when the father of your children is your enemy

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Sherry Arthur

On Wednesday, T told me he didn’t have a good mental picture of my ex-husband. I thought I had told him everything but it was apparent that I did not. I decided I would sit down and write whatever I could remember about our time together and the time since we’ve separated. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, but I did it. I then sent it to T on Thursday so he would be able to read it before our session yesterday.

Yesterday T told me that my ex-husband has very strong narcissistic tendencies and pointed out that I pretty much married someone who had a lot of qualities that mirrored my father.

Why did I not see it? How could I have missed it and end up wrapped up with a man like that? Why didn’t I trust that tiny part of me that said it was a bad idea? I should have paid attention when he went on a golf tournament the day after our son was born and my mother had to bring me home from the hospital. I should have said something when our oldest child, just 7 months old, had to be rushed by ambulance to the emergency room while we were at my father’s funeral because he was choking on a piece of melon, and my ex-husband went to plan a Super Bowl party. All the signs were there–the temper, the self-absorption, the control–but I either didn’t notice them or ignored them to avoid dealing with the fallout.

T says people like him hide their true personalities until it’s too late.

I officially called it quits in August 2013. It’s been a long four and half years of doubting myself. It’s been an even longer four and a half years of feeling like I need to defend every single thing I do for my children to the father of my children.

As parents, we are bombarded with messages and opinions about how we are supposed to raise our children. Criticism leads to a lot of self-doubt. Usually, that criticism comes in the form of Facebook postings and other online drama but sometimes it can come from a co-worker, or friend, or even another family member.

But the other parent? The other person responsible for the success and failure of your children? They are supposed to be supportive, the one who stands by you while you try to successfully raise human beings. When everyone else in the world is telling you you’re doing a terrible job, the other half of your parenting contract should do the exact opposite.

There is nothing normal about parenting when you’re trying to do it with a controlling monster. In their eyes, no matter what you do, it’s wrong. This is life with my ex-husband. The only person who is supposed to be on the same side as me when it comes to raising our children, is not only on the opposite side, but he is actively doing whatever he needs to do to ensure that I fail.

No matter how hard I work at being a better person, I simply can’t make sense of the fact that the other half of my children’s parental structure has sworn himself as my enemy. A man I once slept next to, celebrated births with, mourned losses with, cooked meals for, the only man I tried to tear the walls down for is now someone who takes joy in any suffering I should endure.

In many ways this has been the deepest struggle of my life. Some days it feels even harder than surviving an abusive childhood. This dynamic has challenged everything, because there are just no easy answers to anything anymore.

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