Jan 8, 2010

Minimizing the Collateral Damage

So far on this journey, I've admitted that I'm not independent and checked my thoughts on being in a relationship at the door since I'm not ready for one.  My next big step, and the most important, is to minimize the madness in my household while I still have to reside in the same one as the father of my daughter.

She's a star and yes, I'm her mom so would, of course, say that but anyone that meets her and/or gets to know her usually says the same thing.  She's bright, charming, witty, caring and a simple sweetheart.  None of that would be possible without the influence her dad had on her and the care he provided to her during her first years of life. I did not do this by myself and want that to be clear. He was a stay-at-home dad and was really good at it.  We both were dedicated to being sure she had a loving and stable home and were really good at providing that for about a year and a half.  But slowly his days of depression and seclusion turned into weeks and then months and before I realized it, almost a year had passed, he wasn't looking for employment and our daughter seemed to be desperately pleading to me for more social interaction and stimulus to her overall development than she was receiving. She'll be four in February and for the past year, I've gone from trying to talk to him, to trying to change him, to being angry at him, to hating him, to feeling pity for him, to being indifferent towards his existence.  And I'm sure he'd say similar things about his feelings toward me. Right now, I simply long to be away from him and look forward to having my own space.

Now this is not a bash the baby daddy entry; none whatsoever.  What I'm trying to do here is explain what happened from my perspective that allowed our relationship to deteriorate and develop into the current unhealthy situation. I also want to address the fact that neither one of us handled the problems that existed in our relationship prior to her birth or is handling our separation appropriately or with the best outcome for our daughter in mind most of the time. There has been yelling, screaming, intimidation, manipulation, belittling and undermining of the other and even the police being called by each of us. And with each escalating incident, her confidence has waned. She's gone from being outgoing and independent all the time to being shy and timid to the point of being rude at times and clingy and bratty at the oddest times. It's been a surprise to both of us to manage and we've failed, in another way yet again, in reacting appropriately to this unusual behavior exhibited by her.

So what do we do?  The easy answer would've been for one of us to move out and I was of the thinking that since our daughter would be starting preschool a few blocks from our home that Fall, he should move out. Also, by this point, it was about three months into him spending most of his evenings or nights out of the house so I felt 100% justified in having a 'I'M not moving, YOU'RE moving' attitude. Now, because I was the sole financial provider, that was an unrealistic idea and part of me knew it but I was driven by anger at the time so ignored this reasoning. Things within the household went downhill from there.

He stopped spending the night out. At the time, I thought he was doing it to annoy me, after all he should know how much I hated him and despised being around him! But in looking back, I realize he may've been trying to atone for his bad behavior in the hopes that I would calm down and forgive him as I'd done so often in the past. He didn't realize that I'd had it. That all the talks we'd had over the past year were all to avoid this very situation. He didn't realize that now that I was a mom, my past reluctance to leave had changed and now a separation was the only way I could see our daughter thriving at the level I envisioned for her and knew she was capable of. When he both refused to move out or to find a job so he could move out, I decided to minimize my interaction with him. By now, being in our cozy apartment was past awkward and when I was there - before & after work and the weekends - all we did was bicker. I began to spend evenings hanging out until extremely late, some turning into entire nights spent out.

I justified my bad behavior by saying that I was trying to avoid arguing in front of our daughter. All I was avoiding was the hard work I would have to do to move out on my own. My daughter missed me and for a while our relationship suffered. It's really a shame when a 3 year old adapts her behavior as a defense to being hurt and once I realized this, I adjusted my behavior...for a while. I regressed back into it with the justification that I was stressed about the accumulation of bills and ended up spending most of the last half of '09 out of the house.

The irony of all of this is that as much as my daughter suffered the past six months with having to adjust to her new reality, I needed that time. For years I'd neglected myself, my wants, my desires, having my own life. During this time, I was able to reconnect with old friends, make new ones and embark on my journey of reinvigoration. Without that time, I'm not sure where I'd be but I also feel, just as strongly, that I could've and should've went about it differently. I could've had it all: time for her and time for me.

Again, so what do we do to minimize her being the collateral damage of our domestic war? Well I've come out of this period facing the reality of the impact both of our absences in the house have had on her. I regret losing that time each day that I look at her and am sure he feels the same. As much as we will blame the other out loud for her current fits of anxiety and regression, I know that we both know we are both equally to blame for the current roller coaster ride of emotions we sometimes experience with her.

Now the first step in getting over an addiction - in this instance, my addiction to being angry, defensive and spiteful toward him - is admitting you have a problem. With this blog entry, I announce it to you and to the world and begin a journey toward peace with him concurrent with the one I'm currently on toward self-discovery. And like all addicts, I'll have good and bad days and possibly fall off the wagon. I'm currently looking for a sponser: one who's walked in similar shoes and come out of it okay; email me if interested (seriously!).

Not a religious, but a very spiritual person, I've reconnected with the Higher Power to help me through this. I'm surrounding myself with positive people and listening to and recognizing (finally) all the signs being presented to me. The biggest chain to be broken in my road to recovery is my fear. Fear of change, fear of being alone, fear of the future...all things that are uncontrollable but necessary parts of life. Which leads me to my other lesson: I must only worry about things that I can control. So I can't worry about him and what he's doing, saying or being. I can control my reaction to these things. I can't stop him from doing things that annoy me or are just wrong but I can control how I resolve these issues when they occur so that there is little or no impact to my daughter.

I won't lie and say I'm looking forward to this challenge because that would not be the truth. I'm dreading this because I know I will be biting my tongue and in some instances turning the other cheek or 'taking the L'. This infuriates me mostly because of my self righteous tendencies. But as she lays asleep right next to me snoring in her cute way, I'm happy that I got home in enough time to put her to bed tonight. I smile at this accomplishment because I wrote before I saw her and am writing now in an empty house. And the house is empty because I let her father know that I'd made last minute plans to see a girlfriend to brainstorm on my new business and the events I'll be organizing for it. After an initial bad reaction, he realized that I was giving him the opportunity for us to work together to resolve an issue sinnce he had plans to go out when I got home. He decided to go out for a couple of hours and then comme back so I could head out. So I have peace and quiet and time to write, I was able to see my angel's face, talk to her about her day and put her to sleep and I'll be going out to see a good friend and get started on my business, my soon to be other baby. Just like that, I have it all - time for her and time for me - and it took all but 10 seconds for me to not react, to not go back at him and let him realize that I'm not trying to stop him from doing what he wanted or needed to do but was simply trying to start living a life separate from his that is also beneficial to our daughter.

I think I can afford a few more 10 second moments. What do you think? ;-)

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


  1. Dyan...your blog was honest and alllow us a snapshot into your life. It represents the reality of relationships and the shift within the household. As corny as this may sound....Spider Man's Uncle Ben said "With great power come great responsiblity". Being a mother, head of household, women trying to determine your space in the world, all things to all people it's A LOT!!!! Embrace that spiritual voice.....and keep writing!!!!!!!!!

  2. Great blog entry. Sometimes we have to be careful of how we conduct ourselves in front of our children. In our attempt to be grown ups we forget that our childrens eyes are watching and learning how to live their own lives based on how we live ours.

    I've been in that same situation and know how hard it is to 1. leave and 2. be cordial to each other while still in the situation. That is truly one of those complicated relationship status messages.

    I wish you and him all the best. you still have a child to raise together which ususally for the Dad's who leave become that much more difficult. It does make a difference when there is only a one parent household for the child. Balance is everything in life and without it things suffer.

    I do believe that if someone should leave it should be the Man, simply because you hate to uproot a child who is going through a seperation. make sure you communicate with her that it's not her fault. my 18 year old daughter still thinks there's hope in her family getting back together and I know she thinks it's her fault for the breakup. be stong and courageous and remember to alwways put love first.

  3. He gotta go. Does anyone realize that if you left, he'll be unable to maintain that apartment by himself? Since you are the primary breadwinner and the one whose credit score is being affected by his actions, why should you struggle to save 1st, last month rent, agent fees and all the stress involved in finding another apartment?

    As far as his influence on your little star, I admit, I was impressed when she was at my house and began naming cars while at the time, my daughter couldn't name colors. I thought he was doing a better job with home-schooling than I. But some things were suspect. You mentioned that he kept her hair short because he liked it that way. Now one winter when I was a child, my grandma got me an unisex coat and when I was bundled up I was constantly mistaken for a boy-that made me so mad. Why would he want that to happen to his beautiful daughter, why won't he let her shine? I'd like to assume its because of the unpredictable hospital stays she has to endure, no one has time to do hair when you're worried about health, but I honestly think its for the same reason he won't let YOU shine.

    I once said of someone who gained a lot of weight after raising kids with an undesirable mate that she gained so much weight, she rendered herself invisible. That maybe the underlying conflict between you two-if you & your daughter are invisible, then no one can take you away from him. As a depressed person with socio-pathic tendancies, of course he wants you down on his level, thats what they do. I wonder how many times he told you you were nothing. If you were really all that, you'd have more shit than you do. You can't help people like that, you can only heal yourself from the damage they have wrought.

    In Nov. 2008 I attended a gathering shortly after you ran into T.K. When they told me about the Dyan sighting (it was like you were a rare bird, each glimpse was a gift!) they mentioned you were still with him. I said What? That's crazy! Actually it was heartbreaking, because during the years you were away I imagined you having a wonderful successful life. Since you've been back I've heard bits and pieces of your ordeal and the only difference is that mine had a job and I only tried for six months before I changed the locks on his ass. The reason my ordeal lasted 3 years instead of 15 is because I always kept the girls in my periphery. I ain't speak to those girls in years & they popped up at my baby shower. And even when I disappeared through shame, they came thru for me when I lost everything.

    Dyan, always keep us close. Even though the majority of us are single, I finally understand that being single and having the support of your girls means a lot more than some bullshit, half-ass motherfucker!

    Set a goal, set a date. Son gotta go!

    See ya at the V-day thing!

  4. Dylan is truly a special little girl, she is so funny and sweet :-)
    as for you know who I wont even get started. As long as you stay focused on your plan and execute your plan (yeah I know sounds very small business-self help'ish') BUT you and I both know that it's true
    think it and you can have it....I can't wait to come over to the new apartment- Garden did we say?