What a night. So so hard.
After the initial announcement that they had dinner with her, and my attempt at acting unaffected by the news, I continued to help with homework and then eventually excused myself to go upstairs for a few minutes. That turned in to 45. But the Little One was napping and the bigger two were fine downstairs. I had to go bawl my eyes out in the privacy of my room. And text with their father (and everyone else to get my anger out).
Here's my text exchange with him:
You didn't wait the 12 months that you agreed before having the boys spend time around J----. And more significantly you didn't have the courtesy to tell me in advance that they would be spending time with her and so I was utterly emotionally unprepared today for hearing Noah say that he went to dinner with her Sunday. That was not ok. I am angry that you didn't have enough respect for me and the boys to honor the agreement. And no, I was not prying. It came up utterly innocently. I never ask prying questions. I am very angry and hurt all over again.
I'm sorry. I had spoken extensively with Zak (the therapist) about how all of this should be handled. He does not feel that waiting 12 months was necessary, and however this happened it was going to be painful.
Talking to Zak is utterly irrelevant. If you had a different opinion you should have expressed that to me and you should have communicated your plans to me as co-parent. I can't possibly believe that Zak would say that having this information sprung on me as a surprise would be the best approach for the boys. You should have told me first. What have you said to the boys?
And no, all approaches to this are not equally painful. Clear communication in advance would not have been as problematic as this.
I understand that this is painful. I also know that if I had communicated that "someday soon I might invite J---- along when I go out to dinner with the boys." That would also be painful.
I didn't introduce her as someone I was dating, and had no intention to.
That's bullshit and cowardly. I could have dealt with that on my own, processing that with a therapist rather than unexpectedly, standing with Noah at the kitchen counter.
And don't give me bullshit messages like "I understand this is painful." You don't deserve to suggest that you have any idea how I'm feeling. You have no fucking clue how I'm feeling. I don't want your empathy. I only want you to understand that you have not been a cooperative co-parent by not communicating with me.
You need to let me know when you are going to introduce her in that capacity.
This is about me as the co-parent, not me as your ex-partner.
So, then you should know that we went out Saturday for dinner, not Sunday. Sunday morning after Talmud Torah Noah asked me if I "was replacing Mom with your friend."
Relevant information to share. And what did you say?
My answer was "No one will replace your Mom."
"But I realize that's probably not really what you are asking."
So were you going to tell me this at all or just let me stumble upon this information?
I met with Zak this morning and was planning to write an email to you tonight.
This co-parenting thing isn't easy (his name). No one said it would be. Just like marriage, it's hard work and takes honest communication. But you've got to figure that out at some point for your boys' sake. You need to be honest and clear. Not for my sake, but for theirs. Do you understand why I'm angry about this?
I do understand. It's not easy. I want us to be better co-parents for the boys sake.
Then work on it. I'm putting my phone down now and going to tend to the boys.
I managed to go downstairs and try to cook dinner for the boys, but I could hardly stand up while doing so, though I was trying to act as normally as possible. My facade was only good enough for the younger two though it seems. After putting dinner on the boys' plates, I went and sat down in the living room by myself, excusing myself from dinner, in totally unprecedented behavior. Earlier in the afternoon, my NO had been asked to unload the dishwasher as his afternoon chore, but of course, true to his recent pattern, didn't do it. As I sat in the living room, I realized that after eating dinner, he started unloading the dishes as he had been asked. He unloaded everything and put it away, including the dishes dried on the counter. Then he reloaded everything, including the cooking dishes from the breakfast burritos I had made them, cleaned the counters, put away leftovers in plastic containers, took out the compost, the whole freaking deal. The kitchen is perfect at the level an adult would do it, far far above and beyond what I asked or even would have asked. I've never seen anything like it. It completely blew me away. Thanks kid. Of course he still refuses to clean his room even with my offer to help and even with the loss of his Legos until he does, but I was so touched by the kitchen. At first he didn't really want to accept my gratitude. He was nearly crying. Glassy eyes. Didn't even want to accept a hug from me. Such complicated emotions. He couldn't or wouldn't articulate why he decided to do it or why he was uncomfortable accepting my thanks. I think I get it though. I may even get it more than he does. I think he understands at some level what has happened and how broken my heart is and he wanted to do something to make it better, but articulating that would have had required him to acknowledge what he knew or at least think about what he's wondering about, and that was more than he could do.
Having exchanged the texts with the STBEX about the situation that I knew NO knew that his dad's friend is "more than just a friend." I told him that he could talk to me about anything. That he didn't have to worry about saying something that I didn't already know. That I knew everything he knew. Of course, God only knows if that's true! Only now as I'm writing this, I question myself and wonder if indeed I do know everything he knows. Why should I assume that? I think that, but STBEX has proven repeatedly that he doesn't have the emotional maturity to address hard topics in the appropriate way, so I guess there's no reason to assume that.
I can't believe that the counselor that we went to see together (whom he's seeing now individually), would have told him that it wasn't necessary to wait 12 months. And I can imagine even less that he didn't strongly advise him to communicate that with me in advance. I looked up the topic in three different divorce parenting books that I've read for a little review tonight. They all recommend waiting at least 12 months after the divorce before introducing someone new to the kids. For a whole bunch of reasons. Ok so, it's 8 months after separation (divorce far from final), and what difference do 4 more months make? Nevertheless, he should have communicated with me! All the books talk about that as a key part of co-parenting. Tell the other parent before introducing someone new to your children!!!!!! Ok, so even giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he really had no intention of doing so and was blindsided by Noah's question, he still could have communicated that with me Sunday evening or anytime Monday before I saw the boys. What the hell was he thinking? He doesn't. He is so emotionally immature he can't deal with the hard conversations. He doesn't get it. He broke my heart already, this is not about me. This is about working together to parent these boys. I'm so fucking mad.
And hurt and jealous and bitter and scared. Why am I left here, trying to preserve my son's innocence? Trying to shield him from his father's mistakes. I don't want my son's to turn out this way. It's not ok what their father did. I don't want them to grow up thinking this is acceptable. To have affairs and leave their wives. Divorce is shitty, but divorce that starts with infidelity is the shittiest possible scenario. Fucking cowardice. Emotional immaturity and a utter lack of integrity. How can I provide a model for my sons that shows them that is not acceptable when they know that's what their father has done and they love their father so it must be ok? I don't care who they become in their careers and their lives as long as they can be righteous men, with integrity, and ethics, and emotional honesty. That's the most important piece. So, how do I move forward? I can't badmouth their father for all the reasons that I understand already would be very damaging to them. But if I stay silent about it (which I will), how do they learn that it's unacceptable? And of course, it is so painful to not know which pieces NO has put together in his own head and which leaps he hasn't made yet. I want to be there for him and I don't even know how. And it's just a matter of time before the MC finds out, and who knows how that's going to go down.
One of my friends who was texting me words of support this evening said regarding dealing with my boys' awareness, "I know it will be hard, but you can do this."
To which I replied, "Yeah, that's the ongoing theme here. I get pretty tired of it, but what's the alternative? :( Thanks for your support Sarah."
And she said, "Of course. You really are one of the strongest women I know. You do what needs to be done no matter how hard it is. Not everyone can do that."
I left it at that, but I wanted to go back and whine some more, to protest that I'm tired of that role. Please let me step out of it for a minute. I feel so trapped by it.
During the dinner hour I texted with three of my closest local girlfriends in addition to people out of the area. I said things like, "I can barely stand up and cook dinner… I wish I had someone to come take care of my boys and let me curl up in my bed… How am I going to get through the two hours between now and bedtime…" And there were nice words of encouragement, but why didn't anyone actually come to help me? Why didn't anyone say, forget cooking, I'll be there in 30 minutes with take out and I'll hang with your kids? Am I wrong to think that others would have received this kind of assistance? It's not like people have tired of doing this. I can't think of a time when anyone has done this, short of when my friend and neighbor Chris came over one night to help put the boys to bed when they were being awful last spring. The boys still see it as a possible threat if they are misbehaving. "Don't call Chris," they say. I actually did call he and his wife one afternoon last week, hoping I could get some help in a crisis, but they didn't answer the phone and never called me back to check up on how the situation got resolved. I'm tired. And not just because it's 1:30 in the morning. This journey is exhausting. I really wasn't ready for this turn in the road today.