Who says chivalry is dead? Oh, wait. I do.
‘Security!’ the man shouted, tackling me and pinning me against the plushest carpet my face has ever had the pleasure of coming into contact with. Can’t be sure, but I think I may have overplayed my hand tonight.
How did I get here? Let’s rewind to a bit earlier to see where I may have gone wrong.
7:34 p.m., West Hollywood. I’m standing at the gate separating me from access to Soho House, West Hollywood’s most elite members only private club and restaurant. This is the church of Hollywood royalty, if you will. Famous writers, producers, directors and actors can be found here at all hours lounging on couches and drinking steaming things out of copper mugs. In the tree-lined courtyard filled with thousands of tiny twinkling lights, Grammy award winning musicians are sharing plates of delicious things I can’t pronounce with Shia LeBeouf. You know. No big deal.
I learned earlier in the day that I’d been nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award. So clearly, these are my people.
I signal for a staff member to come over. He wears a permanent look of revulsion, like I’m going to try to sell him a box of Do-si-dos, or detail the perks of membership in my weird cult. Sure, we worship spatulas, sir…but it goes so much deeper than that.
‘You’re not on the list, as I’ve told you three times already’ he says curtly, no longer trying to hide his irritation. Sensing that any more attempts at the front door are going to be met with lead-pipe brutality, I head for the parking structure. Time for Plan B.
This place is sealed up tight as a drum. So I had no choice but to scale the wall of the parking structure, rappel down 2 floors, gain enough momentum by repeatedly swinging across the 10 foot open expanse of nothingness to my intended target, and shimmy up the fire escape.
It’s what anyone would have done in my shoes.
As I entered through an unlocked window, my face quickly became acquainted with the carpet. Now you’re up to speed.
My mother was kind enough to bail me out, but abruptly left me standing on the side of the road when I would not concede that what I did was ‘childish and insane’. Pffft. Mothers.
So if anyone happens to be in the area and can give me a ride, I’ll be the one on foot walking down West Sunset near the 101 with a foam replica of a Writer’s Guild Award I stole out of a nearby backlot.
To add insult to injury, a limo pulled up next to me and stopped. Jeff Goldblum leans his head out of the darkened window and says ‘I, uh, saw that whole thing go down back there at Soho, and yah. Listen, kid, it’s a blogging award nomination, not a Pulitzer, ok? Get your head out of your ass.’ And he sped away into the night.
So while I am humbled and flattered by your nomination, SpaghettiSam (arewestillhavingspaghetti.wordpress.com), perhaps next time it should come with a little better idea of the implied entitlements therein. This is not the glamorous end that was implicit in your nomination.
I may or may not have a felony record now. Just saying a heads up might have been nice.
The rules of this nomination in their entirety are found below. But basically, I am now supposed to tell you 7 random facts about myself and then nominate others whose blogs have rocked my world. I will happily do that and provide my own list of things to beware of. Consider me a walking cautionary tale from which to learn what not to do. Forever.
7 Random Facts About Myself:
Bloggers I Nominate:
Rules for the One Lovely Blog Award:
My Personal Rules/Reminders:
Do not break the law in an attempt to validate your perceived stardom. Or for any other reason. Ever.
I really do appreciate SpaghettiSam’s nomination. Thanks, girl! You clearly had no idea what you were in for when you did.
This post was all in jest. None of it really happened. It is fiction. I say this for that one reader who this fact will be lost on and who will post a flamingly hateful comment. Consider this a preemptive stupidity strike!
Jude Law is breathtaking up close. Had I not been tackled when I was, I could have snagged some clams casino from his plate as a keepsake of my magical night. We would have had shared memories, me and Jude. Remember that time we shared clams casino at Soho? This whole thought train screams ‘restraining order’.
Jeff Goldblum is hot. That is all.
Are there any among you familiar with a boggart?
A boggart is a shapeshifter that takes the shape of that which is most feared by the person who encounters it. When not in the sight of the person, it lurks in shadow as an amorphous blob. When it appears, however, it is nothing short of your worst nightmare made manifest.
A boggart can be defeated, but there is a catch. Isn’t there always?
To defeat a boggart, one must simply have the courage to stand and squarely face the object of their torment by using the most counter-intuitive approach imaginable.
You’ve got to laugh at it.
You need to flip the script on that malevolent bastard and steal its power. It can’t have power over you if it’s a monkey wearing banana high heels, now can it?
This isn’t about trying to feel superior, nor is this about sparing the boggart’s feelings. And this definitely is not about sitting down, shutting up, and being nice. No. This is about conquering your own personal terrorist. It’s simple, really. You get the monster before it can climb up the edge of your bed and get you. This is about emotional survival.
It doesn’t matter what your boggart takes the shape of. An ex-husband with a kind smile on the surface but lead-pipe cruelty underneath. An ex-wife with a propensity to stray and then blame you for it while trying to take you for the house and the kids and your 401K. Mind-game players. Sociopaths. Fake people. Narcissists. Any bully, any foe, any false friend that lurks in the shadows of your mind and won’t give you a moment’s mental rest can be a boggart.
So, flip the script. Picture them peeing their pants onstage, or farting loudly in a crowded elevator. Laugh at the ridiculousness, if only for a moment. Take your power back. It doesn’t have to be to their face, and probably shouldn’t be. For example, you could write an anonymous mockumentary-style blog that somehow finds the comedy in other’s horrendous behavior and atrocious FaceBook posts. Ahem.
So try it today. Identify your boggart. Then find the most irreverent part of yourself, metaphorically look that boggart squarely in the eye, and proclaim through your cackling laughter ‘Riddikulus! You’re nothing but Snape in a hideous dress. Be gone with you.’
Author Credit: JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Boggart-Banishing_Spell
Greetings, Dear Readers! Why Is Everything Capitalized Right Here? No Idea.
I want to tell you a little story on this fine Wednesday morning that, were it to reach only one reader, would be worth taking the time to tell.
In 6 weeks’ time, I will have my bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration. My area of focus is Cybercrimes. I am 42 years old.
It has taken 3 ½ years of late nights at the couch with my laptop as the babies slept. Cram sessions while making waffles and wiping sticky faces. Volunteering at my children’s school after 4 hours of sleep. Going to work, running errands, and driving kids to practice on mental and physical fumes after a night of writing papers, doing endless research for said papers, and eating tostadas at extremely undignified hours.
I will be the first to admit that in the early days after Honey pulled his disappearing act, I was angry. No, that’s not accurate. Angry doesn’t even begin to cover it. I was balls-to-the-wall infuriated. The feeling of anger within the human body is a strange and potentially dangerous thing. It compels you to action, but…what action?
There are choices we can make in anger that either compel us towards a better life, or towards prison. Burning things on someone’s lawn is still against the law, so far as I know. Honey is lucky he fled the scene so quickly. My initial ‘wait, come back!’ posture only took a couple of days to morph into rage. His headlights and windshield were saved a violent end, to be sure. I was out of my mind back then, and not myself. Rage DOES things to an otherwise sane and prudent person. It lies to you, tells you you’re justified in bending his antennae until it snaps the hell OFF. In reality, when the anger fog clears, what are we left with? Regret.
I knew early on that no matter how much I wanted to buy a plane ticket, knock on Honey’s door, and kick him square in his cash and prizes, that this would accomplish nothing in the realm of propelling the babies and I towards a better life. It’s chaff in the wind at best and fodder for arrest at worst. Give me something I can DO with this anger.
In my case, I let it propel me towards taking on the task of getting my education. I was inspired by a dear friend I met in the divorce support group that I now help to teach. She and I had oddly similar situations, and I watched in awe as she enrolled in school while parenting 3 boys alone and working full time. She was nothing short of a badass. Her example helped to dissolve all of my excuses away, and I enrolled.
It has been hard. There have been times I wanted to quit. I cried more than once while alone at 2am eating said tostadas.
But what, then, would all of this excellent rage fuel have been used for?
In addition to being inspired by my friend, I also found an excellent motto early on that solidified my resolve on those nights when I wanted to chuck my laptop out onto the lawn and finally just get some damn sleep.
When the anger fog clears, what is it that you want to be left standing with? Find a way to tap into the sweet nectar that is rage fuel. Identify the direction of your goal. Harness that sucker like a wild bronco and ride that beast into the sunset toward your awesome new life that has nothing to do with the disordered human being in your rear-view mirror.
I told Honey no to any revisions to child support when he ‘reached out’ to me last year. You can read about it here. I included HomeWrecker in the email discussion because I wanted it clear to her (without his image management spin) that I had legitimate reasons not to extend any consideration when he’d left his kids high and dry with no support for a year and a half with no explanation.
I had to use the courts to go after him, a process which he made exponentially more lengthy and painful because Honey never showed up to court (by speakerphone) with what they told him to. I included that fact in my email. With regard to coming to court without what was required three times and how that negatively affected me, he responded ‘I can see how it might look that way to you, but that’s not what happened.’ Then later, when HomeWrecker had her tantrum on FB (the one in which she called me a money-grubbing whore), she wrote ‘Her true colors have been shown. All she cares about is money. She’s using her kids like a weapon. It’s ok though. The kids will understand what happened…in time.’
Yes, they will eventually understand. But sadly, it will be the actual version of reality where their thoughtless father opted to move a continent away from them without a thought for how this might make THEM feel. The day this occurs to them, without any help from me, is a day I’m not looking forward to.
And how, may I ask, did you get to the point in your thinking where this is actually reality to you? How did you stuff down the role you and Honey played in getting behind the monetary and visitation 8-ball to this degree? And how did we go from personal responsibility for all of that to blame-shifting 100% of the responsibility 8 states away to my lap? And lastly, to presume all of that is not only true, but that it must be true due to only one reason: my character is garbage despite no demonstration of that theory.
Well, the answer to that is logical fallacies. I’ve learned about how to avoid them as I’ve had to write papers in my college courses these last 3 years. This means I’m getting much better at spotting them. I still make my share of mistakes, but every paper that comes back corrected by one of my professors helps sharpen my skill at spotting these slimy toadstools in what is otherwise a concise paper about criminal behavior, or the criminal justice system in general.
So let’s talk about what a logical fallacy is, what some of the most common logical fallacies are, and see if we can apply them to my situation and cheating in general. For those of you facing something similar with the illogical crazy-making this brings, perhaps it will better equip you when you face this in your own life.
A logical fallacy is a flaw in reasoning that renders an argument invalid. They are often used by politicians, criminals…and cheaters. If you can spot them as they’re happening, it can do two things for you. First, it can stop you from being fooled or from second-guessing yourself. Second, it can help you use the reverse of the flawed argument to present your position using sound logic instead.
Let’s just start with a couple of the most common fallacies human beings use in their arguments. More will follow on future posts…
Ad Hominem: This occurs when an author attacks his opponent’s character instead of his opponent’s argument.
Example: You expect the amount of money you were granted by the courts in divorce with no pretense other than to support the family you were left with. You say no to a reduction. Since you will not grant your ex the reduction they have asked you for, you must not want him to be able to afford to see his children and therefore don’t care about the emotional harm that comes to them because they don’t get visited by their father. Ergo, because you won’t accept less money for the care of the children, you must not care about the children.
I therefore am a child/weapon yielding tyrant. And he is entitled, y’all. Because he asked.
Bandwagon: An appeal to the popularity of a behavior (or the fact that numerous people do something you endorse) in an attempt to validate the behavior.
Example: Just read the news or magazines these days. All the authors are saying 1/3 of people cheat, so monogamy isn’t immoral…it just must be a flawed institution!
It couldn’t possibly be because we have a morality problem with one third of our population…
Appeal to Authority: The person making the argument claims their argument must be right because someone famous or important supports it or has done it.
Example: Cheating is normal. Just look at Hugh Grant! If he can cheat on someone like Elizabeth Hurley, it must be because cheating is normal.
Failing to identify that Hugh Grant’s crappy character was the problem is like saying ‘Hey, ladies. See her? See how she is practically perfect by every measurement standard available in the known universe? Yah, even she’s not good enough for these enigmatic men who can’t be satisfied even by the embodiment of our culture’s notion of sexuality. Have fun with those saddlebags.’ #youwillneverbegoodenoughsojustsettleforthecreeps
Negativity Bias – the tendency to pay more attention and give more weight to negative than positive experiences or other kinds of information.
Example: Honey: paying a lot of money in child support makes my life hard. Wife wants to make my life hard. My life is hard because of wife. Wife must be bad, that is the key thing here. Note: on a less ego-maniacal note, paying child support makes your children’s lives BETTER. Oh yah. That.
Composition/Division: The person making the argument depicts one part of something having to be applied to all or other parts of it.
Example: When yet another famous person cheats on their spouse, those in favor of the ‘cheating is biology’ argument selectively ignore the subsequent tear-filled public apologies or acknowledge the harm done to the spouses and children. They carefully pick the part of the behavior that they want to endorse (cheating is normal/biology) and ignore the part that they don’t want to acknowledge (the intense pain, the financial damage, the public humiliation, harm done to the spouses and children, etc.) Sorry, you walking collateral damage victims…didn’t you get the memo? Cheating is biology. Sucks to be you. Shouldn’t have expected otherwise.
In other words, it’s like trying to fit an edge piece into the middle of a puzzle…because it’s a puzzle, BY GOD, and this is a piece of the puzzle so I’m going to jam in in there and make it FIT whether it jives with everything around it or not. Anyone got a hammer?
False Equivalence: This is my favorite logical fallacy. Once you spot these, you will notice them everywhere. In this fallacy, two opposing arguments are made to appear logically equivalent when in fact they are not.
Example: a cheater’s locked phone makes you examine their phone bill. The phone bill reveals that he texted his mistress 120 times a day for 5 months. After you confront him, he seems to suddenly know all about private conversations you’ve had and where you’ve gone each day. You believe he might be tracking your phone, so you put a lock on it. In therapy, when confronted with his lies and adultery, the cheater says that neither of us are perfect because ‘you have a lock on your phone, too!’ Not. The. Same.
Tune in next time for ‘Cognitive Biases and You!’ There will be cake and punch. But not for me, because life is horrible and I have no friends. (negativity bias at work). See that? See how I did that? Anyway…
See you next week.
Warning: This post may have been unintentionally fraught with the following fallacies:
Confirmation Bias – the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.
Projection Bias – the tendency to unconsciously assume that others share one’s current emotional states, thoughts and values.
Empathy Gap – the tendency to underestimate the influence or strength of feelings, in either oneself or others.
What is the difference – ethically speaking – between a common criminal and a man (or woman) who cheats on their spouse? I’d argue very little.
Human values are formed by internalizing social norms, which is how we each come to decide what makes us a good – or intrinsically valuable – person. These norms are shared among the people within a society and become the basis for laws and ideals about appropriate human behavior. For example, I think most people who favor fair play and integrity would agree that defrauding widows of their life savings is wrong and never okay. If only there were such a hard and fast rule about marital betrayal and robbing a family of one of its most vital members.
Alas, adultery is casually glossed over as being little more than a nebulous or murky part of the nuances of adult love relationships. It’s not. It should be called out for what it is: a violation of a person’s sacred honor, and an egregious breach of the most personal of human covenants. The harm that it causes is so monumental and far reaching that no single part of the victim’s life remains untouched by it.
In my studies, I’ve learned about a little-known crime theory called ‘Neutralization Theory’ (NT). It aims to identify and define what kind of justifications criminals use to rationalize their bad behavior.
As soon as I read about it, I realized that it also fit the behaviors of cheaters like a glove. So what is the commonality between criminals and adulterers? Rationalization of unethical behavior.
Rationalization of bad behavior is necessary, because without it, offenders can suffer from what’s known as Cognitive Dissonance (CD). CD describes the mental discomfort that takes place when one’s actions don’t meet up with their words or beliefs (unless you’re dealing with an a-typical mind, such as someone with anti-social personality disorder…they could care less).
But, the typical human psyche craves consistency. The mind has a hard time maintaining a belief about being a’good person’ while their actions reflect that of ‘arsonist’. So, criminals ease the discomfort that CD brings using excuses in order to neutralize that dissonance.
This is where Neutralization Theory comes in. It lists the most common rationalizations that criminals use in order to excuse or minimize what they’ve done, and goes on to describe what can happen if these justifications are used in the long-term.
So here they are, in all of their splendor. Follow along as we seamlessly segue between ‘criminal’ and ‘cheater’…
Changing the narrative starts with changing one’s vocabulary. Fill that lexicon to the brim with flowery euphemisms, because you’re gonna need ‘em!
Criminal: Yes, it’s true that I broke that guy’s arm because he owed money to my boss. That doesn’t make me a felon! I’m just a mischievous scamp.
Cheater: I won’t argue that I banged my son’s teacher on school grounds. That doesn’t make me a bad guy! I’m just a free spirit following my bliss.
The offenders maintain that those who condemn their offense are doing so purely out of spite, or are shifting the blame off of themselves unfairly. After all, who do you think you are to play judge and jury? You’re nothing but a hypocrite. Everyone’s got skeletons in their closet. Judging me is soooo dark ages…
Criminal: Yah, so I collected on the debts for my boss. But everybody’s on the take, even the cops and the judges. You’ve probably done the same thing, or worse!
Cheater: Yah, so I lied to my wife and told her I was working when I was actually in a hotel room with a high-priced hooker on our marital dime. Everyone does it, and you have no right to judge me. You’re no saint. For all I know, you’ve done the exact same thing, or worse!
That terribly bad thing that I did was balanced out by that really good thing that I did. Everyone’s got some plus’s and minus’s in the columns of their ledger, I mean am I right?
Criminal: Yes, I shivved my cell mate, but I gave Crazy Larry all the beans off my lunch tray. It balances out.
Cheater: Sure, I cheated and gave an STD to my wife, but I sponsored that girl scout troop last year so they could all go to camp. It balances out.
The offender will propose that they were victims of circumstance or were forced into situations beyond their control. When arrested emotional development takes place at the age of 13, they’re 13 forever…
Criminal: Downloading a few terabytes of pirated music is a victim-less crime, so why should I have to be carted off to jail over it? It’s not as though anyone got hurt.
Cheater: Get with the times, y’all. Everyone has affairs, and if they say they don’t, they’re lying. Why are you trying to shame me? H Dubs and I didn’t plan on falling in love. I’m not responsible for how that made you feel.
*Abdication of responsibility is especially unattractive in the male species, and justifications of this kind may cause the injured female party vomit violently in response. Just sayin’.
The offender believes that the victim deserved whatever action the offender committed. In other vernacular, she pulled my hair first!
Criminal: It’s true, I firebombed ACME surplus for the insurance money, but they got paid too so they actually came out ahead. They’re a big greedy outfit anyway, and they’ve got it coming to them. Besides, they’re not going to go under because I burned down one measly little warehouse…
Cheater: People get divorced every day. No damage was done to her. What is everyone making such a fuss about? Look, right there. See? She’s upright and breathing in and out. She’s fine. Leave it to her to be dramatic and use phrases like ‘soul rape‘ and ‘PTSD‘. Give me a break.
An offender will deflect blame for their actions by rationalizing that they deserve to ‘reward themselves’. Narcissism is at the heart of entitlement mentality.
Criminal: I work hard, and I needed a reward. No one else is going to look after me, so I’m gonna take the cash from the cash drawer and use it on a much needed vacation for me, myself, and I.
Cheater: I work hard, and I deserve to be happy. So I will sacrifice innocents at the alter of my ‘happiness’, and firmly tuck this mantra into my bonnet: I have the right to be happy, to insist that I be happy, and no amount of pain foisted upon others shall stop me from finding my ‘happy’. Amen.
The offender suggests that his or her offense was for the greater good, with long term consequences that would justify their actions (such as protection of a family member or friend).
Criminal: Yes, your honor, I WAS the robber at the Allentown Bank that day, but I HAD to shove an AK in the teller’s face and make my way to Fiji with $800,000. You see, my dad is sick, and his insurance won’t cover a life-saving operation. You can’t get mad about that, can you?
Cheater: Don’t you understand? Yes, I lied to you hundreds of times and put you at risk for STD’s and abandoned our kids and spent marital money on another woman, but it wasn’t my fault. You see, I did it for true love. You can’t get mad at true love, can you?
So…what happens when you spend the bulk of your adult life using justifications like this? Read on…
There are so many things that the betrayed suffer through, but none so profound as the anguish that results when coming to grips with the truth that, NO, their spouse is certainly NOT the good man or woman they believed them to be.
Actions, not words, reveal the true character of a person. Risked my health? Lied to me thousands of times? Duped me, abandoned me bodily and financially, and abandoned your kids to fatherlessness? Those are NOT the actions of a ‘good’ human being.
But then, to add insult to injury, it’s as if the cheater hasn’t gotten the memo.
They sleep without struggling at night. They happily engage in the adoration of a new partner. They gaze upon themselves in the mirror with pride. So, how is it that they can know that they’ve done these despicable, egregious things to the most vulnerable around them, all while laboring under the delusion that they’re a real swell guy?
It’s easy to leap to the conclusion that they are a sociopath, but that may not be it at all. As I said before, the psyche craves consistency. Cognitive dissonance is only eased by rationalizations; those rationalizations don’t go so far as to allow the mind to believe two diametrically opposed truths (I’m a dirtbag AND I’m a swell guy).
Here’s the answer: a LIFETIME of excuse-making can result in what’s known as ‘Doublethink’. They’ve used justifications and rationalizations for so long and in so many circumstances that the psyche finally does adjust to believe both realities.
For those of us lying awake at night wondering how it is that he could pilfer our entire 401K, or take out a second mortgage and buy the affair partner a condo, or cease contact with their 7 year old child AND STILL APPEAR HAPPY AND CAREFREE IN DOZENS OF SELFIES ON FACEBOOK, we may now have the answer.
He’s spent the entirety of his life making excuses so that everyone around him would buy into the ‘good guy’ narrative, while simultaneously doing despicable and disgraceful things. After years of conditioning his mind, it’s happened:
He’s finally bought into his own crap.
So be vigilant, dear friends. Be mindful and alert. Sometimes we lock our door so the bad guys can’t get inside, but all the while we’re sleeping next to one. So be listening, but most importantly, be watching. Behavior – not words, not justifications, not excuses, not rationalizations – will always tell a truth that nothing else will.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Techniques_of_neutralization. Later additions and revisions have resulted in as many as 12-15 total neutralizations being associated with NT. The 7 that I’ve detailed above are those that are the most interesting to me personally.
I got my first letter from a reader asking for advice. And it only took 2 years of blogging!
Anyway, I got a letter from a reader who (unbeknownst to me) has been reading my blog from the very beginning. I wasn’t even aware I had any of those! She gave me permission to share. Here is what she wrote:
Love your blog! The only thing I don’t like about it is how long I have to wait for the next one to come out. I imagine you’re a pretty busy single mom so not a slam, just love your way with words and how you make me laugh at things that aren’t normally funny.
I wish I had your way with words because I want to slam my ex so bad for what he’s about to do to our son who is 4 and adores his daddy. He (the ex) left us out of the blue when our son was not yet 2 (which is how I found your blog when I went online looking for advice about abandonment). Mine didn’t move away like Honey did but it was still out of the blue and yes there was an affair. He was like Jekyl and Hyde and this was so devastating me to because I thought we were happy. I can’t believe I didn’t know who I was married to. I was supposed to immediately just be okay with everything and when I put up a fuss he would remind me that he ‘keeps record of all of the crazy things I say for court.’ I was never crazy or threatening just angry and I had a right to be.
He never tried to take me to court for custody he was fine being a weekend dad. The woman he left me for broke up with him and kicked him out recently. Now he says he’s moving to Texas for a job but I know he has a side chick he’s going to move in with there and that’s the real reason. He doesn’t know I know about her but we have mutual friends who told me they’re already engaged. He needs someone to mooch off of and getting a job and his own place here so he could stay in his kid’s life is just too hard apparently.
I guess my question to you is how do you deal with the unfairness of this every day without losing it? How can men just move away and leave their kids like that? I’ve had a few weeks to process it and I’ve already had some heartbreaking questions from my son I don’t know how to answer but you’ve had years. I’m so scared about what this is going to do to him. I know his dad will rarely visit. Are we going to be better off in the long run?
Thanks – Amelia
Thank you for your kind words. I’m honored that you’d ask me, but so deeply sorry you’re in a position to need to.
Yes, your son will struggle with this. Not gonna lie to you. It’s going to be hard on him. And, based on how much you clearly love your son, this is going to be hard on you in ways you may not have yet considered.
But there is some good news for both of you, if you can stomach reading through to the end. Please do stick with me here.
I want to first prepare you for the reality of the kind of things you might hear from your son, and what to do when these breath-takingly painful moments are upon you, usually with little to no warning. You may already have had a glimpse of what you’re in for, since you said he’s already asking some heartbreaking questions about the departure.
These are some of the things my children have said about Honey leaving that have brought me to my knees…
Looking at the empty 4th chair around our kitchen table, my daughter said “Why do we have 4 chairs at the table? Dad’s never gonna come here. He’s too busy with his new kids.’
My 6 year-old son, at bedtime one night, said ‘My heart has been broken since my dad left. I’ve never not had a broken heart, mama.’
When he was around 5, he asked ‘Why did Dad move so far away? So he could be with his new family? Aren’t we his family too?’
From the backseat of the car, with innocent astonishment in her voice, my tiny 4 year-old daughter said ‘You know what, Mom? I don’t think Dad’s ever coming back here to be my dad.’
My daughter and I once sat on the couch crying and holding each other tight for ten straight minutes when a show she was watching depicted what a ‘daddy-daughter date’ was, and she realized she couldn’t have one.
Sadly, there are many more to list, but you get the picture. And let me tell you, each one of them hurt as deeply as the next. But in the end, you’ll get through these kinds of conversations, because you’re the mom…and there’s simply no other choice. You’re it. Fair or not, you’re it.
When you were given that job title, it meant that you would be subjected to intense worry about the physical and emotional wellbeing of another person for the duration of your life. It was in the fine print on the mom contract, right next to ‘you will need to perfect the lilting of one eyebrow to convey displeasure at being asked for a snack right after dinner’ and ‘no matter how old they get, they will always walk up and just hand you their trash.’
But our job as parents is to protect our children from this kind of deep emotional harm, right? Well, I knew Honey had utterly failed them in this area, but what was worse was that I was sure I’d fail them for not being able say the right things in the aftermath. I felt helpless that my words of comfort weren’t penetrating their wounded little minds. And I was absolutely panicked that my efforts to make it better were not only futile, but that I might inadvertently make it worse.
On that upbeat note, here’s the good news I promised…
You can help mitigate the loss.
Our job as parents is not just to do what we can to protect our children from this kind of deep emotional harm, it is to have the wisdom to realize that we will not always succeed at that. And if they do come to harm, we absolutely CAN mitigate the damage by simply being the stable, solid parent that they deserve.
Your son will mourn, and you need to just let that happen. That’s the mind’s natural mechanism to deal with loss, and to circumvent it or try to hurry it along or put a bandaid over it will only compound your son’s grief. The stages of grief are identifiable, though they rarely arrive in a logical sequential order. Kids are raw emotion with no filter and little sense of perspective. Just sit with him in his anger or his sadness and reassure him that he’s safe, it’s okay to feel his feelings, and that you’re not going anywhere. This is where your value is. This is where you will find strength you never knew you had: smiling while wanting to string up your ex for hurting your baby. Your blood may be boiling beneath the surface, but your voice is calm and full of reassurances for your child.
Just love him through it. And watch for signs that tell you he may need more help than you can give, like threatening to hurt himself or others. If he’s not processing the grief in a healthy way, you will know. Do your best to get him into therapy if that happens, even if he’s still really young. Keeping the lines of communication open is critical. Once they shut down about it, they can internalize things and blame themselves. So keep ‘em talking.
Struggle breeds greatness.
I hesitated to even write that sentence, because it is not meant to be used to trivialize the severity of a child’s pain or their need for a father to be present in their life. If anything, I’ve gone so far to the opposite extreme at times that I’ve mentally doomed my children for being denied this critical parental relationship in their lives.
But I’ve slowly turned a corner, and have widened my perspective on this one a bit. I know the bleak statistics surrounding kids growing up in fatherless households, and since you have read my blog, you know how outraged and indignant I’ve been at Honey’s nonchalance on this issue. I suspect you feel the same outrage in your circumstance.
But adversity, even adversity in children, can set up a life-long pattern of the fighting spirit. It can breed greatness. Unchecked, it can go the other way toward lifelong debilitating emotional issues. Which direction will your child go? Which direction will mine go? I don’t have a crystal ball here, but as for me and the role I play in the lives of these incredible little people, I’m gonna do anything and everything I can to help them propel themselves towards greatness. I’m going to foster that spirit in them as long as I have breath in me. We must choose to fight against the doomsday scenarios, stop being nihilists, and do our homework. There are excellent resources all around us with great ideas about how to do exactly that. Here are a couple. Search for more.
Red flags are your friend.
If I can give you one practical bit of advice above all others, it’s this: avoid the mama-bear rage pitfall of sending a blasting text or email to your ex when you see your child in pain over their dad. The person on the other end isn’t who you believed them to be, remember? You wrote “ I can’t believe I didn’t know who I was married to.” Well, that was by design. You were deceived on purpose by a person whose station in your life was designed to elicit trust. He played on that trust and then silenced your well-deserved outrage with the threat of a custody battle…by using his own son as a weapon to shut you up. What a peach!
He uses information like a weapon. He’s already said so, so don’t give him any. I sent many texts to Honey about the pain I’d just watched pour out of his child, but he had no ‘port’ in which to receive it. That part of him doesn’t exist. So save yourself the disappointment and pain and unfulfilled expectations, and send that blasting text or email out into the ether in some other way. Write it down and burn it in the fire. Use a proxy or stand-in to unleash it all on, like a chair or a voice recorder. But don’t reach out expecting that the person capable of walking away from parenting their own child will suddenly be able to receive your outrage in a meaningful way. Take it from a person who has already suffered the pain of this mistake. Repeatedly.
I’ve tried to involve Honey by phone to get him to help mitigate the harm. He is firmly committed to believing that there is no harm, and blithely dismisses any conversation about their struggles as soon as it begins. So I eventually stopped trying to tap that empty well.
I suspect you might try to tap that well, too, believing that words of comfort or an apology may be forthcoming from your ex to your son ‘if he only knew the pain he’s caused our child!’ I don’t know your ex, but based on the narcissist red flag extravaganza I saw in just a few paragraphs of what you wrote, he seems rather indifferent to the pain he’s caused to other innocent parties thus far, so…I wouldn’t get your hopes up that he will be a resource for you or your son. In fact, he may say or do things that make it worse.
You are armed with the truth about this man now. The red flags are your friend. They help 1) give you the ability to spot these deficiencies/disorders in other people so you can run screaming in the opposite direction, and 2) helps you to know what you’re up against in the long-haul job you now face as a long distance co-parent with the aforementioned peach. I’m a firm believer that the truth – even if it is ugly and awful – is better than being deceived. There is a simple dignity in being given the truth. Cheaters either just don’t get that, or don’t give a crap about your dignity (or anything else, for that matter).
How do you deal with the unfairness of this every day without losing it? You know, unfairness and I have come to a fragile peace. I acknowledge his right to exist but we disagree about the frequency of his visits. Basically, I use just ruminate on the problems in the world to remind myself that as much as I suffer, others do as well – and often by a much greater margin. Perspective doesn’t make my situation less unfair, it just changes its ranking on a global scale…and I guess that’s the best any of us can do to mitigate it I suppose.
How can men just move away and leave their kids like that? Sadly, I will never be able to answer this, because it surpasses my comprehension as a human being and as a parent. It’s inconceivable to me, and yet I witness it happening day after day. It is a shameful and dishonoring endeavor to walk away from parenting one’s own child. And yet, people do.
Are you going to be better off in the long run? Yes, you will be. And maybe even your son. But he’s not going to feel that way now or any time soon. He just wants his daddy, and that’s the real heartbreak here. Find like-minded single moms and form a tribe. Find support for the both of you, remain connected to sites like this and others, and just love one another through it. You can do this.
My awesome hubs decided he’d throw me a surprise party for being such a kick-ass wife and mother to his babies. Except at this party, instead of punch and cake, there was more, like, crying and confusion and me asking ‘why does it feel like my soul is being ripped apart and set on fire?’
For gifts, he got me a lifetime supply of inequitable parenting work, emotional trauma, and an endless sense of injustice that I’m not aloud to voice to him. Oh, and a scarf. A really nice scarf.
There was even a surprise announcement that my husband had a new baby on the way! Not with me, you know. But hey, new baby!
And instead of music and friends, there was like this soundtrack of lies coming out of his mouth and a cavernous tomb of empty silence when he took his packed bag and left us stranded in a state with no family and no help.
But, you know. Other than that, it was super fun.
No surprise party like a surprise divorce partaaay! Woot woot!
I loved and he left. Now I'm just trying to heal.
Who says chivalry is dead? Oh, wait. I do.
Short Stores, Murder Mysteries, Stories of Revenge and Stories of Days Gone By
Who says chivalry is dead? Oh, wait. I do.
A "How to Thrive" Guide After Divorce
Things I used to trip on, I walk over now
An ongoing story of a runaway husband
marriage, meaning, surviving infidelity
A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.
When we are our authentic selves, we give others the unspoken permission to be the same. In Truth, there is freedom.
Leave a cheater, gain a life