book reviews, celebrities, divorce

A review of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life, by Julianna Margulies…

Last spring, I happened to come across an article about actress Julianna Margulies, and the book she had just published, Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life. Although I never got into Julianna Margulies’ career beyond her stint on E.R., the article had made her new book sound compelling. Maybe it was because the article also mentioned George Clooney, an actor who didn’t impress me when I first saw him on the early 80s era sitcom, E/R, with Elliott Gould, or when he was on The Facts of Life during its shark jumping years. E.R. gave me new respect for George Clooney, and Julianna Margulies had great chemistry with him on that show. It was probably one of my favorite shows in my lifetime. I downloaded the book, but only now have gotten around to reading it.

I just finished Sunshine Girl this morning. I don’t know what I was expecting when I bought it. I think I was excited to get it, but for some reason, kept putting off reading it. And now that I’ve read it, I have huge new respect for Julianna Margulies. Wow– what an amazing life she’s led, on so many levels! She reveals a surprisingly intelligent, insightful, and experienced person beneath the roles she’s famously played on TV– Nurse Carol Hathaway on E.R., and then attorney, Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife. She can now add “successful author” to her long list of accomplishments. Aside from writing Sunshine Girl, Margulies is also the author of a children’s book titled Three Magic Balloons.

Margulies basics

Margulies was born the third daughter and youngest child to her parents, Paul and Francesca Margulies. Paul Margulies was a successful New York based ad executive. He’s the one who came up with the famous slogan for Alka-Seltzer, “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is.”

Julianna’s dad came up with this.

Julianna Margulies’ mother, Francesca, was a ballet dancer who taught eurythmy and was an expert in anthroposophy, concepts championed by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, scientist, and artist. It is Steiner’s ideas that propelled the educational movement behind Waldorf Schools. A Waldorf or Steiner Education focuses on developing students’ “intellectual, artistic, and practical skills in an integrated and holistic manner.” Julianna’s parents were incompatible, and got divorced when Julianna was very young. They were both of Jewish heritage, although Julianna’s mother converted to Christianity when Julianna and her sisters were children. She writes in her book that she considers herself Jewish, but is not religious.

For some reason, Julianna’s mother– referred to as Francesca in the dedication, as well as in other sources– is pictured at the end of the Kindle version of this book with the name Janice Marylin Gardner (nee Goldberg). I’m not sure if that was an error, or her mom changed her name. In any case, Julianna, and her two older sisters, Alexandra and Rachel, grew up moving from place to place as their mom worked in different Waldorf schools. Julianna was fluent in French because her mother had moved to France so that the girls could be close to their father, who was working in Paris. Then, they moved to Sussex, England, where Julianna developed a perfect British accent; she got mocked for it when she later moved to New York, only to move back to England for a couple more years. Then she landed in New Hampshire, where she had to learn to decipher the thick New England accents she encountered there.

All of the moving around was traumatic for Julianna and her sisters. Her eldest sister, Alexandra, had so much trouble dealing with their mother’s idiosyncrasies that when she became a teenager, she refused to live with her anymore. Alexandra was a talented ballet dancer and went to the School of American Ballet, while Rachel and Julianna continued to flit from place to place on two continents and through different countries. At one point, they were supposed to live in Germany, but Julianna’s mother had hated Germany. It reminded her too much of Hitler. She moved to England, abruptly changing the plans for Julianna and Rachel, and causing them massive stress from the upheaval.

The Sunshine Girl…

The incredible stress caused from living “hand to mouth” as a child– constantly leaving friends and beloved pets– and dealing with her mother’s penchant for loving and leaving different men– caused Julianna Margulies to become a people pleaser. This is a quality that reminds me a lot of my husband, who would rather die than hurt someone.

Julianna Margulies writes so many anecdotes about how she bent over for others, tolerating abuse from everyone from customers in restaurants where she waited tables to family members. She spent over ten years in an abusive relationship with another actor who took her for granted and expected her to cater to his needs. She tolerated abusive work environments, constantly pushing herself to the limits for other people and never taking the time to enjoy the fruits of her labors and talents. All the while, even though she was a “sunshine girl” to others, she was denying herself. Her mother had dubbed her the “sunshine girl” as a term of endearment, but that label became an albatross as she constantly yielded to other people’s needs, not wanting to rock the boat.

Why did Sunshine Girl affect me so much?

I think I was moved by Julianna Margulies’ life story because her story reminds me so much of my husband and his daughters. My husband, Bill, has two daughters with his ex wife. He wasn’t allowed to see or communicate with them after he and his ex wife divorced. We’re finding out now how that situation affected Bill’s younger daughter; the older one is still estranged. Julianna Margulies’ story, while not quite as tragic as Bill’s has been, is somewhat similar. I actually gained some perspective reading Sunshine Girl, and also some validation. I even read some of it aloud to Bill.

Julianna Margulies met some really good people– dear friends who have stayed in her life and offered her wisdom and kindness. She’s stayed down to earth and humble, in spite of her massive success as an actress. I felt like I could really relate to her as a person. She seems like someone I’d love to have as a friend, in spite of her unconventional life. Actually, Julianna Margulies’ life isn’t that strange to me, having heard my husband’s story. In many ways, they have things in common with each other… as do my husband’s daughters. My husband, in particular, could write a book, and probably should.

Julianna’s epiphany

Anyone who loved E.R. remembers how Julianna Margulies famously turned down 27 million dollars to extend her contract. So many people told her she was crazy to leave the show. She was in her early 30s at the time, and people didn’t expect her career to flourish beyond what seemed like the pinnacle. But Julianna ignored all of the advice given to her by so many people. She decided to quit because she wanted to act in a play. She didn’t like living in Los Angeles as much as she did New York, where the seasons change. The playwright had written a role expressly for her. It was a challenge that excited her. And she wisely realized, with help from her father, that money isn’t everything. Sometimes, you have to take a risk to get the most out of life.

Margulies writes that people were merciless to her in the wake of that decision. She got raked over the coals by the pundits on The View. Barbara Walters and Joy Behar were both particularly nasty and haughty about Margulies’ decision. Walters even asked, “Who does this girl think she is?” And Behar predicted Margulies would never work as an actress again. Happily, Margulies proved them BOTH wrong, when she landed her role as Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife, a show that went on for seven successful seasons. I never got into that show myself, but now I might have to watch it.

Julianna confronts her parents…

One other aspect of the book really stands out to me. That’s when Margulies confronts her parents for the way she was raised. On one hand, she really did live an interesting and unexpected life. Despite being “broke” a lot of the time, she had some pretty cool experiences in England and France, and she got to attend Sarah Lawrence College, a very expensive and exclusive institution of higher learning. She also completed a semester abroad in Florence, Italy, but she actually hated it there. Like me, when I was growing up, she rode ponies and competed in horse shows. She even took care of a pony she “found” in England who had been cast out as too stubborn to work with. I related to that, too… And, like me, Julianna is also a Gemini.

In spite of those experiences, though, she largely grew up without her father in her life. He stayed in New York, so she didn’t get to spend much time with him. Her mother was erratic and irresponsible. Julianna and her sisters had to grow up fast. When Julianna was pregnant with her son, she read a bundle of letters she’d written to her dad. He had given them to her as a Christmas gift, thinking she would love to read them. What the letters actually did, though, was remind Julianna of how difficult her childhood was, and how much she’d missed her father. She confronted him, and he ended up explaining his perspective. She hadn’t had all of the information about how he’d been affected by the divorce. She hadn’t known how much he’d missed her, and how much he’d struggled emotionally and financially, after the divorce. I was glad to see that she acquired wisdom, as she also found the answers to questions that obviously plagued her when she was coming of age.

I have witnessed this same phenomenon, as my husband’s younger daughter has been filling Bill in on life after divorce. Likewise, he’s explained to her what it was like for him. Together, they have come to a mutual understanding. Julianna was lucky in that her parents seemingly were able to work together. She wasn’t totally estranged from her dad, like my husband’s daughters have been. But she did have a mom who was self-absorbed and inconsiderate on many levels, and very stubborn when it came to doing whatever she wanted, regardless of other people’s needs.. Thankfully, Julianna also confronted her mom, and her mom was able to apologize… in her own sort of histrionic way. Julianna explains the apology was all she needed.

I’m glad Julianna Margulies was able to reconcile these issues with her parents. Her father passed away in 2014, the same year my dad died. I’m sure she would have been devastated if she’d never been able to work this out with her dad before his life ended.

Caveats

I will caution to anyone looking for “dirt” about ER or The Good Wife that this book may not be what they want to read. This isn’t a “dishy” book about her shows. This is a book about Julianna Margulies. I think her life’s events make for an excellent story, in and of itself. Maybe someone should turn it into a mini-series. Maybe someone will.

I also note that some of the stories in this book can be found in articles online. Those who have followed Julianna Margulies’ career closer than I have may be frustrated that they’ve heard on Oprah or read in magazines some of the material that is presented in this book. That was not an issue for me, though, because I haven’t heard or read anything about her in the years since she left E.R., and I would not expect to read about Margulies’ co-stars in a book that is clearly about Julianna Margulies’ life.

Julianna Margulies talks about her book.

Overall

I found Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life to be a very satisfying read. So often, when it comes to celebrity memoirs, it turns out the author has nothing to say. I don’t think that’s true in Julianna Margulies’ story. She’s led a “fairytale life”, as her dad put it, but she’s definitely paid her dues. She’s humble, wise, and real, and yet has a very intriguing history. I’m grateful she was able to share it in her book. I truly got a lot out of Sunshine Girl, and found it to be a fast paced and well-written book. I also enjoyed the photos of Julianna and her family, and appreciated getting a sense of who she is off camera.

If you’re interested in a good life story, I think Sunshine Girl is well worth reading. I think learning about anthroposophy and eurhythmy alone is worth the price of the book. Not surprisingly, my husband already knew all about both. 😉

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book reviews, divorce, Ex

Repost: My review of Say Goodbye To Crazy by Paul Elam and Dr. Tara J. Palmatier

This is a repost of a book review I wrote in 2015, about 18 months or so before Bill reconciled with his younger daughter. At the time, I was hanging out on Shrink4Men.com, run by Dr. Tara Palmatier. I have less of a need to hang out on that site now, since Bill has reconnected with his daughter. I still think this is a good book, though, so I’m sharing this as/is review for those who might find it useful.

In November of this year, I will have been married to my husband, Bill, for thirteen years.  We have had a great marriage for the most part, except for dealing with his former wife and the two kids he had with her.  Those adult children are extremely alienated and haven’t spoken to Bill since 2004– with the exception of letters they supposedly wrote in 2006, formally disowning him.  One might think that Bill is an utter failure at being a parent, but I know the truth about what happened and I know that had he not chosen to have kids with a crazy woman, he would have been a much beloved and highly successful father.  In fact, he was much beloved by his kids until he got divorced and married me.

Before anyone asks– no, I am not the cause of Bill’s first marriage breaking up.  I did not meet Bill in person until 2001, almost a whole year after he and his ex wife legally split.  I did meet him online prior to that, but Bill’s marriage was already in a death spiral by that time.  Moreover, we were strictly platonic until the divorce was final (and really until we actually met in person).  Ex, on the other hand, had a boyfriend and was quick to move him into the house Bill was paying for right after they separated.  Boyfriend is now Ex’s third husband.  She has five children with three different men, and after each of her divorces, the resulting children ended up alienated from their fathers.

It’s been a few years since Ex last directly harassed us, though every once in awhile she rears her ugly head and does something to remind us that she’s lurking.  Overall, things have gotten much better for us, though.  It’s sad that Bill lost contact with his kids and former stepson, but letting go of them ultimately proved to be the best thing he could do for his sanity, his wallet, and our marriage.  Even though Ex mostly leaves us alone now, I am still fascinated by people with high conflict personalities. 

A few years ago, I found Dr. Tara Palmatier’s excellent Web site, Shrink4Men.com.  Dr. T’s blog is written for men who are involved with abusive women and the non abusive people who love them.  While many might scoff at the idea of an abused man, I know for a fact that there are a lot of guys out there who have suffered abuse at the hands of a woman.  I think Dr. T’s Web site is an important resource that serves an underserved group of people.  There are plenty of places for abused women to get relationship help if they need it.  Men, by contrast, often have to go it alone.

This year, Dr. T and noted men’s rights activist Paul Elam teamed up to write a book called Say Goodbye To Crazy: How to Get Rid of His Crazy Ex and Restore Sanity to Your Life.  This book, which was released on Mother’s Day, is primarily written for women like me, married or in a relationship with a man whose ex is toxic and abusive.  Why?  My guess is that it’s because women are more likely to read self help books than men are.  Look at all the heavy hitting books out there that have been popular like Women Who Love Too Much and Men are From Mars; Women are From Venus.  These are books directed to women about relationships with abusive men.  They were hugely successful with their easily quoted titles.  Even though both of those books been around for decades, people still remember their titles.  I think Elam and Dr. T were smart to recognize who their audience really is.   

Though Say Goodbye To Crazy is a great book for men trying to reclaim their lives after being involved with a destructive, “crazy” woman, the authors write as if it’s the man’s new wife or girlfriend reading, rather than the abused man himself.  They refer to the destructive ex wife or girlfriend as “Crazy”, as if that’s her name.  Using a conversational, empathetic tone, the authors explain what and who “crazy” is and describe some of the destructive antics women with high conflict personalities will stoop to in order to get their way and wreak havoc on other peoples’ lives. 

Reading about things “crazy” does was like reading Bill’s life story for the ten years he was involved with her and the few years immediately following their divorce, as she struggled to keep him bending to her will.  As I read, I often found myself nodding in agreement, both in terms of our experiences dealing with Bill’s ex wife and the things we did that finally got her to leave us alone.  It is unfortunate that in Bill’s case, saying goodbye to crazy meant also saying goodbye to his kids.  On the other hand, not having contact with the kids and not letting Ex use them as weapons means that we also have no contact with Ex.  And that has meant peace, harmony, sanity, and prosperity.

Say Goodbye To Crazy helps men choose appropriate and effective attorneys and therapists.  For instance, the authors explain what kinds of questions to ask therapists and attorneys before hiring them.  They point out ways to spot biased and/or ignorant therapists and lawyers before wasting time and money.  They also explain the differences between counselors and their training.  Indeed, they even take a shot at social work, the profession I was trained to enter before I became an Army wife.

Dr. T and Elam explain that social workers tend to be female centric and biased toward feminism.  As someone who has a master’s degree in social work, I have to agree with them.  While there are social workers out there who are open minded about gender, the profession is female dominated and people within the social work profession generally deal with women’s issues.  There was a time when this strong emphasis on feminism was needed.  Unfortunately, I think in some situations it’s gone too far in the other direction and some men are being treated unfairly by social workers due to their gender. 

Please don’t get me wrong.  It’s not that I don’t think women need champions or that women aren’t victimized by men; it’s more that if you are a male who is dealing with an abusive woman, you don’t need someone telling you to be more empathetic and tolerant toward her crazy behavior.  You need someone to be YOUR champion and help you escape the abuse.  If you can find a competent social worker who can do that for you, by all means, take the help.  Just remember who the patient/client is.   

Elam and Dr. T also write about the concept of “parallel parenting” and why it’s so important when you are trying to raise a child with a high conflict parent.  They offer advice on how to find mental health and legal professionals who will support the idea of parallel parenting to minimize the post divorce craziness in your life.

Dr. T and Paul Elam write about the many ways “crazy” will try to manipulate and control people– anyone who is within her sphere of influence.  I can speak from experience that Ex tried very hard to get me under control, even to the point of inviting Bill and me to Bill’s father’s house for Christmas one year.  She expected me to go along with her wishes in the interest of “making nice” and showing the kids that we’re all a big happy family.  She did not ask me if I wanted to go.  She did not speak to me about it at all.  Instead, she told Bill this was how we’d all be spending our holidays and just expected that I would acquiesce.  She thought I would be desperate to try to win over the kids and the in-laws.  I understood that the kids had no interest in seeing me and the in-laws just wanted to hang out with the grandkids, so that made it easy to say “no” to her crazy and ridiculous demands.

I stayed home while Bill visited his kids at his dad’s house.  He booked a hotel while Ex and her current husband stayed with Bill’s family.  Ex ended up looking like a gigantic asshole as Bill sat alone at the Christmas table with a hotel reservation and a rented car.  Bill’s dad and stepmother initially blamed me for not coming and tried to get Bill to stay with relatives.  He declined, since he’d already paid for everything and he wanted his family to understand that his ex is an asshole… and by allowing this spectacle, they aided and abetted her asshole behavior.   

Of course, what Ex was really trying to do was force me to bend to her will and get me on turf where I’d feel forced to tolerate her abuse.  To achieve that end, she used her own children like human shields.  I suspect she figured I would not want to risk upsetting or alienating them or my husband’s father and stepmother, but she made a serious miscalculation in her assessment of me.  I understood that I could never take her place as the mother to her kids and wouldn’t want to try.  I have my own family and I don’t even tolerate much manipulative bullshit from them anymore.  Why would I take it from my husband’s former wife?

In the short term, I got a lot of crap from Bill’s dad and stepmother for not going with Bill and standing by him while also enduring Ex’s toxic bullshit.  However, in the long run, not going was the best and smartest thing I could do.  Crazy, high conflict people are masters at finding peoples’ hot buttons.  Had I exposed myself to Bill’s ex wife, she would have gotten information about what makes me tick.  She would have then used that information to drive a wedge between Bill and me and others in his family.  At the very least, that holiday would have been completely ruined and, God forbid, had it gone well, Ex would have a reason to make it an annual event. 

You may think I’m being dramatic.  I’m not.  I am deadly serious about this.  High conflict people, males and females, live to cause drama and love to destroy friendships, romantic relationships, and family ties.  Bill’s ex wife successfully alienated him from his two daughters.  But that wasn’t enough.  She also tried to turn his own parents against him.  She told them bald faced lies about the kind of person he is, twisting situations and things that were said to make it look like their beloved son is a monster who hates women.  She went on a campaign to turn his extended relatives and friends against him.  And she did all of this despite the fact that he really is a decent guy who bent over backwards for her and their kids. 

I am aware that there are a lot of men who walk away from their parental responsibilities.  Bill is not one of those guys.  He paid a lot of child support for his two daughters and Ex’s son from her first marriage (whom Bill never adopted).  He frequently tried to set up visitations and phone calls.  Ex successfully did everything in her power to thwart his attempts to stay in his kids’ lives until they finally sent him hateful letters disowning him just in time for his birthday.  Ex also sent adoption papers, which she invited Bill to sign so that her current victim could legally become “daddy”.  Bill didn’t sign, though the temptation was certainly there.

While I have pretty much written off Bill’s kids, Bill has not.  He still loves them and would see them if they asked to meet.  I, on the other hand, don’t care if we never see them again.  As far as I’m concerned, they’ve revealed to us who they really are.  They claim we don’t deserve to know them?  I submit that the opposite is true.  I would never tolerate that behavior from people I don’t know.  As far as I’m concerned, Bill’s kids are strangers, not family members.  I have only met them once and I am not their mother.  In fact, I barely qualify as a stepmother.  And I am not the one who made them strangers to us; that was their mother’s and their own decision.  Understandably, Bill has different feelings about his daughters.  If and when they eventually contact him, he will handle the situation as he sees fit and I will do my best to stay out of it.

I realize that not all men who have been married to crazy women have situations as extreme as ours has been.  For those guys (and their girlfriends or wives), Say Goodbye to Crazy is an excellent guide.  For me, it was just more affirmation that as “crazy” as Bill’s ex has always seemed, there are many more people like her, male and female.  In fact, many people have it much worse than we ever did.  We are not alone.  If you have the misfortune of being in a relationship with a high conflict person, you are not alone, either. 

I highly recommend Say Goodbye To Crazy. Dr. T also has a YouTube channel that might be helpful.    

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condescending twatbags, divorce, domestic violence, Ex

Promoting the myth of “one big happy family”…

I’ve been a subscriber of The Atlantic since last year. I do read a lot of the articles. In fact, I read more of The Atlantic than I do a lot of the other periodicals to which I am subscribed. However, over the past year I’ve noticed a few things.

First off, a lot of the articles are recycled repeatedly on Facebook. Secondly, they keep nagging me to turn auto-renew on, even though I clearly made a conscious decision to disable it (big surprise– auto-renew is turned on by default). In their emails pleading with me “not to miss an issue”, they point out that they’ll tell me before they charge me, and I always have the choice to disable auto-renew. If that’s the case, why not just let me make that choice for myself and leave me the fuck alone about it? And thirdly, so many of The Atlantic’s articles are incredibly depressing, outright ridiculous, and/or overly and annoyingly “woke”. I’m not sure if I will resubscribe when my current subscription ends next month, but the emails pleading for me to let them automatically take my money are off putting.

Reading The Atlantic the other day kind of led to yesterday’s slow news day on my blog. I kind of had to take a mental health day and just write a book review. I went a little nuts on Tuesday. It started with the cannelloni I decided to make for lunch. I wanted some red wine to go with it, even though I usually try not to imbibe when Bill isn’t home. Well… I started enjoying the wine, then I got online and read an article in The Atlantic. It was another one of Lori Gottlieb’s Dear Therapist columns, dated from June 2019. The piece was entitled “Dear Therapist: I Can’t Stand My Fiancée’s Ex-Husband”. The sub title-explanation was, “He wants to take pictures with her and their daughter like they’re still one happy family—and I want him to stop.” Below is the letter in the article:

Dear Therapist,

I am engaged to be married to a wonderful woman who has a 6-year-old daughter with her ex-husband. They share joint custody. A major contributing factor in her decision to end their marriage was her ex’s controlling nature. Even now, after being divorced for more than two years, he tries to control her life.

One of the ways he tries to do this is by insisting on taking pictures of the three of them at every function where they are all present. First day of school, graduations, etc.—he has to have pictures taken of himself with my fiancée and their daughter as if they are still one big happy family.

Since the divorce, he has gotten engaged as well. I can only assume his fiancée must find these odd “not-a-family pictures” as strange as my fiancée and I do. The sole reason we haven’t shut him down when he insists on them is that we think maybe it is a nice thing for the little girl to have pictures of herself with her mom and dad. But we dread every event when we know he is going to expect this.

Will it do the daughter any harm to stop him the next time he starts insisting on this  awkward situation?

Lori Gottlieb’s advice to the letter writer who can’t stand his fiancee’s ex husband was to cooperate for the sake of the child. She explained that she has had many children of divorce in her office who have lamented about how their parents didn’t get along. She evidently sees nothing wrong with the letter writer’s ex husband insisting on family pictures, even though both his fiancee and the ex husband have found new partners and the fiancee, apparently, doesn’t like the forced picture taking either. I do think the letter writer is pretty classy for realizing that the photos with both parents might be nice for the daughter. Hopefully, it will mean that he doesn’t try to replace his soon to be stepdaughter’s father. Sounds to me like bio dad isn’t about to let that happen. I can’t blame bio dad for that, but I also don’t think bio dad should be pressuring his ex to do something she’s not comfortable with doing, for the sake of pushing a “one big happy family” myth.

Those of you who know me at all, might know that I automatically sympathize with the letter writer. I didn’t even have to read the guy’s letter to sympathize. Ex pulled that “one big happy family” bullshit on Bill, too… I would include myself in that comment, but she never asked or even considered how I would feel about pushing that narrative. And that was just one of MANY reasons why, over 18 years after my wedding day, I still can’t stand her and don’t want to be associated with her. I have very good reasons for not being able to stand her. At the very top of the list is the fact that my husband saw one of his daughters last year for the first time since 2004!

That’s right. She categorically denied Bill visitation for years while she happily took $2550 a month from him for three children– one of whom wasn’t even his kid (she denied eldest son access to his father, too). Early in our marriage, she tried to strong arm Bill into naming her the beneficiary of life insurance policies valuing $1,000,000, even though he was paying her about half his salary in child support and had already provided $500,000 in life insurance coverage to her. She told vicious lies about him (and me) to the children and even tried to turn his own parents against him. She also abused him in ALL ways– mentally, emotionally, physically, financially, sexually… you name it, she probably did it. He still bears the scars from the physical abuse. Through it all, my husband has been extraordinarily classy. To this day, he doesn’t trash talk his ex wife, although he does commiserate with his younger daughter about her. It turns out she treats her kids as badly as she does her husbands.

I, on the other hand, have absolutely no qualms about trash talking Ex. She totally deserves it, and I make no apologies for despising her. But it didn’t start out that way. Back in 2002, when I was blissfully ignorant about her, I imagined myself being kind and patient and understanding toward Ex and the children. I wanted to be a good stepmother, loving to Bill’s children and sharing access to him with his kids. I didn’t think I’d be friends with Ex, but I thought maybe we could be civil. I really try to be civil to most people unless they give me a good reason not to be. I encouraged Bill to stay involved with his daughters. I hoped and expected he’d visit them and be part of their lives. I hoped and expected I would be part of their lives, too, in whatever way. In those days, I probably would have been among the naive, glibly telling people in step situations that they must always do everything for the child’s sake, no matter what.

But, as some of my more regular readers know, I’ve only met Bill’s daughters once, back in 2003. I had no influence on their lives, because I wasn’t allowed to be part of their lives. I could have seen them at Christmas in 2004, which was when Bill last saw them together. That last meeting was, unfortunately, a trap, although Ex had tried to frame as a way to show the children that we’re “all one big happy family”. After that Christmas, Ex completely cut off access to the children and Bill lost contact with them for years. Yes, he could have tried going to court, and he did speak to a lawyer about doing that. But in those days, he simply didn’t have the money or the time to devote to child custody hearings. After his divorce, Bill was saddled with a bankruptcy and a foreclosure, and with the kids on the other side of the country, there was no way he could fight without courting financial and professional ruin– two conditions that would not have made him look good to a family court judge, anyway. It probably also would have ruined our marriage, because unlike Ex, Bill would have allowed his daughters total access to their mom. And we would have been fighting with her constantly.

As it stands now, only Bill’s younger daughter is speaking to him. We both feel fortunate that this happened– because for a long time, we never thought it would. And, personally, I had also gotten to the point at which I was trying not to care anymore and just wanted them to leave us alone. Of course, now I’m glad younger daughter is in contact with Bill. She’s turned out to be a good person. Older daughter remains estranged and, at this point, I’m beginning to think that’s the way it will always be. Maybe that’s the way it should be.

Bill had told me when we were dating that his ex wife could “rip me to shreds”. I kind of laughed at that… and it didn’t turn out to be true. I never let her get close enough to me to be able to “rip me to shreds.” I’m not afraid of her. I think she’s a pathetic loser, and I am pissed off that she was able to do the damage she’s done and continues to do. I’m truly sorry that she was abused as a child and is mentally ill, but that does NOT give her the right to harm other people And the fact that she has done SO MUCH HARM to SO MANY PEOPLE means that I can’t stand her, and will NOT cooperate with her, EVER. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my stance about Bill’s ex wife. She’s not a good person. Fortunately, the girls are now grown women, and I no longer have to worry about pushing the “one big happy family” myth for their sakes.

Anyway… on Tuesday, as I read that article, I visited the comment section and wrote, “Can’t blame him. There’s a reason they’re exes. I can’t stand my husband’s ex wife, either… actually, that is a massive understatement.”

I knew the reaction to my comment was probably going to be negative. I did immediately get one angry emoji. That person apparently blocked me, too. Oh fucking well.

But then I got this comment from some guy named Steve, who wrote… “but if your husband has kids with her, please encourage and support him in being civil for the sake of the children. Being a stepparent that appears against the children’s mother is going to make everything, including your relationship with the kids, much more difficult and stressful for everyone.”

Oh please. This tired screed again? So I responded to the guy, more aggressively than maybe I should have. I won’t lie. I found his comment pretty offensive and presumptuous. I mean, I guess one could assume that I’m the problem because I flat out stated that I can’t stand my husband’s ex. Not knowing anything about me, maybe I would make a similar assumption. It’s a human thing to do. Still, I just felt this overwhelming urge to speak up for people in my situation. It’s really tiresome when people glibly make suggestions like the one Steve made to me. Why would Steve or anyone else assume that someone who comes second or later is going to automatically be the problem when it comes to fostering relationships between divorced parents and their children? Why would he assume that I can’t stand the ex simply because she’s the ex?

There really is a reason why people become exes… and I don’t blame the letter writer for not liking the forced family photos. Those forced family photos are not a reflection of reality, and the ex husband’s insistence on taking them may, indeed, be due to his control issues. Not knowing the people involved, I can only assume they know each other and the situation better than any reader ever could. And while Lori Gottlieb does write that oftentimes, when she speaks to couples, she finds that both parties are equally to blame for problems in a relationship, there are also a lot of situations in which one partner really is a control freak or a narcissistic abuser. The ex insisting on something like taking family photos may seem very minor, in the grand scheme of things, but that might be part of a much larger issue that led to the couple’s split. In any case, I think the fiancee should have the right to veto the photos if she wants to, and no one should judge her for that. The letter writer should be supportive and understanding, no matter what his fiancee chooses to do.

I also agree that divorced couples with children should do their best to work together whenever possible. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging people to be civilized and occasionally “take one for the team”. But when people split up, they should not be expected to promote a false “happy family” image for the child’s sake. If they can do so realistically, that’s one thing. But it sounds like in the letter writer’s situation, at least two of the adults aren’t comfortable with promoting the charade. Their opinions should be respected, too.

Perhaps against my better judgement, I ended up explaining some of my situation to Steve. I’ll admit, my responses were pretty angry– remember, I’m currently lonely, stressed out, and at that point, had been drinking wine. Steve’s off the cuff “advice” had made me angry, because it’s the kind of useless shit I’ve been hearing for years. I’m tired of people assuming I’m the problem, simply because I’m not the mom and I happened to come second. I would have been delighted to have worked with my husband’s ex wife, if she had been similarly willing to cooperate. Unfortunately, that was not how the situation was when the girls were minors. She’s still spinning tales, and taking advantage of anyone who allows her to, and apparently, getting away with it… although younger daughter, at least, has figured her out and doesn’t want her near her children.

When I responded to Steve, I was thinking of the letter writer, as well as all of the other people I know who are in this very same boat. I know my personal story is probably kind of extraordinary. Most people’s exes aren’t as horrifying as Bill’s ex wife is. Most people are in a position to be able to enforce visitation rights, at the very least. Or their exes realize that by denying their children access to their natural parent (as long as there isn’t a damned good reason for them NOT to be), they are hurting the children. On the other hand, I do know some people who are dealing with truly awful, manipulative, controlling, abusive exes… and the people– especially the women– who subsequently get involved with them often end up being labeled as “wicked”, “homewrecker”, or “obstructive”, or they have to endure rude assumptions and questions like “Are you the reason they got divorced?”

Steve and I went back and forth a few times. He turned out to be a pretty okay guy, and I even ended up thanking him, because in the end, he was ultimately understanding and kind. And now that I’m reading my responses to him, sans wine, I realize that I was a bit triggered and, perhaps, more hostile than I should have been. The truth is, things are pretty stressful right now. Bill is on an extended TDY, so I don’t have anyone to talk to, other than online. This isn’t the first time I’ve spent weeks alone, but doing this routine during a pandemic, in a foreign country, and after having been “locked down” for months, is very trying.

I do know things could be worse. Bill is not in a war zone with a narcissist; he isn’t regularly fighting with his ex wife; we are both healthy; and we have plenty of money to pay our bills. I know there are many people out there who would laugh at me and tell me to get over myself. But even though I know things aren’t really that bad and have historically been worse, that doesn’t change the fact that the other day, it was like I’d run into a perfect storm of triggers that got me pretty wound up. The truth is, I kind of exploded… then imploded.

I ended up going to bed early on Tuesday, after a tense and very brief– and incoherent– chat with Bill. We had a much better chat last night and I apologized for the state I was in on Tuesday. He was understanding, as usual, reminding me that this is a “stressful time”. And it is… the boredom, loneliness, and hopelessness of the past fourteen months have taken their toll. It doesn’t help that my husband, who is half vaccinated, is on yet another business trip lasting weeks. I feel like we’re separated. There is a light at the end of the lockdown tunnel, though. In a few weeks, we’ll both be fully vaccinated, and it looks like the TDYs from hell may be over for awhile. And maybe we can do something enjoyable and spend some money on a trip somewhere. Hope springs eternal.

Anyway… I know I should avoid comment sections for the sake of my blood pressure and mental health. But, if I didn’t read comments, I probably wouldn’t have enough material to blog every day. Other people’s reactions and perceptions can make for fertile content mining. I also know that there are people out there who were glad I spoke up about that fake “one big happy family” falsehood. For a lot of us in these step relationships, that just isn’t reality… and I don’t think we do good when we try to present it that way.

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disasters, divorce, Ex, LDS, narcissists, religion

“Time and all eternity…” (snicker)

A few years ago, I wrote a post on the Blogspot incarnation of The Overeducated Housewife entitled “The Ex is Much Like Wile E. Coyote”. I was inspired to write that post as I realized that a lot of Ex’s big plans eventually fall apart, much like they always did for Wile E. Coyote on the Road Runner cartoons. She has a way of coming up with really big ideas, but somehow, they almost always eventually lead to failure, if not outright disaster. Unfortunately, Ex is great at convincing people, so a lot of innocent folks have been harmed by her big ideas.

I should just call Ex Wile E. Coyote. She has much in common with him.

When I wrote that post, back in the fall of 2018, I was under a lot of stress. Most of it had nothing to do with Ex. However, because Ex has caused me and a lot of my loved ones considerable pain over the years, I couldn’t help but engage in a bit of snark. That post attracted a comment from a person calling themselves “Wondering Why”, who took exception to my habit of “trashing” Bill’s ex wife. This was the comment left for me by “Wondering Why”:

I have to wonder why you see the need to publicly trash your husband’s ex, repeatedly, on your personal blog. Why do you air such personal business? There is so much negativity coming from you in many posts, and SO much TMI info. So much of it is simply inappropriate. Just because you think it, doesn’t mean you need to write it and then publish it. Write it to get out your angst, but seriously, let it go already. You come off as snotty, petty and bitter.

I think I know who this person was. As I have mentioned before, I carefully watch who visits my blog. I could see that this person had visited several times and had even engaged me in chat once or twice. She has since moved to Germany and is a member of a group I run. She once told me that she’s a “first wife”, and I think she assumes Bill’s ex wife is a normal and “nice” person, and that I’m just a mean, bitter, second wife who is picking on her. I can see why she thinks that, based on only reading a few posts.

However, my negative opinions about Ex didn’t form in a vacuum. They are quite well justified, and venting about them helps me maintain my peace in an insane situation. The truth is, Ex does a lot of destructive things that complicate life for many innocents. Her crazymaking has a tendency to make people myopic– they can’t see the big picture and get stuck in her lunacy. It’s painful and distressing to watch if you’re a decent person, which Bill and I are.

Believe me, nothing would have made me happier than if Bill’s ex and I could get along and cooperate for the sake of family. She’s made that impossible, and now that younger daughter is older and talking to Bill, we’ve learned that this is how she treats most people who get close to her. She somehow convinces the most vulnerable people in her life that they can’t live without her, even as she fucks up their lives.

I have noticed that “Wondering Why” now acts like she didn’t leave that comment, and I have never confronted her about it. She’s friendly to me in the group I run. However, I did respond to her comment on the blog itself, as did a number of regular readers who know the backstory about Bill and his ex wife. In fact, that comment spawned several posts, because I was irritated by the hypocrisy and tone of it. This is a personal blog. It’s not always going to be light and breezy reading. If that’s what you want, get a subscription to Reader’s Digest.

Anyway… this post is not so much about a random commenter’s uninformed opinions about my character and posting habits regarding Ex, as it is about Ex’s harebrained schemes that always seem to backfire. Ex does a lot of really impulsive and ultimately stupid things, a lot of which have lasting and very negative consequences. It would be easy to ignore her dumb decisions if they only affected her, but alas… they affect a whole lot of people, as I recently mentioned in my post, Ripple eff-Ex Volume 2. Case, in point, Ex’s foolish decision to convert to Mormonism.

Back in 1997, Bill and his ex wife were living in Arkansas. Bill had temporarily left active duty and, despite having an international relations degree from American University, he was working swing and third shifts in a factory. They were broke, and Bill was constantly working to try to keep things running. Meanwhile, Ex was doing everything she could to ruin their finances and fuck everything up.

During that time, Ex, who also had a friend who was LDS, noticed a “beautiful” family at a restaurant. Or, at least this is the story I’ve heard… I’m not sure if this really happened, or it’s just a fable that sounds good. Ex supposedly noticed how well-behaved, happy, and peaceful the family appeared to be. They said grace before eating, and looked like they all got along so well. She allegedly complimented them on how nice they looked and they told her they were Mormons. I’m not sure if I believe this is exactly how it happened, but like I said, it sounds good. The upshot is, Ex unilaterally decided that she wanted the family to convert to Mormonism.

Bill was desperate to save his marriage, and he knew that Ex was going to do what she wanted regardless. He agreed to join the church. So Ex contacted the LDS church, who sent missionaries. I’m sure they were only too delighted to have a golden contact family– that is, a family who came to them willingly for church membership, rather than having to be convinced to join. Even though Bill loves coffee and booze, he willingly gave them up to make Ex happy. He jumped through all the hoops and got “endowed”, meaning he became “temple worthy” and was deemed good enough to wear the special undergarments that supposedly grant super spiritual powers. Ex also became temple worthy, and the two of them went through a special religious ordinance called “sealing”.

I have written about LDS sealing before, especially in my old blog. It’s a very big deal to LDS church members. The ordinance takes place in a temple, which only the most devout church members can enter. They even have cards with bar codes on them that indicate whether or not a person is “temple worthy”. The members have to answer questions before the cards are granted, and they have to keep them up-to-date.

So, Bill and Ex were sealed “for time and all eternity”. Aw… isn’t that romantic? I’m sure when they got sealed, they were happy to know that their family would be preserved forever, even in the afterlife. During the ceremony, Bill and Ex also got special new Mormon names. Ex doesn’t know Bill’s name, because she’s not cleared to know it. But Bill knows Ex’s name… which is actually the same name all of the women who got sealed on that day at that temple were given. Same as the men. Every day, a new name from a special list is chosen, and everyone who goes through the temple on that day gets the male or female “name of the day”. Because Bill and Ex had two daughters together, as well as Ex’s son from her first marriage, who, at the time, was using Bill’s surname and being raised as if he was Bill’s son, the children were also sealed to Bill– “for time and all eternity”.

Sealing, according to the Mormon tradition, technically means that after we’re all dead, Bill and Ex will still be married. This is where/things get a bit complicated. Mormons take sealing very seriously; however, the rules seem to vary or change depending on who a person is and who they know. I have heard a number of different things about what happens when a couple divorces and/or one person resigns their church membership. It mostly seems to depend on who’s involved with the temple divorce and who’s in charge of the church.

There was a woman who used to post frequently on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard. She had an abusive ex husband whom she married when she was very young. She was “sealed” to him, because that’s what good and faithful Mormons do. But their marriage fell apart because he repeatedly assaulted her. She tried to get a temple divorce from her ex husband. This is a separate thing from a legal divorce– it’s something the LDS church does for women.

A temple worthy Mormon man is allowed to be “sealed” to more than one woman. All he has to do is get a sealing clearance indicating that he and the next wife are both worthy. But for women, it can be a hell of a lot more complicated, because women can only be “sealed” to one man, and getting unsealed, while technically possible, can be extremely difficult if one doesn’t have the right connections. Well, the lady on RfM has repeatedly written that even though she’s tried for over 20 years to get the “temple divorce”, the church would never do it. You can read more about this here. She also wrote that her hairdresser, who is “well connected”, got her “cancellation of sealing” in just a few weeks.

Take Marie Osmond, for instance. In 1982, she married and was “sealed” to Stephen Craig, who was a basketball player at Brigham Young University. They have a son together, but split up after only a few years of marriage. Marie later married Brian Blosil and, I can greatly assume, was granted a “temple divorce” so that they could be sealed in the temple. Marie went on to have two more bio children with Brian, and adopted five others. All of those children would have, presumably, been sealed to Brian Blosil. Marie later divorced Brian and remarried Stephen Craig. I’m sure that she and Stephen were resealed, simply because of who she is. For rank and file people, though, this is not such an easy thing to accomplish.

Bill officially resigned from the LDS church in 2006. When he resigned, he got a letter from the church letting him know that his name was removed from the church’s rolls and all blessings and so forth had been revoked. They also sent a cute little pamphlet inviting him to come back to church and get over being “offended”.

One would think that resigning from the church really would mean that he and Ex were automatically temple divorced, right? Not so fast. Again, it seems to depend on who you are and who you know– and probably how much money you give to the church.

Bill does not have any issue with his ex wife being sealed to someone else. In fact, he’d welcome it. When he resigned from the church, Bill even put in his letter that he supported allowing Ex to be sealed to her current husband, #3, who joined the church at Ex’s behest. But we also know that even if a former spouse has resigned from the church, church officials will send a letter to the former spouse if the actively LDS ex spouse wishes to be sealed to someone else. The letter invites the ex spouse to provide any reasons why his or her LDS active ex spouse should not be allowed to get re-sealed. Of course, any opinions given and the details provided aren’t an instant veto. Church officials make the final decision, although they might take into consideration any info they get from the Exes who respond to their queries. It’s just one more way they can get dirt on their members.

Some years back, when Bill and Ex were still squabbling over her decision to cut the children off from Bill (which really shouldn’t have surprised him in the least), Ex mentioned that she was going to try to get their sealing cancelled, so she and #3 could be sealed for “time and all eternity”. I remember early in our marriage, that always bothered me a little bit… because while I’ve always believed sealings are a bunch of hooey, I didn’t like the idea of Ex thinking she still had a hold on Bill. Now, of course, I don’t give a flying fuck what she thinks. I know for a fact that Bill won’t be uttering Ex’s secret name in the Terrestrial or Telestial Kingdoms (cuz I know neither of them are Celestial Kingdom material). But… I also know that Ex never managed to get that temple divorce. I always figured that she never tried very hard, probably because being sealed to Bill is a good thing to throw in #3’s face when she thinks he needs to be brought down a peg. You can’t tell me that Ex never compares #3 to Bill… because that’s what she does to everyone. She is a pro triangulator, and will happily stoop to whatever low depths she can sink to in order to keep people in her sphere compliant with her goals and wishes.

Well… recently, it came to light that Ex had, in fact, tried to get that temple divorce. Younger daughter explained that she and #3 had tried and failed to get permission to be sealed, and they appealed all the way to the First Presidency of the church. That’s about as high as it gets, folks. But the church refused to give her the sealing cancellation for a couple of reasons. First– either one or both of them were not “temple worthy”, meaning they weren’t following all of the rules and paying the necessary tithes to get into the temple. Second– Bill could always decide to rejoin the church, at which point, all of his “blessings” would be reinstated. And younger daughter added that Ex was told that even if the church did allow Ex and #3 to be sealed, Bill’s children and ex stepson would NOT be sealed to #3. Only their two children together would be sealed to #3. Evidently, because of that, Ex stopped trying to get the temple divorce. Obviously, being sealed to #3 was less important than having another thorn to stick in Bill’s side over their divorce. And if she couldn’t steal Bill’s daughters in the afterlife, what good was jumping through all the hoops? I doubt she cares much about #3, anyway.

The best part of this story? It turns out that younger daughter did not want to be #3’s daughter for time and all eternity. Once the temple divorce idea was finally put to bed, she said, “So that means I’m going to stay sealed to my dad? Good!” Of course, she was not speaking to Bill at that time. But it does his heart good to know that younger daughter never forgot him, as Ex had claimed she had.

So… like I said, Ex is much like Wile E. Coyote. She comes up with brilliant plans that she doesn’t think through completely, and they very often end up turning to shit. The decision to joint the LDS church, which I’m sure was a way of getting Bill to be more like her fantasy ideal of a good husband and maintain control over the children, has blown up in her face many times. In fact, the LDS church even served as a way for younger daughter to escape her mother’s clutches. Church members, noting the way Ex is, helped younger daughter out immeasurably when she needed to get away from her mom. And they have tried to help older daughter, too. Unfortunately, older daughter remains stuck… at least for the time being.

I always have a lot of empathy for people who post on RfM about the whole “temple divorce/sealing” issue. I know that subject causes pain, particularly if one is a believer in the church’s teachings. But even if one is not a believer, it’s kind of hurtful to think of your spouse being “sealed” to someone else, even if it’s a bunch of religious mind fuckery. On my original blog, I posted about this subject when, back in 2012, someone on RfM posted about how he was sealed to his first wife and his second wife was upset about it. Here’s what he wrote:

I am in a really difficult situation and would really love to hear from others on my problem. I was raised in the mormon church. I went every Sunday. As a kid, I held all of the leadership roles one could hold. I didn’t go on a mission because my “testimony” just wasn’t there. I rarely expressed my thoughts about the church because it felt so fake. I got married instead at the young age of 19. We had a civil marriage and got “sealed” in the SL temple exactly one year later, in June. Our first child was conceived that same month and born 9 months later. We had another one 18 months after that. Life seemed to just roll along. I just did what I was told. Finally, after 22 years of marriage, I found a reason to take a job in another city and so I could commute (and get out of the situation as much as I could). Little did I know that the end of my marriage came after only a year or so of commuting (BTW, we got pregnant again, unplanned, and #3 child was born just before I started the new job). After one year of commuting, I met someone and fell in love. She was non-mormon and didn’t really know much about the religion. We moved in together and I told my wife I wanted a divorce. She was very angry at first but then we finally ended the marriage.

Now for the problem:

My second wife and I have been married now for almost 8 years. We live in a different city than my kids (750 mi away) but we get to see them fairly often. My 10 yo girl spends time with us and loves her step mom. My ex (still single but has a BF) and I get along, no real problems at all. My older girls, now married and have small babies of their own, are warming up to us again. The problem is that my wife wants me to divorce my ex in the mormon church. She is adamant about it and says that our marriage will not be complete until I do this. We don’t practice the religion. Heck, I met with a SP 9 yrs ago when we were living together (and before my divorce was final) and told him everything. I don’t even know if I’m a member of the church anymore, and I really don’t care. I have two main concerns: 1. Opening this “can of worms” will cause a huge issue between my ex-wife and I where we have things working just fine right now. I don’t want to create problems that will be costly down the road due to our 10 yo. 2. My kids are STRONG believers of mormonism. If I do this, they will surely find out, and everything we have worked for will be ruined as far as my relationship with the older kids is concerned. If I lost my relationship with my older kids (and their kids), I would hold my wife accountable and would never be able to forgive her. I’m in a tough spot. Would love to hear from anyone who has been in this or a similar situation, or you just have thoughts about it. Also, I have no feelings for my ex wife. My wife sometimes thinks that I still have feelings for her. I don’t. We are friends to the extent that she is the mother of my children, and I want to just keep it that way. We only communicate when it comes to the 10yo. Thx.

My heart went out to this man and his second wife, so I left this response for them (remember this was circa 2012– things have changed since then):

I empathize with your current wife. My husband and his ex were sealed after they converted. Unlike you and your ex, my husband and his ex do not get along. His kids are very estranged and TBM and he hasn’t talked to them in 7 years. She has remarried, but as far as I know, the sealing she has with my husband is still intact (i.e.; we haven’t gotten anything from the church about a sealing cancellation, though my husband did resign a few years ago). For the first few years of our marriage, it did kind of bother me, because I figured the ex was still thinking she had a claim to him… She had told my husband that she had never wanted the divorce and didn’t want to be married to her third husband. I didn’t think he’d ever go back to her, but that sealing thing was just stuck in my craw.

But oddly enough, as the years went by and the ex did some truly mean and hateful things to destroy my husband’s relations with his kids, I started to care a lot less about it. The LDS church is a bunch of horseshit anyway. Besides, my husband has made it very plain to me that he doesn’t have any loving feelings for his ex-wife. That was visibly clear one morning when I accidentally happened to mention her name in the bedroom when we were about to have sex. He immediately lost his hard on. After that, I knew she was absolutely no threat and their “temple marriage/sealing” meant absolutely NOTHING to him. And that’s really all that matters to me. As long as he doesn’t have any thoughts of reconnecting with her, I’m cool. Of course, in the years since that bedroom incident, it’s been made even clearer to me that he would never get back with her. He hasn’t spoken to her in over five years.

Maybe your wife needs to spend some time among us here in exMormonland… It really is a meaningless thing if you don’t believe in the mumbo jumbo. It sounds to me like your wife just needs to know in no uncertain terms that the fact that you have kids with your ex wife doesn’t mean that you still have romantic feelings for her. I think it’s great that you two can be civil though. Believe me, I wish that was how it could have been with my husband and his ex. Total estrangement from his daughters has been very difficult for him.

He responded:

Thx specifically for your reply. I’m sorry to hear about the relationship your husband has with his kids. That is very sad to me, and I hope things turn out for the both of you the way you want them to. I really appreciate your insight to this whole mess. It has helped a lot.

And my reply:

You’re welcome.

I’m sorry my husband has a bad relationship with his kids, too. But that has a lot less to do with Mormonism than it does with the fact that his ex wife is just unreasonable and crazy. She did the same thing to her first husband and the son they had together and will likely do it again when she and her third husband split. And I’m pretty certain they will split eventually, though she may prove me wrong.

I hope my husband’s daughters someday figure out what they’ve thrown away and come to their senses. But even if they don’t, I hope they find peace. My husband and I are very happy and though it’s been hard for him not to have contact with his daughters, he knows that they’re young women who have to find their own way.

I wish you luck with your situation. It sounds like you’re fortunate enough to have a reasonable ex wife and a good relationship with your kids. That’s a blessing. Your wife probably just needs to be educated about Mormonism. Once I learned about it, it really helped me get over the sealing lunacy.

Wile E. Coyote, I tell you… Ex has a special gift for fucking things up… especially for herself! And friends, this is just the tip of the iceberg, which is why I continue to occasionally “trash” my husband’s ex wife on my blog. She is certifiably nuts, and she has hurt a whole lot of people… and continues to do so. Happily, she can no longer hurt Bill or me. And now that younger daughter is older and has gotten out of the toxic fog, she’s well on her way to being “vaccinated” against Ex’s fuckery, too. It’s bad enough when your mom is nuts… but adding ridiculous religious bullshit to life, which is already complicated and tough enough, really makes things harder than they need to be. That’s very unfortunate, as #3 once said to Bill when he said he wouldn’t be spending Christmas with him and his ex wife in my father-in-law’s home but, instead, would be coming home to his wife. I may not be “sealed” to Bill, but I love him dearly and I’ve never abused him. Living with that “for time” has got to be better than being shackled to an abuser “for time and all eternity”.

I guess when we’re all dead, Ex might be wandering around listening for Bill to call out for “Leah”… and she might be waiting a long time for a man to pull her through the veil. 😉 Of course, since Bill turned his back on the “one true church”, maybe we’ll be in Outer Darkness. I suspect that will be a more interesting place than Mormon Heaven is, anyway…

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divorce, Ex

A long, strange trip…

This morning started like any other morning, nowadays. I woke up at about 4:00am. I thought maybe Arran needed to go out, but apparently it was just my internal alarm clock. About a half hour later, I got up to let the dogs pee and feed them. I prefer to feed them a little later, but they were obviously ready to eat. Then I went back to bed to read up on current events.

A couple of hours later, I came across a column in The Atlantic written by Lori Gottlieb, a therapist who has also written several books. I read one of her books years ago. It was called Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self, and it was a surprisingly entertaining account of her experiences with anorexia nervosa. Which isn’t to say that I think Gottlieb’s book is the best one on the subject. I do remember writing a review for Epinions.com and not giving it a glowing review, even though I thought the writing was kind of oddly quirky and sometimes even funny.

Anyway, Gottlieb, who grew up in California, is now a columnist for The Atlantic and works as a psychotherapist in New York City. This morning, there was a link to a column she posted on January 28, 2019. The post was entitled “Dear Therapist: I’m Dating a Divorced Man With Kids, and It’s Harder Than I Thought”. This was written in the days before the fucking COVID-19 pandemic happened. As such, it seems oddly normal.

The letter writer explains that she’s 33 years old and her boyfriend is 48. He is divorced, while she’s never been married. He has three kids from his failed marriage. Letter writer has none. Right off the bat, I connected. I am almost eight years younger than Bill is, and of course, he was divorced and had two kids with his ex wife. He also has an ex stepson that he’d always treated (and paid for) as his own son, although it later became clear that ex stepson didn’t see Bill the way Bill saw him. Maybe his sentiments have changed with age, but he hasn’t spoken to Bill since 2009, when he got busted red-handed trying to pull a fast one over Bill’s money.

The letter writer explains that she is fed up with her boyfriend’s ex wife, who is very needy, dramatic, and apparently a leech. Letter writer is having trouble coming to terms with having the ex in her life. She texts the boyfriend for all manner of things including discipline of the kids. Letter writer feels intruded upon and although she loves her man very much, the ex looms in the shadows. And every time the phone goes off, the letter writer feels violated.

I know how she feels. For most of my marriage to Bill, I have had a deep resentment and outright hatred for his ex wife. I’m not going to sugar coat it, because that’s truly how I’ve felt, and it hasn’t been without reason. However, unlike the ex in the letter writer’s situation, Bill’s ex was infinitely more toxic and hateful. She made it impossible for Bill to have any relationship whatsoever with his children as she bled him dry financially. She told baldfaced lies to the children about how Bill and I met and told his parents lies about his behavior toward her. For years, she had Bill’s stepmother believing that he was a wife beater. My husband’s stepmother actually asked me if Bill abused me like he did Ex. I actually laughed out loud at that notion because it was so ridiculous.

The first few years of our marriage were truly “broke” years, as Bill sent half his salary to his ex wife, who treated him like shit. I blame my husband’s ex wife for the fact that I never had children. I don’t think I’m wrong to blame her, either. Bill had a vasectomy because she demanded that he get one. Then she divorced Bill and had two more children with her third husband. Meanwhile, we were too broke to be able to afford reproductive assistance at the time when it would have been the most likely to be successful. Bill did, at least, have the vasectomy reversed by the Army. That felt like taking back a bad decision that Bill was bullied into making. I wish we could have had a baby together… but as I’ve said recently, maybe it’s a blessing that we didn’t.

As we’ve gotten older, our financial situation has markedly improved, but I had to let go of the idea of being a mother. Meanwhile, Bill’s daughters disowned him and refused to speak to him at all for about fifteen years. I can’t tell you how many times Bill cried over being shut out of his daughters’ lives. It was extremely painful and totally unnecessary. What can I say? She’s more interested in maintaining control and hurting people than doing the right thing for her children.

As time went on, the resentment simmered… until early 2017, when Bill and his younger daughter started to reconnect. I was beginning to think I would always have rage toward my husband’s ex wife and daughters. I didn’t trust younger daughter when she started talking to Bill. I didn’t want her in our lives, because I was under the impression that she was like her mother. For the first fourteen years of our marriage, they were always in the shadows, looming over everything. I was tired of the drama and the intrusions, especially on holidays. Ex had made it clear that she only wanted Bill’s money and to blame him for the way her life was. The children wouldn’t speak to him or even acknowledge him as their father. I wanted them to cut ties once and for all and just leave us alone.

It turned out that younger daughter isn’t like Ex at all. In fact, it turns out that she’s really Bill’s daughter in terms of her looks and her behavior. A year ago, Bill was in Utah visiting her for the first time since Christmas 2004. A year ago, I wrote a scathing blog post about the revelations that came out after that visit. I was seething with anger about what had happened… but this time, it wasn’t just for Bill. It was for his daughters, too… and everyone else who suffered because of Ex’s lies and manipulations.

The writer of the letter in Lori Gottlieb’s column doesn’t have it nearly as bad as Bill and I did. Although in her case, the ex is certainly a nuisance, it’s clear that the ex lets the children see and speak to their father. She may be needy and intrusive, but it doesn’t sound like she’s purely evil. I’m sure that column will get a lot of rude comments from the masses who have no empathy for women who date men with kids. People always expect women to have endless compassion, patience, and love for the children in a relationship, even if it’s impossible, undeserved, or even undesired.

Lori Gottlieb gave the letter writer sensible advice, letting them know that when you date a man with children, the ex is often part of the package. In most cases, so are the children. I remember being fully prepared to accept Bill’s children, although not being a child of divorce myself, I couldn’t necessarily relate to their trauma. But I had an open mind and an open heart, and I was prepared to do what I could… at least in the early years. When they were at their most alienated, I will admit I closed myself off. I was really fed up with the bullshit and it was the only way I could stand it.

I’m glad Bill didn’t close off his heart. A year ago today, he saw his daughter in person and they shared a long hug and spent two solid days talking. It was a very good visit, overall. Bill met his son in law and grandchildren. But, as it always is whenever Ex is involved in anything, there was a lot of time spent debriefing and clearing the air. I’ve visited Bill’s late dad’s house three times. All three times, we basically sat around and talked about Ex and her crazy shit. Bill’s dad never got a chance to really get to know me before he died last year. So much time and energy was spent trying to deal with the crazy shit she threw at us. The same went for Bill’s two short days with his daughter, with whom he faithfully Skypes and emails now. Older daughter remains estranged, to her detriment.

This morning, I changed the privacy settings on those two posts I wrote about last year’s visit. The first one is very raw and profane, because I was extremely angry about how Ex had gotten away with torturing her family for so many years. The second one is less intense, but I had it protected anyway. A year has passed and the pain is much less intense now… with a year, comes perspective. Bill and I know we can survive, and our love has stood some pretty horrible stuff. I’ve come to respect Bill’s younger daughter. I can’t say I love her yet, because we’ve still only met in person once. But I’m willing to try, because I know Bill adores his daughters. Nothing would please him more than to have both of them in his life.

I used to have a flaming hot rage toward Ex. I truly hated her with a passion. I was obsessed with my hatred for her and my outrage at how she got away with blatant abuse that other people tolerated. I know that hating her was harmful to me, but I just couldn’t help it. She was just a despicable, horrible, abusive woman. And people would blame me for her shit. I couldn’t even talk about it without risking comments from the uninformed, trying to blame it on me. Listen… I am plenty willing to accept responsibility when I screw up. But I honestly had nothing to do with my husband’s divorce from his ex wife, and I never had the chance to screw with his ex wife or their kids. All I did was encourage Bill to be strong and assertive. Abusive liars don’t like that, of course. It makes them angry.

This sums it up.

I can say now that these days, I pretty much don’t care about Ex and rarely think about her anymore. I mostly see her as pathetic now. I hate what she did, and I was extremely angry to hear about the things she did… the lies she told… and the way she treated her children like possessions to be jealously guarded or cast out, as the mood suited her. Ex isn’t a threat to me personally anymore, though, so I don’t really give a shit what happens to her, as long as she stays the fuck away from us.

I pretty much feel the same way about toxic ex landlady, too. As long as she and her flying monkeys don’t mess with me, they are safe from ever having to see or talk to me again. It’s taken me a long time to move past these traumas, but at least I know it’s possible. For a long time, I wondered if I’d ever be able to calm down and stop feeling so agitated about the way we were treated.

I guess what I’ve learned from dealing with that type of person is that you can’t let them get away with their shit. Or, best case scenario, you have to leave them in the dust and go no contact. Sometimes it’s sad or difficult to do that– if the person is a relative or an old friend. Sometimes it’s impossible to go no contact, such as when you have to co-parent and your children haven’t been completely estranged. Other times, it’s nothing but a relief, even if you spend years waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop.

It’s always regrettable when a relationship goes sour. In some ways, maybe it’s a blessing that Bill didn’t have to deal with his Ex much when the kids were growing up, other than a few very dramatic incidents and sending her so much money every month. But now the girls are women, well over the age of 21 and living their own lives. We don’t have to deal with Ex ever again. Bill and I finally have our peace… for the most part, anyway. I could do without these marathon TDYs.

I guess if I could advise the woman who wrote to Lori Gottlieb, I would tell her that eventually, children grow up and have their own lives. It may seem like the years are stretching ahead, but in our case, they flew by. I can remember thinking how, back in 2004, we would have so many years of dealing with Ex. Before we knew it, those difficult early years were gone. If you love your partner and are determined to hang in there, this situation can pass. It did in our case. In fact, it’s turned around in a very unexpected way. Ex used to infuriate me. I still find her infuriating, but I rarely think about her and mostly pity her on some level. She’s mentally ill and tragic. And she is not a threat.

On another note, I’ve been watching the whole Harry and Meghan drama. I didn’t see their interview with Oprah Winfrey, because I’m not in the USA. But I have read about it… I’m not sure where, exactly, the truth lies. I have a feeling there’s stuff from all sides contributing to the sad situation of today. I do think it’s too bad that Harry and Meghan felt they needed to leave Britain with Archie. All of this stuff is embarrassing and dysfunctional, but in a way, it sort of humanizes the British Royal Family. They have their family dramas, idiosyncrasies, and dysfunction too. It looks like Harry is very alienated right now, and whether or not it’s his fault, I feel for him. Bill’s situation with his daughters has given me more empathy toward children of divorce. It’s much worse when your life is as public as Harry’s has always been.

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