by Quinn Pierce
Have you ever looked at someone that you’ve known for much of your life and thought, “Who are you?”
I had that moment today, standing outside my son’s doctor’s office listening to my ex-husband threaten to bring the police to my house to enforce his visitation rights. I watched his face contort and strain, his eyes hardened to match his tone, and his entire body tense as if for a fight. I looked to his right to see my younger son frozen in place, thrown into a state of post traumatic stress, and I thought: who is this maniac standing here yelling at me?
A Moment of Clarity
But then, I snapped back into the moment and realized I was about to get sucked into arguing with a sociopath. Luckily, common sense kicked in. My other son, the one who didn’t want to go to his father’s house, was right upstairs in the doctor’s office. All I had to do was get this raving lunatic upstairs where there would be not only witnesses, but my son’s doctor.
And so, mid-rebuttal, I stopped and said, “He’s right upstairs, why don’t we just go up there and talk to him.”
I saw the split second of hesitation before he agreed, and that split second spoke volumes.
It told me he was disappointed because he had actually been looking forward to the drama of claiming I was in contempt of court. It told me he realized he now had to behave and put his mask back in place since there would be other people around. And it told me that he didn’t actually want to speak to his son and try to communicate, he just wanted to be angry and say he was being victimized.
But, he regrouped, readjusted, and walked toward the building, completely unaware that his other son was still paralyzed from fear of another argument and police interaction. I tried my best to reassure my son that everything would be fine, and we trailed him up the steps.
I knew that once we were in the presence of others, especially the doctor, that my ex-husbands entire demeanor would change. And it did. He wouldn’t even bring up the issue of my son staying there tonight. Eventually, I brought up the threat he made outside so that we could have credible witnesses should anything transpire. Amazingly, my ex-husband tried to blame the entire situation on my son, whom he was sitting right next to.
At this point, my anger had receded, because what I saw happening was such a textbook example of how the sociopath operates that I could have written the script for my ex-husband.
A Well Known Plot
And so it went…
Blame- He blamed my son for causing a rift between me and my ex-husband by not telling us the same information. Ok, my anger returned for a moment with this one, because the ‘rift’ my ex-husband spoke of occurred when I realized he was an abusive sociopath and kicked him out; my sons are the only reason I even talk to him.
Denial- He acted as if he never said anything about calling the police. He even said he didn’t want to force his son to do anything.
Righteous Indignation- He tried to insist that he was being treated unfairly by everyone, and his rights were being violated in the process.
Victimization- Once his son came out and said he did not want to go, the perfectly timed tears ensued. I had walked my younger son out to give my older son a chance to use his voice, and once he did, my ex-husband flooded him with the river of guilt. I’m not sure what he hoped to gain, but the emotional roller coaster was, in itself, a form of psychological abuse used on my son.
When my son returned to the car, he was exhausted. He was emotionally drained and started to cry. I explained to him why I made him face his dad like that, and how it was much better that he have the support of his doctor and me while he talked to him, rather than the police and the over-heated emotions of the adults in a situation like that.
He is a very strong and courageous young man, and he understood and agreed that it was better than the alternative, especially for his brother’s sake. We hugged, then drove home in silence.
A Powerful Truth
I tried to figure out why I wasn’t feeling the normal angst and stress of such an encounter with my ex. It wasn’t until we were nearly home that I realized the simple, yet powerful truth: I was no longer afraid of my ex-husband.
After everything that has happened this fall, I now know how capable and resilient my children are. I also know what my rights are and the steps required for my ex to follow through on his many threats. He has forced me to prepare for any situation, and for that he has lost the element of surprise.
In his desperate and failed attempt to discredit me, he has armed me with knowledge, strength, and confidence. He has empowered his children to find their voices, and he has damaged his own reputation more than mine.
So, in those moments when I look at him and think: Who are you?, I can simply answer: No one who has any importance in my life, what-so-ever.