mental health, narcissists, nostalgia, psychology, TV

“Be your own hero…” Life lessons from 80s era TV.

Throughout the 1980s, I was a big fan of the cheesy TV show, Fame. I’m not sure why I liked it so much. Even in the 80s, I knew it was a really cheesy show. I wasn’t involved in the performing arts at that time in my life, although my parents were. I just liked watching the reruns every night, which came on an independent, local television station in my area, WTVZ, channel 33. The independent version of WTVZ that I knew during my childhood went defunct years ago. It was bought out by a much bigger, national network. But, back in the day, I used to love watching prime time hits in syndication or reruns on channel 33. Now, I can do that on YouTube.

Yes, this is a cheesy and silly number, but there is wisdom in this song.

When I was in 7th or 8th grade, WTVZ ran episodes of Fame every evening at 7:00pm. I used to watch that show religiously. I still remember a lot of the musical numbers from the show. One such song was sung by the character, Coco (Erica Gimpel). It was called “Be Your Own Hero.” Actually, the song’s lyrics, themselves, aren’t that wise. They’re kind of corny and trite. But, the title is catchy, and the melody is upbeat and positive. And even if all you do is just look at the song’s title, you can take something away from it.

Fame was about talented kids in high school who hoped to make it big in show business someday. They knew they faced long odds of finding success, even though they were obviously gifted people. Being talented isn’t always enough, though. Luck plays a part, as does working hard, and believing in yourself. A big part of success, in any aspect of life, is not letting “the bastards” get you down. Because, as unfortunate as it is, there are always people out there who just like to watch the world burn. They like to see people fail. And some of these folks don’t even have the courtesy to be “real” about who they are. They put on a convincing act, and don’t reveal their true colors until after some time has passed. So, as the song goes, you gotta “be your own hero”, if you want to make it. You have to advocate for yourself and take opportunities as they arise, as you avoid falling into traps and pitfalls. Only you know what your reality is. No one else knows you, like you know yourself.

I am thinking about this song today, having had a discussion with Bill this morning about three situations in which we’ve managed not to be suckers. I’ve talked and written about these situations a lot over the years, but today was the first time I saw a pattern. It was a pattern of success– of us “being our own heroes” by knowing the differences between legitimate opportunities, and traps. This morning, we talked about three different scenarios that came up over the past twenty years, or so. These were circumstances in which other people were trying to take advantage of us. They were using the classic manipulative tactics to get what they wanted, when they weren’t entitled.

I’ll start with an old chestnut that I’ve trotted out umpteen times over the years– Christmas 2004. Detailed versions of the story of that holiday season are easily found in this blog, so I won’t rehash the tale. Basically, Ex was holding Bill’s daughters hostage– or bait, if you will. They were like carrots on the proverbial stick, as she used the prospect of Bill being allowed to see his own kids as reward for letting Ex come in to Bill’s father’s home and control everyone for the holidays. I was supposed to go to that gathering, but I saw it for the trap it was, and wisely stayed out of it. Yes, there was backlash, and plenty of people think I was wrong not to cooperate with Ex. However, I could plainly see what she was doing. I knew that no one– not even Ex– would benefit if I did what she wanted me to do. So I disobeyed her command to spend Christmas with her, and stayed home.

Now, Ex did retaliate, by stepping up her parental alienation campaign and being more toxic. In the years following that incident, there was a price to be paid for not acquiescing to her demands. However, if I had obeyed her, the price would have been much higher. In the long run, her actions have made her look like an asshole, and at least one (and probably more) of her kids know she’s an asshole. And I don’t have the memories of having to spend time in her presence. I was my own hero in that instance, because I realized that my own mental health matters. I don’t have to give in to emotional blackmail. If I had gone along with her plan, there was no guarantee that there would have been a reward of any kind. In fact, if I had given her the chance to know me in person, it might have made things a lot worse. The end result is that I haven’t had to deal with 20 years of her interfering with my marriage or trying to manipulate my husband, or me. Yes, she still manipulates other people, but we can’t control that. They have to be their own heroes and realize what she is, and what she does. Younger daughter has managed to do just that. I have high hopes that she will break the cycle of narcissistic abuse, at least in her own family.

The second scenario happened in 2009, when we busted then 21 year old former stepson secretly changing his last name as he continued to take child support from Bill (who isn’t his legal father). Ex had gotten the lad’s name changed to Bill’s when he was a toddler. When he was 21, he decided to change it back to his original surname (probably at Ex’s behest). But he still wanted Bill’s financial support, so he took these steps in secret. I later found out about it, quite by accident. I told Bill, and he decided to see if he could prompt the young man into coming clean. He never did.

For some reason, Ex had not filed for child support arranged by the state. My guess is that she knew that if she had the state handling child support, she wouldn’t get as much money. Bill was giving her $850 per child, which was a lot of money. When former stepson turned 18, Bill started paying him directly, which was what was required by their divorce agreement. Ex had a change of heart about that. She tried to get Bill to stop giving former stepson money directly. I guess she realized that the money gave her son power, and the ability to get away from her influence. But she did manage to get him to change his name, which was fine. He just should have had the common courtesy and respect to tell Bill what he was doing. Former stepson had neglected to do that, so it was left to Bill to practice some tough love.

As we realized what former stepson was up to, Bill came up with an idea. He’d given former stepson a chance to tell Bill about the name change, but former stepson had kept mum. So Bill, who was handling the “child support” payments directly, abruptly cut off the boy’s money. After a couple of days passed, and the child support money didn’t land in his bank account, as expected, the lad surfaced, asking what was going on. That was when Bill confronted him, and told him he had just declared himself no longer in need of getting “child support”. Changing one’s surname is, after all, the action of an adult.

Naturally, former stepson was angry that the man he had disingenuously been calling “Dad” had found out that he was changing his last name. His initial response wasn’t shame, embarrassment, or contrition. It was outrage. But there was Bill, now in charge. He had “been his own hero”, and not let this kid use his generosity to control and manipulate him. Bill had realized that letting his former stepson get away with this deceptive and shady behavior wasn’t good in the long run. It would make their relationship transactional, encourage more shady behavior in the future, and frankly, make Bill his former stepson’s lackey. That would have done some serious damage to Bill’s self-respect, while it gave former stepson a victory that he shouldn’t have. It would have been bad parenting for Bill to let his former stepson get away with what he was doing.

Yes, there were repercussions. Former stepson was furious, and now he doesn’t talk to Bill anymore. But we’ve heard he also doesn’t talk much to Ex, either. He’s paying his own way now, and has a family of his own. Bill is sorry they don’t talk anymore, but he also knows he’s not in a relationship with someone who only values him for money. Maybe someday they can heal the rift; but if they don’t, it’s okay. Bill will survive. So will former stepson. Hopefully, neither of his children will ever pull the same shameful bullshit with him when they get older.

And finally, we were our own heroes a couple of years ago, when our former landlady tried to steal our security deposit after we left her hovel. In retrospect, we should not have stayed in that house for four years. We should not have allowed her to treat us the way she did. Being nice and acquiescing to her demands only emboldened her, and apparently made her think that she could egregiously break German law and ignore our rights. At the end of our time in her house, we were left having, once again, to be tough and confrontational.

I had determined the year before we moved that ex landlady was going to be a major pain in the ass about our deposit when we moved. Actually, my concern was that she might try to sue us, because the 17 year old awning on her house had collapsed on my watch (due to high winds, NOT my negligence– in fact, she was negligent in not having it repaired by an actual technician, instead of her husband). I talked Bill into getting legal insurance, thinking we might need it if she tried to take action against us, even though it would have been ludicrous and probably doomed to failure.

What ended up happening, though, is that she simply refused to give us our money, and became very rude and insulting. She said we were the “worst” tenants she’d ever had, not realizing that she was the least professional landlady/landlord we’ve ever had. She did a lot of things wrong. She hadn’t done a proper protocol when we moved in, and she never did a former reconciliation of our “other costs”, which is required by German law. She also made false accusations against us that we could prove were false, and there was strong evidence that she had broken and entered the house when we weren’t home. That’s a huge “no no” in Germany.

When Bill received a very insulting, berating, and downright mean shaming email from the former landlady, he resolved not to respond to her. Instead, he closed his computer and went to sleep. He knew exactly what he was going to do next, and it was going to come as a very unpleasant surprise to the old bitch. She was expecting him to roll over for him, as he had done when we still lived in her house. Instead, he called a lawyer and had her write a letter demanding over 9000 euros, to include our stolen deposit, and the “other costs” she had received from us, but never reconciled. Naturally, ex landlady went berserk, and threatened to countersue. However, she had zero case against us because she couldn’t prove her claims. What’s more, we had a whole stack of rude, unhinged, hostile emails she had sent to Bill, at the end of our tenancy. Bill, on the other hand, had stayed professional and polite.

Ex landlady hadn’t had any respect for me, or what I do– writing blogs, taking photos, and the like. But the fact that I do these things– keep records, that is– was her downfall. And because I am a writer and researcher, we had that evidence to submit in our support of a lawsuit against her. If she had gone to court, it would have likely been a fucking massacre– especially since she falsely accused us of theft, and we could easily prove that her accusation was patently false. It was obvious that she wanted us to buy her a new, fancy awning. But she’s damned lucky that we let her file an insurance claim, under the circumstances. The awning wasn’t repaired properly. If it had fallen on me and caused injury, she would have been liable.

In the end, she settled with us, and was forced to not only give back most of the money she had illegally withheld, but she also had to pay for our lawyer, her lawyer, and court costs. And she’s now blacklisted from renting to anyone in the U.S. military community. I mean, I suppose she could rent to another contractor, like Bill. But most military contractors know that they can access the list of unapproved landlords. If they’re smart, they avoid renting from those folks. And government workers and military servicemembers won’t get government support/housing allowance if they rent from her. Her house is definitely nothing special, so I can’t see anyone paying out of pocket to live there.

That situation was very stressful for us. It gave us no joy or pleasure to sue our ex landlady. But as awful as that situation was, it was also exhilarating not to be someone’s chump. Bill actually described it that way to me. People underestimate him all the time. They take his kind, gentle nature as weakness. They are usually very surprised when he reminds them that he’s spent his whole adult life as a Soldier. Soldiers engage in war for a living. Soldiers are often career heroes. So she should not have been surprised. Bill was just doing what the Army trained him to do. Bill was “being his own hero.”

There have been other incidences of us “being our own heroes”, but this post is long enough already. I write these stories for those who find themselves in similar tough spots. I think our culture teaches us to “go along to get along”, or take the path of least resistance. That’s not always a bad thing to do. Sometimes, cooperating really is the best course of action. But, when you’re dealing with a bully who has no respect for you, it’s usually best not to negotiate. They will always try to make it so that you’re their chump. You can’t expect a fair shake from these people, and if you give them what they want, you will only embolden them to do worse things to you, or other innocent people. So be your own hero.

When you are confronted by high conflict bully types, try not to react emotionally. Stop for a moment. Don’t dash off a response, especially in writing. In fact, you might want to go radio silent and privately hatch some plans. As you can see from our stories, the element of surprise can be very effective in getting these people to fuck off. Above all, realize that you matter, and your mental health matters. Always advocate for yourself, and in a situation in which there isn’t a “win-win” option, do what suits you best. Most of the time, that will be the healthiest choice for everybody. Especially if you’re dealing with a high conflict person.

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Ex, mental health, narcissists, psychology, scams

“Um… excuse me for noticing, but your slip is showing…”

Happy Friday, y’all. Tomorrow is the big day… we’re gonna load up the Volvo and drive south for a vacation in Switzerland, Italy, and Liechtenstein. I’m looking forward to going, although I always worry a bit when we leave home. I especially worry about Arran, who is getting pretty old, and doesn’t enjoy being boarded as much as he used to when he was younger. But one of the reasons we chose to live in Europe is so we could do some exploring of the continent. Because of the pandemic, we’ve been doing less of that in recent years. It’s time we got back to it, if only so I can justify keeping my travel blog going. I do still have a handful of readers there who don’t follow this blog at all, so I like to offer fresh and interesting content to them whenever possible.

I have some stuff to take care of in preparation for the trip. I still need to pack, and there are a couple of routine household chores I’d like to get done before we head off in the morning. But being busy hasn’t stopped me from checking in on Ex. I know a lot of people think I’m “obsessed” with her, and my preoccupation might even be “unhealthy”. I might agree with them; although at this point, I mostly find her intriguing, rather than personally threatening. As an occasional student of psychology, some of the things she does, and gets away with, are fascinating. I think I would find her interesting even if she hadn’t been married to Bill, and I didn’t know her backstory. As a somewhat “relatively normal” person, I am continually shocked by her gall and complete lack of authenticity.

Years ago, I used to love watching cartoons. When I think of Ex, I often think in terms of cartoons. On my original blog, I once famously compared Ex to Wile E. Coyote, because she often has “big” ideas that turn out to be harebrained schemes that eventually blow up in her face. When I wrote that post in the fall of 2018, I got a comment from a reader who felt my posts about Ex were/are completely inappropriate and in “poor taste”. This person, obviously not someone who knows me or the situation, probably assumed that Ex is a “normal” person and I’m just a mean, bitter, second wife. But she’s not a normal person, and if you know anything about her, that reality becomes very clear in a hurry. And I may be mean and bitter sometimes, but I have never once come close to doing some of the things Ex does on a regular basis to people she supposedly loves.

On the surface, she seems like a lovely, thoughtful, “normal” woman. But look closer, and you see who she really is. I often find myself comparing her to cartoon characters, maybe because some of her behavior is very cartoonish. In 2018, Ex’s antics reminded me of Wile E. Coyote… but in 2022, she reminds me more of Yosemite Sam.

“Your slip is showing.”

In 1955, Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam starred in a cartoon called “Sahara Hare”. Yosemite Sam comes riding in on a camel, yelling and carrying on. When the camel doesn’t “whoa” when Sam says “whoa”, he knocks the poor animal on the head with his rifle. Just your typical, garden variety bully, posturing for all the world to see, right?

Meanwhile, Bugs Bunny is bathing in an oasis, good naturedly singing as he steps out, in search of a towel. His eyes are shut when he encounters Yosemite Sam, who wears desert garb that covers his head. Bugs mistakes Sam’s head covering as a towel. Sam whirls around to confront the rascally rabbit, who is busily drying off with Sam’s garb. Bugs asks him what’s up, and wonders if he’s with the side show. Yosemite Sam responds by introducing himself in threatening terms… to which Bugs says, “Your slip is showing.” This makes Sam cower in shame as he tries to cover up something that embarrasses him.

Of course, Bugs was conning him…

Realizing that he’s been duped into shame and humiliation, and feeling determined to gain Bugs Bunny’s respect, Sam gets angry and starts firing his weapon at Bugs, who is calmly departing the scene and easily missing Sam’s bullets. But then Sam nearly misses Bugs, who takes off running. Sam gets back on the camel and screams at him to follow Bugs. The camel doesn’t move, until Sam hits him again… then he won’t stop running, again causing Sam to hit him over the head with his gun.

Yep… Sam is really nothing but a bully, putting on a facade that is meant to intimidate other people. But really, he’s just an abusive, foolish, buffoon, who doesn’t manage to sway the astute. Only the naive or unaware are impressed or intimidated by Sam– a cartoon character who cowers in shame when a rabbit tells him that his “slip is showing”, even after he’s postured this loud, obnoxious, ridiculous spectacle that is supposed to be scary.

Young people among us might not know that a slip is an undergarment, typically worn by women, underneath dresses or skirts made of sheer or otherwise revealing material. It’s intended to preserve modesty, and cover up panty lines and the “naughty bits”… or private parts, if you prefer. That a tough talking little turd like Sam is wearing women’s undergarments is also a statement about his status as a “beta”, trying to act like an “alpha”.

In these more “enlightened” times, this cartoon might seem hopelessly sexist and un-PC, but the point is, Sam is trying to be something he’s really not. He’s a coward and a bully, who preys on the weak, foolish, and gullible. In that way, he’s kind of like Donald Trump. I don’t know how many of us ladies are still wearing slips these days, but when they were commonly worn, just like underwear, slips weren’t supposed to be shown to others. And men, at least in 1955, weren’t supposed to wear slips at all. So, the fact that Sam rushed to hide his “slip” from the trickster bunny is especially embarrassing and shameful.

Now Ex does have her moments of acting like the fiery version of Yosemite Sam. When she gets angry, she’s reportedly kind of “scary”… not that I’ve experienced it directly. I have just been here in the aftermath of other people’s dealings with her. I believe them when they say that she has her “Yosemite Sam” moments, and is full of bluster that can be frightening to experience. Ex also doesn’t really bluff much. Call her on her bullshit, she will happily cut off her nose to spite her own face– or more often, other people’s faces– just to try to “prove you wrong”. While a lot of her antics are, at best, truly ridiculous, sometimes she does do damaging, and even dangerous, things in her efforts to command “respect”.

Like, for instance, she gave up Bill’s generous financial support of his adult daughters, which I know she could and would have used, even though, technically, it wasn’t her money. She realized that maintaining control of offspring, and the official narrative of what really happened, was more important to her than access to Bill’s money was. It also didn’t seem to matter to her that Bill’s daughters might have appreciated having that support, or even access to Bill’s 911 GI Bill for college expenses. She was much more focused on her own agenda and what suited her, not what was actually best for Bill’s daughters. I specify Bill’s daughters, because Ex’s other kids aren’t his responsibility, even if he did raise and pay support for Ex’s son with #1. She probably treats her kids with #3 somewhat similarly, although sometimes it seems like Bill’s daughters got the worst treatment– as if they needed to be punished for having his DNA. From what we’ve heard, #3’s daughter seems to be the current golden child.

But, even though Ex was proud to stop taking child support from Bill, and was all too ready to stop her daughters from getting the support directly, she still needs money. She also needs a lot of attention and narcissistic supply. So, she will do things like force her children to take out loans that she can skim from. And, for some reason, she feels compelled to present a completely false version of herself to the world. The opinions of strangers seem to be much more important to her than the opinions of family members. I find that very interesting, which is why I continue to watch her. Of course, I also watch her because she’s repeatedly proven that she’s very underhanded and not above trying to take advantage of people in Bill’s family.

So anyway, this week, after a period of relative calm and quiet, Ex resurfaced with more of her outrageous bullshit. On one social media platform, she shared several memes, accompanied by nonsensical blather that sounded good, but weren’t actually in harmony with specific actions that she’s taken. Click on the images to see what I mean.

Um… this was NEVER an issue with Ex. In fact, in over 20 years of observing her, I have seen that she’s not one to consider other people’s feelings or needs, at least not unless there is something in it for her. Other people are usually catering to her whims.

I really have no idea if she actually believes the crap she routinely spews to the masses. I know she hopes that other people will believe it, and she must get some kind of payback from affirmative comments, positive reactions, and validation she gets from total strangers. But people who really know her, or have even just been exposed to people who know her, realize that this is all a bunch of smoke and mirrors she puts out to the world for some reason. She is a very manipulative person, and it’s not wise to take anything she says or writes at face value.

Making things stranger is the fact that Ex puts out details that have an element of truth within them. Ex did, for instance, work as a university administrator for some years. But we know that Ex dropped out of high school and got a GED, just as her oldest kids did (not sure about her youngest daughter). Ex talks about her alleged goals that were thwarted by other people– her adoptive mom, her adoptive and step dads, her ex husbands, her children (especially her “severely autistic and non-verbal” son), or other entities that supposedly took advantage of her or ripped her off– ie. Mary Kay Cosmetics, Nutrisystem, the LDS church, etc. The list goes on and on. She never seems to be satisfied; she never takes personal responsibility; and her plans are always seemingly overtaken by events or the “bad actions” of other people.

Younger daughter told us that she was forced to leave public school when she was a teenager. Ex made her get a GED, then enroll in college classes, so she could get student loans, something Ex learned about in her role as an administrator, and possibly from her multiple attempts to get her own bachelor’s degree. Ex took the money that wasn’t used by tuition and spent it, leaving younger daughter to pay off the debt. Sadly, younger daughter didn’t even manage to finish the degree. Older daughter supposedly did get a degree, but still lives with her mother and has lots of debt. Ex has had multiple bankruptcies, but here she is dispensing advice as if she’s an expert on education. She did, supposedly get a master’s degree in education, but she’s never really used it professionally. In fact, she left her “university job” because she got fired… something about “mishandling funds”, which prompted her to move across country to a new place, where she hasn’t repeatedly shit in the local well of human forbearance and understanding.

One would think, looking at Ex’s public persona, that she’s a very loving, caring, and devoted mom and wife. But yet, instead of taking care of her family, as she claims she does, she’s posting crap for the masses… especially for celebrities. And there always seems to be a hook for money, narcissistic supply, and some kind of prestige or recognition by people who don’t even know her, and will never even meet her.

As I mentioned up post, I find Ex to be a fascinating character. If I were a practicing mental health professional, I would probably alternately be amazed and frustrated by her. A psychiatrist or psychologist (or both) could write quite an interesting book about her. But I think the personal price they would have to pay to create such a book would be much too high to justify the effort. Still, she really is something… and I must admit, I’m probably too wedded to watching her in action. Maybe our trip will help refocus my attention to things other than Ex’s slip… and the facade she constantly puts up that is always slipping to show the ugliness underneath.

It must be exhausting to have to constantly create this fantasy world she lives in, along with the constant framing of the narrative so that people will believe that she’s really who she claims to be. There’s a very human part of me that feels empathy for Ex, and a smaller part that is kind of amused by her. But then I remember what she did to Bill, who is the best person I know, and I get angry again. So here I am, processing this shit on my blog for anyone to read. Maybe I’m no better than she is, but at least I am not passing this crap on to my children… because in part, thanks to her, I don’t have any. Well, I’ll at least try to keep things real. You may not like what you see in me, but at least what you see is what you get. I try to be honest and authentic, even if the real me isn’t always a pretty sight. I find that being that way keeps most of the malicious fuckers away from me.

Anyway, I don’t mind if my slip is showing. Remember, I like to go to nude German spas. Speaking of which, it’s time I closed this post and got on with my chores, so we can get on the road tomorrow. Have a great Friday, y’all.

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Ex, mental health, narcissists, psychology, relationships

I am the “eye in the sky”…

Today’s mood music…

Back in 1982, a fantastic song by the Alan Parsons Project came out… and forty years later, it’s still relevant and cool. In fact, I never realized how prescient the lyrics for “Eye in the Sky” would be for me, personally. And the intro, “Sirius” just makes this an epic jam. “Sirius” is like the dramatic storm before the realization of what you’re facing. Listening to this live version, I can understand why Eric Woolfson did a lot of the singing for this band. Still… these lyrics are so meaningful when you’re dealing with a narcissist.

Don’t think sorry’s easily said
Don’t try turning tables instead
You’ve taken lots of Chances before
But I’m not gonna give anymore
Don’t ask me
That’s how it goes
Cause part of me knows what you’re thinkin’

Don’t say words you’re gonna regret
Don’t let the fire rush to your head
I’ve heard the accusation before
And I ain’t gonna take any more
Believe me
The sun in your Eyes
Made some of the lies worth believing

I am the eye in the sky
Looking at you
I can read your mind
I am the maker of rules
Dealing with fools
I can cheat you blind
And I don’t need to see any more
To know that
I can read your mind, I can read your mind

Don’t leave false illusions behind
Don’t cry cause I ain’t changing my mind

So find another fool like before
Cause I ain’t gonna live anymore believing
Some of the lies while all of the signs are deceiving

I am the eye in the sky
Looking at you
I can read your mind
I am the maker of rules
Dealing with fools
I can cheat you blind
And I don’t need to see any more
To know that
I can read your mind, I can read your mind

Sharing the official video, because this song just kicks ass.

I was an English major when I was in college. I wasn’t particularly good at being an English major, mainly because I didn’t enjoy analyzing fiction. A lot of the books we read didn’t interest me. I also didn’t want to be a teacher, and the program was really geared for English teachers. I probably should have changed majors. But, since I didn’t switch, I came out of college knowing something about looking at words and deciphering their meanings. One thing I learned is that you can make a strong case for a lot of things, even if your interpretation isn’t exactly what was meant by the person who did the writing. I think “Eye in the Sky” is one of those songs that can mean a lot of things to different people.

When I look at those lyrics, I think they mean that someone has either figured out how to manipulate someone else, or someone recognizes that they are being manipulated. Lately, I have been feeling a little bit like “the eye in the sky”, watching from afar what has been going on with my husband’s former wife and her sketchy dealings with his family. It turns out my instincts were correct. Ex went to see my husband’s stepmother because she was hoping to squeeze her for money.

Fortunately, it turns out that SMIL wasn’t as vulnerable as she might have seemed. My husband’s sister asked her mother about the visit, and she learned that yes, Ex did request financial help. SMIL wisely turned her down. But then Ex went out and bought a bunch of packing materials for SMIL and told her to use them to send her any items that she wanted to “pass down”. Naturally, this really hurt SMIL’s feelings. She was hurt that Ex so brazenly asked her to send her stuff, which, knowing Ex, would just end up being sold on eBay.

I admit that I was pretty upset with SMIL for trusting Ex and allowing her in her home, since she should have known full well what she’s about by now. I’m not close to SMIL at all, but I still don’t want to see her being taken advantage of, especially by my husband’s ex wife. I am very relieved that she didn’t give in… or, at least that’s what she says happened. I doubt she’s lying, though, since she admitted that Ex hurt her feelings by openly soliciting heirlooms from her ex husband’s family. Sheesh! The attitude of entitlement is just astonishing!

In any case, I’m not stupid enough to think we’re out of the woods. It concerns me that Ex was tweeting about her “mum”– a 71 year old woman who just visited the Golden Gate Bridge. That describes SMIL. And Ex was asking about how to buy a photograph to “send” to SMIL. I doubt she would actually send her anything, because Ex is very greedy. But, if by chance she ever did send her a gift like that, there would be an expectation of “reciprocity”.

Reciprocity is a concept I learned about when I was studying social work. It’s the idea that if someone gives you something or does something for you, you “owe” them something in return. Many people fall prey to this mindset, and people like Ex will exploit it to the hilt.

Don’t get me wrong. Reciprocity can be a very positive thing. It can help foster a sense of cooperation and community. Mutually beneficial relationships are at the heart of every successful collaboration where everybody wins. But– when someone toxic abuses that concept of reciprocity, it can be a very damaging thing. Suddenly, you might find yourself beholden to someone, even though you never asked them for “help”, or a gift, or anything else.

Narcissists can use reciprocity to get what they want. They extend a kindness and then, all of a sudden, they’re demanding a payback of some sort. You might hear things like “after all I’ve done for you” or “I gave you such and such; the least you could do is help me out with this”. Then there’s “negative reciprocity”, which is when someone “pays you back” with retribution of some sort. Ex is all about reciprocity, both the positive and negative types. Whenever someone has said “no” to her or held her accountable, her response is to do something damaging.

Take, for instance, Ex’s actions in 2006, after I sent her an angry email. She had gone on the warpath, having asked Bill to talk her son out of moving out of her house. She called up Bill and demanded that he withhold child support from former stepson. She didn’t want him to have the money, because he was planning to use it to move out of her realm of control. Bill refused, and then demanded to know what was happening with his daughters, since Ex had refused to allow him any contact with them. Ex’s response was to send a hateful email to Bill, along with all kinds of mean comments about me. At that point, I had only met the kids once– back in 2003 (and actually, to this day, that is the only time I was in their physical presence)– but she told Bill they hated me and thought I was a “bad influence”. Then she asked him not to tell me what she’d written, to “spare my feelings”.

Bill told me what Ex had written, so I wrote her back, and my email pointed out all of the toxic, horrible, abusive things she’s done. Ex’s response was to get her son to reconnect with his natural father. And actually, we weren’t that upset about that, since bio dad should have always had a connection to his son. But I think she was upset that this didn’t make Bill angry, so her next step was to get ex stepson to secretly reclaim his original surname, while he was getting child support from Bill (at age 21). I found out what was happening because, like I said, I am the “eye in the sky”. Bill busted the lad, whose response was to permanently cut off all communication. That was “payback” from Ex for not accepting her demands– negative reciprocity.

She is not above using positive reciprocity, though. Like, for instance, she will let SMIL see Bill’s long lost older daughter after years of no contact. But, in return, she expects to be treated like SMIL’s daughter. She expects SMIL to be loyal to her, instead of Bill, her stepson. She expects SMIL to give her money and heirlooms. And, if SMIL doesn’t comply, she will take Bill’s older daughter out of contact again. Older daughter, bless her heart, is at age 30, willingly going along with this. I suspect it’s because she knows that if she doesn’t, she will be cut off from her mom and Ex’s “severely autistic son”. And if older daughter isn’t there to look after her brother, who knows what might happen? Actually, I suspect that if older daughter ever leaves Ex, Ex will find a way to put him in some kind of permanent care. Sadly, that might actually be the best thing for him. Ex is just that toxic. Or maybe she’ll keep him at home and something terrible will happen. I suspect that Ex uses the fear of that to keep older daughter in line, even though her brother’s welfare is not her responsibility.

This situation could also be the beginning of Ex’s use of the “door in the face” technique, also known as “rejection-then-retreat” method. The “door in the face” technique is when a person makes an outrageous request that will almost certainly be turned down– say, asking for thousands of dollars for a new fence or a therapy dog– and then, after that, making a smaller, more reasonable request that might be granted, and that was the person’s actual target all along. Ex was rejected this time, but now that she’s given SMIL a taste of having older daughter back in touch, maybe she will weaken at some point and give Ex money or gifts. Or, it could be the beginning of the “foot in the door” technique, which is getting someone to agree with a moderate request (ie; allowing the visit), and then talking them into a larger request.

Personally, I think any exposure to Ex is dangerous for anyone who has ever given her supply. She is like an addict who is chasing a high. She’ll keep coming back for as long as she’s physically able. She doesn’t target Bill anymore, because she knows that he has me around to talk sense into him. Frankly, at this point, Bill would never help her again anyway, because his eyes have opened widely to who she really is. Even if I died or we got divorced, he’s DONE with Ex. He wants nothing to do with her. It wasn’t always like this. When we first married, Bill took pains to be kind to his ex wife. He wanted a civilized, amicable relationship with her. I remember him telling me on many occasions that he wished her no “ill will”. But then, as the years passed, and she treated him with contempt and did her best to ruin his relationships and sabotage his successes, he realized that their relationship was unsalvageable and could NEVER be amicable. And now that his younger daughter has told him what went on when she was growing up, that relationship is even more severed.

This morning, I read yet another AITA column on Reddit Ridiculousness. It was about a woman who had an affair, causing her to divorce. Her teenaged daughter was shattered by her mother’s infidelity. The woman married the man with whom she had an affair, then had a son with him. The daughter has been estranged for six years and has no desire to meet her brother or stepfather. She also shuns her mom, who has told her that she needs to meet her brother if she wants a relationship with her mom.

Yes… you are the asshole, Mom. Although I don’t think Daughter should hold Son accountable for their Mom’s actions. It’s not his fault Mom is an asshole.

Someone commented that she didn’t even need to read the responses, since her “narc” mom had done the same kind of thing with an ultimatum. Below is the comment she left, which really made my heart go out to her. Ex has the same “transactional” attitude, and is quite fond of the ultimatum– bartering valued family relationships for attention and supply, and money, of course.

I don’t even need to read this. My narc mother had a similar ultimatum with my whole family: they had to have a relationship with her in order to be allowed to have a relationship with us children. Everyone ended up having to choose not to know us kids anymore for their own safety. It caused me to have a HUGE extended family that I know nothing about, and now there are so many people that know and love me that I don’t feel like I can approach because even though they’re family and I know they’re great people, I just don’t know them.

I left the above poster a comment, and this was her response. It’s like these narcs have a fucking playbook! Tragic for her brother! Tragic for Bill’s older daughter, who is being held hostage and acts like a slave.

Yep. My dad lives across the country and we are slowly learning about each other every chance we get, and unfortunately my brother (who lives with mom in still another far corner of the country) hasn’t been able to make the choice to take any chances to try to do that.

Watching Bill reconnect with his long lost younger daughter has been a rewarding, yet heartbreaking, experience. Because she always had him… and if she was only allowed access to him, she could have had a very different life. Or, at least a very different childhood and adolescence. But, I am so heartened to see that younger daughter isn’t like her mom, and is determined not to be like her. She is stronger than Ex is. Ex used to complain about her adoptive mom using similarly damaging and abusive– transactional– tactics on her. But now, we see, she learned a lot from her mom. We also know this is learned behavior, as Ex was adopted. So, just because younger daughter has a narcissistic mother, she doesn’t have to follow in her footsteps. She has told Bill that she is not going to go that path. All I can say is BRAVO! Thank God she found better role models.

Well, once again, it’s time to bring this entry to a close. We have another lunch date today, and I need to get dressed. I am truly glad that Ex didn’t score any funding from SMIL, and I’m heartened to know that SIL is being vigilant. But I also know that Ex will try again. So I will continue to be the “eye in the sky”… although I would rather not be. Maybe it’s not my responsibility to be so vigilant… but I genuinely am concerned. Also, I genuinely despise Bill’s ex wife, and I want her to stay away from his family. If that makes me “mean” and “selfish”, so be it. I’m human, and I have personally had to pay for some of Ex’s bullshit myself, simply because I love her ex husband… a man who is, thankfully, very deserving.

Standard
complaints, Ex

Repost: While I’m ranting, how about a few comments on entitled people?

Yesterday, I reposted a couple of articles that were on my original Blogspot version of this blog. One of those posts originally had a link to the post I’m rerunning today. I’ve decided to repost this because I think it has relevant information to my recent Ex bashing theme. So, if you read this, keep in mind that it was originally written in 2010, and things have changed somewhat since then. I like to try to keep reposts as unedited as possible.

I know this is a subject that has come up on my blog before, but since no one reads the damn thing anyway, I might as well vent.  

I have a hard time dealing with entitled people, especially when they’re family members.  Now, I do realize that I was once one of those entitled people.  It seems to be a rite of passage when you’re growing up.  Sometime in my 30s, I guess I started to realize the error of my ways and changed my attitude somewhat.

But seriously, I have noticed a startling attitude of entitlement in certain age groups.  I guess that’s a sign that I’m turning into a crotchety old fart.

Take, for instance, my husband’s kids.  Of course, I guess we can barely call them his kids, since they haven’t spoken to him since 2004.  But he has faithfully paid child support for them anyway, at least until the older one turned 18.  Originally, my husband was supposed to pay until each kid was 22.  And, in fact, he did pay child support to his former stepson until the lad was 21 years old.  It’s a long story as to why my husband paid support for a kid that wasn’t his.  Suffice it to say that my husband has a huge heart and thought of the boy as his son.  Bio dad was out of the picture.

Anyway, this kid’s name was legally changed to my husband’s name when he was a young lad.  My husband, stupidly, had nothing to do with this name change business.  His former wife had handled the whole thing and convinced my husband that it was all for the best.  The boy was calling him “daddy” and all…

Well, when things went south with my husband’s first marriage, the ex decided he needed to pay.  And so she set up a divorce decree that awarded her a sizable amount of child support that would be paid for many years, even beyond each kid’s 18th birthday and even for the boy who wasn’t his (hubby never adopted him).  Again, stupidly, my husband agreed to it.  On the other hand, maybe he wasn’t so stupid, since their decree was not drafted by a lawyer.

Because my husband is a decent guy, he fully intended to keep paying support for these kids, even as they became more and more alienated.  The day came when his daughters disowned him and refused to call him “daddy” anymore.  I suspect most of their problems stemmed from half baked bullshit they were hearing from their mother, their own anger and abandonment issues, and the fact that their father had married me.  Now, before anyone tells me I’m to blame for this, understand that I have only met these kids once over the almost eight years I’ve been married to their dad.  I haven’t had the ability to fuck up their lives in any way.  And their dad has not missed a child support payment, at least not until the older daughter turned 18 and continued to refuse to communicate (not even to give her dear old dad a bank account number so he could send her the money he’d promised to pay).

So… last year, we discovered that the former stepson, who was 21 years old and itching to take a trip abroad, had finally gotten back in touch with his biological father.  And he found out that bio dad wasn’t such a bad guy after all.  My husband was actually happy about this because, aside from bio dad not paying any child support for all those years, he never had any real proof the guy was as bad as his ex had made him out to be.  And since ex’s third victim was now being called “daddy” by my husband’s kids and victim’s own two kids with ex, my husband could see how the first victim must have felt to be outcast all those years.

Sometime in 2008, then 20 year old ex stepson told my husband that come June of 2009, he could stop paying him child support because “he wouldn’t need it anymore”.  My husband was impressed by what looked like an act of maturity until a few months later.  I happened to be looking around on the Internet and ran across some information that indicated that the lad was planning to change his name.  This wasn’t such a big deal… again… the name never should have been changed in the first place.  But that boy didn’t mention a word about his plans to my husband, the man he had been calling “daddy” for so many years.  Hubby gave him plenty of opportunities to tell him, but the lad must not have gotten the hint.

So… my husband decided to cut the boy off, since he wasn’t coming clean.  Kid confronted him.  Husband confronted him right back and busted him for what he was trying to do.  The first thing out of that kid’s mouth was not “I’m sorry” but, “How did you find out about that?”

My husband told the young man that he had until Easter to get his shit together and he wanted to know when the name change was final.  The kid agreed, sending the following crappy email.

April sounds fine dad. I am leaving for China in May and I was planning on having one last installment while I am there, but that is fine. I have given it alot of thought, and even though I use the money. I should start living on my own. I do have some debt, but i will be able to take care of it. I don’t want this relationship to be solely monetary. I don’t always have time to write and email, and I do not have a phone number for you. Do not be upset that we rarely speak. I have not replaced you with [bio dad]. You are both my dads in different ways. I love you Dad, and I always know you are there. Give me some insight as to why the installments were not automatic as you said they were. I do not understand the reasoning for that. I mean everytime you are out of town, they get set back. Like this month I understand Feb. ended early, but I am trying to get my car fixed and I am dependent onthose funds for the time being. It is just a curiosity factor. After April.I will have diff!!erent plans for money, but as of now. I am depending on timelyness dad. I want more than just this keeping us in contact, but how am I supposed to contact you. Please Write back and know that I love you and look up to you as a father. because you are my father.



Love, A.

Aside from atrocious writing skills, the kid seems to think that I’m behind my husband’s decision to cut off his money.  While I certainly supported my husband’s actions, I am not the one who cut off the boy’s funds.  That was entirely my husband’s doing and his decision.

And then we found out the name change had gone through and we didn’t hear a word from the boy… who, incidentally, was also driving a car that my husband had given him free and clear.

So my husband cut the kid off again, sending him this note.

A, 
I’m sorry to hear about your car. That’s just how life is sometimes. 

I was clear when I told you that I needed to know when you changed your name. After not hearing from you for nearly eight weeks I surmised that your name change was final and you no longer wanted my help. Your bank account and email address haven’t been changed, so I stopped the allotment to protect myself. 

I’m glad you don’t want our relationship to be about money and that you are ready to be on your own. Good luck in China. As always, I’d love to hear from you when you aren’t so busy. 


Best Regards, 


Now, when my husband is kind and forgiving, it takes the boy weeks to write.  When he’s a little impersonal, it takes hours.  Next thing we get is this…

I was too shocked and hurt during that time to reply to your emails Dad. My name change is final and for your record my name Is […] I am still your next of kin, so im sure you need that information. until my legal proceeding I am in quite alot of debt. There is no more money I would ask for, but I have maxed my credit card. As one last installment, would it be possible just to receive 500 dollars. that is all i ask from here on out dad. I love you and will always stay in contact with you. 
Love, A

Needless to say, this email really pissed off my husband.  Nevertheless, he did try to help the boy, not by sending him money, but by giving him some information and advice.  “A” didn’t want to hear it, though, and refused to answer phone calls or emails.  To this day, we haven’t heard a peep out of him.  Actually, I’m kind of glad about that.  Even though “A” and his sisters probably think I am the world’s biggest bitch and, I’m sure, think I’m behind what they perceive as my husband’s “meanness” (though it’s actually just a sudden growth of a spine plus a set of balls), I’m actually kind of enjoying the silence.  Sometimes it’s not a bad thing to embrace one’s inner bitch anyway. 

I still can’t believe that a 21 year old man would expect child support, especially after pulling the stunt he did and especially when it was coming from his former stepfather, who at this point, legally can’t be anything more than a good friend to him.  Clearly, my husband’s relationship with his former stepson was entirely about money.  

And as for victim #3, I hope he’s been taking notes.

Standard
divorce, Ex, narcissists, religion

Repost: Old emails…

In today’s fresh post, I mentioned a post I wrote in 2013 that appeared on my original blog. It was called “Ripple eff-Ex”. I indicated that I might repost that entry today, but now having read it, I don’t think it would add anything new to this blog. So, instead, here’s a post from August 2013… I think it offers more information about the type of person we’re dealing with. I warn you that this is really long and kind of fucked up… I completely understand anyone who doesn’t want to wade through this shit. But I also know I have a few readers who might find this an interesting read.

I found a bunch of old emails from Bill’s ex wife today…  Since I’m in a mood, I think I’ll post them for shits and giggles…

This first one was written after the kids’ one and only visitation with us.  It was sent on August 18, 2003, almost exactly ten years ago… before the shit really hit the fan in a big way.  Notice that she insults me by implying that I’m going to manipulate my husband into not taking care of his kids.  She also demands more money in the form of life insurance.  Bill had about $750,000 in insurance for ex and the kids.  She had wanted $1 million, but USAA would not insure Bill for that much.  So she’s basically saying that she wanted him to replace the then $250,000 SGLI policy if he decided to make me the beneficiary.  And she also wanted him to give her the original $1 million in coverage she wanted…  We did the math and determined that had Bill suddenly died back in 2003, ex would have missed out on about $300,000 in child support– and that’s if he had paid until each kid was 22, which he ultimately didn’t.  If he had died young, she would have stood to get quite the windfall.  We ended up making me the beneficiary of the SGLI policy, while ex had $500,000 in coverage until each kid came of age.  Now, I am the sole beneficiary of the insurance. 

Hi Bill,

Just a quick note about a few things, it is practically impossible to talk privately on the phone and I imagine you have the same situation at your end as well.  = )

1 – I have not asked for you to help with the kids’ medical bills for some time, as I have been able to manage them.  The girls have not been ill to speak of and [ex stepson’s] prescriptions and visits to the Dr., albeit numerous, are not exorbitant, though I have spent a few hundred dollars on his medical bills just recently due to office visits more often and changing prescriptions frequently.  He is now seeing a dermatologist and I have not yet received a bill; if it is outrageous and I cannot afford to pay it all, I will let you know, but I do not anticipate it being so.  I generally pay only about $50 per visit for [ex stepson] to the Doctor plus his prescriptions that run me about $25 a month. However, the girls both need new glasses.  I picked up [older daughter’s] this week and [younger daughter’s] will be ready next week. Could you help me pay for them?  They are a couple hundred dollars each; [older daughter’s] were $211 to be exact. This was the cost after insurance coverage that I purchased because Tri-West does not cover eye exams.  [Younger daughter] will not be getting her second stage of braces quite yet, so we have a reprieve for a little while.  Please drop me a line and let me know.

2 – I know we forgot to do the bank paperwork and ID for [younger ex daughter] and [ex stepson] while we were there. I am sorry.  Please let me know what information you need in order to get the paperwork at your end so I can provide it to you.  I will then take them to the nearest military installation or (hopefully) reserve unit here to get them processed.  If you will sign your portion and send the paperwork for the bank, I will be happy to sign it for you and submit it to USAA thereby removing me from your bank accounts. (Note– this was over two years after their divorce!!!)

3 – Now that you are married, I realize you may need to adjust your life insurance policy needs to account for added responsibility.  Please keep in mind our agreements and consider having separate policies for knotty and us as it would make life a lot simpler for knotty and myself should anything happen to you.  If you wish to change the SGLI to show knotty as beneficiary, I would understand, as long as you have a separate policy, as agreed, with me as the executor on behalf of the children and for the appropriate amount, including what would have been covered by SGLI.  I recall that you originally only took out a policy for half the amount we agreed upon for the children only, as that was all that you could manage at the time.  I received information from USAA recently that their policy rates have dropped dramatically and hope that you will consider checking into it before they increase again.  Additionally, I wish you would extend the life of the policy from 15 years to 30.  It would be nice to have something for the kids …when we are gone.  I have similar arrangements myself because they deserve it and because I know how it feels to have no one at all to depend upon for help.  I’ll soon have “trust” accounts for each of them through USAA so that I will have a place to put money for them, for college, etc., both from the money you send me and from myself, until they are of an appropriate age to manage it for themselves.  I understand, from what the children and Papa and Mimi have said, that knotty is quite adamant about how things should be most of the time.  For this reason I am glad we made the provisions in our paperwork that we did; it will keep you from having to battle your wife over providing for your family.  I am truly glad for this and hope that the children are never a bone of contention in your relationship; I want you to be happy, always.  If you wish, we could set up the policy so that I could make the payments myself and you could slightly adjust the allotment I receive accordingly to cover that amount.  I am not sure how USAA would set it up logistically, but I am certain that they would allow me to be the responsible party for the policy though you were the insured party and let me do some sort of auto withdraw from my account for the premiums.  Please let me know your thoughts on how best we should proceed and how best to insure the children’s long-term future is stable.

Lastly, I am truly sorry we did not get a chance to talk while we were there but it was a wild and crazy trip, just no down time.  So much I wish I could say but…I won’t.  I do want you to know the kids are doing well.

Younger daughter told me your dog was injured; I hope she is all right (C.C., our blue eyed beagle mix got very sick with a mycobacterial infection after their visit. Sadly, he died a few months later.).  I know they have told you about the guy at my office who looks just like you.  They are driving him nuts, pointing and giggling, poor thing!!  It is highly amusing, I must admit, although it was a bit unsettling for me to be introduced to you from 15 years ago, mannerisms, looks, demeanor, he’s even a writer …although he has pursued it diligently and has been published where your path took you to the Pentagon instead …it is all a bit bizarre!!  The kids are all doing well in school so far.  The girls are in new schools this year, older ex daughter in Middle School and younger ex daughter in a school closer to home and where some of her church friends attend.  I became aware of some negative influences at her old school that I was afraid for her to have to deal with since older ex daughter was leaving for Middle School.  Ex stepson will be starting Aikido lessons in about a week and I am hoping the girls will attend as well.  They are tired of dance classes and can take gymnastics and swim through the YMCA membership I bought them; this would be a great extra curricular activity for them.   Ex stepson is buckling down and studying …at last …because he has decided he wants to try to get into BYU and is requesting transfers into several honors classes to try and improve the looks of his transcript and boost his GPA.  If he loses the $100 calculator I bought him he’s dead meat!! ::laughs:J.  He had a wonderful experience on his kayaking trip and was quite impressed by the BYU campus; he seems quite serious.

Thank you for calling them this weekend, they are always glad to get to talk to you and catch you up on what is happening in their world.  Please reply when you have a chance.  If email is the only way you and I can talk, then …email it should be.

I hope and pray that you are well …and happy,
As ever, Ex = )

Bill sent his ex an assertive response to this email, which pissed her off.  

Ex,
Good Morning.  There is a lot to cover here and I’m afraid I’m quite busy today.  I have a meeting with “now” BG Durbin, who was LTC Rossi’s XO back so many years ago in Germany.  We certainly live in a small world.  Let me know ASAP what you need for the girls glasses.  We are going to Dad’s next weekend, so I have to plan finances.  Also, I’ll send out the paperwork for USAA this week for you to sign and drop in the mail.

The kids look great!  I was very happy to see them, although our time together was limited.  They told me they liked Virginia, and would like to visit again.  Ex stepson also said he was interested in a career in acting, and was even looking at schools here in Virginia.  As it happens, the son of one of the contractors I work closely with is an actor, has done commercials and has a cable TV show in NY.  He  recommended JMU and I forwarded that information to ex stepson. 

Recently, I looked at the life insurance situation, and my responsibility to cover knotty as well as the rest of the family.  Currently, the children (with you as the executor) are covered by a combination of $750K of life insurance.  Should anything happen to me, that would cover their support payments almost three times over, maxed out till age 22.  Concurrently, I’m maxed out with USAA (500K maximum on AC soldiers), although they will review my file for a rate reduction this December.

I honestly feel since the dynamics have changed all around that we should reevaluate this situation.  I think that right now, the 500K I have with USAA will sufficiently cover the children.  You are remarried, and have a good job.  I don’t know if your husband is working now, but that is a second source of income as well.  Given this, I want to make my wife the beneficiary of my SGLI.  I have a responsibility to cover her as well. 

I know full well we have a legal agreement, and I’ve done my best to adhere to all of the tenets within that document.  You’ve always gotten support on time, without any complaint from me.  I’ve always been ready to help with medical bills whenever you should ask for that help.  Please recall that I helped with younger daughter’s braces while in Kansas, paying child support, alimony, and a mortgage.  I think we’ve seen a lot of give and take with that agreement–we’ve both done things above what was agreed, and failed to adhere to some things as well.  I’d like to think of it as a “living document” amongst the two of us.  I’d prefer to avoid having it formally reevaluated. 

Vacation is an additional matter.  I’d like to see them more often, and I’d like to bring them to Virginia, or be the one who brings them to see their grandparents.  I’m prepared to put them on a plane either up here, or with Dad’s permission, down there for the holidays.  I don’t think any threat of terrorism is a viable excuse to avoid this.  They have traveled on aircraft before.  Last year was the safest year for air travel in this country.  Let me know your thoughts.  I’m sure we can come to an agreement here.  

knotty is just clear with her thoughts and feelings.  I don’t have to play any guessing games.  We are a partnership.  She has never attempted to persuade me to neglect the children, in fact, she’s always on me to call them, Dad and my stepmom, and Mom.  I think the kids benefited from meeting her.  It helped to dispel the “evil stepmother” motif that seems to run through children’s minds.  Papa and Mimi have met her twice personally, although they have talked with her on the phone several times.  I’m hoping they will have a chance to form a deeper relationship as the years go by (sadly, that never happened). 

You should understand Ex that I know my responsibilities.  I don’t think that is in dispute here.  I understand (as do you) that I have to care for the children.  But I also have a responsibility to care for my wife, and together, we have a right to start our own family.  You have done the same with your new daughter, through your husband.  This will sound cold, but if I died tomorrow I’d have no faith that the kids would get $250K a piece.  I’d know instead that they’d be “cared” for, in the general sense of the word.  Any financial obligations benefiting you personally are ended on my part.  This may be hard to swallow, but it’s how I feel.  I perceive that you are in better financial shape with career and husband than you were four years ago. 

I think the idea of trust funds for the kids is a good one…one that I was going to recommend but you beat me to it. 

Bottom line, I want the same opportunity.  The opportunity to see the kids more, on different soil, and the opportunity to provide for a second family that I have started.

Think about it and write me again.  But let’s take care of the glasses issue right away.  I’ll also see about extending my coverage out to 30 years.  If ex stepson wants it, I’ve got a 2MB Handspring Visor PDA that I’ll send him.  It’s more than what he’ll need for school/work/personal use, and runs on Palm software.

Bill

This was her response.

I would like to take a little while to absorb all that you have said.  It would seem my email to you was set in a very different tone that what I perceive is coming from you.  After all that you have done to the children, and me I find this …quite frankly …unbelievable and would prefer not to comment without having time to carefully choose my words.  You will hear from me again.

Bill wrote this.

Certainly, 

But I recommend you take a moment and read both emails in entirety. I didn’t have a problem with what you said until I read it again more carefully. You are reminding me of my obligations to the children and to our agreement. I don’t need this reminder. I’ve been faithful as best I can be, and I’ll continue  to be faithful to them long after they leave home and are free to chose to visit me anytime and anywhere. I believe they know I love them, and wouldn’t want to hurt them in any way. They are still under the impression, by the way, that I just up and decided one day to leave them, and that I’m consequently lost to them forever. What a cruel uncertainty for them to have to face, and it places the burden all on me.  I think you know I’m not a deadbeat dad.  You get (on their behalf) 30% of my salary.  You get all of the tax breaks as well, including the big one this year!  I’ve always been there to help with unexpected bills whenever you’ve asked.  I’ve put up with your reluctance to let me visit our kids on my own terms, and to see my parents visited by my ex-wife, with our kids, while I am unable to.  Also, I’d like to heal the rift between the kids the their other grandmother.  Granted, a lot of it is self-inflicted on her part, but I think they have a right to settle any problems they have with her before it’s too late.  Recall as well that I covered your move to Arizona for almost a year.  What I paid into the house (equity that neither of us realized) could have covered braces for the entire family, or nearly all the 15K of their inheritance from your father that you intended to recoup by selling the house yourself.  

Later, in your letter, you insult my wife. You insinuate that she’s manipulating me into breaking obligations with you. You also allude to observations that my parents and my kids have made about her. Dangerous, and potentially embarrassing if I were to ask my mom and dad what if anything, they’ve said about knotty. Let’s leave her out of this. She came into the picture well after our marriage ended. In fact, our marriage was over long before I even met knotty. She never lived in our house nor came to visit while we were still married, she didn’t break the two of us up, and she certainly hasn’t influenced me to be anything but a stronger father, and a better son. If the children should think she’s a bad influence, then I’ll work through it with them personally. They have a right to meet with her and make their own assessment of her character. I expect my parents will be honest with me concerning their feelings as well.

Interestingly enough however, if she were to meet you, she’d probably thank you. 

All I want to do is work with you where our children are concerned. I don’t want to fight with you at all over any of this. It was my sincere hope that we could work together as two more stable, and stronger adults, but you reacted to my letter with a lot of scrutiny and anger. You are immediately on the defensive, when you shouldn’t be. I am asking for equity, that’s all. After all you call all of the shots here.

You leave me with the impression that I should do whatever you say out of guilt, and that if I don’t, I’m a deadbeat. That it’s all about money, and that I don’t care about my children. Sure, I plan to have something for them in the future. I’m not going to forget them. When I’m gone, there won’t be fights over inheritance, no ugly situations similar to what you had to go through with your father. I just don’t want to be ordered to be generous to my own children.  I will no longer be manipulated by you or anyone else. You act as if I have no right to life and happiness, as if that is an adequate penance for whatever sins I’ve committed in my past.  That my wife and potential family should do without, and have no say in our finances, when there is plenty to go around– especially since you’ve covered them as well against your own life. That’s good to know.

These are my feelings, and I have a right to them. I have a right to be angry, to be hurt, and to be frustrated. 

Regardless, I still want to work with you. Again, let me know what you need for glasses and I’ll have a check in the mail either next day or same day. 

Let all of me go, Ex.  Accept that things happen for a reason and move on.  Father (he’s referring to Heavenly Father– Ex claimed that when she went to the temple, HF said she wouldn’t be alone) told you you wouldn’t be left alone, didn’t He?  When our children have left, you’ll still have a husband and child unique to the both of you. 

Bill

Several years later, the shit really hit the fan when ex stepson decided he wanted to move out of his mother’s house and go to Chicago.  I think it was because he didn’t want to go on a mission.  But Ex called us all upset and tried to strong arm Bill into getting him to stay in her home.  He refused.  The first two sentences of the email are about getting ex stepson’s bank info so Bill could pay him directly.  Apparently, Ex had been on ex stepson’s bank account and was helping herself to the money Bill was paying him.  Of course, Bill shouldn’t have had to pay for ex stepson, since he has a real dad.  But real dad wasn’t making the same money as Bill, so there you go.

Ex,

Thanks.  I can make the change online and parse it from the rest.  I’ll do that either today or tomorrow.

I didn’t sleep well last night after your call.  I imagine you’ve had more sleepless nights than usual lately yourself.  I will talk with ex stepson again, and reinforce my feelings with him.  I’ve told him before, he has several options…he doesn’t have to go through with this plan to move to Chicago.  I sense there is quite a bit of tension in your household at this point, and this facilitates his want to leave. 

For what it’s worth, I asked him earlier last week if he’d spoken to you of his plans.  When he hesitated, I reminded him that he’d regret any “midnight moves”, and that regardless of any differing points of view the two of you might have, you are still his mother, always will be, and deserve respect accordingly.

Ex, you and I are not on good terms.  Our relationship is tenuous at the very best.  However, when I’ve had contact with our children, I’ve always supported you as their mother.  I don’t feel that you can say the same of me. 

I’ve gone over our conversation in my head these past few hours.  You alleged that I didn’t care, that I wasn’t interested, and that I encouraged ex stepson to blow his money.  I’ve done nothing of the sort.  I reminded him that it was his, because I wanted him to establish a separate account that wouldn’t involve yours in any way.  But I recommended he save his money and put it toward college, or a house, or a future marriage.

In five years, younger stepdaughter will be 18.  Sooner than that for older stepdaughter.  If you perceive that there will be problems similar to what ex stepson is encountering now, and you want my help, then we have to make some changes.  Ex stepson and I have remained close enough that I believe he will listen to me.  After our discussion last night, I’m not so sure about the girls.

Consider this.  Over the past six years, they’ve never called me, even though I’ve given them more than one phone number.  Since I remarried, I haven’t received a Father’s Day card/call, Birthday card/call or a call on Christmas.  I’ve never failed to send them a card or a gift or call them on special days.  That’s my job as a Father, but if I’m not to be treated as such, at least they should have the courtesy to thank me for a card or gift with another card, or even an email. 

This is partly your responsibility as a parent in direct contact with them.  If they aren’t going to treat me as their father, then they should at least learn the courtesy to say “thanks” as if I were a friend.  I’m not telling you to force their hand, but I will tell you this:  If our children have given their stepfather one Father’s Day card, or Birthday card, or Christmas gift and either of you not asked them to consider the same for me (even if they refuse…it’s all about asking), then both of you are passively alienating them from me.

The fiasco that was Christmas 2004 is a perfect example of actively alienating me.  I wanted to take the kids to the movies.  Very quickly your husband turned an opportunity for me to spend time with our children into a “supervised” event. On another occasion, younger stepdaughter called her stepfather “dad” within earshot of both him and me and he said nothing.  With exception of your summer trip to DC three years ago, the only way of spending time with them has either been in Arizona, or Tennessee.  Again, all of these amount to “supervised” visits where either you or my parents are nearby.  Your telling the girls that they should never “separate” around me only adds more relevance to the argument.  The fact that you won’t send them on a plane to see me, for danger of terrorism, but allowed ex stepson to fly to NY drives the point home quite loudly.

Please try to be objective and see things from my foxhole.  I’m not here to start a fight with you, I’m just being honest.  We don’t have to be friends, but if you consider me their father, then at least give me a little respect, and encourage them to do the same. 

Also understand my skepticism.  You say ex stepson has all but dropped out of school?  School ends for him in a month.  Why haven’t you asked for my help sooner?  If ex stepson is having trouble, what about the girls?  You never speak to me of such things.  Equally, I’m guilty of never asking you.  But I can only help when I know the whole story, and early on. 

I am not the same man you used to know.  Our children are missing out on what I can offer them, and even on what knotty and her family can offer them.  There’s 350 years of Virginia history in her family.  She’s a classically trained vocalist, writer, and former Peace Corps volunteer who served in post Cold-War Eastern Europe.  We’ve got two beagles that love kids and plenty of room in a secure location.  They really enjoyed their time here three years ago, although very brief.  They seemed to bond with both of us.  I don’t know why all of a sudden, they won’t talk with me.  Only you can tell me. 

I really didn’t want this to turn into a rant.  I have as much responsibility for the way things have turned out as you do.  I’m only advising you to consider that I’m virtually ineffective as a father/mentor to the girls.  If that’s never been your objective, then tell me now that I’m wrong, because every indication is that I’m not.  I won’t be able to help you at all with them in the future if you consider me a threat.

I have to get back to work.  Please read this carefully and thoughtfully if you intend to respond in anger.  I’ve written this as detached and objective as I can.  I just want you to understand that for all intents and purposes, I feel that over the years you haven’t thought of me as a capable parent, (in fact the word “unworthy” has been used more than once).  I wanted you to see the impact of that impression…it severely limits your freedom of maneuver.

Regardless, I’ll do what I can for ex stepson.  And I would very much like to be a better part of the girls lives.  After all, I could be gone tomorrow.  I know for a fact that you’ve been angry with your father in the past.  But I also know you love him and miss him.  I ask you to consider our children’s feelings accordingly.

Regards,

Bill 

The above email caused Ex to really go on the warpath.  She sent Bill an email that basically said the kids hated me and didn’t want to have anything to do with me.  She also asked Bill not to tell me any of this stuff, in order to “spare my feelings”.  Bill immediately shared the email with me, which got me really pissed.  So I wrote to Ex and ripped her a new asshole, then let her know that the kids could feel however they wanted to about me, but they shouldn’t throw away their father.  I also let her know that I have seen her emails, know how she feels about me, and didn’t appreciate her asking my husband to keep secrets from me.  There was no point to doing that because he doesn’t hide things from me; he has no need to, because I don’t go ballistic when he’s honest with me. 

A couple of months after that, Bill’s daughters disowned him…  So Bill wrote a letter to them.

Dear older daughter,

I’m saddened to read that you don’t want me to be your dad anymore.  I will not sign anything that would allow your stepdad to adopt either you or your sister because I don’t feel that it is the right thing to do.  I told this to your mother several weeks before you wrote to me.  It’s a shame that she would lead you on this way.  You must think that I don’t care about you or your sister.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

You write that you want an “everyday” daddy, not a “once in a while daddy”.  I agree with you, but “everyday” daddies do more than help with homework, chores, and spend time with their kids.  They also have responsibilities to others outside their homes—they work to provide and protect their families, and see to their futures.  I am still your “everyday” daddy even though you don’t see me.  When you and I were together, I spent time with you, helped you with schoolwork, dressed, cooked for, and cleaned after you.  When you went to bed at night in Arkansas, I went to work to make sure our family would have food and a place to live.  When I returned every morning, I took you to school and I was there to pick you up most days.

You and I have a connection that your stepdad will never have.  As my daughter, you are a part of me.  We share similar characteristics of both mind and body and this will never change.  I was there at the moment of your birth.  I named you and was the first of us to hold you in my arms.  For the first few months of your life I checked on you every night.  I stayed up with you when you couldn’t sleep or were sick, and took you to the hospital more than once when you needed a doctor.  This all true, and even though you were too young to remember, it did happen and I remember it.  

I’ve never stopped being your daddy, nor was it ever my intention to do so.  I returned to the Army because I knew I could provide more for all of us, not because I wanted to leave you and your mother.  I asked your mother to come with me to Kansas, and she refused, telling me that I’d make a better father to another family.  Despite this, I had to go and leave you and your siblings in Arkansas.  In the beginning, I thought you might join me, but this didn’t happen.  Since then, I’ve provided for your food and clothing, housing and healthcare every month without fail.  As I said before, this is what daddies do.  You must understand that if your stepdad adopts you he will have to do the same since it will no longer be my responsibility.  You will probably see less of him than you already do.

Over the past six years I’ve tried to have a relationship with you.  You’re smart enough to know that I can’t be there with you very often.  My duty to the Army won’t allow me to leave at a moments notice, although I would have liked to be with you on your birthday or at other special times.  Instead, I’ve called at various times to speak with you.  I’ve tried to discover your likes and dislikes so that I could give you meaningful gifts at Christmas and your birthday.  Mostly, my conversations with you have been “one-way”.  You are old enough now to write, call, or email me anytime you want.  You and I share responsibility for our relationship, despite what others may tell you.  You will be considered an adult in three short years, and this is how adults behave.

There are aspects to adoption that no one has shared with you.  Adoption is not a matter of simply changing your name.  If you think it is consider this:  when you marry you will change your last name anyway.  If your stepdad adopted you, I would no longer legally be your father.  Your birth certificate would be changed to reflect your stepdad as your natural father, and it would be as if your last name was always his.  Legally, my parents would no longer be your grandparents.  Your stepdad would have to provide for your future as you would not be my heir anymore.  Adoption is serious, but even so it wouldn’t change the fact that I’m your father and always will be.  

You write that I will feel better if I allow you to be adopted.  That’s a lie and if anyone led you to believe otherwise they are lying to you.  Your mother may have said that this was my idea and I did make a remark to that fact in an email to her, but I was angry after reading that you didn’t want to see me.  Have you ever said or written anything that you didn’t mean?  I have and I wrote your mother later to tell her that I wouldn’t consent to your adoption.  I won’t change my mind.

Older daughter, I can’t control you, nor would I ever want to.  If you still feel the same way about me in three years when you are 18, then you are free to let stepdad adopt you.  It will be your decision as an adult.  You should consider however that your sister will still legally be my daughter, since she is three years younger than you.  Regardless of your decision, I will still consider you my daughter and that will not change.

Despite what you write, your letter is filled with anger.  This is a good thing.  If you didn’t care about our relationship at all I don’t believe you would have written as much as you did.  I told you that I would always listen to you, and would never leave my door to you, even if you were angry with me.  This hasn’t changed.  I would still like to talk with you.  There is still time to work through your anger with me.  Only then will we truly feel better.  Call me and I will talk with you, write or email me and I will answer you back.  If you want to see me, then I will arrange a meeting with you.

Daughter, I am your father and your daddy.  I am not Bill to you, nor will I ever be.  I love you very much, and I will not sign you away to stepdad.  Someday you will understand.

Love,
Daddy

Of course, there was no response.  After younger daughter turned 18, they apparently changed their names and/or got adopted.  I wish to God Bill had never laid eyes on his ex wife.  This is why Bill felt compelled to trash those photos (referring to a post I wrote about how he had thrown out old photos that caused pain).  The above letter was written in 2006.

On the original post, Alexis left me a comment asking a bunch of questions. I answered them in a separate post, which I have reposted here.

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