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.

 

 

 

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Tales of a “Take Back Control” Freak

I am so sick of hearing my husband accuse me of being controlling. I realise it’s nothing new – controlling people, or just people with negative traits in general, love to reflect their own flaws onto other people.

I woke up this morning feeling so angry and upset. It was six o’clock in the morning and my children remained fast asleep for once. We returned from a short holiday yesterday and they ended up sleeping til 9am, but I was wide awake and stressed hours before that.

I cried some bitter tears. I was feeling so anxious about the house move later this week – not the move itself you understand, although it is a finely tuned operation which involves picking up a hire van, liaising with my parents, dropping the kids at the in-laws for the husband to collect later after sleeping off his night shift, doing a huge furniture shop at the nearest IKEA (a 45 minute drive away), liaising with a friend at the old house at 3pm with the van to go into the Lion’s Den and pick up my big bits of furniture and then putting together as much flat pack and unpacking as much stuff as possible.

That’s all happening, it’s all arranged and sorted. What hasn’t been arranged and sorted up to this point is me getting any kind of resolution – even getting to the point where I have been ready to re-engage my solicitor – actually file for divorce.

What hasn’t been arranged is any kind of child maintenance payments from the husband. I’ve let him get away with it because I’ve been living inside the protective bubble of my parents’ home and generosity. Now, six and a half months down the line, I’m going back into the real world and it’s an expensive place.

I work 18.5 hours a week which allows me to be there for the children before school every day and after school three days a week, I get working tax credits from the government to top this up a bit and it’s definitely a generous amount, particularly based on my circumstances of having two children of primary school age both under my care. However it is not enough to pay for rent (that payment alone is about £90 short of my entire monthly salary), food, groceries, gas/electricity, water, council tax, phone costs and broadband, clothes and activities for the children, contents insurance, petrol, 2 days a week after school childcare, car maintenance and insurance, and all the other sundries that life entails.

The £450 a month I have asked from the husband for child maintenance is a tiny portion of my outgoings but I have come to realise that I simply cannot be the sole financial (never mind physical, mental and emotional) support for our children without it. However he has only talked to me about it up to now in the vaguest of ways with no mention of a start date, so after my blip this morning I texted him and told him that if he didn’t give me a workable date for mediation today then I would be contacting the Child Maintenance Service and my solicitor tomorrow and forget about mediation.

He then, of course, told me that I was being controlling and imposing ‘arbitrary’ deadlines and ‘threatening’ him which he wouldn’t stand for. He also told me that I ‘need to learn how to talk to people respectfully’. I stood my ground but then realised that even if he gave me a date for mediation it may be weeks away and he has previous for cancelling these dates at the last moment. It is also no guarantee of him agreeing to begin paying me any money.

I then told him that I need him to begin paying me child maintenance this Thursday (1st September – my official moving date – the date when I owe my landlady £2250 for rent and deposit) – and that this would be the date I contacted CMS and got them to pursue him if he refused to co-operate.

He told me ‘not until we’ve spoken to [the mediator]’. I re-iterated my Thursday deadline and he never responded. But here’s the thing – I will contact the CMS on Thursday – I’m no longer afraid to rock the boat because I’ve come to realise that direct action is the only language some people understand and make one too many idle bluffs and you might as well lie down and get the word ‘WELCOME’ tattooed on your back.

This is me taking back control.

Homeless

Yesterday we had our first session of Family Mediation. It was the first time in over two months that I have spent more than five minutes in the husband’s presence and I was nervous. I have pushed for this mediation and had to cancel and re-arrange it twice because of his work so it was long awaited.

The way Mediation works (or did in this instance) was that each of us had half an hour alone with the mediator to explain our point of view and be given all the information we should need on the process before spending an hour and a half hashing it out together with the mediator as a ‘guide’. I had written and typed up a list of points – first and foremost to discuss our current living situation (me and the kids with my parents in their three bedroom house 30 miles from the kids’ school), and try and find some way to get back into our home, at least until financial matters are finalised.

Unfortunately the husband point blank refused to move out and the mediator didn’t dwell on the subject as nobody has the power to force someone out of a home which they own either fully or jointly. He pointed out that I was at liberty to move back in with the kids any time I saw fit but there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell of me walking back into the lion’s den.

That makes the situation at ‘home’ sound.. well, almost dangerous. It’s not, at least not physically. As I’ve mentioned before my husband is not a narcissist. The way he has used our children as pawns in a power struggle between us proves, however, that he doesn’t think the way a normal, caring, invested father should and he sees no harm in demonising me if he thinks it will win him sympathy from our six year old.

He offered to buy me out of the house and came up with a figure which was only £10,000 short of the figure I’d had in mind myself. Weirdly, I wasn’t as thrilled with this outcome as I’d thought I would be. It was my intention to ask for the house to be sold and the proceeds split anyway and I had it in my mind that the lump sum would allow me to put down a deposit on a share of a ‘part buy, part rent’ property.

In theory, I could take the money and run with it but now I’ve tentatively started looking into the possibility of being eligible for a mortgage in my sole name based on my lowly part time salary and a minimal child maintenance sum the picture’s not looking so rosy. I’ve still got a lot of research to do and I tend to be optimistic about these things, but it kind of occurred to me earlier today that me and the kids are, effectively, homeless right now. We are in limbo.

I broke down in tears earlier, like proper heart-wrenching sobbing, and this was whilst I was lying in bed with the three year old supposedly singing him to sleep! Try explaining that to a pre-schooler.

I just suddenly thought, that’s it, my own home, the place I researched and fought for and furnished and lived in for the last 8 years (the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere other than my childhood home) is a place I will never go back into in the same way again.

I know it was my decision to end the marriage, my decision to leave the house, and believe me I don’t have any huge attachment to that place – it’s a nice enough three bed Victorian semi with a pleasant garden but it’s not really my idea of a ‘forever’ home (the parking and some of the neighbours leave a lot to be desired). So why do I feel so bad?

Best and worst

When you take the decision to break up with someone – the father or your children in particular – you know its not all going to be plain sailing, but you also know that, in some very important ways, life is going to improve – it has to be that way, otherwise breaking up would be unthinkable.

Lately I have found these things really tough:

– Having to live so far from our own home and driving an average of 400 miles a week to get the kids to school and me to work. I spend an average of four hours a day travelling and the kids spend an average of 2 hours a day in the car. I’m spending around £160 a month on petrol.

– Juggling work and childcare with a co-parent who just isn’t willing to take some of the slack. Yes he’s a shift worker and that is generally the biggest excuse, but he’s also told me in no uncertain terms that he will not do anything to ease my life or make things any more convenient for me. He is blind to the needs and routines of the children, and sometimes makes me question myself – am I using the ‘children’s needs’ as a way to try and score some ‘free childcare’?

– My worries over how I’m going to cope in September when my youngest starts school. I have already taken two weeks off work in the summer holidays when our childminders are away on holiday. Now I realise that my little man will be starting school part time, spending just 2 hours 40 minutes a day at school for the first week. In theory that is great and I wish I was in the position to let him continue part time for as long as necessary (he’s a late July baby so one of the littlest).

Unfortunately my annual leave is finite and it just so happens that my parents are going off for the holiday of a lifetime in Canada two days before school starts for two weeks. I think I will have little choice but to take another week off work and just try and put any spare cash (pah!) aside in preparation for the day when I start having to ask for unpaid dependents leave.

– Feeling a bit down about the lack of a holiday: my six year old has started talking about going away and I just don’t know what to tell him right now.

– Worries about my three year old’s current defiance and general naughty behaviour. I know all three year olds go through this to some extent but under these difficult and confusing circumstances it is easy to question the triggers and how all this might be affecting him.

Lately, these things have made me feel happy about where we are at:

– Every now and then I get a flash realisation along the lines: ooh – now I’m solo parenting, from this point onwards it’s ‘my house, my rules’ – there is no one there to undermine me on decisions about what food we have in the house, how money is allocated, how my home is decorated or what I choose to do in my spare time. No more compromising; no more negotiating.

– Leading on from that thought is the idea that I might be able to tackle some of my children’s picky eating habits through having the ability to maintain a consistent approach (obviously not when they’re with their father but that seems to be ‘very little’ right now – he hasn’t had them overnight for three weeks at the time of writing and won’t have them overnight for at least another week and a half now due to his work).

I’m generally a very healthy eater with a wide-ranging palate compared to their dad who is terribly fussy about food and eats a lot of rubbish. Modelling healthy eating to the boys will hopefully set good habits and choices for life.

– Despite the fact that I have just had to cancel and re-book our Mediation appointment for the second time due to his work which is incredibly frustrating, I’m looking forward to finally getting into that meeting room and laying out the bare facts of the situation for him to defend in front of a professional Mediator.

The first goal is to get back to our home town – preferably our own home, at least until the practicalities of separation and divorce are finalised. If he is unwilling to move out and let that happen then we will have to let the court decide – either way I will know where I stand.

– Slightly off topic, but I recently had a change of line manager at work. My previous manager has made life a bit miserable for the last three years (and not just for me). He is a lazy person himself, constantly away from his desk, long toilet trips, off on last minute flexi-time, etc., whilst also being a massive jobs-worth – going out of his way to block annual leave requests, refusing to respond to emails, taking issue with the most minor of dress code violations, you get the idea.

Now I finally have a lovely young lady taking his place as my supervisor who is like cheese to his chalk and I couldn’t be happier! At least one problem male is out of my life!

– My blog life stalled massively when I first split up with the husband two months ago. It hadn’t been too great in previous months either due to his general dislike and mistrust of the world of blogging in general.

I was struck down with a debilitating case of writer’s block – the only things I wanted to say were unfit for publication (hence starting this anon blog!) but gradually as the week’s have gone by I am finding ideas just naturally coming to me again. My headspace is finally starting to be my own (albeit that I generally only get about two hours to myself in the evenings once both kids are tucked up in bed).

–  Lastly, I’m feeling grateful that I had the courage to leave and managed to do so at the best possible time – we have (literally) had some dark days as winter tapered off but now spring is kicking in, daylight, a bit of warmth (on occasion – this is England after all) and seasonal attractions opening up (including the worlds of Merlin of which the kids and I are now members – eek!) all mean that we have plenty to keep us busy and distracted despite all of this upheaval.