a surprising place of strength

My dirty little secret…the day that my Irish Idiot’s attorney had me served with divorce papers, I thought and over-thought, and thought some more about every feeling coursing through my brain. And then I did something that could have gone horribly wrong…I FaceBook Messaged an ex-sister-in-law that I had never met.

I’m not sure why I did it, to be honest, because I never met her. All I had been told was horrible, horrible things about how she was a money-hungry {insert every bad word known to man} ‘person’. I think I did it just to complain to someone that may commiserate with me in my pain. My soon-to-be-ex-brother-in-law even wrote horrible things about this woman AND his own daughter on social media. Stand up guy, right??

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When I would challenge my husband on whether or not his brother’s behavior on social media had crossed a line, especially given the fact that he had a ‘less than stellar’ past himself (i.e. he was IN PRISON and his ex-wife had not been in prison and he had lost visitation of his daughter because of his own mistakes after he came out of prison), I was told “Staci, you don’t know the whole situation – she’s a horrible b*&^%. You have no clue.” Yet, no one could ever give me a specific example of what she had done, other than the work she did to prove that she was fit to better parent their little girl than her ex-husband, and how she fought fairly for child support that was owed to her.

And to be honest, I always tried to communicate where she may be coming from, i.e. – tried to give Erik another perspective because I had been in a similar situation myself, with my ex-husband, and Erik always shot me down by telling me that I just didn’t understand who she really was; that she was a money hungry woman that didn’t care about anything more than the child support that she was ‘receiving’.

Also, to clarify, the amount she receives each month wouldn’t even cover a one bedroom apartment’s rent amount…and that’s if he pays what is owed that month and doesn’t lie about having to pay for X,Y, or Z (like covering the cost of an engagement ring instead of paying for child support).

What I often said to my husband was, “can you imagine raising a daughter and having to explain to this little girl that her dad can’t come and watch her soccer game or softball game because he was in prison?” And the only response from him was, “she wants all of the family money”.

This woman had been married to my soon-to-be-ex’s older brother (they were divorced before he committed the crime that sent him to prison). She gave birth to Finleigh’s only cousin on my husband’s side of the family…she lived it.

My ex-sister-in-law stayed married to her ex-husband longer than I have been married to my husband. She endured this family much longer than I did and yet she still ended up being the villain.

And I believed Every. Single. Word.

I didn’t have any reason NOT to believe it. I only knew that Finleigh’s cousin wasn’t around and I had never met her. And I believed my husband. I should be able to believe him, right?? (Wrong)

So…back to my original story…….

I messaged her. I wasn’t sure if I would hear back.

And then I did. And then I was told that she’d be happy to speak with me, just offline because, as I came to find out, she wasn’t sure if it was her ex-husband impersonating me to try to get ‘info’ on his daughter or if it was legitimate.

I sent her a link to my blog.

And her response made me smile. One of the words, that I recall, was, “Wow”. I think that I have explained exactly how I feel about these people with my words to the public and she understood.

She and I talked for hours via Messenger (gotta love social media). And thankfully, she took a leap of faith and was completely open and honest with a total stranger.

I knew, though, that I was talking to a woman that would be a part of my ‘pillar of strength’ when she described for me exactly when her marriage started to fall apart…when ‘the family’ moved to Panama City Beach. The coincidence is that I had been saying for months that my marriage fell apart exactly when the ‘the family’ moved to Orlando, yet I hadn’t uttered that in anything she had read nor in my conversation with her prior to her saying this to me. She literally repeated the exact same phrase I had been saying, BEFORE I told her when I felt that I ‘lost my husband’.

At that point, I knew I had a ‘kindred spirit’ in this woman.

She understood.

She had been there.

And she has shared so much and we have this connection that I know will always be there. Because until you have lived through a divorce in this family, you won’t understand what they are capable of. For example, I was told today that he’s going to challenge whether or not I do drugs, which is laughable. The closest that I have come to a drug is the pill I took to ease my pain from my C-sections. And the nurses even commented (in the hospital) how I was able to stand, walk and come off of my pain medicine so quickly.

And yet my husband denies that this was ever uttered out of his mouth. What a load of garbage!! So his attorney just created this out of thin air?? I’m not stupid.

I know that I will now be blamed for the issues that my husband has been raised to think are not his fault. I get it and thank goodness I don’t have to be tied to that any longer. His mother can’t keep daughters-in-law in the family and I think she loves it…she loves being the one that the boys run to…it’s kind of sick…but I promise it’s reality and I haven’t twisted this story.

My ex-SIL has been blamed for soooooooo much in this family because they can’t seem to recognize their own shortcomings, yet her story and mine are almost duplicates. Thank goodness that I haven’t had to live through as much as she did, which is the silver lining in my divorce. Looking back, I’ve never heard anyone in the family admit even one thing that they’ve done wrong or one thing that they could have done differently to at least still have a relationship with their granddaughter/niece/daughter. It’s all been blamed on my ex-SIL – that it’s her fault that they couldn’t put aside their differences and work to keep a line of communication open.

Life takes on a whole new meaning when someone you once loved scares you or insinuates that your life could be in danger and that’s what seems to be this family’s M.O.

You constantly look over your shoulder. You are always looking in the rear-view mirror wondering if ‘that car is following you or just happens to be going in the same direction all the way home from the rink’. You think, “someone that loved me wouldn’t, couldn’t, possibly wish this on me,” and then you hear that they’ve uttered the words and you want to vomit. You don’t get it. You don’t understand what you ever did to deserve such hatred from them. AND you think, no one will understand. NO ONE will believe me…NO ONE will think I’m more than a disgruntled wife. Everyone will think that I’m exaggerating.

Yet, my new friend and sort-of family member gets it. She told me stories, before I shared any of my experiences, that completely matched, sometimes word-for-word, exactly how I felt, how our ex’s acted, what our mother-in-law has done, said, or ‘overlooked’, and how we felt…that no one would believe our ‘made-for-tv’ stories.

Even if I don’t come close to getting everything I want in the divorce, at least my daughter will get to know and love a cousin she wouldn’t have known otherwise. NONE of my soon-to-be-ex’s family, including the matriarch (of idiots) has ever once said, “I hope that one day the #cutestlittleredhead can meet her cousin.” Not once…looking back, not even my husband.

That’s how little any of them care about anyone other than themselves.

The four McDonnell brother’s (really the oldest three) survived off of each other and the scheme’s that they all created and employed. They only rarely talked about extended family…yet one of my best friends is my cousin. I couldn’t imagine life without her and my husband did NOTHING but trash both sides of his family to me.

On numerous occasions, he would tell me how they were trash or only around for the money that his father had. Someone had to teach these types of hateful and judgmental things to these boys. I’ve been a parent for 10 years…I understand what can be twisted and what can be taught to kids through the power of persuasion (I have to do this every darn day to avoid the homework struggle).

Looking back, I see so many red flags…but as I said to my ex-SIL tonight, I don’t think that I would have believed her, had she shared this with me before I married Erik. I would have seen her as a woman scorned…and then I would have come crawling back to her for support in six months.

This woman, that is raising a daughter with the same last name as my little girl, was put through hell…the same hell that they are trying to put me through. Literally, the same darn crap.

And when I make it sound like a group effort, it really is. My soon-to-be-ex-mother-in-law holds that umbilical cord tight and it’s almost creepy how close they all are to her. At least the older three.

The frustrating part is that my husband left so much of his life, prior to me, out of the conversation. He didn’t see that omission is as much of a lie as lying directly to your face, is.

So he was guilty of omission…and I was guilty of believing him. Believing that he had shared everything with me.

And as I found out later…my ex-SIL filled in a lot of blanks and confirmed a lot of things that I had wondered or considered.

I have verified and double checked, and crossed t’s and dotted i’s with the information that she has shared with me…and this woman isn’t crazy, she isn’t a horrible, horrible person.

She was just duped by them just like I was.

I’ve only known her for weeks, yet she’s made a huge impact on my life…on my daughter’s, on my family’s life. All because she understands.

I love every person in my life, yet until you’ve been through the EXACT same thing, it’s hard to compare apples to apples. My family and friends have been the support I’ve needed in some very dark times. They’ve been my cake.

And then my icing was when I received confirmation that I’m not crazy. That I am not insane for being afraid of them and nervous that my daughter won’t be cared for correctly, if ever in the presence of my ex-in-laws.

To know that someone believes my “made for Lifetime” movie because she’s lived it and knows that everything that I say is accurate, has made me feel ‘not crazy’ which is an amazing feeling because the ‘the family’ works hard to bully and intimidate and make you feel crazy for questioning anything in addition to questioning whether or not you are crazy for feeling crazy. It sucks.

But it doesn’t suck as much as it used to. Because I have another ‘Coach’ in my corner, cheering me on, giving me strength. And even though she could avoid it like the plague, she keeps doing it simply because it’s the right thing to do.

I’m so thankful for her and am thankful that I have people in my life that are amazing. I truly feel that God gives you moments of clarity and strength at the right times, just when you need it. Look for those times and enjoy them because there will be tough times through divorce. But focus on the good…always. 

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