Co-Parenting With Your Abuser
When the chains of abuse don't end at divorce.
In theory, the idea of divorced parents putting aside their grievances for the children's best interest and co-parenting, sounds without a doubt, optimal. How would that not be the best, mature, and adult thing to do? The children are most important, and everyone knows that a stable sense of balance between the parents is key for the most stable life of the children.
But is it really the most stable and healthy of situations, when the reason for one of the parents escaping a marriage, yes escaping, was to remove themselves from a terrifyingly abusive, suffocating, and controlling situation?
Would anyone agree it was right by law, to force a war veteran with PTSD to sit in a room filled with guns going off all around them?
That is how it has felt for me for the past eleven years.
The abuse is no longer physical but the mental and emotionally destructive abuse has never yet ceased for me. Every time he texts me or tries to call me it triggers my PTSD, and for the longest time, he would use court as a threat to me if I didn't 'talk' to him, because that meant in theory, 'I wasn't co-parenting'.
I use co-parenting in parentheses, because there was never any co-parenting. To him, my abuser, co-parenting was only when I agreed to his terms, otherwise, I wasn't co-parenting. His manipulation and harassment was relentless over everything down to what shoes the kids wore, and how their hair was cut, which he put on me to do for everything even though we had joint custody. One parenting coordinator perfectly said, and I paraphrase, 'He thinks he's King who likes to just sit on his throne and point his finger and dictate what all his peons around him must do.' He feels he's a good parent because he's 'directing' things, yet never lifts a finger to do anything for the children.
I couldn't breathe.
I couldn't remove an extremely toxic man from my life, and if I needed a serious mental health break and refused to answer a text message or a phone call within a few hours from when he sent them, I was getting cc-ed copies of emails to his lawyer stating that I wasn't co-parenting like the judge said.
For the longest time after the divorce I fell into a serious depression. He would use the children for manipulation to get whatever he wanted, refusing to bring them to field trip drop offs on his day that they had looked forward to for months, unless I would do and agree to what he said. He would make me wait forty minutes at exchanges to hand over the kids, or simply refused to on his time, even though he knew that was the day all my family had flown into town to visit. All, to either get back at me for not agreeing to his terms, or force me to comply to them. Basically, he would hold the children and my life hostage nearly every day.
So many times I called the cops to help me make an exchange, and yet they always told me they can't force him to hand them over, that I'd have to take it up with the court.
You can't co-parent with a narcissist and manipulatively controlling abuser.
It hurts the kids far more, putting them between constant conflict and issues, and more than once I had even thought about just 'ending it,' because that's how much I couldn't breathe. I was suffocating and constantly living with my nerves outside my skin, dealing with very real PTSD, not to mention the continuous damage and abuse he continue to infect me and the children with. But it was the children that kept me here, because I would never hurt them, that, and knowing if I were to 'go away,' that they would be fated to end up solely with him.
Does the court take that into consideration in regards to the children's welfare? That maybe forcing an abuse victim to be in constant contact with their abuser might make them want to take their life eventually? Would that be in the best interest of the children? Because that is exactly what that road leads to.
Finally, one parenting coordinator saw the real truth of the situation and agreed that instead of us co-parenting, that we needed to be parallel parenting, a relatively new idea in the court system.
But the abuse didn't stop there.
It took one of my children to become the victim of a physical assault that landed him in the hospital for psychiatric treatment for 9 days at the age of 11, for the court to finally wake up to see.
He has since gotten joint custody back after losing custody for a year, but I now have sole legal custody of the children and no longer require his agreement on anything, nor does he have a say, unless he takes it up with the court in a specific hearing. Finally after eleven years, we are ordered all communication through a specific monitored website that logs everything said. There are still days when I can't breathe and feel I can't take it any more, but at least the court has finally recognized and allowed me to breathe.
Co-parenting is an ideal that does not work in these cases, and a situation that an abuse victim should never have had to be placed in.