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

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Kids, I Did Not Choose to Leave You Alone In the Divorce

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-11-03-18-amDear Kids,

I’m writing this because I want you to know the divorce was not my idea. I did not choose to walk out the door to the house for the last time, I was asked to leave. While this may not mean much to you now that you are older, when you were 5 and 7, it was a big deal. And I couldn’t help but feel sad when I could not tell you the truth. It was not “our” idea. The divorce was against my wishes.

Today, it’s fine. We’re all friends. But back then, back when you were such vulnerable little kids, it was heartbreaking. I’m not saying we should’ve stayed together. As you could not have been aware, things were tough, things were unhappy, things were no longer joyful, more we had moved into a survival marriage. I agree, today, that’s no place to be. So in many ways I thank your mom for the divorce, but when it was taking place, I fought her, I fought for you guys, I fought to keep us together.

Of course, I can’t really come out and tell  you this today, either. I mean, I don’t want to damage your relationship with your mom. And, as they say, it’s water under the bridge. So why mention it?

The action of leaving the marriage was devastating to all of us. And one person made that decision and enacted the next path before we had a chance to even understand what was happening. It was May of 2010 and by August of 2010 it would be official, final, signed and delivered. And I would no longer be there to tuck you into bed every night. I would be living with my sister and looking for a new job and a place to live, once I had that new job. You’re mom was only concerned with you guys and your happiness. And as she should’ve been, she was letting me fend for myself. But I have to tell you, it was rough out there. Back then, there were days I wasn’t sure I was going to make it.

Of course, you know I suffer from depression from time to time. And the divorce brought this illness up in spades. Perhaps you were given this “illness” as the reason we were no longer together, or the reason I was living with my sister and no longer in the house. But that’s not really the full truth. Depression had been a part of our lives before and was a struggle both parents weathered from time to time. So it was no reason for divorce. It was a symptom of the divorce. And the divorce triggered the biggest bout of depression I’d ever experienced. I was destroyed.

What I want to say to you today, as you are now 13 and 15 years old, is things broke up because your mom decided she needed to do something different. She chose divorce. I was fighting to stay together. Today we are better off for having gotten divorced. You are stronger, less dependant, and more resilient. We’ve gone through some tough times together. But I want you to know, regardless of how it felt, or what you were told, the divorce was NOT “our” idea, it was her idea and I was forced to go along with it. What you’ll learn as you enter into relationships of your own, it takes two people to have a relationship. When one person wants out, that’s it, game over.

This post is on my anonymous divorce blog. I still protect you and your mom from the full brunt of my anger. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do. Nothing would come of giving you this piece of information now. Perhaps when you are older it will be a conversation we can have. But today, I just wanted to record, for the future, that the divorce was not my idea. Ever.

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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What I’m Missing Today as a Divorced Dad

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It’s been nearly seven years since my divorce and on average that means I’ve missed 2/3 of my kids lives since then. I’m not depressed about it, but the sadness does occasionally creep up on me on the nights they are with their mom. I fought for 50/50 parenting but was shown the law book as an excuse for doing the right thing. If you parent 50/50 both mom and dad should have equal access to the kids after the divorce.

What I was missing is the tender years, the developmental years when they are really kids and really attached. That’s what I lost 2/3 of. That’s the pain of divorce.

For me the loss of my kids and being thrust into alone time was the most traumatic part about divorce. We had built a happy (somewhat) home and I was determined to keep it together. And sure, I was keeping it together for the kids, but probably I was holding on to a crumbling marriage because I didn’t want to be alone again. I loved the routines: 1. home from school; 2. homework and play; 3. dinner; 4. bath; 5. bedtime stories. My kids were young when we split. And the harsh interruption of this family dance was almost too much to take. I survived. We all survived. But for the most part, their lives stayed the same and my life was upended and cut off from all I knew.

It’s odd when you leave your house for the last time, all the little things you’re never going to remember to ask for, but you leave behind. In my case, I didn’t have anywhere to move to, so I moved in with my sister while I tried to get my act together again. So 95% of all my stuff stayed in the house. At some point, a few months in, she and one of her girlfriends packed all of my clothes and belonging into boxes and moved my material corpse into the garage. I’m grateful I didn’t have to do it. But it also felt like I was being buried, or put in my place.

I was fortunate to have a sister in town who happened to have a mother-in-law plan that worked out for me and my kids. While I didn’t have any privacy, my room was next to the media/tv/gaming room, I did have a place to sleep. And the room was big enough that over the summer the kids could spend their dad-weekends with me. So, I didn’t have it to bad. Or should I say, it could’ve been a lot worse.

But seeing my kids and ex-wife in the house, with all my stuff, continuing on with life as usual. It was like “daddy was on an extended business trip.” But I would never be back.

A few nights ago, on a typical kid-free Monday (M-T-W nights were always kid-free) I was feeling sad and I tried to examine what was making me ache. Again, this is seven years later. It was easy to identify that I missed my kids. Their laughs and stories about their day at school. Getting to hear what’s going on in their lives. But it was deeper.

In my mind I was howling for the pain my kids would go through. But as the time went on I learned it was the pain I had gone through with my parents divorce that I was howling about.

What I was missing is the tender years, the developmental years when they are really kids and really attached. That’s what I lost 2/3 of. That’s the pain of divorce. And I’m sure it cut both ways. I’m sure that my ex-wife was sad on the nights when they were with me. Those young-kid nights when everything was about them and their connection to you and the world and each other. Here I was, seven years later, feeling sorry about what I’d lost when they were younger.

It’s different today, being in parenting relationships with teenagers. Most of the time the parenting role is about transportation and food. And with friends and boyfriend/girlfriends they’d mostly like to be somewhere else. We still have the tender moments, but they are sparsely scattered throughout our time together. What I was sad about a few days ago is the loss of that time, the tender time. My kids are still precious, and I am completely devoted to them, but there’s a longing, like wanting a puppy to stay a puppy, for that earlier time. Of course, it’s never coming back, and my sadness is just about me. Perhaps it’s me feeling sorry for myself all these years later, about what I lost back then.

This was the pain of divorce for me. The minute she said she had seen a lawyer I howled. And in my mind I was howling for the pain my kids would go through. But as the time went on I learned it was the pain I had gone through with my parents divorce that I was howling about. When I lost my dad in divorce the loss was absolute. It was as if he fell off the deep end of his isolation and alcoholism. He was gone from my life. What I had after the divorce was a ghost of a dad.

I am not a ghost to my kids. I am a fully alive and empowered father. I was handed a less-than-fair deal and we’ve all learned to deal with it. Today my ex has been mentioning a 50/50 schedule, toying with the idea rather than making an offer. We haven’t reached any agreement, but there are more things in motion. And again, it’s just an “idea” she’s floating.

I’m also considering letting my sadness be my own and not mixing it up with my kids-of-divorce sadness, because, my kids seem extremely happy right where things are. My sadness is my own. It’s more from my little boy than my middle-aged man. I can recognize that and deal with it, on my own. And we’ll see how our relationships evolve over the coming years.

Respectfully,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: children sleeping, creative commons usage


Who Is The Off Parent

I am The Off Parent

He is learning to be a single dad.

He is trying to be a better man.

He is happy and mad all at once.

He is divorced and recovering himself from the wreckage that was created.

He is depressed but working on it.

He is overweight and under appreciated.

He is trying again.

He is not to be fucked with.

He is looking out for the best interest of his kids, sometimes even before himself.

He is sad about how things went down.

He is hiding out from time to time when things get hard.

He is a gift.

He is telling his story to the furthest depth he can.

He is openly admitting he is wrong and makes mistakes.

He is taking a fearless moral inventory.

He is alive and well.

He is the best dad he can be.

He is never giving up on having a cordial and sane relationship with his ex-wife, even when she frequently makes it difficult.

He is starving for more time with his kids.

He is an engaged father to an incredible son.

He is a dad who believes father-daughter relationships set the tone for his daughter’s future relationships.

He is not afraid to dance or make mistakes.

He is laughing.

He is here now, writing these words, hoping that you take away some ideas and moments of hope.

He believes in you and your struggle to be a parent, both men and women.

He loves moms.

He supports dads.

He holds his children as long as they will stand still.

He knows the children will leave the nest, and there are not enough hours between now and then to satisfy his expressions of love.

He loves a new woman.

He is hopeful for whatever comes next.

He believes his ex-wife is a loving and strong mother. She’s 50% of the reason the kids are cool.

He believes he was the better half in the divorce.

He believes child support should be mutual and 50/50.

He believes the court system is stacked against dads from the beginning. He also believes this rigid rule is changing.

He supports your healing and wellbeing.

He is doing this for you.

He is writing this because he can’t stop.

He professes deep and unending love to others all the time.

He says, “I love you” all the time.

He is the best dad on the planet.

He is becoming a better parent every day.

He is a believer in dreams and true love.

He is a poet.

He requires no permission or appreciation.

He loves himself.

He knows how to show happiness.

He can tell you what love tastes like.

He is here.

He is you.

He is all of us.

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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What a Farty Old Dog Taught Me About Parenting, Divorce, and My Codependency

jmac-scrambles-2012-3He’s completely deaf and mostly blind. He was driving my ex crazy to the point of her suggesting end-of-life strategies. But he’s just an old farty, blind, deaf, dog that I love. I love him anyway. I carry him up the stairs every night to put him in the warmer bathroom for safe keeping. He’s frail and a bit disoriented, but I have high hopes that his bounding spirit will return.

I lost my animals almost a year ago when I had to sell my house under duress. And my ex-wife was thankfully, willing to take back the old farty dog and my new addition, a cat. She wasn’t all that happy about it. And she put some conditions around their boarding, but she did me a great service by letting me keep them in the family. And today I will recover the cat as well.

Even as I complained inside about all the chores and kid runs I had to make, I was outwardly and spiritually happy to be of-service.

However, this morning, watching my old family dog wander aimlessly and blind around the back yard, I was struck by some of my emotional reactions to his presence. He’s not doing all that well. I think the year with the big-young dog was hard on him. And as my ex became more irritated and irritable about the situation, this little guy was seen as a chore and not a gift. I don’t care how many times I have to clean poop and pee off the floor of my house, he’s still family. Thankfully, he made it through the transition and has been relaxing in his new back yard, sans competitors, for almost a week.

He seems to be thriving, even as his frail condition becomes more obvious. But I am also noticing my reaction towards care taking. I would do almost anything to support and love this dog. And as I watch him wandering the back yard I often go out and pick him up, talk to him, and give him some hugs. His milky eyes turn towards me and back away, almost as if he’s ashamed of his blindness. And even if he can’t hear me, or see me very well, I know he recalls our loving relationship. Whatever it takes.

That was my approach to marriage as well. When I was farting and shitting a bit too much, my then-wife took up the lion’s share of parenting and household management. And we knew it would swing back around. And there were plenty of periods where I was the hyper-parent and responsible partner. And even as I grew weary of the duties from time to time, there was never any push back from me.

The year my son broke his leg was a good example. Or the year my then-wife broke her wrist requiring major reconstructive surgery… She couldn’t do anything for herself. And the months of early recovery were hellacious. And somehow strengthening at the same time. Even as I complained inside about all the chores and kid runs I had to make, I was outwardly and spiritually happy to be of-service. And it didn’t wear me out or diminish my love overall. All of these trials seemed to strengthen the bond, for me.

“We made it through the Winter,” we used to say, as the spring months broke the metaphorical grip on our warm hearts.

As the marriage wore on, my then-wife, somehow grew weary of the constant negotiation and navigation of parenting. She decided at some point, that going it alone was a better option for her and the kids.

As I watch my dog in the back yard today, I remember wishing back then that I had some way of protecting my kids and my then-wife from all the harmful things the might happen. I was struck occasionally with a sad moment when dropping the kids at the fantastic daycare in the mornings on the way to work. I wanted to stay there with them. I wanted to push my daughter on the swing all afternoon. I wanted to have the same kid time my then-wife had. But I moved along after a few pushes on the swing, “Come on, Daddy, one more!”

Today I see how my desire to go out and cuddle my old ailing pup is the same emotional response. We want to comfort all of our tribe members when they are hurting. Even if we don’t have any idea what’s going on in their hearts, we still project our own stuff on to them, and want to comfort OUR discomfort by comforting them. That’s called codependency.

With kids, it’s a given. They are dependent on you. And without healthy codependency they would probably starve and go feral. So we interconnect, we interrelate.  And as parents we commingle our happiness with theirs. Even as I watched the kids rush off to greet their “daily” friends I was saddened to be left behind. And even though my daughter complained every morning as I left, “One more, please,” I knew the responsible thing, the adult thing, was to do the work that made the money that provided the food and shelter part of our family living.

My dog is probably not feeling any pain in the back yard. Sure he looks around as if he’s surveying the landscape. And yes, he would like a continuous stream of wet dog food to magically appear. But for the most part, his life now consists of wandering, eating, pooping, and sleeping.  He does all of them just fine. And it is my emotional need that fuels my compassionate response to him. I’m guessing he’s a bit confused when I pick him up these days. It’s been a while since we had this much contact. And for him, this has meant very little contact over all, since he was one of three pets in a house of busy kids and an overstressed single mom.

I guess, somehow, I’m an old farty dog to my kids, and they love me anyway.

As the marriage wore on, my then-wife, somehow grew weary of the constant negotiation and navigation of parenting. She decided at some point, that going it alone was a better option for her and the kids. I think maybe she had the same overall compassion for me that she had for the farty old dog. As his maintenance grew into a chore, she was ready to put him to sleep rather than deal with it. The real story behind the dog’s issues was more about winter weather and freezing rain that kept him from going outside to do his business.

Today he has the same problems but he’s got me again, to nurture and provide comfortable transportation and living quarters. And yes, he needs some fattening up. And while I’m hopeful at his recovery back to a bouncy and hype old blind dog, I’m also aware that his current life is happier than it was a week ago. And next week, who knows.

For the last years of his life, my buddy will do whatever he does as an old dog. I will watch him zigzagging around the back yard and try to remain happy for him rather than sad for him. I will love on him as much as I can. And I’ll be aware of how my emotional attachments and complaints are mine alone. He’s a dog.

As a parent I know separation has to happen. My kids are now 12 and 14 and the process has begun. I am no longer the most awesome dad of all time. I’m ignored, complained at, and teased. It’s okay. It’s part of the plan. My old dog is still reminding me of how the process works.

I guess, somehow, I’m an old farty dog to my kids, and they love me anyway. (grin)

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: the author and his dog before the separation, creative common usage

king-scrambles-497


Everyone Loses In Divorce – What We Can Never Get Back

OFF-my-kids

A few gaps in my kids education are due to my divorce. A few are due to my bout with depression, while struggling to recover from job loss and mid-life disorientation following 9-11.

And tonight, for no reason, I’m wishing I could just tussle their hair and tell them that I love them.

One of the sad symbols of my loss was my old toolbox. And what leaving it behind meant for both me and my son, who should’ve been building forts and projects with me by his side. And as we’ve gone along in the fractured mode, there are huge gaps in my knowledge and relationship with my kids. It’s something you don’t really understand until you’re well into the process. Or maybe you do understand, and that’s part of the huge sadness of divorce.

When I pick up my kids from school on Thursday it will have been seven days since I saw them, hugged the, really got to check-in with them. There are so many moments that are missing. So much information and growth they experience in the custodial home, and they return to me as slightly different, slightly more mature individuals. I too am changing. We all do the best we can.

But the gaps… the gaps are maddening.

My ex-wife gave me a handful of photos last week. All scenes that I had no recollection of, of course, because I was not at the beach trip. I was not a part of that biographical memory of theirs. Even when you try to show up for every event, and give them all the attention they can stand, after divorce there are still the maddening gaps.

Like my son learning to shave is mustache shadow with a women’s razor. What? A cat my daughter is holding, that I’d never met.

I have a lot of gaps in my relationship with my dad. After the divorce he chose to exit the scene, for the most part. He curled up into his alcoholic choice and married another drinker. I never wanted to go over to his house with his new wife. I learned not to get in the car with him. Ever.

We’ve got texting. We used to have Facetime. But things are busier. And the routine check-in is about all I can expect.

Of course, my kids have nothing like that, with me. And my ex-wife and I have done everything we could to keep any disagreements between us not color the relationships with our kids. And that’s fine. We’re doing a good job of it. And still… Still I am not getting enough time with my kids. And I am sure they are not getting enough time with me. We’re all fine. Everything is wonderful, except for the gaps.

And now they are both in middle school. 4.5 more years and my son is off. The gaps are beginning to add up. I am certain they don’t know much about me. I try to share everything I’m doing, but they don’t really have the time. They’ve got homework, music, sports, friends. It’s fine. It’s my problem. I get it. I’m riffing here, a bit, but I’m ever more aware of the missed days. And tonight, for no reason, I’m wishing I could just tussle their hair and tell them that I love them.

We’ve got texting. We used to have Facetime. But things are busier.  And the routine check-in is about all I can expect.

And the gaps… I’m sorry for the gaps.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: kids away, the author, 2014 all rights reserved


Divorce Statistics 2014 – the infographic

First a bit of historical perspective on divorce from edivorcepapers.com.

divorce-statistics-longview

We can see the alarming trend away from marriage and the uptick in divorce. But let’s get straight to the infographic.

 

divorce-infographic_comp

Well, those are some fairly staggering numbers. Over 50% of you folks rushing to the alter… Maybe we should all pause and discuss the pros and cons of getting married. And if divorced, discuss the pros and cons of getting married again. It appears the odds actually get worse.

Two other great sources for data are

And of course, thanks to the Law Offices of Colgan and Associates for providing the infographic.

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My Divorce: A Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory

OFF-flyingchild

Step 4 of AA: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Today is a day of reflection. I am examining what I’m doing here on The Off Parent. Assessing the damage and progress of my self-observation, self-obsession, self-centered divorce blog. Let’s see if we can get to the heart of the matter.

  1. Strive to cut deep into the pain and healing of divorce recovery.
  2. Express anger and hurt without blaming the other person.
  3. Eliminate cynicism.
  4. Always go for the truth, my truth, the painful truth.
  5. Protect the innocent through anonymity and discretion.
  6. Write for my own personal journey and healing, if there is a reader that’s fine, but I am not writing for anyone but myself.
  7. Lift my psychology out of the hurt and sadness of depression and towards the healing and recovery for all the members of my family.
  8. Do no harm.
  9. Take on no more shame.
  10. Leave this discussion behind in favor of the next love and romance in my life.

Those are my goals. I’m not sure if I hit the mark with 100% of what is left here, but that was (is) my intention. I have progressed from a confused and angry soon-to-be-ex-husband to a hopeful and romantic single father. That’s the ultimate goal, and for that I give thanks.

Writing is therapy.

I hope you find love along your journey through whatever challenges you are facing. We can live through this shit together. And I will continue to light the way along my path so that you might learn from my trespasses and mistakes.

For me, when I write down an experience, I begin to understand it in new ways. I find common threads with other experiences in my life. I hear echoes of past hurts. I recognise the hopeful little boy who survived a crappy divorce and has now grown into a divorce and family of my own. And here on these pages, sometimes, I process the hard stuff, I leave behind puddles of blood and anger that I no longer need. I am discarding these stories as fast as I can write them. Discharging the energy they might still hold on my emotional life, by putting down the bones of truth, as I remember it.

I am not writing for you.

I am glad you are here. I have gotten a lot of support and love through the four years that I have been writing this blog. I have been amazed by some of the comments, troubled by some of the misunderstandings, and encouraged to keep digging for gold. Digging for the heart of joy that is still inside that needs encouragement to hope and dream of loving again.

And I have found the language for that love again. I am writing aspirational love poems. There are still a few divorce poems, but for the most part, this blog has transformed from angry/divorce/rant to relationship/love/discovery. Sure, there will always be flares of anger and sadness when managing the ongoing life of a single parent, but there are also great wins and joys that I am determined to celebrate here, right along side the struggle.

Next Steps

As I continue to change and challenge myself in the coming years, I hope this blog will continue to evolve with me. As I do find that next relationship, I hope that I can write with care and tenderness as “we” this woman and I, journey down the next road of our lives together. Or maybe that will be a different blog. I don’t know. And I’m not trying to get too far ahead of myself, here, or in my relationships.

As I grow and parent this blog will still be the rally point for my emotional triumphs and struggles. And as I struggle with depression, or employment difficulties, I will also try to pull back the armor and release the dragons that still loom ahead for me.

In all cases, I thank you for coming along for the journey thus far. I encourage you to start with the INDEX and read chronologically from the beginning. Or jump to any subject or thread that interests you at this time in your life. And if you have a comment, I value the feedback of my readers more than you can imagine. So tell me.

I hope you find love along your journey through whatever challenges you are facing. We can live through this shit together. And I will continue to light the way along my path so that you might learn from my trespasses and mistakes.

Final note: Why why why write about this painful stuff? My kids were 5 and 7 when my then-wife decided for all of us that she was done with this marriage and wanted to move on to some other configuration. We’re still reeling from the fallout. Not all of it has been bad, but all of it has been transformative. I give thanks that she had the courage to step into the unknown and make the choice she thought was right for her and thus for all of us. Whatever the motivation or past, we are now a family in divorce. We have commitments and connections that will never cease between all of us. And in my attempts to heal myself I hope to continue to be a positive influence in my kids and ex’s lives. We’re in this together. Let’s evolve to a higher discussion.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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references: The 12-Steps of AA – wikipedia

image: practice, fabio bruna, creative commons usage


Divorce is Not About What’s Fair, Let’s Get That Straight

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Let’s get something straight right off the bat. Divorce is not about being fair. It’s about following the law, and hopefully, doing what’s “in the best interest of the children.” But that’s not really the intent of the law either. The laws surrounding divorce and custody in Texas are in place to streamline the average divorce, and provide the mother with some support once the father is gone. Staying in a bad marriage just because of the money is a bad idea. But again, that doesn’t mean the law is fair.

Early on, when we I was finally convinced that divorce was the only option, I agreed to seeing a counselor who would help us build the perfect parenting plan for our kids. The idea was, that in cooperation, we could lessen the impact on the kids, be civil to each other in a difficult process, and go through the process of divorce as simply as possible. We were “kids first” in our approach to splitting up. All that was good.

Building the parenting plan, and the agreements we would abide by as parents was the most important part of the divorce for both of us. And the “impartial” therapist was there to help us work it out. So we paid a lot of money to her, rather than lawyers, to advise us in setting our kids up for success in the post-family world.

And then, somewhere along the way, during the process this statement came out of our counselor’s mouth.

“This is what the mom would get if this went to court. So we can start here.”

What about me? Well, that’s where the fairness ends. Because if I can’t make the full payment, at any time, my ex can file against me at the Attorney General’s office and wreak all kinds of havoc on my credit and career.

I had been heading towards 50/50 parenting or bust. I had made my case for how much care I had provided in the past, and how much care I was willing to provide as a single dad. Still the words from the therapist’s mouth were hard to swallow. She was saying, if we went to court, my ex-wife would get primary custody and the SPO, as they always did. Oh, and, “this is what’s in the best interest of the children.”

What?

I didn’t really know what all that meant, but I trusted the counselor and listened to her. It was not fair. But that’s what my ex would get if I fought her in the courts. I was confused, that’s why we were paying her all the money, because we were not going to go to court. We were using her to avoid court, and to come to an equitable arrangement as civil adults and caring parents, without fighting about it.

We were meeting weekly with her to determine what was best for our children in our case, not to abide by what the State of Texas generally did in the case of divorce. I was pissed, but I didn’t really have much support for my view. I had bought a few books about cooperative parenting, and suggested a 50/50 schedule that was recommended in one of them. This was the offer that was being shut down by our cooperative therapist with the approval and appreciation of my soon-to-be ex-wife.

Here’s what I am slowly learning.

  • 85% of divorces in Texas end up with the mom as the primary custodian. Dad’s are considered non-custodial parents as a default.
  • And most of those dads are then given the SPO, as what’s “in the best interest of the kids.” The SPO (Standard Possession Order) is the governing calendar for your time with your kids.
  • The SPO is not near 50/50, and the “month” in the summer is a joke to offset some of the inequity. But show me a dad who can take a month off in the summer to make up for time lost with his kids, and … Well, it’s just not realistic.
  • With the non-custodial role comes a big fine. In Texas someone is going to pay. And the non-custodial parent is saddled with a set fee, based on estimated income, that is defined by the state and enforced by the state. If you’re the non-custodial parent get ready to pay.

While 50/50 parenting is not uncommon, it is not the norm. And if that’s what you want (as I did) you should fight for it. In our case, I should not have had to FIGHT for it, that was why we were mediating and paying a counselor to help us determine what was best for our kids. What we got was a good parenting plan, with “if you go to court this is what she’s going to get.”

So using some abstract numbers for a second, let’s see what that non-custodial assumed fee (called child support) looks like.

Let’s say you have two kids. And for simplicity’s sake let’s say your mortgage on your house together is $2,000. When you divorce, you’re going to 1. give her the house for “the kids;” 2. pay her a monthly support fee for “the kids;” 3. pay for the kids health insurance; and then, if you can afford it, 4. figure out how to put a roof over your head too.

So let’s see. If together we were paying $2,000 for our house. And separate she’s going to pay $2,000 for the same house. But I’m then going to pay her $1,000 for child support, and $500 for health care for the kids, then in theory she’s paying $1,000 for the house, and if I can find a 3-bed-room apartment nearby for $2,000, then I’m paying $3,000 plus $500 just for living expenses. I mean, I do what what’s best for my kids, and I do want them to be able to keep the house, but…

What about me? Well, that’s where the fairness ends. Because if I can’t make the full payment, at any time, my ex can file against me at the Attorney General’s office and wreak all kinds of havoc on my credit and career. So to start, I’ve got to make $3,500 a month before I get to think about electricity, food, water, clothes for myself. Um, that’s not such a good deal.

So how could we have made this more fair? Well, to start we could have negotiated in good faith, rather than this “what she’s going to get” BS. That was a low blow, and I’m still a bit angry with the otherwise, stellar, counsellor.

As it turns out, I agreed to the non-custodial deal, and the SPO and the payments to my ex-wife. And as it turns out, the economy has beat my income stream into ever-changing levels. And when I began to get behind, even as I was explaining to my ex exactly what was happening, and that I was not trying to get out of paying 100% of what she was owed, even with all that good will, and “what’s in the best interest for the children” talk, my ex-wife filed on me for being two months behind on my child support.

The cascade of my financial collapse was pretty swift after that. While I had been able to buy a house (shelter for my kids) I was falling behind on my mortgage too. And since my great job evaporated, I had not been able to replace it. I was working as a consultant, but I wasn’t making enough to cover all my expenses (survival expenses, not travel, or new things, or extravagance) and make the $1,500 support and health care payments. I was confident I would get caught up, I was expressing that to my ex-wife, and for some reason she filed anyway. Not fair, I thought. But that’s not what it’s about.

The point is not that I owe her the money, or if she is entitled to the money. She is entitled to every dollar awarded to her through our agreement.

I had to sell the house to get caught back up on my debt to Wells Fargo. I had to hire a lawyer to protect me from my wife’s actions with the AG. And I’ve been struggling to find a new full-time gig, at a much higher salary, so I could pay for all of this AND a place for me to live, preferably with three bedrooms so we all have our own space.

But in the SPO world, there really isn’t much consideration for what I will do, how the dad will do if he struggles a bit. It’s good for the moms to be taken care of. And most of all it’s good for the kids to be provided for, without a lot of drama or fighting between the co-parents. But I was unceremoniously tossed out of my house, which I agreed to give her, and told to pay a whopping $1,500 fee to her, and THEN look for somewhere I could live. In an expensive city, with kids in an expensive school district, it was not a pretty story. And while I nearly made it, my few months of struggles were enough for my “friendly” ex-wife to basically use the State of Texas to sue me for her back child support.

I’m waiting today for the expected good news that I will be starting a new full-time gig shortly. One that should provide for my child support and even a place for me to live. If I can afford a three bedroom place to live, is yet to be seen. I’ve got my fingers crossed, and am still putting in applications elsewhere every day. And other than how it would affect my kids if I were homeless, I’m guessing my ex-wife could care less, unless it means the full child-support payments will resume immediately.

That’s the plan. I’m not sure it’s a fair plan, but that’s the plan.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

[Please note: This post is likely to draw a lot of heat from the single mom’s. The point is not that I owe her the money, or if she is entitled to the money. She is entitled to every dollar awarded to her through our agreement. And she will get every single dollar awarded to her, as I promised/promise her. The point is, had I known all my options, I might have fought for the 50/50 parenting plan I wanted.]

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The Light At the End of the Tunnel, It’s Yours

feeling okay after divorceThings are not going to work out the way you think they are. Most of the time, that’s a given. Still we can aspire towards the next great LOVE with energy and abandon. I do. And yet, I have a new patience. A self-quieted place of peace. I’m not in a hurry. I’m not struggling, even with things that should probably worry me a lot more than they are. I’m at peace.

Tonight when I went for my long walk and ended it with a dip in the lake, I was filled with mixed emotions as the very old and very grey couple arrived with their dog to join me in the lake. The man entered first and was very chatty. He showed me how his bull terrier (Spuds McKenzie type dog) liked to catch buckets of water as he threw them in the air. Both the boy and his dog were satisfied and blissful with their connection. His wife sat nearby pulling off her walking clothes.

To love and really LOVE we’ve got to find that light within ourselves that is not dependant nor extinguished by another person.

As I sat on the bank, getting my shoes on I marveled at how she too entered the water with joy and purpose. Playfully, grabbing the red ball from her husband and tossing it up the bank. I could see the beauty in her 70+ year-old body and the loving light still in her eyes for both her man and their dog. And in that moment of reflection, when the thought occurred to me, “This is what I wanted,” I got a new message.

I’ve got more time between my age and their age then both of my marriages combined. There’s no hurry. I have so many adventures ahead. I have time to fall in love over and over again. While I’d really dream of having the next ONE, I can see that this projection of my future is flawed. It would be great. It would be my fantasy to be retired by a lake with a dog and a loving wife deep into my 70’s, 80’s, and beyond. And if it’s the same woman, even better.

But.

What if this couple just met? What if they have been dating only a few weeks, and this was a date rather than a routine and loving evening swim? Does this make any difference in my observation of their joy and closeness? At that moment it does not. And in my next and next and next relationship, perhaps that is the same joy I will get to feel again. While I would prefer not to suffer the downside of breakups and hurt feelings, those things might happen.

To love and really LOVE we’ve got to find that light within ourselves that is not dependant nor extinguished by another person. I am fueled by the idea of joining my flame with another creatively hot woman, but I am content to renew my focus, again and again, and find ways to continually rekindle my passion.

She is here. I like to say, or imagine. But at the moment she is somewhere else. But I am here. And the couple at the lake, regardless of their relationship status, showed me the joy I have to look forward to. The simple pleasure of a shared swim, a moment together playing with a dog, a lightly applied kiss.

I know, I am burning brighter than I was a year ago. And it’s my task to keep stoking and strengthening myself, regardless of MY relationship status. I am here. And I am actively waiting.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Waiting On Repairs

waiting for me to change the lightbulbIf something is broken, or a lightbulb is out, just fix it. Waiting on repairs as a measure of commitment or caring is a double-edged sword.

There are many ways to parse the “repair” in this title.

A repair is the type of statement offered by one of the two people in a disagreement that is supposed to form a bridge back to wholeness. A repair is a minor chore that involves fixing something. A repair is when the cable is out and you’ve got to schedule time to meet the repairman during the work day, so you can get your tv or high-speed internet working again.

There are always a few small repairs awaiting attention in any relationship or house. But when used as a measure or a gauge of the health of a relationship, there is often the aggrieved party and the oblivious party. Or, in the case of marriage, the party who is irritated by the burnt out lightbulb or weeds in the yard, and the party who is generally happy, or oblivious of such tragedies.

In our case, I was aware that there was a bulb out in the hall. But it didn’t bother me and the other two worked fine to illuminate the paths of my loved ones. To the ex-y the bulb was an example of my inattention to her. Why didn’t I care enough to want her, or my kids, to have three working lights in the hall? Why, if I knew it bothered her, didn’t I just fix the fucking light?

Wait. What?

I became more aware of the resentment in these little details as time went on and the veneer began to wear thin on the relationship. A dying or overgrown yard was an indication of how I was neglecting her, or showing my lack of love and respect for my entire family. I still get a sad chuckle out of the thought, once voiced in the flurry of an argument, that went something like this:

“If you saw the fucking light bulb was out, why didn’t you fix it?”

“If you were bummed out about the light bulb, why didn’t you just replace it?”

“It’s as if you just don’t care. You’re fine with the whole place going to shit.”

“Um, no. I just wasn’t aware that the lightbulb was that big of a deal. And if it was bugging me it would take less than a minute to fix it.”

“So why didn’t you replace it?”

“It wasn’t bugging me.

“Did you notice it was burned out?”

“Of course.”

“Well why didn’t you fucking fix it?”

“Um. If it was bugging the crap out of you, why didn’t YOU fix it?”

“You just don’t fucking care. About me, or anything.”

“No. I wasn’t aware that the lightbulb was that big a deal.”

“It’s not the lightbulb, it’s everything. It’s always like this.”

+++

At some point you either dig in your heels and say to yourself, “I’m never changing the fucking lightbulb.” Or, “She can fix the fucking lightbulb herself.” And even when you know the unmowed lawn is bugging her, you don’t mow it. Not out of spite, but because it’s 2 hours in the middle of your potentially productive weekend, and it’s not that big of a deal. Even when you know she’s seething.

I wonder what it was like when she realized  when it dawned on her, that she was going to have to fix the fucking lightbulb herself? Or when she decided she needed to learn how to mow the fucking lawn herself on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Or when she realized, just in the last three months, that working a real full-time job was hell. And that all of those years I was hoofin it off to the cube farm, she might have had a tiny bit more sympathy on a weekend when I just wanted to chill, or nap, or play with the kids.

I remember a point in our final breakdown when I asked her, “How do you think we’re going to be able to afford two houses in this school district?” She wasn’t thinking about me. She could care less if I got to stay near my kids, or near their school. Of course she’d been the one “volunteering” at the elementary school. Because we could afford to have her working part-time or “consulting.”

And looking over the tax return together, the last joint tax return we ever filed, she was pretty self-righteous about the fact that her contribution to the income for the year had actually be a negative. “Do you think financial stress had anything to do with our breakup?” I might have asked her. But I didn’t.

Today we struggle along, affording two houses in the affluent district where we pay for good schools for our kids minds and souls. And I’ve scaled way back and down. I’m happy. I’m not complaining.

But the “honey do” repair on her house, that is now going on six months in its gross state of disrepair, does give me a tiny bit of satisfaction. I met her boyfriend accidentally one afternoon when I was dropping the kids back at her house.

They were tearing the front, mostly ornamental decks, off the front of the house. I shook this sort of pudgy and academic man’s hand, amazed at the lack of his Carry-Grant-ness.

“Yes, they were going to charge us $3,500 to fix the decks,” he said, with some joy. “But I knew we could do it ourselves for less.”

WOW. My first thought was, “Dang, $3,500 seems pretty cheap compared to the number of weekends it is going to take to do it yourself.” She was standing there, satisfied with his statement. She was fixing up the house to sell it. He was saying “us.”

And I realized at that moment that she had found a lover who spoke her love language. All this time we had just been slightly mismatched in what kinds of things represented “being loved” to us. She wanted someone who did things for her. “Do something to help me and I feel loved.”

I’m sure my love language is touch. “Give me a hug or a snuggle and I will feel loved.”

So there we were, the three of us, and it was like an “ah ha” went off in my head. “She’s found her honey do.”

Of course, now, six months later, I’m thinking, “Yeah, how’s that working for you?”

The torn up decks make me a little sad for my kids. They must know it looks like crap to have the front of the house torn up and unfinished. (How’s that $3,500 looking, now?) But I can’t control or change that. So I keep it to myself. But there is some inner smile going on, as I think of his saying, “They were going to charge us $3,500.”

I think it’s best to not be waiting on repairs, in any of the potential situations. If the disagreement is heated, it’s okay to be the first one to go for the repair. “I’m sorry. You are right. I fucked up.”

In the case of my repair I would be looking for a hug or acknowledgement that we were still connected physically  For the ex-y she’d be looking for me to replace burnt out lightbulbs with more consistency and timeliness. I know it sounds trivial, but I don’t think it is. I think it is part of what makes her feel loved. And in this repair I often failed. As we were awash in disagreement, I failed on purpose.

“Fuck if I’m going to change that lightbulb,” I thought. “She’ll either do it herself, or get madder than hell. But I’m not going to be manipulated by her control issues. Both of us can change the lightbulb. If it’s bugging you/her then fix it. Don’t sit around bitching about me not fixing it.”

She got mad. She stayed mad. I guess there were always things that needed repair in her world and she was waiting on me to do them.

Of course, today she doesn’t have that luxury. Or that torture, depending on your perspective. Neither do I.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

 the story continues…

image: creative commons useage: #4 lightbulb moment

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Loaded and Broke, Again: The Drama of Divorce and Money

Dad and Money and Ex-WivesI’ve got my largest two week consulting check coming in, ever. Problem is, it should’ve arrived on Saturday. AND my car stopped running properly on Saturday. AND my ex-y asked for “timing” advice last night. And my client said, “We will get it in the mail this week, sorry we were on Spring Break.”

There is no doubt that cash flow problems hit us all. And I will also admit that I am not very good at mapping bills and expenses to income, especially when things get tight. And sometimes they get so tight…

So the drama between the ex-y and I continues. Except the drama on her side is really for show, for frustration, for antagonism. No, I take that back. She’s not even interested in upsetting me. She would get no benefit from that. But she is not required to take my situation into consideration, nor does she. I’d use the word narcistic, if it weren’t a bad word. Self-centered would probably fit more appropriately.

The part I don’t get, when her wants and desires become the priority in her life, over, let’s say, our kids lives. Let me give a few examples.

Within a month of our divorce being finalized, she was sleeping with a plumber who’d worked on her house. Not that there’s anything wrong with plumbers, but this one had rebound, revenge, self-centered written all over it. A friend told me about it. I was furious. Oops, my bad. I was supposed to be detaching. And of course she had tightened down her chastity belt so tight, I guess her sexual needs could not be contained. All I can say about the plumber was, thank goodness we’d put a 6-month chill clause in our divorce decree, before either of us could introduce a significant other to the kids. I asked her, “What example is he going to set for our kids?” Again, nothing against plumbers, but as the next pseudo-father of my kids, I was aiming a little higher. I understand it’s not my decision, but I have some hopes that he will be a creatively intellectual individual that my kids will admire and aspire to be more like. Again, I never met the man with the dragon tattoo. He may very well have been the Michael Angelo of plumbing.

Another misqueue in my opinion (a problem with that right there, I really don’t have a right to an opinion) was all the times I’d check-in with my kids on a weekend and they’d have a babysitter. Again, I don’t even pretend to imagine the different experience of the world and making a living, between men and women, but it certainly wasn’t sexual companionship she was looking for. She was in the immediate hunt for my replacement as a provider. She was panicked about being alone. (Part of the reason I didn’t want the house, too many ghosts around if the kids weren’t there.) But deeper, I’m guessing, was her fear of not being able to make it alone.

Again, I am speaking about something I know nothing about. I know about money woes. I know about companionship. But I also know that MY healing comes from time alone, feeling the feelings, and working things out. First with myself. Then with another person. She was aggressively trying to fill my spot before she really had to do the work of understanding why it was empty.

So I paid a few weeks late on last months child support, and she made a big deal about how much she needs the money, how dependent she is on my support checks. But it’s bullshit. It’s the clear and present danger in HER mind, but she’s only thinking about herself.

Let’s see: 1. she’s got a house that is worth at least 100k more than her mortgage; 2. she’s got over 25k in retirement accounts; 3. she’s got me paying almost all of her mortgage every month. Where is the money crisis in that?

I think of Bill Hader’s drama queen character. The kids and I watched a couple SNL skits last night before bed. And in this one, Hader played a fireman who was still not over a relationship that had ended over nine years ago. He simply screamed. And screamed. And screamed.

It was a fitting metaphor for my ex-y’s behavior.

1. She knew I was struggling to get last month’s payment to her; 2. She’s working on her own budget for the week/month/year; 3. Like a bill collector, she’s asking when is she getting the next payment and “how can we set this up so it doesn’t affect me and the kids each month?”

Good question, that last one. I’m thinking this is the answer: “Get the fk off my ass for $1600. You are NOT in crisis. You are connecting your emotional vulnerability to the payments from me. They are NOT the same thing. You have plenty of money. I am paying as best I can. Saying “thank you so much” and the bringing the enforcer ask right after is not caring, it’s manipulative. Unfortunately it’s also transparent.

I won’t answer her with this vitriol. It would do no good.

So as I do with the mortgage demands that start coming in the day after the payment is due, I ignore them. She is a detail and a bill collector. She does not have feelings, nor should she need to, about me and my money. It’s just business.

And fk that. I’m a person. I’m also worthy of respect. And before you hammer me about “when is the next check coming in?” please check your balance sheet and know that YOU ARE OKAY. You’re security and joy does not depend on my money. Never did. And I will support you as long as the law demands it and the kids are in school. I am 100% committed to that.

Let’s not forget that she started threatening turning the process over to the Texas Attorney General’s office and Child Support Division a few months ago. She’s just working to get me with the program. Not a very compassionate approach, but I’m not part of her drama unless she can make me part of it.

But this week, when the check comes in. I’m going to pay last months mortgage payment. And a few other bills that have significant weight. Yours no longer carries that priority. And your drama-infused demands no longer have the power to affect me. (To be honest, they still can rile me up. This post is an example.) I will pay you, as I have for 2.5 years. We’ve got approximately 8 to go. And if you continue to scream “oh my god” in your emails to me, I’ll just start putting you in the spam folder with Wells Fargo. They are going to get their money too. Everybody is going to get their money.

Now we need to relax and pay attention to the things that are more important than paying bills or finding a boyfriend/girlfriend. It’s time to wake the kids over here and get them ready for school. And that’s an activity worth my priority and attention. Your self-imagined money crisis, is not.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

Resources:


Divorce Statistics Infographic – The Low Down About Divorce in 2013

Broken Unions - The Divorce Statistics Infographic

Click on either graphic to get a look at the full version. Amazing and illuminating numbers about modern day divorce rate in the U.S.

Divorce Statistics - 2013 Infographic

Click to view the full infographic

The several items that slapped me in the proverbial face were:

  • 65% of all U.S. divorces are initiated by women
  • Annually, 115,000 women lose health insurance due to divorce
  • State with the highest rate of Divorce: Nevada (bet you could’ve guessed that one)
  • The average first marriage lasts 8 years.

How long did your marriage last? Who initiated the divorce? What were your biggest concerns about getting divorced?

Grab the full infographic here: Divorce Statistics 2013 Infographic (this information was not paid for by The Off Parent, nor is this site sponsored by insurancequotes.com, this information is provided free of charge, for the price of a link.)

And if you have any answers or observations on those stats please post them in the comments.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Trying to Talk About Sex: Texting In Bed

trying to communicate about sex - before the divorce

this conversation happened in bed in the form of a poem we wrote back and fourth between us

+++

i’m having sex, 90% of the time alone
so financial crisis moments appear and go away
and I too feel fatigue when my trustworthiness is raised again and again
not a crisis
more of a chronic situation of the relationship
weariness of wanting to go in to it

now you have to put some stuff in.

also weary of the dialogue around sex – frequency
my time is so spoken for
i don’t see that changing
if we could actually put every moment spent on considering the vectors of the situation of not that much (together) sex
in to crafting a situation where it could happen
we would create actual sexual encounters.
i get weary of focus on my not meeting your needs for sex
pretty much feel like your framing of the issue is you want more sex
so what can we do to get me available for more sex
and that this framing is in your mind
not expressed so much by action

In my (quite open to possibility of distortion on my part) world, I am a)working, b)sleeping, c)doing a mission-critical thing for kids, d) doing some other mission-critical thing (house, etc). Not really spending any bandwidth researching the dynamics of things you are doing or not doing that don’t meet my needs. I do speak up with clear asks, but that’s all I can muster.

so it is frustrating and feels wierd that you have this thing going on where I continue not to meet your needs

at the same time I have no bandwidth left to meet any other needs period.

so do YOU have sexual desire?

yes.

and are you happy with your sex life?

in the context of reality – other real, now dynamics of time etc – sure

then we have a mismatch in desire, wouldn’t you say?

And that is a critical path issue for me. As much as money or housekeeping or kidkeeping is for the WE.

Yes. It is a critical path issue for you to __________________?

Discuss with you what’s missing. What’s wrong with this situation. Evaluate what’s going on. Is it desire? Trust? Money? Work? Housekeeping?

My TXT last Sunday saying, “I’m thinking about masterbating… but I’d rather have sex with you was a good opening.” and we were successful in connecting.

We need more casual wins.

What I am curious about is… how things have changed for you from what I imagine our SEX life was like 3 years ago.

I do not buy the house, work, sleepy idea. Something else perhaps?

What has changed for me is… The “connection” that you were speaking about say 2 months ago
to me the miss or lack is due to lack of contact and intimacy.

Sex doesn’t seem to be a part of that equation for you. Now, of course I am telling you it is. (grin)

Definitely it is a critical path issue for both of us, because you are materially unhappy (altho not in a crisis way) with the frequency and ____________ (connection?) of our sex (intimate?) life and therefore it makes the WE.

The txt was notable to me. so direct.

The not buying about sleepy and house…it’s like the conversation we had where you were asking me: what do you need? And I told you. “To see the numbers.” and that that was really what I needed was so out of range of believeable to you – you didn’t buy it – that it never occured to you to do the numbers, or engage with me to say OK, lets do the numbers now.

But it was true. I needed to see the numbers. YOU never actually need to see the numbers for that particular kind of situation. But I do.

So you ask what would help….per sex….and I nearly always come around to: house (a visually peaceful – that sensuality for me), sleep or workout (that’s body – a key to my sensuality). But you CANT BUY it. Because it’s not your experience of the world, I guess.

I’m empathetic with NOT BUYING another person’s experience. Certainly I miss on this more than rarely.

On the mismatch of desire. Maybe we have a mismatch in the desire for genital rubbing and intercourse v other sensuality. I feel like I live in a world of visual sensuality, and touch, and working out – exertion, and some kinds of foods – beautiful, fresh foods. And then there is sex, like, in bed sex.

And ? for you the sensuality of life stacks up differently. Sex straight UP gets more brain cells – loving the clean curves and surfaces gets fewer. Fresh pinapple, not so much. Ice cream – a lot!!

More pragmatically, there is a cycle we are in that at least does not help. I can’t sleep next to you. When we are spooned, the snoring is so loud – some just because of what spooning does, put your mouth in my ear, I wake up. Then, if I am awake, I have to go to another room. This was not the case 3 years ago.

I don’t have a point of entry in to that situation. Not sure.

You have not told me recently about the snoring and that is the reason you are leaving the bedroom so frequently. I am always happy to apply a breathrite strip. They seem to help. And I need to lose weight. I am actively working on that.

Back a the discussion about what you needed, it was not that I didn’t buy your experience. In fact, we agreed that restarting money discussions was probably critical path.

We didn’t DO the financial plans again until we were reminded by Rick of the critical WE in everything.

+++

I used to say “It wasn’t my idea,” about the divorce. And in my divorce recovery group I was definitely self-identified as the dumpee. But what was different is I was beginning to express my dissatisfaction with the status quo. Her money-house-tired story had reached the end of my accepting it. I was tired of having sex alone 90% of the time. I was demanding we talk about it.

What didn’t know was she was already in the process of figuring out her options. Probably, in terms of her critical path issues, house and money she was beginning the process of trying to figure out what she would get if she decided to go for a divorce.

When she admitted in therapy that she had already consulted with a lawyer, I was stunned. “Well,” I said. “I guess you are a lot further down the road than I am about this.” And she got motivated to find full-time work and basically created a job within a few months. And then, I suppose she saw the potential for escape from her private hell.

I remember saying to her, once the “divorce” was agreed to, “So you think it’s me that’s making you so mad all the time? And you think I’m going to walk out that door and you are some how going to transform into a happy person? Wow. I think you are wrong.”

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Divorce Growing Pains: Accepting that She Doesn’t Want Reconciliation

Post divorce sex and dating means letting go of your exAs things begin to pick up for me again, both emotionally and financially, I still get this twinge of anger from time to time about the woman who lost confidence in me. Often there is one person who does not want the divorce (the dumpee) and the person who initiates the divorce.

And the spark of pain, that I occasionally still have to acknowledge and let go of, is SHE decided long before I did that she was done. When she toyed with “maybe a separation would help me,” she had already talked to a lawyer. I was still solid as a rock that we would get through this. We had been through so many trials of the spirit before, this was a chance to set some of our emotional connections right. That was my delusion.

It was November of last year, that I sent the last, “If I could change anything, or start over with someone…” email. She demurred. She was not interested. But what that letter did for me was release every last option in MY control. And when she passed, I was free to really explore dating.

She was looking to greener pastures. She was giving up on me. That still stings.

It didn’t work out that my aggressive get-out-and-fk approach didn’t really work for me. But I did let her go on another level when I saw myself actually having sex with another (a different) woman. Some core sexual thread was released back to me. I was still not sure that I wanted it back.  I am still attracted to most of her physical qualities, her smell, the way she dresses, her smile.

But she is not attracted to me any more. She moved on within weeks of the final divorce and began sleeping with a plumber who caught her eye. WOW, now that was bold, or way off, you’d have to ask her. But it was at that time that I was so happy we’d put the “six-month dating before introducing to the kids” rule in our parenting plan.

She didn’t want to try separation. She was trying a way to ease me out of the relationship  She was looking to greener pastures. She was giving up on me. That still stings. All the money we now put into TWO homes have made the economics much more stressful.

So we move along. We grow. We challenge what we knew about relationship, what we think we know about physical and spiritual attraction.

That final stage of release continues to happen. And I find myself looping back into desire for “what was.” It’s not for her any more, but the idea and memory of the wonderful times we had. And the loss every single time I drop my kids off and won’t see them for 5 days. OUCH! That I never wanted.

Today, I can say my dreams of reconciliation are more about getting my kids back. She’s not available to me. She’s been with her BF for almost a year. He’s met the kids. And even if she asked tomorrow, admitted her mistake, I know that I would say “No.” She was emotionally distant the entire relationship  She didn’t know how to connect with deep feelings. It was never safe for her to do so with her mom and dad.

So we move along. We grow. We challenge what we knew about relationship, what we think we know about physical and spiritual attraction. And now we move in different directions. And that too is good.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Since My Last Confession

It’s been awhile. Um, and I’d like to tell you it’s been pleasant, or productive. It has had moments, but mostly I fell off a cliff.

Overwhelmed with sadness and longing after divorce

I’m not sure exactly what kicked in to release the flood of … Depression, Fear, Lonliness… I put them all with capital letters, because it has been a bear crawling back out of the abyss. I fully expected, as I closed my last post, to pick things up and stick with the honest revelations. And… NOT. My creative flow doesn’t work that way. And I simply shut it all down.

In some ways I was crashing back into my divorce again. The rage that I have expressed here, turning into feelings of shame and regret. Why would I vent so furiously? I must’ve been nuts putting this much emotion and pain out there. How embarassing.

And what now, has changed my mind? What elements of life have brought me back to life? There is so much to tell.

Let’s start about the time the wheels fell off. I was struggling to finish my last post here (Loneliness. Fessing Up When Things Hurt for No Apparent Reason) and was fairly self-aware of what was happening, and still unable to avert the plummet. It wasn’t one thing that was freaking me out, it was several.

The biggest fear-factor for me was money. What I thought I had a month before had failed to materialize. And I went from self-confident (and perhaps arrogant) to despondent and lost. When the ability to pay your credit cards begins to fall off the map, things get a bit stressful. And they had been falling off for months. The prospect of work was keeping me afloat. And as the client continued to stall, my grip on the positive side of EVERYTHING began to loosen.

It wasn’t a dramatic pop, more of a sigh, as I let go of the cliff of Mazlow’s hierarchy and slipped back into the base plan of survival. Trips to pick up the kids at my former house became harder. My longing for a woman who did not love me back, continued to fester, even in the contradiction of my own awareness and good counseling. And my desperation about my own situation, probably emotional more than financial, began to turn bleak indeed.

I laughed at my unrational mind as I walked through our up-scale grocery store. On one side of the unattainable relationship model, was the yoga-fresh women in their mid-morning workout stride, flashing teeth, thin and evolved athletic legs, and lulu lemon outfits that cost more than my car payment. And on the other side was the obese cleaning lady standing in the customer service line. Neither extreme seemed attainable. And thus I felt hopeless in my contemplations of how I would EVER find a woman, another woman, to be with. I wanted to crawl back into what I knew before. To collapse in the sturdiness of my ex-y, irregardless of the cost.

So I was out of my mind.

And I could not seem to put any of the puzzle pieces of my life back together again. So I did what I do. I isolated. I shut down. I became very quiet. But I was hoping to be found and rescued. I knew that. I was nose diving into “fuck you” while hoping for a hand to reach out and scoop me up. I was emotionally about five years old.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Loneliness. Fessing Up When Things Hurt for No Apparent Reason

a nice walk at sunsetToday was one of those days. Nothing really happened to make me sad, but dropping the happy bubbling kids off at the ex-y’s house today I felt the depth of pain again. And maybe I have to come clean, maybe I need to look at my loneliness for a minute rather than skate over it in the name of exhaustion, too much work, apathy, and entertainment.

I don’t want to write about missing my kids. I want to go off and queue up a Game of Thrones episode and relax and forget about it.

I felt the pang of anxiety for the first time in months last week. I was dialing in some financial details and realized the bulk of the work that was materializing two months ago, had still failed to produce the steady income I needed. So I’m back against the wall, it’s the new month, and I still owe half of last month’s child support payment.

It is hard to share that. I’d rather curl up and be depressed. Maybe this is too raw, unedited… I can feel the emptiness and hopelessness that comes as part of this new planet I have landed upon. At the moment, I’m blogging, not writing the story. But perhaps the voice can come through and punch me back into gear.

At the moment it is exactly TWO WEEKS since I started this post. And the anger, vibrancy, and passion has veered off course into self-doubt and sadness.

Check list:

1. Exercise. YES

2. Eating well. MARGINAL

3. Sleeping well. YES

4. Keeping up with work. MARGINAL

5. Loneliness quotient: VERY HIGH

Dammit. I do not want to be here. I’ve called my support team. I am looking at what is going on with attention to ACTION rather than RUMINATION. And now as the sun is going down, I’m gonna have the 2nd walk of the day. A short one, an appreciation.

I’ve fallen down, but I am also in the process of getting up. Again. We get up again.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Nothing Left – A New and Welcome Emptiness Between Us

Like my siren, Emma Forrest is a lover of inkAnd tonight when the ex-y came by to pick up the kids, there was absolutely nothing between us. I was thrilled to be less than interested. We exchanged pleasantries and not a single shard of pain.

Maybe it’s the tattoo’d siren who is texting fragments of songs and dreams through out day. Maybe it’s a new plateau of healing. Maybe I’m writing into an understanding of her distant personality and how I could’ve seen the clues early on in our dating, had I wanted to see them.

I’m not giddy about the change, but I am looking forward to more “nothing.”

It’s funny, or synchronous, I’m reading a beautiful book by a beautiful woman who feels so deeply she harms herself.** And she’s brilliant. And feeling. And seriously fucked up. And the siren in my life is a fascinating cross of motherhood (she has 5 kids) and an exuberantly young soul who likes to start an evening in the late 10’s. And the inked plum blossoms across her shoulder are like a net, drawing in my imagination.

“Are you turned off by ink,” she asked in an early email.

I am imagining writing a new love song so happy it warrants new ink on her. She’s an intoxicant and she’s coming back this weekend. And that potential, for “what” is empowering. Where ever she fits in my next trajectory, she has provided escape velocity; an imaginative texter with an amazing smile and joie d’ vivre. The opposite of cool, the antithesis of distant.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

image: emma forrest – **your voice in my head (amazon link)

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We Ran Into Her First Ex-Husband At a Titty Bar

Hitting the strip clubs and finding my ex-wife's ex-husband #1[Note: I’m her second ex-husband.]

There’s that fantasy that has something about two girls and a guy. I think it’s a universal male erotic obsession. I know I HAD it for a while. Not to say I don’t enjoy a bit of voyeuristic girl-on-girl pic or vid from time to time.

But the time my ex-y and I went to a titty bar together and ran into her FIRST ex-husband, it was a bit too much. I mean, seeing the ex-husband there was kinda funny, and my ex-y was fun about it. We sent him a lap dance.

And then we got my ex-y a couple lap dances herself. A hot, very pierced and very young working girl who clearly enjoyed making my ex-y’s muff moist, was all over playing the role for us.

But the scene was uncomfortable for several reasons. My ex-y sort of “got into it” a bit much. I could see her flushed cheeks. I could imagine… Wait, I didn’t want to imagine it. And here’s why: something at that time told me that the switch would be fairly easy for my ex-y. The fantasy is fine until the dude is left cold. I mean, what more do I have to offer, once they are hooked up, so to speak?

So we paid her a couple times, back and forth, in a ménage à trois ala stripper club. And the girl’s perfume was heavy with her scent. She was “working” pretty hard. And not just at our table.

We never went back. And I’m pretty sure, the idea, while somewhat interesting on paper, became more of a “not really” for me. The fragility of our intimacy was close enough that any, [any] alternative sexual energy was a threat rather than a turn-on.

It’s a shame. Or maybe not.

Hey, it looks like that stripper club is having a special tonight. Steak and lobster for $15.95. A pocket full of ones a few twenties, and… Nah, not tonight.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Feeling Again or NOT Feeling Again

the spilled coffee grounds at my ex's houseSee if you can feel the irony of this. I am picking up my kids after school at my former house. And the dogs have gotten into the trash in the kitchen. So what do I do, clean it up? Make it a little more messy? Ignore it, not my problem.

Well she is nice enough to let me use the house as a pick up zone. It’s good for the kids. So I do a partial pickup. Coffee grounds and trash off the kitchen floor. Sweep, but not mop.

So we’re waiting 20 minutes for me to take my daughter to Brownies. Cause my ex-y had a business trip and it IS my day. We hustle up to the playground and there is no one in sight. We drive over to the park and it is completely empty. Turns out they are inside at the playground in the MUD office. We figure this out about 20 minutes into the meeting.

The plan was for my son and I do to a quick grocery run while they were doing girl scouts. Problem was, by the time we got her to the right room, there was only 30 minutes before the meeting would be out. So we couldn’t even get there and back in 30 minutes. So my son and I were left to our own devices. He drew and I fuddled with my Blackberry and wished it had a real browser. And tuned into all the beautiful women coming to the playground with new offspring. Oh yeah.

So at the same park where I was a Den Leader with my son in Cub Scouts, I was now simply waiting in the park on a beautiful day, looking at beautiful women, and grooving on the pictures my son was drawing.

I guess we could have gone back to the house. It’s HER house now, but it will always be the house. Much of me is still inside.

And I give thanks that my ex-y is not bitter and angry or she’d have my shit in storage unit. As it is, I am still looking for a place to live and all of my furniture and most of my clothes still in her house. She’s been boxing and moving some stuff. But lot’s of me still remains. Almost trapped, in her house, until I can find my house.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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“If You Leave Me I’ll Have Nothing,” she said.

my ex-wife's tearsBefore the divorce was even in the picture, my still-wife was crying. I asked her what she was tripping about.

She proceeded to tell me that she would have nothing if I left her. That there wasn’t enough retirement money put away, she didn’t make enough money, my family wouldn’t help her… And if anything happened to me, she would be destitute.

In the moment I did not understand her concern. My absence was not on my radar. So what exactly was she talking about. Of course she would be taken care of. My mom would help provide for the kids. There would be life insurance. She would be fine.

NOW… Of course, perhaps she was saying something else all together. It wasn’t about my demise, it was about my departure. My departure from the family life we had been building for over 10 years. It seriously didn’t compute for me.

Was that blind love, dumb love, or blind faith? What ever it was it was dead wrong.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Gratitude and Platitudes After Divorce

Finally taking the boot - divorce talesBecause we are doing “what’s best for the kids” in all circumstances I can’t simply email my ex-y a Fk You message. We’re keeping everything civil. And come Tuesday I will be released. And I’m kinda happy about it.

I mean aside from losing a best friend. Losing my house of 11 years. Losing my 24/7 connection with my kids. Losing a sexual partner (but of course that happened over a year ago, more or less).

So will I blast her? Nope. Maybe if she ever sees this blog, or I publish it like a book. Perhaps then she’ll get the full message. As it is, I’m kissing her ass all the way to the notarized divorce settlement because I want to be done with it. I want to tell my next date, “Yes, we’re divorced.” And then I want to jump into bed with her.

And I’m not expecting a lot of gratitude from my ex-y either. Seems like she’s feeling put upon by my rush to get divorced. (Uh, hello… 60 days is the law, I’m just asking to get it done with.) But I think her lawyer is settling her down a bit. Giving her an idea of what a good deal she is getting.

I’m not fighting about the value of the house. I’m not asking her to pay me all the cash that she owes me, though my lawyer said this would be a better option. I’m not asking for any considerations. I’m just trying to make it easy. Easy on all of us, really.

So as I walk away next week I’m grateful that we were able to do this without a drawn out battle. And someday, I think, she’ll realize how loved she was and regret the selfish and self-centered boot she gave me. For me, and just for today, I am grateful that we are nearly done.

I also don’t get to tell her that my lawyer charged me a total of $500 for the entire thing. I’m pretty sure she’s paid several thousand in her need to have her lawyer CCd on every email I sent. That’s her deal. But it does give me a grin.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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A Once and Future King

a king's crown, losing the divorceThe loss of my kingdom. I don’t think it’s a particularly man thing, imagining your house and neighborhood as a kingdom. I think we all feel a sense of protection and pride around our homesteads. We invest a lot of time and energy in providing a comfortable existence for ourselves and our families.

It is not a happy thing to be exiled from your kingdom. Everything that goes with it. Kids, pets, comfortable bed, study areas, entertainment, warmth, yards, play. Everything comes to an end.

What once was a WE provide is now a ME provide. And I have not been so lucky in terms of the next chapter in my working life. I’ve made money. I’ve worked. But I am essentially homeless at the moment. Being shut out of my house meant that I could either afford a completely new residence in our neighborhood, OR… leave.

The blessing is that I have a sister in the city who has a mother-in-law plan that was available. And I even had built in kids, with her twin boy and girl who are 12 years old. And for that I am glad.

But I have no privacy. The TV is a constant irritation, as the largest one sits directly on the other side of my bedroom door. And of course, 90% of my stuff is still in my ex-wife’s house. I don’t have a place to put it. And I get to be thankful that she’s not insisting that I get a storage unit.

I know that I will return to a kingdom of my own. And I will make a way again in the world of empowered work, but for now it is difficult. As the Fall is now moving in and the weather is changing I long for a place to relax and be alone. And an opportunity to begin the rebuilding process.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Stay At Home Mom: A Dream Unfulfilled

mother staying at home
I wanted my wife to be able to attend school functions, meet the bus after school, provide the stay-at-home lifestyle that was so common in our neighborhood. And for the first 5 years it was almost so. I went off to work with the expectations that she could provide a nurturing landing pad for them in and around school activities.

We lived in an upper-middle class neighborhood with plenty of affluent families who could afford the one-income lifestyle. And again, we were close. But for some portions of that time she was a part-time working mom. Booking any where from 10 – 20 hours a week.

We could’ve lived across town. We could’ve decided that our time with our kids was more important than the great schools we were affording them. But we didn’t. I soldiered on with my big job with big benefits while she went to mid-morning events at the school, and chummed up with the other less-than-full-time moms. And perhaps that was a sore spot for her too. We were surrounded by couples that had made it. Our’s was a different path.

And she was much better at school events. She handled proctoring the table of first-graders much better than I did. She was never short of ideas for kid-friendly activities. She never passed up a kid’s request, “Can we paint?” It was one of her gifts. She was fearless with the kids.

So it was a slightly dogged dad that I had become trying to support this selective imbalance. And for the most part I was fully on-board and supportive and happy that she had the extra time to be with the kids. But there was a sadness too.

I was sad somewhere deep inside, about not being able to provide as well as my dad did, making the nice home, nice neighborhood, nice stay-at-home wife. And sometimes when I would visit the school in place of my wife, I would feel guilty, like SHE was supposed to be there not me. And somehow it was my fault that she was having to work and I was filling in.

But the reality is this: I deserve time with my kids as much as she does. I gave up my ability to proctor classroom activities for a shot at allowing her to be there. There are plenty of families in our school district who have two working parents. And we had certainly achieved an agreeable fit. At least that’s what I felt about it.

Today I visited my daughter at school for lunch. She didn’t know I was coming. I didn’t really plan it out, I just looked at the schedule and noticed that her lunch was at 12:4o and off I went. She was delighted to see me. She proudly quizzed me about her friends names and laughed with them as I couldn’t remember any of them. And we sat and chatted with the group while she ate.

Looking around the cafeteria there was one other man in the room. I was in the realm of women and children. But the sad tone did not creep into my thoughts. I was happy to have the time to visit, I was happy my daughter was doing well with the divorce, and I was happy to be able to know that the value I provided was over and above any income bracket or nice house. What I provide for my daughter is a solid male example.

I left before the lunch was completely over. The table was getting excited at the anticipation of going out for recess. I high-fived my daughter and said, “I’ll see you after the bus today, at your mom’s house.” I was picking up my son and my daughter was choosing to stay at home with the very cool babysitter. And we were happy with the arrangement.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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I Guess You’re Right: I UnFriended You

unfriending the ex on facebook

As far as I’m concerned, I’m not interested in seeing your face pop across my Facebook Friends any more. So you have given up exclusive rights to my pictures of our beach trip. You can ask, but I’m sure you won’t.

I am learning how to block you from my widely broadcast social profile. Enjoy your life without me, sweetheart.

You’ll just feel a little prick and then it will be numb.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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