Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Perils of The Paths We Walk

     When you are blending two families together, both Chapter 2's, there are really only two paths that the parties have walked...death or divorce.  It would be rare to be in your mid to late 40's having never been married and looking to start down that road.  Given those two paths, the large majority involve divorce.

     Over the past few years, I have said many times that I believe it is easier dealing with the death of a spouse that it is dealing with the death of a marriage.  The past year has really reinforced that belief in me as I've watched Jennie navigate a world of co-parenting with a self-centered, narcissist.

    More than a year ago, as we both could see our future together, Jennie brought up the possibility of moving from Phoenix to Tucson.  In Arizona there is language in parenting plans that prohibits a spouse from moving more than 100 miles absent the agreement of the other parent.  At that point in time, the other parent in the situation was an every other weekend kind of parent...the proverbial Disneyland dad.  Anytime he was asked to pick up a few more days, he was always quick to point out that he did that.  Jennie had the opportunity to take her oldest to Rome and the other parent had to point out that he stepped up during that time.

     When she approached him about the possibility, he said he needed more time to think about it.  He made mention that he was going to approach her for more parenting time and that he felt like he was getting "screwed" out of that time.  We knew from her attorney that any request for more time would kill a move to Tucson.  He came back a week or so later and said that he was on-board with her moving to Tucson.  There was a laundry list of items that he demanded, but the key issue was agreed to.  He wanted to hire the attorney and get the agreement hammered out.  Weeks turned into a month and he kept dragging his feet.  When asked point blank if he was changing his mind he said no.  That turned out to be a lie as he was consulting an attorney about a 50/50 parenting agreement.

     To be clear, I think it is a great idea that he finally stepped up and took some responsibility for his kids. But, as the saying goes, once a liar, always a liar.  Instead of being a man and saying I am changing my mind, he strung her along until he was ready to drop the bomb on her.  That process was a roller-coaster of emotion for Jennie.  For 9 years, she was the primary caregiver to her children.  While married, she was a stay-at-home mother and her husband, always in pursuit of loftier career goals, was on the road travelling for most of the year.  After her divorce, she was forced to return to work and be the primary caregiver as well.  And in one quick decision, her entire world was upended.

     The dictionary definition of narcissism is:  extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one's own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.  How the past year has also revealed that.  For the other parent, money and career success appear to be the big driver in their life.  After moving past the 50/50 split and adjusting to that, money for the kids, and the control that comes with that, has been the biggest issue.  When they were married, the kids attended private school.  They continue to attend private school and will do so until they graduate.  The other parent pays 0 towards their education.  Not even $1 towards the annual registration fees for his children.

    For years the children have been unable to be involved in any after school activities.  While the other parent was paying child support, it barely covered the cost of putting a roof over his childrens' head.  That's the dirty secret of divorce.  The parent who makes the most money pays for the support of their kids, but it comes nowhere near the financial cost imposed on the family after their transgressions wrecked the kids world.  All of her income was tied up in providing the basic necessities for the kids.  Anytime the other parent was approached for money for an activity, the answer was always the same...I just don't have any free money available right now. 

     The cycle of money continued throughout the year.  As the children wanted to go to gymnastics, all the other parent could offer up was $40 per month.  When asked about helping with school supplies, the best he could offer up for 50% of the total, even though he makes 76% of the combined income and contributes nothing to their tuition/fees.  And even getting that amount out of him was like pulling teeth for Jennie.  He wanted a detailed list of what the purchased items were.

    Finally, there appeared to be a breakthrough as he graciously agreed to up his monthly contributions for activities to $100.  In addition, he was fully paying for gymnastics for one child, which got him a whole lot closer to the court approved split percentage.  However, the leopard doesn't change his spots.  After 2 months of short-paying the contribution amount, that amount came to a halt.  You see, even though the wording of previous emails was: "I'll bump what is send you monthly up to $100" You see, send monthly implies a continuing amount that can be used to cover activities, that will ebb and flow.  But to the other parent, that only applies if there is a certain cost to cover that month.

     There is a great summer camp in the midwest that one of the children wanted to attend.  The price was off the charts expensive and a long way from Arizona.  Financial aid was awarded for most of the camp expense, leaving $800 plus airfare to be covered.  Other than being very clear about only contributing $300, there was no issue with the distance from home or time away on the part of the other parent.   Great, fair enough.  We will cover the rest plus airfare for a great opportunity for growth for one of the kids.  Part of that decision was believing the $100 per month was still going to come in, which now is up in the air.  When asked about this, the passive aggressiveness came out in full force.   The line has now changed to I'm able to pay $300 for this very expensive and far away camp.  He managed to work that phrase in twice in one paragraph.  And now, he suddenly is concerned about who is going to fly to and from with the child.  Will that be the next objection he has?

    And in the same message, a summer math camp came up.  Not even 2 weeks prior, Mr. Wonderful agreed to pay his 76% towards a summer math camp.  But suddenly, he is unable to find where he agreed to that and says that is not how he recalls that topic being discussed.  Thankfully, Jennie keeps everything and was able to provide him a screen shot of that communication.  In her dealings with him, it's like dealing with El Diablo.

    It is difficult being the Chapter 2 in a situation where her Chapter 1 was/is such a dsyfunctional, controlling and narcissistic person.  It pains me to see the emotional toil that he continues to put on Jennie and will do so until the children have all reached adulthood.  I love this woman more than anything else and together we will navigate the next 11 years as we already have.

     To any men out there who find themselves in a similar position, don't be an ass hat like this guy.  Please put your kids needs  above yours.  I'm not suggesting you give them everything they ask for, but really, $100 per month is too much for activities?  That's just about covers the cost of dinner and wine out one night.

    I  leave you with this picture.  I saw it on a jeep last year while still living in Tucson.  I sent it to Jennie and we both got a good laugh out of it. Lord knows I can't fall off the floor.

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