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Posted by: bigred ( )
Date: July 13, 2011 12:24PM

I have not had time to read all the posts concerning the year of the ruined Christmas until today. After reading more of the story, I have a great deal of empathy for you both and I want to apologize. I still don't know if not going to that Christmas was or was not the right decision, none of us will ever know if the outcome would have been different. I do hope that you have been able to heal the relationships with your girls. Hopefully, if they are adults now, they can see things with a different perspective.

I do agree that hindsight is 20/20 and I'm sure that you have both regretted the divorce agreement. I am so sorry you had to go through all of this. I am no expert, but I do have a relationship mending and healing exercise that has had a great deal of success in cases like these. I have given it to many of my clients and if you are interested I would be happy to email it to you. I will not be offended at all if you are not interested.

I do hope that things are better for you now and that your life together continues to be a happy one.

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Posted by: knotheadusc ( )
Date: July 13, 2011 01:22PM

Thanks for that, bigred.

Unfortunately, the girls do not speak to my husband and haven't since that Christmas back in 2004. The last time he received any communication from them was in July 2006, when they sent him letters demanding that he allow their current stepfather to adopt them. The letters he received were photocopies accompanied by adoption paperwork and a hateful letter from Ex. She also sent a bunch of boxes of my husband's stuff that she had, for some reason, held onto for years. And she sent a children's book that he used to read to the girls. It was about forgiveness. Ex wrote in the letter that my husband could "learn" from this book. He sent it back to her without comment just before he was deployed to Iraq.

I believe I did do the right thing in not attending that Christmas gathering, but I can understand why you and other people think I was wrong. My own mother chastised me for skipping the gathering, thinking that I should do all I could to cooperate for the sake of the kids. And my first instinct was to cooperate. My parents are still married after 53 years of marriage, so divorce and all the nasty stuff that comes of it was foreign to me when I first got married.

I finally came to the decision to skip the gathering for the following reasons:

1. We honestly could not afford the trip. In 2004, we were still recovering from the financial problems my husband and Ex had from their marriage. I was unsuccessfully looking for work. We had two dogs that would need to be boarded. At the time, we lived in the DC area and boarding was expensive; so was airfare. My husband couldn't take the time off work to drive to Memphis, so my attendance would have meant an extra plane ticket. Incidentally, that's also a big reason why we didn't go to AZ for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is also my favorite holiday, but if I had thought the ex was sincere in wanting to get to know me, I might have considered going. However, at that point, I had seen no indication that Ex wanted to do anything but cause problems.

2. I was feeling very hostile toward the Ex because of the games she kept playing with my husband regarding visitation. When the ex told my husband the kids could visit in summer 2003, he was very excited. She and her husband had business in the DC area, so they drove all the way from AZ. She told us when she'd be in town, so my husband took time off work. The big day came and went and we never heard a word from Ex. We finally tracked her down through my husband's dad, with whom she still had a relationship. When we finally got her on the phone to ask where the kids were, she claimed that none of the phone numbers we had given her worked. Then she claimed that her eldest child, a son from her first marriage that my husband had treated as his own, was very angry at us and didn't want to visit.

When the kids finally visited, she tried to dictate to us how our time would be spent. She told us they had plans for the time they would be in DC. We still managed to get the kids for two nights-- less than 48 hours. Since they were all sharing a single hotel room with Ex, her husband, and their newborn, I'm sure they relished the two nights of quiet. As far as I can tell, the kids had a good time, save for the slapping incident when the youngest found two beers in our fridge. My in-laws later told me that they talked about me a lot and their initial impressions were favorable. I'm sure that upset Ex.

3. After the visit, Ex began making noise about wanting more money and more life insurance coverage. She demanded that my husband buy another life insurance policy worth $500,000, even though he had already covered his life for that much. She wanted $1 million in life insurance and insinuated that I was going to convince my husband to stop supporting his kids. She somehow made this determination, even though my husband had never missed a child support payment and I had never interfered with "her money" (still haven't). So, for that reason, I didn't want to spend the holidays with her.

4. I realized that my in laws just wanted to have a peaceful Christmas with the grandkids. I knew that it would be awkward enough with Ex and her husband there. My presence would have made the situation much worse because I was so angry about the situation and my anger was obvious. I think I was very justified in being angry. The in laws had already had their home used as a base for other dramas perpetrated by Ex, including the Easter when Ex served my husband with divorce papers. I didn't want to give her more ammunition to create drama involving me in their home.

5. I realized my husband needed to have some time with his kids without my interference. Having met the kids once, I knew that they weren't attached to me, but they did love their dad. Ex probably told them that my absence meant I didn't like them. That wasn't true back then. At that time, I did like the kids and I realized that they just wanted a nice Christmas. But I knew if I were there, my husband would be worried about me because it would have been a very awkward situation. So I opted out so he could focus on his kids. As it turned out, Ex's husband made it virtually impossible for my husband to spend any time with his girls.

6. I realized the situation was a no-win. If I had gone to Christmas and managed to keep quiet and pleasant, it would have given Ex an excuse to plan future Christmases. If I had gone and lost my temper, it would have given Ex the excuse to keep the kids away from my husband. At that point in time, Ex still thought she had a claim to my husband's family. In the letter she sent with the kids' letters about adoption, she admitted to him that she had never wanted the divorce and was hoping to "force him to rock bottom" and get him to do what she wanted him to do. In fact, my father in law had told me that Ex confessed to still not being over my husband, even though she had remarried and was pregnant with her third husband's child.

7. The last reason has to do with Christmas 2003, which my husband and I spent with my family. I had a big fight with two of my sisters. It was one in a long string of fights I've had at Christmas with family members. I don't want to get into the details of the fight, except to say that we left early and one sister who had gotten a ride with us ended up taking a bus home. I have dealt with enough family dysfunction at Christmas time to last the rest of my life. I did not want the same kind of fighting to ruin Christmas 2004.

There are other less important reasons why I skipped Christmas. It was a very difficult decision for me to make. I didn't want to alienate my new in-laws or my husband's kids, but I felt this was the only way that Christmas gathering could happen without someone's blood being spilled.

As for the divorce agreement, I used to regret it, but I don't anymore. Because Ex drew it up herself instead of getting a lawyer to do it, she left a lot of loopholes that have ultimately worked in our favor. And I have a feeling that even if the divorce agreement had been more equitable, Ex still would have done whatever she could to destroy my husband's relationship with his daughters.

Until recently, my husband did have a relationship with his former stepson; but a couple of years ago, it became clear that the young man was just using him for money. When my husband dared to call him on some very sketchy actions he had taken, the kid got angry and refuses to speak to him anymore. He has, however, gotten in touch with his bio dad who never paid child support and was out of his life for over 15 years. My husband, on the other hand, gave the young man a car and paid him generous child support until he was 21 years old. When the older daughter turned 18, my husband tried to send her information so she could continue to get child support (he had agreed to pay until each kid was 22). The letter was returned marked "moved, left no forwarding address". The youngest turns 18 this year. We did learn through research that they moved to New Hampshire, but we don't know exactly where. She was the more alienated, though, so I don't think he's going to try to contact her.

All of this stuff makes me sad. It was never my intention to be a wicked stepmom. I am not the reason my husband's first marriage broke up. I met my husband a year after his divorce was final. I love my husband and I wanted to love his kids. But relationships are a two way street and it takes mutual cooperation for them to work.

Ultimately, I am very grateful to my husband's ex wife. She gave me a gift. My husband is wonderful. We get along beautifully and we've had almost nine years of a very good marriage. When Ex and my husband were at year nine, their marriage was in a death spiral. By contrast, I'm already planning what we're going to do for our tenth anniversary next year. I realize that had Ex not married my husband, some other woman would have and he'd probably still be married to her. He really is a peach and it's a tragedy that his daughters don't know him the way they should. I wish we could have had kids... or that he'd met me first, but he's eight years older than I am.

Anyway... that's a large part of the story. Thanks for reconsidering your position.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/13/2011 02:37PM by knotheadusc.

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Posted by: bigred ( )
Date: July 13, 2011 01:53PM

Your story breaks my heart. I can not imagine why anyone would want to demonize a parent of their own child. I am very fortunate to have an ex that takes the same position as me - we do not say anything negative about each other, and our kids are allowed to visit any time they want no matter who's week or weekend it is.

I really wish there was a way for you husband to mend these relationship, but like you say, they are a two way street. I have a daughter that is alienated from me - her choice - and even though she has done some really crappy things to me, I am willing to forgive. That doesn't mean I would allow her back into my life without a great deal of caution.

I recently told her that I found it interesting that I am the one she keeps harming and yet I am also the one that is willing to forgive her and I have encouraged her dad to do the same (my ex). He wants nothing to do with her because of her actions towards me.

I do agree in hindsight that you probably made the right decision to not attend - solely based on your anger. It would have gotten in the way of a successful visit. So, please again, accept my apology. Perhaps if you are ever here in Utard, we could have a drink together.

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Posted by: knotheadusc ( )
Date: July 13, 2011 02:19PM

Well, I'm guessing the Ex demonizes the fathers of her kids because she was raised in a similar environment with a mother who did the same thing to her father. Ex was adopted, but never knew her adoptive father until she was about seven years old. According to my husband, who met both Ex's father and stepfather, Ex's dad was a decent guy, but her stepfather molested her. So she had a pretty fucked up childhood and is apparently still stuck at an emotional age of about 13. That, and I really think she has a full blown personality disorder. She has all the classic signs of NPD as well as quite a few of BPD. But since I don't know her personally and she's never been officially diagnosed, I can't be absolutely certain.

She was very abusive to my husband in many ways. It's taken a long time to work through a lot of the damage that was done. But he has told me many times that this relationship we have is about 180 degrees different than his relationship with her was.

Just to keep this subject on topic, the Mormon church made things worse. They converted to Mormonism not quite three years before their divorce. It was Ex's decision to join the church; my husband went along with it because he didn't want a fight. I think he also saw it as a way to save his family. The church seems so family friendly on the surface and it keeps people really busy so they don't have time to think about their personal problems. My husband and Ex got a lot of attention because they came to the church without missionary help, so they were lovebombed a lot. I think my husband's ego got a good stroking.

But then Ex used the church to shame and control my husband. She told church members he abused her and that he was unworthy to baptize their daughter. She forced him to confess to a "porn addiction" to the bishop-- again, I have never seen any evidence of a porn problem. When he's not working, he spends all his time with me, and I doubt he would get away with looking at porn on an Army post. Anyway, Ex was dissatisfied when the bishop didn't come down really hard on my husband for the so-called addiction that he doesn't have. And she didn't want him to re-join the Army because the Army always comes first. I think that's when she decided to threaten divorce and she used the "porn" problem as an excuse to initiate it.

When I met my husband, he was still trying to be LDS for the kids' sake. I was actually delighted when we were dating and he bought me a twelve pack of beer to drink at his apartment. I didn't finish the beer, so I left it for next time. The next time I visited, the beer was gone. I asked where it was and he said he drank it! Not long after that, he ditched the garments and went back to being a regular Gentile. Five years after that, he resigned.

There are any number of ways those kids could eventually get back in touch. Their mother has repeatedly proven that she never totally lets anyone go and won't hesitate to reconnect if it suits her purposes. I don't doubt that they will want to reconnect at some time. My husband, like you with your daughter, would be delighted to see them and could probably be convinced to forgive them. As for me, it would take a lot more than a few apologies. I don't trust his daughters because I've seen who raised them and how their brother has turned out. But they are his kids... if he wants to get involved with them again, it's his choice and fine with me... as long as he respects my choice to be very suspicious and cautious about their motives.

So, I see we have some things in common. Maybe someday if we do go to Utard, we can have that drink.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/13/2011 10:02PM by knotheadusc.

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Posted by: bigred ( )
Date: July 13, 2011 09:06PM

Ya know what, I really hope we do. Or if I ever get to your area of the country. Seems we have more in common that I could have guessed. I hate eating crow, but in this case it tastes pretty good. Just sayin'

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Posted by: nevermo-beck ( )
Date: July 13, 2011 09:11PM

bigred, good job on the apology. very gracious.

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Posted by: JohnDrake ( )
Date: July 13, 2011 09:25PM

bigred, it's all good. As I implied in my first post on this topic, you'd have to have been there, and had the benefit of knowing the full back-story to appreciate just how screwed up that particular Christmas was. Knot has explained everything in probably the greatest and most accurate detail.

That readers will armchair quarterback the scenario is a given--it's human nature to play "well what I would have done was..." and we both understand that. But the discriminator lies in separating those who say that with conviction and those who say the same thing while conceding that ultimately, they weren't there, and you were.

The fact remains that knot's choice to bow out of that particular Christmas was the right decision. In game play, when it becomes evident that "cooperation" will yield a "low or no" payoff, you're better off "betraying" and looking after yourself. I went only to see my kids and was made to feel miserable the entire time. So much so that I will never participate in that kind of sham ever again.

If I ever do reconcile with my daughters it will be because they have taken the first step. I have tried and been rejected on several occasions. It's very painful and infuriating at the same time. My oldest daughter is silent, and my youngest is a fully radicalized, yet hypocritical zealot. She lies openly on her blog all while expounding on her desire to know what God has in store for her. She recently visited Palmyra and of course had to write about her visit to the Grove. At least she had the presence of mind to say she "believed" instead of "knew". As a Gnostic I fully understand the difference between belief and knowledge and images of four year old Morg children getting up in front of the Ward, only to say "I know this church is true" make me cringe.

Knowing is transformative. Belief is not.

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