names have been changed and or omitted in this post
"So… I want to ask you something… and I want to know because we all have our things, right? No matter how our marriage was or how it ended we can all look back and say we could or should have done some things differently. You know I've told you my things… but what would you say were yours?" He asked me.
Beside him dressed in an army green tank top and skinny jeans I nodded and spoke "No, I get it… we do all have things we look back on and realize where we were at fault." I affirmed. I paused momentarily reflecting and then spoke "For me… several things… first off, I shouldn't have married him. When I got married I married him because I felt we had a great friendship." I stated, referring to my ex…"I felt like we would make great partners. I didn't have any passion toward him but I thought the friendship would be enough. Or at least I kept telling myself that." I grimaced… "Later of course I realized how wrong I was."
He nodded "So how did you come to realize you were wrong?" He asked.
"Because I'd dated Jeremy… and I realized how much chemistry we'd had… it was amazing. We never had sex because I'd wanted to wait. I'd had an abortion with my ex. But it was obvious Jeremy and I had chemistry. So I knew what it could be… but after that fell apart I began seeing my ex again and we got married. Unfortunately emotional wise I took Jeremy into my marriage with me… I knew what I was missing but I kept telling myself it didn't matter." I admitted.
"So… you just kinda stuffed that part of you deep down and dismissed it…. " He observed sadly and shook his head "That had to be hard… because you're a very romantic, passionate person."
"Yeah… that's true. I guess I did stuff it down. My ex is not romantic or passionate. He's very practical." I acknowledged. "So that caused problems… then of course there was the money." I said. "Granted, I was angry he was spending so much money on big purchases like the house he had to have, the Jaguar, gadgets, etc. Yet I was spending money on the house decorative wise… trying to fill a hole… trying to fill an unhappiness." I admitted "I wish I hadn't... but lesson learned. During the divorce he tried to say that I was spending fifteen hundred dollars a month. It was more like five to seven hundred… granted, I didn't need to spend that much regardless and that was wrong of me but it still irritated me that he exaggerated the amount." I paused "When he bought the Jaguar I got pretty ugly... I couldn't understand how someone who once drove a truck and was fine wearing a fleece jacket from Target became so different. I said some things I shouldn't have. It chips away at the relationship when you do."
Colossians 4:6 ESV Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
We sat in silence a moment and I spoke "One separate issue was our son. When he was really young my ex wouldn't acknowledge he had issues… and so we lost some time on getting him the help he needed… later we put him in ABA therapy… he did speech therapy for free through the public school system. I thought we needed to spend more money on helping him. We were always arguing about how to help him, how to parent him and not in agreement."
In a healthy marriage or even after a marriage's demise where two people self reflect they can acknowledge how or where they screwed up. Someone who is open to self reflection is able to scrutinize their own past actions and say "I was wrong… " or "I shouldn't have handled it that way"… " I said ugly things I regret" or maybe even "It wasn't what I said but how I said it. " We all have things we could have done differently and later in hindsight those things are oh so glaringly in our face like a blinding sunset during our five o'clock commute home. We simply cannot ignore it or escape it's reality. We sit there with sorrow or maybe regret… maybe pain that is coupled with a vow to never ever let those poor choices be made again. We feel the bittersweetness of the situation… we can feel some triumph in that we have had insight into how we contributed to our marriage's tribulations or even failure… yet also a yanking on our heartstrings of how it is too bad it is what it is now… that all is over with and there are no re-do's…. obviously in the exception of where abuse occurred.
I can say now… fast forward to today from the last time I saw Jeremy walk away nearly twenty years ago… it's been a long road to get where I am now. I look back and see a man who turned out to represent one of my biggest lessons in life. If you have passion… if you have chemistry with someone… if you have serious feelings of any depth for someone… tell them. Don't hold back. Because we rarely ever regret doing something… we almost always regret not doing something. And when we don't say how we feel… that I can most certainly assure you come back to haunt you for a very long long time. It has the ability to emotionally annihilate you, affect your future relationships and even tear your marriage apart. Fortunately now… I am in a good place and I see a bright present and future ahead… I know now without a doubt how incredibly important it is to have chemistry, passion and friendship with who you're with. To not is to settle and not only jip yourself but the person you're with. To stuff away something you feel so strongly about it is to deny your true feelings and needs. To deny what you really need and want is to deny what the other person should have or had with you as well… it's a domino effect and has long repercussions.
When it comes to money… no amount of material things… clothes, decor, jewelry, etc will fill an emptiness within or an unhappiness caused by our life circumstances and or a spouse who is not good for us. Regardless of what the issue is… the solution is not to "fix" it with shopping and trying to get a momentary high of sorts to make us feel better… because eventually like an addict we must put aside our drug of choice and address the true issues underlying…. the shopping is merely a surface symptom of a larger issue going on. The best thing to do is find better ways to cope with whatever were dealing with… whether that be therapy, exercise, hobbies, etc… and yet in that if abuse is happening the best thing to do is find the nearest exit or boot the abuser out the door.
It's a known fact that couples who have children with special needs have a tougher time keeping their marriages intact… divorce rates are higher in this specific group of married couples. There is understandably so much strain and pressure both emotionally and financially on couples that they may crumble under it all. Sometimes one parent won't acknowledge there is an issue which wastes precious time and causes resentment to set in… once therapy takes place it can drain a couples savings and even day to day living… the expenses are high and often wait lists for help are very long adding to the frustration… compounded perhaps by having other children who maybe aren't getting the time and attention they also need and deserve. It's often an uphill battle that is really no one's fault and certainly not the child's… it just comes down to parents only have so much time, energy and resources at their disposal and some things begin to slide… namely the time and effort into their marriages. Likewise patience may run thin as couples try to find agreement on what therapies are actually useful, needed and money well spent… throw in the typical parenting dilemmas like discipline, chores, rules, etc… and there is potentially a recipe for disaster.
So the question must always be asked… what have I learned?
If married where can I improve? If divorced where could I have done better in my marriage? Taking responsibility is essential for where we lacked or when we didn't choose our spouse… these realizations must occur or we may just be doomed to make the same poor choices yet again. It takes courage and vulnerability to not just admit to ourselves that we messed up but then admitting it to someone else… it's a huge and humbling thing to do that. Take heart though in knowing that you can make these acknowledgments and doing so doesn't make you weak or flawed. Quite the contrary because it doesn't come to those who can't stand to take a magnifying glass and look within at their mistakes. Someone who walks through life with an arrogant spirit simply cannot afford to let anyone see that they may not have it all together. Instead, they decide that they are always right and everyone else is perpetually wrong. They decide that they have it all together and the other ones are always coming up short. They decide that their marriage failing is their spouses fault and theirs alone… they take zero responsibility for any wrong choices, hurt or grief. They finger point and they blame… someone who is of a narcissistic nature believes they are are above others… once you admit any mistakes made a narc will rejoice in your admissions… for now in their eyes they have you agreeing they have clean hands.
But their hands are far from clean. Just like in the movie The Girl On The Train when Tom blames Rachel for everything and takes zero personal responsibility for his choices he shows what a psychopath he is… and he is exactly like those toxic individuals we may have been prey to. Narcissist's, sociopath's and psychopaths never admit they are wrong. Subscribing to a spotless record and dismissing any wrong doing on our part in life keeps us in a prideful mindset. It keeps us from being real, from being transparent and focuses on making ourselves look good… i.e.; worshipping, idolizing, catering to our image and ego when in reality that does nothing to honor God. It simply detracts from our relationship with Him and keeps us stuck… just stuck on ourselves instead of something bigger than us.
Proverbs 16:5 ESV Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
be assured, he will not go unpunished.
The good news is regardless of whether we saw the signs early on that the marriage could one day be toxic or if we were completely bamboozled and found out only after we were securely planted within the marriage… is accepting grace from Him. Our guilt can be soothed by asking for grace upon repentance. Then we can give ourselves grace…. not excuses but much needed grace for our choice in he or she. Yes, there are the coulda, shoulda, woulda's … there always will be. But let's remember that our misguided ways, our best intentions that turned out wrong, our blatant hurtful choices… they can all be given grace. We may have given other's grace, perhaps even our ex husband or ex wife… and yet not given it to ourselves. We may chronically beat ourselves up because we chose someone not good for us to begin with. We may walk around silently telling ourselves how stupid or dumb we are to have chosen who we chose… or how were so silly to have been tricked… because not everyone gets tricked. Some people marry nice people and live long happy lives together. So we verbally strike ourselves because we didn't get on that train of true love… that instead we obviously (internal eye roll) got in the line of ding dong's that didn't know what they were doing. But here's the truth… instead of wanting to beat ourselves up like that because were human(!) and sometimes make mistakes or get the wool pulled over our eyes… maybe dispensing grace to ourselves and losing the self pride would be wise… maybe it's time. Maybe it's past time. To stop looking back. To start looking forward.
names have been omitted in this post
He held my hand as we walked along the Trinity River… the sun was shining and the backdrop was one of green trees, water that showed a reflection of azure blue sky and a few white clouds streaked like an afterthought in a painting of perfection. We had sat for an hour or so on the edge of the rocks watching the water lap over them at our feet. Enjoying the rays of sunshine on our faces, the comfortable quiet between us sprinkled amongst bits of conversation and laughter we'd sat clasping hands. We had watched as turtles made their steady diligent way in the water, their tiny brave heads peeking out as people clad in workout attire skipped the rocks nearby... their dogs wagging their tails following, happy to be outside.
It had been a wonderful way to spend my day off work and as we now walked along the gravel trail to head back to his truck, he squeezed my hand and smiled at me… "You know… I had some initial preconceived assumptions about you that were really wrong." He told me.
"Really?" I asked with a smile and spoke "And what might those have been?" I asked with a twinkle in my eye and a teasing tone.
"You know… the first time I saw you I thought you were going to be high maintenance. But you're not… you're far from it. You're very down to earth… you don't mind being outside in nature and you're far from pretentious." He replied. "I mean… I'm glad… I guess what I'm saying is I like that." He smiled at me.
I squeezed his hand affectionately and spoke "Awww… I've had other people say the same thing. It's funny though. I guess we all do that to some extent, don't we? We see someone and automatically draw conclusions that may be totally off base. Then we get to know them." I paused and smiled at him. "You know… I did the same thing with you. I had this idea that we wouldn't have a lot to talk about but then got to know you and realized you have this great personality. So… " I trailed off and leaned in toward him closer with a grin "I was wrong… I was pleasantly surprised… and I kinda like being pleasantly surprised!" I added with a laugh.
He grinned back at me and nodded "You do, huh? I do too… you just take joy in the simple things and I like that about you." He smiled at me with love in his eyes and spoke "I adore you, Jennifer Lea…"
The simple things in life… whether it's a chocolate milkshake, a sunny day, the discovery of a new trail to walk or jog… a new song that we love, a new recipe we've dared try and find we like or just the contented spot in someone's arms that we love… the simple things are really the big things in life. It's those simple things that can bring great joy to our everyday. The simple things make me smile… they often can't be bought or are some of the least expensive things purchased… a loaf of bread to feed the ducks at the pond, a favorite movie in with hot chocolate and whipped cream on a chilly night… or making frozen pops in the summer with a favorite fruit juice in ice cube trays… whatever it is… it doesn't have to cost a lot to make a moment special and memorable. But sometimes image, ego, money, material things and a deep need to succeed in all the wrong ways can become someone's life goal. Someone who is of a narcissistic nature won't find satisfaction in Christ, or a simple cup of cocoa or even watching their children delightedly run through a sprinkler on a hot day. They always want more, more, more.
Many of us know that at the end of our life it really won't matter how much we spent on our house, how much our car was or how many designer bags we owned. No matter what our background, ethnicity or sex what we will be remembered for above all else is kindness. We will be remembered for the condition of our heart… and what we gave… did we bear beautiful fruit or did we produce pain comparable to thistles?
New International Version
By their fruit you will recognize them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
I was born and raised in a town where when you initially meet someone often times one of the first questions asked is about your family… they want to know who your daddy is, who your granddaddy was, who you know and where you went to school. In some circles the most desired answer to those questions are being related to someone in high ranking financial status in the community, having a degree from Texas Christian University, a long attendance to one of the finest private schools the city has to offer and naturally membership to one of the various country clubs… and hopefully one of those that includes "old money"… because new money just isn't the same. It can be an experience of complete and utter nausea that can elicit plenty of internal eye rolling, gagging and sheer strength to not chuckle in complete amused astonishment at how people behave. The questioning of who you know and who you're related to is enough to make anyone with grounded sense shake their head at minimum or want to flee somewhere far away where they can live free of twenty questions and feeling as though their life was inspected with a magnifying glass within a nano second of meeting someone. As Priscilla Davis once said “People in Fort Worth enjoy being the big fish in a little pond.” Obviously a generalized statement yes, one that can't be applied like a blanket and yet I personally find that statement to be in some cases incredibly insightful and true. When we look for assurance based on having all the "right" things that society deems correct we lose sight of what really makes for a joy filled life. When we plant ourselves somewhere and never venture away because living anywhere else we would disappear into the wallpaper and not be noticed we are subscribing to a life of needing to be validated. When we endorse a life of needing more and more we are buying into the idea that we need the things of the world to make us happy when the simple could satisfy… we will have been swept up into the land of gotta have it's and comparing to what the neighbors own… accumulating more debt, more strain and more despair in the shadows of that shiny facade of perfection.
There are those who are financially wealthy and haven't allowed it to go to their head… who would give the shirt off their back and no one is a stranger. There are those who attempt to paint themselves as having everything… and they do… except love. There are those who behave as if they are one way and in reality behind closed doors they are another. The one who is of a narcissistic nature doesn't wear kindness like a pretty jacket… they don't dispense acts of love with humility and genuineness. Instead of being known for kindness they want to be known for their success. Instead of doing the right thing they twist the truth and manipulate. Instead of loving others they strive for control. Instead of being content with being a little fish in a big lake they want to ostentatiously jump large and in charge from the tiny pond. Instead of finding joy in the small and simple they find a boost from the shiny and grand.
What are we putting out there in the world?
Are we putting out what we want our children to embody?
What legacy are we leaving behind?
One of needing to be the big fish?
Or a life of being content with simple kindness?
names have been omitted from this post
I’d left work and headed to Target to pick up a few groceries before heading home. The store was unnaturally quiet, as most days it was bustling with hurried shoppers, carts brimming with selections and kids wailing what they wanted for dinner. I stood before the freezers in the frozen food section surveying the bags of frozen vegetables to choose from. I held a small red hand basket and was trying to decide between frozen broccoli or a blend of peas and carrots… finally deciding to just get both I tossed them both in my basket along with milk, cheese and eggs. My phone began ringing and seeing it was my mother I immediately answered… she had known I was stopping by the store on the way home and I assumed she had either thought of something she wanted or there was an issue that had cropped up. It would turn out to be the latter.
I answered and she spoke “Hey… there’s a guy outside the front door. He keeps ringing the bell and banging on the door. I think he’s a process server.” She told me.
I knew it didn’t do her any good to answer the door… they were there to serve me not her. “Don’t answer the door.” I told her “Does he have a clipboard or a manila envelope?” I asked. I knew she was watching him on the monitors we had for the cameras outside the property.
“Yeah, he does… a manila envelope.” She confirmed. “I wanted to let you know in case he’s still here when you get home so you’re not caught off guard.”
“Okay… thank you… I’m leaving here now… I should be home soon.” I told her as I began heading toward the checkout but not without first tossing a package of chocolate cupcakes into my basket … I kinda had an idea I would be wanting those later based on the newest storm coming.
“Alright… and be careful.” She told me and hung up.
After being served I quickly flipped through the papers, my eyes skimming the pages for the highlights and what he was asking for… sure enough… just as I had figured… my ex wanted me to pay for out of pocket medical expenses related to our son and if I didn’t to serve jail time… plus interest, plus garnish my wages… he wanted more time with our daughter versus the fifty-fifty shared custody we had and he wanted the blog shut down citing it as “hurtful and negative”. It really wasn’t any surprise to me… when someone has lost control they try to weasel in and regain it in any way they can through any attempts however miniscule or over the top.
When we’ve dealt with someone who is narcissistic and toxic we know they have an agenda… one that they attempt to frame as what is reasonable when in reality they are far from reasonable. They want what they want… they want to win. That’s the bottom line. Oh, they may try to portray it to the judge that they are looking out for their child’s best interests but in reality they are really looking out for their own selfish interests. A narcissistic sociopath has one major goal… and that is to win at any and all costs. They will throw any amount of money at a problem as they see fit to get the outcome they desire. Their heavy handed litigation, their pit-bull tactics, their outright lying just to plant a seed of doubt as the judge listens to both parties… they will do anything and everything they feel must be done to get what they want.
People scratch their heads wondering why on earth someone would go to such drastic lengths to create so much havoc, chaos and grief… they assume the other party MUST have done something to elicit such an intense reaction… because who has the time, money or even sheer dedication in trying to bring someone down? Sociopaths do. People with evil ways in their soul do. We aren’t talking about regular folk who have a hard time with sin or were a little burned from the fall out of a relationship. Were talking about those who put on a façade of being a good person but behind closed doors aren’t. Were talking about someone who wants to ruin another person and take away their children, spend down their finances to nil and punish them just. because. they. can.
Someone who goes around creating chaos is not one who is following the Holy Spirit but instead who relishes causing pain and grief. Someone who purposely lies and creates a façade of who they are, is not who they claim to be. Someone who does heinous things to others and then expects them to just “get over it” is not repent-full nor is a light in this world but instead darkness and despair. Someone who is not able or willing to be told they are wrong or their behavior is unacceptable has a haughty pride that is not open to hearing the truth or being corrected.
We shouldn’t go around acting like evil people don’t exist… because they most certainly do. To believe or say they don’t is doing someone who has been a target of one a great disservice… and it also denies what the bible says; that there are wolves among sheep and there are wolves who wear sheep’s clothing. A wolf will purposefully charm and give one impression when in reality they are fooling those around them. We know that these types are toxic and excel at fooling judges in family courtrooms regarding the true person and or parent they are… and that is why the general public is so misinformed about the realities of child custody…
Years ago if a parent didn’t have custody of their child… I admit I would have raised an eyebrow and wondered what was wrong with that parent… what did THEY do? I’d wonder to myself… yet all of these experiences we go through in life cause us to pause and reassess the assumptions we are making… they cause us to self reflect and say “Hmmmm… maybe it’s not them… maybe there is more to this story than meets the eye… maybe there is more going on behind the scenes than what we think… “ and it’s true.
NOT EVERYTHING IS ALWAYS AS IT SEEMS
Just because someone doesn’t have custody of their child doesn’t automatically equate to them being a bad parent… it may mean something else entirely… it may very well mean that the child is with the truly toxic one.
(This post to be continued in November )
Anytime you are served it is essential to carefully read the documents and understand them. Once you are served the document may state that you only have 20 calendar days to file your papers in response. If you do not, the court could enter a default judgment against you, and the other parent may automatically be able to get everything they asked for in their complaint. Be cognizant of what you have been served with and double check it for anything you may have missed. As always check with your attorney or legal aid for assistance in anything you are served with to ensure you are doing what is necessary to protect yourself, your children and any finances.