Guest Post: The Ex is an Ex for a Reason

13 10 2009

Today’s guest post is by Peggy Nolan. She’s a stepmom and the blogger responsible for The Stepmom’s Toolbox. But she’s also an ex-wife and biological mom. Visit her website during the month of October to meet the authors of some of the top stepfamily books. You can also listen to the conversation I had with Peggy on the Becoming a Stepmom podcast.

The Ex is an Ex For a Reason

By Peggy Nolan

I have an unhealthy need to ensure my daughters have a good relationship with their father, my exhusband.

There.

I. Said. It.

This need has caused me grief from the time he and I divorced in 2003. I’m a daughter and I know what it’s like to have an amazing relationship with my dad. I also know what it’s like to believe that I wasn’t good enough and had to prove myself before my dad would love me. In my early 20’s I set out to conquer my world and become the best at everything I did.

It wasn’t until I got divorced and had my run in with breast cancer that I realized that my dad loves and approves of me. He always has. He always will. No matter what hair brained idea I come up with.

So it is within this warped dynamic that I view my daughters’ relationships with their father. A man hard to please. A man full of judgements and criticisms. A man who has a nasty streak as deep as the Grand Canyon. His bitterness runs deep. His words are his weapon of choice…and look out because if you’re in his way, he’ll slice and dice you and leave you with a gaping hole in your heart.

After our divorce, I healed my heart. I repaired myself. I learned “not to throw pearls at swine.” I found my own happiness and grew my own love story.

Today I know that I can no longer carry this unhealthy need to ensure that my daughters have a good relationship with their father. I have tried. Boy. Have. I. Tried. It’s like herding cats, nailing jell-o to a tree, squeezing blood from a turnip. It’s an exercise in futility and I’m tired of repeating it. Oh gosh, what’s that saying?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.

That’s it! I’ve been INSANE!

In three weeks, my oldest daughter is getting married to her fine lad from Ireland. The Red Head (well, they both have red hair, but I’m talking about my daughter) tripped over herself when she announced her engagement via Facebook in May (while I was on vacation in the Turks and Caicos no less) and that did cause quite a rumbling between her father, her sister, and me. The Red Head originally wanted to get married on the beach in Lagos, Portugal – which I was more than ok with, if she could wait ten months. Words were said. Emails exchanged. Some not so nice, some even not so much nicer.

But The Red Head and I have something her father does not have with her – a relationship. And we both make deposits into this relationship. Our arguement withdrawal didn’t even dent want we had stored up in our mother-daughter account. We talked on the phone. We made peace. A week later, she called me and asked if it would be OK if she and my future son-in-law could get married when they came home in October. To say I was thrilled is an understatement.

In my excitement, I started planning her wedding. In doing so, I commited the worst offense imaginable – I tried to include my exhusband and his wife. In three months I sent three emails. I didn’t hear back from him and even asked my youngest daughter if he changed his email. She clued me in. He thought I just wanted his money.

I don’t give a rats pa-tootie about his money. It was the farthest thing from my mind. With him I’m either damned if I do or damned if I don’t. I’d rather DO and be damned.

This past Friday, I sent one last email giving him an update on the wedding plans. I stated that his silence was a bit confusing but it is what it is. I apologized if I offended him or his wife in any way.

His response is the old X that I remember so well. Mean. Nasty. He thinks the wedding is a joke. And that he’s giving The Red Head money instead of participating in something he thinks has been overblown. The money he gives her will come with hidden strings…it always has. I can only hope she searches deep within her soul before accepting his money.

As I sat with his email, sadness overwhelmed me. I am sad for my daughters. I am sad that they have such a bitter, negative, miserable father.

Sadness turned to anger. And I did the only thing I could think of. I put on my running shoes. Instead of walking or riding the bike like I normally do (because I’m fond of my knees), I flipped my iPod play list to Albannach and took off running. I’m not a runner, I don’t like running…but I had to transfer my anger somewhere and kickboxing isn’t until later tonight. There’s nothing like a rebel Scottish band, heavy on the drums, to trash your knees to.

I kept running. And running. My second lap around the duck pond, I started praying. I asked God how I could best help my daughter have a beautiful wedding day. I asked God how to deal with the knowledge that her father thinks her wedding is a joke. I asked God for an answer.

As I rounded the corner, I noticed I wasn’t alone on the path. A thirty something male dressed in black pants and a blue shirt was strolling along, most likely taking advantage of the gorgeous fall weather that was pretty much lost to me as I ran my heart out. I glanced over at him and he was talking to me. The drums of Albannach drowned out the sound of his voice. I took my right earpiece out, “What was that?” I asked.

“It’s a beautiful day for a run,” the stranger replied.

“Yes…yes it is,” I said, more than just a little out of breath.

“Temperature is just right and the sun is shinning,” the stranger went on.

“You are so right,” I said. I smiled and waved at him as I continued to jog past him.

And I smiled. A big smile. Because God answered me through a stranger.

It IS a beautiful day. Enjoy the moment!

It’s not my job to ensure that my daughters, who are now 25 and almost 22, have a good relationship with their father. I’ve done all that I can do. I don’t own his relationships with them or theirs with him. I am only responsible for the relationships I have with each of my daughters.

And both my daughters know that I love them without reservation. Without conditions. I love them for who they are and who they are becoming.

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7 responses

14 10 2009
Carolyn (the grown up child)

Oh my, how I loved this post! I could relate so well with the struggle to feel like you have to earn a parent’s love. I think Peggy has come to a healthy place (as usual). It is time to let go and allow her ex to own his own relationships with his daughters. Whatever the outcome of that will be. She must feel so liberated!

14 10 2009
Lisa

I started out as a childless stepmom. A second wife. I spent 12 years with a man who now treats me as horribly and mean as he treated his first wife during stepdaughter’s childhood (she is now grown). We have two young children together.

It’s amazing how we can get so wrapped up. How (and I”m not judging, just observing as somebody who really has been there) we want to protect our men from their first ex wives. It was very hurtful to accept how he’d manipulated us both and hurt not one, not two, but now three children – due to his anger toward their mothers.

At this point, BM#1 and I have cleared the air. We’ve cried together, apologized, thrown our (s)daughter’s baby shower together and we now share a grandson. ExH hates it, but that’s his problem.

And, I honestly feel like I was played the fool.. and I regret much of my thoughts and actions toward his first Ex Wife.

I’ve already had two confrontations with his new women. Totally unexpected. Totally because they were ‘protecting’ him – too bad they weren’t aware of the way he’d treated me just hours or days before. I watched them take his ‘side’ (even the one who he met only one hour before) and to one of them I said

“It’s okay, I fell for it too.. I hope we can meet later under more friendly circumstances” and I walked away.

Oh, the lessons I’ve learned from the ‘man in the middle’. classic.

14 10 2009
Stina

Great post!! Great description of what it should feel like to move on from the bitterness, when one has evolved and the other clearly hasn’t. Or to know where you end and your kids begin – I imagine that is a struggle for any involved parent. Nicely done.

15 10 2009
And The Winner Is… | The Stepmom's Tool Box

[…]  Check out my GUEST POST on Becoming a Stepmom!  Thanks Jacque – you are awesome! October 15th, 2009 | Tags: stepmom, StepMonster, […]

15 10 2009
Peggy Nolan

Thanks ladies!

Now that The Red Head is home for a few weeks (and no, no wedding…long story but it can be read on my other blog, http://serendipitysmiles.com…and yes, there will be a wedding, just not in the U.S.) we’ve talked about her dad and how their relationship is firmly in her hands to navigate as she chooses. I can’t do it any more.

And kind of funny, but to Lisa’s comment, my ex is scared to death of his wife and me meeting. Apparently, every time she has tried to include me and my husband in an event this weekend (my daughter’s future in-laws are still arriving from Ireland TODAY), my ex has shot her down.

xxoo
Peggy

16 10 2009
lisa

I’m learning the same concept _ I am not responsible for my kids’ relationship with their father. They are very young, but they’re learning too.

My Ex and my SO get along fine. I think I would get along fine too, if only EX would give me a chance. It’s such an effort to control and we women, SMs, BMs, and all of us, sometimes overlook that.. or don’t even realize what’s going on til it’s over.

3 03 2010
marcys

I never deluded myself or my kids about the kind of man their father is, and I felt guilty, since all the “experts” say we’re supposed to never speak ill of the other parent. I no longer feel guilty, because it’s obvious that it didn’t matter what I said or did–he was who he was, he is who he is, and it’s clear to them without any intervention on my part.

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