Mod 4: My story – Max

After Max informed me we were filing for divorce, in less than three weeks he moved out into his own apartment downtown. As weird as it was to be on my own with my daughters, I was perfectly happy to have him gone. And he went without much fuss, eager to get on with his own new life of freedom.

It was a lot of effort, working full time and taking care of two kids, cooking and cleaning, doing laundry and grocery shopping, paying bills and running errands, and helping the girls every night with their huge piles of homework. I was lucky to find a half hour to rest before bed on weeknights. However, I was much better off than before, when I had all these tasks plus making separate meals for Max, who worked odd hours. I also didn’t have to allow time to be at his beck and call when he needed emotional support.

Not to mention the fact that I was free of his abuse. It was glorious!

A couple of weeks into our new lives, Max sent me a letter. He always was big on writing eloquent, emotional letters (you remember that one in college). I was puzzled as I opened it. It turned out to be a tome about how he missed me in his life and hoped we could still be friends. I read between the lines that he wasn’t finding life without me to be as much of a picnic as he had anticipated, having to care of himself and being without my emotional support. Honestly, I had to laugh. I didn’t reply.

Some days later he called me. He asked in an offended tone why I hadn’t responded in any way to the letter. With all the tact I could muster, I explained that I understood why having me out of his life was a loss, all right. It made sense. However, what he needed to recognize that having him out of mine was, of course, all upside for me.

Well, my candor made him angry. I paid very little attention to the tirade that followed, seeing as appeasing him was no longer on my to-do list. But I certainly saw clearly that he was so self-absorbed, he hadn’t an inkling of why being married to a lazy, cruel, selfish, cheating liar would have been difficult for me.

Nevertheless, things were still fairly amicable at the start. He even had his daughters over once in a rare while. Max quickly fell in love with a new guy and only a few months after our split, he informed me he was moving a thousand miles away to live with his new love.

We were not yet divorced, but had filed and had a legal custody and child-support plan in place till the divorce was final. I had full custody, and he had to pay a percentage of his wages in support.

Sadly, his new state of residence did not garnish wages. And you can guess what that meant: no more child support.

The weeks passed without any money coming, and I had no credit due to the bankruptcy in process (I didn’t want any credit anyway). [Sidebar: At this time I lived in the same city as my parents. My dad wasn’t about to provide a penny to us, and it never even crossed my mind how odd that was, until 20 years later.]

In the process of being away from Max, I had begun to get my emotional strength back. I saw a counselor who informed me I was codependent (NPD was not on anyone’s radar back then). I did some group therapy and read some books. I realized I really, really needed to grow a spine and stop letting people walk all over me. Except, of course, my father, whom I had apparently granted a lifetime dispensation allowing him to be cruel at will.

Well, this was my kids’ welfare being impacted by Max’s utter selfishness and greed. I was running out of money to even put food on our table. So I got mad. I got mad with a righteous anger to rival that of the Avenging Angel. My anger burned with the heat of a thousand suns.

So—speaking of letter writing—I wrote a letter to Max down south in his new home. Gone was my two-decade inability to be honest with him…evaporated was my fear of his wrath. I did not mince words, friends: I tore him a new one. Although basically I addressed the lack of child support, in the process I also let fly about what a terrible father, husband, Christian, and general person he was in every way. I stamped that letter, and I mailed it.

Max started sending child support. I knew full well it was lower than the percentage it was supposed to be, but it was something. That’s all the response I got. No matter, it was certainly some satisfaction to see those checks come.

Max didn’t live long down in that distant state. In about a year his new love died of AIDS, and Max moved back up north to a city 75 miles from us. He was HIV-positive. We had a little more contact then, but not much. We never discussed that letter, and that was the only time I told him what I really thought of him.

I’m sure he never really cared what I thought of him, or what his children thought, or anything else…he was a narcissist after all. But the day I sent that letter stands out as pretty special to me to this day, because for once, I stood up for myself.

My father was another story. The rage against him wasn’t going to erupt for another 22 years, as you’ll read in my story with Dad

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