Feeding times (does your ex devour your sanity?)

This is an uneventful morning as we gear up for our workday, so we are barely through our first coffee.

Our kids, who we pick up tonight, have been invited to a birthday party. We were going to take them straight there after our pick-up time, but the party got pushed forward by an hour so we were going to check in with my wife’s alienating ex, who beat us to it with a text at 7:30am.

The party is for the kids’ childhood friend who lives just a few doors down from their house, and the invite makes it clear that the schedule is super relaxed. So we barely give it another thought after my wife confirms that we are ok with them going and, unless they will already be there, will take them after pick-up.

An hour later, we are still fielding a barrage of texts when we get, “Why do you have to make it so difficult on the children. Just be a parent and communicate.”

Another hour goes by with no resolve, and in desperation my wife sends what she hopes can be the final text, “Just tell me where the kids will be at 5; this is the easy stuff.”

By now, we are both off-kilter and frazzled, and for something that didn’t warrant any stress at all. So this morning, a theory that I shake off on a good day boomerangs and slaps me right across the face. There are… feeding times.

Just think Nightmare on Elm Street or any number of recent vampire sagas and you should understand what I mean that it feels like the alienating ex feeds on our emotions.

I wonder if today we were breakfast; a means to fuel up for the day. Other times, the ex goes at us in the evening, as if in a last desperate attempt to balance out the day.

Sometimes, it feels like the ex is after a mere snack and backs off upon receipt of something to belittle, such as a poorly worded response. Other times, we find ourselves picked apart over hours, or carelessly, mindlessly, sloppily devoured like leftover pizza.

I am also starting to conclude that only my wife’s rage truly satiates her ex. Only her jab, thrust in indignation and disbelief, does it. Then, my wife is cast as ‘the bully’ implicitly unworthy of raising children; as the living proof for why the ex is entitled to persist with the alienation.

However, if my wife stays strong, the ex gets desperate. If she responds like a rational, collected adult, the famished beast grows indignant. How dare she withhold? She, whose only value is in satiating a capricious, entitled pallet?! She, who dares to ‘play parent’ to the children. She, who they should know better than to love.

My wife is strong. So we have come to expect that if we don’t get the ex to blow up at a typo, we have to expect retaliation. We have to brace for the ex to lash out somewhere else; somewhere probably completely unrelated; and, painfully, probably hedging the children: feed me or I will hurt them (and make it look like you did it). Then, my strong, kind, ever-sacrificing wife concedes, accepts any amount of name-calling, and surrenders some of her tiny trespassed ground. At least, the beast is fed and the kids are alright. They are told that again, my wife is the source of all their troubles but that doesn’t unsettle their world: unfortunately, to them that is old news.

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