2 years and 4 months ago I began the process of leaving my narcissistic ex. It was hands down, the most emotionally traumatic thing I’ve ever gone through. It was worst than my miscarriages, losing my grandfather, spending 6 weeks in a hospital after being in a car accident….all of that. Why? Well because in addition to battling your own internal feelings of failure and weakness, you also have to muster up all you can to fight this upcoming war or wills with your ex. You also have to deal with the logistical challenges of carving out a new household and life separate from your old one.
I look back and marvel at how I came through it all; especially with 1 year old twins and a 2 year old in tow.
But when I was in the thick of it, there were days when I saw no way out. So I just put blinders on to the turmoil of what the reality was and kept chugging through….day by day. Moving without having a job should have made me panic. Then subsequently taking a job that paid 20% less than my old one did should have made me give up. Being let down by my family and friends could have sent me running back to my ex.
But thankfully none of that happened.
Today I see a lot of mothers of young children in Facebook groups who talk about being in abusive relationships and questioning rather they should leave or not. My answer is always a solid yes. Whatever financial, social and psychological obstacles that you may face are often either short term, or not nearly as bad as continuing on in a toxic relationship. I definitely had my share of struggles. But in the end, it all came together. Basically, they were:
For me, this was very hard. Moving 200+ miles from my home wiped out all of my savings. Then I was immediately hit with a child custody lawsuit (that I had to deal with long-distance). Even so I constantly struggled with the idea of going into debt, trying to hire a top-notch family law attorney. After all, my kids were totally worth it. But doing so might have also toppled me off of the precarious peak that I was already tottering on financially.
In the end, I ended up finding a general practice attorney who charged me unbundled legal fees with no retainer. He was not a superstar family law attorney, but it turns out I didn’t need that. My ex torpedoed his entire case on his own. It took about 6 months in to see that he was losing interest and steam in the case. But since the child custody case was not about the children, but rather about him, eventually everything settled into place and I won primary custody of the children.
In spite of having 30% custody on paper, he has only had the children sporadically over the last year and a half.
When I opted to leave my ex, I knew that I wanted to put some distance between us because he was dead-set on not letting me go — and I knew I could not function (in regards to work) with him harassing and stalking me. So I talked to my employer about working remotely for a month until I could find a job in my new town. Thankfully, that month was extended to 3 months. But alas — the situation could not last forever. And I thought 3 months would be plenty of time to land a new job.
Well humans plan and God laughs.
With my final employment date looming and with no solid offers on the table, I started to panic a bit. I went to the welfare office and to my surprise, got a decent amount of help. I got assistance with utilities, food stamps and a 1-time lump sum cash payment in lieu of on-going cash assistance. I just prayed that it would be enough.
A couple of weeks later, I did get a job offer. It was for much less than I was getting paid before; but it was something. They also promised a salary increased after my probationary period that got me closer to my previous salary. So I took the job.
Unfortunately that job turned out to be a dud. Not only was the pay modest, but the demands were high and the owners of the company had this toxic culture of blame, stubbornness and terrible communication. There was no sense of respect or restraint when major deadlines or deals were looming. The final straw was when my probationary period ended and in my review, they read me the riot act which basically said I did not prove myself to be worthy and my probationary period would be extended (as a ‘gift’ for not firing me I guess). I promptly move on to another employer that was a much better environment and culture – although only a hair above the salary I was getting before.
The COVID-19 pandemic did not effect that job like it would have my previous one. So my decision to leave that toxic job was a good one in more ways than one. Fast forward to today and I just started a new position that pays what I was making when I was with my ex. It also offers great benefits like a pension and eligibility for student loan forgiveness. It took 2 years to get back to where I was. But it was worth it. Now I can live and pay bills and handle my credit unfettered by my ex’s meddling.
So here again, I was blessed in that the Jewish community that we moved to had a daycare at the local JCC. So I did not have to deal with searching high and low for a daycare. Also setting up financial aid was a breeze as well.
The only snag that I ran into was a very strained relationship with the director of the daycare. I can only speak to my perspective and side of things, but she never was particularly nice to me. I do not know what I or my children did to cause her to not like us. Over the course of 2 years, there was a period of several months that she was nice to us — which coincided with me cutting off ties with another daycare mother (that she apparently liked less than me, because that mother actually got into arguments with her whereas I’m not the type to argue). I mean it was a clear difference; such as making small talk with me; laughing about accomplishments my kids were making….things like that. But it has since regressed back to where it was with the passage of time. With the situation exacerbated by a situation with my older son where she told me to have him evaluated for behavioral issues — but her guidance/referral ended up being to the wrong resource and she dumped out her frustration on me in a scathing email which threatened the expulsion of my kids from the daycare.
It was terrible at the time. I talked to family, friends…anyone who would listen. I lost sleep. Feeling sorry for myself. I did not have time to try to find a new daycare and get used to a new routine. I felt bad for my son. He certainly is hyper, defiant and has a tough time regulating his emotions. But other than the daycare administrator, everyone else, his teachers included, sees him as just an active 4 year old who is a work in progress. For sure he could benefit from some therapy. That is probably true for most of us. But I struggled with having a stigma applied to him at such an early age. He already talks negatively about himself and says that he’s “…a loser” — which kinda reminds me how I was as a child (whereas I had no self-esteem).
But I held faith in God. I also made sure to respond to her email to confirm receipt of her grievances – and copied the assistant director of the JCC. God doesn’t make anything happen with our hishtaldus. As much as I wanted to argue and complain, I held back. Even if she couldn’t see it, the reality is that my older son only has 1 more year in daycare and my twins (who really did not have any running file history of problems other than her vague illusions to them being difficult) had 2 years. I would grit my teeth and bear it. But turns out this won’t be necessary. She alerted the parents of her resignation yesterday. 🙂
So moral of the story here is that bad people and bad situations come and go. Sometimes you just have to wait it out. Often, your patience will end up serving you well.
4. Social/Love Life
So I have to admit; both my social and love life are a bit lean these days. The couple of men that I tried to date/talk to really did not seem very respectful of my time and demands of being a single mother. The same could be said in regards to forging friendships — the time to invest is just not there.
But ultimately I do not mind and I am not at the point of depressing loneliness. Perhaps it has helped to see my ex do the polar opposite. He jumped into a relationship right away. Had a new baby. Now seems to be all over the place in terms of the relationship. It’s a train wreck. And a big part of the reason is because he never took the time to work on himself.
I would love to find love again. Share a life with a remarkable man. But if it does not happen, it does not happen. I have plenty of opportunity now to build a home for and with my 3 beautiful boys. They deserve that (and so much more)