dogs, ethics, Ex, money

The road to wealth doesn’t require “rocket fuel”…

It hasn’t been the best week for finance in the United States. Bill and I don’t have a lot of wealth, but I have been diligently investing money for about ten years. While it’s not anything that would make us wealthy, it’s a tidy sum that neither of us ever thought we’d have. It’s distressing to see our stock portfolio lose value so quickly… but experience has taught me that the stocks will eventually go up again. And even if they don’t, the lower prices just mean that our money will buy more shares when the next automatic draft goes through.

I never thought a falling stock market would ever be one of my problems. I never expected to have enough money to invest. I came into our marriage with a lot of consumer debt and hefty school loans. Bill had a foreclosure and a bankruptcy, plus was paying Ex tons of child support. Meanwhile, she was denying him access to his daughters and his former stepson, for whom he was also paying support. I’ve written a lot about that situation, and how unfair it was… and how damaging and hurtful it was– to Bill, to me, and to his children. Before the divorce, Bill had enjoyed a loving relationship with his daughters and his ex stepson. Ex decided that it was better to demonize Bill than do the right thing by her children.

After the divorce, Bill was wrongly characterized as a woman-hating, cheating, abusive monster. Ex did everything she could to delete him from his children’s memories and make them hate their dad– half of their DNA that she willingly used to fertilize her ripe eggs. Once they were born and their marriage eventually disintegrated, she tried to come off as mother of the year, conveniently ignoring that she apparently has horrible taste in men… having had two failed marriages and forced her eldest three children to reject their fathers because they were “bad” people. Of course, that’s a bunch of hogwash. Ex’s first two husbands were perfectly satisfactory fathers and husbands. She’s just a liar.

Well… maybe I shouldn’t write about this… but I’m going to anyway, because it’s Sunday and I don’t have any other burning topics in mind. And because she makes me want to puke. Also, I have a feeling Alexis will get a kick out of it, and Alexis is probably my most loyal reader.

One thing I have learned over the past nineteen years of marriage is that the road to wealth doesn’t require “rocket fuel”. When I write that, I mean that the vast majority of people don’t become wealthy because they fall for a “get rich quick” scheme. According to a Yahoo! Finance article, the five steps that will lead a person to wealth are:

  1. Avoid (and Pay Down) Debt. Debt is not necessarily bad in all instances, but it is something to be avoided most of the time. …
  2. Spend Intentionally and Minimize Costs. …
  3. Invest as Much as Possible in a Diversified Portfolio. …
  4. Work on Your Career. …
  5. Find Extra Work.

One of Bill’s biggest complaints about his first marriage was that there was never enough money, even though he worked very hard. Ex had a very rigid idea of where and how she wanted to live. But she wasn’t willing to work with Bill to make it happen. So, for most of their marriage, he was the sole breadwinner. He foolishly let her handle their finances, and she spent money they didn’t have on stupid things. She did things like purchase furniture and carpeting for their “money pit” house when Bill didn’t have steady or well-paid employment. She hired people to landscape the house she decided she had to have because it looked like one she’d once seen in a snow globe. She used money she got in an accident settlement to buy truly useless crap– sometimes with the excuse that she intended to sell it on eBay once its value appreciated. One time, she even bought two cars without Bill’s input– other than his money, that is. She bought a brand new van and a Miata and delivered the Miata to Bill when he was working. She did this completely on her own, without consulting Bill.

Consequently, when I met Bill, he was the not so proud owner of several high interest, low limit credit cards, including an Aspire Card (at that time, it was a Providian Card, but it later became Aspire). Aspire, if you don’t know, is a credit card for people who have terrible credit ratings.

I have never had bad credit, but I was never in the habit of saving or investing, and I’ve never been great at making money. And graduate school was expensive, and I had to take out loans to finance it. I did have graduate assistantship positions, which knocked a lot of off the cost of my tuition. But I lived alone, and had to pay my living costs. When I finished school in 2002, which is also the year we married, I was pretty broke.

For the first few years of our marriage, Bill and I basically treaded water to keep our finances stable. But then, Bill got the call to go to Iraq, and I was left to handle the money. I decided that while he was gone, I was going to do what I could to improve our situation. I started by paying slightly more than the minimum on my student loans. It was just an extra $20 a month at first, but as time passed, I paid more. My loans were paid off in 2018, nine years ahead of time. I also paid off all of Bill’s shitty credit cards with high interest rates and low limits. A year after I did that, USAA offered to let him have a credit card again, after he lost it thanks to the bankruptcy he went through with Ex. He also qualified for a much cheaper car loan, so we refinanced our loan for the vehicle we had at the time. Then I paid it off ahead of time. I did the same with my car, which is now 13 years old and has been paid off for eight years.

Since we’ve been married, Bill has finished two master’s degrees courtesy of the Army. He does good work at his job, and is paid accordingly. We don’t worry about money anymore. I have every expectation that he will never again experience financial hardships– at least not the kind he did with Ex, which was mostly brought on by very stupid and wrong-headed financial decisions.

So what does this have to do with Ex? Well, once again, it appears that she’s trying to appear to be someone and something she’s not. Like, for instance, she’s trying to look like a responsible and caring mother. For the past few months, Ex has been announcing her intentions to get a service dog for her youngest child, who has autism and is, according to Ex, non-verbal. Service dogs are expensive, and require a lot of care. Moreover, Ex doesn’t have the greatest track record in taking care of living things like dogs… and her own children. That’s usually left up to other people, like Bill when they were married, and Bill’s older daughter now.

Every time I see her mention on social media wanting a service dog, I am reminded of the fate of the poor elderly poodle she inherited when her father died. That dog knew and loved Bill. She moved #3 into the home when Bill went back into the Army. One day, #3, who was at that time just shacking up with Ex and not yet married to her, got very angry and kicked the dog so hard that she lost an eye. Bill was told about this incident by one of the children, and I later confirmed it when I looked up #3 on Arizona’s public court page. Ex denied that it happened, but there it was, in black and white, #3’s animal cruelty charge. #3 is still married to Ex, but now she’s talking about wanting another dog in their home to be a “companion” to her teenaged son with autism.

How is Ex going to finance this goal? Does she plan to get a job? Is she paying down debts? Evidently not… according to her public social media. Instead of getting the money through practical and assured means, she’s decided to enter a sweepstakes sponsored by Rocket Mortgages. I’ve also seen her tweeting celebrities for help in reaching this goal. Now… I highly doubt that Ex will ever get her hands on a service dog. Her big ideas are usually overcome by events. I’m not sure why she’s so hot on the idea of a service dog now, anyway.

Reminds me of Publisher’s Clearing House.
“That’s what I used to think!”
Or American Family Publishers

Maybe it’s because older daughter is, perhaps, finally making some noises about leaving Ex’s home and living life on her own terms. I would love to hope that’s true, since older daughter is 30 years old and has more than done her time being Ex’s slave. Ex has already used her daughters in many ways, to include forcing them to give her the proceeds of student loans to finance her household expenses. I would love to see older daughter get out on her own. Maybe that will happen someday, but it probably won’t happen before the youngest kid is an adult.

But… to look at Ex’s social media accounts, she’s just the world’s most caring and loving mother. I don’t know how many people are buying her bullshit. I do think, however, that she has no business getting a service dog. I hope any agency considering giving her son a dog will do some research. I highly doubt she’s any better with money or relationships than she was 20 years ago. At best, the service dog will turn into just one more thing older daughter has to take care of. But if Ex happens to win, I take comfort in realizing that she’s probably more likely to spend the money on herself than buy an expensive dog for her son. That’s been her habit so far.

So ends today’s Ex related rant… And yes, I understand that it’s not my business what Ex does. Except that I am a dog lover, and it upsets me to think that an innocent dog might share a home with a man who once got so angry that he kicked an elderly poodle’s eye out… and a woman who is abusive on every possible level. That poor dog would just wind up being another slave in Ex’s wheel of discontent.

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Ex

Ripple eff-Ex… volume 2– Sometimes “no” is the kindest word you’ll ever say.

This is a really long and personal blog post. Some people might find it offensive. If you are offended, I apologize… although this story isn’t easy to tell. It’s a lot more convoluted than I’ve explained here. I’ll just say that we tried… and we’re still trying to counteract the “Ripple eff-Ex”.

Back in 2013, on my original Overeducated Housewife blog, I wrote a post entitled “Ripple eff-Ex”. That post was basically the history of how my husband and I came to be as we were in August 2013. At the time, we had just moved from North Carolina to Texas. Neither of Bill’s daughters were speaking to him. Bill’s dad and stepmother were pressuring him to visit more, while his mom was a “neighbor”, in that she lived in the same city. I mused about how a series of decisions had led us to where we were. I was pretty bitter at the time. It looked like Bill had lost his daughters forever and we weren’t going to be having our own family, although I had wanted one. He was about to retire from the Army, and I was pretty anguished about the future.

In my “Ripple eff-Ex” post, I explained that Bill had made a bad decision in marrying his ex wife in August 1990, and that decision had affected many innocent people. It was ultimately a bad decision because they were not suited to each other. He had felt sorry for her and wanted to rescue her and her son. She was looking for a sugar daddy and a source of narcissistic supply. Bill is an empathetic person who hadn’t realized his own worth. He believed she might be his one chance at having a family. And she was looking to upgrade her life– ditching her son’s father, an enlisted man with whom she didn’t mesh– and hooking an officer. I don’t think “love” had much to do with anything.

Their marriage ended in June 2000. By then, Bill and I were Internet friends, and we would meet in person the following year and marry the year after that. Even meeting me offline was kind of a strange decision, given the conditions of how and where we met. Fortunately, our marriage has been successful, despite the odd circumstances that put us together. On the other hand, I kind of wasted three years in graduate school. Oh well… at least it’s paid for.

In any case, Bill’s decision to marry Ex wasn’t formed in a vacuum. It was the result of other people’s choices. There’s actually a whole lot to this part of the story, but I’m not going to get into that now, because it would make this post way too long and convoluted. Suffice to say that there was a series of misfortunes and missteps that had led Bill to his first encounter with his ex wife. And years after they met, it was like a perfect storm of dysfunction awaiting to put them on a crash course.

Bill met his ex wife because his mother had made a series of moves to escape a stalker who had threatened Bill’s life. She had initially left the Memphis area for Phoenix when Bill was a little boy; then they eventually ended up in Houston, Texas, where Bill’s aunt and uncle lived. Along the way, there were experiences Bill had that shaped who he is. Somehow, he learned that he should never disappoint people, even if pleasing others was detrimental to his own well-being or even their well-being. He never learned that sometimes not disappointing people leads to much larger disappointments in the long run.

Somehow, Bill never developed self-respect during that time– and I went into detail about how that came to be. I think a large part of it was because he wasn’t around his father much, and his mother had married a man who was actually a transgendered woman. Bill’s stepfather (or stepmother, if you’d rather– I don’t think he ever really transitioned) treated Bill badly during his formative years– from the time he was ten until he was fourteen, when Bill’s mom and his first stepfather (of two) got divorced. That was when he wound up in Houston, and he and Ex met.

Bill was three years older than Ex was, so they didn’t really get together during those early years. She went on to marry an enlisted Army guy, the father of her eldest son, who had also gone to high school with them. Bill went to college, then joined the Army. Fate put Ex’s first husband and Bill together on a flight to the States. First Ex husband told Ex about seeing Bill, and she tracked him down in Germany and gave him quite the sob story.

“No” is sometimes the kindest word you can say…

Bill never got comfortable with dating before he ran into Ex. He had little experience with women and didn’t think very highly of himself, even though he had a lot going for him. So, when Ex tracked him down in Germany after her first husband had run into Bill, she put the moves on him, and he was kind of like a sitting duck. No one ever sat him down and offered him any hard truths about the situation. Even though his inner voice had warned him not to marry Ex, he ignored it and went through with the wedding. That decision had many “ripple effects”– hence the name of the blog post. It had effects on so many people— his children, his parents, his stepmom, his sister, me, my family, Ex’s husband and their kids, and Ex herself, among others. Of course, had he not married Ex, he might have married some other woman. Maybe she would have been a better match, and I might have ended up an old maid.

Around the same time I wrote the Ripple eff-Ex post, I wrote another post called “Family Shit”. It was about how my mom was upset with me because my dad was in his last months of life, and she felt I was purposely distancing myself from the family. I was confused by it all, since our immediate family has never been particularly close. My parents were married for 56 years, but it’s not like we lived our lives like a Normal Rockwell painting. I have three much older sisters and we just don’t have a lot in common… and every time we’ve tried to have a family reunion, there’s inevitably some kind of fight. I swore off family gatherings, because too many of them had left me in tears and took weeks to get over.

I remember my Mom had wanted me to try to come home for Thanksgiving, but I demurred. I recall saying it was because of the cost. It wasn’t just because of the cost, though. It was also because I had been through so many dramatic and ruined holidays with my family of origin. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I had eventually learned to say no, because that was what was best for me. I don’t like to disappoint people either, but I had learned at a younger age that sometimes disappointing people is the best thing to do. It can spare a lot of heartbreak in the long run. I credit my mom for teaching me to avoid trouble by using my common sense. I know she was disappointed that my sisters and I weren’t closer friends– although that wasn’t just up to me. But in not giving in to guilt and going along to get along, I probably spared my mental health. I think I’m better off for it, even though it does pain me to disappoint people.

At that time in 2013, when I wrote “Ripple eff-Ex”, we were just recovering from the years of financial wreckage wrought in Bill’s first marriage. For the first years of our marriage, he was sending a lot of child support to his ex wife for his two daughters, and his former stepson, who was not even legally his. In 2009, we discovered that former stepson was planning a cruel “fuck you” to Bill, as he continued to collect money from the man he’d called “Dad” for years. That was also the year his older daughter turned 18. She refused to speak to Bill, so he cut off her child support. In 2011, he did the same to younger daughter, who also wouldn’t speak to him. Both daughters had sent him letters in 2006, disowning him and demanding that he give them up for adoption to their stepfather. Bill hadn’t agreed to the adoption, but they still refused to have anything to do with him. So, when they came of age and Bill was supposed to support them directly, he quit paying, even though he had tried, unsuccessfully, to contact his older daughter about his agreement to support her until she was 22 years old. Ex had never filed with child support enforcement, so this was easy to do. And there were never any repercussions.

Long time readers of my blog might remember that things came to a head in November 2016, when we were in Ireland celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary. Our finances were finally getting straightened out. We had started to accept that the kids weren’t going to come around. My dad died in July 2014, and I had managed to see him before he passed.

It was during that trip to Ireland that Bill’s younger daughter came up on Facebook as a “person he might know”. I was really upset about it, because for years the kids wouldn’t speak to or acknowledge Bill. And yet, they would somehow find ways to “intrude”. Bill would call his father (who died in November 2020) for Christmas and his dad would tell him about speaking to his children, adding that they hadn’t wanted to talk to or about Bill. It had happened so many times over the years… and I was just sick of it. I felt like if they didn’t want to see or speak to Bill, they should just leave us alone and get on with their own lives.

James Taylor gets it. I’ll bet younger daughter can relate to this song.

But then in 2017, Bill’s younger daughter came around. She started to trade messages with Bill. They started to Skype. They slowly got to know each other again. In March 2020, after fifteen years of physical separation, Bill got to hug his daughter again. He saw his grandchildren and met his son-in-law. Then, he made it back to Germany just in time before the borders closed. During that visit, Bill learned a lot more about what went on during those years they weren’t speaking. Bill’s daughter, having talked to Bill for a couple of days, very astutely came to the same conclusion I had, years before. Bill was a victim of domestic violence in his first marriage. She even sent him an article about it. I suspect she knew the truth about Bill, because she’s observed the same behaviors in Ex’s relationship with her third husband.

More has come to light recently. Younger daughter has opened up more… and we’ve learned that much of what happened back then was due to Ex’s bullying tactics to keep her children under her control. She was abusive in all ways, and used manipulation, triangulation, and other forms of emotional terrorism to keep Bill’s daughters away from him and his mother. Bill’s dad and stepmom were marginally acceptable, although the girls were discouraged from contacting them, too.

Bill has often felt guilty for the disaster his first marriage was. He went through financial ruin– bankruptcy and foreclosure. He was estranged from his children and remains estranged from his former stepson and his older daughter. He prematurely left the Army at his ex wife’s behest, although he was able to rectify that decision later. He had a vasectomy because his ex wanted him to have one, although that was later reversed. And now, he’s found out that he was not the only one who was profoundly abused by his ex wife.

What would have happened if Bill had said “No” to his ex wife in 1989? What if he hadn’t taken the bait? He’s not in a bad place now. He has a good marriage to a woman who loves him. One of his daughters has come around to speaking to him again. He has a good job, and has completely recovered from the financial ruin he was in when Bill and I met. He’s even become more assertive and willing to fight for his own interests. But if he had just learned to say “no” sooner, he could have spared himself and others pain.

There’s not much sense in looking back, I guess– except to learn the lesson that major life altering decisions affect more than just one person. By marrying Ex, he brought an extremely toxic and dangerous person into the lives of innocent people. Exposure to Ex is dangerous– she’s affected me profoundly, even though we’ve never even met face to face. But this is not really a sad story. We’ve learned some very difficult and painful lessons. I know how much Bill respects people and wants them to be happy. But somehow, he never learned to make himself happy first.

Now he’s learning that lesson and standing up for himself and his interests. He’s learning that sometimes “No” is the kindest thing you can say to someone. He knows that he shouldn’t have married Ex, simply because he pitied her and had no faith in himself. Marrying someone because you feel sorry for them is not particularly kind in the long run. Because you don’t actually love them… Ex knew Bill didn’t love her. She didn’t love him, either. They made children who have suffered, although both have turned out to be surprisingly resilient and resourceful.

Younger daughter told Bill that she’s paid off her student loans, although I don’t think she’s finished her degree yet. She said that she’s so happy to have paid that debt… which we discovered she undertook at about 16 years of age. At that time, Ex had made her drop out of high school and get a GED so she could take college courses. Ex got younger daughter to take out loans, then used the extra money for herself. That was around the time Bill had quit paying child support for older daughter. Instead of talking to Bill about arranging for the child support beyond age 18, Ex chose to steal from her daughters, forcing them to pay back loans that she had coerced them into getting. She refused to communicate with the father of those girls– the man she CHOSE to be their father– and she ripped them off. I would not be the least bit surprised if she’s also got credit cards in their names, but I don’t know that for certain. I did, back around 2009, find evidence that Ex was using younger daughter’s name on a dating site. She used her age and location, but younger daughter’s name. It’s not a stretch that she also got credit that way, since she would have access to their Social Security numbers. I hope those girls have checked their credit reports.

I think Bill has survived Ex. I think younger daughter has, too… and former stepson, who really doesn’t have anything to do with anyone in his family anymore. Older daughter is still trapped, but I think she knows how toxic her mother is. She’s still there for the youngest child, who has severe autism and will probably always need help. Ex doesn’t take care of him. That’s left to Bill’s older daughter, who is supposedly also on the spectrum. Older daughter was reportedly very upset when Bill’s father died… but she hasn’t had a relationship with Bill or his parents in years. She hasn’t learned to say “no” to her mother and do what is in her own best interest. For her sake, I hope she figures it out soon. There are many people waiting to help her, when she’s ready to take that step.

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