Help me forget my ex-husband and move on
January 27, 2014 9:17 PM   Subscribe

Help me forget my ex-husband and move on -- Details inside and in my previous questions here

I had a very stressful marriage with my ex, and I decided to move on with my life, as I didn't want to flush my happiness down the toilet by being with him. But the issue is that he is my child's father, and so will always be a part of my life. In his own words during his recent visitation, he said "there is no clean break here". That thought made me feel weird. Happy and sad at the same time. Don't get me wrong - he was and is and will always remain terrible for me. I really want to move on.

I've been going to therapy and my therapist is great with a capital G. I haven't started taking anti-depressants yet but am self medicating (alcohol) and I want to stop before it gets harder to. Not an addict, and don't want to become one ever.

He drives me crazy - normally I'd say I am a quiet person. Not shy, not submissive. But just not loud and boastful or aggressive. But when I have a tiff with him, he really manages to press my buttons. I need to get a grip on my feelings of anger and I'd really appreciate any help with this.

Another issue is that single parenthood is hard and the sleepless nights, lack of exercise and proper diet etc has taken a toll on me. I feel older and I feel like I look older too :((( While he continues to look younger splashing money on teeth whitening systems. It may be that I am just frustrated. But I really need to get out of this rut while being a great parent. And I need to believe that there are other good men out there...

I really want to go back to being happy and driven and motivated. Life is kinda hard and I feel like I am lost.... I am very lonely :(
posted by Spice_and_Ice to Human Relations (15 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: poster's request -- cortex

This is going to sound so cliché, but time will honestly help.

In a way he was right, you'll always be in each others lives, but things change an awful lot as time goes by.

I left an abusive marriage 8 years ago and now my ex stops for a chat when he drops our daughter off and there were hugs all round (new partners included) on Christmas Day.

Maybe you could get a diary and write him letters, or your child, about how you are feeling right now. In a few weeks, months, years you'll see how your perspective changes so much.

I say be angry and pissed for a while. Why not, you are allowed to feel that way. Then find some time for yourself, an hour a day for stretching or planning meals.

I'm sorry this is happening, but believe me, it won't last forever!
posted by Youremyworld at 9:35 PM on January 27, 2014

Aaaah I want to give you a hug. It is SO SO hard. I just had a question about this a few months ago. It sucks ass. It's getting (very very slowly) better, but it really does suck ass hard, for a good while.

I will try to think of some more helpful bits of thought, but for now you could go read all the responses I got, over here. It's embarrassingly long and ranty and raw, but the responses were really helpful and wonderful.
posted by celtalitha at 9:39 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I need to get a grip on my feelings of anger and I'd really appreciate any help with this.

You might never be able to get a grip on your feelings of anger; most don't. But things you absolutely can get a grip on are (a) the beliefs that interact with whatever experience you're having in order to trigger the anger and (b) your behaviour while angry, and those will serve just as well.

For example, if there's a person who manages to consistently push your buttons, you can free yourself from that to a huge extent by practising convincing yourself that whatever that person says to you is meaningless and irrelevant. Which it probably, you know, is. Aim to treat whatever comes out of his mouth as some kind of weird harsh bird call or barking rather than actual human speech, and then whenever he says something hurtful or provocative you can just look at him and think "Wow. Much noisy. Very dick. So boor. Wow" instead of taking the verbal content personally, and respond with "Bless your heart".

Another necessary thing will be to establish as much independence as possible so you're always playing from a position of strength. You need to arrange your affairs in such a way that nothing this guy does can actually screw up your life - well, short of actual violence which if he cares about ongoing access to your daughter he's not going to resort to. In particular, you're going to need a solid financial buffer against the day he decides to play the making-you-fight-for-child-support card.

Single parenthood is indeed ridiculously time consuming, and I'm sorry you're not in a position to get more support with it. The following is intended as reminders of things you might presently be too tired to remember, not an attempt to teach grandma to suck eggs.

On the nutrition front, learn to love salads. Once you've learned to make a nice dressing (I like lemon juice, a little balsamic vinegar, olive oil, a tiny amount of sweet chili sauce and a bit of black pepper - mix them in a screwtop jar and shake vigorously before use) then you can make a salad out of just about anything fresh and cheap and raw and crunchy with very little preparation time, they make any meal more interesting, and your body will thank you. If you're living somewhere where you can get a few lettuces and some cherry tomatoes and a bit of parsley and maybe a snow pea vine growing, do that.

Attending to the needs of a kid is going to be giving you much more exercise than you give it credit for, which will be part of why you're tired.

Snatch as many naps as you possibly can. Naps are no substitute for a solid night's sleep, but they help.
posted by flabdablet at 9:57 PM on January 27, 2014 [7 favorites]

Don't get me wrong - he was and is and will always remain terrible for me. I really want to move on.

You can move on in the sense of never having a romantic relationship with him, but ideally he will always be a part of your life as a good co-parent to your daughter.

I haven't started taking anti-depressants yet but am self medicating (alcohol) and I want to stop before it gets harder to. Not an addict, and don't want to become one ever.

Alcohol can numb the pain for me temporarily, but usually I feel worse in the morning. Just remember that addiction can sneak up on people quickly and denial is a powerful mind-game. I would suggest avoiding it as much as possible so that you can stay present for yourself and your daughter.

Some would argue that anti-depressants just numb their emotions like alcohol, but if you find the right one it will help you better regulate your emotions - and maybe keep the lows from being quite as low and the highs from being quite as high.

But when I have a tiff with him, he really manages to press my buttons. I need to get a grip on my feelings of anger and I'd really appreciate any help with this.

That's great that you recognize this as an issue. Just remember that it's perfectly normal to feel angry and express those feelings. Can you write a angry letter to him but not send it?

It's so important for your well-being and your daughter's well being that you not engage if he pushes your buttons. You should speak-up if he violates your boundaries, but do so in a respectful way, i.e. no shouting or shoving.

If your encounters with him are too much, find an intermediary to handle drop-offs.

I feel older and I feel like I look older too :((( While he continues to look younger splashing money on teeth whitening systems.

I believe that every time we judge another person - including ourselves - we build up a resentment against that individual. Resentment can breed anger.

On a side note, my divorce was finalized back in August 2013. We were married less than a year. We were very incompatible in a lot of ways like you and your ex. It was the first serious relationship for both of us and we rushed into things.

I still get really angry sometimes at my ex for initiating the divorce. I thought we could work it out and she didn't want to try anymore. I thought she was being selfish and treating our marriage like a disposable object. Please remember that your ex has reasons to be angry too. Please remember that it takes two to tango and that you made mistakes as well in the marriage. Forgive yourself and forgive him when the time is ready. It will be freeing.
posted by speedoavenger at 10:19 PM on January 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Re: your need for self-care, is it an option for you to lean on family to help out or hire outside help? I think given the incredible stressors you've been through these past few years, it would do you a world of good to be mentally and physically at ease and you need proper sleep and diet for those.
posted by kinoeye at 10:25 PM on January 27, 2014

I can help!

He presses your buttons and gets you super white hot pissed because he's trying to turn you into his own hot tempered mother.

Hope that demystifies it for you.

He's emotionally immature and he's trying to duplicate his family from when he was growing up here in the present, with you. Congratulations for not falling for it and getting out quickly. Well done!!

Being a parent is hard. Hire a nanny. Seriously.
posted by jbenben at 10:37 PM on January 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't have detailed experience here, but this jumped out at me:

he said "there is no clean break here".

This is BS and does. not. help. "Well, try harder, smart guy." The faster you two can settle down to a structure will be better for the child, and consequently allow you the headspace to focus on the future and what's important rather than this veiled threat of more and continuing drama.
posted by rhizome at 11:54 PM on January 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

The "there is no clean break here" line jumped out at me, too. Sez who?? Yes, there is a clean break from his role as your husband. He needs to understand that his position in your life is now one of divorced co-parent. Period.

A couple of practical suggestions: stop referring to/ thinking of him as "my ex" and start calling him "child's father." It is a small thing, and won't happen overnight, but it will help both of you shift your thinking and transition to your new roles. Also, have you seen a lawyer or mediator to hash out a proper custody and support agreement? If not, get a good one on your side and do that ASAP. Once it is in place, you can stop paying attention to whether he spends his disposable income on teeth-whitening systems, and get on with putting systems in place that allow you to be an effective parent while also having a decent life yourself. That, along with the therapy recommended above, should help with the anger issues, too.
posted by rpfields at 12:05 AM on January 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Another issue is that single parenthood is hard and the sleepless nights, lack of exercise and proper diet etc has taken a toll on me. I feel older and I feel like I look older too :(((

I just wanted to mention that the first few years of my daughter's life were the hardest of mine, and I had a full-on partner. "The days last forever but the years fly by" is true. I look back and it's hard to see how that time actually managed to pass, but it DID. One day your kid will clear a plate from a kitchen table, or carry a grocery bag into the house, or put a paper towel in the trash and it'll be like the best moment because it will represent a small clear shift away from you doing absolutely everything, all the time. The kid will be able to put on socks and shoes and go to the bathroom on their own and you will get a break. It won't be so, so hard.

For now, try to focus maybe purely on the logistics of doing the best that you realistically can - maybe using day care at a gym for an hour, things like that - to make yourself feel better, while at the same time recognizing that it will be imperfect and maybe this isn't the 'teeth whitening cream' moment of your life. Prioritize sleep and the happiness and health of you and your child, and put as many other things aside for later as you can. Later, believe it or not will eventually happen.

And if the teeth whitening cream really bugs you, if it represents something for you that you honestly would like -- get some teeth whitening cream. Its actually one of the teensy little things a harried mom can potentially get away with doing for herself. But don't sweat it or feel like you have to -- only if it picks you up a little.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:04 AM on January 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

You can't forget him because he's going to be part of your life as long as he's your child's father. You can't control that. What you can control is your communication with him. It isn't ideal, but except for pickups and drop offs, my niece's parents communicated through email exclusively for the first two years. This allows you to back away and come back to deal with things dispassionately. There are also a lot of things people will say or shout that they wouldn't type out in an email, so that can help. Unless your agreement states otherwise, I'd consider this if you think it might help.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:49 AM on January 28, 2014

It takes a helluva lot of emotion to get INTO a relationship. Huge, huge, huge amounts to bear and rear a child. Some really good, and a few stressful.

It probably should come as no surprise that it takes a lot of negative energy to bring one to a close. Most posts here that relate to this sort of thing describe similar situations.... it's the rare one that is a mild disengagement. The presence of a kid makes the detachment interval LONG, compared to childless couples. I can't come up with any math that gets rid of that.

As to the inherent unfairness of it all.... entire religions are based on getting us to a mind space where we can tolerate human injustice, usually by deluding ourselves into thinking that afterlife adjustments will be made, but you are describing a perfectly normal reaction to what we all see around us, every day. The unjust prosper. As the book says, it rains on the good and bad, alike.

It might help to consider that he isn't the only one out there, and unlikely he's the only one you'll run into. Hell, I have a pile of personalities I have run across over the years who are doing just fine despite my wishes to the contrary. I just have to let it go, and had to learn to do that... to forgive to some degree, as I consider that they are doing what is BEST for them, possibly at my expense.

There are good people out there. The single biggest damage that this guy can hand you is taking your faith in that reality away. For every creep I have met, I have met 100 saints. You sound like a good person. I hope you can rise above the short term, and look at the long term.... a life that includes a wonderful daughter and NOT a creepy mate. Other mates will come along. The good thing about having left a creep is you know a little more what to look for, right? You know what to appreciate, next time, right?

Careful with that booze, though. The two things it does are that it depresses one unit for every one unit of happiness it delivers and it clouds your judgment. Therapy is better, IMO, but what's really better is surrounding yourself with community and better peeps than that creep you shed recently.

Rock on. You will prevail and prosper.
posted by FauxScot at 4:32 AM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you get your physical self in shape a lot of the mental stuff will follow. You've heard 'exercise and you won't feel so tired?' Same theory.

So stop with the alcohol. That's not helping anything and you know it. "Self-Medicating" is NOT a good thing, it's a bad, bad thing.

When you get home in the evening, have a simple dinner, then bundle up and go for a walk. Put your kiddo in a wagon, or stroller, or whatever and take a few laps around the block. Sing songs, talk to yourself, whatever, just get out. Or, put on music and dance in your living room. Or do floor exercises. Think of what a great role model you'll be for your child.

It doesn't have to be a lot, 20 or 30 minutes will make a huge difference.

As for groceries, you don't have to make it complicated to eat healthily. Sandwiches on whole grain bread and salads make a fine supper. Veggie soups and rolls. Roasted meat, microwaved rice and veg. Done and done.

Now for your former husband. Realize that YOU are the master of your life now, you decide how you live, and what you do and who you are going to be. You can be the defeated ex-wife of a guy you can't live with anymore, or you can be the awesome, independant woman you've always been.

There IS a clean break! You don't have to do anything your husband asks you to do (for one.) You don't have to be concerned with his feelings, all you have to do is co-parent to the best of your abilities.

Check out Parents without Partners for support. You aren't alone, team up with other single parents and help each other.

Change your attitude and everything else will follow.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:20 AM on January 28, 2014

BTDT. From the dad's perspective.

There is no clean break, there has to be some, hopefully much, communication - at least about your child, presuming property and other issues are settled. Think school play, through to a wedding, there will be occasions when you two should be together for him/her, not to mention all the other stuff about how the child is to be parented.

Having said that, it is VERY hard to quarantine 'child' discussions from the other stuff (especially in the early stages), but time does help, as does having a plan for controlling your emotions/responses to him.

Apart from a few bumps on the road, my ex and I managed this pretty well, and 25 years later there are three adults out there in pretty good shape as a result. It involved some pretty major sucking up on my part, and I guess hers too, but the results seem worth it. I think the key for us was working out (over a period) that both parents have a role, and responsibilities, in our children's lives, and how we would manage that in their best interests.

Than then meant that we could reshape our own lives around our involvement with our children.

I too would caution about the alcohol. I am not a big fan of therapy, I would suggest a good (but positive) support network is a useful starting point.

There is some good advice upthread, especially about things getting better. I would only add that when you are considering a decision, amongst the other things you weigh, ask yourself how you might think about this in 10 or 20 years.

Hang in there, and good luck.
posted by GeeEmm at 5:25 AM on January 28, 2014

You need to recast his role completely as an ex-husband to a co-parent. Don't even think about him as your ex-husband, think of him as your child's father. Make all about ensuring that your child has an excellent relationship with him. So he comes over and pushes your buttons -- how will that make kiddo feel?

Defuse it, say "Not where Junior can hear, I don't want him to see you like this."

In all other respects, it really is about time. I think about my ex-husband more often than I'd like -- when I realize I'm thinking about him at all. We had a short marriage and no kids. Every now and then I'll recall a fun time; every now and then I'll also recall a particular fight. I wish I could undo the unhappiness, but it's over now. This will happen to you, but I can't say how much longer it may take with a child in the mix.
posted by mibo at 6:30 AM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

So much great advice upthread, and I'm sorry you're going through such a tough time. Raising a young one with a partner is super-hard, so I can't imagine how tough that is on your own, let alone while going through a break-up.

I wanted to add just one thing: stop the drinking immediately. If you are using alcohol to get through emotional pain, you are not using alcohol, you are _already_ abusing it. I note that you didn't say, "In the past I have used alcohol to self-medicate, but I have now stopped," or "I will stop" -- you said, "I want to stop." That's telling, and troubling.

Stop now -- full stop, immediately. It impairs you REM sleep to drink at night (which is the last thing you need), and you're in real danger of it getting out of control quickly. Please consider getting on anti-depressants ASAP -- if you are turning to alcohol to regulate your moods, then you obviously need it. If you need some extra motivation to stop drinking, think about how you'd feel if your creepy husband and his lover-mother had sole custody of your baby.

Remember to take care of yourself. I'm sure it's really hard to find time, but it's critical when you're holding the world up on your shoulders. You have every right to feel the way you do, so don't beat yourself up that you're having a hard time. Anyone in your shoes would be. Hugs.
posted by ravioli at 8:18 AM on January 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

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