Thursday, March 22, 2007

How to game the system

Responses to my post How to Talk to a Disenfranchised Father continue to accumulate over at the MSN message board. I was particularly taken with Zosha's Mom's comments, they are illustrative of the kinds of dirty tactics the father has to face when battling an uncooperative ex who holds his child hostage. Here they are in their entirety, with my commentary.
I am sure my ex sees me as one of these women, who force him out of our lives. Perception is in the eye of the beholder though.
If she's sure her ex sees her as "one of these women", then I submit that she probably is, or else why say it? She knows this, suspects she's a bad guy, and feels the need to justify herself, because no-one wants to be the bad guy. This can be done by suggesting that the only problem with her behavior is one's perception. A woman who who looks like the back end of a horse or, say, Andrew Lloyd Weber, can protest that beauty is in the eye of the beholder until they're blue in the face, but it's not going to make them pretty, now is it?
He called me a psychotic b*t*h for consulting a family therapist for an educated opinion about an overnight visit. He hadn't seen her in almost 6 months, she was only 20 months old, and it didn't sit right with me, so I had a professional tell me the way to go about it. He didn't like the solution suggested, to see her 4 times a week for the 3 weeks remaining before xmas before he took her overnight. Too bad for him, he didn't get her overnight. Oh, and he hadn't seen her in almost 6 months because he was too busy working and partying with the guys to be bothered with diapers on a saturday, his hangover day.
This part of the story is cleverly told backwards, starting with a reason to condemn the man, and ending with the reason why he might have been provoked, thus you are primed to disregard the provocation because you've already been told he's a jerk. Neat, don't you think? But this is a common tactic of those who are trying to distract you from the real source of conflict - muddling cause and effect is second only to demonizing the enemy as justification for warfare. (WMDs, anyone?)

She blends the most likely reason for no contact for 6 months - because he's working during the hours she permitted - together with a probable red herring - that he's been partying with the guys. This is a diversionary tactic designed to further reinforce the reader's picture of her ex as a bad guy while simultaneously allowing her to claim that she told you the truth, as well.

Somewhere before Christmas, he asks for an overnight visit, perhaps he is better able to spend quality time with her in an overnight than during a day when he's supposed to be working. Anyone who's read their child bedtime stories can understand that, can't they? Perhaps he was hoping his ex would be a little more cooperative around Christmas, which would also be a good occasion for him to get some quality time in with his child, don't you think?

But this "doesn't sit right" with her, so she finds a "professional", who doesn't know her ex from Adam, to give her some "advice" on how to go about it. Note that she is not concerned that her child shows some anxiety at the idea of being with her father (yes, I know, not 2 yet), nor that she voices a specific reason, it just "doesn't sit right". This "professional", given only her spin on the story, suggests a possibly difficult regimen for a working man who is not getting on with his ex - to see her 12 times in 3 weeks under unspecified conditions (who wants to bet, supervised at her home?) before he's allowed an overnight with his own child. Is anyone surprised that there follows an altercation in which she gets called names? I wonder what she called him? Possibly, she didn't have to, she just had to adopt a condescending attitude and fob off all responsibility on her "professional".
Then the court case. Right after the judge awarded me graduated access, ie. 5 consecutive saturdays at my home after not seeing her for 7 months, he called me a vindictive c*nt. I called the court, discovered a centre about 20 minutes away from our homes that he could see her at for the 5 saturdays, then he could have her at his house. When I got this information I called him, told him about it, told him if he showed up at my home I would not let him in. I do not have to deal with this kind of abuse in my own home in front of my daughter. That was 3 months ago and he still hasn't called about the centre.
Then the court case. If he can't be bothered to see his child because he's too hungover from partying, why is he wasting time and money (and money, and money, and money) seeking visitation through the courts? Is that a dumb question? I don't think it's a dumb question.

Her phrasing is especially interesting, don't you think? "The judge awarded me graduated access", my emphasis. Isn't that just a little, er, smug? (Actually, I think it's a humungous Freudian slip, and I think Freud was a bit of a loon.) Is there any father out there, facing a malicious ex who has been needling him through his kid for months, who would not feel humiliated at having visitation ordered in that woman's house? Not all men would take that like water off a duck's back. Nor do we know that there wasn't further provocation prior to the new name that she gets called. Again, one wonders what she called him, but perhaps it was just a grin and a wink as she skipped out of court.

And what is her reaction? Give him a chance to cool down? Look for ways to make it less difficult for him? Yeah, right, in your wildest dreams. It is immediate over-retaliation through the courts, pure passive aggressive bullying-by-proxy. "He called me a nasty name!" Pout. Let's make him jump through yet another hoop before he can see his kid, see what he thinks of that! Perhaps the change of venue isn't even court approved, and it's just another stunt. She calls him up and tells him about the center and that she won't let him in her house if he tries to come around. (Perhaps until recently, it was his house - another barb.) At this point, perhaps his counsel has told him the courts won't do anything much on any reasonable timescale to make her obey the order. Perhaps he's decided it might be better to leave it a while, see if time mellows her obstructiveness.
I am sure he thinks that I have made it hard for him to see her, but it is not my job to make it easy for him either. He has the order, and I will not refuse to take her to the centre, if he ever calls.
Perhaps he thinks she's made it hard?! I think she's made it hard and all I've got to go on is what she's told us. Like another commenter in the thread, I believe that it most certainly is her responsibility to make it easy for him. That ought to be what "custody" means, not complete control over him through his kid. She is an abusive control freak, pure and simple.

The order he has sets him up for more trouble - time spent in her company is obviously a liability for him, to spend time in her house is begging for trouble. Big of her to say she won't refuse to take the kid to the center, where he can be studied by people used to bona fide abusers who are expecting him to be more of the same. I'm sure it would be immense fun for him and his child.

Note that she hasn't once said she's afraid of him, that he is abusive, or that he might do something to the kid. That is a bit of a strategic error, it would be the icing on the cake, and would convince many not-so-deep thinkers out there that being called names is just the tip of the iceberg and he really must be kept away. Signed, sealed and delivered. But the truth is, she doesn't need to. All that is necessary is for it to "not sit right" with her. The rest is spin, manipulation, vindictiveness.

All in good fun, of course. Let's all watch him squirm.

Do you begin to see how it works yet...?