Last Thursday was my four year old’s first day at school. It was also the beginning of an emotional and verbal attack from the husband which would continue over the course of the following two days, leaving me feeling stressed, distressed and tearful.
It began with a screaming child – the four year old did not want to go in to big school and he had to be grappled kicking and screaming into the teacher’s arms. The husband had asked to come with us and as we were walking away he told me that our son’s behaviour was ‘getting worse’ and that this was clearly all because ‘children of broken homes are well known to suffer from behavioural issues’ and of course it was all my fault.
I was very clearly upset even before he said those words and they were designed to provoke and punish me. I was crying and running away back to my car, across the playground, pushing past grannies and buggies, desperate to put as much distance between myself and him as possible. When I got back to my car I jumped in and as I was driving away I saw him in the rearview mirror waving his arms around to call me back but I carried on.
About an hour later as I was packing up my shopping into my car at the supermarket he suddenly appeared, pulling his car into the space next to mine with a face like thunder – demanding that I stand and wait while he phoned up the local council to talk to them about his council tax bill.
I should explain that myself and the children have now moved into our new rental home – back in the same town as the husband and the school. It is a good and bad thing. I no longer have the motorway commute from hell just to do the school run, but at the same time I no longer have the distance and the cocoon of safety my family provided.
The husband and I also had our second mediation session mid-way through my house move and it seems to have created even more of a monster in him. He has been phoning, texting, harassing and haranguing me over the course of those three days. He also took matters into his own hands, driving round to my new home, when we argued on the phone and I hung up on him. Fortunately I got his voicemail stating that he was on his way round and hot-footed it with the kids over to my sister’s house for the night.
He constantly accuses me of lying and poor communications. He told me that he would have the children over the weekend but only from 3pm on Saturday when I’d asked him to take them at 2. When I took issue with him he changed his offer to 4pm and told me he was doing that to spite me because it was the only way he could ‘get back’ at me and then he said, “make it 5pm”. He agreed that this strategy of his was ‘at the children’s expense’ and that he didn’t care because he just wanted to punish me.
When he did have the children he made our seven year old cry, accusing him of being a liar as he assumed that we had been making up a story about being at home the previous night (he didn’t know that we had literally jumped in the car and driven away probably about three minutes before he appeared on the scene). He told me that I should stop lying because it was rubbing off on our son.
He expects immediate answers to his texts and doesn’t ever appreciate that I have a choice whether or not to answer my phone or may not have heard it ring or may have been in the bathroom or the kitchen or putting one of our children to bed. He says I am ‘playing games’. He says I am coercive and controlling. He tries to insist that we must communicate first and foremost by phone. He knows that I will have no record of what is said that way and it is his fastest route into my head.
He tells me that I am ‘exaggerating’ when I say I find his behaviour and words intimidating. He is very dismissive but I told him that he cannot label or control how I think or feel.
I think he’s panicking about our up-coming financial settlement. I think he is lacking a serious amount of sleep given his shift work – he told me he had just come off a 19 hour shift on Thursday.
It is hard to describe just how distressing all of this has been in words. It has been like the verbal equivalent of being shot at – being an untrained civilian who is simply ducking behind parked cars with stress and adrenaline levels off the scale just hoping to get out of this situation alive.
But as quickly as the storm came on, calmer waters have returned. I have thought long and hard about my role in escalating madness. On the one hand I refuse to just lie down and let him walk all over me. He wants me to continue acting as his personal assistant, asking me, for example, to print off a year’s worth of his upcoming Duty rosters from my work station (we work for the same organisation). The implication is that if I don’t do it then how can I expect him to provide me with contact dates for the children in advance.
On the other hand I know I have to treat him like a child in some ways and pick my battles wisely, letting him feel like I am still in his control in certain ways whilst attempting to negotiate and pro-actively drip feed positive responses to some of his less radical suggestions.
He has suggested that he has the children for the first two weeks of October as he is on annual leave. My initial reaction was sadness – the thought of being away from the children for that long is hard, but I know they would be nearby and it would be a break from the relentless day to day of parenting so I have given a tentative yes.
Because I have been sending placatory messages and pieces of information that I didn’t have to, he is now back in ‘family man’ mode, desperately trying to make excuses to come round to our house (I have managed to put him off so far) and pushing for a date to meet up at the bank to remove my name from our joint account.
I feel so vulnerable here – I’m not sure how long I can put him off coming to our house. I’m not sure what the implications are but I told him in mediation that I didn’t want him to come inside – not until I’m ready. However I can almost guarantee that he will come round one day for some spurious and innocuous reason and, if refused entry (let’s face it, it would be hard to block someone’s entry into your home when they are, on the surface, being reasonable, and their children are inside) he will become very angry and once again begin accusing me of unnecessary provocation.
I feel so alone. I feel as though I will never be rid of his influence in my life and over my emotions. But I know that this must surely be the worst of times and things will improve once the dust has settled…