Bringing the War Home

QUESTION: Hello Chuck and Garland,

I am getting a divorce from a drunk who has narcissistic personality traits. Not pleasant…to be sure.

Yeah, I stayed too long. Yeah, I’m a dumb ass. Yeah, so let’s dispense with all the drama on that note.

I do not bad mouth him to my son who is now 19 yrs old, but I also have not been dishonest with him about the DV that transpired and his step-dad’s excessive drinking that he began to do after returning home from the Afghanistan War. He would drink whiskey and Coke every night until he passed out. One night I had enough when we were out and he left me across the street and went back inside the bar – he was drunk and I wasn’t. He sat at a table with other women and ended up staying out until 4:30am with two other women he worked with who he met up with at another bar after our argument. He came home at 4:30am inebriated – I left him and although he apologized he made light of it and didn’t think it was a big deal and I should get over it. I disagreed.

When I came back home from my mother’s to get some of my things – as I was leaving he grabbed me and a bad incident of DV occurred. He was arrested and I obtained a RO and kept it solid for 4 months with zero contact. I made it that way because I knew I could cave emotionally if I didn’t.

He never took any accountability whatsoever. He lied about it all. Spread nasty untrue rumors about me, so I moved out and went to live with family.

After those 4months I still did not drop the charges and I told the State Attorney that he needed Anger Management, Substance Abuse and PTSD help – she offered him pre-trial diversion of those things vice criminal charges and he accepted. He is still drinking – and tells me it is worse than it was before.

He filed for divorce and it is in the process now.

He calls me and cries telling me that he still loves me and that he wants “me” to fight for us….and that he wants counseling and blah, blah, blah….

Then he turns it around like he never said any of it and has done that repeatedly. So, I have once again and for the last time Stopped any and all Contact by blocking his email, phone #’s etc., and have advised him and my attorney that any contact is to be referred through my attorney not directly through me.

Now that I’ve blocked him from my life and refused to allow him any contact with me and have stopped any chances he has of toying with my emotions, manipulating the situation, reeling me in only to throw me back out….blah, blah, blah….

My question to y’all is this:

Concerning my son and his step-dad what say you? His step-dad has been in his life for about 6 years – through the middle and high school years. While his step-dad’s behaviors have been very bad - he wasn’t all bad – I truly don’t believe any one is 100% all black and toxic.

For the most part their relationship has been good. He has been supportive of him and a fairly good role-model as far as a father type role, as for the drunken narcissist abusive bad to mommy man….NOT so good.

My son was in college for a year in Hawaii but just recently has returned to live with me and we have a good non-dysfunctional relationship. I do not bad mouth his step-father, but I also have not been dishonest with him about the DV that transpired and the excessive drinking, lack of accountability, responsibility, boundaries, etc.

Any suggestions or insights regarding this situation from a male-perspective would be greatly appreciated. I want to do right by my boy and think y’alls input would be useful and open my eyes to perhaps some things I am not seeing or thinking about.

Thanks for y’alls efforts.

GARLAND: Thank you for such a candid question.

While Chuck and I can bang out answers to stupid cheating boyfriends and ex's that still want a little nookie on the side. We want to take questions like yours and stress to you that we are not trained professionals, so take what we say at face value and keep in mind that a professional's touch might be helpful too.

I just want to jump on a few things that leap out at me - you say, twice actually that you "don't bad mouth his stepfather but you don't hide the DV either." This is a little red flag for me, because you don't have to bad-mouth someone to make them look bad. You can speak the truth in a calm clear voice and relay candid details about someones poor behavior and be 100 honest and still come out with you looking one way and the other person looking another way. So, while you are not bad mouthing him in the old fashioned sense of the word, if you are telling your son about DV you are being subjected to, you probably are creating a bias in your son. If my mom came to me today and said, "your father has been beating me every week for the last ten years," she's not throwing him under the bus, she's being honest about the DV. And I would still want to kick my father's ass. See my point. The bias has been created.

Now, before you think I'm picking sides here - let me say that I'm sorry to hear that you are going through DV. That is a terrible thing and I hope you seek some counseling and talk to some professionals. On first blush, I wonder if your ex has some post war issues from the middle east causing him to be a fool towards you. He may very well have some PTSD going on. Before you think about returning to him or buying in to his on-again, off-again love, he must truly seek professional help to get rid of [or at least get control of] his demons. He sounds like a mentally erratic alcoholic. And, he may be dangerous to you, or himself.

Now, as far as your question goes - I think you are very fortunate that your son is a 19 year-old, young man. He's not a little boy. He is old enough to have had some "Man-Lessons" and he still needs more, but he's older and wiser and he should be allowed to have a 50/50 vote in whether he spends time with your ex, his step-dad. From your question, I'm not 100% sure if your ex wants to be around your son, maybe he does, but it's not clear. I have to say though - if I were 19, I would be fairly uncomfortable being around a man that was NOT my biological father AND was abusive to my mother. I would have a hard time with that until your ex made some serious improvements. Personally, if I were you - I'm not certain that I'd want an abusive man to be a role model to my 19 year old son. A role model, should be a solid, compassionate, non-abusing individual. Frankly, I'm concerned that he would be a bigger negative than a positive!

And then, you don't know what he is saying about you! He might not be throwing you under the bus either and he might be just as honest about the DV as you are - only from his own perspective. He could be telling your son, "Your mom has a big mouth... your mom cheated on me... your mom hit me first.... your mom wasn't giving me enough..." or any number of things. Do you really want your son in this position?
I say, give your son a 50% vote, with you having the other 50% and give him the tie-break vote on whether or not he spends time with your ex. The two of you are the biological family, your ex is just there by marriage.

Good luck to you and your son. And, good luck to your ex if he seeks help. Please remember that if he gets help - he's not getting it so the two of you can get back together, he is getting it to save his life and sober his mind. If a reunion is in the cards down the road - then great. But don't make his sobriety about you and your son.

CHUCK: Here's a possibly pertinent anecdote: I once worked as a clerk for a man who had cerebral palsy (IIRC). He walked with braces and had a slight speech impediment. We got along fairly well, until something went wrong with one of his projects, and he tried to lay the blame on me (incorrectly). After that, I started to see this guy's true side: He was a liar, he was selfish, he was not that competent, and worst of all to me, he had no qualms about cynically exploiting his handicap to get out of trouble.
How this guy conducted himself was very instructive to me, as it proved to me that whatever problems or challenges a person may be going through that could make you sympathetic to them, a prick is still a prick. Maybe PTSD has turned your ex into a violent, manipulative drunk. Or maybe he was hiding those facets of himself all along.
Either way, thanks for displaying the common sense and courage to leave this man when he started this downward spiral. A lot of women would have hung around to see the end, out of love. But you have put the psychological and physical well-being of yourself and your son first. Good for you.
As for your son's future relationship with his stepfather, I agree with Garland. It doesn't seem that you are really adamant about refusing your son access to him. But the feeling is, maybe you should, because you can't control what your ex might say about you, to curry your son's favor. And really, what kind of role model is he for your son?
There are ways that you can impose some control over the situation. If you ex is honest about healing himself, encourage your son to speak with your ex's therapist, in terms of evaluating his progress. Maybe he or she would recommend a session with the two of them. But I would suggest you limit their contact until you have assured yourself that your ex-husband is on the right path. Good luck to you.

No comments: