Dear Lucy: I divorced my husband ten years ago. We have one child and now he is seventeen. His father has never paid child support and I have never done anything about it because I can usually handle everything myself. However, when I really need his help and ask, he knows how to push my buttons, make me mad and I walk away angry and empty handed. He has never done anything for our son willingly and makes me feel guilty for asking by telling me about the last time he gave me money. Now, my son doesn't even want to ask for anything. Senior year is coming up and I can really use the help. How can I get different results?
Dear Buttons: Our emotions can work for or against us. Could it be that one of the buttons he pushes is the one called pride and unforgiveness? These two states can make us very emotional.
First there is the pride that made you think you didn't need or want his help so you decided not to legally enforce his responsibility to provide support for his child. Second, when we wallow in unforgiveness, it's hard to be civil. And here is something about forgiveness that we need to remember. To forgive a person does not mean that we let them go free. It means that we let ourselves go free. We become free enough to think rationally and without cloudy emotions.
What would be rational? Rational would be your knowing that it is your husband's responsibility to care for his child and when you don't enforce it, your child loses, not you. Your child deserves to live comfortably and not have to see you angry, overworked or whining about his sorry dad. So many women think that being able to get by without that man's support is a show of strength or showing him that you don't need him. This is not about you. It is about holding him accountable by law. It is about supporting your child's opportunities beyond the bare necessities.
When you go to your ex-husband for money and come away empty handed repeatedly, what does that say about you? It makes you feel stupid and ineffective. So, here is an idea. Before going, be real clear about your intentions. Your intention is to come away with what you need for your child. That means that any other conversation is extraneous.
Whatever he says to you, smile sweetly and agree. "Yes, you did give me $$ last year and that's great. Today, we need..." No emotion. Stay on track.
There is a bible verse that says, "Agree with thine adversary when thou art in the way." Stick to your purpose. Take low to rise high. The last thing he expects is for you to be agreeable. The whole point of pushing your buttons is to make you get mad and leave empty handed. This new strategy may not work the first time, but eventually it will and immediately you will feel better about yourself!
Many so-called deadbeat dads are deadbeat because we let them be so. The child or children should always be at the center of the dialogue and decisions. Leave your emotional baggage behind! If you never get a penny, you will know you tried to do what's best for your child and allow that man to participate financially in the care.
(For help with the feelings that get in the way of prayer and peace of mind, get Lucy's new book, "BE NOT ANXIOUS." Order it directly from her at 901-907-0260 or go to her web site www.heartworks4u.com.)