God bless the saints who came up with texting, instant messaging and emails. I swear I hate talking on the phone and trust me; this is coming from a talker. I would rather say exactly what needs to be said, get the response I need and get back to mindlessly Facebooking or reading 50 Shades of Grey.
Unless, of course, I’m talking with my sister 1,500 miles away from me. The phone is the way to go in this scenario, because I feel like I’m right in the same room with her, drinking a beer and playing cribbage on her comfy purple couch. Emails and texts are stupid when you’re talking with a dear friend, loved one or close family member.
However, when you’re trying to communicate with your ex or soon-to-be ex, face-to-face conversations, phone calls, or even texts and emails, can spell disaster. Basically, any form of communication raises the blood pressure, causes Tourette’s syndrome to emerge and throws all sense of courtesy out the window. Things are said, responses are puked back, emotions call the shots and the reason you needed to communicate in the first place is completely forgotten.
Been there. Done that. Bet you have, too.
Those first couple of years, after Devon’s big reveal, I felt more anger than I knew how to handle and said some really nasty things. At other times, I was happy, at peace and kind to him. Essentially, I was all over the place in a manic depressive way. It took me a few years to be consistently even keel.
During those tough times, phone calls between the two of us were disastrous. I pretty much always took the conversation to bitter and unproductive levels. Devon was not a saint, either, but I won’t speak for him. He knows his faults and pointing them out, even today, is not productive.
There was one day in particular that I completely snapped. I honestly had an out-of-body-experience and became possessed by a horrible supernatural being. As horns grew out of my head and my pitchfork jabbed at Devon relentlessly, I realized that I needed to change. My words really hurt him, and I was happy that they did. I know you know what I mean. But, really? That’s not the person I perceive myself to be, and so something had to be done.
The following is the email excerpt that began to change our circumstances into something more amicable. I’m so thankful that I saved this so I can share it with you.
I want to start off my letter by formally asking you to forgive me for using so much profanity and screaming at you yesterday. No one deserves that, especially you, my best friend for the last 14 years and father of our children. I should not have called you a “fag” nor said that I wished I’d never married you, as well as calling you over and over again a liar. These things, among others that I don’t recall that I said, are not really how I feel at my core. I care deeply for you and how you feel and have compassion on what you have had do endure through our various processes and what you have had to deal with your whole life as a gay man trying to find your way in this world. I hope that you’ll forgive me and we can move forward.
I think that when it comes to talking about some specific things regarding the raising of our kids and my own choices and future life, I need to start corresponding with you through emails. This will help me personally to keep my emotions in check if you say something I don’t like and will allow me to keep from saying things that are unproductive. I don’t always need to write everything, because I generally enjoy talking with you personally, but some things are better done for me through writing. I can also respond more kindly and not be so emotionally charged…
And so, the email continued and I was able to appropriately express myself on productive issues, rather than the lack of focus that our phone calls produced.
As I’ve stated in a previous post, my friend once told me: “Emily, the best letter ever written is the one that was never sent.” Since this personal breakthrough email, I have written many emails that were never sent. At the time, I made a general policy (which I followed pretty closely) of waiting a day to push “send”. It gave me the pause I needed to review the email when I wasn’t charged by emotions, by weeding out the zealous statements, capitol letters, italicized words and quoted commentary. Sometimes, the only thing that remained of my email draft was: “Dear Devon”. I wasn’t perfect at it, but I made a true effort to be civilized and not condescending. I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome.
You should try it. Seriously. What’s the worst that can happen? Your spouse doesn’t return respect in kind? Keep doing the right thing anyway. Either it will rub off on him or her eventually, or you’ll simply be a better person in the end. It’s a win-win for you… and your kids. Also, your maturity is documented forever in cyberspace in case you need it someday.
On that note, I believe that sending nasty, psychotic or stalker-type emails and texts is probably the worst idea in the history of the world, even if you somehow justify it in your mind. In today’s technologically documented planet, those things will come back to bite you in the ass ten-fold. It’s every attorney’s wet dream when they have evidence against you as a parent that you are harassing their client somehow. It’s pretty tough to cover those kinds of tracks, not to mention the potential for getting a visit from a smiling document server at your place of employment, with an envelope in hand, containing a TPO. This isn’t just a blow to you and your ego; it can destroy your relationship with your kids. If you want an amicable divorce, you’ll refrain from being a compulsive idiot. Don’t put yourself in that position. Ever.
My hope with this post is that you’ll learn from our mistakes and make minimal mistakes of your own. Accepting your life circumstances and working with them instead of against them (and changing what you can) will lead to a healthier relationship with your ex and will benefit your children greatly. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes, which my wise father used frequently in our home growing up. The Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference. - Reinhold Niebuhr