Posted by fxckfeelings on January 30, 2012Share This Post
If you life has been touched by an Asshole™, your ideas of right and wrong, as well as those of other people who know the two of you, have probably been distorted. It’s your job to set things right, but not by doubting yourself when you’re threatened with conflict, or by attacking those who treat you badly, because both make you look even crazier than the Asshole in question. Instead, re-establish your credibility with yourself and others by staying calm, being patient, and finding good (legal) support. Then everyone can see the Asshole’s true colors—brown—and your work is done for you.
I think my girlfriend is basically committed to me (after 4 years of our having a steady relationship, despite living in different cities). After much backing-and-filling and hemming-and-hawing, she introduced me to her 3 kids and her ex. The problem, I think, is that her ex-husband is an evil drama-monster who bludgeoned her with tantrums, legal threats, and ultimatums until she would do anything to appease him. It makes her a total wuss with the kids and interferes with her availability for our relationship. That makes me push her sometimes, which makes her jump like she’s been scalded and trapped between two powerful, demanding masters. I don’t think she’s into dominant men any more (at least, I don’t see myself as one), but my goal is to help her resist her evil ex without making her feel she’s doing it to appease me.
No matter how nice your girlfriend is, if she’s over-reactive to an evil ex, you can find yourself getting irritated, worried, and sometimes outraged. You’re sorry she has trouble setting limits with the guy, but you sure don’t want him to control your life.
If she doesn’t learn how to manage him and the feelings he stirs up in her, however, that’s what will happen, and your relationship will be riddled with the drama you’re both trying to avoid (and also become very crowded).
That doesn’t mean, of course, that she loves him more than you; he just has the power to make her more frightened or guilty than you do, because he isn’t as “nice”, and she doesn’t know what to do with those feelings other than appease him.
Of course, that may tempt you to fight back by showing her that you’re just as good at making her feel bad, which would turn you into a chair-slinger in someone else’s soap opera (as well as something of a jerk), and it’s clear you’re not letting that happen. That doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a relationship with him if you want a relationship with her.
Your best weapon is the same one we use as shrinks (and the one you seem to be using now); coach her to see a better, though not comfortable, alternative, urging her to use a lawyer to figure out when she can say “no” and what to say to her ex and kids if they attack her for being mean or unreasonable. Support her in doing what she believes is right and what will work out better, rather than in doing what will make you happy or her less stressed. Odds are, if an action is right and reasonable, it’s guaranteed to make her ex pounce.
Continue to offer her your positive perspective; she’s a good woman who has done her job as a mother and can do a better job by learning to say no. In doing so, her best therapist is her lawyer (used not for venting feelings, but for information about standards and consequences).
If she can’t make progress with that approach, then the package is what it is, and you’ll need to take it or leave it. What seems to be happening, however, is that she’s getting tougher, in part because you know how to keep a lid on your negative feelings while giving good advice. Her ex puts a burden on your life, but he doesn’t control it, and he doesn’t have to ruin the life you and your girlfriend share.
“My girlfriend’s wussiness about her ex drives me crazy, but I know she’s a good, responsible person who’s come a long way in learning how to take a stand. It’s been frustrating, and often feels like work, but I’ve done a good job managing my anger, she’s doing better at managing her fear, and we both continue to feel the relationship is worth it.”
My ex-husband has the divorce court judge in his pocket and it’s driving me crazy. Regardless of our divorce agreement, he takes me back to court every year for additional money for our daughter’s residential treatment (she has as addiction problems), and the judge buys his story in spite of its being full of lies and bullshit. He says I have money I don’t have—I can no longer afford a lawyer. He wants me to pay for a fancy, private facility that won’t take our insurance when there’s a good one in our insurance company’s network. As a recovering alcoholic myself, I want my daughter to get treatment as much as my husband does, but what I really want is for that judge to know how wrong he is to think I’m a skinflint and allow my ex to torture me year after year.
Unless you grew up with parents who were always fair and unbiased, you know there’s a real danger in expecting justice. The more justified you are in feeling screwed by the judge/parent, the bigger the danger.
Yes, you’d hope that expressions of injured innocence would get him/her to reconsider and, in a fair world, that’s what would happen. In this world, however, expressing negative feelings about a judge’s judgment usually makes the judge feel attacked and insecure, particularly if you’re angry and right. Not only does justice does not ensue, your hole gets deeper, as does your injury, anger, and tendency to make more trouble for yourself.
If your ex-husband is an Asshole (readers of this blog understand that I use this term diagnostically, and not pejoratively), he truly believes he’s a righteous defender of the weak, so it’s not hard to see why a judge who doesn’t know him would be taken in. If you then attack him, you’ll look like the angry girl your ex says you are.
So put the same lid on venting outrage as you do on alcohol; stay sober, and stay quiet. Remember, keeping negative feelings inside is not nearly as bad as letting them out in front of the wrong audience.
Now that you’re ready to eat your shit sandwich—cry if you must, but please don’t bring it up again—you’re ready to say something positive about your own plan for your daughter. Namely, that you want her to get help as much as your ex does, but you expect her to need help for a long time and you’re trying to save money now, because she’ll need it later. That’s why you’re trying to save on legal bills and don’t want to pay for the best intervention program when the difference between best and good is not worth it.
Don’t get distracted by the judge’s willingness to believe you’re a bad, stingy parent and don’t defend yourself by attacking his judgment or the unfairness of being dragged back into court. Stay on message: talk about your concern for your daughter and your belief in the advantages of your plan.
Given time and no attacks from you, the judge will probably catch on to your Asshole husband’s bullshit, particularly if you stick to your agenda and don’t push his buttons. You might not get perfect justice, but you’ll get a good feeling of pride for having expressed yourself as a caring mother, without getting screwed by him and your old negative feelings.
“It’s horrible to feel I can be dragged back into court at any time, to be judged by someone who believes I’m an asshole no matter what I say or do, but that’s life. I know I’m ready to do right by my daughter and that I’ve got a good plan. Beyond that, I don’t control.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname