Mutual Respect Part 1: Emails Gone Wild

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.

5/6/09

From:  Emily

To:  Devon

Devon-

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

Blessings, Emily

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11 thoughts on “Mutual Respect Part 1: Emails Gone Wild

  1. Emily, I’m loving reading your blog. Not only because I obviously think both you and Devon are awesome, but because it reminds me how far I’ve come too. My ex and I are both not very detail oriented so a lot of times we use email for logistical planning (even so far as having a color-coded calendar last year to accomodate some schedule shuffling due to camps and travel plans). But you reminded me of an email he sent me after I had to face the dreaded “Other Woman” at MY OWN BIRTHDAY PARTY a while back. Reno’s a small town. Anyway, I think you guys are doing a lot of good with this blog and I’m looking forward to reading more submissions 🙂

    • Michelle, you are awesome. Your comment brings up an interesting topic, which Devon will be sharing soon. He has a overwhelming fetish with calendars, and it’s borderline hysterical. However, thank God he’s like that. I would forget to wipe by rear if it wasn’t for him. He keeps us all organized, and I wouldn’t change his OCD tendencies for the world. (Don’t ask me to live with him again, however. That part was kinda tough with my slobbiness and his germaphopia.) Peace to you, Michelle.

    • Thanks, Heidi. You get the “first person to comment” award! Ooops… I guess that one officially goes to Michelle, but I still consider you a part of the comment club. Thanks for your encouragement.

  2. Your willingness to share an experience and state your own weaknesses is admirable. A church I drive by everyday here in Salt Lake has a sign that says “:Patience is counting to ten before NOT blowing up.” I think waiting a day to press send and remembering to not take things so personally is key. Thanks for sharing Em. Hugs to you and yours.

    • Nurse Bacon, I have always admired people who can be transparent, and well, you are admired. Your honesty draws people to you. Not taking things personally is really difficult for me. In fact, it’s probably one of my biggest weaknesses. Devon can attest to this.

      I always enjoy reading signs posted by churches. Sometimes for the hypocrisy factor, sometimes for the humorous factor. More often than not, however, there are true bits of wisdom that are displayed on those signs, because in my opinion, the Bible really does have tons of wisdom in it.

      That could open a can of worms for some people. But if you know my background, you’ll appreciate what I just said. Maybe that will be a future post on here…

      Thanks again, B. Say hi to Nascar for me.

      Emily

  3. I love this! I am now 9+ years from my first marriage, and it was such a fine tuning for us to get to where we are now with our oldest child “raised” and out on his own and our second child with two years left of high school. When my mom died last month, my ex dropped everything to drive the 14 hours each way to the service with our 15 year old child in tow. My ex stayed with my family for the four days in Oregon and also was at every part of the events of the memorials, funeral, and family gatherings. My family in all its generations has never had a divorce before mine so I am the ‘odd’ one, and everyone was watching to see how we would interact. Had I been told ten years ago we would be able to coexist that productively now, I would have laughed.

    I agree so strongly with the written communication. It helped us depersonalize things and for me to be a better “me” in the conversations than I was really at that time. Also, mutual respect for the other had to be rebuilt by us laying aside the reasons for the divorce and by creating a new normal that really turned a blind eye to the past pains. It was SO hard but necessary. We have a loose divorce agreement where we decide on vacations, who lives where and for how long, who carries the insurance, etc. And in order to keep that working we have had to work hard on being considerate of the other parent as well as focused on the needs of our two kids. I appreciate your writing this all out because so often my ex and I get comments that we communicate better than most happily married couples…. but it was a HARD road to get there and most people don’t realize that it is a process. Thanks for the transparency in sharing your journey.

    • Heather, I’m honored that you posted on our blog. It sounds like you could start one of your own. I hope that people who stop by our site take time to read what you’ve shared. Mucho wisdom.

      Also, I’m sorry about your mom. You are obviously a strong and intuitive woman. Hang in there.

      Emily

  4. It is a refreshing blog where I find that two people that once loved each other enough to have children together, can actually put those children in front of their own angers, hurts, betrayals, etc. As a “new wife” and step mom to a family that is ripped apart by the former, I can only grieve what I am living next to and rejoice that others have found a road to peace and acceptance. Please keep up the sharing in a spirt of encouragment to the “rest of us”.

    • Jeni, your encouraging words are very appreciated. You should start a blog of your own regarding being a step-mom etc. when the birth parents have issues from their previous marriage. Fortunately for me, there will never be another woman as a step mom in the picture with my kids. Yes, it’s all about me (-: The kids have two amazing dads and only one mommy for the rest of their lives.

      It sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders and a sweet heart to share with your husband and step-children. They are obviously blessed.

      Emily

  5. Wow, once again, I just wish I had found your blog months ago. I could have written a lot of this post (and still can, unfortunately. I almost sent a very nasty e-mail yesterday and then read some of your posts and was really happy I didn’t).
    I know that I am happier when my ex and I can talk and not focus on the details of separation agreements, financial decisions like selling the house and his behaviour before I found out he was gay and cheating on me. I also know that when I’m down and go to the Straight Spouse forum, I’m told over and over again that the only way to move forward is to stop all contact with my ex except what is strictly necessary. I’m reminded of how “evil” he is and why would I want to spend any time with a person who destroyed my life. And of course, that feeds my anger and grief and I get nasty and mean. And that’s not who I am or who I want to be.
    So your post shows me that it’s normal to feel like this maybe but I have control over how I act or react. I know I’m happier when I don’t let the bitterness overwhelm me. I will keep reading and keep trying. He was my best friend for 35 years and it’s hard to not talk like we used to. I pray I can get to where you guys are one day. I’ll keep reading 🙂

    Jo

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