Once upon a time I lived with a bully. In fact, I was married to him for 19 years. About 3 years ago his reign over me came to an end. As is generally the case with bullies, he got the memo, but chose to ignore it.
Yesterday he had occasion to attempt to bully me into giving him information that is none of his business. He did it through our son . . . the chicken shit way. He knows me well, 23 years is a long time to spend with someone. You learn things, if you’re paying attention. For the first 18 years, he was paying attention. He knows, above everything else, I do not want my children to suffer.
While a parent cannot guard a child from all things painful, we certainly want to. A child must suffer the consequences of their actions, their choices, their mistakes in an effort to learn and grow. But unnecessary suffering of an emotional type that is born from a fight they are not a party to is not acceptable to me. The Asshole knows this and played his cards accordingly.
He almost won.
I almost caved.
It upsets me that after three years without him I can, in an instant, become that obedient, I’m-so-sorry-to-have-made-you-mad-what-can-I-do-to-make-it-better person I was living with him. The one who cringes when he’s angry and tries to figure out what I did to make him upset, what I will never do again, and how can I fix it immediately.
I’ve worked diligently over the last three years to not be that person. I thought I was making headway, until yesterday.
Hearing my son tell me his father wanted information, wasn’t getting it, thought someone (me) was lying to him, didn’t like it and was raging through the house, talking “poorly” about me (those were my son’s words, I’m sure it was pretty vile shit the Asshole was saying) made me crumble. I know, from lots of past experience, what it’s like to be in the house with the Asshole when he’s raging. I wanted to help my kid.
Fortunately (and unfortunately) it is not okay for my oldest son to call me. Yes, I’m his mother. Yes, he’s almost 18. Yes, it doesn’t make any sense to anyone on the outside of the circle. If you’re on the inside of the circle, however, you understand that the Asshole is jealous of any attention or affection the children, OUR children, give to me. Good, bad or indifferent attention should never be directed towards me, at least not in his presence.
You can read the prior paragraph, but do you know what that looks like? It looks like my boys calling me from the bathroom and whispering. It looks like my boys hanging up on me, mid-sentence, if their father walks into the room. It looks like my boys don’t answer their phones if I call, if their father is anywhere within ear shot. The Asshole will tell them they can call me, “she’s your mom, why would I care.” But if they do call me he makes them feel bad with “you never call me when your with your mother,” “it seems like you love your mother more than you love me,” “why couldn’t you ask me for x, y, z. Your mother isn’t the only one who can handle it.” Manipulation at its finest.
Thank God for texting.
Anyway, my child had to hang up on me in the middle of telling me of his father’s anger. Luckily. It gave me time to regroup. Gave me time to sit for a second and think it all through.
First, I had no information to give the Asshole. What he was asking for didn’t exist. Whether he chose to believe it or not, that was the truth. There were things I could tell him, if I had to, but they wouldn’t speak to his concern, they were just marginally involved and they had to do with ME. Not him. And they were none of his business. I didn’t have to tell him anything.
That was the hard part for me. I didn’t have to tell him anything, after 23 years of having to tell him everything. Especially if he was angry.
I called my girlfriend who has been my ear from the second I decided to get a divorce. I love her with my whole heart. She is brutally honest and has an advantage many of my girlfriends do not have. She has known the Asshole for 20 years.
Knowing my son would assuredly call me back I quickly ran the scenario down to her and then took a breath. She said calmly, “the beauty of the divorce is you no longer owe him an explanation. If he needs an explanation, let him get it from somewhere else. He’s mad? So what? It’s not your job to fix it anymore. Yes, J has to deal with his father’s temper and that’s unfortunate, but he’s a big boy. He knows his father and he’ll survive.”
That’s it. Simple. Right. Easy.
While I feel like I slipped up a little in my growth, I didn’t cave and he didn’t win.
Yay for me.