A few weeks ago I was at the YMCA gym, working hard to tone my butt on the ARC trainer (because why not), and thinking about how nervous I was that it was the first time that my now eight-year-old daughter wasn’t in the kid’s area of the YMCA childcare center. I was nervous as all get-out to have her move up with the older kids (overprotective much?), but she was nothing short of EXCITED.
In fact, the only reason we were at the gym that night was because she had begged me to take her. She knew that in the “big kids room” there was a large TV with bean bag chair viewing, a ping pong table, computers, arts and crafts, and the most fun part to her, was that the kids could check out tablets to play games on.
So, after hearing her beg, whine, and plead for several days on end, we made our way to the YMCA so that she could finally experience the Disneyland version of YMCA childcare; big kid style.
Sweating to death on the ARC trainer, I cursed the timer that seemed to be moving incredibly slow, and then found myself looking around the gym to see if anyone else appeared to be feeling the same level of physical fitness failure that I seemed to be suffering from that night. But what caught my eye was not some random person falling off of a stair climber, but rather the face of my daughter who was standing in the hallway.
She was crying
Well, crying would be putting it mildly, because she was actually at the point where she was hyperventilating. I jumped off the ARC trainer mid stride, and when I met her in the hallway she threw her arms around me and buried her tear streaked face into my side.
When she had calmed down enough for me to talk to the childcare worker who was with her, the story unfolded that when she tried to check out a tablet, she realized that she didn’t have her ID card with her. A childcare worker volunteered to take her to find me so she could get her card, and off they went, to the “gym” where I had said I was going.
But, I wasn’t technically in the gym, I was in the fitness center.
When she didn’t find me in the actual gym, she decided that I must be in a dance class, so they looked there. When I wasn’t there, they checked the spin class, locker rooms, bathroom, and then made their way back to the gym. The track in the gym runs around the enclosed basketball courts, and because of that you can’t see the entire track from the door. So I guess, as the story goes, she thought that I must just be where she couldn’t see me and she started to walk around the track. When she still didn’t see me, she panicked, and before the childcare worker knew what was going on, my tiny eight-year-old girl, wearing braces on her legs and with panic in her heart, started running around the track crying and calling out for me.
When the childcare worker managed to get her off of the track, she told her “my daddy left me, and now my mommy left me too.”
Hearing that CRUSHED me, because it made me realize that after four and a half years, countless hours of trauma therapy, and all the reassurance in the world that I would never leave her, she still harbors the realization that parents aren’t always permanent, and love is not always unconditional.
On Friday morning I went to court for the dramatic situation that is the unpaid child support that I am owed. Not to beat a dead horse here, but as a SUPER quick recap (click here for the full story) I will remind you that my ex owes me a great deal of money in unpaid support, and after many, many court dates, was finally found guilty in court, and was sentenced to jail. Then the judge decided that jail was too harsh and he would give my ex time to pay me half of what I was owed, in order stay out of jail. My ex said he could pay it in 60 days, and the judge said he would give him 90 days, but here we were, over 90 days later and he still had not paid me.
Per the judge’s order of “Mr. Strong, if you don’t show up with a check you had better show up with a toothbrush,” Mr. Attorney Man assured me that we had a decent shot at my ex being thrown in jail.
But I really wasn’t counting on it.
I wasn’t counting on it because I’ve been trying to get him to pay me for over four years and the only thing I’ve learned is that #1 the judge rarely abides by his own orders, and #2 my ex seems to weasel his way out of everything. For four years I’ve been trying to hold him accountable to his obligations, and for four years I’ve been failing. I’ve watched him avoid jail by making deals to pay amounts that he never actually pays, and then watching him avoid jail again by being handed a new deal. When he still fails to comply with that, nothing ever happens, and he never learns his lesson.
Why should he? It’s not like there are really ever any consequences to his actions.
I didn’t have a good feeling about this court date. I don’t know what it was exactly — it was something that I couldn’t put my finger on — but it was bothering me enough that for the first time in four years, I asked someone to go to court with me because I just couldn’t bear that thought of going alone. Thankfully my Platonic Husband totally rocks and said she would absolutely go with me, but even that didn’t calm my worried heart. Thursday night found me crying myself to sleep at 2am, and Friday morning found me so nervous that I was up by five.
Standing there in court that morning as my ex cried and pleaded with the judge not to put him in jail, I nearly passed out. Mr. Attorney Man said I made some kind of noise that sounded like I was going to throw up, and it must be true because my Platonic Hubby said she saw me turn five shades of white and was scrambling to find me a trash can. I remember telling Mr. Attorney Man that I was going to pass out before I made my way to a chair, and then I sat there and tried to process what I had just heard my ex say.
He was begging the judge not to send him to jail because he needed to take care of his wife and his daughters.
My kids have siblings.
My ex didn’t run away from my kids just because he didn’t want to be a dad, he ran away to start over.
He has a new family.
The judge didn’t put him in jail, and I left the courthouse to sit in the car, scream at my windshield, and have my poor Platonic Hubby ask me over and over again if she could drive.
In the days since I found myself standing in court that morning, I’ve spent enough hours on the Internet researching, ordering records, and reaching out to people on Facebook that I think might know him, that I am probably officially some kind of psycho now. You see, when he first left, I tried to find him, but I didn’t get very far.
All I knew back then was that my husband claimed to be going to the store, and simply never came home. Not knowing what had become of him, I called all his friends, I called every establishment that he was known to frequent, and I spent hours tracking down the owner of every single number on the cell phone bill. When I realized that he had cleaned out the bank account, emptied our safety deposit box, quit his job, abandoned his car, and turned off his phone, I realized that his disappearance had been planned for longer than I could have imagined. At that point I went so far as to leave our joint checking account open for a while, even though he was overdrawing it with the debit card, but knowing that it was the only way I was able to trace where he was. I did the best that I could with the limited amount of time that I had while caring for two kids and attempting to find a job, and unfortunately without the funds to hire a professional detective, it didn’t get me very far. The phone numbers on the phone bill went to burner phones, his social security number never led me to a rental apartment or a car loan, and I was forced to shut the bank account down before I dug myself a financial hole that I couldn’t get out of.
As I worked my ass off trying to salvage the destruction that he had left behind, everyone around me constantly reminded me that with my ex’s drug habit, affinity for soliciting sex online, abusing people, and having affairs, that I was better off without him in my life. They told me that if I wanted to heal, that I needed to accept that he was gone and move on.
So, I did.
I knew he was gone, I didn’t want him back, and aside from the issue of child support, I didn’t want anything from him. I accepted that since what I wanted was healing and a happy life for my children, that I couldn’t dwell on the unknown of his disappearance; that the answers wouldn’t change the fact that he had hurt us and left us, and spending my time looking for him would only steal the time that I needed to move on.
Then, when I first went after him for child support and the stalking began after he was arrested, poking the bear just seemed like a really bad idea and so instead of using his reappearance to investigate him further, I backed off. I really had no desire to see what he might be up to. I just wanted him to pay what he owed, and I was busy taking care of the life that he left behind, and even busier building myself the future that I wanted.
But after this big revelation in court on Friday morning, and the reality check that the court system is NEVER going to work in my favor, I really needed to put together the story of what happened when he left, and everything that has occurred since then.
I decided that it was time to start looking into his past, in order to fix my future. What I found, was nothing short of shocking to say that least.
He left me, as I figured, for another woman and a life of drugs.
But what I didn’t know, was that she got pregnant not long after our divorce was finalized. A divorce that I paid for because I couldn’t find him. What I also didn’t know, was that a year after that — after I hadn’t seen a penny in child support and he was arrested for failure to pay — the same woman bailed him out of jail, and together they then went on vacation where they got married.
He had no money to pay for the welfare of his children, but he had enough money to go on vacation and start a new family.
A year later another daughter was born, and together they have worked on creating a life built on the foundation of my destruction.
Now please, don’t for a second think that I am jealous of his wife or wished that he were still with me, because I don’t. His new daughters will never get the father from him that they need him to be, because anyone that is as messed up as he is can’t possibly do anything but damage everyone in his path. I can’t imagine that he has changed his ways and I know that he still has a drug problem (even my Platonic Hubby was shocked and disgusted at his meth ravaged appearance), but what really gets me is how calculated this all was.
He lied, which is no surprise, but his wife knew too. Or at least I think she must, it’s hard to tell. Is she helping him hide his assets? Is that why in my initial searches years ago, I couldn’t find anything under his name? Is she helping him hide his income and cause his first two kids — my kids — to go without? Is the reason my ex claims that he has no health insurance to put my kids on, really just because he has added himself to hers? Is she a victim in his web of lies, or is she an ally plotting against me? Should I be worried that she is also trapped in a situation she now can’t get out of? Or should I be livid with the woman that is helping his first family go without? Does she know that the man who posts on Facebook about his two beautiful and perfect daughters had said the same thing about his first daughter before he basically threw her away? Does she know that before her children's eyes ever rested upon her husband in love, that there were two other little people who were doing the same thing; children whose eyes now fill with tears when they remember the daddy that left them?
It’s hard to say, but I’m not happy.
In fact, I’m crushed.
You guys, I fell apart. For the next 48 hours The Guy I’m dating stepped up and took care of my kids. My Platonic Hubby checked in with me on a nearly hourly basis before switching tactics and texting The Guy directly, wanting to make sure that I was eating and sleeping (Geez, you lose 60lbs getting divorced and when you get upset, everyone is afraid you’ll end up in the hospital again).
Everyone is worried about me and to be honest I’m worried about me too, because I truly can’t remember another time in my life where I have been this hurt, and this angry. This actually hurts more than when he first left me, because when he first left me I was finally free, but all these years later I now find myself wondering if I will really ever be free from his manipulation… I just want to sleep, cry, and then cry myself back to sleep.
It’s one thing to be abandoned by a man with problems, but it’s a whole new ballgame to find out how calculated it really all was. How your struggles, fear, literal hunger, heartbroken children, and trauma, were all part of a game being played by two people who are actively trying to ruin your life in an effort to better theirs.
And willfully ruin the lives of my kids in the process.
Then, it’s the icing on the cake when a judge looks at the single mother standing before him, and he knows that she has two special needs kids who are living below the poverty line, then looks at the guy who put her in that situation, and hear him override his own orders of sending said guy to jail, because the expense of paying child support on top of what he needs to spend on his new family, makes the jail sentence unfair.
Do I not matter? Are my struggles not worth anything?
It really hurts to hear your former husband fight for his new family in a way that he never fought for you, and then to hear a judge agree that yes, his position is valid.
I was here first. We were here first. Why is the court agreeing with my husband that yes, we are replaceable, because our needs have been replaced by the needs of the new people that my ex chose to bring along?
Mr. Attorney Man says that my ex's pleas of needing to be with his family are just his excuse to stay out of jail, and not at all born out of a genuine interest for them, but the fact remains that the judge buys his shit.
So where do I go from here?
I really don’t even know.
I’m livid at the judge, I’m livid at my ex, and I’m livid at his wife who works four minutes from my house.
I’m enraged that together they make roughly $90,000 a year and have managed to hide all of this from the courts while my kids and I are standing in line at the food pantry, and Mr. Attorney Man and I are footing the legal bill to get my ex to pay support.
I’m so angry, that it barely even registered when in the course of my research, I stumbled across something that somehow, I’d missed before.
I wasn’t my husband’s first wife.
I had no idea that he was married before me, and that ran away from her too.
He is a serial life changer, and when he tires of his new life, we are all just obstacles in his path.
I don't want his life, and I don't want him in my life, but I would have liked to at least have had the opportunity to have what he now has.
I would have at least liked a level playing field.
And please dear readers, don’t remind me of how awful he was and why I shouldn’t grieve for a man that I certainly don’t want back, because I know all of that and I agree; I'm not grieving for him. I would never in a million years want him back, and the kids and I are better off without him. I’m just so deeply hurt that all these years, what I thought was pure selfishness, addiction, and irresponsibility, has really just been a continued and calculated manipulation that has caused an immense amount of damage in my life.
In my kid’s lives.
Strangely though, if anything, as painful as it is, it’s almost slightly vindicating because for years I’ve had to deal with people judging me for getting played by a man that they believe for all intents and purposes is just a simple loser, when in reality he has just been playing the role of a “simple loser” to manipulate my attorney, manipulate the court, and continue to manipulate me.
He is still a loser, but above all, he is still an abuser. I knew that all along, but I really don’t think a lot of people believed the depth of his narcissism and ability to control the people around them. I’ve told Mr. Attorney Man before that when he says things like “he’s just a loser,” that it hurts because what kind of girl gets taken by a loser?
I don’t want to be the girl who got played by a loser, because then what kind of victim does that make me?
And I don’t pin Mr. Attorney Man’s sentiment on him alone, because it’s one that is shared by many, since they are unable to see how they too are being manipulated, and how they too are falling into my ex’s trap.
He is manipulating everyone around him, and no one seems to see it.
He left me, but he never really gave up his control over my life.
Although that doesn’t even matter now, because what I’m most worried about is how I am going to explain to my kids, that they weren’t just left because their father wasn’t in a position to be their dad, but rather they were replaced because their father left them to have new kids.
I can’t even begin to understand this myself.
But for now, I need to continue to remind my children that I am here even when they can’t see me from the other side of the track, because I will never leave them. It’s my job to be the best parent that I can be in a situation with no logical rules, and figure out how I will one day explain to them that yes precious children, evil does exist, and unfortunately, good does not always prevail.