The psychiatrist we had been seeing sat across the room, his glasses not obscuring his expressive eyes, eyes that looked at me with baffled concern and puzzlement.
“You have both been seeing me for some time. We are not headed anywhere, Ellen. You are abused. There is no other way to put it, and I think you should go to Four Winds where Dr. Klagsbrun is, where Hedda Nussbaum had gone.” That is what I recall him saying, as we both sat without my husband there. I was very confused. I had come to him to FIX my marriage, not end it. I said that to him. I was mad. Why couldn’t he FIX us? I was tired of so many people saying “Why do you put up with that?” Of my children asking why Daddy said this or did that to me.
I cannot imagine what it is like for normal couples to decide to end their marriage in a civilized fashion, for the good of all, for the preservation of whatever was good. That would not be my path. It is not anyone’s path in the escape from abuse, and those are the high-conflict divorces. I know now that high conflict is really great, great fun for the abuser. It is the incredible flash point, the summit he has been really lusting after, just like a serial killer must relish what motivates him, a sick excitement that makes them tick. I won’t be surprised to find that there is some psychological study that shows the continuum and connections, but I have not seen it, nor do I need to. I have read enough about brain-washing, Stockholm Syndrome, abuse attachment syndromes. I had been lectured and lectured by my own therapist, by friends, by enemies. By strangers on a plane.
I had really been very isolated in my marriage and had not paid attention to so many things that seem very obvious now. My husband and I shared the same internist, a famous TV doctor who had gone to college with him. We shared the same Trust and Estates lawyer, his brother, who was a very, very respected partner at one of the biggest law firms in the world, whose reputation for integrity had no question mark attached at all. Men like this wouldn’t set up a mom like me, their in- law, who sang at their father’s funeral, who was just chugging alone. Why would such a thing occur to me? It would not. Why would they interfere in my marriage?
I know this now too—Never share lawyers, doctors, therapists. Things need to be separate, your own doctor, lawyer, therapist so you can have objectivity, so you can avoid being set up if that is the game that is to be put in to play. When you marry a management consultant who then morphs in to an investment banker at the dawn of deregulation, and you matter last, he will be wondering how best to protect his interests. That will be by control, controlling who tells you information, whether it be medical, legal, you name it. And then they can trick you too and you won’t think of such a thing.
Every so often he would ask a question that I would find weird. “Do you think you might want to live in Monaco, and give up your American Citizenship? We wouldn’t have to pay taxes then.” I thought he was on drugs. I had no concept of where this question came from, but he wanted to keep every penny. His father’s mantra was close to his heart “Money doesn’t care who owns it”. He would tell me that over and over. ”MONEY,” he would say as if it was from on high, “doesn’t care who owns It.: Or his other mantra from his father, that would be predictive was “It’s amazing what you don’t know about another person.” His father used to say that a lot. Cool C took this one to heart and strove to be amazing in what you would not know about him.
I would find out our doctor knew one of the other women Cool C was squiring around on his business trips. They had all gone to Yale together. One e mail would show they had been in Chicago for a week, staying at a hotel for his business meetings during the day with one of the world’s most famous companies, but sneaking out to meet this woman at a fertility hospital in Chicago, where they were doing in vitro fertilization, while the children and I were back in New York. This was on his office e mail no less, so the office knew which was also really shocking to my core. I remember asking “Cool C” (his family’s nickname for him) if every stroke on the computer could be seen by his office, and he shrugged and said “I assume so; that would be legally necessary.” I would not know what this meant either, but then I never worked in that environment. And the computer lived on our kitchen counter, the children playing video games on it while he “oversaw” them.
No matter where I turned and to whom I turned clarity and confusion intersected and collided. When I went to see our doctor, his piercing. Tungsten gaze was creepy and odd. He then said, “In medical school we were told by one professor ‘Everything is about sex except sex and sex is about aggression.” He added sharply “You are going to ask for a divorce, Ellen, I can see that. No I don’t know who this Liz is. Lots of people with that first and last name at Yale. Nope..Never heard of her.” All the time he was shredding documents from my file in front of me! I was there for a physical that didn’t happen, but he sent me out, to the front desk, presented me with a bill for $800 that I put on our credit card, and like a “cat”, the door was opened and out I was put in the hall. But he did know Liz. Liz’s roommate was his girlfriend all through college. They were inseparable, all of them. And now they were up to something that had been going on for some time, tales told in office e mails, that I had now read over and over. I had put them all over my bedroom floor, like a huge jigsaw puzzle that I kept assembling over and over, by date, by man’s name, by woman’s name, on and on. I would change the pattern trying to make sense of my private life, my married life, the life I had endured with enormous suffering with the father of my children. I was trying to figure out what to do next.
“Get a lawyer. Get a Lawyer! Get a Lawyer!” each person would tell me—marriage counselor, my therapist, my Divorce lawyer cousin in Washington, DC, who would give me some names. Everyone gave me names. I began to quietly go around the city, trying to talk to these names, in offices that were like none I have ever seen with people I could not comprehend, these creatures who “practiced” divorce law.
I would soon enough find out that there is no such thing as divorce law or a divorce attorney, or real judges.
Cool C and his brothers knew how to handle every little detail, as if they were Mafiosi. They understood the police. They understood lawyers, quid pro quo, they knew everyone had their price, they knew there was no such thing as attorney/client privilege. They knew there was no Rule of Law and that I was disposable, a stay at home musician mom and they were in a real world of fake lawyers and law firms that played by their own rules, made up laws parading as novel theories, on and on.
It was Bambi meets Godzilla. Over and over. it was the sporting event they had been training for years, and it was now. Like Mohamad Ali in triplicate, they were ready to float like a butterfly sting like a bee. Death by Divorce—that was their motto. My death. Cool C had told me over and over if I asked for a divorce he would use the children like bullets in a gun at my head. In my mind’s eye I saw the Deer Hunter scene where the Viet Cong play Russian roulette over and over with the American Prisoners of War, never knowing if there is a bullet in the chamber. In my case, I would find out there would always be two bullets in the chamber, child one and child two, over and over, aimed at my head and my heart. This would be their Academy Award moments, these three brothers, the Cerberus Boys; this was to be the most fun extracurricular event they could imagine, brought to you by me and our children, their flesh and blood.
I had no idea what was going on. I thought I was in America, in Manhattan where top flight lawyers and doctors behaved in top flight honorable ways. You know. Professional. Trained and seasoned professionals.
This was 2003 -04, four years before Bernard Madoff was shown to be a top flight fraud who had been put in as the Head of the Nasdaq by … one has to think top flight lawyers and bankers, wouldn’t you guess? You don’t spring full grown from Zeus’s brow, now do you? No you don’t.
If Americans learn anything now about who is the Head of Anything—they should wonder who put them there. No one becomes the Head of anything without all payoffs planned in advance, all favors lined up, like limit orders in the stock mark, good until cancel.
But my lawyers would spring out of my legal action; abandon me at the most amazing times, on the most amazing cues.
It was a bad movie I would be stuck in with no exit at all because they knew I had to rely on them because I was the only non lawyer for miles. I was trapped yet again, with a bigger cast.