Posts Tagged ‘relationship’

Inequality enforced by the family courts

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

My ex-husband apparently lost his job recently. (He continues to refuse to comply with court orders to provide documentation, but our child has started receiving the “dependent child” allotment from the unemployment office in our state.) Partly as a result of this recent job loss, the ex was allowed to drop child support (other than the state-enforced allotment) and has been ordered to pay only thirty-five percent of our son’s uncovered costs (medical, school, etc). I have to pay the other sixty-five percent.

The justification for this unequal apportionment was that I’d be making more (possibly) with my salary than he’d be making with his severance package and the unemployment payments. I wasn’t allowed to point out to the court that I’ve been ordered to pay the ex more than half of my after-tax salary (tax-free to him) in alimony. Even if he were entirely unemployed (that is, even if he didn’t have the part-time job(s)), he’d still be “making” more than me.

All along, the ex had the money and the power in the relationship. Throughout the three and a half years of our divorce, his attorney was allowed to shout, even scream, his lies at the judge, while my attorney was repeatedly interrupted and shouted down. In three and a half years, I was barely, if ever, “heard” by the court.

It is unfortunate that this situation is so common. I’ve actually done much better than have many other women in my position. But the family-court system has again displayed its well-documented tendency to enforce power-unequal relationships and to continue previous abuse on behalf of the abusers. How sad, that people like my son go to the courts for protection, only to be treated so shabbily.

What is “good” in a relationship?

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

My therapist has assigned this for my “homework” this week: figuring out what I view as “good” in a (romantic) relationship. I pointed out that, with my background (an abusive childhood followed shortly thereafter by an abusive marriage), I don’t have much experience with “good”, and clearly my judgement is suspect. After all, had I had a solid grasp of “good” or “healthy”, it seems doubtful that I would have married a man who turned out to be disburbingly similar to my own mother.

But I suppose this is something that I need to work through, or at least consider investigating, if for no other reason than in hopes that I won’t be quite so ready to make the same mistakes as I have in the past. Granted, I’ve already become aware of how completely my ex-(yay!)-husband fulfills the checklists of “warnings he may be an abuser”, but that is in retrospect. It would be better, surely, to be able to have some confidence going forward, rather than only in looking back.

So what is a “good” relationship? What does one look for, both positive and negative?

For so long, I could easily have been presented as a “needy” or “clingy” woman — though only after a relationship had begun. I’d been so deprived of positive attention that any attention that wasn’t actively negative (in the early days) was precious to me, which left me open to (and likely attracted toward me) abusers who would take advantage. I hadn’t had much in the way of healthy relationships so, not knowing any better, I accepted unhealthy ones. I’d like something better now, but how would I, of all people, know how to recognize that?

One thing I should probably start doing more of is “listening to my gut”. For too many decades, I discounted my own feelings and desires and deferred instead to what others claimed was right and “for my own good”, merely because the person hurting me insisted that he was doing it “out of love”. Actions should speak louder than words, and my own feelings should be viewed as more reflective of my own needs than somebody else’s self-serving and unsupported say-so.

Another thing I should probably do more of is speaking for myself. I don’t mean just complaining when I don’t like something. I mean asking for what I want (after figuring out in the first place what that actually is), being willing to say “no” when that’s what I mean, and being willing to give up a relationship if it’s hurting me.

If I’m putting all my emotional health at the disposal of somebody who’s draining me, will I have anything left that I can invest in somebody who genuinely wishes me well? Probably not. It’s the “oxygen mask” analogy: when the plane loses cabin pressure, I can’t help my child with his mask if I haven’t put my own mask on, since I’ll have passed out already. It’s not (entirely) selfish to take care of myself; in fact, sometimes self-care can be the more caring and un-selfish thing to do.

A “good” relationship is probably one that encourages me to put my own oxygen mask on first, if and when I feel the need.