Note from Tina: One Mom’s Battle has many faces and its my honor to share them with you. My healing comes from sharing my story and from hearing your stories. There is power in numbers and our numbers are growing. It is my hope that this little “village” will be one strong voice which provides education to our court system and most importantly, brings change to our Family Court System. I am excited to share today’s blog with you because it was written by a gentleman who has had his life turned upside down by his ex-wife. In gratitude, Tina
A Male Perspective: Perhaps I am naive, but religious leaders should be held to a higher standard than most. If you listen to their words and messages, the focus is always on strategies to make the world a better place, or enhance your child’s life or to do the right thing. They should be grounded in high morals and ethics. They are not perfect people but should strive to be so.
What I experienced in my marriage, however, was an ex-wife – and religious leader – who preached the exact opposite of what she practiced.
I initially admired my ex-wife. I saw her as ambitious, savvy and attractive. We married about 18 months after we met and lived in two different cities before settling in to her home country. We have three wonderful children.
Immediately after we had our first child, we moved to the city where my ex-wife had grown up. That’s when things began to change for me. I remember chalking up my discomfort to being a relatively new father and the fact that I was living in a new country. But it was so much more than that. My life was now my ex-wife’s life. As a religious leader, she was always on the go: nightly committee meetings, church services, life cycle events – these were all part of the life that she led and that I had accepted. At times, it was a difficult life. We didn’t have much quality family time, as our schedule was essentially built around her schedule.
As the years went on, two more children were born. But I felt stuck. I was stuck. My career was seemingly never good enough for her or her family. Even when it came to my children, I also felt scrutinized by my ex-wife, even though I spent considerable time with them.
Just before I learned about my ex-wife’s affair, my family visited for my oldest son’s birthday. When they returned, they told that they couldn’t believe how stressed I looked considering how much I was doing for my wife and kids. They were amazed and remarked that they would never want to trade places with me.
And then I learned about my ex-wife’s affair with a staff member from her congregation. Yes – HER congregation. Six months prior to learning about the affair, we had moved to a neighboring community to start a new church. I was excited for my ex-wife, but concerned about the impact on my family. In many ways, I felt this was not the right decision because of how it might impact my kids. It wasn’t the right time to do this – I thought. We had a very young family – I thought. My ex-wife convinced me that the reason I was reluctant to make the move was because I was afraid of change, which may be partially true. But it was so much more than that.
At any rate, I convinced myself that my ex-wife would do an amazing job and we packed our bags for the new community. Six months later, I witnessed the affair between my ex-wife and a staff member and the rest is history.
Of course, the affair was my fault. And then I acted the way I did because of my parent’s upbringing. Ah, the beating my ex gave me. Through minimal counselling after I witnessed the infidelity, I (finally) knew there was something very wrong with this person. Why was she always blaming others for her failures? Why did she regularly belittle people even though she was a religious figure? Why did she lack empathy and common “sweetness” except when she had to (in front of crowds, on stage)? Despite the hurt and shock of the affair, it was clear that this woman – my wife – did not love me. She only loved herself.
Shortly after our separation, the false accusations began against me – this when my ex-wife had asked for an amicable separation. Threats of defamation suits against me got the ball rolling to keep my mouth shut about her affair and other matters. After all, few clergy would remain in a position of power after word gets out (although ironically that doesn’t last long). On top of the defamation suit I faced, my ex-wife:
- Threatened that after I included a clause in the draft separation agreement, she would among other things, make Child Protective Services very interested in me. She did eventually go to Child Protective Services – making false accusations along the way.
- Constantly harassed me through e-mails and texts.
- Suggested that my oldest child’s behaviour was my fault because of “bad parenting”.
- Developed “lists” of complaints against me for our mediator to review.
- Recently accused me of abusing my kids (“on good authority”).
- Befriended and manipulated a counsellor from the local social service agency, who refused to see me (or my kids) because of a “conflict of interest”. Only through a three-month complaint process did the counsellor manage to understand that my ex-wife was lying to her. After all, who are you going to believe – me or the female leader of a progressive church?
- Threatened to call the police on my girlfriend after she returned my son late from a haircut.
- Denied access of my oldest son, literally congratulating him for not going with me on certain days.
- Went into my car on several occasions to ensure I had properly installed my youngest daughter’s car seat – this even after the local social services agency confirmed that I had installed it properly.
And to be quite honest, this only covers a bit of it. She is reckless and erratic. She regularly projects – recently referring to me as a bully. She shows no boundaries. She lacks empathy – so much so that someone closely connected to our case suggested that she was the least empathetic person that they had ever met. But she is so incredibly believable – again, who is not going to trust the local religious leader?
And despite all of this, my access time with my kids has been reduced. Yes – reduced. The system rewards a person like this because of what she does for my kids (or is perceived to do for my kids), not who she is. Apparently, helping them with their homework or getting them to bed at 8:30 sharp is more important than the emotional support that I give my kids (not that I’m lax at either one of these, although I give them a few more minutes at night J). Apparently, the home they’ve known for just 18 months is more stable than the one I’ve made for them in the last six months.
My kids are the most important thing to me. They are not the most important thing to my ex-wife. As she once told me in front of a marriage counsellor right after I learned about the infidelity, “this (her new job) was supposed to be our fourth child and OUR path.” For me, there is no comparison.
It is the impact this has had on my kids that hurts me the most. While I know I can be the father I want to be outside of the marriage – as I am no longer my ex-wife’s punching bag – I feel a great sense of guilt, and sadness and pain. My kids don’t deserve this. I’ve taken so many bullets, and I will take more to shield my kids from this person.
In essence, my ex-wife represents what’s wrong with our society. She preaches against bullies, but acts like one regularly. She promotes family values, but regularly discourages her kids to have a relationship with me. She speaks about qualities like compassion and empathy when she shows none (unless people are watching). She advocates the importance of our souls but lacks her own.
The question most people ask is, don’t people know what has happened here? My answer is simple. Some know and don’t care. My ex-wife is fairly popular in the community and some want to ride her coattails. Others know only what she tells them. Still others are seemingly left in the dark, too ignorant to figure out what occurred right under their noses. That said, many people have figured out what has happened and in some cases, have come to support me. Eventually, many others will, as well.
As for me, it was relatively easy to move on from the actual relationship. It was how my ex twisted the knife that nearly ruined me and my relationship with my young kids. At times, I wanted to give up. Everyone and everything seemed against me. Today, I have found a new love – a woman who shows more compassion to me and my kids than I ever knew possible. It’s a strange feeling – to be truly loved by this woman – but it feels amazing.
Some would say that such experiences only make you stronger. I would be lying if I said this was the case. The wounds run pretty deep. But I am rebuilding myself and my life. It takes time. But I will do it for my kids and my new love and for my new life. I will be happy again. ###
Click the link to purchase Tina’s new book, “Divorcing a Narcissist- One Mom’s Battle.” You will find insight, red flag reflections and strategies on how to survive (and thrive!) while divorcing of co-parenting with a narcissist. Tired of panicking at the site of a new email from the narcissist in your inbox? Learn how to decode the emails and see them for what they are. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal.