Three years ago on my other site I wrote about this nonsense (here).
It started with… “Get out, move out… get a lawyer! And get a visa!”
The final demand. At least the final demand before we separated, the one that led to a seemingly, theretofore, inevitable divorce. Marriage had become burdensome. My ex and I couldn’t deal with things any longer. In fact, for a long time before, we’d not dealt with anything. For a stretch, life together had not seen sunshine, except with and for the kids.
Fuck. What about the kids? They were all that mattered to me.
All else in marriage in August of 2013 was practically intolerable.
I’d grown so damn weary of the days-on-end silent treatments, the pure drama when trying to talk to her (i.e., the absurd, defensive reactions over the simplest issues), and the struggles that were faced because of her disorders. My patience had worn incredibly thin with her avoiding communication. I got antsy about being ignored. And because she’d shut me out so many times, over the years, never initiated any dialogue, and swept things under the rug so constantly, I’d started to give up on any in-person conversation—other than when with the kids for daily plans, what’s for dinners, logistical issues and the like. Yet for years, I’d resorted (sometimes because of our opposite work schedules, but mostly because she’d just unleash drama when I tried sharing my feelings with her about our issues in person) to sending her emails or private FB messages. I needed to get things off my chest. I needed to open up. I needed to let her know how I felt. Especially during the 3-4 day periods when she utterly ignored me. But about a year before, she simply stopped responding to most of my messages, leaving me feeling like she didn’t give a shit about my feelings. For me, it was better to at least open up electronically than experience complete disengagement between husband and wife.
For one example, back a few years ago when we had enormous decisions to make about leaving the country we were in or not, I’d put thoughts to paper (to keyboard, really) one night while I was on an extra work-related duty, and explained the pros and cons about staying, moving back to her country, or moving on to another country. The email was tantamount to a 3-to-4-page Word.doc; however, she wrote back, “You and _______ decide.” That’s it (oh, she included the name of my school where the blank lies). Yes, sad that I’d resorted to getting things out via email, but utterly shocking that such a life-changing decision was up to me—or that she couldn’t communicate her needs, desires, insights or ideas.
There were smaller issues, too, that we allowed to destroy us, such as how we argued every time one of our kids was feverish, for she wanted to administer medicine, provide sponge baths, and even take our kids in to the doc or hospital at the slightest sign of fever, at around 38.5C (101.3F). Yet I was fine with the body’s natural defense mechanism of elevated temps to defeat whatever bug or infection was happening, thinking even 103-104 (39.4-40C) was acceptable, with watchful eyes being ready just in case we needed to step in to bring the temp down. Without fail, it brought tension to our home. We couldn’t see eye to eye on that nor quite a few other parenting issues, some of which were cultural, for certain (e.g., her culture saying air currents cannot cross over the exposed navel).
Habitually, and more and more over the years, she sided with her parents. She couldn’t question her parents’ decisions, even though I knew she didn’t necessarily, internally agree with all. For nine years I’d known her to really have issues with her own parents, but for months on end beforehand, it seemed to be that it was three vs. one. The expat, foreign husband against the in-laws and their daughter. Even when they suddenly cancelled all childcare because I’d suggested my wife volunteer at my school last August—so that her resume experience would increase, so that our teaching-team marketability would grow by leaps and bounds (since she’d not yet had any classroom teaching experience that overseas schools want—since doing her Master in Education), i.e., my suggestion was to benefit the family… well, she couldn’t question her parents’ choice to leave us without babysitting.
When I asked, she simply said, “That’s my dad’s decision, and in _______, we don’t question our elders. It’s disrespectful.” That was the final straw, really, so when she yelled at me to “Get out…”, it actually appeared to be the best solution, though it was the second time she’d shrieked similar sentiment in about a year’s time frame.
The first month, honestly intended to be a month away, was full of pure drama. On one occasion, when I’d picked up my daughter at 7am for school, my ex held open the elevator door, with our son in her arms, with my daughter at my side, and squealed emotionally, “Tell me, ________, is it over? Is it over? Tell me!” Rapidly, but trying to be subtle about it, I motioned for her to stop screaming. She wouldn’t let the door close. It fought against her grip a few times.
Then on another night, when I told my daughter—upon dropping her off after school at mom’s house, that I was going out with some new co-workers, my ex dramatically demanded to know why I was going out when I had said I’d been so busy at my new job. Her drama in front of the kids was scary—and it was causing a considerably more harm than good. It was supposed to be a “take-a-breather” month, to recuperate, to consider our thoughts. Such actions prompted more distance-is-needed thoughts. By the end of the month, it was the only option.
Undoubtedly, it wasn’t about a month’s time off, however. It had needed such closure for eons.
With that said, this journal isn’t about the end of the marriage. Writing is a means of unloading. Hitherto, the intro served as a background of what’d been happening.
What has happened since is what I need to get out on paper here. I need to experience the release.
First, it was the accusations that hurt during the initial stages of the separation, when she said such things as I was no longer family, that the kids had all the family they needed—and that I’d abandoned the family. Even though I immediately explained I wanted joint custody, and that I was happy with the schedule of every M/W/F night at my house—and seven hours on Sunday with the kids, she threw it at me repeatedly that I’d abandoned the kids—and she later told the courts that. How can someone who wanted custody and the kids so much actually be labeled as abandoning his children?
Then, there were erroneous accusations that I was “seen being intimate at bars.” Absurdly wrong. No ifs, ands, or buts about that. That was followed soon by, “Your so-called friends are being friendly” with sharing with her what I said and did. Great. I started to feel I couldn’t open up with anyone we’d previously had as mutual friends. Most of our friends were mixed-race couples with kids. That local wives were surely going to listen to everything she created, everything she alleged, was clear.
Then, there were threats. One being, “Return the passports by midnight or else Isabella won’t go to school tomorrow.” On one of the nights I was watching the kids at “her” place until she came home at 10pm from work, I decided to keep their _________ passports with my possessions and me—and I’d left their _________ passports with her. If I’d taken all, that would have been wrong. Yet she told people I stole the passports, which she told the courts, and then she told me that “the passports belong with the family, and you’re not family any more.”
That threat was followed a few weeks later by, “If you don’t send an apology to me by 1pm, I am going to call your boss.” She did. That whole saga is its own book.
A few weeks later, she sent a Thursday night email to say, “Tomorrow is ______’s last day. Make sure you get her things when leaving school.”
Unreal. When I begged and pleaded for her to reconsider, she wrote an email that said she and her parents were my children’s family and that they needed to know what family meant, so having my daughter back at home every day was best. My daily commutes with my baby girl, dropping her off in the morning and picking her up daily, to opened-arm hugs, were done. No more afternoons tell-me-about-school moments between father and daughter. She had taken that time with my girl. Left were three nights a week and Sundays for seven hours.
Her email she sent to my boss to withdraw my daughter included how she felt my boss was discriminating against her (since my boss is an expat and my wife is a local) because my school told her (after she kept wanting to interfere with my job) that it was a family issue, not a school issue.
My ex later sent me an email that accused me of having an affair with a co-worker and that school was covering it up by telling her it was personal business and not something school could handle.
On top of all that was the fact that she denied me access to our two accounts. She said I couldn’t take out money. And when I asked her to not use our money until the courts decided, she went ahead and accessed it, spending it on their rent for six months upfront, even though I had rent to pay and the kids were with me three nights a week and on Sunday days.
I started feeling like I was a punching bag.
She’d also kept my work-related documents, docs I’d needed to get my license renewed. When I wrote that she cannot hold them from me, by law, she wrote back, “Sue me!” When I said she’d hurt me professionally since my job requires certification, and that could hurt the kids, too, if I cannot keep my position, she wrote back, “Think of how you hurt the family by moving out.”
On top of that, she’s kept my memorabilia, old letters of my mother’s, etc.
And more threats ensued.
“Watch your back,” was sent twice via email.
But I kept on chugging along, not wanting to throw in the towel. The adversity was heavy and constant. No matter, I couldn’t let it all get to me.
And then in December, after I toured around an international visitor with my kids for three hours on one of our Sundays together, visiting a sightseeing hotspot in our city and going for great local food, she went bezerk. Even though we’d met five different women while on a family trip in another country just eleven months before—all through the same hospitality exchange website for travelers, she now accused me of having an affair with the traveler—and exposing my children to it, saying I hurt my kids and that I was a bad dad. Quite the contrary. The kids had a fine three hours. My daughter held hands with the woman walking up the stairs. We joked around, taking pictures together. It was just like our trip last January, but without my wife present. How that was twisted into being wrong, I still don’t know nearly a year later.
Yet that night came another threat. “If you don’t email me by midnight with a promise that you’ll never meet another _____.org traveler, I will contact the woman and tell her of your indecent behavior.”
What? Indecent behavior?
I just wanted it all to stop. It had reached the ridiculous.
Yet, three-four weeks later, when an 18-year friend from Canada came to visit _________, a woman who was married with two kids, herself, it just got worse. On the one Sunday she was in town, I thought long and hard if I should invite her with the kids. I knew in principle there was nothing wrong if she met them. Nothing. But having her return to Canada without seeing my two kids, especially because I am so proud of them, especially since they are the loves of my life and I wanted her to see them in person (compared to years of FB videos and photos) because it might be years before we meet again (it had been 9-10 already), was just to odd. So we went for 4-5 hours to a major religious temple complex and then for lunch. The kids had a fun time. No harm done. All was legitimately based on being long-time friends, i.e., all was platonic.
That night, I got a text that said, “An anonymous texter told me they saw a woman getting out of the car today.” Of course it was my daughter her told her. Then, all went haywire. More email accusations of how I was a bad father, exposing the kids to my “women” and involving them in my “affairs” followed.
Then, a threat.
“Bring back the car by Tuesday, or else. The car is a family car, and you do not have women in the family car.” None of what I wrote via email got through to her. She wouldn’t listen to the truth.
We’d already agreed via emails over the last three months that I was going to pay off the bank loan balance when January arrived.
Two days later, I pulled up that Tuesday morning to drop off my two kids at her house, on my way to work at 7am. Her parents arrived with her, extracted the kids from the back seat doors (in an effort like an Ocean’s 11 heist), and she then jumped in the car, demanded I turn it over, and then called the police.
Five hours later, with my lawyer at my side in the police station back room, with her daddy having alleged to the police that I’d never paid money for the family, nor the car, etc., I was forced to sign over the car. That whole fiasco nearly pushed me to the brink. It wasn’t so much that I lost my car (I was the sole driver; she never drove in nine years together), it was that I’d felt like I was stripped bare in the police station and that they’d fucked me with a baton.
The issues related to the language, customs, culture, etc., that were present for me, the foreigner with limited language skills, all just rushed over me, submerging me in so much doubt that I’d ever get a fair shake in this country.
I haven’t yet, eight months later.
All has gotten worse.
And it got worse dramatically soon after my car was taken.
Eleven days later, I dropped my children off (with the help of a taxi since I was left without transport) on that Saturday morning of January 18th and kissed them goodbye, saying, “I’ll see you tomorrow,” since it would have been my Sunday’s seven hours with daddy. That never came.
That night, I received an email stating that I could not take them out again, that they couldn’t stay at my house any longer, that if I wanted to see them, they’d be waiting in their apartment courthouse garden for me—in her presence. Within the email exchanges the next 3-4 days were the preposterous allegations that she was protecting the children from my social life and women.
My jaw had hit the floor so many times over the last few months that when it did that night, too, while reading her email, I wasn’t surprised as much as I should have been. She’d just been building up to this all.
189 days passed before I saw my children again. 189 days. You do the math.
Yet everyone I spoke with during those six months said the same thing.
“That isn’t legal.”
“She can’t do that.”
But my response stayed the same, “You’re right, but nobody has been able to do anything about it.”
I filed forms. I went to near-countless legal aide appointments. I paid hourly consults at various law firms.
Being a foreigner in a foreign land isn’t easy at times. Try going through this ordeal. I no longer felt like a punching bag. The feeling was more akin to being one of those lifeless dummies that Armies use to practice thrusts with bayonets at the end of rifles on.
Months were spent searching for lawyers, translators, and help; immeasurable hours, on collating, documenting, translating, screenshoting, printing, sorting.
Having taken off so many days of work to attend consultations, etc., I went over my job’s limit of days off (via sick and personal days). I lost a couple of thousand in pay. I’ve spent nearly $10 grand US in total.
I was pushed to the brink a few times, but resilient as hell, thinking of my kids at each and every turn, I stepped back. Yet tears flowed continually. When I heard kids on the street playing, saw dads carrying young ones, held friends’ kids, I cried. Seeing my children’s bedroom, which stayed mostly behind closed doors for six months, brought tears to my eyes.
And this was all done mostly alone. Solo was the name of the game. After such crazy accusations at the start of it all, I went into maximum I-better-not-even-go-for-coffee-with-a-woman mode. I cancelled my Chinese tutor. I avoided chatting with anyone for too long anywhere I went. Loneliness set in on all levels.
Being forced to go cold turkey without my kids’ hugs, kisses, pecks on the cheek, pats on the arm, holding hands, etc., was the worst part of it all. When you’re a parent, that close natural bond and intimacy of the heart is so powerful. When it is taken from you, especially for utterly nonsensical reasons, it kills you. She was killing me. She knew it.
To know that I’d done nothing wrong made accepting some of it all more easy—but, simultaneously, such knowledge made it worse. Unfair it was, without a doubt.
One translation service charged me well over $100US to do a two-page document, but when I got it, I noticed a paragraph was missing (as were two small statements elsewhere). When I asked via email why they’d not translated the paragraph, she wrote, “I didn’t write it because in our culture, we do” this and that, and “I didn’t think it was fair…” That was one of the most absurd moments of this whole fiasco. Still, months later, my blood pressure rises. She manipulated my documents (the translation of) based on her perspective. Translators and interpreters cannot do that.
Court hearings (negotiations mandated by the court system here) resulted in pathetic outcomes in March, April, and May. The first she didn’t show up for. The second she left after ten minutes because I didn’t want her daddy present. The third lasted twenty minutes but she left in a huff because I wanted to address not seeing the kids and she wanted the divorce signed. Unreal.
The injunction I’d filed to see the kids resulted in a court hearing with a real judge. Though I was the plaintiff, the female judge started with my wife—who went off for me in the local language, acted dramatically, and set the tone for the rest of the hearing. The remaining 45 minutes after her charade felt more like an interrogation than my chance to press for seeing the kids. She said I was unfit, that I’d hurt the kids by exposing them to women, that I’d had parties in my house when the kids were over, that they’d returned to her house tired from lack of sleep, and that they’d been really uncomfortable on the two outings with visitors. None of it was true. Literally… nothing.
It must be mentioned, too, that for six months, I sent near daily emails and text messages, none of which were responded to. I’d written about bringing my son diapers, bringing clothes, about needing her signature to sign on to a bank account for the kids, about how much I loved them and missed them. ZERO answer.
Back on January 22nd, four days after her email stating I couldn’t take the kids any longer, she said, “We’ll let you know when we’re not busy.” She never did. That was her last message.
And at one point over those six months, she sent a 2.5-page PDF file to friends and family via former FB connections, accusing me of so many wrongdoings, stating, wrongly, that she’d supported me over all the years.
She also told the courts that my children were afraid of me.
That accusation hurt the most. My heart knows the truth, but when she said that, I couldn’t take it emotionally. She was aiming for the jugular.
Then came the positive news that I was striving for. A court order arrived that gave me M-F eves with the kids from 630pm until 8pm—and every 2nd and 4th weekends, monthly. Immediately, I jumped at the chance to contact her.
The following three weeks so no result. She changed the content of the court order with an email, explaining what would happen, most of which was directly contradictory to the court order! Yet nothing became of it.
The court order stated I needed to tell her one day in advance of a pending visit. She dictated 12 noon the day before.
The order listed “residence” for the M-F nightly visits. Although at the court hearings she’d stated it would happen in the courtyard garden (public) at their building, she dictated in email that I’d have to go into her parents’ 10th floor apartment to see them.
The court order clearly showed that she couldn’t be present during my visits, but she dictated she’d be there each time.
During the three weeks, she was a no show once, she refused my coming with a lawyer, and she rejected my entry with a friend—whom I’d brought as a witness. Even with the police, who came with me for my first Saturday pick up, which she’d made hard to arrange because she claimed I didn’t tell her by 12 noon the day before, I couldn’t enter. Her building guard said I could go solo to the 10th floor, but that I couldn’t bring the police. The cops went instead, but they couldn’t retrieve the kids without a warrant.
Three weeks with a court order and… zilch.
The bayonet bag had fallen to the floor and was being kicked repeatedly.
Incidentally, the court order had also granted calls at any time, but she made it utterly, insanely challenging to call. She demanded I notify her a day before of an exact time to call the next day. She refused giving the kids messages, saying I should just tell them when I see them on my weekends. She claimed my photo attachments I’d sent didn’t work—and then stated I could give them things in person, instead.
Her father hung up on me once, and that was followed by an email from her to apologize for him since he thought I was a solicitor trying to cheat them. Sure, a foreign guy whom you’d known for nine years, asking for the children, was a solicitor? Really? Games.
For the three weeks of the court order, my wife wrote me in her language, only. Nine years together, and she suddenly forgot how to use English—or that I didn’t speak her language that well—or read it at all, practically.
Resilient, I tried to not let it all get to me. Pushed to the edge again. Yet I stepped back again and again.
At the end of the July, there were the 4th negotiations. I’ve written about that in detail to family and friends, but suffice it to say it was overly unfair and biased. The interpreter the court assigned was horrifically incapable of interpreting. I missed 80% of the conversation. Dialogue swirled around me. I was lost. Demands were made. I agreed to paying custody in exchange to see the kids the 2nd and 4th weekend, but that’s all I wanted to agree on. I’d already told my lawyer I didn’t want to sign the divorce until custody was taken care of.
But when my lawyer stated, “Okay, we’ll sign the divorce papers now,” I sat there numb. She, the negotiator, and my wife all claimed that it had to be done, that that was the system in this country. My wife and her lawyer got up, even after we’d agreed to the kids in exchange for custody payments, and declared they were leaving, that I wouldn’t see the kids… unless I agreed to divorce.
Three days later, I attempted to file an appeal. I was rejected. I wrote all about coercion and duress. It fell on deaf ears.
My lawyer, the second since I’d fired the first for complete lack of effort (though paid up front), hasn’t followed through with my requests on a number of fronts, and one topic she has completely avoided in three messages recently.
Assassinating character might work in western courts, but here, I’ve been told, it won’t work. So I’ve got struggles to deal with even with my own lawyers and their approach.
But, I was finally able to see my kids starting late in July, and I’ve had them three times at mine on weekends. Picking them up the first day was such a surreal event. My heart was racing. It was filmed. All went smoothly for the most part, but my ex stated something that got the mental cogs turning.
The Sunday night of that first weekend, she wrote an email that stated my son had a 3 cm bruise by his elbow. The tone of the email connected me to what she’d said the morning before when I went to hold my daughter, taking her from her grandfather’s clutches. She added, “Don’t hurt her.”
After six months without my children, how dare she say that to me?! I wanted to respond. I didn’t. I bit my lip.
But a week or so later, my ex included in an email—which are now at least in English since the divorce was signed, that I “tried to strangle” my daughter.
She isn’t going there, is she?
There are so many aspects of this all that still can be included here, but suffice it to say that, even though I am resilient—and that I’ll persevere no matter what—the process in this foreign land is daunting.
I am afraid her father will want to bump me off, but the court refused to let me file a restraining order against her and him. That’s the email my lawyer has ignored.
Yet even though I’ve spent three wondrous weekends with my wee ones, the drama hasn’t stopped. Until a few days ago, she’d played more games and not let me call the kids. She’d demanded I’d only call at certain times, and then when I started my new school year again, being in full-day training workshops, she dictated that I call at 9am those days. In staff training workshops, I couldn’t just answer the phone, so I asked for evenings. She said they were too busy, insisting the next day I call at 9am again. And then when school started full-throttle, she told the court investigator that I’d have to call from 12-1230pm only.
Once more. Games.
Once more, the courts weren’t willing to get the ball rolling. They wouldn’t demand she let me give my kids a cell phone for direct calls. They’d not require her to provide a schedule of her evening hours and the kids’ classes (she claimed my son has evening classes, even though he is 2.5 years of age) so I know when to call and get them!
Now, I just found out from my new principal that my ex has written my job, asking why they won’t let me make calls during lunch! Unreal.
And I’ve received notice that my school needs to withhold 30% of my wages for the next eight months, on top of the child support I am already paying, but the court document to garnish my wages doesn’t even state why! My lawyer said that document will come later. Unreal.
I’m now at $1800US/month gone from my paycheck, and I don’t even know why. She’s killing me. Or at least trying to.
All is enough to make many throw in a towel. I won’t. I cannot. They’re my kids. They’re all that matters to me.