My dad used to say that hindsight was 20/20. In other words, it’s always easy to see what you should have done when you are looking back on a situation. All of us have that one thing we would have done differently – for me it’s easy. If I had it to do again I’d hire a lawyer right from the beginning.
I Thought I Was Thinking Logically
One of the traits of someone who has been married to a narcissist is that they have been trained to believe that they don’t make good decisions.
He wanted the divorce. In fact, at that point I was still trying to move toward reconciliation. He told me he’d serve me with papers when he could afford it. We all know what that means, right?
Yeah, it could have taken forever.
I was determined to be logical and responsible when it became obvious that I was about to become the single mom of eight kids. I looked at the little I had squirreled away in savings, considered my income, and my expenses and decided that I would handle my own divorce. You can buy the paperwork on the Internet – heck you can buy anything on the Internet!
It just seemed like a no brainer.
Taking Responsibility - Again
I filled out the papers according to the instructions and divided up the property in a way that seemed fair to me. I got the house, we each got one of the investment houses, and we each got our own debts. Well, almost.
You see, in the divorce decree I took responsibility for a credit card in both our names and a loan that he had taken out in his own name using the house as collateral. My thought was that I was protecting myself by doing so – he had no intention of paying any of his debts. I wanted my credit to be as clear as possible.
I was determined that I wouldn’t saddle him with any responsibility. After all, I had been protecting him for 30 years and I didn’t know how to stop. When I filled out the paperwork for child support I asked for very little. In fact, the judge added certain stipulations that I hadn’t thought about because I had basically just set the ex free from every responsibility he had.
The divorce went through without a hitch. He didn’t bother to show up in court or acknowledge the proceedings in any way. I don’t know why it surprised me but it did.
Then, because I knew he wasn’t going to take care of the investment house I offered to take it after the divorce.
As I was tying up loose ends afterward I happened to strike up a conversation with a divorce lawyer. As I sat and talked about mundane things she listened intently and then she began asking questions. She was not happy with the answers I gave.
While it was too late for a do over on some things she advised me not to go forward with taking on the investment house. She also informed me, off the record that it wasn’t even legal for me to take on his debts unless my name was on them. I was saddled with a $50,000.00 lien against my house that I wasn’t responsible for but that could cause me to lose my house if I didn’t pay the payments. If I had given that debt to him in the original documents I might have been able to get a judgment against him for it, not that he would have paid it but the judgment would be there.
There were several other things that she sighed, cringed, and grimaced at as we went over my papers with her acting as a friend and not a lawyer. By the end of it I knew I had screwed up royally.
It’s important to shake off the guilt, stop trying to protect the ex, and take care of yourself or you will end up with nothing! Image Source: Flickr's Creative Commons: User Martinak 15
Don’t Continue to Make Mistakes
I have since paid off any debt that included me and refinanced the house to pay off his loan against it. I am still paying but now it’s in my name and my credit is benefitting. Nearly four years later his creditors are still calling my house and wanting to talk to him.
There is a possibility that, since my taking on his debt wasn’t even legal, I still may be able to sue him for the $50,000. 00 loan I paid off. I am still pursuing that possibility and trying to decide if it’s worth it.
The thing is that now I don’t make decisions based on what I think, I talk to lawyers, child support officers, and any other professional that can give me good advice. When he doesn’t pay child support I don’t bother to email him because there is no real point. I just go straight to the child support office and get their recommendations, input, and help. I’ve found that these people are very willing to steer me in the right direction.
Get a Lawyer
No matter what your financial situation is you can get a lawyer. There are legal aid offices and other free programs that you can utilize to get the legal advice and help you need. Don’t be too proud to take it.
Looking back I have come to realize that I was trying to protect him throughout the divorce. I took financial responsibility, I took responsibility for the kids’ needs, and I even offered to help him with bills and groceries. The things you do after having lived with a narcissist for so many years are completely nuts.
A lawyer will be your Jiminy Cricket. No matter how much you believe that you are thinking straight the probability is that you are still making decisions that are influenced by the narcissist and they won’t be in your own best interests.
A lawyer can be that go between, that person who takes the weight of the decisions off of your shoulders, that person who is looking out for you. There is an incredible amount of comfort in that. When your ex rails at you it gives you the ability to look at him wide-eyed and shrug. It’s not your decision, it’s your lawyer’s.
Shake Off the Guilt
For 30 years I felt guilty for everything that went wrong in my ex-husband’s life. I was given responsibility for things that I was not in control of. I was made to feel guilty for every screwed up opportunity, every bad choice, you name it.
When I was advised to make a decision that I knew would have negative consequences for the ex I got that nervous feeling in my stomach. Sometimes I cried.
Those times are happening less frequently. I remind myself that he made choices and those choices came with consequences. I am not being unreasonable to ask that he help with child support – there are millions of men that pay their child support when it’s due and without complaint. Not only that, it’s the law.
And therein lies one of the biggest problems a narcissist faces. For some reason they seem to believe that they are above the law, untouchable, and can live their lives their way without consequences. If there is fallout from something they’ve done you can bet that the blame lands squarely on the shoulders of the “crazy ex-wife”.
Guilt is pointless. You’ve carried it for too long. It’s time to step back and let karma do its work. With the help of a good lawyer you’ll be able to disassociate yourself from your narcissistic ex-husband more easily. You’ll have more confidence that the decisions being made will benefit you and the kids. Most of all, you’ll avoid doing stupid things like agreeing to be responsible for his $50,000.00 loan.
You don’t have to go through this alone. It’s good to get advice from others who have been through it. First Wives World is a community filled with women supporting women through the challenges of divorce. Someone needs to hear what you have to say. Register today and find inspiration, encouragement and strength.
Lead Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons- Lara Cores