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 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.