someone who was looking for happiness and fulfillment rather than accepting the situation he was in. It is difficult to admit mistakes and then face the consequences of those mistakes head on. It is much easier to spin a new story that protects the ego and justifies inappropriate behavior. In this situation, being rebellious means not accepting responsibility for personal commitments of marriage and family.

I wish he would have approached me first about his unhappiness because now our relationship is non-existent. There is no friendship left, and we were good friends for much of our marriage. There is nothing I have to offer him. I will not help him when he needs support. I have no sympathy for him when he's having a bad day. He does not have my ear when he needs advice.

I hope other people who want to leave a marriage think of these types of consequences before running out and having affairs. This behavior is not rebellious. It is simply not facing the truth.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Sometimes I Fear My Ex

While I was married, I started noticing disturbing behaviors in my ex. At first, it was occasional depression. My ex would become moody and sequester himself in front of some new video game. Over time, his displays of happiness disappeared and he rarely talked to me for more than a few minutes. This change took place over the course of three years and was gradual. Sometimes there were weeks of happiness, but for the most part there were months of despair or neutrality.

It may seem odd that I sometimes fear my ex since he has only verbally abused or criticized me over the years, but after the Scott Peterson incident, I see similarities in my ex and hope that he does not go off the deep end.

My ex is at the point where he is seriously involved with a woman who does not even live in the same country. He loves to spend money and part of his spending is for gifts to his girlfriend. Unfortunately for him, he has two young children that will require financial support for many years to come. This requirement interferes with his desired lifestyle. I don't know what he has told his girlfriend about himself, but when money goes missing from the occasional paycheck, it is usually because he has spent money on his girlfriend. (Sadly, I am still waiting for a judge to rule on my child custody agreement and have to suffer from begging for money from my ex in the meantime.)

I believe my ex loves his children, but I do not know trust his commitment to them when his girlfriend is the most important person in his life. Furthermore, I feel that he would be willing to sacrifice his relationship with his children if he could have a life with his girlfriend. I just do not know how far he will go to get what he wants.

Having to potentially make trade-offs in his life is what what scares me. As my ex once said, "I want what I want." I hope that harming me or my children is not part of any plan.

I have no proof that my ex is planning to do something harmful, but I have seen his temper over the years and his use of force (e.g., hitting) as his first means of punishment for my dogs and my children. I have also seen an increasing level of erratic and secretive behavior over the past few months. My hope is that I am an excessive worrier and that my relationship with my ex will relax one day,

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Should I Keep in Touch with the Ex's Family?

Yesterday, my ex brother-in-law and sister-in-law came over to visit their nephews. They brought their six-month old daughter as well. This visit came about after they contacted me about the idea and made sure there were no issues. I appreciated their willingness to take the initiative and keep in contact with me and my children. My ex does not talk to his brothers often and in my opinion, is likely to stray from them as he grows older.

I am still on the slippery path of how to deal with my ex in-laws. They were always nice to me, but I am not a blood relative and not someone they have know for decades. I particularly felt confusion with my ex's mother. Right after my separation, I talked with her and she acknowledged that her son (my ex) was wrong to cheat, but insinuated that sometimes relationships just don't work out. She was also talking about Jesus and forgiveness. Before my ex became an ex, I was not sure how to take her advice. I knew she was struggling with the idea that her son could cheat when married, but I felt she wanted to bury herself in the Bible and not address the human condition--the emotions and implications of her son's behavior. How do you tell your ex's mother that her son needs professional help because he is out-of-control in his life?

I also was unsure about how to discuss details of my relationship with my ex's family. My ex did tell his family about his affair, but he never told them important details that illustrated the full extent of his affair. He did not discuss his Everquest addiction and its role in his affair. He left out details of constant lying and spending money on a girlfriend 3000 miles away. Finally, he failed to mention his years of verbal abuse toward me and the neglect of his own children. For example, he constantly berated me in front of friends and forced me to drive to the hospital by myself for the birth of my second child while I was in labor so that he could play Everquest. Do you even bring up these details to ex in-laws? If so, how do you do this without damaging future relationships?

I know that it will take a few years to move beyond the awkward discomfort of dealing with my ex's family. To make interactions positive at this time, I practice the following guidelines.

1. I let my ex's family know that my ex's actions are his own. It's not his family's fault. They have even told me they do not condone his behavior. I believe them because of their strong value system.

2. I told my ex's mom that I will not call frequently at this time because I do not want to hurt a future relationship with her. She is a grandmother to my children, and I feel that I have to respect this relationship. I do not want to say anything that will hurt the ability of my children to know their grandmother. As the months and years pass, I hope that phone calls and visits become more frequent.

3. I focus on talking about the children in conversations with my ex's family because this is what my ex's family is most concerned about. They want reassurance that the children are being taken care of and are not embroiled in a family dispute. I appreciate their concern because children should not be put in the middle of any disagreement, including separation or divorce.

4. I discuss my side of the separation, but I limit many of the hurtful details. I refuse to be overly diplomatic about my ex's behavior. He had the affair and left his family after all. But sometimes too many details accomplish nothing and are unnecessarily hurtful. For example, a friend of mine recently told me she saw my ex heavily flirting with a woman he invited to a dinner party one time. My friend said she had no desire to ever see my ex again because of this incident. (She described the flirting as a pick-up game not far from the room where my children were sleeping.) This type of detail does not accomplish much in terms of future family relationships.

I am still learning my way to having a good relationship with my ex's family. He will always be in their lives (to my dismay), but I need my children to be in their lives too.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Blind and Happy in a One-sided Marriage? Never Again.

For years I spent time participating in a one-sided relationship—definitely not a balanced relationship. I supported my ex while he was in grad school; I worked all the time—days, nights and weekends. I bought a second car—a hatchback that my ex refused to drive, so I gave him my SUV. I did all the domestic work, even when we entertained large groups of his friends. Looking back, I realized that I did not mind the work. I thought that my ex's focus on his career would pay off for both of us.

Well being the hopeful and foolish person I was, my ex’s career focus helped him and not me. His salary and job potential have substantially grown at my expense. Over time, I felt like I was a second mommy for my ex so that he could grow up and become a successful person. I also felt like a fraud victim in the relationship department. Oh well!

I learned my lesson the hard way that I should not have been the one doing all the work. Even when I was pregnant with my second child, I worked full-time, took care of domestic tasks and spent time trying to diagnose my first child’s health issues. My ex just played Everquest and told me his work schedule was slow. In future relationships, I won’t be with anyone who can’t pull an equal amount of the weight in the relationship. I also refuse to be someone’s mommy. I have two babies of my own thank you.

My ex is the one who lost out though. When he gets lost taking care of himself and has the nerve to call me for advice, I won’t be there to bail him out. For example, if my ex has a late bill because he forgot to pay on time, I do not have to be there to save his credit history. Or better yet, when he's telling me he can't afford groceries because he spent his entire budget on gaming and his girlfriend, I don't use my own resourcefulness to help him eat on a budget. Not my problem anymore.

My ex will struggle for awhile and that's fine by me since he did not appreciate what I did for him during all the years we were married.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

I Don't Tolerate Girlfriends on the Side

In late 2006 when I found out that my ex had a girlfriend while still married to me, I told my ex that I would not compete for him. I gave an ultimatum of the girlfriend goes or I go. At first he tried to convince me the girlfriend was out. Then he told me he needed to check on her and make sure she was okay--telling me he would then only keep out of contact for the short-term. I don't know about other people but what I am suppose to believe about someone who was running two women in his life? Hoe do I believe someone with a moving storyline? I did not sign up for marriage with a player.

The sad reality was that my ex had no idea what to do. I think he felt trapped, and he wanted his cake and wanted to eat it too. He wanted his girlfriend who lived in British Columbia. He also wanted to come home and see his kids every night, have home-cooked meals and not participate in domestic responsibility. To me he was being delusional. Maybe some women put up this nonsense, but I would rather walk away. And that's what I did.

I did try to give my ex chances. I attempted marriage counseling. I also tried to believe his lies (at least until I could find proof that he was lying). For example, while I was working one Saturday till 4 AM trying to prep a house for sale, my ex took his girlfriend on a weekend trip. He even tried calling me and asking if everything was going well. Needless to say, I hung up on him because he took a trip on a weekend where I needed his help. Initially, I had to believe his trip with a college buddy story because I had no proof. Then I started searching through his financial records because I suspected he was up to no good. Eventually I found an airline ticket receipt with the girlfriend's name. My proof caused him to recant his story, but only after he gave me hell for spying on him. In all, I gave him about eight weeks of daily chances to come clean and prove that he was sorry and wanted me alone--no girlfriends please!

I was not surprised when I told my ex he had to go. He asked for this sentence with his ongoing lies and his inability to do the right thing for me--namely, get rid of the girlfriend. Sadly, I even found him his apartment because I knew he would go for the most expensive apartment on his own and not one that he could actually afford. Even today, I still pay a few joint bills because he just spends money frivolously. An example of this is when he buys his girlfriend a present and then tells me he needs money for food. (You would think someone like my ex with an ivy-league education would have more common sense.) Someday when the legal maneuverings are over, I hope to be free of being my ex's mommy. Maybe his girlfriend can deal with being his mommy.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Time To Rediscover Yourself

My first few weeks of separation are a blurry memory. I got up in the mornings and got the kids off to their activities, but after that I was depressed and locked in my own twilight zone. Most of my conversation were centered around what my ex did to me or was doing to me--like going on vacation with his girlfriend even though we were newly separated.

A few months of distance and the support of my family (and a good attorney) helped me to realize I had a chance to start over. All the things that my ex did to me were a signal to move on. Why be stuck in his world when his actions were saying he did not want me there? It was time to make a new life. Below are a few of the ideas I learned about creating a new life.

1. Rediscover Yourself. For me, the first step to creating a new life was rediscovering myself. After several years of marriage, my own concept of self had been put in a box and buried somewhere. I spent time catching up with old friends and doing activities I had forsaken in marriage because my ex was not interested. I also decided to try new things like joining a bookclub. (I know it's not skydiving, but it's a start.) I slowly have developed the life that I want. It's empowering, and i don't have to compromise with someone else.

2. Define new goals. Be sure to stretch a little. In early 2006, I left my job in software development and became a housewife. I was happy in this role and loved spending time with my kids. One year later, I was a single mom struggling to understand why my life had fallen apart. Nothing can prepare you for this event, but taking time to lay out short-term and long-term goals can significantly guide day to day activities and keep from feeling so lost. My short-term goal was to prepare for grad school, so I started studying for an awful standardized test and getting my transcripts together. It will be a year or so before I start school and I can hardly wait. This goal is tied to a loftier goal--being a successful entrepreneur. I may never be what I think of as a successful entrepreneur, but at least I have a challenge in front of me.

3. Get your financial house in order. Leaving a marriage is expensive, and costs add up fast--especially if there are lawyers involved. A new life means not splitting expenses, not contributing to one retirement account, and maybe having to get separate health insurance. The costs can be daunting if living week to week. This is a topic that is covered in depth on blogs, in books and even in some software applications. It is worth taking a substantial amount of time to investigate resources and make a budget and savings plan.

4. Build Time for Yourself into Your Schedule. I heard this advice from everyone I knew. Little did I know that taking this advice would help me the most. Doing small things like going to dinner with a friend helped me to visualize what I wanted in life.

5. Don't Rush too Quickly into Another Relationship. I devoted nearly 15 years of my life to one person. May of these years are happy memories even though my ex says he can't recall the details of our life together. Having a drastic change back to being single left me lonely and wanting companionship. I have heard therapists say that if you have multiple relationships, then you carry your experiences from one relationship to next. I have though about this advice and realized I do not want to relive the relationship with my ex. For this reason, I delayed going into other relationships until I knew what I wanted in my life and understood the behaviors I did not want to repeat in my next relationship.

I estimate it will take two to five years to get where I want to be. I am realistic about the timing so I do not lose my long-term focus. It will be a long journey and a happy one I hope.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Build a New Self. Do Not Let Rejection Rule.

I was reading an article in Psychology Today by Carlin Flora entitled "Dumped, But Not Down" and found myself thinking that my ability to move forward was partially resulted from not fixating on a failed relationship. Instead, I regularly took steps that eventually lead me to believing in a new self-image and future of possibilities.

It's not be easy to take the first few steps back into the world without a significant other, but it is possible to create a new direction. Over time, accepting a new reality may lead to better self-esteem and maybe a better outlook on life.

1. Remember That Your Are a Good Person. An important base of my self-esteem is knowing I am a good person and that I did the right thing or took the right path. In the case my marriage, I know that I tried my best and did nothing to wrong my ex. I even attempted reconciliation before calling it quits. Even when my ex was lying to me, I tried to be honest about where I stood. By doing the right thing, I have a clean conscience and know that I set a good example for my kids. To me, being a good person gave me inner strength. I hope that can hold true for others.

2. Be Honest with Yourself. When I found out that my ex was cheating, I went through receipts, emails, etc. to find evidence because my ex was never truthful with me. After I found proof, I knew exactly where I stood, my marriage stood and my ex stood. I was brutally honest with myself about the details because I knew that the chance of reconciling my marriage was slim. Then, after discovering professions of love to another woman in my ex's writings, I knew my marriage was over. I felt hurt and betrayed for months, but it was easier to move forward. Accepting the true situation made me realize I needed to take care of myself and my kids. I had a new reality of being a single mom, and I could not change this destiny.

3. Stay Optimistic, Especially on Depressing Days. Optimism is not easy, and self-help books at most will help get you started. Optimism is a state of mind that you regularly work on and live in, especially in rough times. I have read books like "The Road to Optimism: Change Your Language-Change Your Life!" by J. Mitchell Perry and "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale. These books talk about different aspects of living a positive life, but I found it worth reading a few books on the subject. To get through tough this tough situation, I needed tools to cope. Positive thinking makes to road to a "recovery" easier--stay focussed on positive things in your life and do not dwell on the failed marriage. (I even read books by Ghandi and Thich Nhat Hanh to obtain different perspectives on humankind.)

4. You Still Have a Future, Just a Different One. Being separated or divorced is scary. It's a complete identity change. By accepting the singledom identity, I am learning to accept myself and my new future as a single woman and mother, just like college days--except for two young kids, a mortgage, etc. Well, it's not exactly the same, but I have gotten use to the idea. Not embraced the idea, just accepted it. I am looking at my future without my ex. He will be in the kids' lives, but not in mine.

5. If You Tried Reconciliation, Then You Gave Him or Her a Chance. Separation or divorce occurs for many reasons. If reconciliation is given an honest chance to succeed, then the outcome should not be a regret. Either the relationship works or it does not. Either way, an honest try should make both parties involved feel like there was a genuine effort to make things work. In my case, my ex went to marriage counseling and attempted to reconcile while keeping his girlfriend on the side. He lied when I asked him to drop the girlfriend, and he lied when he said he would not give her anymore gifts or money. To me, his dishonesty gave me no choice but to separate. I did however make my ex say he wanted a separation because there was no way he was going to come back years later and say I was the one who wanted a separation. I know this sounds hokey, but this happened to my friend's mother. I gave my ex a chance, but I do not think he wanted to reconcile. I gave my ex a chance and feel that separation was the right thing. I have no guilt or regrets.

It's difficult to accept a new identity and future path. Losing a marriage is a blow to self-esteem and can be a difficult hurdle to jump when re-building self-esteem. Fixating on what was lost however will not make the future any easier to accept. Taking small steps to re-build an identity and a different life will pay off over time. If there are kids, they will see this and learn from this example.

NOTE: I saw a therapist after I was separated. I had to watch my spending and could not go frequently, but the therapist helped me understand my situation. Therapists and support groups are amazing resources in times of need.

Coping with a Dying Marriage

Just a short time ago, my children and my ex were the center of my universe. I did not mind living in this limited world because these were the people I loved. When my ex became addicted to Everquest (EQ2) and started an affair with someone from Everquest, I was shocked. I knew my ex was depressed, but I had no idea how far astray he went from our life.

Through a two-and-a-half month period of trying to unsuccessfully reconcile with him, I was in so much pain that I knew I needed to make changes. He lied about dropping his affair and lied to his family and friends about his actions. He did nothing to change. For this reason, I decided to separate.

At first, I lost a few pounds, and my asthmatic symptoms were more frequent. I cried too much and knew I was grieving for lost marriage. I had the kids 95% of the time, so they at least kept me going.

My ex was callous about my feelings and was only concerned with himself. Talking to him about my feelings was not working. There was a wall I could not break. Our conversations were circular.

I ended up talking to my mom, my sister and a few good friends. My initial conversations focussed on what happened and was it possible to save my marriage. After e few weeks, the conversations shifted to how do I take care of myself and my kids without my ex. I switched my focus because I was going nowhere with my ex. It became a matter of self-preservation.

Leaving my marriage and starting over is the hardest thing thing I have ever done. I did not feel there was any other choice given my ex was continuing his affair. I also felt that I wanted my kids to have healthier relationship models in their lives. Having a father who cheats and spends all his free time at a computer is not a good role model in any marriage. I also left for myself. I knew that I was worthy of a better relationship. I am a good person with much to offer, so why should I be with someone who does not appreciate me or who verbally abuses me?

I am scared about the future and of being alone the rest of my life. I only wanted to be in a loving relationship where I am equal to and appreciated by my spouse. I only know that having no relationship is better than an abusive or neglectful relationship. I am worth more than that.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Don't Ask Me Why the Relationship Failed

Today I was looking at other relationship blogs and searching for something to understand why my ex is only interested in discussing why our relationship failed. I have not found anything yet, but I think his desire to talk about why is his excuse to place blame on me rather than accept his own failure. To understand this, I have to give some background and then explain what I mean.

I won't go into the convoluted and painful story right now about how I discovered my ex cheating on me with a woman who lives in British Columbia (3000 miles away) or how he got lost in Everquest (EQ2) or how he neglected his two young sons. I only know that for two years as we struggled through my ex failing at a business venture and having an autistic son, my ex isolated himself in EQ2 and left me to deal with all the baggage. I worked full time, managed two babies--one who needed significant special care, salvaged my ex's failed business venture, and performed all the daily tasks of living. As intelligent as my ex was, he could not pull himself together and deal with the daily drama of our lives.

After discovering my ex's infidelity and selling his failed business venture, I went through a brief time of wanting to reconcile the relationship. I asked my ex to forget the affair and never contact his girlfriend again. I also tried relationship counseling, but counseling does not work when one party is a chronic liar. My ex continued his affair behind my back and constantly lied to me about everything. I would hear things like "I only slept with her once." or "She will pay me back for the gift I gave her." After digging for evidence for a few weeks and finding more details than I could deal with, I got tired of my ex's stories. He had to go.

Several months later, I occasionally end up asking my ex why he could not accept his role in abandoning his family. It's at this point I hear things like "I did a bad thing., but I can't dwell on the past." Then, I am told I worked too much, paid too much attention to the kids and put too much effort into trying to close down a money pit of a failed business venture. Therefore, it was my fault that the marriage failed.

I should not open the failed relationship can of worms because the response is always the same, but I can't believe my ex's denial. I don't understand how I could be blamed for putting babies first, especially an autistic child. I don't understand how my ex could play Everquest 40 hours a week after working a full-time job and tell me that I should have found time to spend with him. He wore headphones at home and rarely talked to me. I don't understand how my ex expected to close his business venture that cost thousands of dollars a month if certain work was not done or bills were not paid. I ended up doing all the work. Why would my ex blame me for losing focus on the marriage when he left me alone with everything else? I fell like I was set up for failure.

In a failed relationship, each party involved shares some responsibility. In my case, I just did not have the energy to give attention to a relationship when I had so many other competing issues. I also was not about to play Everquest after seeing my ex's addiction. I know my part and painfully acknowledge it. I wish my ex would stop asking why because to me, it just does not matter anymore. I would rather have an acknowledgment of fault and move forward.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I Wish My Ex Would Accept My Son's Play Needs

On many occasions I will attempt to talk about my oldest son's autism with my ex. I usually bring up the subject when my ex is not interacting appropriately with my son. One example was my husband's attempt to fly my son around as Superman and lightly bang my son's head into a wall. My son liked his head hitting the wall so much that he walked around after the flying and banged his own head into the walls around my home. It may not seem like a big deal, but he was banging his head repeatedly and doing so pretty hard because he liked the sensation. He was stimulating himself with his head-banging.

I told my ex to change his Superman game with my son so that this game would not encourage head-banging. Well, my ex stopped the game all-together instead of listening to my suggestion about a change because I was "telling him what to do." Unfortunately, I often end up the bad guy with my ex because he sees me as policing his fun. He thinks that my son should be allowed to play like a typical child and not be so constrained or structured in how he plays. This attitude constantly causes me grief.

My autistic son does not understand gray areas like other children. If a game involves something potentially unsafe or a pretend skill such as gently tapping his head or hand on something, he goes right into an unsafe mode of operation. For him, the danger is funny; he actually laughs and will repeat an unsafe activity until redirected. It's difficult to explain to others including my ex that he needs structured and directed play because he looks like (and to some extent talks) like a typical child.

I have not yet found a way to convince my ex that there are many ways to facilitate safe and fun play with my autistic son. The best solution so far has been to go to a park or a restaurant--a place where there is distraction for my ex. I am hoping that as my son gets older, the need for a high degree of facilitated play will decrease. This is probably the only way that my ex will be more accepting of my son.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I Am Not Lying About the Autism

My ex phoned me from Boston today to talk to the kids. He started the conversation with a basic "How are you?" and then asked about the kids. It was a neutral conversation and moved along quickly as we talked about the day's activities--pre-school and art classes. But for some reason, when I said I needed to go because my autistic son was just having a melt-down, my ex said he didn't understand. My ex's denial was back, and he hung up on me rather than listening to what I had to say.

My oldest son is on the autistic spectrum (PDD-NOS), and one challenge he faces is self-regulation. This means that he occasionally does not deal well with change and may cry as a result of the stress he experiences. This evening, my ex was contending that it was unusual for these melt-downs to occur. How would he know? I spend most of my day at home whereas he sees his kids less than 8 hours a week. I know my kids well and would not exaggerate about their health, their needs, or potential issues.

My ex has never accepted my oldest son's autism. As a result, he has always had problems understanding the commitment and lifestyle necessary to raising an autistic child. He spends his limited time with my autistic son doing a limited range of activities. I can't change his attitudes and interactions, but I try not to exaggerate about my son's needs, his progress, or his issues. In fact, my wish is for my ex to make the same commitments I have made.

I often spend too much time thinking about how to convince my ex that my autistic son has special needs and that we need to deal with issues now rather than deny that a problem exists. I occasionally read articles on communication strategy. Sometimes I focus about message delivery (e.g., phone or email). For example, I will send a text message after a bad phone conversation to say we need to continue working together. The amount of effort required to communicate is sometimes just plain tiring. I feel like I am training to be a PR person or a counselor.

Although my ex and I differ about my autistic son's needs, I have tried and will continue to try being consistent about my perspective. Every time I talk to my ex, I don't fabricate issues; I speak about the events I observe. I attempt to share what I have learned from counselors and teachers who have shared their wisdom with me. My ex says he wants to treat my autistic son like a typical child and not be so constrained by rules and structure, but maybe one day he will understand. I have only the future success of my children at heart. When I communicate what I see and understand, I do so as an advocate and not as a control freak mom bent on making my sons into "momma's boys."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

5 Ways to be Civil

My ex and his ability to spend on his new girlfriend often leave me with no desire to be civil. I could care less that his girlfriend gets a new necklace or studs. I am more interested in sending my kids to a good pre-school or finding the right toy for my autistic son. Differences aside, I need to have some ground for civility because my ex does call or stop by to talk to the kids.

Over the past few months, I have found five ways to maintain civility. I won't be on the friendship boat with my ex anytime soon, but the seas are less turbulent when I keep a modicum of civility about.

1. Give advice on small things when sincerely asked. My ex does not seem to have any eye for detail. The other day, he asked about the nearest ice cream stores in our town. I told him about Baskin Robbins because he likes their shakes, and he could not believe he lived within walking distance of a Baskin Robbins. The store has been in the same location forever, but he just does not pay attention to his surroundings. By answering such a simple question about ice cream stores, I proved I could carry on some for of conversation without being cynical.

2. Do small favors from time to time. The other day my ex called and wanted help locating a business document in his files. I helped him search for a few minutes. He actually said thank you. This is a rare occurrence and meant that my help was acknowledged. I won't do any big favors since he's the one who decided to leave the marriage and in my book has lost the right to use me as a support in his life. I do however believe that small favors can go a long way to being building a base to communicate.

3. Plan the timing and place of where to discuss difficult topics. Since I am still in the process of formal separation, I occasionally need to discuss things like property separation issues. Because this is a painful subject and usually leads to an argument, I plan how and where to have a discussion. This usually helps to at least get my foot in the door on a difficult conversation before the door is slammed on my foot.

4. Don't always focus on who to blame when something goes wrong. About two weeks ago, my ex was playing rough with my kids, and my youngest smashed up his gums and chipped a front tooth. Instead of admonishing my ex for his lack of oversight, I focussed on asking questions about what happened. I was able to get enough detail about the accident to learn that my ex was careless, but more importantly I learned that the accident was minor. A dentist said my youngest son was okay, and I did not get the silent treatment or overprotective mommy label from my ex.

5. Some days, it's best not to say anything. A little more than two months ago, my ex unexpectedly took money that I was planning to use for paying bills. I suspect he gave the money to his girlfriend because he just can't seem to stop spending money on her. Anyway, I had to cut off all communications for a couple days and think about how to talk to him. I can't help him if he eventually spends himself into no money on his girlfriend, but I need to make sure his child support payments are there for the kids' needs. (It takes time to set up payroll garnishment and I need to do keep child support payments coming in the meantime.) A couple days of avoidance gave me time to cool down before opening Pandora's money box again.

Separation or divorce are just messy. It's often a "he said, she said" game with no winner at the end of the day. For me, a little civility just opens the door to the possibility of having a conversation.

A Small Exercise in Civility Goes a Long Way

In my first posting to this blog, I said that "You don't have to like an ex, you just have to be civil." I occasionally forget to practice this advice when I bring up the past--another thing to avoid, but today I followed my advice. My ex called from New York and asked if I could search through his business files for an important document. Instead of telling him I wasn't his secretary or mother, I went ahead and searched through his files.

I really wanted to tell him that our separation means that I am not there for him and that he relinquished his rights to ask for help, but I bit my tongue. I spent a few minutes assisting him because I knew he had no else to help him . It is in these small instances that I can maintain some level of civility and prove that I am capable of being a bigger person than my ex for all his pettiness.

In following this advice, I put money in my relationship bank account and now have a little credit for some future date where I may not be as civil. For example, when I need my ex to pay his share of a future medical expense for one of the kids and he says no way, I have some leverage to convince him to listen to me. A little civility reduces the risk of my ex hanging up the phone. Being civil in little ways builds a bridge to the times when talking is not so easy.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Having Trouble Dropping the Past

I am now seven months along in a separation from my ex and unlike being pregnant with a definitive due date, I just can't see the end of arguments about the past. Just today, I found out that my ex posted a picture of his girlfriend on Facebook. (She's a major reason for the separation.) In my humble opinion, this was just plain tacky. But aside from my opinion, my problem is that every time I discover some new thing about him, I end up more hurt. This in turn makes talking about any subject almost impossible. There is no safe topic--not even the weather.

Many negotiation and communication books offer loads of advice on the topic of improving communication between separated and divorced couples. One example of this advice is there is no right or wrong answer to the past. Each person has his or her own why's and how's about how a relationship failed. Many times, a person's opinion just can't be changed. In my case, I would interpret my ex's failure at marriage as his inability to tough out a special needs child and his overwhelming need to be self-important. My ex would say I let the relationship fail because I did not put him above my child. The advice of experts is helpful for self-introspection, but it often takes weeks, months, or years to sink in. As I said in the beginning, I just don't see the end even after seven months.

So in the meantime, I am trying my best to cope. I try to stay neutral when I talk to my ex on the phone. I don't talk negatively about my ex in front of the kids. I attempt to realize that I can't change my ex, even though I have known him for 15 years and he is now a mystery to me. This helps to some degree, but I still get stick in the rut of communicating my feelings and my side of the story, especially when I see hurtful things like the picture of my ex's girlfriend posted on his Facebook page.

Today, in response to my discovery of the girlfriend Facebook posting, I sent my ex an email through Facebook's "Send Message" feature. I sent a message that included the following excerpt,

    "I can not change the outcome of his actions--carpe diem is his mantra. I do however have the power to look after two beautiful children who love unconditionally and bring me joy everyday. I can foster the growth of two young boys into becoming two good men who will put others' needs in the same league as their own needs. I can hope that when my sons become fathers that they understand the word commitment and sacrifice even in the most difficult times.

    Rock on carpe diem. Go on and count the increasing number of virtual friends on Facebook to feel self-important. Talk about "complicated" relationships with people who may only care about you for your money. Take the easy path through life instead of toughing it out and seeing the big picture beyond next month, next year. At the end of the day, kids and family are life's real support and source of strength--the ones who support you, stick with with you and remember you. They are not just a virtual experience."

I did not share the entire email, but my ex got my high-horse attitude, and he even called late at night to tell me he hid the girlfriend's picture so it's no longer public. He was annoyed at my email and bringing up his affair for the umpteenth time.

I hope someday that he grows up enough so that I can find some ground for talking to him again without arguments or hurt feelings. I hope that I can listen to experts and practice their advice. It's just not so easy to start.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Five Tips To A Successful Family Outing with the Ex

My ex came over today for our regular Sunday outing with the kids. I planned a simple afternoon at the park and followed by a short drive. Overall, the kids had fun, and I was able to tolerate the day without my ex saying he wanted to leave before the outing even started. I sometimes wonder why I plan events when my ex is stressful to be around, but then I think of the kids. The kids need some sort of regular family experience.

These outings are often stressful for many reasons. The legal paperwork for my separation is not yet finalized. Worse yet, my ex occasionally talks about his girlfriend. (This girlfriend was originally his mistress.) Today, for example, my ex said I should do what his girlfriend does with her kid--teach my kids to swim without formal lessons. This advice is not necessarily wrong. I just do not want to hear about the girlfriend. To deal with the stress, I have attempted to organize family outings using the following guidelines:

1. Leave home. To me, home places an added level of stress on being with my ex. The stress can stem from past memories or from the kids getting distracted with their toys and avoiding their dad. Leaving home offers the chance to find neutral ground.

2. Keep outings structured. It's easier for me to make it through an outing if I have a plan. A plan can be as simple as a walk to the park and then a trip to Starbucks. A plan also has the added benefit of keeping my ex informed of the day's events. If he does not like something, I find it's easy to make a change. From the moment I meet my ex to end of the outing, I keep surprises to a minimum.

3. Go somewhere that's for the kids. I try to look for outings where the kids will be engaged. If the kids are running around or exploring different environments, my ex and I don't spend as much time in awkward silence. The type of silence, for example, that leads my ex to talking about how he needs to get his body fat down from 22% to 20%. The best activities for an outing keep my ex and I moving throughout the entire outing.

4. Put a time limit on the outing. My outings are generally two to four hours in length. By constraining the time, I know there is an end. It makes it easier for me to relax and feel less trapped. Sometimes the outings are shorter or longer, but the time limit does wonders for my own morale. I am only four months out of my separation, so I strive to balance family time against the desire to keep my distance.

5. Keep discussions limited to neutral subjects. I don't have much in common with my ex anymore. He plays online gaming 30 to 40 hours a week after he works while I am on full-time kid duty with two babies. Despite these differences, we are able to talk about family, common friends, health, etc. These neutral topics help the family outing last for a reasonable length of time. Once a sensitive topic is broached (e.g., why my ex was dating and not letting me know he had marital issues) however, the outing is often cut short. I try to keep sensitive topics outside of family time.

For me, the Sunday outings are necessary. I want the kids to know they have mommy and daddy in their lives. I also don't want the kids growing up with the idea that they caused the family break-up.

This is the most painful commitment I have to honor every week, so I organize outings to stay positive and manage my stress at the same time. Oddly enough, my ex now spends more time with the kids than when we were together.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Top 5: Moving Beyond a Lost Relationship

Instead of going to bed one night, my now ex-husband started talking about wanting to be happy. He talked for a while and finally said he said he just wanted to be friends. He treated 15 years of marriage like a six month casual relationship. He just did not know how to cope with two babies under the age of three--one who is on the autistic spectrum, a mortgage, and the daily grind of life.

After days of prodding, I found out that my ex was involved in an online romance. He found a girlfriend through his online gaming--one who spent alot of money and was addicted to online gaming. I was shocked at first and then realized my marriage was an emptry relationship. I grieved for many weeks over the loss of my marriage and feared being a lonely single mom with a special needs child. As painful as it was, I knew that the best decision was to start a new life. Listed below are my top five survival tips to moving beyond a failed relationship, especially if you have kids.

My Top 5 Survival Tips for Moving Forward:

1. Don't forget the kids; they come first. My children noticed when daddy moved out. They would ask about daddy coming home from work. What could I say about daddy? I had to hide many of my reactions and develop an approach to deal with my kids. As the responsible parent (at least in my eyes), I did not want the kids to to be negatively impacted by the stress. I did my best to talk about the changes taking place. I also maintained a highly structured home environment. My ex even agreed to letting the kids live with me full time so they would not be confused by two homes. This may be extreme, but my kids did not ask to live in this situation.

2. You don't have to like an ex, but it helps to be civil. In my opinion, my husband was callous in his actions and immature for not approaching me sooner about marital issues. I do not consider my ex a friend and probably won't for years to come. However, this does not change the the fact that my kids will be in contact with their daddy throughout their lives. For me, the only means of dealing with this unpleasantness is to be civil. I remain neutral in my reactions and try not to get on my soap box. My ex leaves the door wide open to being lectured. I just ignore the door's presence.

3. Keep yourself together, don't get lost on the way out. At one time, I was wrapped up in my marriage and kids. This was my identity and a source of strength through the many hardships I experienced. My oldest child had health issues from birth, my ex was addicted to online gaming and for a while, I was bringing home the only paycheck. After my marriage went south, I got lost in grief. I did not want to face the end of my relationship. It took several weeks, but I started planning time out with friends and special activities for the kids. I eventually got counseling as well. I worked to move forward so that I did not feel so helpless about my predicament. It would have been so easy to pine after my ex and the life I thought I had. If I did not move forward with myself, I would remain lost in the past.

4. Don't spend all your money on the lawyers, keep some for yourself. Getting married is easy, and getting divorced costs time and money. The money predominantly goes to lawyers--from 25 cents for one photocopy to hundreds of dollars an hour for a lawyer's time. My lawyer was important in guiding me through the process, but I wanted to spend as little as possible. I did not need years of debt on top of a failed marriage. I had to work with my ex and forget about any notion of punishing him. In the end, I saved a little money now and a lot of future financial hardship.

5. Reach out and talk. When I first learned of my ex's transgressions, I decided to talk with close family and friends. I could not believe I was talking about my ex and his girlfirend or about his video game addiction, but this act removed my isolation. I found support and great advice. One friend even flew across the country to spend a weekend with me. She helped me to realize that my marriage was over. Talking to others broke my cycle of grief and pushed me into a healing process.

The grief about my breakup was equivalent to someone dying. I still can't believe that my marriage was over in a matter of weeks. Facing the situation and moving forward was the best solution for me. I can't change my ex's behaviors. I can only control my reaction and what i will accept in my life.