Thursday, December 20, 2012

Property Settlement

Have you ever had one of those conversations where the other participant is just outright lying and the whole world knows it, but they just keep going? Well, I had one of those experiences just this week during the Property Settlement Mediation with my former spouse.

I won't go into the sordid details, but let's just say someone was definitely greedy and made several false statements about who, how and when various MARITAL items were purchased. At the end of the 3 hour session he had taken BOTH sectionals, and most of the communal furniture, leaving me with just mine and the kids bedroom furniture and two dining tables. Yes really. So I currently have possession of the house, but until we go in front of the judge ownership remains a joint obligation. An obligation that I have been paying for for the last 3-4 years, I might add. My former spouse has had one goal the entire time: He insists that he get the house. It doesn't bother him that his children live there, and at one point in the proceedings when asked by the mediator what he suggested I do if I were forced to vacate the premises, he stated "She can go back to England". Well, first, yes, I have family there and I love it, but I am, by birth and all the rights associated, an American citizen.... Needless to say, this statement made his lawyer cringe just a little. Well actually, I believe he threw his hands up and almost left the room. My ex-husband had joined via phone given that there is a Protective Order in my favour and he was in Colorado Springs, so he was not able to see his own legal counsel's reaction. It was pointed out to him on more than on occasion that the judge is not at all likely to rule in his favour, but he insists on having his "day in court". So we moved on and arrived at our 401K retirement plans. Mine with a value of $1656 on the Date of Separation. His: $45,000 and he had graciously allowed that North Carolina law says that all assets and debts be divided equally (shame he didn't take this into consideration with the furniture). So he was somewhat disappointed to discover that he would be splitting my $1656 and his $45000 between us. The irony was not lost when my lawyer suggested that in lieu of dividing his 401K, I was quite happy to forego it in exchange for the house (that is currently $60,000 in arrears and has zero equity). His response: (see above).

For the first time in 2 years, I am actually looking forward to visiting the courthouse. I have no idea what tricks he has up his sleeve that he thinks will tip the scales in his favour, but I am looking forward to finding out.

On a more serious note, his erratic behaviour has been largely related to the fact that he REALLY, REALLY wants and believes he deserves the house... I do have concerns that the worst is yet to come...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Ever Elusive Trust

Over the last 24 months, I have put a lot of thought into the question of trust. Will I ever be able to trust a man again? Will I ever be able to trust anyone again?

Here's the issue. My husband is a compulsive liar. With narcissistic tendencies. He will say or do whatever is necessary to accomplish his goals. The damage from years of not knowing what was truth or fiction has left me a little scarred. So I've met a few guys through an online dating service and as we go through the 'getting to know you' phase, I find myself questioning everything they are telling me. A 44 year old who has never been married? And has no kids? This one is particularly hard for me given that this was the same story my ex gave me when I met him. He was 38, unmarried and no kids.... Then I find out he's married for 5 years, with a 4 year old son and 11 year old step-son. And eventually the whole truth: Married for 22 years to his high-school sweetheart and BOTH children are his. Unconscionable, right? What makes it worse is that none of these revelations came from him, and the second one came after 3 years, was divulged by his sister and while I was 5 months pregnant with our first child!!

So you might be asking yourself why I stayed... Yes many have asked that, including myself. I did try to leave. Many times. You can try and tell yourself you would have left, but it wasn't that easy. By then the psychological damage was done. I was convinced I could not manage without him. Ironic coming from someone everyone has always held to be a rock. I never considered myself weak, but when it comes to my self-esteem I am chock full of false bravado. Always seeking reassurance and acceptance, I felt that if I walked away I was failing. Now I know that I failed in staying as long as I did.

I stayed in touch with an old boyfriend, who I'm pretty sure will always be 'the one', but he's marrying someone else soon. It was this boyfriend that somehow showed me my mistakes, although I'm sure that wasn't his intention... It was our later relationship, over the last 5 or 6 years, that I realised my weakness was in allowing myself to be stepped on under the guise of love and caring. Someone who truly cared for me, would not see fit to highlight my every fault as a criticism; they would embrace them as part of who I am. I foolishly continued a psuedo-affair with him, even visiting him across the country while his fiancee was blissfully unaware, and so I have to wonder, why? Why did I continue to see him, when I knew he was committed to another? Why would he commit to another while confessing feelings for me?

So, I apparently have a rotten track record in my choice of men, who then do I have the trust issue with...? Is it my fault for trusting too readily? A girlfriend of mine had similar experiences and now over-analyses every aspect of every relationship, constantly comparing and seeing red flags. I don't want to be that person who misses out because I focused too long on what MIGHT not be true....

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Dating Game... Gender Equality?

So I wanted to take a minute to throw a thought out there... In this new world of equality between the sexes, and I use that term "equality" loosely, should we also expect the rules of dating to change? I mean. Is it so difficult for a guy who finds a woman attractive to simply approach her and ask her out to dinner? Or a movie? Bowling perhaps? Can someone please explain to me why 21st century men somehow expect that since we (women) have earned some equality, that we should now also be the ones to 'make the first move'. I recently had a conversation with a young, attractive, EMPLOYED male (over a lunch that I paid for), who repeatedly insists that I should be the one asking him out. It went something like this:

Him: "So why don't I have time on your schedule this weekend?"
Me: "You didn't ask"
Him: "But why should I have to ask? You find me attractive, don't you?" At this point, I lost interest. I'm old school and prefer men with a little confidence who don't fish for compliments.
Me: "I don't like to play word games. If you want to go out, you simply have to ask."
Him: "So what you're saying is you don't want to see me this weekend?" And on... and on...

I should insert a side note that states I don't have a problem being the one to ask, however after two 'dates' with this guy, he had yet to break out his wallet...

The conversation continued in this same vein for a few more minutes, the end result being I probably won't be seeing him again, since he will probably never ask. Or pay.

So. I have a great job with a nice salary, but I'm also a single mother of three with a mortgage, nanny, bills and myriad other financial responsibilities. All things being equal in terms of civil rights, does that also mean that the roles have also morphed into pseudo-equal terms? I mean if it's now expected that the female should make the first move, does that now mean that I can also play the field the same way men do? It's only fair isn't it? This came up in conversation this week with another single female friend of mine. While listening to a radio show, the subject of men sleeping with multiple partners came up. Man can sew his wild oats and be hailed a hero. Woman is a whore.

So now I am also faced with the challenge of somehow meeting a possible companion who lives up to his reputation on paper in real-life and somehow work out if we will also have chemistry in the bedroom, without trying him out for 'sighs'? You see what I did there? Pretty clever, huh?

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

CPS: A necessary evil?

So I'm torn. At what point is it appropriate to say enough is enough? I have had primary custody of all three children for almost two years now. In July of this year, a visitation was ordered granting the younger children's father every other weekend with them, the oldest child having come from a previous relationship. I have taken care of every boo-boo, runny nose, parent-teacher enquiry, replenished wardrobes (they grow like weeds), and kept them on the straight and narrow. The two older children have both tested in the Academically Gifted range, the youngest is showing similar aptitude, but still has two years before testing. In that time I have been slapped with a motion for a psychological evaluation on the basis that being a long-term migraine sufferer I am an unsuitable parent (I have had 3 migraines in the almost 2 years since separating in comparison with 2-3 migraines a month during my contentious last few years of marriage), and now a visit from CPS after a complaint was filed that I was leaving my children with inadequate supervision. The irony here being that the accuser (I don't care how anonymous they think their system is, I still figured it out), has used my 12 year old to babysit their own children and others on MANY occasions.

So here's the story. I have now been single for 21 months. I LOVE football, however, watching it home alone is not always as enjoyable as with a crowd of like-minded fans at my local sports bar. So far, no crime has been commited. My favourite team, if you couldn't tell from my profile picture is the San Francisco 49ers. I live in Raleigh, NC, so watching every single 49ers game is a challenge since I have Time Warner Cable who flat out refuse to offer the full NFL package (so far this is the only crime in my opinion). My choices? Miss out on watching my favourite team and attempt to follow along online (my solution last year; not terribly fun reading about each play). Or. Leave my 6 and 8 year old home with their 12 year old sister for a couple hours. Some might say I should not leave my children home. I should not be entitled to socialise with other adults. I made my solitary bed, I should lie in it.

I was 12 when I first began babysitting for my neighbours and their friends. Regularly, every Friday or Saturday night around 6pm, I would go next door, and sit with their 2 and 6 year old until around 2 or 3am. Sometimes earlier, sometimes there would also be 2-4 other children ranging in age from 6 months to 8 years. I worked with the same 3 families this way for 3 years. I made a killing!! So is the problem the fact that I am a single mother trying to get her groove back? If I had PAID someone else's 12 year old to watch them, would that have been 'ok'? The simple answer, yes.

How odd, right? My own child is deemed inappropriate to supervise her younger siblings (who I should point out are actually neatly tucked up in bed at this time), but her 13 year old friend next door is perfectly acceptable?! I should also mention that not only do I have a monitored security system, fully working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, my daughter has her own cell phone, knows the password AND panic code for the security company AND my neighbours include TWO federal corrections officers, a nurse, a retired New York police officer and a retired Army Major.... Yes, I could see where the danger lies in me driving 3 miles down the road, consuming at LEAST 3 glasses of sweet tea over 2-3 hours and shooting pool while watching the game might possibly be considered endangering my children...

To add insult to injury, North Carolina has no law regarding the age at which a child may be left home alone, however the FIRE DEPARTMENT has set a GUIDELINE that no child under the age of 8 should be left home alone. So again, no crime has been committed, no injury has befallen my children, and I get to spend just a couple of hours doing something I enjoy.

At the end of the social workers visit, while filling out paperwork, she asked me: "what do you do to socialise?" At that point I wanted to crack her over the head.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Long overdue update

Well, the year is almost up and I decided to come back and check in. The year has been painful, but I made a few discoveries about myself and humanity that kept me battling through. I discovered friends I never knew I had and will forever hold a place in my heart. Without them, I would have crumbled many months ago so they have my eternal gratitude. They saved my life.

First up, I went through with the divorce. The alternative didn't bear thinking about. I have a 12 year old daughter so I predicated my decision on how I would advise her in the same situation and ultimately, I would never advise anyone to stay in a relationship as physically or emotionally abusive as the one I was in. There is no amount of love in the world that could justify the mistreatment endured by myself and my children.

Some background. It seems only appropriate that I share with you the truth behind how my relationship began. It started with a lie. And not just a small fib, but a monumental, never going to trust again, complete obliteration of the truth, lie. We met in a nightclub. Yes, very cliche. I was coming out of a four month hibernation period after my daughter's father had walked out on us 2 weeks before her first Christmas. Some friends had cajoled me out with them. And so we were introduced. He was 38, I was 22. He was attentive and flattering, and I was smitten. We exchanged contact information as he was returning home the next day, only visiting on a short business trip to the UK where I was living at the time. A week later, I emailed him. We went through the usual getting to know you questions via email for a few days. "Are you married?" I asked. "No, but I do live with my ex-girlfriend and her two sons. She's going through a rough patch and trying to find somewhere to move to, so I'm helping her out." How sweet, right? The emails turned into lengthy phone calls, a la The Truth About Cats and Dogs, remember the all night phone call? We vacationed in Hawaii the week after 9/11. And that's where my bubble was burst. An email. From his wife. Not his ex-girlfriend.


I'll cut the story short, but suffice it to say the remaining time on the island was strained and full of more lies. We're separated. We've been married 5 years, the 4 year old is actually mine, but the 11 year olds dad is no longer in the picture. I couldn't just abandon them. etc etc.

I returned home to the UK where I received flowers and gifts and promises. Oh the promises. I can't tell you how many promises. By now I had already set things in motion to move to the States. Sold furniture, handed in my notice, got court orders of custody and support for my daughter, too late to change my plans. So I packed up my 20 month old, two suitcases full of clothes, $600 in my wallet and travelled 3000 miles to start a new life. He would be free, he claimed, when I arrived. He promised.

He lied.