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Author Topic: Experience with in-home separation / D w/kids  (Read 404 times)
EyesUp
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« on: March 29, 2021, 06:37:22 AM »

Starting a new thread to address a new chapter w/ STBXW.

Seeking insight re: IHS and the D process while cohabitating...

Topline:
Undiagnosed Covert NPD w/ BPDish traits.
Married ~14 years. 
Three kids, D6, D10, D12.
Diagnosed / under treated or ineffectively treated chronic depression and anxiety her entire adult life.

W had an affair last summer.  Little/no remorse.  Blame shifted to me.  We went through 2 MCs without any real attention on the affair. 

1st MC ended after 4 sessions, W threatened suicide in session and was sectioned and released without a full psych eval.   MC resigned and stated that couples therapy was contra-indicated.  Nonetheless, we attempted a new approach with a 2nd MC a few weeks later, and stuck with it for about 3 months.  W accused me of financial infidelity and raised multiple unresolved traumas associated with me or my family.  I listened and attempted acknowledge, validate.

In parallel, it was clear to me that my W was not reinvesting in the marriage, and that she was primarily concerned with a perceived rejection from AP (narcissist injury).

In Nov, W announced that she was finally over her AP.  Almost simultaneously I discovered that she created an Ashley Madison account and met a rando for a hookup.  This occurred at the same time W expressed anxiety about meeting others socially outside of our "pod" due to Covid.  I busted the Ashley Madison activity (and incurred rage), but buckled down to get through the holidays for the kids.

After the new year, I set my sights on D10 and D6 birthdays in Feb and Mar, while preparing to file for D.

We stopped seeing the 2nd MC in Jan.

In late Feb, I discovered that W was in active contact with her AP from last summer, and this was the last straw for me in terms of trust or lack thereof. I went grey rock, which she perceived as a rejection. 

Over the past week, she sent emails implying that she wanted sex (or wanted me to indicate that I wanted sex), and then I received a letter from her lawyer on Friday stating that she is pursuing D.  I raised this in a separate thread.

We made it through Fri and Sat without much trouble.  Normal routine.  I brought her flowers on my way home on Fri after I received the lawyer's email, and gently said "here's to the next chapter" after I put the kids to bed on Friday night.  Some crying, but nothing hostile or confrontational.

Sat night we took the kids out to dinner.

Sunday she took the kids to her father's house for dinner, I was asked to stay home - no problem.  After bedtime, she confronted me.

- highly confrontational
- concerned about rejection
   - "some part of me wanted you to respond differently"
   - "obviously you don't think this is worth anything"

- there were multiple threats, insults, accusations
   - you're a narcissist
   - you want to paint a scarlet letter on me
   - it won't mean anything in court
   - you won't be able to hide money any more
   - you never stood up for me with your mother or sister
   - you want to turn the kids against me
   - don't talk to my father, mother, or sisters ever again
        - clearly you think I am disgusting
        - how did you move on so quickly, are you seeing someone?

etc.

She came in and out of the living room multiple times, while I remained calm and seated on a couch.  At one point she stood directly in front of me and pointed at me, almost hitting me.  I asked her to step back.

The crescendo might have been when she told me that she wanted her poems returned by sister.  I haven't had direct contact with my sister since 2017, as she was alienated in part by W...  I can ask, but this might be impossible if the poems are lost or if my sister is unresponsive to me (or to my W's request).

I share this last point to illustrate that my W is focused on herself and her things, at a time when we should be thinking of the kids.

Looking forward, my atty will respond this week and I'll find out what's in my W's 1b complaint (at fault D, likely irretrievable breakdown of the marriage). 

In general, I have been somewhat at ease this weekend as I was dreading being the one to file.  I didn't want to hurt my W and trigger her sense of rejection, and I didn't one to be the one to give up, or to hurt the kids.  It was somewhat of a relief that my W filed first.

My concern is about how to get through what could be months of IHS.  If there is a quick agreement, it's possible to get this done in 3-4 months in my state.  But it seems much more likely that my W wants to play the victim, paint me black on a large stage, and will create high conflict re: alimony and custody.

I love our kids.  Of course.  I am devastated and completely gutted about what this will do to them.  They know all is not well, but we don't have open warfare.  Instead, they see W's subtle jabs, frequent irritation, and reactivity.  They often sympathize with her.  They are very quick to soothe her or apologize, and avoid her wrath.  However we have a relatively functional household compared to others here who are dealing with addiction or overt danger.  I know it's just beneath the surface and that could change any time.  I've got security cams going all the time.

I interviewed many attys, and was repeatedly told that the best I can hope for is 50/50.  My W will hate this, and no matter what we ultimately get, she will make it impossible.

I am finally seeing my relationship w/W clearly and I've recognized the various subtle and not-so-subtle forms of abuse I've endured as she alienated my sister and my extended family, drained our savings when she quit her job (now blames me for being financially controlling), her many accusations of infidelity (when ultimately it was her), her lack of empathy, explosive anger, intense sensitivity to criticism (real or perceived...), etc.  Her IC and PsyD don't seem to get it, and our second MC certainly did not.

Looking forward to getting to the other side of this - I finally have conviction.  But I know it's going to be hard.  I've done the reading and the exercises here.  Eggshells, Splitting, etc.   So helpful - this place has been a tremendous resource since I found it last year.

If anyone can comment on IHS or other aspects of the D process, it would be greatly appreciated.

TIA.
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livednlearned
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« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2021, 01:48:04 PM »

When you mentioned she filed in your other post, I kinda wondered if it was intended as a *wake up* call more than the real thing  Frustrated/Unfortunate (click to insert in post)

Did the two of you discuss telling the kids?

Given the way your daughters take care of their mom (reversing the natural order of parent/child), I would be concerned about parental alienation. She may already be shaping the narrative ...

I hope you'll be able to get the girls into therapy throughout this, especially with all of you living in the same home while things work their way through the courts.

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« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2021, 04:20:20 PM »

@livenlearned - about 11 years ago, she used to threaten to D any time she wasn't happy.  Occasional suicide threats, too.  Even then, I perceived this as a sort of manipulation tactic (if not actual emotional abuse).  I told her then:  Threaten me with D in a casual conversation, and we will D.  The threats stopped, at least for a time.

In any case, I'm not playing defense here.  I'll validate her all day long if it will lead to better outcomes for our kids.  But I am setting boundaries, which is something she isn't accustomed to.

We have not yet discussed how or when to tell the kids.  They will be devastated.  She will certainly find a way to make it my fault, sooner or later.

One of the things she said last night was that I "will not be able to destroy her relationship with the kids" (accusations are confessions) and I "will not be able to sustain my image as father of the year" (revealing her plans).  

I'm horrified.

Today, she told me about a vet appointment on Weds.  I asked how much?  No idea.  I did not respond.  Later, I sent a short email to say, "good news, I get paid Wednesday, we should be able to cover the vet.   Not sure we can improve communication at this point, but why not try?"

Her response: "you just blamed me for our money problems"

Followed by another three emails escalating the argument.  I should have seen this coming.
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« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2021, 07:06:50 PM »

I interviewed many attys, and was repeatedly told that the best I can hope for is 50/50.  My W will hate this, and no matter what we ultimately get, she will make it impossible.

Sounds like my past.  This is how it developed...

During my months long separation and divorce case, over two years in all, I was stuck with two temp orders defaulted to preference for mother, typical in my area.  She dragged it out as long as she could since it put her in control and virtually sidelined me as alternate weekend dad.

On Trial Day I was greeted with the news she was finally ready to settle.  The Custody Evaluator had recommended Shared Parenting (equal time on a 2-2-3 schedule).  I added only one extra term to settle, that I would become the Residential Parent for School Purposes.  I had  become a member here during our separation and I knew that she'd likely move around some and I didn't want to have to follow her as she moved around.  She desperately begged to avoid that change.  Both lawyers, yes mine too, insisted it didn't mean anything.  But I held firm and that's what was made part of our final decree.

We were in the last few months of kindergarten and her school agreed for him to complete the year there.  Then with about a month left, school notified me that she had created more scenes at school and I had one day to register him at my school.  Left unsaid was that if I wasn't the primary parent for school they'd have been stuck with her and suffered silently.

With conflict continuing, especially at exchanges, after about 2 years I filed Change of Circumstances seeking custody and majority time.  We settled on GAL's middle ground and only got custody.

A couple years more of conflict and I went back for majority time and this time GAL agreed.  The surprise was that despite my testimony and that of the GAL, it was the school's tepid testimony that got response, I got majority time but only during the school year.  Finally, at son's age 12, mother's entitlement balloon deflated a bit and we never went back to court.  My son aged out of the system a year ago.

Did I know back in 2005 that on the last workday of 2013 the court would grant me majority time on top of the custody I had gotten a couple years earlier?  No, I didn't know the future.  But over time I did make progress in increments.  That seemed how my court worked.  And probably yours too.

Here are some words of wisdom...
  • Court calls the initial order "temporary" for the duration of the divorce.  Problem is, our cases often take much longer, a year, two years or longer.  (My divorce took nearly two years while my ex had both "temporary" custody and "temporary" majority time.  My lawyer had initially estimated only 7-9 months.)
  • Courts generally default to joint custody in final decrees, being reluctant to start out by locking out one parent from decisions.  Though relatively few members here end up getting full custody (unless there are extreme circumstances) it is wise to lay the groundwork from the start, such as at the initial hearing for the temporary order.  Get the best (or "least bad") temp order possible.
  • Over time strive to make it evident that you're not the parent obstructing nor sabotaging but that you're seeking practical solutions.  Be aware it may take the court a long time to recognize that.
  • Don't expect the court to give you credit when you bend over backwards to show how super fair you are.  Similarly, don't expect the court to be bothered when your stbEx acts out or sabotages your parenting.  Courts don't expect newly separated parents to be on their best behavior during a divorce.  There's a truism I found here and repeated... "The one behaving poorly seldom gets much in the way of consequences and the one behaving well seldom gets much in the way of credit."
  • Repeat:  Being generous or overly-fair to your own disadvantage is not helpful, court may not even notice.  Just make sure you are not disrespectful, lose your cool or appear to be punishing your Ex.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2021, 07:17:48 PM by ForeverDad » Logged

livednlearned
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« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2021, 11:23:22 AM »

One of the things she said last night was that I "will not be able to destroy her relationship with the kids" (accusations are confessions) and I "will not be able to sustain my image as father of the year" (revealing her plans).

It's good that you see this so clearly, EyesUp.

How do you plan to let the kids know?

She is probably going to regress -- to be honest, I think it's hard for any of us to avoid regressing in a divorce. Except BPD regression tends to be a race to the bottom.

It's a high-wire act to hold fast to boundaries, protect yourself and the kids, and somehow not engage in the warfare. I wish I had done better. There were times I was flat out paranoid.

Have you found good resources to help you navigate the alienation? It's likely your daughters are going to become rescuers, and that can turn into triangulation against you.

One of the phrases my stepdaughter's therapist used with her to help offset the alienation was, "you have a right to have a loving relationship with your dad," something she repeated to her mom during active attempts to create a loyalty bind. "Pick him or me" kind of thing.

How long do you anticipate you'll be living together while separating? Has your attorney given you a sense of the timeline?
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EyesUp
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« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2021, 02:59:53 PM »

@ForeverDad, I've added your words of wisdom to a collection of quick references in my journal.  Thank you.

@livenlearned, we have not even started to discuss how or when to discuss with the kids.  Our attys will speak for the first time tomorrow.  As my my high conflict W filed first, I expect that she will have a high conflict atty whose opening position will be to ask for everything, and we will quickly find ourselves at an impasse and escalation.  If we get that far.  My W has the kids en route to my stbxMIL's Friday night, this could be to set the stage for a confrontation while the kids are out of the house at some point Friday night or Saturday morning.  I've got my VAR and home security cams on continuous (she knows about the cams "I told my atty about those cameras" - good luck with that, we've had them for years, and if she thinks I'm the one who is abusive, she should be glad to have them).

My feeling is that we will get through Easter, but she will lose it at some point.

We both know that the best thing for the kids would be to hold off on saying anything until there is a plan - who/what/when/where - where they are concerned.  I just don't know if she can agree to anything, or remain stable while we make the attempt to get there.

She is certainly making every effort to seek support from the kids.  Yesterday she complained that she didn't like her slice of pizza and our oldest dutifully said "you can have mine, momma" about 3x until my W actually said "ok".  Daughters as rescuers?  Triangulation?   That train is rolling.  I'll spend some time on this over the weekend, assuming I'm not facing a false DV just yet.

I have no idea how long the IHS might continue - we're just getting started.  If there is a quick agreement re: D and custody, it could be 90-120 days.  But if there is no agreement, it will be as long as possible (in every meaning of that word), as we cannot afford two homes in our town.

The first wake up call to my W will be when her atty discovers that we cannot afford D, that I am not hiding money, and that any litigation will expose his client's behavior in the public record.  However long it takes to get to that point is the answer.  Sane people might agree to an extended IHS while spouses collaborate to reduce debt and gain new employment (in this, my W).  Not sure she can do it, and of course I am not in favor of leaving the children alone with her. 

At this point I know that she's asked for primary physical and joint legal custody.  Of course I'll counter for 50/50, which is in her best interest while attempting to work FT. 

She's also asked for the house (which she cannot possibly afford), and made no mention of the marital estate (negative net worth).  She will be aghast when she realizes that she's opened a pandora's box that leaves her with no viable position for negotiation, except IHS. 

I stayed put for a long time, in part, because I could not bear to hurt the kids - or her - by making the first move.  Actually discussed it with her in general terms a few times - "we cannot afford two houses" and "we may need to consider bankruptcy" etc.

She takes no responsibility for her affair or for our finances, which tanked when she quit her job but made zero change to spending habits for two years.  Here we are.

I am gutted for the kids, but also seeing clearly that I need to get them out of this - at almost any cost...

I have decent emotional support from my family, and I'm starting to open up with select friends.  One of my oldest, closest friends reminded me that she attempted to warn me about my W some ~20 years ago.  Ouch.

High on the agenda is lining up counseling for the kids, which I am trying to do collaboratively with my W so that she will not undermine or reject a counselor.

In the meantime, I'm consuming as much literature as possible on D and subsequent co-parenting / parallel parenting with a covert NPD.
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« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2021, 03:47:23 PM »

I know there's a lot going on right now.

Couple of thoughts to add to your long list of thoughts:

Excerpt
At this point I know that she's asked for primary physical and joint legal custody.  Of course I'll counter for 50/50, which is in her best interest while attempting to work FT.

OK, so, it sounds like in your state, there's a separation between physical custody and legal custody. When you suggest countering with 50/50, I'm assuming you mean countering her physical custody offer with yours? Because it sounds like both of you are pitching equal legal custody?

Consider giving yourself some space to negotiate backward from. If she comes at it with "90/10 with Mom" and you try to be reasonable with "how about 50/50 for both of us", where can you negotiate from there, except to... more time with Mom? Right? You can't have her say 90% with her, and you say 50% both of us, and then go to 75% with you.

I can't see a downside to starting out suggesting WAY more than you "feel" is "fair". Feelings and fairness in the adult negotiations aren't the best for your kids. Go full papa bear and, because you're the reasonable one, you have space to walk back to the middle a bit if needed. Don't sell yourself short. I mean, what's she going to do if she doesn't like your offer... rage? alienate? anything she hasn't already done? Do you get what I'm getting at?

I have to wrap this up but just know that by starting out assertive/strong, it's better for your kids.
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« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2021, 04:13:03 PM »

Thanks, @kells76

Go full papa bear and, because you're the reasonable one, you have space to walk back to the middle a bit if needed. Don't sell yourself short. I mean, what's she going to do if she doesn't like your offer... rage? alienate? anything she hasn't already done? Do you get what I'm getting at?

Yup, that's pretty much how I approach negotiation in general.

That said, my atty has advocated nothing less than being reasonable. 

She has advised that the court generally wants 50/50 unless there is a clear history of physical violence, drug use, or child endangerment.  People who aim for more than 50/50 are often viewed as unreasonable in the current climate.  My wife's affair and cancelled Section 12 and 911 call will likely be viewed as circumstantial, inconclusive, and old news - no longer urgent.

Instead, my atty advises aiming for a reasonable position and holding on tight.

With no prior experience in D litigation, I'm absorbing as much as I can.  I will try to find out more about my W's atty and his approach - I assume from the complaint that my high conflict W selected the guy who agreed to take on her case with some confidence - even though she's starting from a difficult position re: Section 12/911 call/admitted affair/history of depression and anxiety/etc.
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« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2021, 04:43:19 PM »

W selected the guy who agreed to take on her case with some confidence - even though she's starting from a difficult position re: Section 12/911 call/admitted affair/history of depression and anxiety/etc.

She probably didn't offer this up.

I'm wondering if a deposition might be a good tactic for your case? It was helpful in mine. I think the opposing L realized in our deposition that his client wasn't credible, to put it mildly. Whereas I was organized, reasonable, had boat loads of evidence, and was entirely credible. For that reason, the lawyer realized going to court wasn't in his client's best interest and he, the lawyer, became motivated to settle.

It doesn't really matter to an L whether his client is good/bad, but it does seem to matter when it comes to unstable, not credible, etc.

You might find some leverage there, while also giving your wife an opportunity to get some narcissistic supply. My ex seemed to love being deposed even though it exposed his vulnerabilities, which he didn't appear to recognize.

For other reasons, we were not able to avoid court, but your wife may be less narcissistic than mine, who was also a former trial attorney. He loved the courtroom  Frustrated/Unfortunate (click to insert in post)
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« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2021, 04:48:02 PM »

OK, that helps me understand.

Might be worth your time to do a full "drill" or walkthrough with your L of how that will play out and how to use that to your advantage.

One possible advantage would be: your W pitches a fit for 90/10 (with her), you counter "50/50". She accuses you of X, Y, and Z, you counter with "50/50". She suggests you are a monster and says 95/15, you counter with "50/50". So, it could show that you are consistent and committed, and not reacting to her stuff.

One possible disadvantage would be: your W suggests 90/10, you counter "50/50". She nudges it to 80/20, you counter with "50/50". She says 60/40 is her last offer and what the judge will give you anyway, you counter with "50/50". It could hint that you are unwilling to negotiate (and, perhaps, the unreasonable one?).

That second scenario would be my worry, so run this stuff past your L to get a better "situation room" simulation of how sticking to your guns will "read" to the judge/court. I'd be asking "OK, so, in this county, I shouldn't come out swinging with 90/10 with Dad, they won't like that, but I want some negotiating room, so can I lead with 60/40 and look like a reasonable, solutions-focused coparent?"

Also ask your L if it is then to your W's disadvantage if she opens with "90/10 with Mom" if courts in your area frown on that (absent abuse etc).
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« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2021, 02:19:51 AM »

Another problem we face is that joint custody presumes the parents can negotiate the big issues such as medical, school, religious instruction, etc.  Yeah, she can't negotiate as a reasonable person would.  So work with your lawyer on how to address this.  Otherwise soon after the final decree some issue will arise, she will obstruct and you'll have to return to court (as I did) to get an answer months later.

Discuss with your lawyer various matters to address predictable issues that will arise sooner or later...

Could you seek to be the Parent Responsible for school matters, including which schools are chosen?  (Some states call it Residential Parent for School Purposes.  If I hadn't managed to get that authority I would have had to follow my ex as she moved around.  I've never moved for over 20 years and she's had at least 5 moves, once even to another county.)

Since joint legal custody is a probable outcome, could you obtain Decision Making or Tie Breaker status for the major issues?  It's the next best thing to full custody, the benefit is that it's you who ends up getting your way in a reasonable time frame and it's not you who has to wait powerless for months on a backlogged court system.

Edit:  It just occurred to me that you don't have even a temp order yet.  Make sure your lawyer understands that in our sort of cases the divorce process lingers for a year, sometimes two years.  That means that the typical "temporary" order persists much longer than usual.  So inequities mean you get stuck for far longer than normal.  You need to brainstorm with your lawyer on how to get the "least bad" so-called temporary order possible.

And another heads-up... My temp order hearing was about a half hour.  No time for listing all issues or extensive history.  Go in with a short list of the more important issues and practical proposals/solutions for the supposedly short term "temporary" order.  You may have time for more than the basics, but be prepared to everything in priority order.

And my court was quick to default to mother, despite her facing a Threat of DV case in another court.  So while I walked OUT of a divorce with a final decree of joint custody, the temp order as we started going INTO the divorce gifted her to have temporary (full) custody and temporary parenting while I got my county's typical alternate weekends and no voice with school, doctors and other agencies.  For two years.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2021, 02:36:32 AM by ForeverDad » Logged

EyesUp
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« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2021, 06:58:52 AM »

@ForeverDad, I gather that my W's complaint asks for primary physical and joint legal custody.  I have not yet been served.

Yesterday she arrived home from her parttime job and was immediately overwhelmed.  "I can't work and make dinner for the kids" - of course I had already offered to make dinner (she insisted she would do it), and there was zero urgency because Friday is a public holiday, no big deal if we eat :15 or :30 minutes later on Thursday.  "Maybe I'll ask to leave at 4pm going forward" - impossible because she closes the shop at 5.  etc.

My point is:  I have no idea how she expects to manage primary physical custody.  I presently do pickup for our youngest 3 days a week, on the days she works.  I WFH as standard practice.

Even when our youngest ages into elementary school with aftercare, schedule will not change much.  My W is facing a situation in which she may be ordered to work fulltime - the schedule is not going to get easier.  As the entire world shifted to WFH, she has consistently complained that she cannot find a job because she won't be able to "commute 2 hours into the city" (a, we live about 60 mins from downtown during rush hour, and b, there are literally a million jobs that don't require going into the city or even leaving the house).

My atty has proposed 50/50 across the board, physical and legal, which I gather is preferred by the court.  However since my W has already filed for primary custody, she may need to show how she intends to make that work - as there will be implications for alimony and child support.  

In regard to temp orders - you have my full attention.  I should learn more today - our attys will speak for the first time later this morning.  Thanks for this.

Another gem from last night:  "are you going to try to paint me as an unfit mother?"  I responded by saying that I appreciated the note last week that indicated she wanted this to amicable and fair, and that I hope that's how we'll proceed.  She seemed to calm down.

Then went out for a mani pedi, which suggests she either has a date - or maybe is just getting ready for Easter - or maybe she just wants to keep up appearances.  $100 for a mani pedi a week after filing...  she makes $15/hr, part time.  

She has no idea what she's done or is doing.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2021, 07:11:49 AM by EyesUp » Logged
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« Reply #12 on: April 02, 2021, 03:47:07 PM »

Good point from FD on the temporary order. That one blind-sided me, too.

No idea why they call it a temporary order when essentially the judge rubber stamps into a permanent order whatever existed previously as status quo. If you agree to x in mediation, that essentially pulls rank on anything the judge rules because courts prefer parents to come to an agreement on their own. It might be different where you live, and IHS could scramble things a bit, but it's a good reminder that temporary = permanent for a lot of us.

Also, ... not sure if this is a covert narcissism thing but after our temp order was put in place (60/40 or EOW + 1 night) it became more like 75/25 in practice. Parenting is hard and when it interfered with n/BPDx's other interests he dropped custodial time and didn't try to swap. Keep track of that stuff just in case you end up having to modify the court order at some point because that can show a new status quo.

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« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2021, 06:52:21 AM »

Thanks, both.

Our attys spoke for the first time yesterday, but I have no info. My atty sent a short note saying the meeting went well and was productive, and she will provide notes in a few days. 

In the meantime, my W went out last night and unplugged the security cam in the mudroom at some point after she came in.

I'll be sure to address temp orders when I speak with my atty this week.  As well as the camera.
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« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2021, 03:05:27 PM »

Well, today has been challenging.

W confronted me about the cams "if you cared about me, you would do what I want" and "why do you always have to win?" etc.

I asked why she would want less security for our home, our kids, or for ourselves at this point in time, which she dismissed "we have two dogs and live in a place with low crime"

The conversation went downhill.  "why are you here?  you can work from anywhere?  why don't you go stay with your mother?" etc.

I think this conversation ended without a crisis precisely because it occurred in a room with a camera...

I fear that my atty may not be on point, and that my W is going to create a crisis in the coming days.  Bad enough that this occurred the day before Easter.

I need to make a decision about whether or not to accompany my kids to my MIL's house tomorrow.   I'll make breakfast for the kids tomorrow (always do), and then there will be an egg hunt around the yard.   Later, we're supposed to go to my MIL's.   It was originally agreed that I would join, so as not to communicate a problem to the kids before we have an agreement / plan in place re: how/what/when/where to share with them...  but now it feels like a highly conflicted situation where my MIL is likely funding my W's atty, and other members of her family will also be present.   

On the other hand, I think I have a right to spend the day with my kids.

At least I have the morning, having difficulty seeing the best choice for the afternoon.

W's next window to attack me will be Weds when all the kids are out of the house for part of the day.

Even if she rips the cameras out, I have a VAR going pretty much all the time.

This IHS thing is not going to last. I only have short term emergency options, real estate is crazy right now - there is nothing available anywhere nearby - and finances are beyond tight anyway...  so much for "amicable" when my W continues to attack me verbally, and then blames me for it!
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« Reply #15 on: April 05, 2021, 06:02:06 AM »

Here's how it played out:

- 3/27 W asked me join for Easter Bullet: comment directed to __ (click to insert in post) MIL's, specifically to maintain status quo w/kids
- 4/3 PM after I'm asleep, W emailed to confirm the plan
- 4/4 AM I responded to email from W, then W reversed her position - counter to her 3/27 request.  W then shifts blame to her mother "I'm not sure my mother will allow you to join"

After the egg hunt Bullet: comment directed to __ (click to insert in post) home w/kids, I told them I wasn't feeling well and didn't want to get anyone else sick. 

It's hard to envision how we'll get through another week or two like this.  I don't expect or even want to do everything as we've done in the past.   I'm not angling for 100% status quo, although I would prefer to agree to a plan before we communicate with the kids.   

And that's my concern - that it is impossible to agree to anything, and expect my W to stick to the agreement - even when I agree to her requests.

It is starting to feel like the best defense is going to be a strong offense - getting out in front of her, before she make false claims, etc.
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« Reply #16 on: April 05, 2021, 02:18:03 PM »

The only thing that ended up working for me was to stick to boundaries at all costs.

Even when it inconvenienced me.

Especially when it inconvenienced me.

Even when my son was inconvenienced.

Especially when he was inconvenienced.

That meant sometimes saying no to fun things because it violated a boundary. With BPD, an inch = 10,000 miles.

You will be called rigid, power hungry, controlling, crazy, mean, abusive, unreasonable.

You have to be the emotional leader who stays firmly planted on the ground while your wife gets on her emotional roller coaster and insists everyone else get on too.

The best approach is to do this feet planting without reactivity. It's just the way it is.

It's predictably unpredictable so you know the roller coaster is going to be a constant.

Be really careful about being trustworthy as you go through this. Saying you are sick instead of, "I'm going to sit this one out" will matter to kids when they get sucked into the black/white, win/lose, right/wrong binary that gets magnified by BPD + adversarial divorce thinking.

BPD parents tend to overshare adult stuff which makes kids believe they are more adult than they are, and they can confuse harsh truth with trust. You don't want to help that narrative with white lies if you can help it.

I'll be curious whether your wife tells the kids before you get a unified front into place.

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« Reply #17 on: April 07, 2021, 11:23:41 AM »

A brief update.

Our attys spoke on Friday, my W connected with hers on Monday, she stayed out to take the call while I prepared dinner for our kids - glad to do it!

We had a great dinner, the two younger ones took a bath together, were singing in the tub when my W came in...  in a state of rage.

I won't speculate re: what expectations her atty attempted to set, however my W was horrified to learn that she will not get everything she asked for, which is everything (house, alimony, support).

She managed to barely hold it together (not without frightening the oldest, who could not understand why W was so angry - I assured her, discretely, quietly, it was not her fault) until after the kids were asleep.  Then I received a tirade:

You're evil
You lie about everything
I wish I never met you
You don't love me, never loved me
You want to claim I'm an unfit mother
You want me to kill myself
etc.

I sat still and listened, literally zero response, until that last comment, when I said "please stop" - it continued for 10 minutes.

I debriefed with my atty the following day, apparently my W did not have any idea that I might not gladly meet her request for primary custody, or that she might be expected to work by the court (if it goes that far).  She also was not entirely forthcoming with her atty re: certain specifics re: money, 911 calls, or the details of her affairs.  

So she filed with little meaningful counsel, and now blames me (of course) for her situation because my atty quickly called attention to issues she was hoping would simply not come up.

It's like she expected I would meet all her demands - that is her definition of "amicable" - and her atty never advised her that her demands were merely an opening position, and would likely not be attainable.

The kicker is that she stated she will not mediate because I am a narcissist and a bully and emotionally abusive.

I have not responded to her, other than to continue to take care of the kids, continue to make her coffee in the AM each day, and to document everything I can in email (BIFF all the way).

When I originally heard that she wanted the house, I assumed that one of her parents would step in to help - nope, she thought I would simply give her the house.  That's not possible, the house will need to be sold to resolve debt, so we will need to find two new houses.

I've been telling her for months that we cannot afford two new houses in our current town...  

No idea how any of this will play out, other than "not quickly or easily".

And I haven't been served yet.

I suspect that the insight re: how she will find a way to communicate with the kids independently, without me, is 100% accurate.

I'm reminded of the line in the movie "Speed":  Q: what's going to stop this elevator from falling? A:  The basement.
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« Reply #18 on: April 07, 2021, 12:25:48 PM »

I suspect that the insight re: how she will find a way to communicate with the kids independently, without me, is 100% accurate.

How do you feel about talking to them before they hear it from their mom?
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« Reply #19 on: April 07, 2021, 12:58:45 PM »

I highly recommend you get the kids in therapy ASAP.  Divorce is hard.  Having a parent with a personality  disorder is also hard.  A therapist can help with both.

Regardless of when they start therapy, it is likely that your wife will, at some point, paint the therapist black and be insistent that the therapist is actually trying to alienate the kids from her, etc.  This is good documentation to have so that you can request that you have sole authority over the kids' mental health providers.

I think if I were in your shoes, I would ask wife to meet and tell the kids about the pending divorce ASAP.  I know you wanted to wait until there was a plan, but the current plan is good enough - "mom and dad will still both live here while we make other plans." Position therapy as "to help them with this transition".

I might also encourage your lawyer to push things forward more quickly.  Go ahead and counterfile now, asking for primary custody for yourself (basically the opposite of what she filed for).

Do you have a good system set up to document how much time you spend caregiving versus your wife?
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« Reply #20 on: April 07, 2021, 01:30:10 PM »

I just read your other thread for the background.

Your W is obviously primed to start using your girls as pawns.   Counseling will help them.

It will also help you.  One of the hardest things for my H and I to learn was to focus on what SD needed and not what was needed to placate uBPDmom.  H was conditioned in their marriage to always defuse her moods.  I learned that from him 'because it's best for SD if her mom is stable'. SD had been trained the same way - bend over backwards to make sure that mom is okay.  From what you've said, your daughters are already there.

In hindsight I can see just how damaging that was for SD.

A few years ago we decided to switch focus solely to SD's needs.  This led to two years of dysregulation from mom, resulting in two inpatient psychiatric stays.  There was also a lot of documented emotional abuse thrown at H, at me, and especially at SD, as well as lots of documentation of mom interfering with SD's therapist.  This documentation was invaluable for H to go from 50-50 to primary 60/40 to primary 85/15 (and now things are stable!).

It is extremely likely that your wife is going to dysregulate badly at some point.  As LnL told you, natural consequences are okay.  That means you remove the girls from her presence while she's ranting.  It means you document the bad behavior and instability, and you use this as leverage to get as much custody as you can.  Your goal should always be what's best for the kids long-term.  Short-term placating of mom is usually not that.
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« Reply #21 on: April 07, 2021, 01:51:59 PM »

Be very alert in the upcoming days and weeks.  It has been noted that if there are allegations or other more extreme conflict, it's most likely to happen in the initial part of the separation or divorce process.  In other words, she may contrive to frame you as behaving worse than her.  Be aware.  Beware.

Despite her mental health history, the court may choose to overlook much of it.  Fortunately, a lot of it is documented.  What you can't afford is to "Gift Away" any of the advantages you have now as the reasonably normal parent.  You likely are inclined to be overly fair as many of us here naturally are.  But being a reasonably normal person in a tough divorce case as most of ours are, you can't risk being overly fair or overly generous.  At least, not until you know what you walk out with at the end of the divorce.  The old saying, gift an inch, a mile gets snatched.

Therefore, don't let her ever wear your patience thin and goad you into any sort of outburst or comments how  Cursing - won't cause site restrictions at Starbucks (click to insert in post) she is or whatever.  This is crucial, even if no one notices, you have to always behave as angelic as possible, as though the court were monitoring you 24/7 and looking over your shoulder.  I'm not saying it will happen this way but... court may grant her many missteps and yet call you out one the one single misstep you make.  Not fair but that's reality.

The sooner you can get counseling for your children, the better, even if they're young.  Later she may decide to oppose it and then you'd have to get the court, which likes counseling but is often reluctant to make big changes, to order it.  (My then-stbEx started my son in counseling before he was 4 years old.  I didn't find out about it for months because in the quickie temp order she had "custody" and so informing me was not required.  We lived in temp orders for two years before the divorce was final.  I quickly found out that she was using counseling to badmouth me as an abuser.  Believe me, I was shocked to find out I was initially painted as "a risk to my child or others".)

You really don't want your stbEx to pick and choose a counselor she likes.  Too big a risk of her picking a compliant, gullible or inexperienced counselor.  Look at it the way courts do...  courts like counseling.  But they also typically want both parents to participate in the selections.  How to strategize?  You pick out beforehand a short list of qualified and experienced counselors who can deal with a controlling or entitled parent.  Then let her pick from your vetted short list.  That way court is satisfied both parents are involved and you are more confident counseling will be helpful for the kids.
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« Reply #22 on: April 07, 2021, 02:10:09 PM »

@livenlearned:  I don't feel good about it.  Doing so would definitively position me as the one who is controlling and willing to work solely in my self interest.  If she does it, and I expect she may, then it's on her.  My calculus is: If I try to do the right thing there is a chance it will happen, if I don't aim for the right thing, there is zero chance it will happen. 

@worriedstepmom:  Working on counseling, actively, with input from some known sources, and in parallel with my W.  I'm speaking with my atty re: counterfiling, among other things,  tomorrow.  Documentation:  I've been keeping four sets of records...
1) journal - timestamped - evernote:  concise narrative of key events.  I've been keeping a daily record since last year, but the journal itself goes back to 2015, and includes references to some events in 2011
2) log - excel sheet:  monthly record of all activities with the kids - this goes back to last June
3) some video from our IP cameras (now removed as of yesterday)
4) some audio.  I live in a 2-way consent state, but I'm recording

I think you are 100% correct re: dysregulation.  Could be any time.

@ForeverDad.  I hear you, and this is what I fear.  With my W, accusations are confessions and she has already accused me of doing or preparing to do the worst - so I know it's on her agenda.  W's atty told my atty that he strongly advised my W against making any false DV or other claims.  I doubt that she will take good advice.  One thing I've done is to stay close to the embedded SW in our local PD - I know the calls are logged.  I will continue to keep her apprised of the situation and ask for her advice.

Thanks, all.

It really is super helpful to have a sounding board here.  I keep reminding myself to breathe.  Coming here helps.   
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« Reply #23 on: April 07, 2021, 04:44:25 PM »

Wait, did her lawyer actually say he advised her against making "false" claims?  That would seem to waive attorney-client privilege for this matter (no privilege if there is conspiracy to break the law) and make him a potential witness for you if she does make one of these claims.

Be careful, and good luck.  It sounds like you are on top of things.
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« Reply #24 on: April 08, 2021, 05:44:29 AM »

@worriedstepmom, I'll look into this further.  At the moment, I would guess that it's hearsay / deniable.  The comment was between our attys, relayed to me by my atty.  Not sure if what was relayed was true, or precisely conveyed, etc. I would not be surprised if my W fires her atty or vice versa at some point. We're just getting started, and they are all over the place.

If anyone has suggestions re: best ways / additional ways to document, input is welcome...
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« Reply #25 on: April 08, 2021, 11:16:39 AM »

My calculus is: If I try to do the right thing there is a chance it will happen, if I don't aim for the right thing, there is zero chance it will happen


Understood. It's honorable that you have a code.

The goal posts can move drastically when parental alienation kicks in.

The skills for learning how to counter it are not intuitive and must be learned, and sometimes the choices to offset alienation can feel like code violations.

Whether you tell the kids or not isn't what this is about ... it's more about gearing up for the shadow battle of alienation. A lot of us focus on the legal battle not realizing that there's another one and it's just as high stakes.
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« Reply #26 on: April 08, 2021, 05:49:54 PM »

@livenlearned...  I hear you.  This is a chess board, and the opponent is playing with advanced chaos theory, no question.

Can you elaborate re: preemptive anti alienation tactics? 

Is there a version of this that doesn't essentially equate to reverse alienation?

According to my atty, my W is already seeding her atty with ideas re: my limitations as a parent, e.g., comments re: "poor parenting skills" - my atty countered with the fact that I provide meals, baths, storytime, etc., on a daily basis. 

From what I can see at this point, this vector leads to a GAL or some other evaluation, along with whatever shadow tactics might occur in the background.
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« Reply #27 on: April 08, 2021, 08:36:27 PM »

Many of our divorce cases include an in-depth Custody Evaluation which goes far beyond the cursory Psych Evaluation.  They're expensive and you need to be sure you get a reputable and experienced evaluator respected by the court.  Hiring "just anyone" is a recipe for potential disaster since a CE can (virtually) make or break a case.
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« Reply #28 on: April 09, 2021, 06:27:48 PM »

opponent is playing with advanced chaos theory, no question


Yes, and.

So much chaos that is unnecessary, but as FD often writes, there is this predictably unpredictable and consistently inconsistent aspect that you can kind of jujitsu, using your opponent's energy. I cringe at the opponent terminology...it's hard to avoid, but maybe thinking of it like a martial art, which Childress does, hits closer to the truth.

Can you elaborate re: preemptive anti alienation tactics?


It's helpful to understand how our own qualities can make things harder for our kids, often in ways we don't fully grasp at the outset of a high conflict divorce. The chapter on BPD spouses (specifically, "Fairy Tale Fathers") in Lawson's book "Understanding the BPD Mother" describes different types or traits that can make us feel inscrutable in one way, while at the same time leaving our kids exposed to harm from the BPD parent.

Is there a version of this that doesn't essentially equate to reverse alienation?

Reverse alienation isn't really a thing when you're a normal-range parent who puts the kids first.

Most parents here are afraid of putting their kids in the middle or bad-mouthing the other parent. With alienation, though, the kids are already in the middle. And to be blunt about it, the middle position is child abuse. If the normal-range parent doesn't figure out strategies that address the middle position, we end up not protecting our kids.

It's kind of like saying "I don't want my kids to get wet" when mom already has them in the deep end.

Whether we like it or not, the kids are in the water.

Without specific skills to address the alienation maneuvers, it may seem like your only recourse is to bad-mouth the other parent. Fortunately, there are all kinds of tactics that will help you not just offset the alienation but also give your kids skills to become emotionally resilient.

Divorce Poison by Warshak is probably the most tactical book, although it can kind of light up your amygdala so just know that going in. Not all BPD parents will be as extreme as some of the stuff he describes. It's more about figuring out which forms of alienation are happening and looking at his suggested responses so you have skills at your disposal when you start to see patterns. Bill Eddy's Don't Alienate the Kids is an excellent companion and for me, it even helped me get through the divorce process. I was so jacked on anxiety and started to slide into the kind of fear-based thinking that plagues pwBPD. Not good for kids to have two parents on tilt. Eddy focuses on moderate behavior, managed emotions, and flexible thinking, and modeling that for the kids.

From what I can see at this point, this vector leads to a GAL or some other evaluation, along with whatever shadow tactics might occur in the background.

The most trying shadow tactic may be obstruction and stonewalling. If that happens, the best thing is to start looking for solutions that close loopholes and have natural, reasonable consequences for non-compliance. Looking for leverage can also help move things forward, too. 
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« Reply #29 on: April 10, 2021, 08:36:27 PM »

My W wants to tell our oldest.  She put this in an email.

At this point, we have no plan, no agreement, no timeline.

I responded that I feel the best thing to do is to line up resources for the kids, make sure they are acquainted and comfortable, and have some information we can share about what happens next, and then to tell them together.   

My W wrote back and said "I've spoken with experts / I don't agree"

Which leaves me to consider how to either apply leverage to this issue, or risk that she will take unilateral action.

I know one of the child psych experts she's consulted, I can reach out directly.  I'll need to figure out how to broach concerns without making accusations or coming off as paranoid.

I have no doubt that my W is motivated to tell the kids in order to parentify the oldest, and to try to win sympathy / alienate.

She literally put in writing:  "it is very difficult for me to think about things until I know I won’t be homeless and/or have you take my kids away from me" - keep in mind, she filed for D. 

Her complaint calls for majority physical custody/joint legal custody (my state likes 50/50 for both), and the conveyance of the home.  However I have no idea what her plans might be - where to live when/if the home is sold, or how she will afford anything as she has not really worked in almost 3 years - no matter what settlement/agreement might be achieved.  We cannot afford two homes in our current town unless she plans to work.

In parallel, I'm looking for resources for the kids.  No one is available - these days, lining up resources is like trying to book a table at the cool new restaurant...

Going to re-read some Warshak now, thanks.
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