As you might know, dating sites all have an option: "separated." Sometimes the person can even type in the words "divorce pending." Should dating sites allow people who are "separated - divorce pending" to date? Should you get involved with someone who tells you that they're "separated - divorce pending"?
I did, as The New York Post and The New York Daily News reported - and this created a response from some people thinking that I shouldn't have gotten involved with a man who was "separated with a divorce pending" - raising the question: Did the problems which arose with Mitchell Leff, arise because he was "separated with a divorce pending" - or for other reasons? Because I'm a self help book author, and thereby people are shedding a spotlight of extra attention on my choice to get involved with MItch, I wanted to explore this topic more, hence this blog post.
1. When I met Mitchell Leff, he told me he was separated from his ex-wife in Long Island - broken up for about a year and a half -- with a divorce pending - and living in a separate Great Neck apartment. I of course wanted to see the apartment. He did show it to me. Mitch very much was living in a separate apartment - not at his ex-wife's address. Mitch later gave me some of his New Yorker Magazines -- which I still have - that have his name and this separate Great Neck apartment printed on the address tag. (Note: On October 26th Mitchell Leff finally did get a legal divorce from his ex-wife.)
2. Mitch also gave me letters from his ex-wife lawyers to his lawyers - detailing how they were busy working out the financials on his divorce. I still have these lawyer letters - and in one of the sets of lawyer letters exchanged, his ex-wife was asking to file her taxes separately from Mitch. He also told me he'd already had his "rebound relationship" - seeing a woman for about 6 to 7 months - who by coincidence lived near me. With all this in mind, it seemed pretty clear to me that Mitch and his ex-wife were very much not a couple.
3. Mitch told me he had two teenage kids from his ex-wife. Personally, I never had kids and still wanted a child. Because I did not want to waste his time or mine by dating someone with a dealbreaker, I told Mitch up front I only wanted to date men who wanted kids. Mitch said his favorite time in his life was when his kids were little and he'd love to be a dad again. Thereby the next time Mitch asked me out, I accepted the date.
4. I waited a long time to have sex with Mitchell - so I could get to know him and be sure he was interested in me for me - not for sex. Indeed all my friends know this - and have teased me about this - what a "proud prude" I am.
5. When Mitch asked me to marry him, he not only made me feel safe that he loved me, but also safe he was truly divorcing his ex-wife and committed to a longterm married life with me. He wrote me many letters (which I still have) that talk about his commitment to me as his partner for life. Because I am a writer, I wrote about our happy engagement story - openly on Oprah's site - as Mitch and I were an openly engaged couple.
6. Mitch proposed marriage to me in a very romantic way at the Soho House. He showed the ring first to the waitresses there - and asked them to bring champagne. He got down on a knee and read me some poems he'd written out on some cards - which I still have. He played me some romantic music (Leon Russel's lyrics "I love you in a place where there's no space and time ") on his ipod. Then he asked me to marry him. I said yes. The waitresses all applauded. Mitch immediately called his mother to tell her. She got on the phone with me - and asked me if the ring fit. I answered, "I don't care if it's too big or too little, I'll lose weight or gain weight - I'm sooo excited! I love your son!" Next, we celebrated our engagment in person with our families. His sister sent me a very sweet engagement card - which I still have. His mom and father celebrated our engagement at a dinner - and we laughed about how my mom would be jealous that we celebrated with Mitch's parents first. Mitch sweetly commented, "You can tell your mom we will celebrate the birth of our baby with her before we do with my parents." Then Mitch and his parents starting talking about baby names - and Mitch lovingly suggested naming our baby after my father who had passed - suggesting if the baby were to be a girl, we should call her Ruby. Yes, Mitch and I were very much a happy couple moving forward with starting a family - with his parents excited about our future alongside us. After that first dinner, Mitch's mom and I wound up adoring each other. We became Facebook friends. I still have warm emails she sent me. Soon after Mitch moved into my apartment as his primary residence. He lived with me full time - hence further proving he was not with his ex-wife. He even put in a Manhattan Verizon landline phone account under his name - so he could make and get work calls. Plus Mitch got a special parking lot spot for his car - signed in his name with his car's liscence plate listed - in the garage under my building. Again - this made me feel very safe that Mitch's divorce was truly pending.
7. Because Mitch was living with me in a 1 bedroom apartment I owned, which I was paying maintenance on, Mitch suggested he pay to renovate the apartment -to make it "family friendly" - so when we had our child together, it would be workable for a family of three. Mitch could afford the renovations. I could not. So Mitch suggested he pay for it - since otherwise my apartment would not work for us as a family. When Mitch suggested he pay for this family-friendly home renovation - thereby putting his money where his mouth was - I further believed he was fully committed to marriage and family with me. Plus Mitch also bought us both a full year of membership at the gym next door to my apartment - further inferring he was fully committed to building a life with me.
8. Mitch told me not only was he over with his ex-wife - she was over with him. He made it clear his ex-wife already had a boyfriend. She did not want Mitch back - and still doesn't. I know this not only from what Mitch told me, but from the wife of one of the couples we double dated with. She told me the ex-wife was very involved with a much older gentleman.
9. After we got engaged, Mitch suggested we not wait the full 12 months I had said we should wait before we started to try to have a child. Mitch said since we were both older, he wanted to start right away. Because I'm in my 40's, we needed to do IVF. Mitch wanted a child with me so very much, he offered to pay for the whole IVF bill: $28,000 - which Mitch then did pay. (Note: I have the receipt for the full $28,000.00 in his name.) Mitch also gave his sperm. (Note: I have paper also acknowledging it was his sperm - and paternity papers showing the baby is very much his baby.) Plus Mitch went with me to the fertility clinic about 10 times in 4 months.(Note: I proof from the fertility clinic which support this as well.) On the day of insemination, Mitch held my hand, whispering in my ear how he looked forward to taking our child skiing, teaching our child tennis, showing our child the world. Mitch also wrote me poems in his own handwriting about his excitement to start a family with me - which I still have as well. One begins: "For the mother to be. Nothing could prepare your heart to open like this."
10.The day after I found out I was pregnant - Mitch said he didn't want to be a father again - 12 days after he did the insemination process with me. I was in shock. Mitch said he'd already raised two kids - and that was enough - completely contradicting what he told me when we were dating - how his happiest times were when his kids were young and he'd love more kids!
Here is an email I wrote to Mitch - to encourage him to try to explore his new fear about the baby in couples therapy with me - because MItchell had told me he needed to be in Great Neck "to be alone" to think about the pregnancy - and swore he wasn't (to quote him) "doing anything." I kept telling him in a warm and empathic way I wanted to try to understand what was going on - and suggested we should go to couple's counseling together. He insisted we weren't having any problems as a couple - and just needed to see his therapist alone. As you can see below, I communicated with him with warmth and empathy.
I want us to have theee best most loving relationship -- a happy home full of love, laughter, peace, great communication, support, empathy, fun, adventure, sensuality, warmth - and then some. :)
We need more open and intimate conversations.
We need a therapist to help empower us to be theeee most loving and intimate and open.
Think about it.
You did not hear me when I told you how you need to "focus on all the stuff you have to look forward to our future."
You didnt hear me/ understand this perspective until your therapist Elyse said it to you - an outside person other than me.
We need someone else to talk to us - so I dont take on the therapist role.
I am your fiance and lover and best friend.
We need someone else to help empower us - so I can remain your fiance and lover and best friend.
I am calling a couples therapist - who is a cognitive therapist - here's some stuff from her site. I will make a session plan for her for either Thursday or Friday.
I love you.
Here is the email Mitch wrote me back - refusing to see a couples therapist together- because he insisted we weren't having problems as a couple - and he just needed to see a therapist alone.
Hi Sweetie I did hear you when you told me to "focus on the baby and all the good things to look forward to in our future".
Elyse told me that I have other illusions that are keeping me from that focus.
That I am so overwhelmed, that I can't see the forest for the trees.
I need to unclog my mind and not think of all the ramifications of the future. That it will all take care of itself.
I have a divorce that I need to finish. The lawyers don't help. It is in their interest to let it drag on. This preys on my mind as well.
I have much to do to get this done with. I need to stay on top of it. Maybe switch lawyers.
My mind is really not functioning properly.
I need direction. I am working on it.
Please let Elyse guide me.
Again, he insisted he had no problems with our relationship. He was still telling me he loved me - but just needed time alone to think. Unfortunately all during this time "alone" in Great Neck he was meeting women - up and active on a dating site. Indeed, I soon found out that MItchell was even cheating on me on that dating site all through our engagement and IVF process. .
11. Mitch Leff and I continued to spend time together - although sporadic time. He'd tell me he needed to have dinner with his 18 year old daughter on Saturday nights. I kept hoping this was true - but admittedly wondered if his 18 year old daughter really was the type of 18 year old girl to spend her Saturday evenings with her dad. I kept hoping Mitch was in temporary fear mode. Then my shock was further increased when I found him up on a dating site under the name CITYBOY2002 - and had been during the whole time we were doing IVF. (I have proof of this as well.) Plus Mitch was fully married in 2002 - which leads me to believe he was not only cheating on me in the present as a pregnant fiancé - but had cheated on his ex-wife when married to her. Plus the photo he used for the dating site was one of him taken with his computer with this marital home in the background.
12. After I found Mitch on the dating site - Mitch then suggested if we were to marry, he'd want an apartment he'd go to 3 days a week. I was in shock. I didn't want to have an open marriage - nor be with a cheater. At this point our relationship became highly challenged. Mitch said he'd stay engaged to me only if I terminated our baby -- the miracle IVF child we'd purposefully and painstaking pursued together. The miracle baby he'd handwritten me poems about wanting. I refused to abort.
13. The last time I saw Mitch, he hugged me and told me he was sorry - he did not mean to hurt me. He promised he'd absolutely pay for my pregnancy related medical bills and the family-friendly home renovations in our apartment we were living in together -- which were all his idea in the first place -- and which I could not at all afford, but he could easily afford. Basically, Mitch started the home renovations (I have receipts in his name for what he started) - then left them in mid-stream. It's inappropriate for Mitch to start a project and then walk -- leaving me in a home which is not livable for 1 person -- let alone a family -- especially when these are renovations Mitch can afford to finish and I cannot. Especially since Mitch abandoned me out of nowhere to be a single mother - not leaving me time in advance to save up money for this new reality. Indeed, he even told me to turn down 2 jobs while I was with him - because he wanted to support me during pregnancy - acknowledging how my being pregnant in my late 40's would be a difficult time for me to work. As to the pregnancy -- once you purposefully get your fiance pregnant, you can't just ignore it and the medical treatments and costs that are necessary for the baby. Once the child exists, you need to care for it. Unfortunately- and to my astonishment -- when I contacted Mitch a few days later about these monetary loose ends, he refused to return calls, emails or texts.
Here is part of a long email I sent to Mitch after he left. As you can see I wrote it warmly. I did not write in a way which would give him reason to refuse to answer emails, phonecalls and texts - as he wound up doing.
I hope you've been having a peaceful few days, enjoying the fluffy snowy weather.
As we keep saying, let us both be kind and compassionate to each other.
I am going to choose to reframe everything in its best light - which means seeing you in your best light as a good man who is filled with fear and confusion. And I am also choosing to view these circumstances as an ASSIGNMENT-- to become better at forgiveness, compassion, letting go, and growing into a stronger person.
With this in mind, at this point, we just need to close up some loose ends....so we can both move forward as cleanly and peacefully as possible - as swiftly as possible.
I have shown the whole long email to friends. They all agree I handled the situation with surprising empathy - considering I'd just been abandoned by my fiance - while I was pregnant with his child - a man who had been cheating on me while doing IVF - who when he left also left me with construction bills that he'd racked up to start "family-friendly" home renovations. To me it's incredibly shocking that Mitchell at this point refused to answer my email - or any phonecalls or texts -- and stuck me with those construction bills for the apartment - construction which he'd started - because he's far wealthier - and he could afford it easily, but for me it would be a monetary crisis - especially since Mitch had told me turn doing two paying jobs when I was pregnant - so I had no incoming income and a baby on the way - with no "single mom savings" because I never planned to be a single mom. Mitch and I had planned raising this baby together as a family. We'd gone as an engaged couple to the fertility clinic - about ten times together - with Mitch paying the full $28,000 IVF - because he was successful in real estate - and for him $28,000 was easy to pay- and because he was very enthusiastic to start a family with me.
14. On August 27th our son was born. I have since reached out to Mitch to meet his son, and he's still refused to return calls, emails or texts - and his son is here. Mitchell Leff turned out to be the type of man who purposefully pursues IVF- then abandons not only his fiance - but his child. What kind of man abandons his child? People get divorces and don't abandon their own flesh and blood child, even if the romantic relationship is over. At this point I am facing forward, enjoying motherhood and busy trying to make a living to provide for my son.
My personal opinion? Mitchell Leff's bad behavior had nothing to do with him being "separated - divorce pending." Mitchell's bad behavior simply in the end had to do with other issues - which he'd have, whether he were fully divorced or "separated - divorce pending."
EPILOGUE: I'm happy to share that while I was pregnant, I met a wonderful man who lives a few blocks away from me. He was there at the hospital for my C Section, celebrating the birth of my son, and we're all still happily together.
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