Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My husband's ex-wife... a master at ruining family holiday celebrations

My husband and I were eating lunch the other day and, as usual, the conversation turned to thoughts of family.  Before he was married to me, my husband was married to a woman that I feel pretty certain has a personality disorder.  I hesitate to say that too casually, since a lot of people seem to enjoy slapping psychological labels on people.  But based on everything my husband has told me about his life with his former spouse, I really think in her case, the shoe fits.

One recurring theme that I've seen in my husband's ex-wife is her knack for spoiling holidays with staged dramas.  I've been in my husband's life for over a decade now and I've watched her stage these holiday nightmares from afar.  On three occasions, she staged them in another person's home.

Christmas 1999- This was just a few weeks after I met my husband online.  We were just acquaintances, though we were definitely warming to each other.  He had just re-joined the Army a few months prior and simultaneously separated from his ex-wife, who had refused to come along with him.

Ex told my husband not to come home for Christmas.  It turned out she didn't want him home because she had a new boyfriend, whom she had also met online.  New boyfriend was living in the house my husband was paying for.

Moreover, she called my husband's mother, father, and stepmother with a little holiday "message".  She told my mother-in-law that she might not want to spend Christmas with her son because he was a "violent porn addict" and "hated women".  Mother-in-law and Ex had never gotten along, but Ex's warning did give her pause for about five minutes.  After that, she got very angry and advised my husband to get a divorce.

Father-in-law and his wife believed Ex for a little bit longer and things were a bit strained for awhile, especially with my husband's stepmom.  Even years later, she still wondered about her stepson; in 2010, she actually asked me if the things Ex had told her had any truth to them.  Ex had apparently said that my husband hit her and engaged in some abusive sexual practices.  I actually laughed at the notion...  Abusive people don't generally change without a significant intervention of some sort.  I assured stepmom that anything that went on in the bedroom was entirely consensual.  My husband does not have a single mean bone in his body and I have never seen any sign of this violent monster the Ex has described.

But yeah... Ex's brand of holiday cheer sure did affect plenty of households back in 1999.

Easter 2000- At this point in time, my husband and I were online friends.  We had not yet met in person.  He had just told me that he and his wife were separated and living in different states.  I was very single.  In any case, he and the ex decided to take their kids to visit my husband's dad and stepmother.

The grandparents took the kids out for ice cream.  Ex and my husband stayed back to "have a talk".  Ex had made some demands of my husband.  For example, she wanted him to get into LDS counseling with his bishop because she claimed he hated women and was a porn addict.  So she asked my spouse if he had, in fact, gotten counseling for his "problem" (of which I have seen absolutely no evidence of in 8 years of marriage).  He told her he hadn't.

She thrust divorce papers at him.  She had drawn them up herself, using a book.  My husband, being broke and feeling ashamed and desperate, asked "What do we do now?"  He was in tears.

Ex coldly explained to him that she had arranged for a notary.  When he asked her if she thought he was a good father and husband, she said "Maybe to another family."

So my husband agreed that he would sign the papers, even though Ex had really made the settlement punitive.  My husband's decision to divorce apparently took Ex by surprise.  She reportedly locked herself in the guest room and had herself a good cry.  Later, my husband took her hand and held it as they drove to the notary.  He sensed she had been bluffing about the divorce, but he'd had enough abuse and he was determined to force her to live with some consequences.

It was Easter... and they signed the papers.  I'm sure at the time it was horrific for everybody, but now it almost seems symbolic that they split over Easter.  I know that at least for my husband, life has resurrected miraculously.

The divorce was final three months later, just in time for my 28th birthday.  Thanks for the birthday present, Ex.

Christmas 2004- I've already written about this before, but I think it bears repeating because it fits in with Ex's knack for ruining major holidays.

My husband and I had been married for two years.  He was still, at that time, trying hard to be an involved father.  But Ex lived on the other side of the country from us and was being a huge pain in the ass about visitation.  She finally proposed that my husband and I journey across the country to her home for Thanksgiving.  I was absolutely opposed to this, mainly because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I had no desire to spend it with my husband's ex wife.  Moreover, we really couldn't afford such a trip at that time.

Nothing ever really got settled about Thanksgiving, so then Ex proposed that we all meet at my husband's father's house for Christmas.  She claimed that she felt it was important that the children see us united and working as one big happy family.  She added that since she had the children, along with a new baby with her third victim, we should stay in a hotel.  She and victim #3 would stay at my husband's father's home with the kids.  Again, I was very much opposed to such a gathering, mainly because I knew it would be very unpleasant for everyone involved.  We also couldn't really afford it.  After much soul searching, I decided to stay home.

We didn't tell Ex I wasn't coming, though, because we knew from prior experience that she might decide to cancel at the last minute.  We had a feeling that her main purpose for having this gathering was not to visit with the former in-laws, who at that time were still somewhat supportive, nor was it really to get us all friendly and bonded.  What she wanted was to find out about me, see if I could be assimilated into her narcissistic sphere, and test how far her manipulative tactics would go in subduing me.

Her reaction to my absence made it abundantly clear that she wasn't interested in a celebration or a nice visit.  She had also let me know in no uncertain terms that the kids didn't even like me, so I figured I was doing them a favor by not showing up.  As their loving and "oh so concerned" mother, shouldn't she have appreciated the consideration I showed for their "feelings"?   The waterworks came on yet again as she cried to my husband's stepmother that I had snubbed her.

My husband told me that the gathering was a complete disaster and, in fact, that was the last time he got to see his daughters.  So much for us all "working together" and "being a happy family", right?  She certainly never attempted a stunt like that one again, in the interest of family solidarity.  My husband counts that Christmas as one of the worst on record.

What these situations have in common-  Until this past weekend, I never really sat down to think about what Christmas 1999, Easter 2000, and Christmas 2004 had in common.  They seem like totally different holidays, right?  But consider this...

Two "celebrations" took place at my in-laws' home.  One affected the in-laws' at home, even if Ex wasn't present.

All were held on or near major religious holidays.

Two times, the children were present, as were the in-laws.   

All holidays were disastrous and drama filled... with the drama focusing squarely on Ex.  Indeed, she was the one who started everything.

A couple of years later, coincidentally right around Easter 2006, Ex sent letters to my husband, telling him off.  She admitted that she had never actually wanted the divorce and had, in fact, just been trying to force him to rock bottom.  She lambasted me for not showing up at the Christmas debacle and claimed that I was the one who ruined everything.  While I didn't take the time to read her entire rant, I did decide it was time I responded to her.  In retrospect, maybe I shouldn't have bothered, but my letter to her did, at least, get her to stop contacting us.  Hey... yet another Easter miracle!

I basically told her that I didn't understand how a loving mother and former daughter-in-law could subject both her children and the in-laws-- whom she claimed viewed her as more their daughter than my husband was their son-- to her repeated dramas.  I wondered how it was justified in her world to stage these dramas in someone else's home over major religious holidays.  I asked her if she had even given a passing thought to her children, who would no doubt be hoping for a nice visit with their grandparents?  I also wondered if she'd given any thought to her gracious hosts, whose home she had taken over with her ridiculous displays.  I told her that I thought she was cruel, disrespectful, and very abusive and I didn't want to know her.

I admit I had harsh words for Ex.  I was completely honest with her and told her upfront that I felt very hostile toward her for the way she treats my husband and his family.  She views people as possessions and extensions of herself.  If one of them dares to cross her, she thinks nothing of punishing them in some way or, if they're lucky, cutting them out of her life.  The only bad thing about being cut out of her life is that she engages in smear campaigns.  But with people like her, smear campaigns can only work for so long.  We've also seen that she eventually changes her tune if the object of her smear campaign has something she can use.  I fully expect that she'll pop back into our lives like a bad penny if it suits her agenda.

Thankfully, neither my husband nor I have since had to endure any ruined holiday gatherings with Ex.  However, I have since started reading an excellent blog called Shrink4Men and this past Christmas, the blog's author Dr. Tara Palmatier addressed how character disordered people can ruin holidays.  Have a look.

And here's a related post from my blog...

2 comments:

  1. I just read I Hate His/Her Ex by Alex Cooper. You can get it on Amazon or other bookstores. It helped me to deal with so many issues that I had with my fiance’s ex - who I really hated!! Now, my relationship is perfect :) xxx

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  2. Thanks for the book suggestion. I might very well read it, although now my husband's kids are legal adults and we don't have to deal with his nasty ex anymore. I like to read and review books, though, and I know there are plenty of people out there dealing with these same problems.

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