To be hated…

It’s been a funny kind of summer so far. I have heard very little from the Husband for a while – he has had the children on three occasions in June – two of them overnight. Tonight is the third and last overnight for June. It’s Thursday. This was arranged on Monday. I pay for the children to go to after school club on a Thursday – £24 and I normally pick them up between 5 and 5.30 after I finish my working day. He will pick them up, give them tea, let them bounce off the walls for a couple of hours before putting them to bed and taking them to school in the morning. He is also off work on Friday and over the weekend but he has asked for them Sunday afternoon only.

There is nothing for me to do tonight even though I don’t have to get up in the morning because it’s my day off. It was too late to arrange anything although to be fair I think I am probably too tired to do anything right now anyway – I will just enjoy this peace and quiet, not having to jump to the constant demands and break up the inevitable squabbles. I will enjoy having the freedom to start watching a DVD at 6pm or listening to my music loud or staying up past my own bedtime. Woo! What an exciting life I lead.

What has become very apparent is that the Husband has been spiralling into a vicious mood in recent days. I’m not sure what’s triggered it, whether it’s his lack of success with the ladies lately or his 8 days in a row at work culminating in two night shifts or just the fact that when he knows he’s going to be seeing the children it is his one chance to force his way into my life and my consciousness while we manoeuvre our way out of the shallows and into the cross currents which represent our co-parenting exchange.

His phone broke the other day and during the period when he didn’t have the phone I had to physically attend his house to write my number down for him as he made no attempt to contact me regarding child contact or indeed to speak to the children for over 7 days. I found out that he had his phone back fixed but all the numbers wiped out however he did not attempt to contact me or the children. In the end I texted him saying “do you ever want to see your children again?” to which he replied “who is this?”.

I replied “your children’s mother”. He countered “The one who left me?” before telling me he didn’t want to talk to me – “you are the last person I want to speak to”.

A couple of days later I thought I would pre-empt the shit storm that ensued last year by texting him with dates of parents evenings coming up at school plus an information evening up at the Junior school where our eldest will be starting in September and all the details of the birthday party I have arranged for our youngest at the end of July. He didn’t reply to this but later in the day he texted “It looks like your car is still registered at this address”.

I thought that was odd and looked out my Vehicle registration documentation and driving licence and both are registered to my current address. I asked him what he’d got there and he said “Renewal notice apparently”. I asked “renewal of what?” to which he replied “stop bothering me”.

I pointed out that I had gone to the effort of providing him with important dates recently and that it would be kind of him to simply tell me which document it was he was referring to – i.e. which agency it was from.

He replied “you FINALLY have started doing that. Remember the way you left me? You can crawl under the nearest rock as far as I’m concerned”. I told him I would stop providing him with information if that was all the thanks I would be getting and he said “you should be doing it anyway!”.

He then tried to get me to call him, tried to call me, which I declined, told me it was my loss and when I asked what he was trying to call me for he said “To tell you about the document!!”.

He tried to call again this morning and I didn’t answer. It was 7.40 am – prime school run prep time so no reason not to suppose that I could have been in the shower/making the kids breakfast, or any number of other tasks that need to be completed like clockwork in the morning so we all get out of the house on time. He told me “there’s always an excuse for you not answering your phone and I’ve had enough of it. Your post will be in the recycling bin, unless you want it somewhere else?”.

I texted “just leave it inside the door and I’ll get it when I drop the bag off”. He responded “Now why would I do that? You haven’t even tried to call me back”.

When I dropped the bag off the post was by the door. I flicked through quickly and immediately recognised the yellow logo of the AA (that’s Automobile Association for any of you Americans out there 🙂 ). It was a letter dated May telling me that my breakdown cover had been auto renewed.

He could have mentioned AA to me at any point and there would have been no need for any further discussion on the matter. This is a classic case of him using the smallest tool to try and manoeuvre himself into a position of power – some small piece of information that he thinks I will be desperate to get my hands on. Because I wasn’t and didn’t jump to his demands or take his calls, he became irate.

This afternoon he texted me “when will we be divorced?”. I replied “Not before September” (which is when our Financial Dispute Resolution appointment at court takes place) and he responded “I hate you”.

About half an hour later he texted “will the children have eaten?” – an entirely practical, innocuous, reasonable co-parenting type question which fails in any way to acknowledge his previous vitriol.

So there we have it – undisguised hatred. And what does that feel like? At my weakest moments it feels like a knife in the heart.

I am not a bad person – I have lots of friends and I don’t have enemies. I don’t engage in backstabbing gossip or think the worst of people. I try to always be kind and loving and open. I know from my recent attempts at relationships that I am the kind of person who wears her heart on her sleeve, bends over backwards to be thoughtful and generous – generous with my love and my affection, but also financially, I pay my way and I don’t expect to be given a free ride.

Even though I give a lot less fucks than I did as a young person I still generally want to be liked and well thought of. It really hurts to know that someone is out there thinking dark black thoughts about me, sending their negative karma my way.

I unexpectedly bumped into the Husband’s mother in the supermarket this morning and I’ve never seen someone smile at me through such gritted teeth. I know there must be a mad concoction of what he tells them and the destructive behaviour they must witness in him which all adds up to them feeling nothing but angry and bitter towards me, but it is blind of them. I haven’t taken their grandchildren away from them, their son has messed his own life up – two failed marriages with children, two women who’s experiences mirror each others so closely that we have bonded over the debris and identify so closely that we are now more like family to each other than either of us ever wants to be with him again in this lifetime.

 

Somewhere over the rainbow, childcare works…

Another day, another stressful phone call with the husband. I’ve been asking him for a list of dates for child contact for the last 2 weeks since the old list ran out. In that time he’s seen them once – for one afternoon before depositing them with his parents for the night and not returning til the following morning.

The only date we had talked about and agreed upon a couple of weeks in advance was this coming Thursday – a school holiday day when I’m at work and out 9-5.

His attitude to me (which is never exactly good) appears to be on the down swing. He has no respect for me or understanding of what it’s like to be responsible for keeping the children fed, clothed, entertained, healthy, morally sound and well behaved, supported in their education, looked after when I’m not around, and just generally alive and safe and content.

I asked to confirm that he was still having them on Thursday and he just casually mentioned that he can’t any more because he’s got to work now. There was no apology, no sense of dismay for having forgotten to tell me as soon as he’d found out himself. Then to add insult to injury he implied that the there was something unfair about me asking him for a list of dates and told me that I am trying to use him for childcare. I tried to point out that as their parent, the childcare analogy is moot but he talked over me repeating the phrase “because you’re a little bit of a bitch” a few times before hanging up on me.

He had spoken of getting his mum and dad to have the kids on Thursday (his dad is 80) but I would be happy if I never had to see his father ever again after his rude and aggressive behaviour towards me each time (even after over a year of separation). I sent him a message telling him not to bother asking his parents, that I would make other arrangements.

I have sent a message to his ex wife asking if she would be able to have them for a half day as she lives in the town where I work, doesn’t work herself and has mentioned in the past that she could cover for me if I ever needed someone and she has willingly agreed which is a big relief as it is too late to book a holiday club now and I really couldn’t have afforded it anyway.

I’m trying to let it wash over me and take it in my stride. Having coped alone with this same kind of “help” (or lack of) and bad attitude from him for the past year at least I know I can juggle through, just about have enough leave from work and can just about afford to pay for childcare.

One thing is certain – I need more help from him financially, particularly if he is unable or just unwilling to care for the children himself when I can’t. If I can’t rely on him to make firm dates to have the children and stick to them then I need to make childcare decisions which leave him out of the loop for my own peace of mind and sanity.

I know from experience that he will get angry and belligerent if, closer to the time, he finds himself free and asks to have the kids last minute when I’ve already made prior arrangements, then of course I’m the bad mum who refuses to play the co-parenting game in the “best interests” of the children. Essentially I can’t win.

Also, I’m not sure if it’s simply a case that he hasn’t heard the children speaking about the (ex) boyfriend recently but he appears to have been pumping them for information.

He knew that the boyfriend was a smoker (although he’s given up now) and he’s been asking our eldest if the boyfriend has died. Today as my son was shutting the door of my car when I picked them up (they spent four hours with husband’s family) he actually shouted “find out about [boyfriend’s] funeral “. My son tells me “Daddy doesn’t like [boyfriend]” to which I reply “how does he know, he’s never even met him”. There’s bitter and resentful and then there’s selfish and hateful.

The people he calls friends don’t know this about him. They think of me as “Cruella” – as though I’ve not only wronged him by daring to walk away whatever the personal cost to me, but continue to wrong him by trying to control his relationship with his own children. I see myself more as Dorothy, caught up in the raging whirlwind, doing the best I can and trying to hold onto the belief that there’s a mystical portal of peace and tranquillity from all this insanity, somewhere over the rainbow.

Love, life and the challenges of single motherhood

It’s been almost exactly two weeks since my boyfriend ended our relationship. It’s four and half days since we had our last communication. He instigated a ‘sexting’ session last Monday night which lead to him asking permission to come and see me two days later. I agreed – I thought it would at least be a way of getting to talk to him again in person and find out a bit more about the feelings of hurt and confusion that he expressed to me two days before.

Of course come Wednesday morning I received an email (we never communicated by email so that seemed very formal) telling me he wouldn’t be coming because he didn’t want me to get the idea that things between us could “slowly develop back into some kind of relationship”. He told me he respected me and wouldn’t want to “just come over on a casual arrangement”. He said casual sex would leave us both feeling pretty shit about the whole thing. He said he didn’t want to cause himself additional stress.

He told me he would like to keep in contact with me as friends but right now he needed to get his head straight and adjust to getting on with his life “as a singleton”. He said he would come and do the jobs he’d promised to help with “but not right now”.

He signed off saying “Keep safe and I’ll be in touch soon. Love you XXX”.

I broke down in tears in the bathroom then. It didn’t seem right to tell someone you love them but then completely withhold that love. However the school run was on and there was no time to curl up in a ball and cry the morning away.

I noticed the car revving hard and losing power on the way up to the school and it just seemed to be a metaphor for my internal state. Then, on the 60mph dual carriageway on my way to work something went pop and I swerved to a stop completely blocking one of the two lanes and sat shakily dialling the emergency motor rescue service breaking down in tears as I tried to give my details over the phone.

As I stood on the side of the road looking out across Surrey and all the way to London in the far distance I felt myself welling up with bitterness and dashed off a text to the (ex) boyfriend telling him that I was angry with him for instigating the conversation on Monday, that he’d hurt and rejected me enough now and telling him to delete the last photo I sent.

That was literally the last thing said between us.

My sister says that he just wanted to know that he could still have me if he wanted me. She said as soon as he knew that I still wanted him he felt better about himself because it showed that I had forgiven him.

Anyway. It’s quite weird how quickly I feel I’m recovering. I cried a little bit less each day until I dried up completely. Yes I was in denial to begin with – I couldn’t really accept the reason that he had given me for breaking up – it seemed too harsh for him to have written me off as someone who would never be able to get a handle on parenting my children the way he preferred (i.e. a firm hand, nipping all bad behaviour in the bud immediately, imposing non-negotiable consequences on the spot, etc.).

As someone who has children of his own I thought he would be able to see the bigger picture – that all parenting is a work in progress and he already knew that I was practically crying for help with the challenge. I guess he just wasn’t the man I thought he was – someone who could support and encourage me and point me in the right direction.

As a single – non-residential – father for 14 years of his youngest daughter’s childhood, I think he just forgot, or never really knew, what the struggle was. If he had a bad weekend with the kids it didn’t matter – he could just hand them back on Sunday night and go back to his single life and leave their mum to lay the real foundations of their future.

So there we have it. It’s behind me and I’m starting to see that maybe he did me a favour after all by recognising his own ‘deal-breaker’ and cutting all the strings straight away, after four months, not four years of my life.

I still think he will come to regret his decision because I actually think I’m quite a good catch (ha ha!) for someone like him. But by the time he realises that it will be too late because I will have moved on.

Ironically the whole thing has spurred me on to take action with my parenting. I bought a self help parenting book and even after a short read of a few chapters I can see a plan of action emerging which I’m already putting into practice.

One of the author’s foundations for managing your children’s behaviour is called giving “Descriptive Praise”. As she says, it can be for anything at all your child get’s right or does well. I have praised my four year old for remembering to say thank you. I have praised my seven year old for taking my lead and not blaming his brother when a brand new pair of headphones was broken this morning.

As the author says, children really seek our approval and crave positive attention and even these little changes make me feel like I’m a better parent already and also that they are so receptive and that such small changes in my behaviour make such a difference in theirs.

So anyway, it’s early days and I’m well aware that there is no ‘easy’ answer and that behaviour will fluctuate depending on any number of things – particularly tiredness and hunger.

It’s now Sunday evening and I’m taking stock. In the last two weeks I have signed up for a night hike in the Lakes in June in memory of a good man who died too soon; I’ve had long, real conversations with friends I haven’t properly spoken to in a long time; I’ve read a whole book (page-turning thriller – nothing too heavy!); I’m eating as healthily as I possibly can, cutting out refined sugar and white carbs for the most part; I did a couple of exercise DVD sessions and some sit ups; I joined up with a new meet-up for people who want to play tennis together (badly :-)) and met up with five new people to do just that yesterday afternoon when ‘husband’ had the boys; I’ve completed and returned everything to my solicitor and divorce proceedings have now been lodged with the court (finally) and financial documents finally about to be exchanged.

I had the kids at home on my own all morning – we built train tracks; we danced and played musical statues; I got both boys to sit down with me individually and complete their maths homework; we made a trip to the convenience store to pick out bits and pieces for their picnic lunch in front of Cbeebies; I put a clothes wash on; I hoovered.

At 1.30pm I dropped them off to their dad for the rest of the day and night, came home, cooked myself a poached egg on wholemeal toast and then settled down to finally watch The Revenant – what an amazing film! Now I’m blogging and cooking spicy sweet potato wedges, roast Mediterranean veggies and baked cod in garlic butter while I blog.

I do actually realise how lucky I am. I’m so thankful that I’m an introvert by nature and quite happy in my own company. In fact I often consider reaching out for company when I know I’ll be on my own for a few hours before laughing at myself because I know that an afternoon like the one I’m having (movie, wine, good food, a bit of blogging) is when I’m at my most relaxed and happy. Completely. By. Myself.

Being a single parent is such a mixed bag. And oh yes, it’s not the same for everyone – some women have no partner to take their children off for the day/night/weekend. Some women do not have the family support or the financial support or the life experience behind them to be able to put things in perspective.

Maybe it’s just my personality but I’m not one to wallow for long. I want to forge a path to happiness and I sometimes need to remind myself that I am a speck on an insignificant planet that is part of 170 billion galaxies that make up the known universe.

Maybe it helps that I’m an atheist – I believe that life is short and there’s no conscious afterlife. Make the most of it, eh?

Perspective

For 36 hours, other than a few snatched periods of restless sleep filled with dark dreams and a few pockets of stability, I cried. It’s only natural – the person with whom you have become deeply intimate, shared every thought, hope and dream, someone with whom you never exchanged a cross word for four solid months – the person who, just 18 hours before sent you a message telling you they loved you with a twinkly heart attached, shows up on your doorstep, not for the planned assignation which you were expecting but with the express purpose of breaking things off.

To put it in perspective, just two weeks before this we had been enjoying a romantic weekend getaway to the coast, holding hands on the sea wall and fossil hunting the pebbled shores of Charmouth. We had discussed summer barbeques, camping trips abroad and family gatherings.

I’ve already explained the reasons he gave for ending ‘us’, so I won’t re-hash here. What I need to express and explore now is how I am adjusting and what comes next. I’ve been living out the five stages of grief in microcosm – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

I’ve composed a long text message asking him to continue a relationship of sorts only to delete it almost immediately.

I’ve raged about the broken promises, the over-sensitivity, the hypocrisy of telling someone you still love them but then dropping them like a hot potato, the weakness of a person who can’t understand that love should conquer all or alternatively the duplicity of someone who never really loved or let love in whilst claiming otherwise.

I have mourned for the loss of a loving, supportive partner; I have questioned every word and action wondering whether I gave offence unwittingly at some point and re-hashed conversations during our first few dates when we were still offering unguarded information about the nature of our lives and our hearts.

I’ve considered a bleak future in which I live alone with my challenging children in a void punctuated by the bitter attacks of my emotionally abusive ex-husband. I’ve feared that this experience has starkly demonstrated that, in my situation, a middle-aged single mum with two kids in KS1, I am become ‘untouchable’, that a long-term love may be a concept I need to let go of.

But as the hours pass I see things slightly differently. We were two middle aged people who chanced upon one another; we both happened to be single and allowed an attraction to form. We were no star-crossed young lovers. We weren’t the perfect match, we had elements of compatibility.

I re-calibrated my expectations earlier and realised that the pain inflicted upon me two days ago was undeniably centred upon the cruel and unexpected nature of his decision – the fact that he orchestrated a completely one-sided conversation and took any control over the how, why and when of the break-up out of my hands.

If he truly lacks the capacity to man up and offer unconditional love and support to a partner who clearly has her own struggles, or to find a way to control his own stressors and work things through, then he’s not the man I hoped he was and I accept his decision.

However, I still like him, I still think that he is a good man who was generous and open and empathetic and generally fun to be around, so I decided to send him a text asking if he would be willing to continue seeing each other as friends. I sent that message four and a half hours ago. He still hasn’t responded and now I’m not sure what to think…

Who you gonna call?…

In two week’s time it will be a whole year since I told the husband that I was leaving him and one week later I made my physical departure with the children. I remember the trauma at the time – those first horrific phone calls which I took on speaker phone and my dad filmed on his phone for evidence of the abuse and the twisted facts.

I remember my mum saying to me, this time a year from now imagine where you’ll be; imagine how much happier you’ll be. And it’s true, I’ve come a long way – me and the boys have been in our own (rented) home for five months now and I’m just about managing the money that’s coming in. I’ve been in a new relationship for 14 weeks and it’s been wonderful – I’ve been able to appreciate what it is to love and be loved by someone who thinks and acts like a normal, sensitive, open, understanding person – someone who is looking for the same things out of life that I am, who has the same values and thought processes as me. Someone who, whilst past that stage of life, has told me it makes him sad that him and I won’t ever have a baby together and experience that journey side by side.

But despite all of that the divorce is nowhere near done. We are waiting for an expert to give us a proper valuation of the husband’s work pension. We are still up in the air about house valuations. I don’t know how much (if any) of his financial information the husband has or hasn’t submitted to his solicitor.

Not only that but he is still behaving in an abusive, unacceptable way. This weekend he had the children and, surprisingly, his 12 year old daughter decided to stay with them as well for the first time since long before Christmas. (He’s now Father of the Year according to his Facebook status but that’s another story).

When he brought them back last night it was dark and pouring with rain and he came to the door of our house calling me a liar, saying I am rude. He then proceeded to throw open my recycling bin and then demand to know if I had started drinking beer as there were two empty cans in there. Now he knows that I know that he knows about my boyfriend so this was all very childish and done in such an aggressive, accusatory way. I had to point out to him that not only have we been separated for nearly a year but that he has been in another relationship for some time – a fact which he totally dismissed.

It’s by the by that his not so new relationship is badly floundering – he’s keeping the poor woman in a perpetual cycle the same as he did with me, the difference being she has no children with him, no ties – doesn’t even live nearby which just goes to show how powerful that Borderline manipulation can be – anyone on the outside looking in would have been long gone with a complete social media block on by now.

I had tentatively mentioned to him the fact that I’m supposed to be taking the children away to a holiday park with my family for a weekend in a couple of weeks time when I dropped the kids off on Saturday. The only problem with this situation is that, when my sister made the booking at the end of last summer we hadn’t realised that her kids February school holiday and mine were two different weeks.

I had forgotten all about it when the husband submitted his contact dates and had accepted his request for the Friday overnight and all day Saturday of that weekend. As a compromise I had decided, albeit tentatively, to take the children out of school on the Monday so we would be able to still go down for two days without impacting on the husband’s contact arrangement. When I told him this he surprised me by suggesting that I keep them for the weekend and take them down Saturday/Sunday instead of pulling them out of school on the provision that we work out an alternative date for him to see them.

I have to admit I was very relieved at that point, however, come Sunday evening’s unpleasantness on my doorstep he withdrew his suggestion and said he would still have the children thereby effectively blocking our weekend away.

I felt so conflicted – on the one hand I just wanted to forget about the weekend away – it was all just too stressful to try and work it out without his cooperation. On the other hand I felt bad about letting my sister down – she had deliberately booked this mini-break with me and the kids in mind and knowing that we haven’t been away as a family for the last 18 months.

Today at work I sent him a text telling him that either he was willing to be flexible or I would have to cancel the weekend away which would be very disappointing for the children. He proceeded, over the next couple of hours, to demand that I speak to him on the phone to ‘discuss’ it to which I repeatedly declined telling him to simply provide an alternative date if he was willing to do so.

It transpired that his real reason for wanting to speak to me was to try and convince me to drop the entire legal side of our divorce and instead go back to mediation because he was finding it all very expensive. Well, to coin a phrase, no shit Sherlock! It’s hardly a drop in the ocean for me either but I would come out of mediation with bugger all – there is no negotiating with someone who’s idea of what’s ‘fair’ is very far from your own. I am happy to let the courts decide.

All of these interactions are so stressful and hurtful and make me feel really helpless at times. At times I just hate him for being this way, at times I feel like I’m in control and then he ups the ante and I’m left spinning again. At these times all I want to do is run to the nearest phone and call… someone. It used to be my mum and dad but I began to feel that they are simply too emotionally involved. My mum gets very upset and even angry at me for, in her eyes, letting him bully and manipulate me. My dad wants me to take action that I feel would exacerbate a bad situation.

I do talk to my sister from time to time and she is less stressed but she also wants me to take action that I’m not comfortable with. I began talking to my boyfriend about it all which was a huge relief to begin with because he was a lot more neutral than my family, but as the weeks have gone by he is now beginning to feel wound up and angry by the husband’s bullying and his bitter rants.

It’s reached the point where I just don’t want to tell anyone even whilst needing so badly to share the facts of what is happening to me. I seem to be more able to put the super stressful moments behind me relatively quickly knowing as I do how the husband’s moods ebb and flow and how his threats and manipulations seem to fade when his triggers die down.

I am learning how to handle him – I am learning that turning off my voicemail and choosing when and if I take his calls will not lead to anything other than a frustrated rant on his part. I am learning that I can’t win with him so there is no point in entering a ‘debate’. I am learning that minimal contact works best.

Maybe I am truly in this alone emotionally and there is no-one to call.

 

 

 

24 Hours on Tinder…

OK, OK, I know I said I’d never go there but I did. For some reason it seemed like a good idea the other night when my ex had asked for the kids overnight mid-week at the last minute. I got home from work thinking “Ooh six hours to myself with no plan – what will I do?” and instead of productively blogging or watching a movie on Netflix or reading a good book, I decided to set up a profile on Tinder.

Suffice to say I spent a significant period of time swiping left on the most unfortunate set of men you have ever laid eyes on. I mean I know I decided to stick with guys age mid forties and up because it seemed more realistic but good grief, it’s slim pickings!

Then eventually after swiping right about maybe five times I finally got a match! And he was attractive to me so I sent a message. I still haven’t heard back 48 hours later. Shelve that.

Then I got another match! And I messaged him (see I have read some stuff about Tinder since and apparently it’s not the done thing to be a woman rushing in to message a guy first but hey ho).

I said “I’m new to this and I feel a bit like a giddy puppy right now! I assume that feeling will wear off…”. His response? “Well I think you might only have that feeling because you matched with me 😉 ;-)”

So yes, the conversation started off a bit flirty. Then I started trying to get a genuine conversation going to get to know a bit more about him and his responses to my messages got fewer and further between – like first a 20 minute gap, then 30 until eventually I was waiting the best part of an hour for a reply and I just gave in and went to bed.

Frankly I see this as game-playing and mucking about. I deliberately swiped right on guys who, yes, I found at least marginally attractive, but they had to look a bit normal and seem a bit down to earth as well but apparently Tinder will take a normal guy and turn him into a player.

My sister says that’s the dating game offline as well from what she’s witnessed going out with her single friend.

It’s depressing and I’m thinking of deleting Tinder immediately because I just don’t have the time or the emotional strength right now to play those silly games – I’m too old and I have too much at stake.

I had an appointment with my solicitor today and she was good – she gave me reason to believe that I should probably be looking at getting the help of the system at this point as my ex is clearly not a suitable candidate for mediation. He has been using the fact that we have no formal child maintenance arrangement in place to start trying to control me, telling me that if I am letting him have the children for two weeks in October then he will halve his maintenance payment.

The solicitor told me to go straight to the Child Maintenance Service and get them to calculate and formalise the arrangement. I think I will get a bit less this way but its peace of mind.

The solicitor also advised me not to let him have the children for two weeks so soon – they are too little and it is not conducive to a routine during the school term – especially when my four year old is only a couple of weeks into school life and needs the security of being able to come home to his mummy at the end of the day.

I have tried so hard to keep things friendly and informal with him and given way to many of his last minute requests and let him get away with never giving me a list of his contact dates going forwards but that’s simply not fair on me. He doesn’t want to give up his flexibility but his flexibility comes at the cost of my lifestyle being completely inflexible.

Everything that is about to happen will make him even angrier than he is now. My solicitor thinks I should still be in our house and he should be out. She stressed the fact that the court will always put the needs of the children first and that he is not playing by those rules at this point.

I don’t particularly want to be back in that house but she also says he’s not offering me enough money for my share of the house given the fact that I am the one who has to take the responsibility for housing our children going forwards so if nothing else going back into the house is a bargaining chip.

I need to get a second phone which he can use if he wants to contact our children. I am not obliged to deal with him personally – that can be left to the lawyers.

In many ways the thought of solicitors fees and court costs scare the heck out of me but I am at the point where I just don’t care any more. The system is designed to protect the needs of the children and I am their primary carer so that means protecting me too.

I just hope the impending storm coming his way is not going to drag me in and in the meantime Tinder is off.

Under attack

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…