You are finally getting a divorce. Years of trying to manage with her drug addiction, her erratic behavior, her severe mood swings, her on again, off again job status are coming to a close. She walked away and disappeared one time too many. You never knew your camel could carry so many straws but she finally placed the one too many.
This last time that she didn’t come home, you filed for divorce. When you found out where she was temporarily hold up, you had her served. The Court gave you temporary custody at the hearing and she didn’t improve from there. In fairly short order, you asked for a final trial. Rather than face a trial, she settled with you. Given her condition, she agreed that the girls should live with you and visit with her. Hooray, your troubles are over.
But even after the judge declared you no longer husband and wife and the ink on the divorce papers had long since dried, life did not become a bed of roses. She neither went away nor reformed, exactly. At first, she’s there and then she’s not there. She’ll be on the wagon for a few months, getting her life together and seeing the girls on a regular basis, then she’s off on a bender and falling apart and leaving the girls high and dry for weekend after weekend. The girls love their mom, right? The girls need their mom, right? They should have access to her and she to them if only she could get it together and keep it together. But the in and out only serves to tie the girls in knots, overjoyed when she is with them and broken when she stands them up.
Time passes and before long, the girls are becoming young women before your very eyes, full of hope, full of promise. Their mother has finally gotten her act together and kept it together. She’s held a good job for three years now. She’s making okay money. She’s settled. And she’s mad. She’s mad at you for taking her girls. She’s mad at you, she says, for ruining their lives by keeping them from their mother. And every weekend that she has them, she is only too eager to educate them on the depths of your dictatorial control over her when she lived at home, and over them now that they are your easiest victims.
The girls, long longing for the company of their mother when she couldn’t manage to be there for them, are only too happy to now have her around. Fearing that she could disappear on them again, they are only too happy to entertain her missive on your shortcomings. Terrified of the hole she leaves in their lives, they want to tie her tightly to them so that when she one day asks if they want to live with her, they jump at the chance. That’s how they will keep their mamma.
Or, maybe you are getting a divorce. You’ve suffered his abuse for years. Routinely he put you down, kept you in your place. He called you pretty much every vile name he could think of. Every now and then he upped his game, making it physical. Maybe he would throw you into a wall just to remind you how much more powerful he was than you. Maybe he would slap you around a bit like his own personal punching bag or maybe he would wrap his hands around your throat so that you could feel just how worthless you were that he could kill you just like that.
The last time he hit you was the last time he was going to hit you. You called the cops. You didn’t have to say much, your bruises said enough. You got a TPO, temporary protective order against him. He was prohibited from being within 500 yards of you or the boys. Finally, with enough courage, enough recovery and enough encouragement from your friends, you filed for divorce. He sure wasn’t happy about it but with a protective order there wasn’t much he could do (at least not without going to jail for a very long time). He settled with you. You got primary custody. You got support. He got visitation. Hooray, your troubles were over.
But life didn’t become like a box of chocolates. He’s no less kind as an ex than he was as a husband. He doesn’t hit you anymore. He doesn’t threaten you with physical harm anymore but he finds new ways to torture you. He calls DFCS from time to time, contending that you are mistreating the boys. Sure, they find nothing but the intrusion, the hassle is what he wants. He constantly tells you that you are a terrible mother. He tells the boys to let you know that he is taking them to dinner when it isn’t his night. He tells the boys that he is taking them to the Bahamas for vacation when you can hardly afford take them to Six Flags. He buys them minibikes and go carts. He never fails to teach the boys how real men should treat women. The boys learn his lessons a little too well.
As the boys become young men, he makes his move. He asks your oldest, does he want a truck? Would his girlfriend like to sleep over? “How’s that beer? Want another?” “Wouldn’t it be great if you boys could just live here all the time?”
That dark cloud that you divorced doesn’t go away. It lingers. It regroups. It gathers strength and waits for the perfect moment to storm on you again.
Fortunately, if there is fortune in this story, even clouds behave predictably. Their lightening strikes can be anticipated and thwarted but it takes knowledge, a plan and action every step of the way so that their day of retribution never forms and like the bright sun burning down on a dark, storm cloud, their sinister plans dry up and disappear.
Protect yourself from the ever-present dark cloud. Protect your children. You can. You must.