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 still 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 women. 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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book reviews, narcissists

Repost: A review of Will I Ever Be Free of You?: How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist and Heal Your Family

I am reposting this book review today because it’s relevant to today’s fresh blog content. It was written June 2, 2016, and appears here as/is.

Several years ago, I read a great book by Dr. Karyl McBride called Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers.  McBride is a very experienced psychotherapist whose mother was a narcissist.  Due to her own upbringing and the issues she faced growing up, McBride learned a lot about narcissism and has become an expert on the subject.  In 2015, she published another great book, Will I Ever Be Free of You?: How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist and Heal Your Family.  I just finished the book this morning and I think it’s an excellent tool for men and women who are in the midst of a high-conflict divorce from a narcissist.

As some regular readers of this blog may know, my husband was once married to a woman we believe is a narcissist.  She definitely has a high-conflict personality and went out of her way to make things difficult when she and Bill were splitting up.  I wish Dr. McBride’s book had been around win Bill and his ex wife were divorcing.  Even though reading it might not have changed the outcome in their situation, it would have shed some light on some of the behaviors we observed in Bill’s former wife and the two kids they had together.  

Dr. McBride does an outstanding job of explaining what narcissism is.  Many people have the misconception that narcissism is about being extremely vain and selfish.  It’s true that vanity and selfishness are aspects of narcissism, but narcissistic personality disorder goes way beyond simple self-centeredness.  Narcissists lack empathy and crave adulation and attention.  They overestimate  and exaggerate their abilities while tearing down the people around them.  They go to extreme lengths to meet their endless need for narcissistic supply and they hurt good people in the process.  

If you are unfortunate enough to be married to a narcissist, you may find yourself losing inches of your life in support of the narcissist.   Your hopes and dreams become completely lost as the narcissist’s hopes and dreams become the center of importance.  Your health, financial stability, and self-esteem will suffer.  If you have children with a narcissist, you may find yourself constantly fighting parental alienation tactics.

One thing I liked about McBride’s book is that she teaches readers some effective communication skills that can be used with children.  She explains that children can’t process their emotions the way adults can.  They may lash out and say things they don’t really mean.  Many parents will retaliate by getting angry and dismissing or discounting their children’s feelings.  Children of narcissists are especially at risk.  What McBride advocates is using very basic therapeutic skills to communicate with children who are upset or angry.  

Here’s an example.  If a child is upset that you won’t let him or her sleep over at a friend’s house, he or she might say “I hate you!”  Many parents might have a knee jerk reaction to that statement and say something like, “Yeah?  Well, I hate you right back!”  While that response might feel good and seem justified at the time, it’s not constructive.  The situation will only get worse as the child feels like he or she isn’t being heard or respected.  There will be mounting frustration and the situation will likely escalate.

Instead of saying, “I hate you right back!” you could say, “I’m sorry.  It sounds like you’re very upset. Why don’t we talk about why you’re upset and what we can do to make things better?”

When the child explains why he or she is upset, you could paraphrase what he or she says, making it clear you’re listening.  Then the two of you can come up with a solution.  Or not…  the point is, instead of yelling at the kid and reacting in anger or annoyance, you can express empathy and show respect.  Then, the child might eventually learn to behave in the same manner.  

All of this may seem unrealistic to some readers.  It’s easy for a trained therapist to say that a parent should show empathy and respect.  And I’m sure that McBride knows parents are humans who lose their tempers sometimes.  The point is, she offers a new way to communicate.  Children who have a narcissistic parent have it tougher than other kids do.  They have a parent who doesn’t respect them and treats them like a possession rather than a person.  Non-narcissistic parents can ease the situation by learning how to communicate respectfully.

I also liked that Dr. McBride reminded readers that they should never badmouth the child’s other parent, even if the child is complaining.  Kids complain about their parents, but they don’t want to hear other people complain about them.  Like it or not, the other parent most likely shares DNA with the child, so when you criticize the other parent for being a jerk, it can come across as a personal insult to the child.  McBride advocates always taking the high road, at least until the child is mature enough to understand other perspectives.  And even then, it’s probably best to keep the badmouthing to a minimum.

Now, I write all of this realizing that I badmouth Bill’s ex wife all the time.  However, we have no contact with Bill’s kids.  I am not their parent and they are both now grown women.  Bill is their parent, and he hasn’t actually spent time in person with them since 2004.  Sadly, they are both strangers now.  But when he was able to see his kids, Bill didn’t trash talk his ex to them.  (Edited to add: Bill now speaks to his younger daughter, and she does understand the different perspectives now.)

That brings me to my next point.  As many readers may know, sometimes people who divorce someone with a high-conflict personality may end up losing contact with their children.  I think this happens especially often with men who marry narcissistic women.  I think McBride’s book would have been stronger had she addressed this phenomenon.  Also, she doesn’t really explain as much about how to deal with narcissists themselves.  Her book was more about protecting children.  Unfortunately, if you have joint custody with a narcissist, it may be difficult to employ some of McBride’s strategies.  If your narcissistic ex has sole custody, as Bill’s ex did, you probably might as well forget it (and for the record, I think Bill was unwise to allow his ex to have sole custody, but he was naive and trusted her).   

I think Karyl McBride’s book is a worthy read for people who are divorcing someone who has a high conflict personality.  I’d probably give it 4 stars on a scale of 5.  

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Ex, mental health, politics

When QAnon brings estranged family members together…

Yesterday, I read a sad article in The Washington Post about how people have lost family members to QAnon. It began with a compelling description about how 24 year old Tyler watched as his mom stocked up for an imagined armageddon. She brought home ammunition, a water purifier, camping gear, and shelf stable food. She started wearing a holstered pistol just walking around her house, believing that there would be days of power outages and civil unrest.

Tyler’s mom told him that on March 4, 2021, there would be massive chaos. That would be when Donald Trump would return to power. March 4, for your edification, is the original Inauguration Day prior to the passage of the 20th Amendment in 1932.

Tyler had been living with his mother since he graduated college in 2019. They were located about an hour north of Minneapolis. As the 2020 elections approached, Tyler watched as his mom became more and more entrenched in baseless conspiracy theories and outright lies. Based on the WaPo’s article, I can assume that she turned into someone he no longer knew. Complicating matters was the presence of Tyler’s stepfather, who is apparently just as entrenched in QAnon.

The confusion in the household and worry Tyler experienced prompted him to seek help online. Last month, Tyler found the Reddit group, QAnonCasualties, which was founded by people who had watched their families fracture over the political climate in the United States. He explained to the moderators of the group that his mother and stepfather have a lot of weapons and are convinced that World War III is about to commence.

Making matters worse is the fact that Tyler hasn’t been working. Diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a mild form of autism, Tyler had graduated from a local university with a degree in manufacturing engineering. He quit his job in early January because he hoped to find work that would make use of his newly minted degree. As of yet, he hasn’t found new work. As Inauguration Day approached, he watched his mom grow ever more unhinged.

An old friend had stopped by with a wedding present, since Tyler’s mom had just remarried. Noticing the pistol, the friend asked Tyler’s mom if she planned to shoot anyone that day. And Tyler’s mom reportedly replied, “You never know what’s going to happen with the Democrats. They stole the election.” The friend told WaPo reporters that Tyler’s mom had once been a “wonderful” person who had invited her over for tea and gone kayaking with her. But now, it seems she’s gone completely off the deep end. According to the article:

To protect his family’s anonymity, The Washington Post is only using Tyler’s first name. In an email, his mother blamed her son for the tension in the house, writing that he was disrespectful and refused to look for work after leaving his job earlier this year. She added that she “never even heard of Qanon until very recently” and doesn’t “follow it,” but declined to discuss why she had begun purchasing survival gear and whether she believed Trump would return to the White House in March. “My beliefs about Trump are actually none of your business,” she wrote.

Tyler said he and his mother discussed QAnon one time; a bizarre conversation in which his mother insisted that QAnon prophecies were the product of artificial intelligence. He described an atmosphere of growing conspiracy and fear that pervaded his home. “It started a month before the election,” Tyler said in an interview, “and it kept growing until it felt like she was preaching the Bible to me.”

At first she insisted that Trump, not Biden, would be inaugurated on Jan. 20, and for a while Tyler held out hope that Biden’s swearing-in would jolt his mother back into reality. She would put away her gun and life would return to normal. But, the ceremony in Washington seemed to make little difference at his house in Minnesota.

Tyler truly hoped his mom would be more normal once Biden was inaugurated. He even posted online that she had seemed more “normal” on January 21st. But very soon, she went back to her old ways, insisting that Trump would be back in the White House. So Tyler decided to confront his mom, and that confrontation ultimately led to his being ejected from her home. She even threatened to have her new husband “hurt” Tyler.

Which brings me to the title of today’s post… up until this point, it sounds like Tyler’s family fell apart due to QAnon. But he found help from his other parent– his biological father and stepmother. Tyler had lost contact with his dad when he was a child and they had only recently reconnected. And Tyler’s dad and stepmother were willing to take him in, once Tyler’s unhinged mom tossed him and his belongings out of her house. On February 3, 2021, Tyler texted his stepmother, Heather, and told her that he’d confronted his mom, telling her that he didn’t believe in QAnon or any of his mom’s whackadoodle theories.

Half an hour later, Heather picked up Tyler, who was waiting in the front yard. When he got into Heather’s car, Tyler started to cry. Tyler is now sleeping in his 7 year old half sister’s bedroom. She sleeps in her parents’ room. Not long after the confrontation with Tyler’s mom, Tyler was contacted by his new stepfather, who wrote “When your daddy gets sick of you living there (and he will) don’t bother calling us.”

Those of you who regularly follow my blog might already know that my husband lost contact with his daughters after he and his ex wife divorced. A few years ago, one of Bill’s daughters finally reconnected with him. The other one remains estranged, and is apparently hopelessly entrenched in her mother’s sick, culty world. Last year, just before COVID-19 shut everything down, Bill visited his younger daughter for the first time since Christmas 2004. When she opened the door, Bill said the two of them stood there and shared a long overdue hug. And then they spent the whole two days of Bill’s visit debriefing each other about the events of the fifteen years they had spent apart.

I don’t know anything about Tyler’s mom, but although Tyler’s mom’s friend describes her as a “wonderful” person, I have a feeling that she’s another one of those people who hates her exes more than she loves her children. I come to that conclusion, not just because she fell into the QAnon cult, but because of a comment Tyler made to his stepmother. When he texted Heather that his mom had threatened to have his new stepfather “hurt” him, he also explained that he wasn’t actually worried about his safety. He wrote, “I’ve been dealing with this for years. It’s normal for me.

When Bill and his daughter met last year, Bill heard in more detail what it was like to grow up with Ex. There were many threats and promises made. There was a lot of “culty” thinking, not just in terms of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which Ex had insisted on joining a few years before she and Bill split, but also in terms of her own mini narcissistic cult. The girls were forced to write Bill letters disowning him and demanding that he allow their stepfather, Ex’s third husband, to adopt them. Ex had reportedly stood over them and made them write the letters, which she sent Bill just in time for his 42nd birthday.

Something tells me that Tyler’s current stepfather is not his first, since he wrote to Heather that this was not a new thing. Tyler’s mom evidently has a history of coming unglued, and probably sees Tyler as an extension of herself. And when Tyler didn’t want to fall in with her QAnon fantasy, she cast him out… the same way Ex does to anyone who won’t play along with her fantasies. I don’t know enough about Tyler’s mom to say I think she’s a narcissist, but my guess is that she has a “high conflict personality”. And as Bill and I have observed with his ex wife, who also has a high conflict personality, these types of people often get sucked into things as they blame everyone else for their issues. With Ex, it was everything from multi-level marketing scams to the LDS church. Granted, the Mormons didn’t turn out to be all bad. They did help Bill’s daughter escape her mother. But the church doesn’t give things without strings attached.

Younger daughter no doubt feels indebted to the church, and believe me, it’s not unlike the leadership to capitalize on that human need for reciprocity— that is, feeling obligated to reciprocate “kind actions”. There’s nothing wrong with that on its surface. Sometimes, however, “reciprocity” can be abused, and people wind up trapped by the need to pay back a solid, even long after the “emotional debt” has been repaid. This is how groups get control over people and stop them from living their own lives and thinking for themselves. Pretty soon, the lovebombing that occurs at the beginning of the relationship can turn into something sinister and toxic.

I have long believed that my husband’s ex wife runs her life like a mini cult. Anyone in her sphere has to accept whatever her conditions are, no matter how nutty or destructive they are. She’s allowed to do anything she wants, even if it’s criminal, because she had a shitty childhood and no one recognized how “special” she is. She’s allowed to abuse her husbands and her children because she was abused, and she’s allowed to take that abuse as far as she wants with no repercussions, whatsoever. Meanwhile, those of us who have been affected by her behavior and dare to speak out about it get raked over the coals and smeared. She went as far as to alienate Bill’s children, but she also did her best to try to destroy his relationships with his own parents!

Like Tyler, Ex has at least a couple of children who are on the autism spectrum, which makes them more vulnerable to her toxicity. Bill’s older daughter supposedly has Asperger’s Syndrome, and younger daughter has said that Ex’s youngest child, a fourteen year old son, is non-verbal due to autism. Bill’s older daughter, who will turn 30 this summer, still lives with Ex and has supposedly devoted her life to caring for her brother, who will likely never be able to live on his own. Meanwhile, whenever Ex gets pissed off at older daughter, she threatens to throw her out of the house, even though older daughter does the heavy lifting involved with caring for Ex’s son. Sounds a lot like what Tyler went through with his mom.

Incidentally, Tyler went back to his mom’s house about a week after he moved out to pick up his stuff. All of his belongings were thrown out on the front lawn, where they soon became covered with snow. He still hopes that his mother’s Trump fervor will fade and he will eventually be able to reconcile with her. He said, “I just don’t see the humanity in this. I wanted my family back, not this hatred.”

For Tyler’s sake, I truly hope he can reconnect with his mom. I hope she is, deep down, a reasonable and decent person who can grow up and wise up, and see what she stands to lose by continuing to submit to the QAnon bullshit. I don’t know what made her fall down the rabbit hole, but it would not surprise me if Tyler’s mom had some trauma in her life that somehow made her feel ostracized and persecuted. And the siren call of QAnon, which is full of butthurt delusional people must have been much too hard to resist– so hard that she’s willing to kick her own son out of her life.

It’s not that I don’t empathize with the abused. I have no doubt in my mind that my husband’s ex wife was severely abused by many people when she was a child. I can understand why she’s so traumatized. What I can’t abide is her habit of throwing away family members and forcing her children and husbands to disconnect with those of whom she doesn’t approve. It’s possible, or even probable, that Tyler’s new stepfather is partly to blame for Tyler’s mother’s actions. However, reading that he has only now reconnected with his father and his father and stepmother, who have apparently been together long enough to have a seven year old daughter, have welcomed him into their home, gives me a feeling that Tyler’s mom has some serious issues. And those issues, like Ex’s, make her vulnerable to falling into cults from which they never escape.

Sadly, more often than not, the best thing to do in such a situation is go no contact and cut all ties. I don’t think younger daughter has gone completely no contact yet, but she has definitely come out of the F.O.G. since she moved away from Ex. As hard as that is, and as sad as it initially was, in the long run, it’s the only way to find peace, autonomy, and freedom from chaos and drama.

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divorce, Ex, narcissists, psychology

Vindication…

Today’s post is not going to be about current events. Frankly, I’m once again feeling a bit saturated by what’s been going on in the world. A friend added me to a group for military wives against racism (not the actual name of the group), and it’s very busy. I spent a good part of yesterday looking at the constant stream of outrage about racism, and I’m just feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all… So, I’m not going to write about that today. Instead, I’m going to write about vindication.

Those of you who used to read my original blog already know that I wrote many times about my husband’s ex wife. More than once, people told me I was “crazy”, “bitter”, “petty”, or “bitchy”, because I wrote the truth about her. I had more than a few people try to blame me or Bill for what happened in his first marriage.

I suspect a lot of the people who felt qualified to opine about our situation were projecting shit from their own lives. Because, let’s face it, a lot of times, when a heterosexual marriage goes south, the man does bear a large part of the blame for what went wrong. More often than not, both parties are equally to blame, but it’s true that men are statistically more likely to be abusers, for instance. And a lot of times, men are less emotionally mature than women are, especially when they’re involved with the military or another line of work that is typically “male-centric”.

There were times over the years when I wondered if I was being fair in my assessments about Ex and all that went wrong. I wondered if I could be more charitable and understanding toward her, and the way she treats people. I did, on a conscious level, understand that she had been severely abused and neglected when she was growing up. I could understand on an intellectual plane how she turned into someone as cruel and mean spirited as she always seemed to be.

After awhile, once the kids became adults, I stopped caring as much about her. I wrote less often about her, although I still wrote some posts that drew negative comments from the peanut gallery. As recently as late 2018, someone commented that I shouldn’t “trash” Bill’s ex wife and air so much TMI “dirty laundry” on my blog. They implied that writing about this stuff made me less “classy”… as if I really care if someone who doesn’t know me personally thinks I have “class”. The fact is, I don’t (either care or have “class”). I know the truth about who I am, and what happened. I write about it for myself, and for those who can relate.

Bill’s daughter has been talking to him, and we’ve learned that the truth about what happened was actually even worse than we knew. I suspected on one level that things were probably bad in their house. I knew this intellectually, because of what I know about high conflict personalities. My husband’s ex wife definitely has one. It’s not as simple as dealing with someone who has a short fuse or is argumentative. She is seriously unable to cooperate, empathize, or relate with other people. She must have things her own way, even if it means messing things up for herself. She’ll go out of her way to set things up to prove people “wrong”, even if it hurts her or a loved one.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Back in 2006, Ex’s eldest child, a son from her first marriage, had turned 18 and wanted to move out of his mother’s house. Ex had set up the divorce decree (like, she literally wrote it up herself) so that the kids would get child support beyond age 18 if they met certain conditions. But when her son decided he wanted to move out, she realized that it didn’t suit her purposes for him to continue to get child support. So she called Bill and asked him not to pay child support for her son (and actually, Bill shouldn’t have been doing that anyway, since legally, he was not Bill’s responsibility).

Bill refused to honor her request and demanded to know what was going on with his daughters. She got very angry and sent him a hateful email full of bile about what an awful father he is, and how much the children hated me. Keep in mind, I have met Bill’s daughters just once. It was in July 2003, about seven months after we married. The girls were 9 and almost 12 years old. We got along just fine. After that, Ex would not let them visit. Before his visit this year to younger daughter, Bill had last seen them in December 2004. But here it was, April 2006, and Ex was claiming that they “hated” me. She also told Bill not to tell me what she wrote. In essence, Bill’s ex wife expected him to keep a secret from his current wife. Naturally, that didn’t sit well with me. One could argue that it’s not my business how she raises her children, but she had no right to ask Bill to keep secrets from me.

So I wrote her an email and basically ripped her a new one. I told her she was a terrible mother because every time she divorces, she forces her children to divorce their fathers. I also let her know that I would trust my own perceptions of what the girls thought of me over hers. Since we’d only met once, and I knew that we’d gotten along fine, I figured that if they truly “hated” me in 2006, it was not because of anything I did. I also lambasted her for denying her son access to his real dad and for changing her son’s original last name to Bill’s. Looking back on this, I realize that maybe I shouldn’t have written to her, although the one good thing that happened was that she quit sending Bill hateful emails and she never again tried to screw with me personally.

Three years passed. During that time, Bill was paying his former stepson child support. He was talking to him regularly, even though we were in Germany for a good part of that time. Then, on New Year’s Day 2009, I happened to make a discovery. At the time, I was a member of a messageboard for second wives and stepmoms. Sometime around Christmas 2008, someone in the group posted a link to a now defunct Web site called criminalsearches.com. You could enter people’s names into the site and it would show whether or not someone had been involved in criminal activity. This site actually went beyond the other, similar sites that make you pay. It was totally free, and even showed the official sites where you could find the information for yourself. Ex and her brood were in Arizona at the time, so the information was on Arizona’s court site.

One day, I was bored. I plugged in the names of all the adults in Ex’s household, to include ex stepson, Ex, and her current husband. Sure enough, they all had entries. But I got very worried because one entry was for someone with the same name as Ex’s husband (it’s a common name). The charges were very serious, involving crimes that would necessitate Bill’s intervention. After a little more sleuthing, I determined that the person with those crimes was someone who was actually two years younger than Ex’s current husband, but had the same name. I was relieved that it wasn’t Ex’s husband who was getting arrested for being drunk in public and stalking women. But then I came across a court entry for former stepson, indicating that he was going to change his last name. He had kept this big news a secret from Bill.

Let me state right now that neither Bill nor I had a problem with the young man’s decision to change his name. It never should have been changed to Bill’s last name in the first place. Moreover, her first ex husband should have been paying child support and having access to his son. He wanted to, but was not able to pay as much as Bill did. The issue was that the lad was changing his name without so much as a word to Bill about it. He was taking “child support” from Bill and sneaking around behind Bill’s back. It was very shady, ungrateful, and disrespectful behavior. So Bill called him out on it. Ex stepson’s reaction was one of anger. Clearly, he’d been led to believe that he could take this action and not be caught… and, in fact, he was only caught because I was bored and did some snooping. If the person in my group hadn’t posted that link, he probably would have gotten away with it.

It soon became clear that Ex had been working to get her son to detach from Bill for the past three years. She got her son back in touch with his dad, convinced him to change his last name to what it was originally, and led him to believe that he could do this and not be caught. And it was all because I told her she was wrong to deny him access to his real father. She was determined to make me “sorry” for telling her off in an email. I’m sure she hoped Bill would hate me for it, too. She probably suspected he would, because that would have been her reaction in the same situation. She seems to think everyone thinks the way she does.

I suspect she was surprised and even angry that Bill wasn’t upset that the boy had changed his name and reconnected with his real dad. She had intended to hurt Bill by doing that. She did hurt him, but not because the ex stepson rejected Bill in favor of his natural father. It was because Bill had been his “dad” for so many years, and the relationship all came down to money. In fact, the very last time Bill communicated with his ex stepson, it was in a message the lad had sent, begging for just one last payment of $500… and a promise that if Bill would only pay it, he’d never be “bothered” by ex stepson again.

Normal, loving, caring mothers would not do this to their children. They would welcome other people loving their children and helping them in life. But Ex deliberately screwed up her son’s relationship with Bill, which was mutually beneficial to both of them, because she was angry that I had told her off several years prior. Moreover, as the girls came of age, she refused to cooperate with Bill so that they could have valuable financial and emotional support from him. Younger daughter went to college with just the clothes on her back. If we had been in contact with her, she could have gotten child support and, perhaps, might have a college degree and less college debt now. Older daughter might not be saddled with as much student loan debt as she has.

So anyway… all of this leads up to why I titled today’s post “vindication”. Over the past months, it’s become clear that I wasn’t overreacting or being “petty” about Ex. I have suspected for a long time that she has serious mental health issues. Some of them are probably organic and could be helped with medication, but most are personality disorders. Personality disorders, unfortunately, are less likely to be curable because they are a part of a person’s psyche. A person with a personality disorder has to recognize that they have a problem and want to fix it. Sadly, most people with personality disorders, particularly those of the “cluster B” variety, do NOT want to get help. They think other people are the ones with the “problem”, even when it’s glaringly obvious that when problems arise, it almost always starts with them and their aberrant behaviors.

People love to hate “stepmothers” and second wives. I can’t tell you how many times people have assumed that I broke up my husband’s first marriage. Our ex landlady, who I think probably is a bit of a high conflict person herself, actually asked me point blank if Bill got divorced because of me. We have learned that Ex told her daughters that Bill cheated on her with me, which is a bald faced lie. In fact, if anyone was cheating, it was Ex. She moved her current husband into the house Bill was paying for before they had even divorced. I met Bill offline for the first time almost a year after he and his ex were officially divorced, and we didn’t even consummate our marriage until we were married for two weeks. Bill had to explain all of this to his younger daughter when they met in person back in March. Fortunately, she never entirely believed her mother’s lies and after meeting Bill again fifteen years after their last in person visit, realized that she’d been fed a lot of lies for years.

I’ve been on the receiving end of abuse from people who have commented on my blog posts, as well as people in RfM about my comments about Ex. Again, it’s usually people who are projecting their own situations onto ours. They don’t know me or Bill, but they know what happened in their situation. And somehow, they mostly figure it’s always the same story. The man is the one who screwed things up. The second wife/stepmom is an evil whore who wrecked the family home. And the ex wife is always just a victim, cast aside for a younger, prettier model.

Well… younger daughter has wisely been seeking professional help with what’s she’s been through as well as postpartum depression. And she has learned that her mother has real problems… mental health problems. The conclusion is much the same as the one I came to. Apparently, the therapist thinks the Ex is probably suffering from borderline personality disorder with psychosis. Originally, I thought maybe Ex had BPD too. She may very well have BPD, but personally, I think she’s also got full blown narcissistic personality disorder. I know that is a popular term right now and it’s being thrown around willy nilly by all kinds of people. I also know that I am not qualified to diagnose her. However, having done the work for master’s degrees in social work and public health, and having lived with the aftereffects of Bill’s relationship with his ex wife, this is what I’ve concluded about her. And it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who has come to this conclusion.

I am certainly not perfect. I have my own issues. I’ve sought psychiatric help myself in the past, mainly for depression and anxiety. Seeking help for a mental health condition is, by the way, a sign of strength, not weakness. But, as Bill often reassures me, I’m not at all like his ex wife. I don’t abuse him. I don’t cheat on him, squander his money, or sabotage his successes. In fact, I want him to do well, and I do all I can to support him. When he does well, we both reap the benefits. I love my husband very much and don’t see him as an adversary. I want him to be happy. I would wish for his happiness even if we split up someday, mainly because I know what kind of a person he is. He’s not an evil person, and honestly, he’s done so much for me I could never repay him anyway. But I don’t think we’ll split up, even though the state of the world has us both a bit stressed right now. We love each other too much. We are, in fact, pretty much perfect for each other.

I write about this because I know we’re not the only ones who have gone through this battle, as insane and farfetched as it may seem. Those who have never had to deal with someone who is legitimately mentally ill and refuses to get help will never know just how “crazy” it can be. I sometimes think my own dealings with mental health professionals just before Bill and I met were preparation for what was to come. Like I said, I do have my own craziness to deal with, but it’s on a much smaller scale than Ex’s is… and the fact that Bill divorced his ex wife is not a reflection on him. He tried for years to make the relationship work. She finally crossed a line that made it impossible to keep trying. And that’s when he ran straight into my arms.

I do feel somewhat vindicated as we’ve learned more about the truth of what happened. Hearing another perspective from another escapee of Ex’s crazy fantasy world has taught me that I’m not the one who’s crazy. I may seem bitter, petty, crazy, and wicked to those who read these posts without any backstory or insight. But the truth is, while I’m certainly not perfect, I’m also not the enemy… at least not to most people. I’ve only ever wanted to live my life in peace. Those who let me live in peace and don’t hurt me or the ones I love will get the same consideration. Those who don’t, at the very least, can expect that I’ll write about them. And the older I get, the more likely it is that I’ll take some other action, too. Even if it’s just to practice my guitar, which I’m going to do right now.

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