942 Days Later, I’m Divorced

942 days.serendipity

942 days ago it felt like my world came crashing down on me. From that day on, the life I had built over the previous 8 years of marriage would no longer be the life I would be living.

Well, my life would be the same. But my “world” wouldn’t be.

Life is what we experience each time we take a breath, when we feel alive just from looking into our children’s eyes or feeling their breath on our skin.

Life is literally every breath — the beginning and the end.

The world we live in, it’s what surrounds us, what we choose to do with our life (and some of what is chosen for us).

We don’t control life. We do control the world around us — the immediate environment we live in, who inhabits it, who we interact with, where we go, what we do for work, how we spend our time.

942 days ago, when my husband decided that the world we had built together was no longer what he wanted, it crushed me. But my life went on.

I was grateful to be alive and capable of creating an improved world for myself and my son. Just the year before, I was scared that I would die of cancer and leave my son motherless.

Maybe shedding a partner who was never capable of being there for me would be a blessing in the end.

Turns out, it was.

I found it was easier to breathe without him, after the initial sadness and anger passed. I realized how difficult it had been to be married to him, how hard I worked to keep my marriage intact. I just kept going because I didn’t realize I had a choice. I embraced the suck.

You don’t really learn who a person is until you divorce them. Shit got scary around here.

I would have preferred a more graceful period of battle, and a more reasonable, amicable 365-day wait on that whole divorce and custody battle aspect.

But now that we will finally be officially and legally and actually divorced?

It feels good, the finality of it.

I hope nothing happens to the judge before I get to the court house today.

If one more delay or snowstorm, or legal technicality pushes this out any more days… well I’ll suck it up and keep counting I guess.

Life goes on 😉

 

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Co-Parenting Communication with a High Conflict Ex

Scream

One aspect of co-parenting with a high-conflict personality that’s challenging is that the advice you find online, and often in therapy, suggests the best way to deal with such a person is to leave and have no contact with them ever again.

It’s referred to as “no contact.” But with a co-parent, you can’t exactly do that.

You have kids to raise, together (in some shape or form, as is most often the case).

So you have to adapt the “no contact” rule to “low contact.”

You have to ignore everything that is not directly related to co-parenting your children.

It’s hard, I know. I live it.

I try to only respond to communications that are directly related to our child or aspects of parenting that are covered under our custody guidelines.

That’s usually stuff like health updates, any important behavioral problems, coordinating school forms, or basic questions about who has the rain boots, what time karate ends, etc. Any other messages, especially ones that attack my parenting style and are blatantly untrue, I completely ignore.

When I receive messages from my ex that are unpleasant, I try telling myself, “nothing I respond with will make a difference. My words will only be used against me in ways that rational people like myself couldn’t even begin to predict.”

That’s because I’m not crazy and I can’t think like a narcissist all the time (it’s a good thing, really).

And it’s true, it doesn’t matter what you say to defend yourself. You know the truth and even when you present legit evidence, it still won’t convince your ex that his truth is wrong. Keep the evidence and file it away for when you go back to court, but don’t engage in banter with him about it.

It can make you feel out of control to receive communications from your ex because you feel like you just want to set things straight, or you don’t want to have conflict, or you are so enraged by the lies. But the only control you have is in deciding how to respond, and more often than not, the power lies in not responding at all.

Narcissists hate to be ignored. Like really hate it.

Back in undergrad, we learned about behavior modification. I try to go back to the examples we observed while training lab rats. Basic reinforcement stuff, like the quickest way to get rid of an undesired behavior is to give absolutely no reaction (positive, or negative).

You’ve probably learned this from raising kids too. Apply the same theory to managing your reactions and responses to your ex’s behavior and/or communications. Don’t be baited.

I do still get messages from my ex that seem relevant, so I’ll answer, but then it later becomes clear that it’s just my ex being difficult, or lies. Once it hits me, I then switch the flip to “ignore,” and try not to beat myself up too badly about it.

I also read a lot about co-parenting with a high-conflict individual. And I keep reading about it as a reminder, because I find the busier I get and the more time that passes, I  can easily fall back into my old pattern of approaching communications with my ex, and you absolutely cannot do this. It’s low contact for good.

Check out author Shadida Arabi if you need a good place to start on reading material.