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

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Dear Ex-Wife, You’re Missing the Point

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 8.18.40 PM

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 8.18.40 PMThree years ago when my ex-wife tossed our child support issue to the Attorney General’s office I had no idea the world of hurt I was about to get slapped around with. She was doing “what she thought was best for the kids” by making me into a dead beat dad in the eyes of the state of Texas.

Even though:

  • I told her I had lost my income due to a client loss (I was working for a small business at the time and the one client was 90% of my income)
  • I told her I would get caught up as soon as I could, and that I was not looking to reduce the amount owed
  • She agreed that I was not hiding income from her
  • She didn’t need the money, she had a nice job and the house was nearly paid for

But that wasn’t reason enough for her to delay her bomb drop for more than a month. Somehow she thought that filing with the AG’s office was like adding an accountant to the equation, so THEY could keep track of what I owed vs. what I paid. Of course, my ex was an excel wiz so she was doing models and spreadsheets herself, but maybe the state’s attorneys would help.

A week before Wells Fargo refused my restructuring offer, she said, “Sorry about the timing, but I just filed with the AG’s office.”

She thought that she would get me back in line sooner if the law was involved. Well, in theory I guess that would’ve happened if I had disappeared or was trying to not pay her at all. That’s what the Attorney General’s office is for. Dead beat dads skip out on their kids, refuse to pay, demand paternity testing, and basically try to not pay for anything for their kids.

In our case, upper middle-class white folks with 99 problems… But my commitment and stated plan was 100% in compliance with the law. But, and it’s a big but, I had lost my client and income for an unknown length of time. I worked daily on new business, on getting a job (It was going to take me about 100k a year to pay the child support and live in an apartment.) and told her she would get a percentage of everything I made. It wasn’t good enough for her.

Today, three years later, I can’t get a used car loan on my own. Unless I’m willing to pay 19% interest. I’ve been turned down on two job offers once they ran my credit as part of the background check. And while I didn’t get foreclosed on, I had to sell my only, my post-divorce house, in a hurry. I did make $5,000 on the deal. And, of course, she wanted her cut of that as well.

Did she think what it would do to me? No. Did she think it was going to get my checks coming regularly even when I didn’t have a job? I don’t know. Did she think of the best interest of her children when she threw the father of her children to the debt collectors know as the OAG? (Office of the Attorney General) Absolutely not.

Today I ask her if she’d consider getting the AG’s office out of our pants. She says, “I’m not there yet.” I say, “Did you know they take a 10% fee out of the child support payments I make?” She says, “Are you sure of that?” I say, “You only get money when I make money, I don’t have any assets. You’re living in the only asset we had.” She said, “Help me understand why I only started getting paid after the AG’s office was in the picture?”

It’s because I didn’t have a job. When I got a job I started paying you 45% of every dollar I made. For the care and feeding of my kids. Excuse me, our kids.

I ask, “How do I know what the money is going to?” She says, “It’s none of your business.”

When your ex throws you to the wolves, what sympathy does she deserve? How do you maintain a civil relationship “for the kids?” I don’t know the answer, but you just do. I have never mentioned to my kids that their mom was the reason we lost the house and had to move in with grandma for 9 months. I never told the kids that the reason my bank account was frozen twice was due to their mom’s actions, and the AG’s aggressive actions to recover “her money.”

I could be mad about it. I could do things to get even. But I won’t. I have to rise above the blame and “imagine” that she’s doing the best she can. That keeping me in the dog house does something for them. Perhaps it makes her feel better. Demonstrates how childish I was. How I was irresponsible.

All I think it does is fuck me on a daily basis when I go looking for a job, try to rent an apartment, or rent a car. All I think it does is give her a stiff spike stiletto heel on my neck.

Oh well, in 5 years this will all be over. I’ll still owe her the money, but I’ll be paying her back as fast as I can. Cause, “it’s the kids money.” Um, yeah, right.

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Taking Dad for Granted After Divorce

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I am a paycheck to my ex-wife. Along with being a dad and provider of love, support, and transportation to my kids, I am an income stream. And a few years ago when my ex-wife decided a few late payments were reason to turn me over the AG’s office, well, things have gotten worse from there. A lot worse.

Today I am in the process of having the AG’s office review my income and recalculate my child support payment. It looks like it will be about a 50% reduction. I’m sure my ex is none too pleased about this either. But it was her choice to bring the state’s attorney’s into our lives and now it’s hard to get them back out.

Still, even as we are both dealing with the frustrations of the system, I made a comment via email today about how it would be nice to negotiate this between the two of us, without the state in our business. Her response was as telling as it was swift.

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This is her blanket response. And there’s no sense in arguing it. We both feel justified in our positions. But her position is that by having the AG in our lives, I will comply with the divorce decree. Only there’s never been an indication that I wasn’t complying within the full letter of the law. Oh, I got behind and asked for her to be patient, but there was never any wiggling about me being good on my promise, on my debt.

Even as I knew I was going to be late, I tried to offer her some collateral, so she wouldn’t feel so exposed. She refused and forced me to sell my house because there was no option for refi or restructuring once she had put the AG’s vice grip on my credit. So she’s gotten her pound of flesh. And the state has taken a 10% administration fee as well as crippling me from being able to make any financial choices. Before my fiance I was living in my mom’s house. That’s just fine with my ex-wife.

The only thing that has ever spoken to my ex-wife is money. And if the AG’s office gives her some sense of security about money, specifically money from me, how am I to counter that?

But what she doesn’t understand is her jack boot is no longer effective. In fact her enforcers are going to start asking me for a lot less money in a month. And still she feels their presence in our accounts is best for her and the children. I could argue about how long I’ve paid child support and health insurance now that my employment has been steady. I could try to persuade her that she can trust me. But I couldn’t convince her then, what makes me think I can convince her of anything now?

The only thing that has ever spoken to my ex-wife is money. And if the AG’s office gives her some sense of security about money, specifically money from me, how am I to counter that? My collateral is no good. My trust and integrity have been part of her problem all along, I guess.

So in the state of things when a woman decides to divorce a man she is immediately entitled to a paycheck. The amount of that paycheck will be based on the number of children you have and some factor of your salary. If your salary is zero at the time of negotiations they will set it at your last known income. And for me, that was a problem, because I had been making great money at a corporate job prior to the divorce. And while, at the time, I was confident of being able to replace my job at a similar level, it still has not happened. Yeah, I can blame the economy, my skill set, or some other external force, but I don’t really blame anything. I survived.

Some how my ex-wife sees my unemployment as a debt to her. While I wasn’t benefiting from not having an income, I was actually digging a big debt hole at the same time. In a humane relationship, where two caring adults are working together, the former partners work out terms. She was not interested in hearing my ideas. She demanded her money for a few months. Threatened the AG’s enforcement. And then took the necessary action to secure her money. Except, again, that’s not really how things should’ve gone.

As the kids turn 18 we’re going to have to negotiate ourselves without them anyway, why not get back to our co-parenting, cooperative, and honorable relationship. Nope.

Fact: a dad’s child support obligation cannot be erased under any circumstances. There was a 0% chance I wasn’t going to pay her. The timing of those payments were the only issue. And sending me to the creditors did not help my motivation. In fact the “dead beat dad” status lost me at least one job.

So what did my ex-wife gain by sicking the state’s attorney’s on me? Perhaps some sort of vindication of her anger. Some power play to bring me to my proverbial knees and humiliate me. (Yes moving back to my mom’s was a last resort.) And still, two years and lots of damage later, she’s still convinced that the Attorney General’s office serves some purpose in our lives.

The point I was trying to make to her was how we could do this a lot easier without the AG’s office involved. And as the kids turn 18 we’re going to have to negotiate ourselves without them anyway, why not get back to our co-parenting, cooperative, and honorable relationship. Nope. Let’s keep the boot to my neck as long as possible to make sure I don’t squirm out of paying her something.

Just days before she made the decision to turn me in as a dead beat dad I asked her, “Do you think I am hiding money from you? Or do you think I am not looking for work as hard as I can? What’s the point of getting the AG’s office involved?”

She replied that she did not think I was hiding money or that I was not looking for work. What she said as her justification, probably the same one she’s using in her mind now, was that it wasn’t fair for the kids to have to suffer because I was not paying my child support on time.

I laugh right now, thinking about this. My well-to-do middle class ex-wife and my two healthy and happy kids live in one of the best neighborhoods in one of the best cities in the country and go to the best public school available. There is nothing my kids have missed out on for lack of money. And by enjoining our lives with the administration of the child support division of the attorney general’s office she’s merely giving me the middle finger. There’s nothing to gain, except maybe her still-angry pound of flesh.

Respectfully,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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The Edge of Tomorrow with my Ex-wife

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Do you know the premise of the movie, Edge of Tomorrow? In the movie the female protagonist has to shoot and kill the male every single day in order to reset the universe they are trying to do battle in. My life with my ex-wife has a similar story line.

When I lose my job, I have survival needs (as in shelter and food) that trump your comforts.

Every day I have to wake up and shoot myself to forget that my ex-wife still has an AG’s lien on me and my life. She didn’t need to go to the extreme. It’s like filing a restraining order against someone who’s never exhibited violence. Sure, you might think of doing it, you might even be advised to do it by your attorney, but there’s no reason to actually file it, because you know the ex is not a violent person. Somewhere along six-year road (so far) of divorce my ex-wife was concerned that I wasn’t going to pay her the child support she had come to depend on.

Um, yeah, that’s fine, but when I lose my job, I have survival needs (as in shelter and food) that trump your comforts.

During the summer of our discontent she would email me things like, “I can’t believe you are putting your material needs before those of your children.” Um, no, I’m actually not. And towards the end of the summer, regardless of my pleadings (“Don’t you remember who I am?) my ex-wife pleaded her case to the Attorney General’s office of the great state of Texas. And since then my life has been much more difficult. She didn’t need to do it. It hasn’t gotten her “her” money any sooner. If anything, it has slowed the process down. And I hear the AG’s office get’s a 10% fee for their services. What? We’re paying them out of the child support to collect the child support. I pointed this out to the ex just last week. She was unfazed.

Back in the summer of pain she did threaten me with the AG’s office. I had been telling her the exact status of my work and new business prospects. But she grew more frustrated and impatient with me. At one point, after it was clear she was heading towards putting my ass in a sling, I threatened her. I was stupid. My threat was this. “If you file with the AG’s office, I’m going to go back to the child support payments I’ve made, based on an income I’ve never been able to achieve again, and I’m going to go to an attorney to get the amount owed to be based on my actual pay and not on the decree.

Foolish, because it’s wrong. You can’t do it. Can you imagine how many non-custodial parents would file lawsuits to jam up the court system. So what I owe her, I owe her. But I wasn’t really worried about what I owe her, I was just trying to keep her from putting us into the grinding machine that would not treat either of us, more so the dad, with any respect. And really, she was sending my ass to the collections agency.

If she was willing to throw me into this system, taking action to change my dead beat dad status might be an admission of guilt. Like she had done something wrong.

Now think about that for a minute. Can you imagine sending your ex-partner, the parent of your children, to a collections agency? You do that to enemies, maybe, but not someone you care/cared about. Never. AND… That’s what she did.

Two years later, a number of shitty results of that action have taken place. When I got behind on my house payments, again as a result of the loss of my primary business client, her AG action prevented me from being able to renegotiate my mortgage with Wells Fargo and ultimately caused me to sell the house under duress. And three times, so far, the AG’s office has randomly seized my checking account. Charging me $75 for the privilege of bouncing any checks that came in after the freeze.

Today, two years into the AG’s process I am still asking my wife to write the letter that would remove their boot from my ass. I’ve been paying steady now, due to steady employment, for a year. When does she think it will be time? Will I earn my trustworthiness? Probably not. If she was willing to throw me into this system, taking action to change my dead beat dad status might be an admission of guilt. Like she had done something wrong.

Every day I have to wake up and shoot the part of me that’s still feeling violated by her stupid act of power and rage.

I’m certain, from conversations we’ve had, that she still feels she did nothing wrong. “Lots of people have ‘accounts’ with the AG’s office without any problems.” How cute, she calls it an account. It’s a debt collections agency that uses strong-arm tactics to secure her debt. And, mind you, there is no escaping child support payments, if I had wanted to. Even bankruptcy doesn’t affect them. But I have never talked of not paying her every dime. I’ve always paid her from every single dollar I made.

And today she’s got a magic wand that could easily take the lien and bad name off my credit report. And every day she does not take action is a day that I still have to forgive and forget. I can’t walk around with an angry chip on my shoulder, thinking about how she done me wrong. I can’t live my life like that. But somewhere, she still thinks I done her wrong and I owe her a lot of money, money that I should’ve paid her even when I had no ability to pay for my own house and electricity.

Her pound of flesh has cost me a lot. And every day I have to wake up and shoot the part of me that’s still feeling violated by her stupid act of power and rage. Setting the collections agency on someone you love… Well, it takes a very angry and dark person to do such a thing. And she’s doing it every day still.

I want to get mad at my ex-wife. I am reminded almost daily of the consequences of her actions. I want to rage and tell her how I feel. But the time for that type of action is over. Now, I will submit my papers to reduce the amount of child support I owe her on a monthly basis. Based on what I’m making, it might make a significant dint in her tax-free take home child support check. It took me six years to be this mean. And everyday I shoot the part of myself that remembers she did this on purpose and continues to do it every single day.

Respectfully,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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A Period of Ease

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I need a little anger right now. Things have been too cordial between the exy and me.

WAIT A MINUTE. Be careful what you ask for…

Let me take that back.

I am usually engaged in some creative project that has the potential to break me free from the constrains of the steady job, child support and insurance payments.

I could use the energy that I get from being really angry about something. Often that target has been the divorce and damage done. Recently, my anger has been pointed in at myself. And I’m still struggling a little with that. Like what did I do with all that OFF time when I wasn’t writing or publishing? Yeah, I lost some weight, but wasn’t it mainly due to my suppressed appetite?

What if a good portion of life is really fairly mundane? And we seek out anger, excitement, even depression when things get to smooth. I’m not saying that’s what happened in October when I “took a digger,” but there’s something to be said for my initial sentence there at the top of this post.

I don’t do mundane very well. I am usually engaged in some creative project that has the potential to break me free from the constrains of the steady job, child support and insurance payments, to liberate me as an ARTIST once and for all. But is that how it works?

I’d like some anger because it makes for a better, more impassioned story. I’d like some anger because it fuels attention outside myself rather that AT myself. I’d like some anger because the mundane is boring.

I know that I have always put my sails to the wind in search of a big win. Writing and music, those have been my inspirations. And neither of those paths offer quick or simple wins. There’s really not that many slots on American Idol, and I’m a bit old for the camera anyway.

But I go on. I keep working.

The kids don’t care. They don’t even know. They are teenagers and in many ways so is my ex-wife. Shopping, shopping, shopping.

I’m in a lull. Not a deep lull, that’s what I’m coming out of. But I’m not firing on all cylinders yet, and this makes me sad, scared, a bit bored, and mostly just restless for the burning inspiration that comes from the white-hot heat.

I’m not asking for an incident. I’m not asking for a movie deal. I’m really asking my inner creative to get back to the task at hand. Writing. The blog is a great start, but it’s not going to earn me any royalties. Meanwhile, I continue to have very little money in my pocket, because in the divorce I agreed to pay child support AND healthcare for both kids. That’s good when you have a job that provides for a good portion of that expense, but when you’re paying it all, or paying through COBRA, it’s a lot to swallow.

There’s my anger. Why am I working a job to give 98% of it to my ex-wife and kids? The kids don’t care. They don’t even know. They are teenagers and in many ways so is my ex-wife. Shopping, shopping, shopping. That’s the mantra in that household. It’s not a way to establish a relationship or orient a life. But I’m not privy to the 65% of their “family” time. I’m only able to provide my parenting around alternating weekends. And in some ways I’m afraid I’m becoming my father.

Does my son even know me? Am I just the next dress shirt that I can buy for him? Does my daughter think of things other than Lululemon? And I’m complicit to a certain extent, I let them squirrel away into their rooms most of the time. They are 13 and 15. Tough times to be sure, but I’ve got to do a better job of setting some examples of “things we can do together, besides shopping.”

It’s a challenge.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Money is a Bitch After Divorce

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I just got through paying COBRA health insurance for my kids. Man, is that shit expensive or what! And where is the law that says the dad is gonna have to pay for that no matter what? Where’s the balance in the financial split of divorce? After I pay my child support and the health insurance, it wipes out all of my disposable income. All of it. (Need to make more money, I guess.)

I simply needed to tell you this morning, staring at the numbers, that kids are expensive, for the dad, divorce is doubly so.

I get we both have expenses. I get that the women of the world get paid less, in general, than the men in the world doing similar jobs. But how does that work at this level? Sure, kids are expensive. And with her getting the majority of their time, she does have higher expenses in things like food and keeping the house cool in the summer, but this … Well, this is hard.

And of course, the money I pay in child support AND COBRA are after taxes have been taken out, so it’s even more expensive than it appears when you’re signing the divorce decree. I’d just like to see the change of expression on her face if she saw every single paycheck cut in half, before she had money for the mortgage on a house we paid for together. It’s incapacitating in some respects, if you’ve set them up in a nice neighborhood and you agree with the idea that they should be able to stay in that nice neighborhood.

I’m complaining, I know. I’m whining, perhaps. But it’s frustrating. The cost of providing housing, food, and extracurriculars while we were living under the same roof was hard. The cost to the dad who moves out and has to find another housing situation, and double his income before he can even imagine getting a place of his own… That’s unfair.

But again, we knew that divorce wasn’t fair.

My son was complaining last summer about the hassle of switching houses every week. “It wasn’t my idea for you two to get divorced.”

He had a point. And as we’ve made changes to the schedule to switch less frequently, I am seeing them a bit less, even. And paying the same. But you can’t equate paying for parenting. Or time with them as the reward for paying. Nope. I get it. Bills and expenses are a fact of life for both sides of the divorce.

I simply needed to tell you this morning, staring at the numbers, that kids are expensive, for the dad, divorce is doubly so.

Grrrr.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

Note: I’d like to think I was bigger than these rants, but sometimes it feels good to let out some hot air. And now… Back into the fray.

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My Ex and Her Anger: Give Me a Bullet to Bite On

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It’s still hard for me to imagine that my ex-wife sent me into collections for child support. In some foreign state of mind she was doing the best she could. She claimed she was protecting the best interests of our children. But, wait…

Even as I try to make nice and stay positive with my co-parent, things are not easy.

I was not hiding. I was not lying about my current situation, but some how she was convinced that sending my file to the Attorney General’s Office was the right thing to do. Well, it’s seriously messed me up. And there was never any call for it. I told her what was happening when my company lost a significant client. I told her I would be late for a bit while I tried to catch up. I told her to be patient for a month and I would give her constant updates on the status of our new business pitches. I told her everything I could except when, exactly the next check was going to show up.

I’m not sure how we got to this point. I’m certain she had lost trust in me long before then, and this was the “issue” that kept coming up between us. My trustworthiness.

Somehow, we agreed to keep the kids out of our money troubles. I’m grateful for that. But the antagonistic and punitive actions she took were unnecessary, uncalled for, and will continue to do damage to my prospects for employment and housing long into the future.

Do you think she wanted me NOT to have a house? I don’t know. Do you think she was in danger of losing her house? No. So what’s the rationale for throwing your former partner under the legal bus? When we paid more money on our parenting plan than our legal divorce, we were agreeing to divorce compassionately. But somewhere along the road of surviving as co-parents, that compassion turned cold.

Again, I want you to know this was not a dead beat dad manuveur. I was not carping away from my financial responsibility. And I am NOT in any way trying to get out of paying. In fact, I’ve been paying 20% of every thing I make for a while now. It’s not enough. It’s not going to get me out of debt to the AG’s office. No, she’s gone and dinged my credit for the long haul. And today, when I was turned down for a RENTAL property, the credit issue about Child Support came on like a shameful curse. There was no discussion about the situation, just a big fat NO. Obviously, I was a dead beat dad. Why would anyone rent to someone so evil.

Except that’s not what happened. That’s not what’s happening. And even as I try to make nice and stay positive with my co-parent, things are not easy. And today, I had to simply shrug my shoulders as the realtor relayed the news. There’s absolutely nothing I can do at the moment that I’m not already doing.

See, to support yourself and make hefty child support payments to your ex, you need to have a pretty substantial job. Freelance, self-employment won’t cut it. Since the divorce took all of my nest egg with it, I have no cushion. So even when I felt like I was doing okay, even when I was caught up, I was scraping pretty close to the bottom of the available cash flow. And one change, put me under water.

Had she been civil, had she remembered who it was she married, she would’ve been able to see I was not lying. She should’ve been able to understand that I was desperately trying to keep a roof over my head, and when they were with me, my kid’s heads. But she didn’t care about that. I can’t imagine the thought process. I can’t imagine taking such a horrible swing at her for any reason. Infidelity, lying, cheating, nothing could cause me enough pain to strike such a hurtful blow at my former spouse.

She was tired. I didn’t do enough to help. And there wasn’t enough money for us to continue the way we were going. Always.

But her mind doesn’t work the same way as mine. And even before we divorced, she had been withdrawing emotionally and physically from me. She had stopped hearing my love songs. (I was still writing them at the end.) She had stopped recognizing my efforts. Sure she decided to break up the family rather than work on what what separating us, but even that was forgivable. It’s okay that we’re not married any more. And I do still hope she is happy in her new relationship.

She wasn’t at risk of losing her house. She didn’t have to strip her retirement account of all funds. She might have wanted more stuff, and more security, and more leisure time, but that was one of her constant choruses. That was always the issue. She was tired. I didn’t do enough to help. And there wasn’t enough money for us to continue the way we were going. Always.

Always as it is and shall ever be. So at some point that disconnection turned into anger. And at the first sign of blood she went in for the kill, rather than remembering that I was also the father of our children.

There was an amazing moment, when things were just beginning to get frosty between during the first month I was late with my child support payments. In an email she said, “Some how you think your bills and expenses are more important than the expenses and bills of your children.”

I counted that I was just trying to keep a roof over our heads. I shared my progress on job hunting and client hunting. But she hadn’t ever been very trusting about future plans, future hopes, future promises. So something clicked over for her, something inside her changed and she no longer saw me as a co-parent. She wanted her money. She needed her money. And if I wasn’t earning the money, maybe she’d give me some incentive.

Except that’s not how it works. I was incentivized. I was struggling and ashamed of my flailing career. I knew I would get back up. I knew I would get caught up on all of the money she was entitled to. But she didn’t know it. And she didn’t believe it. Somewhere, somehow she imagined that I was going to try and skip out on my debt and responsibility to my kids? WHAT?

I’m working hard to keep her in my prayers and well wishes, but it’s all I know how to do. Any action that hurts my ex-wife immediately hurts my children.

There is no way she could believe that. I kept asking her if she was getting prodded by her father to enforce the decree and turn me into the authorities. She flatly denied it. And yet she kept threatening, and by the end of the 2nd month, I suppose she’d waited long enough. She would no longer meet with me face to face about anything. She was shutting me out emotionally and physically. (She’d actually been building up to that for some time.) And somehow she must not have understood the ramifications of her actions. Because if she did actually understand that her angry slap was going to cause me to lose my house, cause me to lose several job opportunities, and now, even at the dawn of my new job, cause me to lose a rental house for me and my kids. Can I imagine actually doing something so damaging to my ex-wife? Never. In fact, just the opposite. I strive to keep 100% of my anger out of our parenting agreements.

Even now, even as her AG-move has caused me untold grief, I’m merely writing about it here in my anonymous blog. I’m working hard to keep her in my prayers and well wishes, but it’s all I know how to do. Any action that hurts my ex-wife immediately hurts my children. We are all deeply connected.

She is still unable to to see that. Even now, her actions do not show gratitude, they demonstrate her anger. Something about the entitlement to the money, the house, the good life. I don’t know. But she seems satisfied in her justification for everything. There’s no sense talking about it. Why poke the bear? Except I’m still getting poked, caged, and wounded over something that should’ve been collaborative and cooperative, like our divorce.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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“Another In a Long Series of Disappointments,” she joked.

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It was a joke. Right? Except the more it came up for “laugh” the more I was learning that she was actually disappointed by a lot of things. And if you listen to the wisdom about disappointment and anger being the result of expectations not met, you begin to hear how disappointed your mate might be.

I’ve talked a little bit about how I used “pseudo buddhism” to escape the disappointments I was feeling. Okay, so we were both disappointed. That is common. It’s what you do with your disappointments and how you work through them that defines the quality of your relationship. Perhaps this holds true with self-worth too.

In disappointment we learn to look away from the desire and seek it in some other way. If we don’t confront the frustration at the source we may prolong the suffering and thus intensify the disappointment. My ex-y and I learned to look for fulfillment in other ways. We had grown weary of trying to satisfy those  expectations with the other person.

I did not speak up enough. She spoke up all the time. And as we cohabited, we became more roommates than lovers.

I made light of the situation. I joked. I tried to be funny when asking for intimacy. I began feeling more defeated and less desired, but I didn’t raise the issue to the point of crisis. I was trying to meditate my way out of the conflict all together. I would seek my pleasure in the production of art, writing, expression of my spirit in ways that didn’t involve her.

And she turned to something else as well. She must have. I don’t pretend to know what that might have been. But her anger and expressed frustration became a constant in our routine. It was as if two of the three strikes was against me when we woke up in the morning. And suddenly any issue could become a crisis with the triggering of some unfortunate pain from her past. (That’s how I rationalize it, anyway.)

But I don’t have to understand or make excuses for her. She did what she did. And she certainly did a better job of expressing her disappointment. But at some point you have to move on. You have to move on to “What DO we have and what DO we like to do together.”

Before kids those answers are easier. Work, sleep, eat, make love, talk, repeat.

Once kids have been added to the equation the complexities of the routine and sequence of events that must take place to make room for unbridled love-making… Well, those complexities become ripe for disappointment, OR ripe for – and renegotiating the unspoken rules you may have settled into.

I did not speak up enough. She spoke up all the time. And as we cohabited, we became more roommates than lovers. We stretched towards each other less and less. And our relationship yoga became more focused on our solo practices rather than joined/co-created movements.

It is critical that we listen to the complaints and disappointments, both of our partners and of our inner voices. We have the power to reset and renegotiate our expectations.

In disappointment I withdrew into my buddha-like head, and perhaps developed a buddha-like belly at the same time. She withdrew into more anger and disappointment, and perhaps into an escalating spiral she could not see a way beyond.

Now when I think of the phrase, “a long series of disappointments” I have to take sole responsibility for getting out of that self-centered loop. Disappointment is because my expectations were not met. So I need to either express more clearly what it IS that I want. And I am free to make changes to get more of my needs met in different ways. Today alone. Tomorrow in the exploration of a new relationship.

It is critical that we listen to the complaints and disappointments, both of our partners and of our inner voices. We have the power to reset and renegotiate our expectations. And we do have the ability to create and ask for what we need and want. We may not get it, but not asking and being disappointed about the results is pure self-sabotage.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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single-OFF


The Fk You That Keeps On Giving

OFF-mad

Today I am angry. It takes a lot to get me urgent and angry. My sense of urgency has been triggered at this point. I am sitting in my mom’s house with a $43,000 (about triple the disputed child support amount) hold on my credit card. And I can’t get my lawyer on the phone. I wonder what would happen if I was thrown in jail by the AG’s office rather than just frozen out of any access to my money. I guess I need to plan for the worst and understand what my options are.

I am grateful that I’m not in jail at this moment.

But I have to say, the AG’s office thing, that my ex-y triggered in September of last year, sure has done a lot to dampen my optimistic outlook today. I’ll be back above it shortly, but at the moment, I am essentially paralyzed. It’s better here on my mom’s couch, with AC, electricity, and a strong wifi signal. But I’m a bit tranquil for the situation. (see: AG’s Office Round Two: Dead Beat Dad – 0, Bank $43,000)

I’m not exactly sure how I came to have this low-level of reactivity. I guess my father’s response, would’ve been to blow up at everyone possible. And maybe my lack of blowup-ness is part of my anti-dad training. But I should be mad right now. Instead I’m feeling a bit defeated. A bit dead.

And what I know about myself is that these feelings are the harbingers of depression. Fk that! The opposite of depression is high-energy and activation. So today, I’m going to fire up the jets and get mad. What’s the risk? There’s nothing more that she could do to me, other than have me thrown in jail, and I guess it’s really not up to her, right…

Except the coup de grâce was hers. In some sense of fear or entitlement (the opposite sides of a coin as well) she made a decision that it was better to attack me than negotiate and talk to me. Somewhere in her muddled little mind, she took the path of war. And in all the work I’ve done to get healthy, this is the one attack that I still have a hard time accepting. Divorce me, sure. Expect and count on the child support, yes. But when one of us stumbles, as a divorced couple, as co-parents, the response HAS GOT TO BE HELP, NOT ATTACK.

I am certain that I learned this subversion of anger from the overbearing and abusive anger of my father. He shouted the anger right out of all of us.

I stumbled. I am still stumbling forward. And rather than deal with me, or hear my plea for patience, my ex-y took the harshest action at her disposal and filed against me with the AG’s office. And the machine was started and the damage is still being inflicted.

Today I will respond in-kind. For the first time since my marriage began to crumble, I am genuinely mad at my ex-wife.

There is no reason to attack a parent who is being transparent and cooperative

When there is financial hardships on either side of the divorce, the impact by everyone

If your reaction to your ex-partner’s struggle is to attack them, you have lost touch with any and all compassion you once had for them

Attacking your ex-partner for any reason, hurts your kids

Is it always the best approach to be the bigger partner and not attack back? Is it always the best approach to maintain a positive outlook and find the pro-active solution? Or at some point, do you need to pull out your own guns and fire back? I’m not sure I know the answer to this. For over four years I have been taking the buddhist approach and attempting to rise above the blame and anger, and NOT attack my ex-wife FOR ANY REASON.

Today, I don’t know. The lawyer, when he finally calls me back, will have to advise me.

Today is one of countermeasures and planning not vengeance. That is better taken when the dust has settled and the evening sun is setting over the battlefield.

First blood, second blood has been drawn. At this point, I’m a bit like the Evil Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail.  He is still taunting his enemy when he has lost both arms and legs. I am standing on my stumps at the moment, and I’ve got nothing else to defend myself with. And today I will shout my anger to the hills. Perhaps at some point I will (to use a very different metaphor) FLAME ON, like the human torch.

At my son’s cross-country meeting at the middle school this morning, she stopped me in the hall. I was certain she was going to say she was sorry. She wanted to tell me something about their acne medicine. Um, yeah, thanks, and fk you.

This is not my natural or comfortable state. It’s like I have to spin up the anger momentum for a while before I actually get angry. I am certain that I learned this subversion of anger from the overbearing and abusive anger of my father. He shouted the anger right out of all of us. I see my sister and mother get terrified when I get angry with them. I have to stop for a minute and reassure them, “It’s okay, this is what healthy anger looks like.” They look at me with deer-in-the-headlights expressions.

But it really is okay to be angry. And as a counter-measure to depression, anger is a powerful tool.

And I guess, since this episode started at 6:00pm last night, and I still haven’t heard back from my lawyer, I’ll have a touch of anger to give him as well.

There’s plenty of anger to go around, I’ve got enough for everyone. Still I am cautious not to lash out. Today is one of countermeasures and planning not vengeance. That is better taken when the dust has settled and the evening sun is setting over the battlefield.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: la coup de grâce, connie ma, creative commons usage

I guess it’s good that I am not refusing to pay…

From the Texas Attorney General’s Office FAQ

ags-behind


Easier To Be Quiet

the off parent - being quiet

I know it would be easier for everyone if I would just shut up about my divorce. We’ve rehashed all the problems, all my perceived injustices, all the ways I’ve been wronged. I know I keep telling the same story, over and over. I know, I hear you.

And I won’t shut up. Sorry.

The beautiful thing about anger, that I did not know until I had unleashed some of it… Anger is healing and powerful.

In my marriage I learned to cope. I learned to nurture myself in the absence of love. I self-regulated and made due with less and less affection. But the education, the pattern that I learned about what love looked like didn’t begin with my ex-y. Nope, I learned how to be disinterested and disconnected from my parents, just as you probably did. I mean, they were the only examples we had. And boy did I learn how not to do a marriage. But of course, my images and imaginings were done by the time I was 8. It was all over by then, for my mom and dad. And everything else I thought I knew, I made up.

We are not ready for the changes of marriage. And we are certainly in no way prepared for parenting. It changes everything.

In my marriage, the changes were too much. We lost touch with one another and learned to be quiet even when we should be shouting at the top of our lungs, “This is hurting me.”

Anger was a form of control in my family of origin. My father would rule his house with rage and yelling. And we would hide, tremble, and obey. But this is no way to behave. But what it did to our range of acceptable emotions, was to limit our own access to anger. What it did for me was teach me to be agreeable, at all cost. To even lie if it meant I could avoid a fight.

But in a healthy relationship we need to fight. We need to have access to our full-range of emotion. And when I started getting angry about what wasn’t working, I learned that it was okay. Of course, my ex-y would’ve loved me to stay in the submissive mode, I started to draw boundaries for the first time in my marriage. I started expressing what wasn’t working. I started to express my anger at being ignored emotionally and physically. And I demanded a change.

Of course the change I was hoping for would’ve come in the form of realigning our marriage, and what I got was an exit request. But I was no longer willing to just be quiet.

So sure, I could shut up about the divorce, the depression, and the anger. And it would be a whole lot easier on all of us. But the beautiful thing about anger, that I did not know until I had unleashed some of it… Anger is healing and powerful.

Anger does not have to be abusive or rageful. Anger can be a consistent request for love and affection. Anger can be a demand for the other partner in a relationship to wake up and relearn how to express joy. Anger gave me back my balls, so I could express what I really needed in my marriage.

I am still embracing my ability to ask for what I need, to seek truth and connectedness, and to find another person who expresses themselves easily through physical affection.

Try as I might, I was not able to call my ex-y back into love with me. Perhaps things had gone to far by the time I started fighting for my rights as a lover and husband. Perhaps my attempts to ravage my beautiful wife were no longer welcome. But I did not give up. I did not back down. I was no longer willing to masterbate alone all the time and wonder why she never had a sexual impulse. There I said it. I wanted to have sex and for some reason she didn’t.

And it wasn’t the typical dude grabbing at his woman daily for gratification. It was not a rutting sex I was after. I genuinely needed to feel skin-on-skin contact. I needed to affirm my warmth and closeness with my lover. I needed to be a lover and to reignite the lover in her.

I lost that negotiation. And ultimately I lost my marriage and the full-access to my kids. Bummer. But I was not willing to just be quiet and bear the coldness and aloneness that my marriage had become. And while she ultimately was the person who asked for a divorce, I was the one who had finally begun speaking up. And even in the face of her divorce request, I was certain I was fighting for my marriage. I wasn’t. I was fighting for what I wanted my marriage to return to, or what I’d hoped my marriage would become.

It’s not easier to be quiet, actually. It’s devastating not to speak your truth and be embraced. It’s debilitating to ask again and again for affection and be given all number of reasons that it’s not the right moment, or that I didn’t ask in the right way. I was starving to death while lying next to the one person who could nourish me.

Well, fortunately I learned my lesson. And I am still embracing my ability to ask for what I need, to seek truth and connectedness, and to find another person who expresses themselves easily through physical affection. It’s simple when you both crave the same Love Language. It’s a stretch and a negotiation if you don’t. But it’s never easier, in the long run, to be quiet.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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image: lovers, alice313, creative commons usage

+++ for a moment of comic relief


single dad

poem with a poison dart [from The Black Pages – poetry]

this is a love letter with a poison dart
but it’s only hurting me
i cannot help my sadness
abandonment
anger
i don’t want to help it
i reel in it
as i learn what i miss
what parts are taken or unspoken

a father alone
stands outside the circle of women
teachers, moms, educators, networks
are not comfortable with the angry dad
or sad, not doing so well, losing
it was not planned this way
the functions are all in place
but the numerator has been lost
the dividing line not clearly explained

we slog along with imperfect ideas
of how to say it right
to be gentle
to work out our issues elsewhere
but the blood is being spilled elsewhere
am i to be happy, to celebrate
as i am threatened with losing my home
my survival as dad is at risk
my survival

and i don’t doubt the sheriff
may be called at some point
but there is no more me
to go around
i am trying
i am hopeful and charging head-on
but the issue is different this time
i am the enemy
yet we are still a team
how does the tiger not eat the boat captain

yes
love is still all around
love is what moves us
and the implosion of love is something else
it is not hate, there is no black heart
yet the safety structures have been threatened
fucking maslow has dropped me to my knees
i am not dead
or dead-beat
i am beating my chest

still

to ask
what gives this time
where is the flexibility
how do we continue
there is no
win

10-24-13


Of Course You’re Not Happy With Me, We’re Divorced

my jackass sequence to recovery

And I want to do better, and I want to not enjoy just a smidgen of her troubles… But she can still make me madder than anyone else on the planet. And that’s understandable, she’s my ex. Legends about the evil ex abound. There are even Twitter hashtags devoted to the cult of the ex. Of course, she’s not that bad. (On Twitter see #thatswhyyourmyex)

My unvented anger became anger pointed inward. That’s one definition of depression: anger pointed at yourself. And I just about rowed that boat over the waterfall of darkness.

In fact, in this fourth year since our divorce, I am working to release her from the evil ex moniker. But a little healthy anger can sometimes help, if we know how to use it appropriately or dispose of it. Keeping your anger inside is a known stress booster, it shortens your life and lengthens your belt size.

I’ve been framing up something I’m calling The Divorce Recovery Roadmap, and anger plays a very critical role in this growth through and ultimately freedom from anger at your ex. I believe anger is part of the engine that got me out of my depression. When my world was shattered, even if I was complicit in the dismantling, it wasn’t until I found my anger, and began to voice it, that I started to recover my authentic self.

I’ve talked a lot about the self-awareness part of my recovery. And I will state it again as clearly as I can. Divorce has been the most devastating event in my life. And it has transformed me, sometimes by fire, sometimes by tears, back into the happy and creative individual I was before the divorce, maybe even before the marriage.

When I started this blog, even as I was still living under the same roof with my ex-y, I tapped into the vicious anger that was brewing inside. “What? You’re fucking giving up on me?” I wanted to rage. But I wrote it instead of yelling it. And it wasn’t all pretty. In fact, some of it was hurtful and spiteful. As if I wanted to say, “If you’re taking me down, I’m taking everyone down with me.”

But the fight wasn’t with my ex-y at that point. The fight of your life, the recovery from the wounds of divorce, is with yourself.

In that summer of discontent, when I had lost everything and was living with my sister, basically homeless, I raged. I wrote the FUCK YOU that I couldn’t say. I got a few pats on the back for the blog and pressed on, and eventually found my voice, with The Off Parent.

Then she found out about the blog and called me on the phone.

“I found The Off Parent.” she said.

“Okay.”

“And I want you to take it down. It makes it too hard to trust you. And we’re trying to raise these two kids together, and it’s just too hurtful.”

At that moment, I was so distraught at my situation, and my self-pity (we’ll get back to that in a minute) that I simply said, “Okay, I’ll take it down, now.” And I mothballed the blog.

What was not apparent to me at over the next month of so, was how quickly my unvented anger became anger pointed inward. That’s one definition of depression: anger pointed at yourself. And I just about rowed that boat over the waterfall of darkness. I didn’t get suicidal until the following summer, but I lost touch with my anger at her. Healthy anger. Anger that needed an outlet.

In order to flip your life back to ON you needed to commit to Massive Action. You had to commit to doing EVERYTHING all at once to get well.

I crumbled. And maybe that’s when I hit what alcoholics refer to as rock bottom. Because I started feeling really sorry for myself. I started placing the failure and blame on myself, on the things I did or didn’t do. When, in fact, I made numerous pleas with my ex-y to stop and reconsider her request for divorce. I wanted reconciliation, I wanted change. But I didn’t want a divorce.

I had been exposed to the 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous a long time ago, when I started attending ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) meetings, back when that movement was emerging. And some of the principles I learned, still guide me. But in my despair I grabbed onto two AA principles that lifted me back from the dead, even without this blog.

The first principle was Self Pity. It is one of the core shames we learn when we are raised in broken or breaking homes. As we uncover just how horrible things have been, we begin feeling sorry for ourselves and our plight. (This is magnified 100-fold for folks battling alcohol addiction, so I don’t mean to make light of it.) In my case, as I was in my sister’s house, basically breaking down mentally, was this sorrow at what had become of my beautiful life. My regrets and should’ve-dones became like a mean Greek chorus shouting me down as I tried to find my footing as a single late-forties man. Man In Divorce, it’s a thing.

I started reading some recovering alcoholics notes on the web. I attended a few AA and Alon meetings to remember how miserable I was, and how far from those darknesses I still was. And the idea of getting over my self-pity, my wallowing in my own stew of misery, was a good one. I wanted to comply, to shake it off, and to grow up and grow a pair, but it wasn’t that easy. Those AA slogans are great when you finally believe in them. Initially they come across as unhelpful platitudes. Still I grabbed on to the life ring of Self Pity and waited for someone to pull me back to safety.

Of course, that’s not really what happens either. Not in real life, anyway. So I slogged on. Read some AA material and tried to apply the maxims to my life. Live and let God. Giving up my pain and process to my Higher Power and all that. But it wasn’t until I hit the next gem of wisdom that I finally got moving.

I was reading a blog about recovery and the phrase that struck a nerve with me was “Take Massive Action.” The idea is, in recovery from addiction it is not enough to go to meetings, say the sayings, read the literature, you could not dabble in your recovery process if you were serious about getting well. In order to flip your life back to ON you needed to commit to Massive Action. You had to commit to doing EVERYTHING all at once to get well. And leave no little pockets of doubt that you could fall back on later.

I needed to build and agree to my own Massive Plan of Attack. Here’s what I did.

  1. I enrolled in an Aikido class that was a few miles from my sister’s house and I agreed to go to class 3 or more times week.
  2. I enrolled in a divorce recovery class that started in two weeks, based on the book When Your Relationship Ends.

And two weeks later I was already feeling the changes as I attended the first night of the divorce recovery class. And when I started hearing this masterful gentleman talk about the divorce recovery process I knew I had hit a vein of gold. Here were 20-or-so men and women in various stages of divorce and willing to admit that things sucked and we needed help.

The very real, very visceral, and transformative power of that night of anger, brought me back to life.

And that first week after the class we were required to call at least two other classmates and check-in on the phone. I remember really hitting it off with the first person I called. And as we chatted she let me know she was a recovering alcoholic. She became one of my champions in my Massive Action campaign.

I called her a few days after our first phone call and said, “I don’t want to go, and you don’t need to call me back, because I’m going to my Aikido class right now. I’m not happy about it, but I wanted to let you know I was going. Fuck.”

(People in that class liked to cuss a lot. And fuck seemed to be one of the best words in use. Maybe because none of us were fucking.)

And so my massive action plan began to take shape and I began reshaping my relationship to the divorce. More importantly, I began reshaping the relationship to myself.

About seven weeks into the class comes Anger Night. Essentially you go through a process of expressing all the “fuck yous” you need to by writing a letter. A letter you never send, of course. And then you share your letter with some of these other people in your class.

I was sad and overweight when I started my massive action plan. And by Anger Night I was at least in motion, but I was still pretty depressed. But the night after the class, when we were given the assignment, to write the real letter, I came uncorked.

That night, in the process of writing out all my fuck yous and complaints to my ex-wife, I reconnected with the healthy part of the anger. The part that I had been stuffing and hurting myself with. The fury, once unleashed, became unmanageable. And I wrote from about midnight to about three in the morning. But I was transformed.

When I accessed my anger that night, it was like a switch had been thrown on inside and the power to my healthy system was restored. The transformation was notable. And four weeks later, when the good doctor was looking for facilitators for his next session, he invited me to be one of the shepherds. What an honor and a validation for the work I had done.

By the end of the class I was on a roll. I was negotiating a new job, I was still hitting the mat in Aikido several times a week, and I was beginning to feel like “life” was possible again. I’ve never looked back at that letter. It’s still here, on this computer, somewhere. But I don’t need to read it. The very real, very visceral, and transformative power of that night of anger, brought me back to life.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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image: Santorini’s Donkey sequence via creative commons license


Dropping the Parenting Bomb on Your Ex Unexpectedly

THIS IS NOT OKAY. Text from daughter at 7:00am.

is she leaving him home alone?

[These events happened a few weeks ago, so I’ve cooled off and tried to temper them with some perspective.]

Good morning! I’m sorta glad the ex-y got my daughter a phone. BUT not if the primary purpose is so she can leave my her and her 12-yo brother home alone.

The first time this sort of thing happened, I got a “Kids are home sick, I’ve asked babysitter to check in on them through the day, can you check in on them too?”

What are my options? As a good Dad, there was only one thing I could do. I went and picked them up, on her day. She had started a new job. I was being supportive, without a fuss. But I did not appreciate the unplanned reorientation of my entire day.

When we were married the scenario went more like this.

1. We’ve got a sick kid. How can we divide the care for him while keeping our jobs?
2. Then we would have the opportunity to discuss how to juggle our mutual schedules to minimize the impact on our work responsibilities.
3. The priority was on providing comfort for the kid, AND being flexible with one another.

Today I have much less flexibility (patience maybe) to be jerked out of my regularly planned work day because she couldn’t find a sitter, or couldn’t rearrange her day around her responsibility.

My responsibility is to the sick kid. My flexibility is in helping and being a good coparent to the ex-y. She gave up the mutually-shared-responsibility-and-drop-any-and-everything-to-make-it work-for-you partner a number of years ago.

I’m happy to report that this scenario played out much less antagonistic than it might first appear from my response. We talked on the phone. My daughter had jumped to conclusions and was doing her part in the family system to care take. The ex-y was not really considering leaving our son at home alone, sick.

The better part is I got a chance to share my vehement abhorrence of her idea of leaving the kids without a supervising adult for ANY REASON. The childcare is her responsibility when the kids are on her watch. PERIOD. I can help, I am happy to help, and most of the time I’d rather have them with me than anywhere else in the world. But for the most part, when I’m not the ON Parent I’m working to pay for my house and a good portion of their mom’s house.

I have never had easy access to my anger. When I start standing up for myself, my family often thinks I’m being an asshole. Let me reframe that. My mom, sister, and ex-wife think I’m being an asshole when I start using anger to push back a bit on their overbearing demands and requests. Without it, the anger, we are emasculated. Male or female, we need to be able to get angry. Especially in a complex thing like a relationship. If there is no anger (and there was very little in my marriage) then there might be an anger problem. Not enough.

I pushed back with an angry response. I let the ex-y know that I would not be compliant with this type of activity. If she needs something from me, in terms of parenting, she needs to contact me directly. I did not respond to my daughter. I contacted the ex-y with my response. We did work it out. And in the same communication I was able to establish that our daughter was not going to be left home after school, just because she has a phone. She’s in fourth grade. And our sixth grade son is not a babysitter. NO.

If saying no, and needing to say it loudly and repeatedly makes me an asshole, well I’m learning to own that persona. My “real” asshole dad, sort of RAGED the hell out of all of us. So it’s hard to raise my voice. It’s hard to demand my point be taken seriously. And being raised by three strong women, and on emasculated brother, was not easy.

But we’re learning and getting better. And I will re-educate my immediate family that anger is okay. It doesn’t mean I’m nuts, or that I don’t like you or respect your ideas and boundaries. It means something has threatened me. And I’m willing to fight for it.

Just like my kids at the end of the marriage. I fought like a banshee to stay in the house the last two months, while they finished 2nd and 4th grade before exiting our family system. As hard as it was for both my ex-y and me, it was the right thing. And of course I was accused of being unreasonable, and “off my meds” for demanding this strategy. But I persevered. And I think the kids WON as a result.

Know what to fight for and what to let go. But when you are pushed, be ready to bring the heat. It’s okay. No body is going to be hurt physically. But feelings often are not the best guide for what is best or right.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Footnote: There was a time I would do anything for my wife, if she was ill or needed help with a project. Um, now that she’s my ex-y I have a very different response to drama.

dropping the ball on your ex


She Was Certain Her Anger Was About Me

breaking down the heart barrier in divorceI was pleading for her to get a grip, it was nearly the end, the kids would soon be out of school and I’d be out of the house. “You think I’m going to walk out the door of the house and you’re suddenly going to be happy? Maybe what you are so mad about isn’t just me.”

She’d been mad for over a year. And the “Fuck You” exclamations had begun to seep into our daily lives. I woke up each day with the determination to make things better, to work harder, to be more consistent, to offer help, love, and support at every opportunity. She woke up mad. I failed at my tasks too.

And when the word “cynicism” came out at couples therapy I felt like we’d landed at the crux of the problem. Somewhere deep inside, she had decided this is how it was always going to be, this therapy is nice but it’s not helping, and I’m just fkin pissed to be going to “therapy” yet again.

“It’s not getting better,” she said that afternoon before we got out of the car.

“You really believe that?”

I could tell that she did before she said anything. When she brought out the C-word in therapy I heard the impossibility of my task should I choose to take it on. You can’t argue with cynicism, you can’t rationalize with it, you can’t even really get pissed at it, because the hands are already up in disgust. The joking moment, became cause for a sideways, “Fuck you,” and a quick apology.

She wasn’t getting any less mad, that was clear. And I wasn’t coming any closer to changing her mind. I don’t guess I ever really changed her at all.

In those moments when she’d had a glass of wine some barrier came down and she would be touched for a moment. She would cry and lament and talk about how she might not be right for me. I would cry back at her with reassurance. And some sort of relief came in those moments, because I was sure this time the heart would stay unstuck, the feelings would continue to penetrate the facade. But that was my own folly.

I needed her to stay in that feeling place and comfort the parts of me that were hurting. I needed a warm shoulder. We needed closeness. And sometimes we reached that place.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent 

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Anger is Energy – If You Don’t Thrash

a fish out of water has two choices - the off parentA fish caught and out of the water on the grass has two options: 1. thrash: jump, struggle, flip, flop; or 2. breathe.

Eventually the fish will die if not returned to the water. But the fish has very little to do with its survival at that point. You might say it’s up to God, or the fisherman, which to the fish is sort of like God.

Anger today is a good thing. It reminds me I have feelings and energy. It reminds me that I still care about finding a better life for myself and my kids. My ex-y can find her own way.

But thrashing against the obstacles is a waste of energy that could be used elsewhere. And one of the greatest drains of that energy is anger at the ex-y. I guess she did the best she could. I mean, that’s how God would see it, right?

I tend to see things a bit differently with a little distance. BUT… anger at the choices and changes that have already happened, do little to inform or direct my efforts at moving forward. What anger can do is motivate my ass into gear. But I have to make sure I make use of that motivation in productive rather than destructive ways.

Even if she has requested changes or been mean and contradictory to me, that’s not my problem. That. Is. Who. She. Is.

And the anger I have around her behavior cannot be fed back into the system to change things. The more I wanted the marriage to work, the more I demanded for changes, the more I thrashed in some ways. I was not aware that she had already left the marriage. I was not clear that the death of her sexual drive was more about her than me. And while I did thrash against both the sexless marriage and the end of marriage, I was ultimately powerless to get myself back into the warm water of our early relationship.

So today, I am angry. A friend sent a picture of my daughter that he found on a random simcard. My beautiful life is there in hi-definition as I am lifting my smiling daughter into the air and kissing her belly. And there is a sliver of my ex-y’s face in the photo too. You could almost miss it.

And I was immediately sad, not mad. The imagined life, the dreams at that moment, frozen and captured in a moment of family joy. And the anger is about the betrayal of both my daughter and myself by that remote face with the beautiful smile and eyes closed.

She made the decision. She gave up. She walked into a lawyer’s office to get her “options.” And all of our lives are altered because of that decision. And the wonderful little girl in the picture now has a distant father. A father who is there as often and openly as possible. But I can feel the tug on her as she reaches for my hand in the car, walking to the grocery store, when she claims to have a stomach ache every Friday morning so maybe she won’t have to go to school and she can stay at my house.

But I could not change the trajectory once the new departure point was set in motion. I can, however, understand that I was not ever going to be able to change my ex-y into being the touchy-feely person I wanted her to be. She’s much more comfortable in the confines of an excel spreadsheet.

So when the warmth was sucked out of the marriage, there was very little left if I was not generating it. But for my little girl and my son, I can generate twice as much love and holding as before. I can show my daughter what a Dad is like that shows up and says, “I love you,” all the time. I can provide the reflection to my kids that they are loved. I can make them feel loved. I can still hold them in the air, metaphorically, and kiss their childish bellies.

I will not change. I will not let the bitterness or anger get in the way of me loving my kids with everything I’ve got.

AND… I will have an opportunity to share that with another woman at some point. I know it.

If I can just breathe and not thrash.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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