Tuesday, February 17, 2009

give me a frickin' break

Just because I'm not bothered by something doesn't mean that I don't want to know the motivation behind it. And even though I have made a concerted effort the last year or so to not over- think things, I'm still curious about this one.

I'm talking about the FX and his new girlfriend, of course. But before I get into the rest of the story, I have to go back and fill in a detail I left out earlier, because in the interest of getting to the meat of the story, I chose to not put the veggies and potatoes on the plate. (This takes on added significance when you factor in that I really don't like meat, but I digress). The detail is this -

The reason he told me this, said he, is that he wanted my opinion and advice on how to a) tell the kids about this gal and b) get them all together in a stress-free kind of manner. It's moments like these that make me grateful for the poker face I've cultivated all my life, because without it I'm afraid I may have hurt his oh so considerate feelings a smite. My answer was short and to the point. You're on your own, said I. This is something we're each going to have to work out for ourselves. I don't have the magic answer and even if I did I'm not sure I'd share. I am, as you have repeatedly pointed out to me, not your mother. The only thing I did say was that I thought if he told the kids he should make sure they knew that I knew, so they wouldn't feel like they were having to keep secrets from me.

That's where we left it. Oh, he had to tell me all about her and ask me about my love life and make chit chat like we were friends or something, but the reason for this charming little catch up session was already on the table. So there you are. The end.


I can't help but wonder why? Why is he doing this? What is the ultimate goal, the hidden purpose? Why does he want the kids in on this? And this is the direction my thoughts keep going off in. First off they've only been going out a couple of months. (And I believe this, for reasons I don't really want to get into now). Second off, he only has the kids every other weekend, and even that has been getting shortened as the kids are asking me if they can go there Saturday morning instead of Friday night. Third, they've only been going out a couple of months. Oh, wait. I already said that. Never mind.

If we had split custody I could understand it. If the kids were with him seven days out of fourteen and he was in the heady throes of getting a new relationship off the ground, I can see the point of telling them about it. I wouldn't do it if it were me, but I can see where some people would. But if you're seeing your kids one or two nights out of fourteen, can you not take care of your love life in the other twelve or thirteen? Do you really want to spend the few nights you have with your kids on a "date"? And what if it doesn't work out? Then what? Will you make sure they meet every woman you go to a movie with? Why is this necessary to their lives?

Then there's the option that he believes that this gal is the one, the Steven to his Spielberg. That he wants them to start in immediately on the happy integrated family routine. (She does have kids, but they're "grown", whatever that means). I sit somewhere between awe and horror at this thought, with a heavy right shift. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that his major preoccupation has been trying to find someone to be with, rather than doing a little introspection about his issues - the issues that two separate therapists assured him would follow him from one relationship to the next unless he sucked it up and addressed his problems. Perhaps I'm still smarting from being told repeatedly that I single-handedly killed the marriage with all my issues, but there's a little part of me that hopes this gal has a clue of what she's getting into. I know for a fact that he's quite presentable on paper. I have the paper to prove it.

I even, out of the goodness of my heart, started a little mental list for her. Ten Things You Should Know About Him. A minute or two later, I had to upgrade it to Twenty, because that's how I am with these lists. As a matter of fact, I've integrated my love of lists into this book I'm writing that is kicking my butt. I shouldn't complain, because every time I think I'm running into a wall, I just keep getting more material thrown my way. Anyway, these lists started with one I wrote last Spring. I couldn't write it now because I'm just not in that place anymore, but if I do say so myself, my Ten Things I Won't Miss About You List (quickly upgraded to Twenty), may be the best piece of writing I've ever done, in an Alannis Morissette You Oughta Know kind of way. You wouldn't be wrong if you imagined a fair amount of overlap in the Things You Should Know/Things I Won't Miss lists. Of course she isn't asking for my advice like he is, but here's a freebie just because I'm nice that way. Absent minded men who misplace everything they touch should never be allowed to take erotic pictures of their women. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

If you're sensing a little hostility seeping through my words, you're right. All three of my kids came home last night very subdued after having this news sprung on them. One of them has been stomping around the house, snarly and surly, one refuses to even admit he heard it, and one looked at me really tentatively and asked if I'd heard about Dad's news. I said I had, and asked what he thought about it. Yikes. And that's all I'm going to say about that. Empathetic dad that he is, has he called to check in on them to see how they're doing after his little sound bite? Come on. What do you think?

Where the hell was I? Oh, yeah. Sorry. I sidetracked myself.

Why did he feel he needed this on the table? Who has something to gain here? Possibly the woman is pushing for this for her own reasons, but it's hard to imagine why. The kids, in my opinion, have nothing to gain by this. I'm simply a bystander to this particular car wreck, except for that pesky little bit about my children's psyches and the newfound need to patch them up. And that leaves the FX. What does he have to gain from this?

It's taken me four days, but I think I've finally figured it out. No, scratch that. I'm pretty damn sure I've figured it out. And I'm not being coy, but I'm going to wait just a bit before I write about it, because I want to see how this plays out. Sometimes I think he still checks in here just because he can, and even though I think that's a pathetic thought, I can't rule it out. I'm not tipping my hand on this one.

Even during the last days of our marriage when we loathed everything about each other, he was still forced to admit that I knew him inside and out, knew what made him tick and why. And if I'm right about this - and I am - he doesn't even know he's doing it. He certainly hasn't gotten as far as the why.

And I think that's a little...sad.


Rudee said...

With that picture, I thought this story was going to be about a shit. I was right! I was right! I love being right.

The Finely Tuned Woman said...

He feels guilty and wants everybody's blessings, including yours and the kid's. It gives him permission to go ahead and have this relationship if you all know about it and approve of it. If he had not told you all, he could not have lived with his conscious and have gone on with the relationship, no matter how insignificant it is. He seeks approval.

Stacie said...

Sorry about the bomb dropped on the family. There's nothing like being left to pick up the pieces from someone else's mess. Hugs.

He is one for drama, right? I mean, telling you and the kids creates a huge amount of drama. I'd wonder if he did this so that if (well, when) he messes up in the relationship he'll have an excuse--the kids made it difficult, you made it difficult, or something of the like.

Maggie May said...

It probably is guilt and by asking your blessing he thinks he can wipe the slate clean.

I think you are bound to wonder how SHE will cope when she finds out all his weaknesses.
As for telling the boys....... you are right. It is entirely up to him what he says as long as they know that YOU know. Stay out of that one!

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

I hate to say this but FX is like my dad and my ex-husband (minus the erotic photos -- probably not of you, am I right?). He wants approval -- yours and the kids. He feels guilty. That's why the coffee, why he drops in on you, etc. He doesn't want to do the hard work of sorting out his issues. He'd much rather blame it all on you and YOUR issues. He is, of course, making a huge mistake by getting so seriously involved so quickly. And the new woman is making a serious mistake by getting involved with him. But that's their problem. Your boys, most likely, still harbored deep down the hope that you and their dad could get back together. This new woman scuppers that hope. Their world has been turned upside down. Dad is acting like a teen-ager with this new woman in his life, and they feel threatened. Again, that's FX's problem. Yes, you'll have to deal with the fall-out. But here's my advice: Living well is the best revenge. Deal with your issues, reassure your boys that they're still No. 1 in YOUR life. And move on. You will be grateful in the end that FX is no longer a focal point in your life, and you will feel free to find a far more fulfilling relationship. (And also, in my experience, women only behave like a man's mother when the man behaves like a child.) I don't know FX but I find him incredibly irritating and childish.

lv4921391 said...

Ditto the comments above...it's surprising that the boys still visit on a regular basis...I see that ending in the near future.

Cath said...

Oh wow. Whatever it is, I know you are right. Because in situations like this we are the ones that DO know them better than themselves. And we wish we didn't, because then it wouldn't be true.

Am I right? ((hug))

laurie said...

RC? the kids will adjust. they'll be fine. i recall that when he first said he wanted a divorce, you worried deeply that your boys wouldn't be able to handle it. but they have, just fine. (after a while, i realize.)

and now they'll handle this. they're good, smart, deeply loved boys. you give them a great, secure base. they rely on that. they'll come back to that. they'll be OK.

my friend pmiller went through this exact same thing years ago. her X had a string of girlfriends, each of whom their son was introduced to and expected to be nice to. sometimes he was, sometimes he wasn't. eventually, the X married.

pmiller, being the wise soul that she is, likes the new wife pretty well--much more than she likes the X. she empathizes with what that poor woman has to put up with, but she very wisely holds her tongue.

the boy, who was a young child when the X moved out, is now a sophomore in college. he's doing great.

your boys will too. i know a mother worries, and i know saying "don't worry" is meaningless. but know that they will handle this, and they will be fine.

Kaycie said...

I hope he does still read your blog.

I had decided to marry my husband before he ever met my two small children. However, they were very young. My ex, though, thought it important to introduce the kids to each and every woman he dated more than three times. Idiot.

We're fourteen years down this road and my kids are healthy and well adjusted. The ex and I talk and get on just fine. He still knows that I know him quite well. I still know that he has a few insights into my psyche but for the most part is clueless.

Our relationship has been complicated a bit by the fact that he has never chosen to remarry. I am still the only wife he has ever had. He remembers my birthday, our former anniversary, things like that. I think it much better if the Fx can move on.

And if you missed it earlier, your boys, your beloved boys, will adjust and they'll be fine. They'll see their dad for exactly who he is a bit earlier than most. That has not been a negative thing for my kids at all and I bet it won't be for yours, either.

Iota said...

Well it's b****y obvious isn't it, but then I'm a woman...

Iota said...

When my oldest son was in Kindergarten, his teacher (who had taught for decades) was reflecting on the difference between teaching girls and boys, and said to me "the male ego is a fragile flower, you have to remember that". Oh so true.

Kaytabug said...

WOW. What a fantastic post, I just love how you get your feelings out "on paper". You have skills!Mad skills!

I think it is rather shitty that he dropped the bomb on them and then let you deal with the aftermath. Typical man. I really, really dislike men.

I see no benefit what-so-ever in telling the boys. They are kids not adults, they need him to be a Father not a friend.

Many hugs to you and your boys. They are strong just like their Momma! They are so lucky to have such an awesome Mom!

Katy said...

I think he is just trying to create drama, make sure he is the center of everyone's attention, least you forget about him.

At least he had the decency to tell you about it first.

My X continues to drop bombshells on my daughter without ever telling me anything about it. I would much rather hear things like, my girl friend is pregnant/I got married/I joined the Marines/I'm moving to Hawaii straight from him before I have to comfort my very confused and worried daughter.

Indigo said...

OH, This is SO familiar. My ex did the same thing, it took him mere months to hook up with a former friend of mine. The same story he wanted my daughter to be comfortable around her and her son. Within 6 months they were married and she was pregnant. It was her plan all along get pregnant and let him support her.

I'm almost betting my bottom dollar it's something along the same vein. Otherwise there is no reason why he can't donate what little time he has with the kids to them. (Hugs)Indigo

distracted by shiny objects said...

Been there. I think it's all done for YOUR benefit. To push YOUR buttons. The kids are probably bit players in the play that revolves around him in his own mind.
I forget the exact ages of your children, but would say from experience to be as stable and available and open and patient as you can. When CollegeGrrrl was much, much younger she needed a decompression/transition time when she came home from Dad's house. A walk in the neighborhood and dinner and the same shows on TV every other Sunday.I was coming off of an evening/night double Friday night and a day shift on Sunday and was exhausted. The routine seemed to help. She at least knew exactly what to expect and her world had time to right itself. Good luck, babe.

the rotten correspondent said...

Thank you all for the comments. They've been VERY enlightening.

Rudee - no, honey, you've got it all wrong. the whole divorce was my fault.

Irene - that's an interesting perspective, and one I hadn't really thought of. I think you're on to something. He IS a man who really needs to be adored.

Stacie - again, I hadn't thought of that. The instant scapegoat defense. It wouldn't surprise me, although I kept my mouth shut. God knows, I've been the scapegoat the past year anyway. I really didn't know what to do, because my first instinct was to tell him NOT to tell them, but then he would've thought I was jealous or bossy or something else. Better to let him make his own choices.

Maggie May - I really felt I had to stay out of it. It's not my life, and anything I'd have said to talk him out of it would have been taken the wrong way.

wakeup - you're absolutely right. My kids felt really threatened by it. I talked to them all again after I wrote this, because I realized something. Knowing my ex, he put it like this - "Your mom and I are both going to be going out with other people eventually, and oh, by the way, I already am". It was like a double threat. So I told them all that no one speaks for me except me, and that I'm an open book...if they have any questions they just have to ask. I also told them that while I figured I would eventually want to date, the time was not now. You could see all three of them visibly relax. I think they all expected this from him. It's going to be a lot trickier with me.

lv4921391 - he has tried to step up to the plate and be a better dad, but he's just too self-absorbed. And I told him that. I told him that if I were in his shoes and they didn't want to come until Saturday morning, I would be very concerned about that. I also told him that he's so busy with his own drama that he misses his own kid's subleties. He may just look at it as one more night to enjoy the single life. Who knows?

Cath - I know him far FAR too well. I knew when he asked me to go have coffee that he had something to spill. I watched him work up to it for ten minutes and I was within 30 seconds of predicting exactly when he would cut to the chase. The thing is, in his own way, he really thinks he's behaving honorably. He's a really smart man with almost no personal insight.

the rotten correspondent said...

laurie - I know the kids will be fine. They seemed to visibly relax after I spoke to them this morning. But this power to piss me off because of my kids will never go away, and I think I'm just now fully realizing the scope of that. I'm beyond being pissed (or even surprised) by his actions for myself, but dammit, he can always get to me through the kids. I hate that.

Kaycie - I hate to think how involved I would need to be with someone before I dragged my kids into it. I just can't imagine. I also can't imagine being the only wife like you are. Something tells me I won't be going down that road. FX has a very strong need to have a cheering section, someone to constantly promote the "bigger, stronger, smarter" theory. For that you need a woman.

Iota - ah, yes. The male ego. Give me a frickin' break. I'm just grateful that as women we can give ourselves the validation we need, instead of having to have someone constantly look at you adoringly and telling you that you're the best hunter in the pack...and that you carry the biggest club.I do not miss THAT bullshit AT ALL.

kaytabug - thanks. I don't feel very mad skills-ish. I feel like I'm on a mad rant. Maybe it's the same thing! I find it tempting to dislike men, too, but since I'm raising three of them, it's problematic. I'd like to think I can raise better men, men who don't have to appear perfect to the world...or at least until they walk in their own front door. I do find though that having three boys gives me an insight into men that is a little frightening. Because, really...they don't grow up. They just get older.

Katy - I am grateful that he didn't drop it on them first. This way at least I was prepared. It helped a lot. And he does have a strong drive to be the center of attention. Maybe he is still trying with me. Maybe on some level he still wants my attention, although he really needs to consider that any attention I'd give him would not be the kind he'd want.

Indigo - that could very well be the road he's going down. The kid issue shouldn't come up, since he's been snipped, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him "settled down" in no time flat. He's feeling sorry for himself that he spent half his life with a woman full of anger and issues while he just carried on with his perfect behavior and spotless psyche.I'm sure that was difficult.;)

distracted - my kids are 11, 13 and 17 next month. I've tried as hard as I can to keep our rituals the same, and I think it's helped them a lot. My oldest one has only spent a couple of nights with his dad, so it's especially galling that he was pressured into going there and then got hit with this. He didn't particularly appreciate it, but even worse, he seemed almost amused. I'm afraid to even ask what that'sabout.

Devon said...

I have seen this very immature behavior from other divorced parents and it always appalls me! The kids will take years to get through this... it isn't just a divorce to them, it is the dismantling of their family and a deep loss of security.

To say, Hey kids, 'I've got a new main squeeze, ain't life grand?' With the expectation that they should share in his climactic joy is totally selfserving and unrealistic.

I am sorry for your boys and the turbulent waters you will have to navigate in the future to help them cope.