“How are the kids?” “How are the kids handling it, er, everything?”
As you can imagine, these questions have come up a lot over past almost-four years. And if you’ve gone through any kind of marital strife and have kids at home, you know what I mean.
Looking back, it breaks my heart that they had to endure what they did but at the same time, what they experienced has changed their world view and exposed them to the realities of abuse and its repercussions, and the in-your-face reality of marriage itself.
Both kids are very wise, old soul-type kids. We’re extremely lucky but maybe luck didn’t play a role. After all, I like to think maybe they picked us to be their parents long before they came into the world.
For most of their lives, until 2014, they knew Scott and I to be a couple that rarely argued and were put on a pedestal as a couple other couples wanted to be, despite all the financial and health-related issues we endured. The split shocked them both, from what they have said.
They rode the waves. They wanted us both to be happy, ultimately. They saw Scott and I argue on occasion (not heated, just rational arguments) in the beginning of our separation but mostly they saw us being kind to one another.
What I now know was super hard for them was seeing their mom change.
I was always the happy mom, until 2014. The mom who would be silly and loved to laugh, yet they also saw me tackle the business world, forge paths in male-dominated industries, and succeed on national TV when I won an investment deal on Shark Tank. They saw a kind-hearted mom who helped others but who would also stand up for herself, her kids, and her family.
After the initial honeymoon phase of my relationship with my ex (otherwise known as “Love Stage”), I became a woman who walked on egg-shells. Both kids were really open to my ex—although both have said, with reservation. I think they clung to the moments when they would see me happy with him, but it wasn’t my state of being like it was in my life pre-2014. I would notice little things like Grace would be quick to come to my defense about whatever was brought up, if she perceived he was slighting me, even jokingly.
I will never forget one particular night. My ex and I were upstairs talking about something that had transpired with our furniture business and I was clearly not living up to his expectations. In his mind, I had let him down by not supporting him enough. In these situations, I would try desperately to make him see my side and how much I was truly supporting him, which led to an argument. It would normally go like this: I do something "wrong"; I try explain which he takes as excuses; he gets frustrated and loud; I start to cry and apologize; and the cycle repeats.
This time, my kids were downstairs. They—at ages 18 and 14—had come to spend the night with us. They heard it all. I was mortified and emotional. I pulled myself together and went back downstairs. No words were spoken. Noah got up from the couch, walked over to me, and opened his arms. All 6’2” of him just stood there and held me. I felt such guilt for not being the strong mom they grew up with—for exposing them to this type of abuse, which I didn’t see as abuse at the time but knew it wasn’t right. After we hugged, I sat down on the couch between them. Grace and I held hands. We just sat there watching God-knows-what on the TV and I apologized to them for having to hear what just happened upstairs.
I’ll never forget the shame I felt on every level. They were not used to this kind of interaction and here I was bringing it to them. If you’ve gone through any kind of narcissistic /emotional/verbal abuse, did you feel the same way?
A few months before we split for good—which was proceeded by me packing up his stuff and shipping it TWICE—Noah said something profoundly intuitive to Scott. He said, “Don’t worry, Dad, this is the last time she’s going back to him.” I didn’t know this, of course, until months later. And to be clear, Scott was very supportive of me and worried about me but always emphasized that even if he wasn’t the one for me, he didn’t want me on this rollercoaster with my ex—for my own sanity and for the kids. He saw how it was destroying the woman he knew and loved. Everyone did.
I feel like, as a mom, the best thing (aside from getting out) I did throughout the three years was be brutally honest with Noah and Grace. I was very open about the revelation (in 2013) of being a childhood sexual abuse survivor and I was very open, and still am, about the ups and downs of life and what I endured in the relationship. Some people want to hide it all and put on this face for their kids, but I found that being open and admitting my mistakes and humanness was the best thing I could have ever done as a parent. There’s a balance, of course, but I just relied on my intuition to tell me when to share and when to keep quiet.
I’m so proud of our kids. They have weathered a lot in their young lives and have managed to come out on the other side without being jaded. I’m proud that they are caring, loving people who stand up for others and who see life in shades of gray. They see how the dots connect and they know what unconditional love looks and feels like.
And they have their fun mom back!
So how are the kids doing? They are living in the moment and just being their awesome, wise selves. I’m learning from them and I hope they’re learning from me, too. We’re just figuring it all out together and enjoying each day as it comes.
The kids are all right, indeed.
When I was a kid I saw my dad cry once, when his grandmother died. He was a strong father that could throw a pop fly up into the clouds, handle his liquor, close a deal, and entertain the “unlikable.” I never witnessed anyone not liking him, never heard a bad word spoken about him. He was someone I feared if I broke a rule and went against, but I was never scared of him. He gave hugs and kisses. At times, I can remember discussions of money and finance in the family household taking place, but I was never fearful for our family’s well-being. I trusted his leadership of our house. I can’t think of anything he did wrong, any reason to blame him—anything to tell a therapist. He was and is a good father.
Now, as a father, I sit here and think about how many of the positive traits I saw in my dad don’t exactly align with mine. My son has seen me cry countless times—with “Toy Story 3” playing the agitator in the most outlandish epic family moment. My son has seen me act “weird” with alcohol. He has seen me lose jobs through firings and layoffs. He has seen people not liking me (even hating me on social media) and the emotional weight it played on me. He has seen me risk it financially and he’s probably questioned whether to even ask for 5 dollars to buy a video game if it put us in the slightest financial risk. But, perhaps the worse was when he saw me lose his mom.
In my mind, when I “lost” Kiersten, I wanted to present a strength to him, but to also let him know I was hurting. That it was okay to hurt. That eventually, I was going to be fine. But, the reality was he too was dealing with it on his terms. He didn’t seem to necessarily need me to explain where I was in my thoughts, he didn’t need to see my cry, or get angry—he just wanted a dad to be around when he wanted a dad to be around. So, except for a few slip-ups when I became emotional in front of him, we stayed off the topic of “mom” for a majority of our three-year separation.
In my mind, I also had a role I envisioned him playing. He would look at me with great awe. He saw my emotional strength and clarity of vision, he excused my momentary lapses of misplaced emotional outbursts, he prayed for me at night that “dad would win back mom.” In other words, I envisioned a “Disney kid.” And, every time I mistakenly used that Disney frame of reference he fell short, but not because he did anything wrong. He was doing everything right for himself. He was finding his own balance to all of this AND his side as well included a woman he loved dearly.
Is/was avoidance the best policy? Again, I’m no expert in what works for others but here is what I know. My son knew what I thought of his mother, he knew I still loved her. He knew I was sad. So, if he knew those things to be true for me why bother reminding him? So, I choose to focus on the “fun.” I separated my fatherhood from husbandry. I opted to play more than preach and laugh more than teach. My one stipulation I told him was,
“I’ve already been to school and I graduated. I’m not interested in doing school again. I ask that you take care of that for yourself. I’ve got the rest covered.”
In other words, I asked him to be responsible for the areas in his life that he could affect. I just wanted him to know that I had “the house stuff” under control. I don’t believe that I ever truly convinced him to not worry, but I made it a point to identify where I didn’t need his help.
We found common ground in sharing movies together and (without saying) staying away from movies that hit too close to our home life. Years later we would learn what those movies were and laugh that we had the same idea and sensibility to avoid them.
I also opted to not “kiss and tell” about any dating I was doing. I never spoke about any prospects for any long-term relationships either. I never had women stay the night in my house when he (or my daughter) were present. While he knew I would go out, I never meshed the two worlds.
I learned quickly that by him saying, “Want to watch a movie tonight?” meant that he wanted some father time. It was an arm around the shoulder moment that was good for both of us.
Just like I did, I’m sure there will come a day when he (as a dad or husband) look at what I did and purposefully chose a different response, reaction, or even movie for the moment, and that’s okay. I won’t take it personal, it will be his story.
-- Scott Hathcock
When Scott used to travel 75 percent of the time, we would call the period when he would come back from a trip “re-entry.” There was a little bit of maneuvering and compromising we both had to do, in order to come back together as a family unit.
We’ve had a different kind of “re-entry” since getting back together after being apart for three years. We’ve both grown a lot and feel so grateful to be where we are and we’re now marveling at the times we surprise each other, even after having known one another for 21 years.
On our way to Vegas this last weekend for a work event, we played a little game. Scott thought of it. We named 27 things we loved about one another. Why 27, I don’t know, but it was a fun number to pick. By the end of the weekend, as we just went through daily life, the list grew to 38 or so. I think we surprised each other with things we shared having been through everything we have endured together and apart.
I teared up when he said “I love your compassion for people you don’t know.” I didn’t realize that this was so important to me, nor did I realize the toll the last three years had on me having gone through feeling like I was doing something wrong when it came to helping others.
I shared with him how much I love his high level of emotional maturity and his huge heart, as well. He's one of a kind, truly.
We have moments like this, too…
Scott: “Was wondering about hitting the Hoover Dam on the way home.”
Me: “Um….I’ve been there but will go if you want to.”
Me: “Let’s go check out “x” place in Phoenix!”
Scott: “Um….I was there with so and so when I was dating her.”
Scott: “If I die while flying from Flagstaff to Phoenix with Paul, did I tell you we have a million-dollar life insurance policy.”
Me: “Wait, what?”
It’s like we’re rediscovering each other even though there’s a deep soul love and knowing underneath all of it.
Re-entry used to be thought of as kind of a tough thing because we were finding our groove again but now, it feels like a fun surprise.
I’m thinking we call the NEW re-entry, “So, funny you mention that, ….”
Dear women who are writing to me about having been with my ex,
Thank you. From the bottom of my soul, thank you.
I just received another email message this morning from a brave woman. I think that brings the count to 10, now. I know what you’ve been through from your gut wrenching accounts and from my own personal experience with him. Each time I read a new message from a woman who was pursued and abused by my him, my heart just breaks for all of us.
If you’ve written to me and would like to share more, please do. You can do so anonymously on my contact page or in comments, as many of you have.
I wish I could take your pain away.
I wish I could take the feeling of shame and stupidity away.
I wish I could get your money back, for those of you who loaned him money or paid the bills.
What I CAN DO is let you know you’re not alone. You’re not stupid. You’re a beautiful human being who opened her heart. That’s all.
I also want to stress one more thing.
Please get STD testing done, if you haven’t.
I was diagnosed with HPV after never having had it before nor ever having an irregular pap smear. It’s the eve of my appointment to determine which procedure they will perform to clear me of any early stage cervical cancer. This was caused by HPV. My doctor believes I contracted HPV sometime in the last three years. I wrote more about it here. The good news is that all other tests came back negative which is truly shocking, given the number of partners I believe he has had based on all of the messages I’m receiving.
I am here for you. I will listen. You are not alone.
Excerpt from one of the messages I received:
I too am a victim of his abuse like you were.......................I have been reading your blog and you are truly a hero to all of us that have been deceived by this monster. He disgusts me and I feel so stupid for falling for his BS. Karma as you have described seems to be waiting way too long to take effect. I know I should forget and forgive but its just so hard. By your posts you help ease my pain and the pain of so many others. As the tears are running down my face, thank you for all that you have done to stop this inhuman human. Your friend in spirit xxx."
"I adore Ari Signes, internationally-known designer from Spain. We have worked together over the last three years and we also became good friends in the process. I think she's one of the most talented designers and 3-D renderers (she produced all the amazing Mod Life renderings) on the planet. I feel horrible that she's endured what she has professionally and I stand behind her 100%. She stands up to abuse of power and shares her journey (on her blog) with Mod Life and what happened recently when she found out her name was taken off her designs in her blog post below.... --Kiersten"
I HAVE ALREADY FORGOTTEN
It's been four years since I post on here for the last time ....
What has led me to write this has nothing to do with revenge or anger, but a deep feeling of loss and disappointment. Someone said "There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness.” There is no more powerful action than forgiveness.
For almost 5 years, I thought Robert Petril and I were good friends. He infected me with enthusiasm and led me to believe that "if you can dream it you can do it. In 2012/13 , I agreed to co-design with him as well as design a few pieces of my own. I also agreed to create all of the 3D renderings for every design for him on spec (on good faith) over the last five years. I have not received payment for the renderings or any sales related to his last go around with my designs. I believe I received one payment for $70. I admit that, in the beginning, I didn’t want to get paid because I knew his financial situation and, as his friend, I wanted to help.
I am the designer of several of the pieces he appears to be taking credit for on social media and they appear to be part of the collection he just re-launched at High Point Market........
>>>>>TO READ MORE, please go to ARI's BLOG BELOW<<<<<