This morning, I read an article about Olympic swimmer, 36 year old Ryan Lochte. He’s currently estranged from his mother Ileana Lochte and, in an interview with Graham Bensinger, Lochte explained that in 2011, when his mother had divorced his father, Steven Lochte, everyone had been on her side. But then when Ryan told his mother she was going to be a grandmother, she apparently said some very hurtful things and refused to apologize for them. And now, Ryan and his mother have been estranged for a few years. He hasn’t spoken to her. By contrast, he and his father and stepmother are now on very good terms.
I’ve often reflected on how perspectives change as we grow older. When I was a child, things were a lot simpler. Or, at least they seemed that way. I saw things in more black and white terms. All of my friends and relatives were “good”. All of the kids in school who bullied me were “bad”. But then, as I got older, I started to see everyone in a different light. At some point, people I thought were all good developed some very noticeable character defects. Or really, I just noticed them for the first time. By contrast, people I had thought were all bad all of a sudden seemed more human and decent to me. This expanded vision is ultimately a good and necessary thing, but it’s also kind of heartbreaking. Especially when I have good memories of some of these folks, but I know that we’ll probably never speak again.
I think this phenomenon happens to most people who are at least somewhat psychologically healthy. But it’s disconcerting and sometimes very sad when the whole truth comes out about someone we love, or even just like. I think that’s what might be happening with my husband’s children right now.
Last night, Bill talked with his younger daughter, who is struggling with some stuff. She and her husband are in their mid 20s, trying to survive in this pandemic craziness and pay their bills. They have two small children, and as Mormons, are very much involved with their family. Fortunately, younger daughter inherited a lot of Bill’s character and she’s committed to being a good mom.
All of the years, when younger daughter was growing up, Ex’s story was that she was all about taking care of her family. In fact, some years ago, I remember reading a bullshit news story about Ex that appeared in a local newspaper. She claimed that she’d arrived in Arizona in a used van with just $3000 and a dream. She didn’t mention that she was getting child support faithfully every month and that my husband could see to it that the children had medical care. Nope– her narrative was that she was a supermom, doing it ALL alone and handling everything brilliantly. It was such a load of shit!
Bill was faithfully paying her $2550 a month in child support, more than what a general officer would have paid for three children at that time. One of the children he was supporting wasn’t even legally his child. Because Bill was in the military, his children were entitled to military ID cards. They also had access to full medical benefits and free care at military treatment facilities. And yet, Ex chose not to avail herself of these valuable benefits for her children. In fact, she evidently acted as if she didn’t care when younger daughter needed medical attention.
Younger daughter had some physical problems that needed care. Her mother made a huge deal out of the inconvenience and expense of seeking care and implied that she couldn’t afford it. Consequently, those issues went neglected, and now younger daughter is paying a price that may cost her for the rest of her life.
Some people might read this and wonder where Bill was. Well… he tried to stay in touch with Ex and asked her repeatedly about the children. Once she realized that he was going to persist in being involved with the children, she went on a very effective alienation campaign. He really tried to be a good father as best as he was able. But Ex had so effectively alienated Bill’s daughters and ex stepson that no one would speak to him. She moved them to a different state and neglected to inform Bill. We found out about the move through Internet sleuthing. In any case, when these issues were occurring, younger daughter was almost an adult anyway, and wouldn’t speak to Bill. But her mother was freaking out over having to pay several hundred dollars for special equipment that would have helped her daughter function better. She implied that she wasn’t getting any help from Bill, which was patently untrue.
Later, when younger daughter was offered a job in Utah, Ex did her best to get her to stay home. She offered her all kinds of stuff– everything from music lessons that she’d always wanted to more money that what younger daughter would make in Utah. Fortunately, younger daughter was smart enough to see through the bullshit and valued her freedom from the craziness more than a few extra bucks (which would not have materialized, anyway). Then, when younger daughter made her decision, Ex did what she always does… sent a long, scathing, insulting letter full of shaming, empty promises, pleading, and berating. Then, in a true act of apparent desperation to maintain control, she allegedly attempted suicide by overdosing on pills. And when that didn’t work, she brutally cut off her daughter (temporarily, of course– in retrospect, permanently cutting her off might have been the kindest thing to do).
Of course, Ex never totally lets anyone go. The beautiful thing about COVID-19, though, is that it makes it much harder for her to travel. Ex, who once told Bill she would never put the children on a plane to see us in Virginia (because of terrorism), would not hesitate to drive or fly thousands of miles and drop in on people unawares. If she ever got a sign that younger daughter was weakening in her resolve, she would absolutely take the opportunity to insert herself and poison her daughter’s relationships or even alienate her own kids from her. That’s how toxic people operate, and I have been watching Ex do it from afar for many years now.
For many years, I was very angry with my husband’s daughters. I thought they had treated Bill unfairly and were not very bright for rejecting him. Now that we’re hearing the other side, I can see why they did what they did. They were told a lot of lies and raised by a master manipulator who only thinks of herself and her own needs. This morning, Bill said that he used to think that his Ex did these things to be mean and hurtful to him. But now, after comparing notes with his daughter, he realizes that she simply doesn’t care, and that’s even worse than her trying to be hurtful. Because Bill DID care and would have helped them if he’d only known. Those girls didn’t have to suffer as much as they did when they were growing up.
It’s amazing how perspectives change as we age. Five years ago, I never believed I would be writing this about Bill’s daughter. Five years ago, she wouldn’t speak to or about Bill. Now, I realize that she must have been scared. Her mother had built up this image that Bill is an awful man. She told outrageous lies about him and me… things like he abandoned the family to have an affair with me (even though she had moved her boyfriend– now husband #3– into the house while she was still married to Bill) or that the Army was more important than his family (the Army provided excellent pay and benefits he couldn’t get working in a factory– much of which he was sending to Ex as child support).
One of the nice things I have discovered since moving my blog from Blogger is that I get fewer people reading… and leaving me shitty comments because they assume I’ve either made up this story or I’m just a bitter second wife. It’s true that I’m bitter about a lot of things. I despise Bill’s ex wife. That is not a secret. I certainly wouldn’t like her for the way she treated Bill and his kids and other people, but there’s another reason I despise her. It’s because she’s a cruel person. She was very cruel to Bill when they were married. When I say “very cruel”, I mean criminally so… as in, I think she should go to prison for what she did. If she were a man, there would be no question, as long as the crime was reported. Suffice to say, my husband was a victim of domestic violence in his first marriage.
More than once, random people have told me that I have no right to write about these things. They tell me how I “come off” to others and try to silence me from speaking the truth. It’s happened to me repeatedly throughout my life, not just in terms of my husband’s ex wife, but in other situations, too. I’m looking at certain people who have been “interested” in my writing and not wanted me to write about my experiences because they are friends with the other person or because they themselves don’t want to be cast in a bad light. You know what? If you’re doing dirty, dishonest things, you totally deserve to deal with the repercussions of being outed, and I’m done trying to be “positive”, “fair”, and “forgiving” toward people who don’t warrant the consideration. My days of putting up with that shit are over, and it’s a very liberating way to be. Like everyone else, I deserve to be heard and validated, too, even if no one wants to listen to what I have to say (or write). This doesn’t mean, though, that I agree with mobbing people or deliberately trying to ruin their lives. I just think they should have to deal with the natural and inevitable consequences of their bad behavior.
My husband’s daughter, to her credit, has figured this all out a lot younger than her dad and I have. She realizes that some people are simply full of shit and she doesn’t have to waste her time on them. She knows that her mother is full of shit and doesn’t care about her. Her mother couldn’t be bothered to buy inserts for younger daughter’s shoes so she wasn’t in so much pain. Her mother couldn’t be bothered to have her daughter’s spine checked by a doctor and braced so that she didn’t suffer from scoliosis that caused her back problems. She couldn’t be bothered to get in touch with Bill so that those kids could get healthcare. The one time she did contact Bill about their healthcare needs, she asked him to send HER money instead of paying the provider directly. Why? Because that way, she could ask for as much as she wanted and it would go into her pocket… hell, we don’t even know if there ever was a bill that needed to be paid because she wouldn’t send it. Instead, she just tried to demand the money.
The other day, I watched an excellent video by YouTube psychologist, Dr. Ramani, who specializes in talking about narcissists. The video was about “toxic positivity”, which is a real problem in our society today. We have many people who think we always need to be “positive” and “understanding” at all costs. These toxic positivity folks are perfect “flying monkeys” for narcissists, because they always harp on giving people the benefit of the doubt, even when it’s clear that they don’t deserve it.
I have been on the receiving end of a lot of that shit from people… people who have tried to gaslight me into doubting my own instincts and observations in favor of their well spun bullshit. You know what? Letting this kind of thing go– just giving people a break all the time– always leads to being screwed. If you’re a chronically nice and understanding person, you’re are just begging to be screwed over by this type of person. They thrive on people who are always “nice” and “fair” to them. Anyone who has a well-developed sense of shame and a tendency to be forgiving is at risk of being exploited by people like Ex. A little bit of forgiveness is a good thing; don’t get me wrong. But sometimes, you simply have to call bullshit. And bravo to younger daughter for being smart enough and BRAVE enough to do just that. Her dad and I are now working on the same thing.