Color Key (more or less):
M - first time around
Doc - first
M - second time
Doc - second go
January 23, 2001
Hello Dr. Irene, This is M from
the On_track interactive email of… well.. a long time ago.
M. Happy New Year! I am to remarry and
relocate soon. Congratulations! My very best
wishes! Thank you! The
children are understandably upset about leaving their friends. I’ve
noticed that my ex and my oldest daughter have been having frequent
phone conversations since he was informed of my intention to relocate.
I let her know that I was aware that ‘something’ was going on but left
it at that. My ex-husband has had visitation with the children in
another state which is several hundred miles from me. Over the last
two summer visits, there have been domestic violence incidents in the
presence of the children. Ouchhh! The
last incident also involved destruction of property which belonged to
my oldest daughter. The property was replaced. This incident involved
the police. When I learned of the latest incident, I had a criminal
record check run on my ex and his wife. This record check turned up a
charge of domestic violence against the ex. I requested a copy of the
case file. I’ve been following the case because I’m concerned about
the welfare of the children during their visits. Yesterday, the County
Court got my check for another copy of the case files. Due to some
error on their part, my ex was contacted about the check and my
request for a copy of the record. Oh boy…
He called my parents’ home twice looking for me and also called my
home 5 times during the day. I was out.
Good. He then sent me email asking why I had sent a check to
the court which I didn’t get until early evening. He waited an hour,
then sent the below. He had no information from me or anyone who knows
me before writing this email:
“I found out on my own why you
did what you did regarding the County Court. Nice attempt to make me
out as an animal and unfit to parent my children. It will do you no
good, as that DV Case will be dismissed. Please provide a copy of this
letter to your attorney. If you'd like, you can check back with County
Court in March. You'll then see that it was dismissed, removed from my
record, etc. No matter anyway, as I will be providing the dismissal to
my attorney. In turn, I'm sure your attorney will receive a copy as
well as the County Courts. I let you take the children from me before.
I will do everything in my power to not let that happen again. The
children are old enough to decide where they want to live. Your
atheist lifestyle coupled with the manner in which your
atheist-spouse-to-be treats our children won't pass muster. We'll let
everything come out in court. You should know by now who you are
dealing with. I'll see you in court. “
My ex is currently in contempt
of court though I haven’t filed against him. What are you waiting for?!?!
now, I’m waiting for my lawyer to call me back. Since I’ve said he
has til a certain date to pay the medical. I will wait on that but
I’m going to file for supervised visitation as soon as the case
records and police reports (I called them this morning, they have 18pages to send to me) get here. Which should be no later than
Wednesday morning. Of course, you are right. I’m trying too hard to
be nice and fair and letting myself be walked all over by my children
as well as my ex.
And, you are right. By doing things rationally, and
relying on your lawyer for him to make his moves, that’s the way to
if my intent was to hurt him in some way, I could have done it back in
August since a contempt charge would be a violation of his sentence.
This is not about hurting or not hurting
him. Filing is about protecting you! Go file NOW! You do yourself a
disservice if you give him the benefit of the doubt in any matter that
even remotely breaks your agreement. Why are you “protecting” a man
who would hurt you in a second – as demonstrated by this latest
email? I’m trying to help the
children continue to have a relationship with both of us as well as I
know how to. Obviously though, if I don’t start to stick up for
myself, no one will.
Exactly. Your job is not to stand in the way of their
relationship with their dad. But covering up for him, minimizing his
mess-ups, etc. is not OK. Your kids have a right to know why you feel
the way you do about him. They have a right to all the info so that
one day, they can see the world through your eyes – as well as his.
And don’t be fooled: he will make sure they know exactly how he
sees things! And, I bet he won’t be at all concerned about minimizing
your mess-ups or fully fessing up with his… His email to you
demonstrated that kind of thinking.
He was sentenced to Anger
Management Counseling and counseling. I assume from his email that his
case will be dismissed if he meets all of the conditions set forth by
the court. Also, I have not told the children of their dad’s domestic
violence charge and I have no intention of doing so unless this has to
go to court.. Again, why are you protecting
him? OK, OK, I understand your not saying anything regarding a charge
– but, look at the big picture: Property was destroyed, a charge was
filed, an order was violated. Hmmmm… If daddy thinks nothing of
twisting things to his advantage, what do you do for yourSelf when you
bend over backward to shield his behavior from the kids? By the way,
you don’t give me much background in this email and since my last
computer crash, I can’t locate an email that could have been yours.
Please write back and fill in the blanks. How many children, how old
are they, etc. I was sorely tempted when they told me that A,
his wife, bruised easily and that she’d shown them bruises and told
them that their dad had done that to her but that they didn’t believe
her. It’s OK to open your mouth and state
your opinion. By the way, she is the one who destroyed my
daughter’s property. Wonderful…
I’ve decided not to answer his
email. However, I feel an urge to reply! I guess I’m not as far beyond
reacting to his stuff as I’d like to be. You
are far along. Just need more practice. More about that below.
I had hoped that the anger management counseling had made a difference
but now I’m more concerned than ever about the safety of my children
during visitation. Don’t give him the power.
Who cares how he’s changed? You have no control over that. But YOU
have control over how YOU change, as I’m sure you already know.
As an aside, my ‘atheist-spouse-to-be’
Giggle! is very good to the children and to me. So I have no
idea what that comment is all about. He did put his finger to his lips
once while on the phone because my oldest daughter was being a bit
loud. She took great offense to being shushed. How do I get beyond
reacting to his stuff? I have a huge urge to write back something
along the lines of “you don’t scare me :-p” or to file the contempt
charge against him to ensure his charges aren’t dismissed. I feel like
hurting him! Seems to me you need to listen
to your feelings. Not the “raw” ones, but the message is on target.
And, you figured that out with the reply you wrote me that you would
send him. Anyway, I’m just hoping to get your thoughts and
ideas on this. Thank you, M
Dear Dr. Irene,
The older email is here: http://www.drirene.com/on_track.htm
I'll try to fill in the blanks
here. On the children's first summer visit after the divorce, B (my
ex) and A (fiancée at the time) had a fight which resulted in her
packing her car to leave. The fight was nothing physical, the girls
said it was a bunch of yelling and name calling. A was crying and was
giving the girls things of hers that she wanted them to have.
The next summer, which was last
year, the whole family was in the car. A put in one of C's CD's in. B
reached over to change the song. They got into an argument over which
song to listen to. A threw the CD out of the window. The argument
continued after they got home. During this time, A said something to
B about calling the District Attorney on him because he was already in
trouble. A was also saying some very hurtful things about the girls
(they were in their room with the door closed but C still heard) He
called the police on A at this point. The police came and made A
leave for the evening. A waited a couple of hours and came back. B
called the police again and she ran off. E slept through the second
visit by the police. C called me to tell me about what happened. She
said that her father said he would tell me but when he hadn't made any
effort in a day, she called. She said that when he found out she was
calling, he went outside to sit on the roof. When the girls told me
about the DA comment, I decided to run a criminal history check and
found the "battery against a household member" charge. I decided to
follow the case for a while to see if it may be necessary to ask for
C reminds me of her father. She
feels free to ask prying questions and seems to think that they should
be answered. She's also on the loud side and seems to want to be sure
to be noticed. Of course, she is a teenager! I've noticed that I
feel the same buttons being pushed with her as I used to feel with her
dad but I manage not to react. I'm not the only one who has this
reaction to her. An example of this happened just today. I'd hired
my cousin to come out to paint some rooms in my house. My mom wanted
to go to church this evening unexpectedly, so she called me and asked
me to have my cousin call her back while C and I were gone to the
store so she could arrange to get the car back in time. C has an
attraction to one of the choir boys and has been going to church as
often as she can. So, my mother didn't want C to know that she was
going so instead of telling C no, she just hid the fact that she was
going to church from her rather than face the questioning and then the
blaming. C expects for other's decisions to be justified to her. C
is very social and enjoys being out and doing things or talking on the
phone to her friends.
My fiance', D, has
spent as much time with the children as we've been able to manage.
It's not easy since he lives in another state. B has made
derogatory comments about D in the past to the children. .
D is even tempered and has a deadpan sense of humor. The girls
tell me he is boring :-). D and I get along very well.
We've been able to talk through any concerns or rough spots that we've
hit along the way. He's respectful of people and considerate of their
feelings. He has three girls ages 7 to 15.
They came to stay with us over Thanksgiving. We all had such a good
time together that C wanted to move up with them as soon as possible
(She's changed her mind). E has never wanted to move. She wants to
E (my youngest) is very quiet most
of the time, but if you get her alone (w/o C) she'll talk your ear
off. She entertains herself and if something is bothering her she
normally keeps it to herself. Her grades are good. She has two good
friends and seems satisfied with that. She's just now beginning to
tug at the apron strings.
I hope this helps!
does. You are likely to have Trubble with C in the future.
I have trubble with C
identifies with dad and probably sees you as weak.
I think this is true.
OK. She’s your best
reason to get over your tendency to shut your mouth and protect him.
She needs to learn to respect mommy now, and in time, as she sees
mommy is no longer being stepped on, is decisive, and has a mind of
her own that she stands by (and you do!), she may.
The best thing you can
possibly do for this child in the future both in terms of helping her
change and teaching her good stuff is to continue to listen to your
feelings and open your mouth. Pay attention to your anger in
particular (the I feel like I want to kill him” stuff). Not that you
should express it just yet… As you did this time, if you wait, sit on
it, etc., the answer comes to you. Your reply to ex was assertive,
powerful, and reflective of your internal state. C will see this over
time and not only will be more likely to respect you, but may learn
that the behavior you demonstrate is more powerful than his.
problems will come when ex or even C replies to one of your assertive
statements. C may threaten to go live with dad. Let her, without
anger. Let her threaten or let her go to live
with him? Live with him. If she gets
into threatening to live with him, you can calmly call her on it. For
example, “Dear, if you really want to live with Daddy, as much as I’ll
miss you and as much as I think you are hurting yourself, you are too
old for me to stop you. So, either stop threatening or let me know
when you want the ticket for.
Ex may up the ante in some way. So what? He blows lots of hot air that
is intended to disarm you. And, it will disarm you.
Here is his latest reply to
“M, I am addressing you, the
mother of my two children. The children have been exposed to
inappropriate behavior while living with you. I too have records
indicating such behavior to include acknowledgement from you and your
attorney. For me to address any additional information I have at this
time regarding you and your future spouse, is not appropriate. The
petition will go forth. From such, you will be receiving instructions
not to move the children out of their present "quality of life"
situation. They will not live in another state unless they want
to...and they do not. The children are of age to choose. They choose
to live with me. Talk with them once in awhile and you'll know that.
Simply put... With the children being of age to decide for themselves
- and they've decided to live with me - you are posed with one simple
task: Prove that I am an unfit parent to have primary custodial
custody. Do that, and you win. Don't, and you'll lose. You've taken my
children away from me. You've lied, cheated and made the institution
of marriage a joke. This too will be acknowledged in court. So, hold
me in contempt and add additional garnishment of my wages. Do what you
can for as long as you can. Your rope is getting short. You can do
nothing more to me. end “
replied with “That’s fine. I’m sure your behavior will speak for
Giggle! Very good. Just be careful that you don’t let him rattle you
and you bite back. I’m sure he’s an excellent bite back provoker…
Does this mean
that you don’t intend to pay your medical obligations by the due
Wonderful… You dropped the junk and got back to the point.
answer. There is no acknowlegement of wrong doing from me or from my
attorney. And I notice that he declined to cite specifics on my
intended spouse’s musterless stuff <g>.
Not answering is a good
tactic. Notice how often he uses it. (And how it’s frustrated you in
the past.) Overcome any remnants of urges to explain or justify.
Remember, you owe no explanation. Route provocative communications you
must reply to through your attorney.
Oh, and I
made sure that I answered the phone last night when he called for the
DO NOT REACT. Do nothing until you’ve regained your center and turned
your angry intimidation into assertion – just as you did with the
forget doing these things requires a bunch of SKILLS. It takes impulse
control skills to not REACT. It takes attentiveness skills so that you
may become more mindful of what is going on internally – your inner
guide is trying to talk to you! It takes cognitive and verbal skills
to put all this into action.
stress this enough: Skills are learned. The more you practice,
the better you get. When a situation that is slightly different comes
your way, you may feel lost again. You are not stupid. This is
normal. Verbal and cognitive skills especially do not “generalize”
across situations very well. You may feel as though you’re back to
square one (kinda like you did above), but you’re not. In time you
will have handled one more. (Well, you will have handled it if you
didn’t prematurely react!)
one more and one more and one more pile up. More and more stuff will
just “come to you.” Automatically. Quickly. The fastest way to help
this process along is practice. Each situation that comes your way,
review it in your head. How can I handle this? What exactly can I say?
How do I say it, etc. Do this especially with situations you feel you
didn’t handle as well as you could have. (You will blow many
situations. Promise! And, that’s OK. Normal. Part of learning these
have you come a long way! And, while there will be bumps along the
way, you only get better and better at handling this stuff!
want to look at
Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your
Life Use Fear, Obligation and Guilt to Manipulate You
by Dr. Susan Forward and Donna Frazier and/or
The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse:
Getting Off the Emotional Roller Coaster and Regaining Control of Your
Life by (The Father of Cognitive Therapy) Albert Ellis
to reinforce your learning.
Wherever You Go, There You Are : Mindfulness
Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn is also
excellent at helping you improve your non reactive skills so that you
can become more mindful of what’s inside.
But none of these books can
replace life. You WILL go through times you feel at a loss. Never
forget that this is part of the process. No book will teach you to
speak Martian, for example. You will read about the grammar and
language structure, etc. But it is up to you to put together the
phrase the next time a Martian challenges you. Practice practice
practice! OK? Yes.
can call this one “Still On Track” Giggle!
Here's how she replied to the ex:
far as I'm concerned, who I am dealing with is the father of C and S.
The children have been exposed to inappropriate behavior on the last
two summer visits with you. I have been aware of the charges against
you since <a certain date> and was sent the first copy of the case
file a month later. In the event that you and A continue to be unable
to relate to each other in a consistently civil way while the children
are present, I will petition the court for supervised visitation.
D's treatment of the children, please provide the incidents which
'will not pass muster' and I will be sure to address them with D and
with the children.
Please make sure that the $600 plus the children's medical
reaches me by <a certain date> or I will contact my lawyer about
initiating contempt charges against you."
The above email merits the Trubble Stamp of Approval!
Comments anyone? (Please press "submit"