A friend of mines once told me to stop being so nice to my ex-wife.
There was once a time when I would have given a lot to please my ex-wife. I’m sure many of you, readers, have felt something similar. There are just moments in our lives when our anger, our frustrations cool off just enough for hopefulness and regret to start taking over. Even with us about to enter year three of her consistent alienation of my kids from me, there might have been a time when I would have been very nice to her.
The sad truth is that when it comes to fighting for your children, being nice doesn’t always work. And often times, it gets taken advantage of.
As you may recall, I took my ex to court after two long years of alienation and false protective orders. The first hearing ended with neither my ex nor her attorney appearing, and the judge assigned to the case recusing. We received a new date two months later, and once more, I traveled by bus all the way down to Missouri to start pleading my case.
What I’d been asking for was not difficult. I wasn’t asking for custody, wasn’t going in there demanding that I be included in every single thing regarding my children. I only wanted what any divorced parent should want – time with my children. I was willing to follow the guidelines of our divorce decree and not push any further. In my mind, with two years effectively shattering any bond that I had built with my children, I realized that it would take time to rebuild my bond with them.
They’d been young enough that we could still repair the damage that was already caused.
Not I. Not her. We. And therein lies the problem, the dilemma that had troubled me leading up to the second hearing – the moment I laid eyes on her, I forgot that I was angry with her. I forgot just how much I despised her – I wanted to create some kind of friendship or at least share a neutral relationship in which the kids’ relationship with BOTH of us was the priority. This had been the first time I’d seen my ex-wife in nearly two years. The vast majority of our fights came in the form of emails and Facebook messages. Like many alienated parents, the relationship between myself and the mother of my children had been filled with nothing but extreme animosity. And unfortunately, we could not stop communicating because we had children.
In the courtroom, the judge called our names to ensure we’d been present. The stage had been set for a clash that was more than two years in the making.
The only thing that had come out of court that morning was that there would be no hearing that day. The battle that the two of us had been moving towards would have to wait yet again. Twice, I had come here, and both times, I walked away from the courtroom upset and sadly defeated. It had felt as if I would never be able to get near my children.
I seriously considered dropping my court case after that. It was like, what was the point of fighting anymore. It didn’t seem to be a priority for a judge to hear out a father begging for his kids. I thought about trying to be nice to my ex, to try and facilitate a decent relationship for the sake of the kids.
I’d been burned by her quite a few times in my attempts to be nice. I had even made a couple of attempts this year. She went through her own rough patches, and I still lended an ear and gave her advice when I could, or a helpful compliment when I felt that she was feeling down. But then she would turn on me in a heartbeat, snapping at me over a money dispute that was starting to resolve itself.
It might’ve been my softer nature, but I just wanted to stop fighting.
On the long, 13-hour bus ride home, I started looking at my giant binder of evidence. I immersed myself in the Facebook messages and emails we exchanged over the last two years. I had reminded myself of the kind of person that I was dealing with, of how words of kindness to her would not get me any closer to my kids. She once told me, while in the process of brainwashing my kids to forget I was ever their father, that she was going to send me paternity papers so I could sign over my rights. She told me that this would be the best thing for the kids because they called her fiancée ‘Daddy’. I was even told that I abandoned my kids, so it wouldn’t be hard to get an adoption without my permission.
I suppose being kicked out of my own house equates abandonment, especially when the first of the false protective orders was slapped on me almost immediately after that.
By the time I returned home, my friend’s words had sunk in.
‘Stop being so nice to her’.
I was being entirely too nice to my ex, and that was costing me my relationship with my kids. So I prepared myself. It wasn’t an easy transition, given my love-hate feelings towards her. But it was something that I would have to get over in order to get my kids back in my life.
I would end up thinking about my whole battle plan in the weeks leading up to our third and final hearing date. And this time, there was an actual hearing. It was just me against my ex and her attorney. For my kids, I would fight until the day I died. I just wish that the hearing turned out better than it had.
Author: Deval Lee