Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How Much Do I Need to Trust My Ex?

Trust is a huge issue for all of us. Our ability (or lack thereof) to trust that our needs will be taken care of is something that is formed at an early age. How well we felt our parents or caregivers provided for us in those years probably has a lot to do with how needy we are in relationships in adulthood. Among many definitions that I've read over the last couple days, one that struck me is the most"the obligation or responsibility imposed on a person in whom confidence or authority is placed."

For those of us who share custody, there needs to be a certain amount of trust in the other parent. Unless we can believe that our co-parent has our child's physical and emotional well being at heart, we're going to be unsettled most of the time. Lack of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse of course is a must. Feeding, clothing, proper discipline, and sharing of love as well. All of these I believe my Ex provides for my daughter. The responsibility of a single parent has been imposed on her. The State of NY, as well as I, have to have confidence that she will do her best to care for our daughter. But what about the rest of it?

I've mentioned here before that I believe my Ex is a pathological liar, and a very good one at that. It took me a while to see it, but her lack of deep long lasting relationships on any level should have been my first clue. Now, besides her infidelity, there are and have been so many contradictions to stories she tells, exaggerations of situations, and flat out misinterpretations of the truth that I lose sleep many nights wondering just what is really going on. From how much time Miss M spends with babysitters, to Ex's real financial situation, to Ex filing a false child abuse claim soon after our separation, to her infidelity and continued relationship with Married Guy (and my daugther's exposure to this), I'm so upside down most times that I wonder is it better for me to have no contact with her besides on drop offs. It stresses me out to no end.

I bring this up because the other day I had a separate conversation with the Child Therapist we see together because there were clear lies that were going on during our therapy sessions. Most had to do with Married Guy and his exposure to my daughter. Once I explained to Therapist that the story had changed multiple times and the one of Ex's closest friends had told me in confidence that the infidelity had occured, Therapist understood my lack of trust. Her suggestion was that we both "trust but verify" Ex's stories going forward and keep track of the stories that are told. Frustrating beyond belief.

Here's my question though: Does it really matter? The "war" part of our divorce seems to have passed. As long as we each go by the rules of our custody agreement, I pay support on time, and Miss M is well cared for, what's the problem? I already know that Ex is a Hot Mess. Shouldn't I just be able to leave it at that and move on with my life? Does whatever "story of the day" that Ex decides to tell to make herself look like the good guy and me the bad guy matter?

I suppose the High Road is the place to go with this, but I could use some help. What do you all think? Am I needlessly getting stressed over trivial things since I do know that Miss M is well cared for or should I try to get to the bottom of most situations so that I can to the best of my ability protect Miss M from Ex's emotional and moral instability ? It's a tough one. Let the feedback begin...

18 comments:

Mass Hole Mommy said...

Where to begin.....

I cannot tell you how much I worry about my kids when they are with my ex. I have so many thoughts rambling through my brain on this topic, I could literally sit and write all night.

It's a tricky thing when it involves someone we once loved because I think we see them diffently. We know all their faults already and have a biased opinion of that person seperate from being a parent (or whatever else it may be). It is really had to see the other person doing "the right thing" when we know what's really going on in their head. I think at this point we just need to trust the other person. Fortunatly for me, my oldest is 5 and will "tattle" on his dad.

like you said, it's not the everyday things like brushing their teeth or bath time, it's the other stuff. I just remembered that about a month ago I found a Playboy in my ex's bathroom. Normally not a big deal, but when it's in plain view and reach of my kids, it's a huge deal. If that wasn't the 2nd time it happened I wouldn't have had to rip him a new one. It's things like that which infuriate me.

As far as new relationships, I don't really think the new person should be anymore than a "friend". I JUST told my 5 yr old that chris was my boyfriend last night. And we have been dating for just about 2 years. I haven't gotten into the marriage thing yet, but I need to be honest with him soon. But I think a new person should definitley be brought around in moderation. It's so confusting for kids.

I have so many more things that I just can't even find the words for, lol! You and I definitley think a lot alike and I love hearing your take on things.

ShellSpann said...

This is tough. The situation I am currently in is that my ex doesn't pay support (and rarely has over the last 6 years), he has a drug/alcohol problem, and doesn't have a stable home. To me those are HUGE issues and this has forced me to choose to NOT send my daughter over there even though he has court ordered visitation. I don't by any means mean to make your issues sound small or insignificant...but I would say - as long as Miss M is taken care of, fed, bathed, etc. And as long as you feel confident with that, try not to sweat the every day BS. Make your communication very little. Communicate ONLY about Miss M and if the conversation turns to something else, end it. it's hard, but it's worth it. Over the years I've realized that it's so much easier that way. *HUGS* hang in there!!

T said...

Here's the thing: All that we can do, as parents, is teach our children to bounce.

They will incur all sorts of heartbreak and emotional crises, just as we all do. Its unfortunate that we cannot protect them from it. Its what makes us all stronger, right?

Be you. Take care of you. Do what you can to be a good father and role model for her. Bring more great role models into her life - male and female.

You cannot control what your ex does either. That sucks because as much as I would like my ex to be the father that I didn't have to our daughters, he is who he is. He loves them in his own way. They love him. They know the rules are different at our respective houses. They seem more settled and comfortable at my house. I can do nothing except *trust* that he has their best interests in mind - even if they look different than mine.

Unless there is major abuse, of which it sounds like there is not, she is going to parent the best way she knows how. You will parent the best way you know how. Your daughter will be loved in two different ways and it will shape her.

I wrote about this the other day... we can't change people or what they do or situations that happen in our lives, all that we can change is how we react to it. That's all you or Miss M can do too.

Help Miss M build that strength and faith and hope and trust. Let her know that no matter what life brings her way, she has a choice of how it affects her. Then watch her bloom.

BigLittleWolf said...

Trust, when you have good reason (and recent history) to distrust, is a sticky situation when you need to co-parent.

I'll just say - listen to your gut, and maintain a level of attentiveness that feels appropriate. Certainly while your little one is still little. That may not be what you wanted to hear, but for some of us, a healthy distrust of the other parent is necessary.

But what if you considered a different term, which also means a very slight adjustment (in a positive way) to how you view your parenting and co-parenting. What if you thought of it as a pragmatic degree of attentiveness, given that you know your ex's nature?

Isn't that exactly what is called for in raising our children? Pragmatism to all the things that influence their character, capacity and experiences?

Danielle said...

I may not be a good one to give any advise here since I don't have to relinquish time with my daughter to anyone else. But I think that everything that T said is right on.
Unless you see something that concerns you in Miss M's behavior, I would just be the best dad that you can be and give her the skills to deal with the other.
Good luck with this.

Deesha said...

The sad, crazy-making truth is that some co-parents can't be trusted. Trust is earned, so given your ex's behavior/ history, your wariness is understandable and advisable. I agree with BigLittleWolf's "pragmatic degree of attentiveness" (think of it as "watchful waiting") and T's "be a role model." When the ex brings instability to the table, sometimes it's hard to find comfort in the fact that our own conscious and conscientious parenting can still have a major influence in our children's lives.

And as they get older, kids figure things out. I read recently on a divorced mom's blog where her sons said to her, "Mom, you're always so nice to Daddy, and he's always so mean to you." I believe she found comfort in this not because she's in competition with her ex, but rather because she knows her kids are learning from her positive example and that they are benefiting from her peacekeeping efforts.

Senorita said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Senorita said...

Ooh, I don't have children, nor was I ever married so keep that in mind as I dole out my .02.

There is nothing you can really do other than try to be the best father you can be. And you seem like you are doing a great job at that.

You are tied to your ex at LEAST until Miss M is 18. And the courts favor the moms so you just have to deal with whatever curveball she throws at you.

Your daughter will come to her senses of who is being the better parent as she gets older. Trust me on that one. My mom told me some dirty filthy lies about my father, and I came around. My dad and I are real close now. I sympathize with your situation as it was almost unreal what my mom with the help of another woman did to tear my dad down.

It's interesting to read about what you write about her, how she lies all the time, and what she does wrong. I wonder if she had a blog what she would be saying about you ? Do you both think the other is lying ? My mom and dad swear the other was lying. The truth was somewhere in the middle. As much as I love my dad, he wasn't smelling like roses either.

Anyway, I am getting off track here. But to answer your question, it doesn't matter whether you should or shouldn't trust your ex. You HAVE to, since you have to share the responsibilities between you too.

Of course you don't trust her, otherwise you wouldn't be up here writing the entry you did. But no matter what you feel, you have to at least pretend trust her, as you two are required to share parenting duties.

Good luck you you !

Nicki said...

Trust was the downfall of my marriage. I'm lucky, though. The kids are older and they see through him. It hurts that he'll never have with them the kind of relationship I do, never have their complete trust. I focus on being the best parent I can be and leave him to his own devices.

Be there. Be real. Be honest. Be trustworthy. Miss M is bright. She'll figure it out. Kids are nothing if not resilient.

Lindsay & Emma Bartholomew said...

Great blog! Just started following it. I for sure get the trust issue! I am sick with worry when my little miss em is with her dad... mostly because i get inaccurate reports of what really happened. I know that she is OK and not in immediate danger but it is still hard knowing she is not getting the best of the best care and is being exposed to heaven knows what with her dad and new live in girl friend.
Good luck!!

Travis said...

Trust means jack squat with pathological liars (is our ex's related?) Everything has to be in writing and then if they try and deviate, you can use it to prove that they are lying.

And at the end of the day. It doesn't matter. I was accused of all kinds of crap, but she never followed through when it came down it. So, I've learned to ignore her. Unless it deals with the kids, I don't care to hear about it. It's not my responsibility anymore.

It's liberating... You need it. You need to feel free of that. And you will gain an extreme level of happiness for letting that go. As long as it doesn't affect your little girl. Let her screw up her life. And just love your daughter with all your power. If her drama of relationships and trust show up. Just hug your daughter, tell her the truth (as appropriate for the age), and show her what honestly and love truly are.

Man. I swear our ex's are related.

jenn said...

This isn't an easy situation. Since I don't have to deal with my ex, I'm not in a position to recommend anything. But it sounds like you've received a lot of good advice. And I know you have your daughter's best interests at heart. That makes all the difference.

Martinis or Diaper Genies? said...

Just curious, does your ex know about this blog? Does she read it? ps your baby is a cute little peanut who I want to eat up

BigLittleWolf said...

Sorry - but Senorita is not correct. Courts do not automatically favor the moms. Our family court system is horribly overloaded; they do the best they can. But your situation regarding custody, support, etc. is a matter of who has the better attorney, is willing to cooperate (in the child's best interest) or not, distance between the two of you, life's interventions like illness, accident, job loss, whether or not an ex remarries - what state you live in, what state your ex lives in, and how good a judge you get.

All a crap shoot. Assume nothing. And be watchful, as Deesha said.

Furthermore, many provisions in agreements may be legal and in the legal best interest of the child, but they are not enforceable in practicality. There are great mothers and great fathers, mothers and fathers who are mediocre, and mothers and fathers who are indifferent, irresponsible, or simply bring their careless or destructive behaviors into everything, including parenting.

This is true of men and women. It's not the system that people presume it to be. It is very flawed - and extremely complex. The variations by state make it more so. Sorry Seniorita - well intentioned remarks, certainly, but living in this "system" (along with many others I know) - for years - I've seen more than my share of its reality.

Senorita said...

Hi BigLittleWolf,

Thanks for clearing that up. I have never even been married, so I definitely wasn't trying to tell it like it is. You would know more than I.

I live in the SF Bay Area, and in my county the mom has traditionally been favored over the dad, but I am seeing that it is definitely not like that in other ares.

Big City Dad said...

BLW is right that it all depends on the state. New York, believe it or not however, is fairly antiquated when it comes to divorce law. You'd think with NYC it would be pretty progressive, but the huge number or abandoned mothers in the city coupled with a very conservative voter base outside the city makes it tough for good fathers to get a break. The state tends to favor the mother for younger children and in order to prove a parent is unsuitable, there has to be blatant abuse or neglect. If I were in another state I might have a better case. For now, I'll just have to suck it up and do the best I can.

Anonymous said...

I have learned that when dealing with people like this it is best to consistently restate the facts without engaging in any agrument and always try to do what is right. Keep that at the forefront of your mind: What is right in this situation? How should I respond and be above reproach? RESTATE; DO NOT ENGAGE; DO WHAT IS RIGHT. These are the principles that will yield positive results even in the face of frustrating adversity. Maybe not initially or for quite a while, but this is a marathon...

Something else I have learned: never talk negatively about your ex to Miss M. no matter how subtle(not that you have). As she grows she will have been exposed to the truth and she will know in her heart of hearts what is right and true. I agree with the other bloggers, focus on being the best dad you can be.

I have to say that it is evident that your ex is hurting and operating out of fear as her deepest root emotion. Be wise to this in your dealings with her by operating out of goodness. Good trumps bad every time. It will not go unnoticed in your life and it will bear healthy fruit along the miles of this marathon...

jaypee | enjayneer.com said...

When me and my wife separated through divorce, we had no choice but to settle arrangements when it comes to co-parenting. We have 2 young kids and we don't want them to suffer just because we needed to part ways. So me and my ex-wife are working hand in hand to take care of the kids. My wife also bought co-parenting planner/organizer from http://4help.to/parenting which really is of big help in this process. Hopefully we'll get things flowing smoothly as planned. Thanks for sharing this! :)

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