Divorce, Single Parenting, Dating, Sex, & Self-Recovery

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Terms of Surrender: Our Divorce Papers

OFF-freefall

Under the terms of my surrender, I gave up a good portion of my time with my kids. I was under the impression that this was the path that “was best for the kids.” In fact, it was the path that was best for my ex-wife, the person in the marriage who decided she wanted out. So wait, under the terms of my surrender I am giving her the kids, the house, and a good stipend of my income for the next 11 years? Just a minute, I need to reconsider.

I’m defeated a bit at the moment. But I’ll get back up, I always do.

Of course, reconsideration was not an option. When one person decides they are done, the marriage is done. Sure, you could counsel or work things out, for a bit, but once the door has been smashed open, their exit is always a possibility. And now a threat. And in the case of divorce, just a matter of fact, please sign on the dotted line and be done with this business.

Wait.

We chose an uncontested divorce. I stubbornly agreed to her request for a divorce, because fighting would be expensive, might damage our children, and would echo the hurt still in my young-boy mind from my parents brutal divorce struggle. So I went with the path of least resistance, I bowed my head at the correct time, and allowed the head of my shining promise to be sliced off with little drama or prior bloodshed. That’s the way it was supposed to be, right? That’s what we were after.

But something along the way was not quite explained to me until a few months ago. I was on a date with a woman who had just given up primary custody, she was saying how much better her ex had become once he had to actually do 50% of the parenting rather than complaining about a check and doing nothing. I remember distinctly my reaction, “Wait, what? He doesn’t pay you any child support?”

So if I get this straight, my high-priced divorce counsellor who advised me to just take the deal and get on with the divorce, forgot to mention that the non-custodial parent (man or woman) was the one who pays child support. And why didn’t she listen or fight for my request to go for 50/50? Why didn’t she support the discussion about 50/50 parenting? She didn’t. Why didn’t she?

I guess I ultimately need to ask her. But in reconnecting with my attorney (the one who I contacted re: my wife’s new-found righteousness on turning me over to the Attorney General’s office) he said this.

I wish our counselor would’ve supported both of our requests with the same integrity. I wish my 50/50 parenting plans and 50/50 schedules had been taken seriously while negotiating our peace treaty.

“In 2010 when you guys divorced, she was probably right. Your wife would’ve probably gotten exactly what she wanted. Not that you couldn’t have gone for 50/50.” And he continued, “But today, things are a little different. Even in Texas. The judges today are listening when the parents want 50/50 custody. And more often than not, my dad clients are getting it, if they fight for it.”

Well, that is good news for today’s dads. Not so good for yesterday’s dads, or me.

What are my options today. Reopen the fight, go prove I’m a worthy dad, and ask the judges and the court to readjust my kids custody to 50/50. Is that what I want?

Here are the potential consequences:

  • It will cost us both a lot of money. Money that we tried not to spend in divorce, by consulting a wonderful Ph.D divorce counsellor.
  • It might damage my wife’s ability to continue to afford the house we bought together.
  • My kids might get the impression I am fighting their mom, or saying she’s doing something wrong.
  • It will cause drama and hardship on all sides.

Here are the benefits of doing it:

  • The $150,000+ would still be going to my kids.
  • I would be able to afford housing and perhaps not be forced to work two jobs or give my life back up to the big corporate job.
  • We could parent 50/50 just like we are doing now, but I would also be able to help with some of the clothes and supplies shopping.
  • My kids will know that I wanted them 50/50 from the beginning and was asked to take less.

As of this writing I don’t have the money to pursue the court’s resolution of my 50/50 desires. I wish our counselor would’ve supported both of our requests with the same integrity. I wish my 50/50 parenting plans and 50/50 schedules had been taken seriously while we were negotiating our peace treaty. They were not. I was given the patronizing approval, “that’s nice” but “that’s not how it’s going to work out.” And then I was told to accept what’s “in the best interest of the children.”

Bullshit.

I was sold a bill of goods by my then-wife, who had been consulting with her attorney, and our counselor who was found and selected by my wife. And then I was asked to sign the Terms of Surrender without being given the full story of custody and child support. My bad. I should have paid for my own attorney at this point, rather than stumble along blindly with the hope of good will, good intentions, and honesty.

I got none of the above. What I got was a temporary peace treaty that lasted until I was late on my second child support payment to my ex-wife. Then the courts of the great state of Texas were warmed up against me. And today, according to my attorney, I could be arrested at any time, by the AG’s office. That is certainly part of the Terms of Surrender that I signed, but it’s not in line with the honest and caring approach we took to setting up our peaceful retreat from the marriage.

I’m defeated a bit at the moment. But I’ll get back up, I always do.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: freefall, gabrriela pinto, creative commons usage

Do You Believe In Healthy Porn? 18 Reasons Why Men Love It and [Many] Women Hate It

OFF-crazy-girls

We all watch it. It’s the biggest thing on the internet. And we watch it for different reasons. And yes, just like any other drug, addiction and abuse will occur. Porn is no different than alcohol. Either you can handle it or you can’t. And knowing that information about yourself you can make a decision, either you use it or you don’t. Porn is the same way. (Disclaimer: I know we don’t *all* watch porn, I was being dramatic. Forgive me.)

There is a lot of new information and mis-information coming out about porn. (Forgive the pun.)

Here are 18 things you’ll hear or read about porn. How many of these statements would you mark a TRUE? (Let’s check-in on the other side.)

  • Porn kills marriages or other committed relationships.
  • Men abuse porn more frequently than women.
  • All porn starlets are abused as children.
  • Sexual dysfunction is largely a factor of the rise of porn in our lives.
  • Porn creates unhealthy stereotypes about men and women, but mainly women.
  • Porn is gross, bad, sexist, repulsive.
  • Porn is awesome and a great way to spice up your ideas for sex with your partner.
  • Watching porn with your partner can be a huge turn on.
  • Men want to watch porn, women want to watch romance.
  • Men and the mafia run the porn industry, and all other sex industries.
  • That woman from Stanford that is paying for her college education by working in the porn business is not really that hot.
  • Porn is all a lie.
  • Porn is unhealthy.
  • Porn is big business.
  • Either you are for porn or against it, there is no middle ground.
  • Porn is bad for you.
  • Christians are united against the evils of porn.
  • There is no such thing as healthy porn.

Well, what do you think? Do any of these statements about porn resonate with you as TRUTH or LIES?

“Don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.” – Alvy Singer, Annie Hall

It’s no mistake that porn is big business. And that biggness is due to our love of watching people have sex, in all it’s gory or yummy variations. And to come down on one side or the other about porn does not defend all kinds of porn. There is some porn that is abusive, sexist, misogynistic, and disgusting. And those are my opinions. I know BAD PORN when I see it.

The corollary is true. I know healthy porn when I see it.

And… to be clear… I like SOME porn. And I do believe there is such a thing as Healthy Porn. It might not be as easy to find as all the other varieties of porn. And it might not be the most profitable form of porn. The kinkier the porn, the more likely it will be that people will pay to see it. Mainstream porn is free. Kink-porn or fetish-porn costs money.

Did I say I like porn? Oh, yes, I did. And there’s a small percentage of the porn on the web that I find tastefully done, with healthy (hetero – because that’s my personal orientation) relationships, and seemingly healthy and consensual sex. And while I’m purusing porn, in search of something tasty to me, I stumble across a lot of porn that is distasteful, to me. And while this is not a frequent occurrence (neither searching for or watching porn) for me, I cannot imagine a world where the censors (ala 1984) came down and told us what porn we could watch and what porn would become illegal.

So, entering the discussion recently is the Porn Addiction movement. The idea being, that porn is harmful and should be avoided. And to carry the addiction metaphor a bit further, we need to be reprogrammed or weened off our porn habits, in order to have or recover healthy relationships again. The damage is being done to ourselves, our relationships, and indirectly to all the victims of the porn industry. If you listen to these sites. tweeters, evangelists of the Porn Recovery business you begin to hear fire and brimstone rationalizations and miraculous recovery tales that sound a bit too much like born-again Christianity for my comfort. But again, I don’t agree with 99% of this material.

What I do agree with is this: Porn can be a problem for certain people at certain times of their lives. AND porn can be a healthy release of sexual energy, either solo or with a partner. You can choose to disagree or agree with me. But please don’t tell me your view of the world is “truth” or “righteous.” And in that same argument, tell me that I am dirty, addicted, and a moral degenerate because I choose, on occasion, to watch people getting it on.

When you frame porn in terms of GOOD or EVIL you’re starting a religious war that has no business getting in our homes or our pants. At least not mine, thank you very much.

I don’t believe I have ever been personally scarred by porn. I also don’t have a craving for porn. And I would guess that most of us have a craving for physical closeness.

You will define healthy porn for yourself. Or your will choose to disagree with my entire argument. I’m fine either way. And I would tell you that my personal relationship to porn is rather loose and informal and doesn’t look anything like addiction. Let me be truthful and clear: my relationship to porn doesn’t look like addiction today. Maybe in the past, in various periods of my life, I might have seemed addicted to porn. I would say I was exploring my sexuality, both when I had an opportunity to be with someone and when I was alone.

I don’t believe I have ever been personally scarred by porn. I also don’t have a craving for porn. And I would guess that most of us have a craving for physical closeness. And when that closeness is not available from another person, who’s to say fantasy and closeness with ourselves is bad?

Woody Allen said it best in Annie Hall. (Please forgive my use of Mr. Allen, given all the controversial information about him and is relationship to his daughter.)

“Don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.” – Alvy Singer, Annie Hall

That sums up my perspective of healthy porn. Exactly.

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: the crazy girls, richard riley, creative commons usage

some distant storm

cj-rain

[from a second wave - poetry]

i know you do not understand
and i have resigned to that knowledge
there is no concrete image or metaphor now
that will bring things back around
to set the world on its proper path again
once we have tasted love, heat, desire, unlimited
we are hungry forever
unafraid in the quest for breast and bone beneath
i cannot take away your joy
or smooth out the creases of this life
but the days can move easier in my arms
we walk alone down this new dusty path
and rain clouds seem always on the horizon
things are different now
fractures and scars they say are stronger
but a ghost of the pain remains
no matter how tough we appear
how confident this voice you think i sing
each love song for you
even before we’ve met
i knew you’d arrive
eventually
as long as i kept singing
but as this night falls
again with some storms between us
i cannot help but feel the rise of the hair
on the back of my neck
warning of the storm
the flashes of brilliance
followed by clusters of noise
it is no easy task loving another person
there is no sudden unlocking
but as we uncover each new inch of skin
and listen to the complaints and joys
hearing deeply for the resonance
we begin to open
fall
grasp again at some dream
of what we had
what we would become
how things might still
this one time
work
out

7-24-14

image: rain? set, cj romberger (cjromb), creative commons usage

17 Simple Ways to Say “I Love You”

OFF-bathSometimes it’s the little things that have the most impact. In relationships today, we are so pressed for time and often so exhausted, that the littlest things might be the turning point to lift our spirits. Here are 17 little things that can make a difference in your significant relationship(s).

It’s the little things that signal how much you care. 

It’s not what you say it’s what you do, is a phrase I’ve heard a lot in my past relationships, often as a battering ram to let me know things are not going well.

Texting is the modern love letter.

1. The Wakeup Message – “Good morning, sunshine. I know your presentation will kick ass.” The wakeup message is great for establishing a relationship-like rapport with someone, even before you’ve established a relationship. Just a simple “Thinking of you.” can brighten someone’s morning and give them warm thoughts that might lead to warmer acts later in the day.

2. The Little Flirt – “I can’t stop thinking about our makeout session last night.” Put that smile back on their face with a reminder of how good things went last time. Let them know you still have them on your mind. And give a simple nudge towards “next time” without mentioning it.

3. The Cheerleader Text – “You are going to rock those exams today.” Most of what we do for others is to provide a positive cheering section. When you know your partner is heading into a tough day, give them the little pocket vibration a few minutes before their event to let them know you’re with them in spirit.

4. Random Non-sequitur – Or Inside Joke – “Running shoes are sexy.” These are little bridges of connection that you begin to make with things that are important to the other person, running for example. And even if you may not share those passions you can high-five your friend on their enthusiasms.

5. Can I Get Anything For You? – “I’m at Costco, do you need anything?” Ah, the single parent’s dream. Remember when splitting the grocery duties were part of the plan? A good friend can easily offer to pick up some Costco bulk items. It’s a true sign of caring.

6. Fueling Desires – Often as single parents the actual time we get to be together alone is spaced by a lot of time apart. But you can heat up the flames of desire, just by letting the other person know something sexy is on you mind. “I’m kissing the back of your neck, in my mind.”

7. The Tuck In Message – “Good night, sweetie.” Ah, the last thing you think of at night is them. As you’re drifting off to sleep, let them know you will likely dream of them.

Actions Speak Louder Than Texts

8. Bring Random Goodies – The special food from the bakery across town can be just the thing to comfort a difficult day.

9. I’ve Got Dinner – Just let them know they can relax after work, you’ve got it covered. No cooking, no dishes, no effort. You’ll do it all.

10. A Peppermint Footrub – There is nothing more sensual than a good footrub with a special minty lotion. Sure, it may be a gateway to rubbing other things, but start with the feet.

11. Can I Give You a Massage? – Oh boy. One of the most exciting ways to give while receiving. I love giving massages. Depending on the intimacy between you, these can be clothed and casual or oily and wild. Again, it’s best to start these as non-sexual. And if the other person is tired, it’s best to stay there. Let them move things forward if they’re feeling it. Get into the touch and sight of their body. A feast for the eyes and hands.

12. Doing What They Like To Do – Even if you don’t like to run, it’s good form to go on a run from time to time, just to show your collaborative and supportive stripes. Or walk and run with them. Always offer.

13. Giving Them the Night Off – How can you take care of all the chores for one night? Can you give them a girl’s night out? Alone time build up desire, so make sure they get some so they can desire to see your smiling face even more next time.

14. The Tiny Gifts – A single flower, a bag of their favorite tangerines, a new essential oil massage oil. All these things show how you’re constantly thinking of them, and you want to appreciate them.

15. A Love Poem – So you’re not Shakespeare. But putting down a few words of affection, in random order, without syntax or reason, is a good sign of advanced expression of love. Sometimes it’s the two words that don’t belong together more than the three words “i love you” that unlocks a deeper expression. Try it. Read some love poems to help get you along your way. (See: Rumi and Neruda)

16. The Scented Bubble Bath – “Can I draw you a bath?” Again the best way to show affection is the caring things you can do that have no ulterior motives. If your partner is aroused by the candles and warm water they can initiate your participation. They might also like you to scrub their back and then leave them to soak.

17. Radiant Joy – Just let them know how much joy they bring into your life, not by doing anything, but just in being. And of course, being with you. Appreciations are the love drug of choice, we can never have enough appreciation.

It’s the little things that signal to another person how much you care about them. Sure the big things are more important, but it’s the little things that get you there. Even in the early stages of a relationship you can build the loving feeling by gifting the other person with some of these ideas. Share your appreciation and you’re likely to get some appreciation in return.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

Please share your additional little love ideas in the comments.

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image: relax, janet ramsten, creative commons usage

No Divorce Expert: But If You Parent 50/50 You Should Divorce 50/50

OFF-doghouse

I’m kinda sick of the divorce experts and family law (meaning un-family law) solicitors who are hovering around the business of divorce. The only problem is, it is a business. And divorce is a business decision. And without some good counsel you might get screwed. Still, calling yourself a divorce expert sounds really stupid to me. I want to ask them, “Oh, so how many divorces have you been through, and which one turned you magically into an expert?”

I’ve been divorced twice. And what I can tell you is, I’m no expert, I’m no advice columnist, I’m no self-help blogger. If you’re heading towards or in the middle of a divorce I recommend you get some help on your side. And providing your are not in a high-conflict divorce situation, you might include your future-ex in the discussions about finding counsel. That’s not exactly how the sequence went down in either of my divorces, but that ultimately became the intention and result. We wanted to collaborate on our divorce not drag each other through the legal halls shedding thousands of dollars along the way.

So we decide to divorce, or one person decides, and then we divorce. Our kids world’s are split into two parallel universes.

Here’s the big ah-ha for me about divorce: If one partner wants a divorce there’s not much hope for a reconciliation. In the case of my second marriage, when the partner has consulted a divorce attorney before raising the issue with you, you’re pretty well on your way to being handed a divorce whether you want it or not. I didn’t. It didn’t matter. We’re divorced. I’m getting over it.

The second ah-ha about divorce was: how you got into the divorce process is probably how it’s going to go. In my case, if my then-wife had gone to see an attorney, even while we were actively in couple’s therapy, there is some sort of major emotional disconnect that is not going to be resolved in the divorce. But knowing this is where she was coming from, that even with a counselor involved she was not able to get her needs met, I was able to let her go more easily. I knew that nothing I had done had caused her to seek divorce. In fact, I was doing everything I could to keep the marriage together. I was working harder. I was improving my chore-tackling attitude. I was trying to be more empathetic to her complaints. But the complaints were getting longer, and it seemed like our therapy sessions stayed focused on these surface “You didn’t do” issues rather than the kind of tectonic hurts that drove her to seek divorce advice before letting me know she was leaning away from our marriage. I was shocked and hurt when she admitted the fact in therapy, but I immediately had a better understanding of this person who was asking for her exit pass.

If you’ve got kids you’ve got to make them the focus of the hopefully-peaceful divorce. In our case the kids did come first, though I might have negotiated things differently had I been less empathetic. Heading into the new kind of therapy sessions, the one where you are writing the rules of your divorce, I was disoriented and depressed. We even stopped the negotiations for a week as I made my case to my wife about why I didn’t want the divorce. We then moved along towards a parenting plan with her help. At least I got the moment of pause and reflection. But I could see in my wife’s face and hear in her responses, that she was done. Done done. Not just done.

So we quickly moved to the logistics of the divorce. I came with a plan to go for 50/50 custody. My wife had other plans. And unfortunately in my state, Texas, the laws were very much on the mother’s side in 80% of all divorces. I understand from my lawyer (who I hired last year to protect me from my ex’s unreasonable child support demands) that in 2014 things are looking up for the dad who wants 50/50 custody. It appears the judges are more likely to hear both sides of the story and make a ruling that is based on desire and fairness rather than legal precedent.

And somewhere along the way, perhaps when things looked a bit more locked up than she was used to, our “impartial counselor” suggested to me, “That’s what she’ll get if you go to court.”

Unfortunately I got divorced in 2010. The legal precedent was with the mom all the way. And our divorce counselor quickly moved our discussions to how things would look with me being the non-custodial dad, and how the “time was not really all that different.” What I did not know, and I did not have an attorney tell me, so listen up: if I had gotten 50/50 parenting, as I wanted, I would not be forced to pay child support. We would do our own thing, we would pay our own way, and we would part as 50/50 responsible co-parents, just as we had parented. But that’s not what happened.

I did my research. I brought books and selected copies from those books to our sessions. I drew up some creative 50/50 schedules. And I was politely humored, but somewhere, in the cabal of women, they both knew I would give in to reason. Or the powerfully sounding, “In the best interest of the children.”

Wait a minute.

I understood that the kids needed both a mom and a dad. And I also understood that at the moment my soon-to-be-ex was making more money than I was. And I was paying this counselor to represent my side of the case as well.

And somewhere along the way, perhaps when things looked a bit more locked up than she was used to, our “impartial counselor” suggested to me, “That’s what she’ll get if you go to court.”

Yes, but…

Today I can look back and see I was railroaded. Perhaps in the name of efficiency and lowering the conflict I was given the verdict. Settle for non-custodial, or go to court and pay to be given non-custodial. This sucked. But again, I was depressed, I was living in my sister’s house, away from the kids, and I was desperate to get on with whatever life we would have after the business of the divorce was settled. So, I succumed. I agreed to the SPO and the non-custodial role that was offered to me. And the negotiations went pretty quickly from there. To be honest, I just wanted out of the meetings with my still-wife. I was still in love with her. I was holding back all efforts to plead with her. And her steely eyes showed me she had other plans. She was more prepared for the divorce negotiations because she had been thinking about it and maybe even planning her actions, long before I was aware there was a divorceable-rift in our marriage.

“This often happens to the dads,” our counselor told us. “They are not aware there is a broken marriage until the divorce is in progress. And they are often slower to accept the breakup.”

Um… Yeah. I was fighting from within the strength of my marriage one minute and then being told she’d already consulted an attorney, those are two different universes in my life. And I was struggling to let go of the first one and begin to accept the second one. The universe where she would go on to be with other men, where I wouldn’t see my kids every night, where I was going to be alone again.

Divorce is the most painful and life transforming thing that I’ve ever been through. Perhaps as each of your kids comes into the world your life is transformed, and you grow into a parent. But as a divorcing parent, you are looking at losing a good portion of your kid’s lives. No way around it. The pictures my ex-wife takes of the kids are always painful. The vacations they now take without me, with mom’s boyfriend, are always a bit tender. I don’t really want to see them. I’m glad they had fun. I’m very happy when they return. But it’s like a two different lives they lead.

If the other person is unwilling to give up 50% of their parenting time, perhaps they need to reconsider the decision to divorce.

So we decide to divorce, or one person decides, and then we divorce. Our kids world’s are split into two parallel universes. One that they experience with dad and one that they experience with mom. Suddenly they have two homes. Maybe a new person in their parent’s lives that they have to adjust to. And the stories they tell around the dinner table are no longer shared in both universes. There’s mom’s universe and dad’s universe.

As parents, divorced parents, we have to do our best to fill in the gaps alone. As our kids are away, doing other great things, we have to keep our chins up and our spirits positive as we look towards building our own lives, now separate from them and their mom. It’s okay, I’m not whining. We all make it. But there were are few things I didn’t know going into the early part of the divorce process. And this most significant thing, that our “divorce expert” failed to tell me was also the part that has caused me the most pain and drama.

The Two Laws of Divorce:

  1. Kids first
  2. If you parent 50/50 you should divorce 50/50

Without exception, especially if that is what one of you wants, you should push for 50/50 parenting. If the other person is unwilling to give up 50% of their parenting time, perhaps they need to reconsider the decision to divorce. That would not have made a difference in my then-wife’s decision to divorce me, but it would have had a significant impact on my ability to thrive financially post-divorce. I was asking for the half parenting for purely emotional reasons. I cannot say what my then-wife had in mind, but she’d gotten some legal advice by this time, and I had not. Perhaps that was my own fault.

Do not go into divorce naively. Get informed. I came to my divorce counselling meetings with books, information, scholarly articles, and I still lost the negotiations. Today I would not make the same mistake. And if I am telling you this story so you don’t make this same mistake, then good for both of us.

If you want 50/50 parenting, and are ready in your heart and mind to step up to the large task of co-parenting, then you should go for it. And for the health and well-being of your kids (if you are a mom or a dad) I hope you get it.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: in the dog house, alan ellis,creative commons usage