Some things never change, but I won't be one of them.
I’ve been surprised to learn that some things never change, even after leaving. "He" is one of those things.
"Conversations" in our marriage were one-sided and miserable. A topic would come up, I'd express the asked-for opinion, and then the interrogation would ensue. How could I possibly think that? What were my sources? How could I know so little about something so important?
I’d feel ignorant, embarrassed and by the end I'd be doubting my right to even have an opinion in the first place. Maybe I should leave opinion-having up to smart people, I'd wonder.
After a while I'd end these conversations by saying I'd had enough and walking out of the room. "Why can't we just talk like a normal couple?" My ex would holler after me. "We should be able talk.” You don't want to talk, you want to bully, I'd think.
Yesterday, six months and a week after leaving, it became clear that where that conversation takes place may have changed, but everything else about it is still the same.
I don't see him anymore except during drop-off transitions when he brings our son home to me. He tries to start something then - every time he tries - but I have the "out" of all the research on co-parenting that says absolutely don't discuss things at transitions.
Last Friday when my ex dropped my son off at my apartment, he tried his usual curb-side routine, which is to ask me a question and then refuse to get my son out of his carseat until I answer it. “What do you think of Will’s development?” he asked. I said we should talk about it, and that I'd send an email. I didn’t add, “Now give me my son, asshole.”
The next day I sucked it up (because let's face it, I'd prefer never to have contact of any type with him ever again) and emailed like the good co-parent I am. "What did you want to talk about?" I asked.
"We should be able to talk about our son." He emailed back. I could hear the condescension in his voice as I read his words, so familiar were they. "I'm free on email all day," I reiterated. "Are you UNWILLING to talk about OUR son?" He demanded. He did always have a flair for the dramatic, in addition to simply being a jerk.
Oh my God, you are so fu***** predictable, I thought as I banged my head against the metaphorical wall. Obviously I didn’t email back, but I have been thinking about his comment for the last few days because of what else didn’t happen in response to his taunt: I didn’t have my normal reaction.
These types of exchanges with him have been taking place since the day I moved out and the word “transition” was added to my vocabulary. Up until a month ago, my normal response would have been to read his email, have a panic attack, and spend hours texting back and forth with my parents and best friend about how awful he is.
This last exchange with him showed me that after (just?) seven months, I’m finally starting to see him for what he is: a bag of old tricks. And a bag of old tricks is both predictable and boring.
There are some things that you know will change immediately when you leave your abusive partner - where you live. There are some things that apparently never change - how your partner treats you. But then there are things - how I respond to him - that just needed a little time to change.