Funny. Long before I stumbled onto the OMB Facebook page and the #ijustwantpeace website, that had been my mantra. “I Just want Peace.” I used to say it in the house when total chaos surrounded me long before the separation and divorce started.
I’m one of nine kids who began babysitting nieces at 16 years old. That experience combined with parents who gave unconditional love, helped me grow up with a tremendous desire to be a father. When five years of depressing infertility ended unsuccessfully, and my daughter was conceived miraculously five months later, a constant push and pull of fulfilling my promises to be a provider as well as a loving and present father filled my very being.
My now ex wanted to stay home fulltime because she said it was so important to her soul and personal fulfillment to do so, and I agreed to what I thought was a mutual commitment. As a middle manager at a Fortune 500 company in New York City, I commuted four hours a day to a 10-12 hour a day job, and still did my best to be with my children, but as time progressed, and I became more successful at work, I started to notice some things at home.
Our house was filling up with stuff that more often than not, was never used. By 2006, we were living in about 20% of a 2100 square foot home. I was being kept from the family finances, including the online accounts and ATM cards. But every Sunday night someone doled out $60 in cash on the microwave oven next to my car keys. And I was abandoned emotionally.
For years, and two more kids, I hoped and prayed and talked with my ex about the situation, engaged in marriage therapy, read relationship books. The kids and I got her three- and four-day retreats at hotels and resorts to rest and recharge. Nothing helped, and my concerns were scoffed at. The compulsive hoarding in our home was “a housekeeping problem.” The $18,000 in credit card debt I found when I finally got into our accounts was just the cost of raising three children.
It wasn’t until she filed for divorce in 2013 (she thought I was having an affair) that I started to put 2 and 2 together. My children were much older by that point (16, 14 & 10), and they occasionally articulated the lies and slander directed at me. My daughter, who took the brunt of the abuse, started confessing the relentless manipulation she suffered at her mother’s lips.
Two years into the divorce, my daughter called me one night in tears from college and described the latest behavior inflicted on her just minutes earlier on the phone. After consoling her, I hung up and Googled the words my daughter said her mother used. I found Dr. Karyl McBride, and her work on narcissistic mothers. It was a perfect match.
Educating myself, I began to see the patterns in our marriage as well: denying my rights as a father to be involved in certain aspects of the children’s lives, the secrecy and control over our finances, her own secret affair, contrasted with accusations that I was having affairs. It all fit.
What I wasn’t ready for were the six times she called the police to our home in front of my children, attempts to build a false case against my character. What I wasn’t ready for was the three-month CPS investigation initiated anonymously by her brother, which concluded with the investigator’s report pointing the finger back at her.
At the final family CPS interview (my ex refused to be present at two CPS home visits and the final interview), the investigator described to my daughter and I how when she challenged my ex on her lies, my ex went silent and tried to stare her down. “Have you ever gotten this stare?” the investigator asked my then 19-year-old daughter. Watching the both of them brought back memories of years of intimidating stares shot at me.
What I wasn’t ready for was my ex taking my teenage boys to a therapist without consulting me and then asking the MSW to put my boys on Zoloft without a psychiatrist seeing them, and when no depression had been diagnosed. The intake notes showed that in front of my boys she told the same lies her brother reported in his anonymous CPS call. My sons were too ashamed of her lies and too intimidated to speak up to the therapist.
Other than that CPS investigator, no one protected my children. Not the courts. Not that pill factory therapist office. And certainly, none of the lawyers, including the guardian attorney I had to get when discovery showed that she stole $3000 from two of our children to pay off some of her credit card debt, despite thousands in her bank accounts.
Today, I read the stories you all have lived, and I see how much worse you all have endured. It hurts me deeply. My kids seem older than most of yours, and my ex’s abuse has been restricted mostly to verbal slings and arrows, emotional abuse, and some financial burdens from refusing to follow through on our divorce decree (forcing me to now seek contempt orders).
The purpose of my writing my story is twofold. One, I need to tell my story. It feels to me that Dads aren’t abused as much as Moms are by narcissistic behavior, but I think it happens far more than we realize. Dads just don’t like to talk about it, I think. I want to give voice to all the good fathers who do the right thing after marrying the wrong person, and I would like to try to be of assistance to these men. I want to encourage them to speak up and take care of themselves and their children, especially when they feel completely alone.
But I also want to give hope and support to all parents, of both genders, that peace can be found. After nearly total financial destruction at the hands of my ex and her desire to destroy me, I am finally able to afford a two-bedroom apartment. My two eldest live with me fulltime. They are repairing their hearts, hopeful for their futures, and learning what peace and stability feels like.
My 14-year-old goes back and forth between homes and it appears to me he is still being abused emotionally. He has so much compassion in his heart for his mother’s suffering and cannot leave her completely alone. My ex takes advantage of that, and uses emotional manipulation to put him in between us constantly. He won’t agree to a modification so I can have him full time and I am not inclined to go there just yet. He is with me and his brother and sister regularly.
#ijustwantpeace was always my mantra. I never realized its deepest meaning until the last few months (3 ½ year divorce ended March 2017, signed by the judge June 2017). It is the motto of this new home and new life my children and I are creating. That is the second purpose of my story. To remind you that you will join me here one day as well. And know that I am one of you, here to help and support if I can. Peace.